But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulation, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith, but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but to those who believe to the saving of the soul.
The writer is concluding his most serious warning. He has shown that to “sin willfully” after we have received “knowledge of the truth” is to invite certain destruction. From these verses and the substance of the New Covenant, we understand “sinning willfully” to be departure from the truth. In Hebrews 10:16, the writer quotes God as saying of those saved under the New Covenant. “I will put my law into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them.” While the New Covenant has not yet been fully or completely realized, still for a person to reject God’s word is certain evidence that God has not worked His word into that person’s heart and mind.
The writer tells us, therefore, that it isn’t a matter of being “broad-minded.” It is not a matter of being “narrow-minded.” It is essential that we understand that it is a matter of being scripturally–minded. What does the Scripture say? Romans 4:3. To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them, Isaiah 8:20. The final authority for and source of the things we believe – and how we are to live in this world – are not church councils, nor creeds or catechisms, not some preacher or “personality,” not even government edicts (though the latter has derived authority from God, Romans 13:1-7), our final authority is the Word of God.
We need to recapture the Berean spirit: they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scripture daily to find out whether [the things taught by Paul] were so, Acts 17:11. It will not go well with us when we stand before God if we know the cable listings better than we know the Word.
In the midst of these warnings, the writer hasn’t forgotten to whom he is writing. In chapter 6, he told them he thought better things of them than that they were “barren ground” and ready for judgment. Here he does the same thing. He reminds them of the
1. witness of the trouble they had already suffered, 10:32-34.
2. words of testimony concerning the future, 10:35-37.
3. warning against trivializing the place and importance of faith, 10:38, 39.
- Witness, 10:32-34.
Their affliction for the faith, vs. 32-34a.
1. the cause of their affliction, v. 32, after you were illuminated. Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:3-6. The light of the Gospel had overcome the darkness in which they lived – that darkness put forth by the devil in opposition to the things of God. We know this had happened to the Hebrews because of what follows in vs. 32-34.
2. the content of their affliction, vs. 32b-34a.
a). they themselves were ridiculed, v. 33.
They had suffered reproach and ridicule.
b). they associated with others with similar afflictions, vs. 33-34. Not only others, but the writer himself. Some have supposed from this that Paul is the author of Hebrews, but he wasn’t the only one “in bonds” for the sake of the Gospel. I don’t know why Christians are surprised at the persecution of other Christians. True, we haven’t seen so much of that until recently, but the history of believers down through the ages has more often than not been written in their own blood. What is happening today in the Middle East and, I’m afraid, will happen in this country, is nothing new. And it will continue, and likely get worse, until the Lord returns and straightens this old world out.
But there’s something else.
Their assurance in the faith, v. 34b.
Cf. 1 Peter 1:3-5 and Matthew 6:19-21. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking this life to be all-in-all and to live accordingly. Indeed, there are many false prophets whose message is just that: health and prosperity. The Hebrews would have known nothing of such things; their “prosperity” was of a different kind. They were able to rejoice in the losing of earthly possession because they knew that the enemy couldn’t touch their heavenly possessions.
We’ll see from chapter 11 that God’s people have always built for the future, though not unmindful of the present. Perhaps these Hebrews were beginning to look at their “loss,” not realizing it really to be their “gain.” Cf. Mark 10:29-31.
On the other hand, it’s not merely a future of “mansions” and “streets of gold” that are to be our focus. It will be the Lord Jesus Himself who will make heaven “heaven.” These other things are merely “benefits,” if you will, of knowing Him. Oh, let us be occupied with Him and not just with His “gifts.”
2. Words of Testimony, 10:35-37.
Perception, v. 35. Contrast this verse with 10:22, “draw near” with “do not cast away” and “full assurance of faith” with “confidence.” Perhaps these Hebrews were being lured back into the old ways of thinking about the sacrificial system, which could neither “take away sins” or give abiding “rest” for their souls. The writer urges them not to do this. Not only could the Levitical system not save them, but their turning away from Christ would bring them increased judgment! Cf. vs. 26-31.
Patience, v. 36. They weren’t to return to the familiar and beloved things of the past, but were patiently to live in the present in light of the will of God and His promise. Nowhere does the Bible encourage us to settle down and become at home in this world. Uniformly it warns us against that and tells us to look ahead to a different and better time. Read 1 Peter through carefully for insight on this, both as to the reality of present suffering and of future glory. See also 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. Basically, the writer of Hebrews is telling them, “Don’t have gone through all you have already gone through for nothing.”
Promise, v. 37. The “promise” of God centers around and will be fulfilled at the Coming of Christ, though the effects of all He had done will echo throughout eternity, Ephesians 2:7. We may not understand all the Scriptures tell us of that Coming, but always desire to have the spirit of the last prayer in the Bible: even so, come, Lord Jesus.
3. Warning, 10:38, 39.
We’re not to trivialize or think lightly about faith. It gives a different, a correct, perspective about what is going on around us. It always point us forward, not to an improvement in or by ourselves, but to the coming of the Lord Jesus. It’s interesting that the writer quotes a portion from the Old Testament to demonstrate his point. And the New Testament tells us there will be coming a time in which unbelievers will say, “Where is the promise of His coming?” 2 Peter 3:4. That promise is right here. “The just shall live by faith” is in reference to and in light of that promise. We may be very concerned about who the next President may be in our country – and I think that’s a valid concern, but the truth is, the only real hope for this world is the return of the Lord Jesus.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus.