Simon Bowkett's Podcast

Hope - Anchored beyond our Era of Anxiety - Hebrews 6:19

April 16, 2022 Simon Bowkett
Simon Bowkett's Podcast
Hope - Anchored beyond our Era of Anxiety - Hebrews 6:19
Show Notes Transcript

How can we hope in times of fear and anxiety?

The Bible says

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”

Hebrews 6:19

         •        Introduction

You may or may not know that at the moment we are dealing with a lot of despair in the farming community … it’s coming out now as people begin to think COVID is over and they are emerging from the places in which they have been ’taking cover’ for the last 2-3 years.

Hope transforms, saves, empowers and inspires human life.

The four essentials I was taught to sustain human life were water, shelter, food and warmth.

There is actually at least one more.

You can’t live without hope.

And hopelessness has become such a pervasive feature of our culture, we exist within a culture of anxiety.

It is serious.

It is life-depleting.

It is life-destroying.

In fact it gets to be life-threatening … as in the case of my new friend.

In the language of our text in Hebrews 6:19, hope is the anchor of the soul.

So where has the hope gone in our culture and WHERE is the soul-anchor that our world needs going to come from?

         •        Hope deferred in our culture

There is absolutely NO doubt that we’re in a crisis of hope … and this is actually quite thoroughly explicable.

Our Western society entered the 20th. Century in an attitude of hope, but the experience that followed across much of the 20th. Century destroyed this hope because the basis for that hope was the idea of human ‘progress’, and the twentieth century showed time and again how human nature turns the promise of ‘progress’ into things that are thoroughly regressive.

            •          The hope of ‘Progress’

We do actually come out of a world whose hope was built off a broadly Biblical concept of progress.

For several centuries before the last one, Western society did have significant hope when it looked to the future, built upon this strong belief in human progress.

That hope has waned and the implications of that are serious and disturbing. 

Now, that idea of linear progress that Western hopes were built upon is really a bit unusual in human history.

Some ancient societies saw history as cyclical … upswings and downswings occurred in a cyclical pattern of experience. Rhythmic rounds ended in bursts of chaos and then went around again, they thought … and because that was what they thought it was what they expected.

Civilisations from the Greeks to the Norsemen backed that vie of the predictable trajectory of human society.

Before Christianity, the idea history was moving in the direction of continual progress simply didn’t exist.

Robert Nisbet has written about this in his ‘History of the Idea of Progress’, but the short story is that only Christian expected progress towards a golden age of happiness on earth when Christ returned to banish the darkness and bring in total light.

With European Enlightenment from about 1750 until the end of the 19th. Century, the Christian hope got ‘secularised’, detaching the idea of the Christian linear view of progress from its long-held relationship with God, making it a historical process that was 100% the product of natural causes.

The Bible HAD taught that history was in God’s hand, and that He guides it towards a future you can really hope in.

But the ‘linear’ nature of Christian hope is not a series of better and better eras, while the secular view did promise a linear progression.

You get it in Hegel, you get it in Marx and Western culture cruised into the 20th. Century with a confident hope for history.

People believed the future would be better than the past and that life would be better for their children than it was for them.

            •          ‘Progress’ broken

But hope and belief in progress got broken decisively in what happened in the 20th. Century.

The first half of that century saw two wretched and horrible world-wide wars culminating in the dropping of a nuclear bomb which left us in the Cold War that followed.

Progressivism was a creed that didn’t match reality, and the hope that folks had put in it was radically deferred.

            •          ‘Progress’ resurrected?

The dawn of the technological era did bring SOME hope that things would improve again, as technological progress was confused with human progress conceived again on a linear pattern.

But it didn’t last.

            •          ‘Progress’ re-buried

Those ‘progress resurgent’ voices are being challenged again by many who point not to the World Wars and the Holocaust of the mid-twentieth century, but to the extent to which the intractable problems of our 21st. Century are in fact CAUSED not solved by our technological advances … climate change, pandemics arising out of technological farming practices and spreading because of the globalisation of our economy through technological advances.

It all raises he question, don’t it, as to why ‘Progress’ has failed?

         •        Why has ‘Progress’ failed?

As we approach the close of the first quarter of the 21st. Century, sci-fi films no longer provide us with optimistic scenarios about the future and young adults are far less likely to marry and start families, or to vote.


