Hebrews 1:2–3 states that Jesus Christ is God’s Son, the “heir of all things.” He is the Creator of “the worlds” and is seated at the right hand of God. This introduces a major theme that runs throughout the book of Hebrews—the preeminence of Jesus Christ. Paul taught the Hebrew Saints that because of the Savior’s preeminence, it was important for Church members to give heed to His word over the word of angels or prophets, including Moses (see Hebrews 1:4; 2:1–3; 3:3). The Savior’s preeminence includes His ability to “succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18) because He was “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15). With that knowledge of the perfect empathy that Jesus Christ gained through the Atonement and His preeminent position in our Father’s kingdom, Paul exhorted, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
The Epistle to the Hebrews encourages followers of Jesus Christ not to repeat the mistake of the first generation of Israelites during the Exodus, who could not enter into the promised land because their unbelief and sin had hardened their hearts (see Hebrews 3–4).
The Epistle to the Hebrews was likely written before A.D. 68.
To help students feel the relevance of studying Hebrews, have a student read aloud the section titled “To whom was Hebrews written and why?” under “Introduction to the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews” in chapter 48 of the student manual. Ask:
What background information seems important to know from this section?
What might the Hebrew Saints have had in common with some Church members today?
Divide the class in half. Assign half of the students to study Hebrews 1:1–8, 13–14, looking for how Paul compared Jesus Christ to angels. Assign the other half of the class to study Hebrews 3:1–6, looking for how Paul compared Jesus Christ to Moses. After sufficient time, invite a few students from each half of the class to share phrases from their assigned verses that help explain how Jesus Christ was compared to angels and to Moses.
Write these mathematical symbols on the board: < > =. Ask students to identify the meaning of each symbol; then write the following on the board and ask students what mathematical symbol they would put in the blanks to make each statement true (>, meaning “greater than”):
Emphasize to students that one of the major themes in the Epistle to the Hebrews is: Jesus Christ stands supreme above all of God’s creations. (You may want to write this principle on the board for emphasis.) To help students better understand this doctrine, ask:
The Savior’s position of authority in God’s kingdom seems obvious to us. From what you have learned so far about the Hebrew Saints, why did this epistle need to emphasize doctrines about Jesus Christ’s preeminence?
What is the purpose of the word therefore in Hebrews 2:1? (The word therefore often highlights a lesson the ancient author wanted us to learn.)
What lesson did Paul want his readers to learn? (Since Christ is superior to the angels, we should give “earnest heed” to Christ when our faith is tried, not “neglect” working toward the “great salvation” offered to us, not fall away from the truth, and strive to be faithful. Salvation is found only in Christ.)
Have a student read Hebrews 2:10 aloud. Point out the words “the captain of their salvation,” which is a title for Jesus Christ, and ask:
What doctrine does the phrase “captain of their salvation” convey to you? (Possible answer: Jesus Christ is the Leader in the salvation of God’s children. Students will better understand this doctrine if you write it on the board.)
List the following verses from Hebrews 2 on the board: Hebrews 2:8, 9, 14, 15, 16–17, 18. Ask students to read each verse, marking details that reflect Jesus Christ’s qualifications to be the Captain of our salvation. As students share what they find, summarize their responses on the board. The board might look like the following:
After students have shared what they found, you could invite them to explain and testify of the doctrine Paul was teaching by asking:
Of the Savior’s qualifications listed on the board, which one is particularly meaningful to you as you consider the Savior’s role as the Captain of your salvation? (Ask students to explain their answers.)
How could you use the teachings in Hebrews 1–3 to help someone who might be thinking it is too hard to trust in the Lord or that he or she would be better off living as people in the world live?
To prepare students to study the next chapters in Hebrews, ask:
When you hear the word rest, what do you think about?
What are some trials or temptations or troubles from which you would like to rest?
Tell students that Hebrews 3–4 refers to an experience found in the Old Testament that illustrates how Saints can find rest from their trials and temptations. Have students read Hebrews 3:7–9, and ask them if they know what the phrase “as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness” refers to. If students do not know, briefly explain that after the children of Israel were freed from Egyptian bondage, they continued to witness numerous miracles, including the parting of the Red Sea, being fed by manna, and being granted continuous water in their time of thirst.
The Lord led the children of Israel through a desert wilderness. While in the wilderness, the children of Israel often rebelled against the Lord, including by building and worshipping a golden calf at Mount Sinai. When the Israelites came to the borders of the land of Canaan (modern-day Israel), Moses sent 12 spies into Canaan to discover what they could about the land and the people who lived there. They returned with an account of the bounteous nature of the land but also said that the cities were well protected and the people were strong and numerous. When the Israelites heard the report of the spies, many of them murmured against the Lord and threatened to return to Egypt. Wearied by the constant murmuring, the Lord was “provoked” and declared that the people would wander in the wilderness for 40 years until the unbelieving generation had all died (see Numbers 13–14).
Have students read Hebrews 3:11 and identify the place where the Lord did not permit the Israelites to enter. Consider inviting students to mark the word “rest” in their scriptures. Tell students that in one sense the word “rest” in verse 11 refers to the land of Canaan, which is modern-day Israel. They will explore an additional meaning of the Lord’s “rest” later in the lesson.
Write the following scripture references on the board: Hebrews 3:12, 15, 18–19. Give students a few moments to study these verses and highlight in their scriptures reasons why the children of Israel were not permitted into the Lord’s rest. Then ask:
What are some reasons the children of Israel did not enter the Lord’s rest?
