Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Tim. 2:15)
All Bible students divide the Bible to some extent (e.g. OT and NT), but most do not RIGHTLY divide it. That is why most professing Christians believe that Hebrews through Revelation is just as much written to them and about them as is Romans through Philemon. They would call those of us who disagree “Hyperdispensationalists.” The prefix “hyper” denotes that which is excessive. Are we going beyond the divisions that God put in His word when we distinguish the Pauline Epistles from the Hebrew Epistles? No, but we are going beyond the traditions of men.
After the fall of Israel (Acts 7), Christ appeared from Heaven to save Saul of Tarsus (Paul) by exceeding abundant grace and send him as the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13) with a new message and ministry that was distinct from the twelve apostles He sent while on earth to the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 10:1-7). That distinction was still in effect as late as the Jerusalem Conference (Acts 15; Gal. 2:9), and there is nothing in the Bible to suggest that it ever changed. That is why the epistles of Peter, James, and John were written to the circumcision (e.g. Jam. 1:1).
There are spiritual applications in the Hebrew Epistles for the Body of Christ (e.g., Heb. 11:1 and 1 Pet. 2:2), but they make NO mention of the three major doctrines revealed in Paul’s Church Epistles: justification by the faith OF Christ (Gal. 2:16), the spiritual Body of Christ (Eph. 3:1-7), and the rapture of the Body of Christ to heaven (1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Not only are those doctrines not found in the Hebrew Epistles, but the doctrine that is found therein is DIFFERENT. This can be seen by comparing the following verses.
- Rom. 3:28 with Jam. 2:24
- 1 Cor. 12:13 with Heb. 3:6, 14
- Gal. 3:28 with Jam. 1:1; Rev. 2:9, 3:9
- Rom. 8:35-39 with Jude 20-21
- Eph. 4:30 with Heb. 6:4-6
- 1 Cor. 15:51-52 with Rev. 1:7
The books of the New Testament (NT) are arranged according to a dispensational order, and not chronologically. God used Paul to complete the word of God (Col. 1:25; 2 Tim. 3:16), but the Hebrew Epistles are placed after his epistles because they RESUME the prophetic kingdom program of Israel that was interrupted by the revelation of the mystery concerning this present age (cf. Acts 3:21; Rom. 16:25).
Hebrews through Revelation were written to and about the godly remnant of Israel who will suffer tribulation as they look for the second coming of Christ to the earth to establish His kingdom. That is why there is an emphasis on the last days of PROPHECY in the Hebrew Epistles (Heb. 1:1-2; Jam. 5:1-11; 1 Pet. 1:3-13; 2 Pet. 3:1-4; 1 Jn. 2:18; Jude 17-18; Rev. 1:1-3, 7-9). There must be scripture written directly to the tribulation saints who will be living during the culmination of the prophetic kingdom program. Christ foretold of the Hebrew Epistles (Jn. 16:12-13).
There are three transition books in the NT:
- Matthew – from prophecy to fulfillment
- Acts – from prophecy to mystery
- Hebrews – from old covenant to new covenant, tribulation to the kingdom
Just as the nine Church Epistles of Paul are arranged according to the order of doctrine, reproof, and correction for instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16), so are the nine Hebrew Epistles.
New Covenant in the Blood of Christ
- Hebrews – Doctrine: the superiority of the new covenant over the old covenant
- James – Reproof: faith must be proven by works
- 1 Peter – Correction: suffering must precede the glory
The Godly Remnant of Israel
- 2 Peter – Doctrine: the true knowledge of God and how to make their calling and election sure
- 1, 2, & 3 John – Reproof: tests to distinguish the children of God from children of the devil
- Jude – Correction: exposing apostate false teachers
The Coming of Christ
- Revelation – Doctrine: the second coming of Christ, but also reproof and correction in preparation for it (Rev. 2-3)
That the Hebrew Epistles work together as a unit is proven by how the end of each one leads to the next one.
- Heb. 13:20-21 with Jam. 1:22-27
- Jam. 5:7-11 with 1 Pet. 4:12-16
- 1 Pet. 5:8-9 with 2 Pet. 2:1
- 2 Pet. 3:17 with 1 Jn. 2:18-26
- 1 Jn. 5:19-21 with Jude 1-4
- Jude 22-25 with Rev. 1:4-7; 3:4
The ending of Revelation does not lead into another book because it completes the group (Rev. 22:21). The ending of Philemon is similar to the one in Revelation (Phile. 25) because it completes the group of Paul’s epistles and does NOT lead into Hebrews.
Failure to rightly divide Paul’s epistles to the Body of Christ from the Hebrew Epistles will only lead to confusion and false doctrine.