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A Call To Persevere (ch. 10:19-39)

In verses 19 to 23 the author encourages his readers to "draw near to God with a sincere heart, in the full assurance of faithÖ"  In Old Testament times we could not come near to God.  Only the High Priest once a year could do this, but now as the writer of Hebrews says, Jesus, through his death has ripped open the curtain that separates us from God.  As a matter of fact, Jesus' body, the author says, is that curtain.  You will remember that the Most Holy place is separated from the Holy Place in the tabernacle by a curtain.  The author is saying here that this curtain in the tabernacle represents Jesus' body.  The broken body of Jesus on the cross has taken away any barrier between the believer and God.  For this reason we can approach God with all confidence, as the author says here.  


The words "having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience" are somewhat symbolic and refers back to the idea that everything in Old Testament days that were associated with the tabernacle had to be sprinkled with blood.  So in a symbolic sense, our hearts have been sprinkled with the blood of Jesus, making us clean.  This would in turn take away any feelings of guilt in our conscience due to our sin, as the author also says here.   Not only our hearts are now clean but all of us, including our bodies, are clean.  I would think this would be the case because our present unholy bodies will some day be raised into new heavenly bodies.


In verse 23 the author encourages the readers to hold unswervingly to their hope.  This always seems to be a problem with Christians.  We tend to not hold on to our hope in Jesus.  Many give up somewhere along the way.  This verse tells us that God is faithful and He will bring about what He has promised.  If we donít give up, we will eventually be a part of the fulfillment of all of Godís promises.


This verse speaks of the Biblical virtue of hope.  Christians don't hope like unbelievers.  Our hope isn't like I hope to win the lottery.  That is not Biblical hope.  Biblical hope is an assurance that God will do as He says He will do.  It's an expectation of the future that is based on the reliability of God.  This clearly tells us that as Christians, not all of what God promises us is realized in this life time.  The "we deserve it all right now" attitude that inflicts the present day western world church is not Biblical.         


Verse 24 says, "let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds."  It seems that we are actually encouraged to think of ways to help each other in the doing of good.  I am sure that the writer is not speaking of nagging.  I think he is suggesting creative and positive ways of encouragement, ways where we can express the faith and love we have for Jesus.  Salvation does not exclude us from doing good.  Doing good does not get us saved and neither does it keep us saved.  As Paul said in Ephesians 2:8 to 10, we as Christians are called by God to do good works once we are saved by faith.  


In verse 25 the author continues these words of encouragement by telling his readers to continue to meet together.  It appears that some of them had stopped meeting together. Once your hope, or your trust in Jesus begins to falter, the next step is not to meet with fellow Christians.  He is saying, as each day gets closer to the Day, meaning Christís return, we should be gathering more often.  This does not necessarily mean gathering in traditional style meetings.  This simply means getting together for support and encouragement wherever and whenever, and with whoever.  The times will get harder and harder for Christians as time goes on.  We will need this personal support.  Meetings just won't cut it then, and that is part of what the author is saying.


According to the Hebrew wording that is transliterated into Greek here, the author is talking about more than just meetings.  He is speaking of building Christian community.  He is speaking of healthy personal relationships in the Body of Christ that goes way beyond just attending a meeting.   


Concerning verse 25 I will now insert an article I have written that will further explain the meaning to this verse.


The Sunday morning meeting is the centerpiece of what we call church.  Lack of attendance in this meeting is sometimes countered with a reminder of Hebrews 10:25.  It reads, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching".  It's my opinion that such a reminder is a misappropriation of this verse.  Let's take a close look at the Greek grammatical structure of Hebrews 10:25 to see what it does say and to see what it doesn't say.   


The words "meeting together" are translated from the Greek word "episynagoge," meaning, to "bring together."  It's a generic Greek word that the Bible has incorporated into a religious setting.  Traditional Evangelical thinking understands this "bringing together" in terms of coming together in meetings.  I'm not discounting meetings if they are Biblically based.  What I am saying is that the coming together spoken of in Hebrews 10:25 has little to do with regularly scheduled meetings in a building we have unscripturally called church.   


The Greek word "episynagoge" is a Hebrew word that has simply been inserted into this Hebrew text.  For the Jew, this meant more than meetings.  It meant community.  It meant individuals functioning together in the community of God's people.  It meant the sharing of lives.  It meant supporting each other for each others well being.  If a brother, for example, was poor, he would be cared for by the community.  So again, we are not merely talking about attending meetings here.   


