In chapter 1, we saw that because God’s Son was a better everything, it gave Him a name better than the angels (especially one angel in particular that has designs of his own on how things will go). That Son mad propitiation, or atonement for us, and then sat down because that work was finished. As a result, we read in chapter 2 that we need to pay closer attention to the things we have heard about Jesus and the truth that He is God’s chosen method of communicating with us today so that we would not drift away from it. The picture used was that of a safe harbour, and a navigator that was not paying due attention, slipped past the harbour entrance and shipwrecked on the rocks.
Then we are treated by the author to an exposition on Psalm 8, and it is hinted that God has some grand design for humans to be His universal administrators in the age to come. There was a definite statement of how for a short period of time, humans were made lower than the angels, but that in the end we would be at least equal to the angels in status and power. This is a definite thing, according to the author, although for now we do not see that – but we DO see HIM. The Son. We see Jesus, made like a man – one who tasted death for everyone that would ever believe in Him, and who incidentally made everything, including the angels – and He is a kind of forerunner and leader of those coming administrators, the coming priest-kings of the universe that will have sovereignty of, for, and by God.
This makes Jesus our high priest, it says at the end, one who now because he was made like us in that he suffered death, can have mercy on us, and who is faithful to extend to us grace as we are sanctified, that is made holy, like He is holy. Now in chapter 3, the book turns to who this Son Jesus is, and it begins by telling us to consider Him, and compares Him to Moses. Moses gave the Law, the old Covenant. By comparison, Jesus gave the New Covenant. Both were written by the will and hand of God. Both required obedience. As a result, it compares the two covenants and what obedience and disobedience looked like and warranted under each.
Chapter 4 was a basic gospel presentation aimed at those who were intellectually attuned to the message, but had not yet made a commitment to follow the Lord into the redemption He secured by his high priestly sacrifice. The author of Hebrews very clearly showed that Jesus sacrificed Himself so that we could enter His rest for us, and that to enter, we needed to believe Him and what He said. The basic problem that people seem to have when we consider this is is that they all claim to be servants of the Master. But think about this what does it look like from the outside when people either do what they are told so they can be saved or believe and obey so that they are saved and then do the work to please the Master? It’s difficult to tell, because the work completed looks exactly the same, does it not? And yet only faith by grace will save us, not works, so that we can’t brag about how good we are – but if we truly are redeemed, then we can be bold in our approach to His throne and find mercy when we need it.
Chapter 5 went on to talk more about the eternal Son and how he received a new, different, and better priesthood than the Levitical priesthood because He offered a better sacrifice (it was a once-for-all sacrifice) because it was permanent and unlike Levitical sacrifices, was not offered by a sinful priest, but instead the sinless Son, and unlike the animal that was a mere picture or shadow of the sacrifice that Christ would offer, He offered His own life, which was good and acceptable in the eyes of God the Father. As a result, God raised Christ from the dead, and made Him to be high priest of a different, better, and more ancient priesthood, the order of Melchizedek. We looked briefly at the man Melchizedek, and then took a look at what maturity looked at how those who were developing maturity in Christ were engaged in discernment actively at all times, testing whether things were from the Lord or not.
Chapter 6 says some very hard things to hear, and it even sounds like some of those “you can lose your salvation if you aren’t careful” people that I disagree with. You MUST remember that there are three groups of people that would be the target of this sermon. Believers, who I do NOT believe were the target of the harder remarks, those who were intellectually convinced but who had not yet made a life commitment to the Messiah (who the comments ARE aimed at), and finally the basic unbeliever, so just like a standard church congregation today. I think verse 9 said it all – “We are convinced of better things concerning you, things that accompany salvation, even though we are speaking this way.”
Chapter 7 begins the explanation of the harder things that the author was speaking of earlier in the letter, beginning with an individual that has in our study become very important – the person of Melchizedek. Melchizedek is unique in Scripture as a gentile priest, who was the ancient king of the ancient city of Jerusalem, before it was ever called Jerusalem. The author of Hebrews tells us that the Messiah, our Lord Jesus, is a priest forever after the order of this man Melchizedek. He has a great deal to say about him, and why this other and better priesthood is necessary. Chapter 8 speaks in detail about how the New Covenant was seen in the old covenant, and fulfilled in Jesus, our Messiah who died in our place to save those who will believe in Him. In the closing verses of Chapter 8, it talks about how the New Covenant has replaced the old, and the Old covenant, though it has not quite disappeared yet, is now ready to disappear. This continues into chapter 9, where we directly compare the old types and shadows with the new heavenly realities in Christ, and determine why, according to the author and the Author, the new is much – well – better!
That brings us today to chapter 10, which for ease of handling the longer chapter in the time allotted, we have divided roughly in half. Last week we considered the first half of Chapter 10, verses 1-18, in which we saw how Jesus, God the Son, made one sacrifice for all sins for all believers for all time to sanctify and glorify them when He returns. In this second half of chapter 10, or Hebrews 10B, we will see that there are some who will choose not to follow Jesus, and stick to the rituals and patterns that we discussed last week that we now know cannot save anyone ever. That’s where we will begin today.
[Chapter summary goes here.]
I broke the chapter down as follows:
KV 39: We are those who choose to persevere
19-25: The New and Living way in Christ
26-31: The reason for walking in obedience
32-39: Do not shrink back, instead have faith and stand!
KV 39: We are those who choose to persevere
We see in this passage a stark contrast between those who will come all the way to Christ and follow Him and those who are at least hesitating to come and follow, or as you will find in any gathering, those who refuse to believe. For all those that will hear the Gospel, they may be put into two general categories – those who will come and those who will not. Given that in the first half of the chapter we talked about the complete salvation of the elect, that is those whom God chose for His Own reasons that have nothing to do with us, We cannot now just turn away and neglect to talk a little about human will and what that means.
The very first thing to say is that all humans still have a will, and that will causes us all to make choices. All humans will be held responsible for the choices they make. Luther did not deny that, nor did Calvin, or any other of the theologians of the Reformation. We all define the concept of the free will of humans as the ability to make a free choice at a minimum. Scripture teaches that ALL men are under a sentence of death for our own deeds, and that we have earned death for ourselves, and eternal damnation besides. For those that will say with Paul to Timothy that it is the will of God for all men to be saved (1 Tim 2:4), I can say that it is within the permissive will of God – anyone who comes will in no way be cast out. Our concern should not be with “who is the elect” but rather that all humans have the chance to hear the Gospel and respond however they will choose. In their choice, the choice of God the Father is reflected. I remember making a clear choice to turn to Christ and repent of my sins. So it is with all those that God has chosen and gifted to His Son. Others that I know and care for have made different choices, and though tragic, it is their choice, and they will be accountable for it. Go back to the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter III. The first paragraph of that reads, “God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.” That, according to R. C. Sproul, is one of the best statements ever written. No violence is ever offered to the will of the creatures. For now, we will skip all the first and second causes bit.
There seems to be this illusion that God is out there dragging people kicking and screaming into His kingdom or out of it as the case may be. No, friends, we will only go where our own will takes us, and what do you know, it is what God chose for us to begin with. That has some scary implications, and we might discuss them here, and we might not. Whatever comes, let’s get into the chapter.
19-25: The New and Living way in Christ
This is option 1 of the choice that the author of Hebrews is setting out to his audience. After he has painstakingly laid out who the Son of God is, and how He is a better redeemer, a better sacrifice, a better high priest, with a better covenant, he explains that this should give we who have been redeemed by His sacrifice great confidence to enter into communion with Him where He is.
19: Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,
- The word Brethren here shows that He is speaking to those who have already believed among those Hebrews in the audience for this sermon. At this point in the text, He has said that sins have been forgiven and that the blood sacrifices that were only types and shadows are no longer required. That sacrifice of Jesus was enough for all sins for all time, as you will recall from last study. This gives great confidence for those that will believe and obey to enter that holy place, the real heavenly one by proxy, that is the blood of Jesus.
20: by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,
- The author calls this a new and living way. Christ himself inaugurated, that is, began it for us. Notice we did nothing to initiate this. We are not saved by any action we can take.
- The veil is equated to His flesh. A couple of studies ago (chapter 9), we went over the geography of the temple, and how it was divided into holy place and holy of holies by a thick multi-layered cloth veil. It was thick, it was hard to tear, and yet that veil was torn from top to bottom, something only God could do, signifying that God Himself opened the way to Himself. See (a) above. This is all the work of God so far.
21: and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
- What is the author doing here? Short sentences, each making a separate but related point. He is making a statement, naturally, but he is using these statements like steps, drawing us toward an inexorable conclusion.
