The seventh decade of the first century A. D. was a dark and stormy period in Palestine. As the religion/politics of the Jews continued to radicalize and ultimately imploded, Christians with a family tree which included Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob faced increasing hostility and mistreatment from their own kinsmen.
By the time the Epistle to the Hebrews—a self-described “word of exhortation” (13:22)—was written in Italy (13:24) and arrived in Palestine, spiritual malaise was widespread. Many Christians had become careless and lethargic (2:1; 3:12-14); their spiritual growth had been stunted (5:12-14). Spiritual laziness (6:11-12) and self-pity (12:4) were becoming more widespread.
In some, apathy had metastasized to the point that they were in the habit of forsaking the weekly worship assembly (10:25). Fueling this steep spiritual decline among both Jews and Christians was the host of false prophets and pseudo-Christs who rose up and deceived many (Matthew 24:11, 23-26).
So, in the midst of all this cultural decay, societal disintegration, and open apostasy, what is a Christian to do? What will the contents of an inspired “word of exhortation” be? When the foundations have been irreparably damaged and are on the verge of complete destruction (which did occur by A. D. 70), what is the righteous to do?
The divine answer is a resounding echo of the same counsel God gave Peter three decades earlier on the Mount of Transfiguration: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased. Hear Him!” (Matthew 17:5).
These three thoughts make an excellent outline of the book of Hebrews. This is My beloved Son (1:1-4); In whom I am well-pleased (1:5-10:18); Hear ye Him! (10:19-12:29).
Add about a dozen exhortations (13:1-24), and you have a bird’s eye view of the book of Hebrews.