The words "not give up" are translated from the Greek word "agkataleipo," meaning to "not leave behind," thus "not give up."  This word is a "present active participle" in Greek grammar and is in reference to the coming together of believers.  "Present" means that the coming together spoken of here should be right now in real time.   "Active" means that those coming together are actively participating in effective ministry with each other.  This verse isn't talking about passively sitting back and watching what's going on in a meeting.  A participle is a half verb and half noun.  Therefore, this verse emphasizes the fact that believers should being relationship people.  Again, this verse does not emphasize when we gather, where we gather, or even the gathering itself.  


The Greek word "parakaleo" that is translated as "encourage" means "to come alongside of another."  This Greek word is also a "present active participle."  "Present" means the "coming alongside" is something we're doing right now.  "Active" means that we are actively participating in ministry with those we've come alongside.  "Participle" is a half verb and a half noun.  It emphasizes that we are "coming together people."


Apparently back when this verse was penned some people were giving up meeting together.  We should know that from our dissection of this verse, these people did not just stop attending meetings.  They had withdrawn themselves from effective functional relationships in the Body of Christ.  


If you understand the grammatical structure of this verse you'll know that it has little to do with attending meetings.  It has everything to do with being properly joined, fitted together for fellowship and service in the Body of Christ.  Our being joined to others is more than a matter of the fun of fellowship.  It's a matter of functioning in ministry with those to whom Jesus has called us.  I call this "functional relationships". 


Meetings are just one of many avenues in which we can function together with those we've come alongside.  It's sad to say that we've emphasized meetings to the degree that we've neglected other means of ministry.  Besides that, many of our meetings aren't Scripturally based. 


With the insertion of the words "as the Day approaches" in Hebrews 10:25, we understand that functional relationships in the Body of Christ are more important now than ever before.  This is for good reason.  As the time of the end draws closer, Christians will experience a good measure of trouble and stress from an anti-Christ culture.  As the early church lived, being relationally fitted into the community of Christ will be a necessity for survival.  


So, when reading Hebrews 10:25 please understand what it really means.  Don't confuse attendance in a Sunday morning service with properly being fitted into functional relationships in the Body of Christ. 


I suggest that this verse is not relevant for those who miss Sunday services but are properly fitted into functional relationships in the community of Christ.  I know some may wonder how this is possible, but it is.  I also suggest that this verse can easily be applied to those who routinely attend Sunday meetings but aren't fitted into functional relationships with those they occupy the room with. 


I now return to my ongoing commentary.


The next paragraph that begins with verse 26 is important and needs some thought given to it.  It begins with these words, "if we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sin is left."  First of all the writer is not talking about sins of ignorance here.  He is speaking about willfully sinning, after receiving the truth.  To be more specific, the Greek verb tense "deliberately keeps on sinning" here is a present participle.  A participle is a half verb and a half noun. To whom the author is addressing here is the one "who remains a sinner" after "once receiving ("one receiving" being an aorist Greek verb - one time action) the knowledge of the truth. The writer is speaking of a lifestyle of sin, which, suggests the person was never saved in the first place, but only received the knowledge of the truth of salvation.  I suppose the debate here is over the word "received." 


The Greek word "labamo" that is translated as "receive" here sometimes means a self-prompted action, without necessarily signifying a favorable response.  If this is how we should view the word "receive" here, then this tells me that the one receiving the truth did not fully embrace the truth.  It also tells me that it being a self-prompted action, that the Holy Spirit's activity in the acceptance of the truth was minimal or not at all.  We must understand that no one can fully receive the truth apart from the Holy Spirit.  In conclusion, and I may be wrong, the author might simply be saying that if one hears and receives the truth without having the truth effect his life and therefore remains in a lifestyle of sin, the is no salvation for that person.  The only thing left is eternal damnation, that is, until by the help of the Holy Spirit he receives the truth and allows it to change his life.             


In verse 28 the author says that "anyone who rejected the Law of Moses died without mercy."  Notice the word "rejected" here.  The author uses the word "rejected" in the context of being a willful sinner, as seen above.  This sheds light on the one who a willful sinner in the above verse.  The underlying reason why he is a willful sinner is because he is in the process of rejecting God's law, and if he rejects God's law, he rejects God, which was the case in Old Testament times.  For this reason he is in danger of Godís judgement of fire. 