It’s because the cultural loss of hope is almost palpable … and it’s growing.

There were two obvious design flaws in the Western idea of progress that decisively doomed it.

            •          Faulty anthropology

Firstly, the advocates of hope in human progress didn’t reckon with human nature.

Western ‘progressives’ reckoned that as knowledge increased life would get better.

But that depended, crucially, on humans using greater knowledge for the greater good … and in fact they could have predicted that things wouldn’t actually turn out like that.

They presumed the fundamental total goodness of human nature.

To put a very sharp point on the ability of technology to guarantee progress: there was technology there a-plenty, but it didn’t end up helping anyone very much at Auschwitz.

Human nature determines how such powerful opportunities as that offered by technology gets used … and there’s the issue.

Lord David Cecil summed up this neatly at the end of World War 2:

“The jargon of the philosophy of progress taught us to think that the savage and primitive state of man is behind us … but barbarism is not behind us it is [within] us.” (Cited Dorothy Sayers ‘Creed or Chaos?’, 1949

If you have ever read William Golding’s book ‘Lord of the Flies’ published in 1954 … possibly in school as a set book … you’ll have read a portrayal of how a group of marooned boys regressed into wretched barbarism very quickly.

What you may not have cottoned on to is that this was a response made in tension with a book of 1857, ‘The Coral Island’, referenced by Golding in his book and arises from the entire book portrays the loss of hope in historical progress that we are taking about here today.

Rousseau had persuaded society that we are in ourselves pure and good and that it is only society that ruins us teaching us to be selfish and exploitative.

Disillusioned with what he had observed, Golding wrote to say that was nonsense, and that the evil we see in society is the outworking of our nature … meaning that this faith and hope in progress is fatally doomed.

There’s the first reason progressivism failed.

But there’s one more factor in this …

            •          Secular hope anticipates oblivion

The proponents of secular faith in progress fail to take account of the fact that Secularism is fundamentally and irrecoverably pessimistic about the future that lies ahead of us.

There can be by definition very little hope in it, and not just because human natures so fatally flawed.

The original Christian idea of historical progress was that history is moving not just to an ending, but to something good beyond history.

Secularism reckons it’s all going to end when the sun goes out and the planet falls into pointless oblivion, while God’s end-game is a renewed world resulting from a creative and carefully carried out objective … but the secular idea of progress believes in nothing at all beyond this material world.

Secular hope cannot overcome death in a resurrected future, nor can it hope in the redemption of the broken world we live in into a new-created one.

As Keller writes in the book I took for my own pre-Easter read this year “the secular hope is only for a progress that is very temporary. It assumes that the actual destiny of human history is complete oblivion.”

(Hope in Times of Fear, p. 204)

He goes on a few pages later to say that for the secular thinker there is no hope:


Unless there is a God Who has promised to guide history not to an end but to a new beginning, to a world in which finally death and evil are completely destroyed and justice and peace reign supreme, the sign of which {says Keller} is the Resurrection.”

(Op. cit. p.206)

         •        The hope of the Resurrection spoken and sworn by God

This is the answer to the questions thrown up in our culture about the possibility of hopeful the future and the response to the abandonment of any hope of hope as the logical consequence of the secular view of the world.

The hope of hope is found across Scripture, but here in Hebrews 6:19 its benefit to humanity is expressed in terms of the anchoring effect the hope of the Resurrection has on the believing soul:

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and steadfast, which reaches inside behind the curtain, where Jesus our forerunner entered on our behalf …”

That’s a reference that draws heavily on the readers’ intimate knowledge of the Jerusalem Temple and the symbolic significance of its floor plan and furnishings.

Inside that curtain was the representation of the Holiest place in Heaven where God’s throne was to be found at the place of atonement - satisfaction, you might say - for human sin and rebellion against God.

And Jesus going there was the ultimate destination of His journey through a perfect human life, atoning death and life-giving resurrection to return to Glory and send the Holy Spirit to be God with His whole church to lead us also all into Glory.

In the words of our text:

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and steadfast, which reaches inside behind the curtain, where Jesus our forerunner entered on our behalf …”

Now, we just need to set that in its context to grasp quite what is being said to establish this hope for humanity.

            •          The whole point of Hebrews

            •           Who’s it for?

Chapter 1 verse 1 says that both the people receiving this letter and the person or people sending it were those whose ancestors heard the prophets speak.

