Tuesday, March 28th, 2023
the Fifth Week of Lent
the Fifth Week of Lent
There are 12 days til Easter!
Contending for the Faith Contending for the Faith
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Hebrews 6". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ ctf/ hebrews-6.html. 1993-2022.
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Hebrews 6". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/
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Exhortation to Leave the Foundation to
Reach Completeness in Christianity
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ: The word "Therefore" ties the teaching of chapter six with that of chapter five, verses 11-14. Paul is encouraging all Christians not to remain spiritual babes but to go on to the adult stage where they can handle spiritual food. The message is similar to his message to the Philippians: "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14). The message of both passages is the same. Paul tells them not to be satisfied with past spiritual progress but to use that foundation as a basis for future growth. Paul is not suggesting that they abandon the basic principles of the doctrine of Christ but that they go on to more advanced teaching, just as a child would leave his first grade book for a more advanced book as he goes from one grade to the next; or as a builder would leave his foundation to move forward with work on the walls, ceilings, windows, and doors.
Paul advises his readers to be spiritual adults as he speaks to them about "leaving the principles." This phrase refers to the "milk" in verses 12-13 of chapter five. These Hebrew Christians have not matured into "full age" (5:14) and thus have not received the "strong meat" (5:12) because they are not able to "discern both good and evil" (5:14). They should grow spiritually and press toward "full age."
There can be no going back to the beginning in the Christian life: a Christian either continues to grow or he collapses. This is the reason Paul will continue teaching the deeper principles of Christianity when he gets to chapter seven. The first obvious step toward growing spiritually is to understand the things that a "babe" (5:13) would understand and then leave these things and learn others. The word "leaving" (aphiemi) means "not to discuss now" (Thayer 89). The things he is telling them to leave are "the principles of the doctrine of Christ." The "principles" (arche) are the "doctrine" (logos), often translated "word" or "first instruction concerning Christ" (Thayer 381), such as they received at the "origin" (Thayer 76) of their conversion. Christians must grow spiritually so that they may learn more advanced teaching about Christ’s priesthood and the abolition of the Old Covenant.
let us go on unto perfection: This phrase is an appeal for action. Once the Hebrew Christians learn and leave the elementary teachings of Christ, Paul encourages them to continue to grow spiritually. Including himself, Paul says, "let us go on unto perfection." To "go on" (phero) does not suggest a casual continuance in spiritual growth but to put forth extra energy and to "press on" (Thayer 650) unto "perfection" (teleiotes), denoting a state of "completeness" (Vincent 442). Both Paul and the Hebrew Christians need to "go on unto perfection." This statement does not suggest Paul is at the same lower spiritual development as his readers. They are, in fact, at a different level spiritually just as Christians today are not all on the same spiritual level. Even so, they must leave the first principles of the doctrine of Christ and go to the next step spiritually. Vincent is correct in his explanation of what Paul is saying:
I propose that we together move forward to completion: I to the full exposition of the subject of Christ’s high-priesthood, and you to that maturity of discernment which becomes you. This will require us both to leave the rudimentary stage of teaching concerning Christ (441).
The message of chapter six is that every Christian must become an adult in his faith, which means more than just having a more advanced knowledge of God’s word.
not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works: Having told these Hebrews what to do, that is "press on unto perfection," he now tells them what not to do, that is "not laying again the foundation." Laying a foundation is the first thing done in constructing a building. When a builder completes the foundation, he does not stop there; but he continues building. The same is true in a Christian’s life. When one first learns of Jesus and accepts Him through baptism, the foundation is set. From this point he is to grow in knowledge and to grow spiritually, or he is "laying again the foundation." The word "again" (palin) suggests the Hebrew Christians are laying the foundation "anew" (Thayer 475), that is, they continue to lay the same foundation over and over again. In the analogy of the building, if one completes a foundation and then, instead of continuing to build on that foundation, he adds another foundation, he is no closer to completion of the building. Likewise, in one’s spiritual life, if he continues laying the "foundation" (themelios), he is still a babe.
Six Principles of the Doctrine of Christ
Paul names six foundational principles of the doctrine of Christ they are to leave. He is not saying these principles should be left because they are not important because they are essential to salvation; instead, he is saying since they know these principles, they should leave them to learn more of God’s word. Also, Paul is not speaking of specific acts of repentance, acts of faith, or acts of baptism; instead, he is speaking of the "subjects of consideration or doctrines" (Bloomfield 491); that is, the subjects of repentance, faith, baptism. Even though the apostle names six specific doctrines: (1) repentance, (2) faith, (3) baptism, (4) laying on of hands, (5) resurrection of the dead, and (6) eternal judgment, these six doctrines constitute three pairs of closely related subjects: (1) repentance and faith, (2) baptism and laying on of hands, and (3) resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment:
1. "Repentance from dead works": The term "repentance" (metanoia) means a "change of mind by which we turn from" (Thayer 406), that is, recognizing sins and discontinuing them in our lives. Paul refers to the sin of "dead works" (nekros ergon), implying works that are useless; they are "inactive" (Thayer 424), "fruitless" (Bloomfield 491), or "works devoid of that life which has its source in God, works so to speak unwrought, which at the last judgment will fail of the approval of God and of all reward" (Thayer 248). True repentance is recognized in the lives of those who ask, "Lord, what will you have me to do?" Those understanding true repentance will not look to man for their spiritual answers—they look to Christ and willingly submit to His will and instructions. In writing about repentance to the church in Corinth, Paul says:
Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter (2 Corinthians 7:9-11).
Repentance is not only changing one’s actions but also changing one’s thoughts, views, and beliefs. For a person’s sin to be removed, he must change his actions, be converted to the truth, and turn to God. Peter names two necessary requirements for sins to be blotted out: "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19).
2. "Faith toward God": The word "faith" (pistis) signifies "the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ" (Thayer 513). "Faith toward God" comes from the written word of God. While writing to the Romans, Paul confirms this fact by saying, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). Our faith—our belief, our conviction in Jesus—comes from the written word of truth. The Apostle John records, "But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name" (John 20:31). Salvation, therefore, comes through faith in Jesus Christ.
Faith leads to repentance; while repentance again serves very greatly to increase our faith; and especially, that element of it which relates to the heart, and which we call trust in God (Milligan 213).
Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
1. "The doctrine of baptisms": The term "doctrine" (didache) means "teaching, concerning something" (Thayer 144). In this context, it is teaching concerning "baptisms" (baptismos), which is defined as "a washing, purification effected by means of water" (Thayer 95).
In verse 2, Paul speaks of "baptisms" in the plural; therefore, it is important to correlate Paul’s reference to "baptisms" here with his epistle to the Ephesians where he says, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism," (Ephesians 4:5). Writers differ as to the meaning:
a. Bloomfield believes Paul has reference to the Christian’s baptism mentioned in Ephesians four and to the baptism of John, the baptism of Jewish proselytes, and the different Jewish ceremonial washings mentioned by Paul in chapter nine, verse 10 (491). The objection to this view is, Why should the baptism of John and different Old Testament Jewish washings be considered necessary elementary principles of the doctrine of Christ in verse 1?
b. Another view (Theodoret, Storr) is that Paul is referring to the different occasions on which people were baptized into Christ. For example, on the day of Pentecost three thousand people were baptized (Acts 2:41), other people (like Paul) were baptized (Acts 9:18), the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:38), the Philippian jailor (Acts 16:33), and many others. The objection to this view is that in Hebrews Paul is not referring to specific acts or specific times when people were baptized; instead, he is speaking specifically of the subject of "baptisms."
c. A third view (DeWette) is that Paul uses the plural "baptisms" alluding to a "trine-immersion, or the threefold dipping of confessing penitents" (Milligan 214). The obvious objection to this view is the fact that this practice is never mentioned in the scriptures.
d. Another view (Stuart) is that Paul uses the plural "baptisms" to stand for the singular and that nothing more is intended. The objection to this view is, Why would Paul have spoken of baptisms in the plural when there was no plural baptism in the Christian system and when he could just as easily have used the singular, "baptism"?
e. Another view (held by Milligan 215), which is more in harmony with the context of this epistle, is that Paul is referring to the one Christian baptism that he speaks of in Ephesians 4:5 that every individual is required to receive in order to put on Christ (Galatians 3:27) and to be added to the body (1 Corinthians 12:13). However, Paul may have used the plural "baptisms" to include the "baptism with the Holy Spirit" and the "baptism with fire" that only Jesus Christ administers. John, Christ’s forerunner, says:
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:11-12).
2. "Laying on of hands": The "laying on of hands" is the fourth of the elementary "principles of the doctrine of Christ" to which Paul alludes in verse 1. The act of "laying on of hands" refers to the bestowal of spiritual gifts and blessings to some in the early days of the church. Luke records for us an example of "laying on of hands" for spiritual gifts:
But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost (Acts 8:12-17).
The "laying on of hands" was also done when devout men of God were ordained for the ministry of Christ. Paul speaks of this action in his letter to the young evangelist Timothy, instructing him: "Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery" (1 Timothy 4:14). Luke also records an occasion when godly men of faith had hands laid on them:
Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them (Acts 6:3-6).
3. "Resurrection of the dead": The "resurrection of the dead" is an important elementary doctrine of Christ that all Christians need to understand. The resurrection of the dead is guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul speaks in detail about the resurrection of the dead in his first epistle to the church at Corinth. He records:
Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised (1 Corinthians 15:15-16).
The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is denied by the Sadducees in Matthew 22:23 and also by the heathen philosophers in Acts 17:32. Paul’s readers must understand that only through Jesus will they be raised from the dead, judged by Him for their good deeds, and be allowed to enter into heaven. The subject of the "resurrection of the dead" involves not only the righteous but also the evil; therefore, Paul’s message is that if they continue in their apostasy, they would be raised from the dead and give account of their evil works. In the book of Acts, Paul speaks of the resurrection, "And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust" (24:15).
4. "Eternal judgment": This last elementary doctrine of Christ refers to the general and final judgment. The seriousness of properly understanding the "eternal judgment" is found in Jesus’ warning to those who fail to live the Christian life:
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal (Matthew 25:41-46).
And this will we do, if God permit.
Paul acknowledges that with the help of God, he and all Christians who understand the principles of the doctrine of Christ will be able to leave these principles and press on toward perfection. These words do not suggest that Paul has doubts about God’s permitting people to go on to perfection; instead, he adds these words to show that he depends wholly on God’s will. Vincent explains that God’s permission would be required, not just for Paul but also for all Christians:
An ominous hint is conveyed that the spiritual dullness of the readers may prevent the writer from developing his theme and them from receiving his higher instruction. The issue is dependent on the power which God may impart to his teaching, but his efforts may be thwarted by the impossibility of repentance on their part. No such impossibility is imposed by God, but it may reside in a moral condition which precludes the efficient action of the agencies which work for repentance, so that God cannot permit the desired consequence to follow the word of teaching (444).
The Price of Apostasy
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
For it is impossible: Paul begins verse 4 with the word "For" (gar) to tie what follows with the preceding subject matter. His purpose in the next few sentences is to explain the dangers of apostatizing or even in remaining dormant. It is important for every Christian to work toward spiritual maturity at all times.
He begins by impressing upon his readers that it is "impossible" (adunatos) for certain ones to be saved. Writers often attempt to weaken the apostle’s message here, but it stands true. We never like the thought that something is impossible to do regarding the salvation of souls; but that is precisely what Paul says. Paul is not saying it is "impossible" for one who repents to be restored to God’s grace. The impossibility is for those who have the six traits mentioned in verses 1 and 2. In other words, they know all of these things; and still they choose to leave Jesus and not to return to Him. Contextually, Paul speaks of those who willfully reject Jesus as the way of salvation. In the next few phrases, Paul explains about whom he is speaking. To understand his teaching properly, we must examine verses 1 through 6 as a unit and not just one or two phrases within these verses.
for those who were once enlightened: First, the apostle says he is referring to "those who were once enlightened." The term "once" (hapax) denotes an action that is "once for all" (Thayer 54). Paul is saying: At one time they were "enlightened" (photizo). They were "enlighten(ed) spiritually" or were permeated "with a saving knowledge of the gospel" (Thayer 663). Jesus, speaking of Himself, says, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). Since Jesus is the light of the world, His true followers must be enlightened and also exhibit light to others. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says:
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).
Likewise, Paul presents the same message when he writes to the Christians in Ephesus: "For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8).
The expression "those who were once enlightened" refers to those who have left darkness and have become the light to the world, that is, Christians. Paul’s message is that a person becomes a Christian only one time and in one way, that is, through faith in Jesus by means of baptism (Galatians 3:27).
and have tasted of the heavenly gift: Secondly, Paul emphasizes he is speaking of those who "have tasted of the heavenly gift."
The term "tasted" (geuomai) means to "experience" (Thayer 114) or to "have consciously partaken of" (Vincent 445). Such a person experiences the "heavenly" gift, indicating he has experienced the gift of "heavenly origin" (Thayer 247). There are many views about what this "heavenly origin" is. Some believe Paul refers to the Holy Spirit; however, this understanding is not likely because the Holy Spirit is mentioned in the next phrase, "partakers of the Holy Ghost." Others restrict the "gift" to remission of sins, and others believe the "gift" probably is restricted to Jesus Christ himself; however, contextually, Paul refers to "the new life which we enjoyed in Christ; including of course remission of sins, justification, and all in fact that pertains to our present salvation" (Milligan 218).
and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost: The third characteristic of the people to whom the apostle is referring are those who are made "partakers" (metochos) of the Holy Ghost, that is they are "sharing in" the Holy Ghost (Thayer 407). All share in the Holy Ghost when they obey what He has inspired: that is, the New Testament. They, then, are Christians. In a conversation Jesus had with Philip, He says:
If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you (John 14:15-17).
Being "made partakers of the Holy Ghost" refers to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit promised as a gift from God and that Jesus mentions to the confused Jews, as John records in his gospel:
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:37-39).
Jesus’ promise in this verse is first fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when people repented of their sins and were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Peter says:
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call (Acts 2:37-39).
And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
And have tasted the good word of God: The fourth trait of the people to whom Paul refers are those who have tasted "the good word of God." The term "good" (kalos) denotes what is "comforting and confirming" (Thayer 322); the term "word" (rhema) refers to "God’s gracious, comforting promise of salvation" (Thayer 562). Paul’s point is that these people know Jesus’ gospel, and they have received His word and believe it to be true. Jesus says, "My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself (John 7:16-17).
and the powers of the world to come: In this fifth characteristic, the term "powers" (dunamis) is defined as "inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth" (Thayer 159). Paul is referring to the works of the Holy Spirit in revealing and sustaining God’s word.
"The world to come" refers to the Christian age or the gospel dispensation.