Verse 29 says that if a person died with punishment without mercy in Old Testament days because he rejected the Law, "how much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot."  I would think that death is a pretty severe punishment itself.  What could be more severe?  Well, eternal death can be more severe.  Eternal death means to experience the dying process for eternity.  That is to say, continually feeling the pain of death without Christ for every moment in eternity. Eternal death is not just experiencing death once and after that you are gone with any existence.  Eternal death is constantly dying.  It's constantly being in the process of dying, wanting to die, but not being able to die.  I remember the death of my father who died of cancer. Those last two days were horrible.  He could not eat.  He could not even drink.  You could tell he was thirsty and so you tried to put a few drops of water on his tongue.  He could not move.  He could only experience the pain of the cancer moving through his body.  At 9:05 PM on June 7, 2001 he died, and it was all over.  This is not so with eternal death.  You simply are in the dying process as my father was, yet for all eternity.  You want to die but you just can't.


For the person whose lifestyle is a willful sinner, who rejects Godís provision for him, he treats the blood of Jesus as an "unholy thing" and "insults the Spirit of Grace." as seen in verse 29.  I can't think of any worse sin than that.  It is just unforgivable.


Remember, we are not talking about a Christian who sins here.  The author is talking about one who has rejected the truth and is living a lifestyle of sin.


In verse 30 the writer quotes
from the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:35 and 36) where God says that He will "avenge and will repay, and judge His people."  Note that in context, God's people are the Jews.  God will judge His people according to this verse.  The ultimate judging of the Jews will be seen in the Great Tribulation.  It's called the time of Jacob's trouble as seen in Jeremiah 30:7. 


This passage clearly portrays God as a judge and an avenger of evil, something that is not culturally or even religiously correct these days.  Our redefining of the very nature of God does not change who He is.  He is an avenger of evil and the supreme judge over all things.  


Verse 31 says, "for it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.Ē  We use the word awesome a lot these days, but I personally think we should only use the word in relation to God.  Only God is awesome.  God forbid that we ever fall into His hands.  It is only through Jesus our High Priest that we can escape this judgment of God.  We would burn with eternal fire if Jesus could not protect us. 


I sometimes think that Christians have things out of balance in respect to their relationship with God.  Yes, God is our loving heavenly Father.  We are to draw near to him with confidence, as the author has already said.  That being said, we do need to know that it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of God's judgment.  We must e extremely thankful as Christians that we will not fall into His judging arm, but in His loving arms.      


In the paragraph beginning with verse 32 the author reminds his readers of earlier days when they had great zeal for Jesus.  In those days they gladly suffered great persecution for the sake of Jesus.  Some were beaten.  Some were put in prison.  Some had their possessions taken away, and some were killed.  These people gladly went through those days because they knew they had better and lasting possessions ahead of them.  They gladly gave up their temporal things in order to serve God and inherit a lasting reward in Heaven.  The question should be thus asked of them.  "Why are they thinking of returning to a dead Judaism when they have experienced such hardship for the sake of Christ.  It seems such a great waste. 


In verse 35 the author tells the Hebrews not to throw away their confidence because they will be rewarded if they hang in until the end.  Remember, the reason why this book, or letter, is being written in the first place is because these Hebrew Christians were in fact thinking of, or were in the process of doing, just that.   


Verse 36 says, "you need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised."  It is too easy for us to give up.  Obviously doing the will of God is not always easy, thus the definition of the abundant life should never be thought of as total peace, joy and happiness forever without any hint of needing to persevere through hardships.  These believers suffered persecution, a persecution that those of us in the western world know nothing of, at least not yet.


The author tells us here that when we do the will of God, we will be rewarded for it.  Christians will receive rewards fro the work in the Lord that they perform out of pure motives as Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 3.    


In verses 37 and 38 the author reminds the people that Jesus will return, and that there is no doubt about that, but until that day, His people must live by faith.  They must live by trusting their entire lives to Jesus.  "And if he shrinks back, I (God) will not be pleased with him."  We should not be people who shrink back, who go back to the old life without trusting Jesus, as these Hebrews were thinking of doing.


Verses 37 and 38 are a quote from Habakkuk 2:3 and 4.  Note the urgency in these verses, an urgency at least in human terms, seems hard to understand.  The author is equating this prophecy to the second return of Christ to earth.  From the day this prophecy was first uttered until today, hundreds of years have passed without the return of Jesus.  I'm not sure I have the answer to this but it is obvious to me that God's thinking of time is quite different than our thinking of time, something that is especially seen when you study the book of Revelation.         


The writer closes this chapter by stating a positive word for these people to hold on to.  He says, "we are not of these who shrink back and are destroyed, but are those who believe and are saved."  Shrinking back leads to unbelief, and unbelief ends in destruction.  Shrinking back is what these people were thinking of doing.  They, and we, are of those who trust in Jesus and this trust will result in our salvation.  If we shrink back and are destroyed, this might well suggest the loss of one's salvation, although not all Christians understand this to be the case.  What does seem sure here is that the earthly life of the believer who shrinks back will be destroyed.    

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