It sounds like we’re talking about people of Hebrew descent.

The book does seem to both display and presuppose a lot of detailed knowledge of the Old Testament  background to the New Testament, and the author does seem to have at least been close to the Apostles if not one of them, as chapter 2 shows the author had a first-hand relationship with the Lord as a disciple (or at least first-hand with the other disciples) and while there have been people who have tried to argue that the author was Paul or one of his colleagues like Barnabas or Apollos we really don’t know who wrote Hebrews or who they wrote it TO, although they were all very OT aware and we can reconstruct from the message of the book itself … the internal evidence … that there was a need to persuade people of Jewish heritage who’s been around a Christian view of the world NOT to go back to the old faith that was now fulfilled in Christ.

Chapter 10 seems to suggest that these people are experiencing persecution and imprisonment because of their association with Jesus, which may well be driving the need for them to be addressed like this.

The earlier chapters spend a lot of time showing how in one way after another Christ and the Covenant He brought and so on are BETTER than what they had with Moses and the Law … so don’t turn back!

Now THAT background goes a long way to explain the structure and purpose of this letter.

There’s a short introduction followed by four sections comparing and contrasting Jesus with key people and events from Israel’s history.

Here’s the first contrast …

            •           Angels in the Torah, Hebrews 1-2

The introduction to the book is in 1:1-3 and then the first section contrasts Jesus with angels in the Torah.

From the start though, at the outset in the introduction, the author writes:

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.”

Hebrews 1:1-4

Better to have the Son of God than a flawed human prophet.

Better to have the One Who is the radiance of God’s glory and the EXACT representation of His being (that is the exact imprint of His personal Divine nature), Who also speaks and it is done throughout Creation … and Who sits beside the Father on Heaven’s ‘settee’ throne!

The incarnate Jesus is to God like the light beams to the Sun and the wax impression to the signet ring,  says Hebrews.

Jesus is God become human as the Son.

You don’t get ‘better’!

So there’s the elevated view of Jesus  that gets explored throughout the letter, and then from that description of Who Jesus is, the author goes on to describe how Jesus is not just superior to God’s earthly messengers the prophets but also to His Heavenly ones, the angels.

Why angels?

Because Deuteronomy 33:2 tells us that the Moses and the ancient Hebrews received the Law through angels.

But we have received the Christian message through God’s very own incarnate Son … it’s better because it is much more direct and therefore not to be turned back from to the old and less superior covenant.

This speaks of God’s humility … that He joined Himself to humanity and shared humanity’s tragically mortal fate … and His greatness (that He took on humanity’s deathly destiny and beat it into submission forging from it an eternal hope of Glory through His death and resurrection from the grave).

Next, Hebrews compares Jesus to …

            •           Moses and the Promised Land (Hebrews 3-4)

In chapters 2-3 the author moves on to describe how Jesus is superior to Moses and holds out a better hope than that offered to the people wandering in the Sinai wilderness as we wander around here in ours.

Now, of course, Moses led the ancient Hebrews through the Wilderness and built the Tabernacle as their focus for worship, but Jesus is also the leader of God’s people (‘Follow me!’ He said and they did).

But whereas Moses was the builder of a worship tent, Jesus is the Creator of all Creation.

The thing is, the first post-Exodus Hebrews rebelled against Moses in the Wilderness and lost their hope of ever entering into the rest that God had offered them in the Promised Land.

And that’s where the second warning occurs: if Jesus is a much higher leader than Moses, how much greater are the stakes if we rebel against Him?

The message is this: surely, we are ourselves in a Wilderness type situation in this world where we need to trust in God for the hope of our promised future to be realised … so let’s be sure we don’t rebel against Him on the way there!

The next comparison is between Jesus and the Levitical priesthood


            •           Priests and Melchizedek Hebrews 5-7

In this section, the section our text comes from, the author of Hebrews is dealing with the priests in Israel and the sacrifices they had to offer that covered the due penalty for the sin of the people God who God planned to bring into His hoped-for, Promised Land rest.

The thing is, those priests were themselves morally flawed people so had to constantly offer sacrifices for their OWN sins as well as the people’s.

The system was flawed, something more was needed and the author argues that Jesus IS that something more.

He is the ULTIMATE priestly go-between between God and mankind, sacrificing Himself to make the relationship and the communication possible.