From these five descriptions it is obvious that Paul speaks of those who have full knowledge of the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, and they have learned the fact that the power of salvation is only through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
If they shall fall away: The pronoun "they" refers to those who have the previous five characteristics. Other translators translate this clause: "then have fallen away" (NRS, NAS), or "and having fallen away" (Young’s Literal Translation), or "and then fell away" (ASV). Regarding this phrase, Milligan quotes Macknight, saying:
The verbs photisthentas, geusamenous, and genethentas being all aorists, are rightly rendered by our translators in the past time; who were enlightened, have tasted, and were made partakers. Wherefore, parapesontas, being an aorist, ought likewise to have been translated in past time, have fallen away. Nevertheless, our translators following Beza, who without any authority from ancient manuscripts, inserted in his version the word si (if), have rendered this clause, "if they shall fall away"; that this text might not appear to contradict the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. But as no translator should take upon him to add to or to alter the Scriptures for the sake of any favorite doctrine, I have translated parapesontas in the past time, have fallen away, according to the true import of the word as standing in connection with the other aorists in the preceding verses (222).
In referring to those who "fall away" (parapipto), Paul is speaking of all the people who "deviate from the right path" (Thayer 485) or those who "turn aside" (Vincent 445) and actually abandon their faith. He is giving a stern warning to Christians who are disloyal to Jesus Christ and who, through their actions, actually betray Him. Again, Paul is speaking of those men and women whose actions bear witness that Jesus is in their estimation a transgressor and deceiver who has been justly crucified.
to renew them again unto repentance: The word "renew" (anakainizo) is defined as to "renovate…so to renew that he shall repent" (Thayer 38). "Repentance" (metanoia) means "a change of mind…to give one the ability to repent, or to cause him to repent" (Thayer 406). Paul has given five expressions that describe Christians for whom it is "impossible…to renew them again unto repentance." His warning is simple and clear: it is that people may reach a point of no return and have nothing to look forward to but judgment and destruction, as he teaches later in this epistle:
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? (10:26-29).
Paul teaches that these Hebrews have a choice: they can stay with Jesus or leave Him and return to the ways of the world. Some of Paul’s readers are on the verge of returning to Moses’ law. As long as Jesus is not in their lives, it is impossible for them to be renewed unto repentance. It is not that God withdraws His saving power from them; but it is that these people choose to abandon Jesus. Paul, in writing to Christians in Rome, teaches the same message:
Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient (Romans 1:24-28).
seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame: When Christians abandon Jesus and His teachings, they "crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." To "crucify…afresh" (anastauroo) means they are figuratively crucifying Jesus for the second time and putting Him "to an open shame" (paradeigmatizo), meaning they "expose (Jesus) to public disgrace" (Thayer 480). Dods agrees with this interpretation:
The apostate crucifies Christ on his own account by virtually confirming the judgment of the actual crucifiers, declaring that he too has made trial of Jesus and found Him no true Messiah but a deceiver, and therefore worthy of death (299).
Paul is not speaking about a Christian who simply backslides into sin. Backsliding Christians, even though they do not obey Jesus and even though they will be lost if they fail to repent, still have faith in Him. They still recognize Him as the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). If these believing sinners repent, they can be restored; however, if Christians abandon Jesus and no longer have confidence in Him or in His teaching, they cannot be restored because repentance and forgiveness of sins are found only in Jesus. The Apostle Peter, speaking in Jerusalem, says:
Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:10-12).
Inevitable Punishment Exemplified by Facts of Nature
Verses 7 and 8 present an analogy in nature, illustrating the inevitable punishment coming to those guilty of apostasy. The comparison of human culture with agriculture is common.
For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:
For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it: Through personification, Paul illustrates his point about Christians who cannot be restored. Paul uses the word "For" (gar) to tie in the following analogy with the teaching of the last several verses regarding either growing spiritually or "crucify(ing) to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame" (verse 6). His illustration refers to the "earth" (ge) or "arable land" (Thayer 114). It involves the land capable of producing crops and the fact that it "drinketh" (pino) or "absorbs" (Thayer 510) the rain that God produces. God’s bestowal of the rain represents His bestowal of the blessings mentioned in verses 4 and 5 (those who were enlightened, have tasted of the heavenly gift, were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, have tasted the good word of God, and have received the powers of the world to come).