- The author takes the time to tell us again that we have such a great high priest over the entire house of God. Why? Because his next statement is going to be very important.
22: let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
- Here is the first of three conclusions to which the author is leading us. This is real meat in terms of spiritual food, and it is difficult to put together and to understand. The whole point of this teaching it to draw us to Himself by having us make very specific and practical applications. Think about how we eat a meal. We have our starch, usually bread or potatoes, our meat for protein, and then the vegetables. Here, we are being given all of the nice “let us” (lettuce) that we can eat, the roughage, the application that will help us grow in Christ. Lots and lots of good, healthy lettuce.
- Our first application is to DRAW NEAR. How does one draw near? Well, the verse tells us. First, we must have a sincere heart. Please note that I am NOT talking about discernment of others here, I’m talking about what Paul called self-examination in 1 Corinthians 11. The only heart we are able to at least partly look at in terms of motive is our own. We usually know if we are being sincere [Gk., alethinos; real or genuine]. I would say that if we can be honest, we can at least discern our own motives.
- What helps with that? Full assurance of faith. The word used in the Greek, plerophoria, means complete confidence. It is a character of faith. It has a secondary meaning, that of a guarantee that is given with the one who has it – our own faith is a gift of God given by grace, and not by our own works or worth. To have that guarantee of faith, we must be born again, says Jesus in John 3:3.
- Hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience. This is NOT a verse in favour of a form of baptism known as sprinkling, please don’t ever use this as a proof-text for that. This is in context speaking of the blood of the sacrifice made by the Christ on our behalf, and how its efficacy is also good to cleanse the altar of our hearts by its sprinkling, in that it cleanses our conscience from literally the toilsome job of trying to reason out why our sin isn’t really sin, why we aren’t really bad, and all the mental gymnastics that go into that.
- Our bodies washed with pure water. This could be a couple of things, or possibly both at once. This may be a reference to baptism, but Peter tells us that baptism is not the washing away of sins. I think rather that this is referring to the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer to cleanse us as we study His Word. Ephesians 5 talks about the washing of water with the Word, talking specifically about how Christ gave himself up for the church, and that husbands should be the same way with their wives. This only happens when the Holy Spirit regenerates and individual and that individual then repents and believes (obeys) Christ.
- With all that said, we should be drawing near – but to what or whom in this case? Well, it should be that we draw near to God the Father, through the cleansing sacrifice of Jesus Christ, with the help of the Holy Spirit (because we will not do it ourselves). Notice this behaviour is toward God.
23: Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;
- Hold fast. It literally means “to hold firmly,” and for those of us that get into things like this, the Greek word is katecho, which is the root of our English word Catechism. The teachings of the Apostles are the things which we are to hold fast if you think about this, and in fact, when we teach it to others, we are “catechizing” them, that is, teaching them the catechism. Can anyone tell me what the catechism is?
- It is in fact the confession of our hope. The word here is homologia, a compound word that literally means to say the same thing as Another, in this case the Holy Spirit, because he is our hope, elpis, our expectation. Remember, “hope” is not used the same way in Greek as it is in English. In English, we use the word to express our wishes that may or may not happen, such as my desire for the Winnipeg Jets to win the Stanley Cup. I HOPE it happens, but it might not. In Greek, to express a hope is to express an expectation, like the return of Christ. It is a guaranteed event, but we have idea when it will occur (unless you’re an Amillenialist, in which case your hope is that it is a spiritual event that is referred to, but it is just as much of a guarantee for you). My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. It is a certain but future expectation.
- This is why we are to hold that hope without wavering. It is a certain expectation for the future. “Without wavering” literally means without bending. Whatever the world, the flesh or the devil throws at us, we are not to bend, we are to continue to place our faith and our hope in Jesus Christ. Why would we do that?
- Because He who promised is faithful. The adjective form of the word can also be translated as reliable. It really comes down to whether you will continue to believe in Him who made the promise of complete salvation or not. Will you? He is reliable – He will keep His promises. Notice this behaviour is directed toward the world at large – standing for the right in a world gone wrong.
24: and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,
- Let us consider. This is the third piece of “lettuce” here in the paragraph, and it is loaded. The translators of the English translations available today have all tried to soften the language it seems. We are to consider how to “provoke” one another to good works. Lest you think I’m making this up, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words says, “lit., “a sharpening,” hence “a sharpening of the feeling, or action” (para, “beside,” intensive, oxus, “sharp”), denotes an incitement, a sharp contention, Acts 15:39, the effect of irritation; elsewhere in Heb. 10:24, “provoke,” unto love.” The idea of moving someone to a place where they feel like they MUST be loving and do good deeds is an interesting thought. How does one provoke someone else into love and good deeds? Try this – do them yourself and the effect will be to make everyone feel bad for not doing them. Over time, sometimes a short time, that guilty feeling will drive them to action. Notice that this is the way we are to behave to each other!
25: not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
- But wait, there’s more, so to speak. This is the second part of the sentence. And what is the author’s concern? That we not forsake [desert] the assembling [gathering] together of ourselves as believers. His wisdom here is multifaceted, that is it covers a bunch of different things. First, is it possible that the author through the Holy Spirit means to convey that the place of “provoking each other to love and good deeds” is the church? Yes, I think he and He mean that. There is no such thing as a Lone Ranger in Christianity. Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto, Kimo Sabe!
- Second, there is strength in numbers. Those of you who grew up in the back woods like I did will get this – it’s easy to break a single twig. But add enough twigs, and that effort quickly increases to a level that exceeds your strength to break. God intends all of us to be a part of that kind of gathering for our mutual protection from the forces of darkness. Ever seen wolves hunt? The first thing they will attempt is to isolate a sick or diseased animal from the herd. Young ones too. I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes in a field, and I’ve seen it happen in the church. New believers are one of the most hunted groups by wolves. They are easy pickings because they don’t know about the world that hates them yet, and they are weak compared to older believers. It can make shipwreck of their faith, say Paul in a couple of places.
- Third, it is a protection for the doctrinal purity of the gathering. It is hard to hold onto heresy if there are good undershepherds around to direct the young or the naïve. If these pastors and teachers and evangelists are accurately handling the word of truth like they are supposed to, heresy has no place to gain footing. Would it were more so today. I am not encouraged when I look around Christendom today.
- Problem – “as is the habit of some.” There are some people, and I have met a few, that think they can be a Christian all on their own. They want to stand independently like mighty oaks and serve the Lord from their strength, I suppose. Beloved, it just isn’t possible. The elements of the world system are against believers in the first place. There is no true nourishment in that system. When we talk about the world in the “world, flesh, and devil” being against us, we are really talking about the system that someone other than the Lord put together. It hates God and it hates God’s chosen people. We need each other for a warning and sometimes as an actual defense against this darkness. An d this was even happening in the days of this writer of Hebrews. It isn’t anything new. I’m not saying that God cannot inspire a new gathering and anoint it and its plural leadership. Most places call that a church plant these days. Of course God can do that. But you need to know the will of God, and that cannot be done outside of the plurality of elders in that place giving counsel, and the church as a whole praying for the will of God to be done in that situation, just like it is in heaven.
- And we are instructed in this verse to do it even more as we see the day drawing near? What day could it be talking about? That day. The day of the return of Christ to take His rightful place as the King and rule with a rod of iron. The day that sin as a system will be ended in all believers everywhere, living or dead! Theologically, it is called the Parousia of Christ. The day He returns. He will want those that He loves and died to redeem to be gathered to Himself then. When we gather together, is our gathering together not in anticipation of that great gathering? Oh beloved, we are looking for that day. And it is now closer than when we first believed.
26-31: The reason for walking in obedience
The author through the Holy Spirit is now going to offer the listener (or reader) a very simple, very clear, and very terrifying choice. We must remember, the target group here is those who have given mental assent to the idea of Christ, but who have for whatever reason not yet begun to follow Him by His command. That choice is best reflected in the phrase, “Christ or Judgement.” Friends, that judgement is to be avoided in my humble opinion. But we’ll continue.
26: For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
- This is a sobering verse. Friends, I do not speak lightly here. There WILL come a day where you will no longer hear the Gospel, the truth that Jesus Christ died in your place to pay the price for YOUR sinning. This is a time-limited offer in two ways. The first of these is general and easy to understand. Everyone dies. It is a result of the sin of the first pair of sinners, our forebears, Adam and Eve. Since then, death has reigned over the race of Adam. Our problem here is that no one knows the details of how, when, or the like of the moment of our death, unless one is on death row somewhere. Then the date and time are set. Most of us don’t ever see that though. We do not know how long we have to live. This was brought home to me in a powerful way on November 2, 2014 at about 10 p.m. Eastern Time as my wife drove me to the hospital because I was experiencing severe chest pains and sweating, and having difficulty breathing, and pain radiated down my left arm, and I felt like Mike Tyson was socking me in the jaw repeatedly. If you haven’t already figured it out from the symptomology, I was having a heart attack. I was 48. I could have, some may argue should have, died that evening. But God put me in a city by His loving wisdom and grace that has one of the best heart units in the world and free access to it (because of our taxes), because I had then and still have very little financial resource. I fell asleep later that night after my family had gone home, not really knowing where I was or whether I would even wake up. I did, and now 5 years later, I am here, and wanting to serve my Lord with every breath.
- I could have died then. I was a believer then, I know where I would have gone, because my Lord loves me. Apparently though, He still has work for me to do. And that is my point. You do not know when God will determine that it is YOUR time to die. Once you are dead, your character is fixed and you can no longer change the things you said and did. I remember this discussion I had with the professor in my systematic theology class. Character is fixed at death – you are out of time then to deal with it before God.
- What all that means is that you MUST take the time before death to deal with your sins. Some people try to do that by themselves and will never manage. We cannot ever be saved by our own works. Others will give a mental assent to the idea, and intellectually be convinced even that Jesus is the Christ of God – but never do anything about it. These individuals will probably suffer even more than most in eternal damnation, for these have missed heaven by 18 inches – the distance between the mind and the heart. You can be intellectually convinced of the facts of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, but if it never moves from a mental assent to actual obedience of faith, it will do you no good. This amounts to a willful rejection of the person of Jesus Christ and all that He has done for you, and will earn you a seat on the train going over the cliff into Hell.
- The second way that this comes true is a little more complicated but still true. There are only so many times that God will give you a chance to respond to His grace. Think of Pharaoh in the Old Testament as time after time he would not let Israel go and worship Yahweh in the wilderness. We read that He hardened his heart over and over and over again, until we read that GOD hardened his heart. I do not mean to begin a debate about what it means to be reprobate here, but there is such a concept. The reprobate are the opposite of the elect, whatever that may mean. This number would include not only Pharaoh but Hitler, Stalin, Attila, Genghis, and many others – because they chose to move away from the Saviour. (No actual Calvinist will deny that men have free will. To do so moves one into the realm of Hyper Calvinism, and those people are usually hard determinists, and don’t believe we need to evangelize because God will save His elect anyway, and other issues in that vein.) I also do not believe that people are dragged by a spiteful deity kicking and screaming into this kind of a destiny against their will. Remember, no harm is done to the will of the creature. My point here is that you can only put off God’s gracious invitation so many times before He stops making them to you. Don’t be in that category, I beg you. If you reach that spot, there no longer remains the possibility of your partaking in the sacrifice that Jesus made to reconcile people to God.
27: but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of A fire which will consume the adversaries.
- There can be only one destination for you then. This very thought has been known to drive people insane. Voltaire, a French Philosopher (1694-1778), mocked God for most of his life. Near the end of that life, he finally read the Bible, and concluded that “either this book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.” What is less talked about is the absolute tragedy and horror that accompanied Voltaire into death. Though he tried, he could not find repentance in his heart toward God, and died in anger at his friends that had accompanied him to this end, and in terror of the expectation of the judgement that would certainly follow. He knew, as should we today, especially all those who would deny it, that Isaiah 26:11 is what is quoted here – that the absolute fury of a fire that cannot be extinguished awaits all those that will not repent and return to God through the salvation He brought about in Christ.
- For those that would say that people have to know about this in order to choose it, I will point out that in a survey of world cultural beliefs, every culture has some kind of punishment for the souls that die in sin. They use different words, but the concepts are analogous, meaning they are parallel in this sense. I did this work on my own and never published it, but if you look this all up one religious system at a time while noting how bad behaviour is dealt with, you will see. Everyone has only shards of the truth – and why would you waste your time with those when you have the full, real, God-given truth in Christ?
28: Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
- Here is a reference to the Old Covenant penalty phase of the trial, as it were. We have been reading about the Levitical priests and the Covenant Law that was given through Moses, so we should understand what it meant to be found guilty under that God-given standard. If you were convicted, there was no languishing on death row for decades. They dragged you out immediately and threw hand-sized rocks at you until you died, and then they burned the corpse and scattered the ashes away from the camp. But it had to be certain. There had to be two or three witnesses. If you think about God, that is three separate witnesses who cannot lie. Think honestly about the state of your soul. Do you really want to meet them then because you decided to “cross that bridge when you come to it?”
29: How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
- The point of this verse is to compare the suffering of the condemned. If someone violated the Mosaic Law and were put to death “without mercy [compassion],” if someone violates the New Covenant, the punishment will be that much more severe. It even gives the reasoning for such severity.
- First, the offender has “trampled under [their own] foot the Son of God.” This literal treading down or “trampling” of the Son of God is a metaphorical use of the phrase to be sure, but if one were to actually run down the Son of God in this fashion, it would only be to get past or away from Him to “indulge in willful sin,” according to Vine.
- Second, they “have regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which [Christ] was sacrificed.” The word unclean can also be translated as common, as opposed to separated, that is HOLY. ” It is just the blood of a guy that got himself nailed to a Roman cross,” such a person could say. They have no regard for the New Covenant that Jesus Christ initiated with the sacrifice of His own HOLY blood. This sacrifice made Jesus HOLY (sanctified). The apparent question is “How DARE they?”
- Third and finally, they have “insulted the Spirit of Grace.” Who is the Spirit of Grace? Anyone want to take a crack at that one? It is the Holy Spirit, people. Has anyone made the connection here between insulting the Holy Spirit and Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? The Greek word blasphemo is transliterated into English, but its construction suggests its meaning: “Injurious speech.” Personally, I think an insult fits into that category, although it is a different word. Such a person has slandered the third person of the Godhead. The Holy Spirit’s job is to point people to Christ. Such a one that insults the Holy Spirit is deserving of punishment. I’m not talking about those foolish atheists that stand there and say “I blaspheme the Holy Spirit,” although that seems to me to be extremely stupid. I’m talking about those who insult the Holy Spirit by not doing what He says, thus ultimately slandering Him and His work on their behalf.
- How much severer will be their punishment? What do you think? I think it will be MUCH more severe based on how Jesus spoke to people. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.” (Matt. 11:21-24)
30: For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.”
- We KNOW Him. God said these things. And He said them from of old! That quote about Vengeance is from Deuteronomy 32:35 – “‘Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, In due time their foot will slip; For the day of their calamity is near, And the impending things are hastening upon them.’” And let me say, the context of Deuteronomy 32 is that God is talking about those among His people that have done these things. Those who claim the name of God as theirs but who will. Not. Follow. Him.
- This context is further supported by the next verse in Deuteronomy where the next Old Testament quotation is from – “For the Lord will vindicate His people, And will have compassion on His servants, When He sees that their strength is gone, And there is none remaining, bond or free.” The Holy Spirit, making specific emphasis here, uses the Greek word krino, the same word used in Matthew 7 that lazy theologians tell us means we’re not supposed to do (it doesn’t mean what they think it means). This word is usually used to mean “to call into question,” or to call a person to account for their actions. We KNOW the God that will do this. More, those of us who are at least trying to obey Him will be able to say so – though I think He already knows that. We will all need a lot of grace on that day.
31: It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
- And that is the result of the wrong choice. For the redeemed, Jesus tells us that we are already in the hands of the Father and no one can remove us from His hand. But for those that are unredeemed, what a terror that must be.
- This is the choice that those who give mental assent to the idea of Jesus as the anointed Saviour of the world but who have not yet come to Christ in reality by repenting of their sins and beginning to follow Him in obedience. I remember that choice. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain, the way I saw it. Friends, I implore you that if this is where you are, turn to Jesus and repent of the way you are going, and then follow Him into obedience and joy. There is no need to go this way. You believe or you don’t. Make your choice and go your way. God will hold you accountable for your choices.
32-39: Do not shrink back, instead have faith and stand!
Now we come to the flipside of this issue. There is a group being addressed in this sermon that should be filled with His joy here. These are those that have already believed and who are already obeying Jesus and following His commands. To these, the author of Hebrews gives a strong encouragement to not shrink back, but persevere of the saving of the soul. Let’s look at it, because in his address to the believers in this chapter, the author is reminding them that God has given them reasons to hang on – to persevere to the saving of the soul.