How would you explain what it means to “harden not your hearts”?
Point out that in Hebrews 4, Paul taught the meaning of the Lord’s “rest” as he likened the story of ancient Israel to his readers. Write Doctrine and Covenants 84:23–24 on the board and give students a minute to read the passage and identify the definition of the Lord’s “rest.” You might also have a student read aloud the student manual commentary for Hebrews 3:8–17; 4:1–11 to show that aspects of the Lord’s “rest” are available to us in mortality.
Ask a student to read Hebrews 4:1 aloud while the rest of the class follows along looking for Paul’s concern.
What was Paul’s concern? (He did not want the members of the Church to fail to enter into God’s rest, or the fulness of God’s glory.)
Assign each student to read one or two of the following scripture verses, looking for what we can do to enter into the Lord’s rest: Hebrews 4:2, 4, 7, 11, 14. (Write the scripture references on the board for students to refer to.) Ask students to report their findings, and write them on the board. The board might look like this:
Help students identify the doctrines and principles taught in these verses by asking:
As you consider the principles written on the board, do any of them have particular meaning to you? Explain. (You might encourage students to ponder which one they need to live more faithfully.)
From what we have studied in Hebrews 3–4, what must we do to enter into the Lord’s rest? (Make sure students understand this principle: As we hold fast to our faith in Jesus Christ, we will receive His grace and enter into His rest.)
What enables Jesus Christ to understand and sympathize with our trials and temptations?
What promise is made to those who boldly approach the throne of God?
What have you learned in today’s lesson that gives you confidence that you can “come boldly” (Hebrews 4:16) unto God to receive His grace and mercy? (If students struggle to answer this, consider referring them to the student manual commentary for Hebrews 4:16.)
You may want to share something you have experienced in your life that helps you know the truth of what is taught in Hebrews 4:16. Then briefly testify of God’s willingness to bless those who come unto Him. Assure students of the truth of this principle: As we hold fast to our faith in Jesus Christ, we will receive His grace and enter into His rest.
Provide a brief overview of Hebrews 5 for the students. (Consider reading the chapter overview for Hebrews 5, found at the beginning of this lesson.) Emphasize that priesthood authority can be received only from those who are authorized to administer it and that those who confer the priesthood on others must be authorized to do so by leaders who hold priesthood keys. Or as you evaluate the needs of your students, you may choose to teach the supplemental teaching idea for Hebrews 5:1–14, found at the end of this lesson.
Have students study Hebrews 6:1 to see if there is anything about the verse that does not sound right. If students are not aware of the Joseph Smith Translation change in this verse, point it out to them either in footnote a or in the student manual commentary for Hebrews 6:1–3. In order to “go on unto perfection” (perfection meaning complete, mature spiritual development), we do not leave the “doctrine of Christ” behind. We continually use the first principles and ordinances of the gospel as we progress toward full spiritual development.
Have students read Hebrews 6:1–3 silently, this time marking or making note of any doctrines that are part of the path to perfection. Invite a few students to tell what they marked. Explain that Paul’s teachings in these verses remind us that we have made covenants with God and there is still more we need to do to receive God’s promises.
Have a student read Hebrews 6:11 aloud while the class follows along looking for what Paul desired of his readers. After some student responses, ask:
What does the phrase “full assurance of hope” mean to you?
Explain that the word hope is important in Hebrews 6. Display the following definition of hope, and ask a student to read it aloud:
“When we have hope, we trust God’s promises. We have a quiet assurance that if we do ‘the works of righteousness,’ we ‘shall receive [our] reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come’ (D&C 59:23). … The principle of hope extends into the eternities, but it also can sustain you through the everyday challenges of life” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference , 85–86).
Give students a few minutes to study Hebrews 6:11–19, looking for words or phrases that help them understand the concept of hope. You might invite students to mark their findings in their scriptures. If time permits, you might also refer students to the student manual commentary for Hebrews 6:11, 18–19. After sufficient time, ask students to share what they found. (Possible answers: “Full assurance of hope” [verse 11]; “followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” [verse 12]; “after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise” [verse 15]; “lay hold upon the hope set before us” [verse 18]; “hope we have as an anchor of the soul” [verse 19].)
Help students to state the doctrine taught in these verses by asking:
What did Paul teach in these verses about the importance of hope? (Though students may express the following principle in different words, make sure they understand: When we have hope, we have a spiritual anchor that helps us endure with confidence and ultimately receive the Lord’s promises.)
The following questions are designed to help students explain and feel the importance of this doctrine:
What did you find in these scripture passages that strengthens your hope or assurance that God will keep His promises to you? (Possible answers: God has fulfilled His promises to others in the past [verses 12–15, 18]; God will always keep His promises to us [verses 17–18]; God’s counsel is “immutable,” meaning that it cannot change [verse 17].)
What did you read that we can do to help us develop or exercise hope? (Possible answers: Be diligent to the end [see verse 11]; do not be slothful [verse 12]; follow in the pattern of others who endured in faith [verse 12]; endure patiently [verse 15]; remember that God will always keep His promises to us [verses 17–18]; remember that hope is a sure anchor to our souls [verse 19]).
Testify that we can rely on God to keep His promises. If we are faithful, we will one day join those who, like Abraham, have already received the eternal blessings promised to them.