In line with Psalm 110, the priest from the line of David will be a priest in the order not of Aaron but Melchizzedek … the ultimate priest-King … morally flawless and eternally available for His people so He is superior to ANY other mediator between God and humanity.

The warning is appropriate, then: to reject Jesus is to reject your only and best chance to be fully reconciled to God … so don’t DO that!

And that carries us forward into the last comparison in chapters 8 -10.

            •           Sacrifice and Covenant, Hebrews 8-10

The author shows us how (in the words of the old hymn) the Lord’s death on the Cross is better than all ‘the blood of bulls and goats on Israel’s altars slain.’

Those sacrifices had to be offered constantly, but Jesus offered His life once and for all on the Cross, which was sufficient to cover the sins of the whole world.

So the warning is to avoid walking away from THAT offer of Christ’s forgiveness, which would be like turning your back on such a great offer of once for all grace and mercy … the foundation of the New Covenant spoken of by the prophets where all sins are forgiven.

Why would you do that?

Then, from this point on, having shown Jesus to be the superior and transcendently ‘better’ offer of God, the rest of the book is just one big challenge to follow Jesus.

            •           The Point, then …

The point of all of this is two-fold:

1. It is to show Jesus as superior to any other option on offer, and

2. It is to encourage the readers to stay faithful to this superior Jesus in spite of the perception and hardships they encounter.

It’s as simple as that.

Every section of the book includes a strong warning NOT to abandon Jesus.

Here in the Gospel in Hebrews is the anchor in hope for the Christian soul.

Our hope in this transcendently superior Jesus Who transcends the grist relate of human experience and existence seals our destiny by His sin-atoning death and death defying resurrection, sending the new covenant life in the Spirit to the heirs of His grace.

And we have THIS hope in THAT resurrected Jesus as the anchor of OUR soul in this Wilderness wandering of ours where we have to trust His promise of what’s His death and resurrection make sure of but is now, as yet, still waited for to come.

            •          Hebrews 6 - Hope spoken AND sworn

Hebrews 6:17-20 clearly address this surety of hope in the future that God is giving us the opportunity to progress into:

“Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.”

There are two certainties referred to, sealing the hope there.

First there is the Word of the God Who cannot lie … God has indicated that this is what He is doing, His purpose.

He has told us and what the God of truth says is always going to be inherently and absolutely true.

Secondly, God reinforced the promise (so we’d be sure of it) with an oath … a sworn covenant promised through the prophets from Moses onwards.

And the outcome of that … the fruit of it all … is anchored souls in a wind and storm-tossed, scary world.

The same world that these Hebrew readers of the letter and we ourselves too are living through.

If you’ve followed at all closely the news this week from Ukraine and around the world, that’s the world I’m speaking of and it’s the SORT of world that our text for today grips hold of.

            •          Hebrews 6:19 - Hope-anchored souls

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 

where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

Hebrews 6:19

Our hope if we are believers is in the One Who came into the Wilderness we were banished to, into His own time-frame’s Era of significant Anxiety, and by the offering of His life once for all on the Cross paying the price of sin and rising to life again for our salvation went through the barrier in the Temple (that curtain in the verse there) which was hung to prevent sinful human beings from entering the dangerous holy presence of God … restoring the relationship for those who follow Him with the living God.

And thereby sealing our access to the throne-room of God in eternity, in Glory.

That’s progress.

That’s the believer’s destiny on account of the crucifixion and resurrection.

And it is NOT a straight-line progress based on natural cause and effect.

It is a miracle of God’s provision, leadership and patient grace!

But THAT is the anchor that holds for human souls.

And THAT is what transforms - even now - the Christian’s experience throughout this era of anxiety.

         •        Conclusion

The darkest realties of human existence are met, matched and more than mitigated in the death and resurrection of Christ and the sending of His Holy Spirit.

They have set human history on a trajectory of progression through trial, conflict, persecution and suffering to the Glorious throne room of God that is the believers’ destiny.

Our hope is not in ‘progress’ but Redemption!

And it is personal, achieved by His grace not our merits or works.

And it is transformational, brought about by faith alone.

The message of our series, of our ministry, of the Bible this Easter and every day, is that we need to turn from living within and to ourselves to living by faith in the crucified resurrected Saviour Who sends His Spirit to redeem our lives through this Era of Anxiety.

To Him alone be every ounce of Glory.