32: But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings,
- The author here now starts to make a call to press on towards the Lord and perfection by making a call to remember the former times. Those times are after enlightenment, where the person in question is given light. This does not necessarily mean that they are saved, but they WERE given the truth about Christ. (I actually think it means that they were saved because of the details disclosed hereafter.) During the days of that light coming, the text says that the people that were illuminated “endured a great conflict of sufferings. That great suffering from the text actually arose at least in part from personal conflict of people not agreeing and thus attempting to vilify them.
33: partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated.
- See? Conflict of this nature has a way of turning people into an event that you can’t stop looking at, like a train wreck. It’s terrible, but you can’t stop watching. The other primary reason for the suffering that it caused is found in the second half of the verse – because this stuff gets shared around, and those that are being persecuted, if you come to their defense, you also will suffer the same persecution or sometimes worse. It still didn’t mean that they were unwilling to undergo the suffering, I will add.
34: For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one.
- Here is the confirmation of their justification in my thinking – the joyful acceptance of the spoiling of their own goods. Like Job in the Old Testament, they took the attitude that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, so blessed be the name of the Lord. The thing that seems to have made the difference here is faith – the persuasion that no matter what happens to your “stuff” here, we have a better and lasting possession in heaven that no one can take away, and no moth can corrupt, no rain can rust, no thief can steal – it is secured by God Almighty for you forever.
35: Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.
- Therefore is a word that draws conclusions from what has just gone before, and the conclusion that the Holy Spirit is emphasizing here is that we should not be throwing away our confidence. That word confidence means literally “boldness,” particularly in speech, but not just speech, but also attitude. This confidence or boldness carries a reward with it – next verse –
36: For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
- …that if we will just stick with it (endurance), when we have obeyed the Lord, that reward will be given to us in the kingdom of God when it finally arrives. More will be said on this as we go through chapter 11.
37: For yet in A very little while, HE who is coming will come, and will not delay.
- See? In just a little while (which is at almost 2000 years and counting) He WILL come, and when that coming starts, He will NOT delay.
- The author here is quoting Habakkuk 2:3, which reads, “For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay.” The Holy Spirit is making the emphasis that this is about the Parousia of Christ, and once it starts, it will brook no delay.
38: But MY righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, MY soul has no pleasure in him.
- The author continues his quotation of Habakkuk 2 into verse 4 – “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.” I find it interesting to see the emphasis that the Holy Spirit makes by changing to words and the order of them here. The main point of the verse is that God’s righteous one will live by faith, and that which is first and different in the Hebrew is second and last in the Greek. In the Old Testament the emphasis is on the proud one’s soul not being right. In the New Testament, the emphasis is on the one who draws back not giving God pleasure in His soul. Again, both say the same kind of thing, but the emphasis that the Holy Spirit gives is the one that draws back from obedience to God.
39: But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.
- In the closing verse of the chapter the author flat out says that is not us. We are those that will have real faith and it will result in our preservation. One of the doctrines of grace is seen here – the preservation of the saints, the P part of the TULIP acrostic. While we may go over that another time (including why I don’t like that acrostic because it both obscures the actual doctrine involved and the understanding by others of those doctrines), the Persevering, or I prefer Preservation of the saints is seen in those who have truly been justified, sanctified, and glorified by the will of the Father, by the sacrifice of the Son, through the working of the Holy Spirit.
I believe what is being seen here in Hebrews 10 as a whole are the doctrines of grace at work in the lives of believers from justification right through sanctification all the way to glorification in the life of the believer. Although they are not all seen in detail in this chapter, we can detect their operation throughout the book of Hebrews. What that means for us is that the Sovereignty of God is seen throughout the book, which describes by comparison with the Old Covenant with the New Covenant, and the preeminence of Jesus throughout the New Covenant, that New and Living way that we must come to the Father.
I will admit to you that sometimes I feel like I’m just chaining theological phrases together, but the Lord through the Spirit is always faithful to show us what the text means, and has today. If I could draw any application from this text it is to make the kind of redeemed choices to enter boldly into that new and living way and not to draw back from obeying the Lord no matter how hard things get, because as the author says, “We are not those who shrink back to destruction, but ARE those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.”
And that’s the chapter.