and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed: When God produces rain upon the earth, the natural result is that the earth receives and soaks up the rain and then "bringeth forth" (tikto) or "bear(s)" (Thayer 623) herbs. The earth bears herbs "meet" (euthetos), that is, that are "useful" (Thayer 258) to those who "dressed" (georgeo) or cultivate the ground. This analogy is similar to the one referred to by Jesus when He says, "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).
receiveth blessing from God: Because of the God-given rain coming upon the earth, the earth receives the "blessing" (eulogia) from God, denoting fruitfulness and "the continual fertility of the soil granted by God" (Thayer 260). In this analogy, the earth represents Christians who have received "the rain," that is, Christians who have received the five characteristics mentioned in verses 4 and 5 and are bearing fruit. Jesus teaches the same principle: "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit" (John 15:2). Christians who stay with Jesus receive increased blessings from God as long as they continue in their spiritual growth. Jesus presents this same idea to His disciples when He explains His purpose in teaching in parables: "For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath" (Matthew 13:12).
But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected: Paul continues his analogy from verse 7 by presenting a contrast between what happens when the land produces well and when it does not. In this illustration, the earth still receives the same amount of rain; however, it produces "thorns and briers," and is, therefore, "rejected" (adokimos) or unapproved because it has not proved itself to be good soil. This land does not "prove itself to be such as it ought" (Thayer 12). In this illustration, the earth or land still represents Christians who bring forth no fruit; they are not working toward perfecting themselves spiritually, but instead they are content with staying only on the foundation.
and is nigh unto cursing: Paul indicates the land has not yet been cursed but is close to receiving "cursing" (katara), denoting "an execration, imprecation" (Thayer 335). God is close to giving up the land to perpetual barrenness. In this analogy, Paul refers to people who are cursed for fruitlessness in contrast to those who are blessed because of faithfulness. Similarly, Paul writes to the Christians in Galatia, saying:
So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them (Galatians 3:9-10).
whose end is to be burned: When the land does not produce as it should and is about to be cursed by God, Paul says its "end" (telos) or its "fate" (Thayer 620) is to be burned. Thayer says the term "burned" (kausis) means "the fate of which land (appointed it by God) is, to be burned up by fire and brimstone from heaven" (342) and is left barren. This analogy refers to a Christian who does not persevere in faithfulness to Jesus. Jesus teaches the same principle: "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned" (John 15:6).
Paul uses this analogy to show the other side of the coin from the results found in verse 7. In verse 7, the land receives the "blessing from God"; however, in verse 8, the land receives the "cursing." Likewise, Paul is teaching the alternative to the possible state of the Hebrew Christians who "fall away" (verse 6) from Jesus Christ. As it is in verse 7, the earth represents Christians who have received the blessings from God (five blessings mentioned in verses 4 and 5). They have the same characteristics as the Christians who are mentioned in the first part of this analogy; however, those Christians worked, that is, they continued to grow spiritually; they persevered in faithfulness and were continually blessed by God. Those referred to in verse 8, even though they have the same blessings from God, do not grow spiritually and are close to being cursed by God. Their end result will be the same as those Paul refers to when he says, "Whose end is destruction" (Philippians 3:19).
But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.
But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you: It appears Paul becomes distressed at the fate of those who apostatize; so he finishes his analogy and addresses his readers with the tender expression, "beloved" (agapetos) to show his affection for them. His encouraging conclusion is "we are persuaded better things of you"; that is, he is convinced of "better things" (kreisson); he is convinced that his readers will have a "more excellent" (Thayer 359) result than destruction because he firmly believes they will go on unto perfection (verse 1).
and things that accompany salvation: The term "accompany" (echo) means "to be closely joined" (Thayer 268) or intimately connected. Paul encourages his readers by letting them know he believes they will give heed to the things necessary for salvation and will thus enjoy eternal salvation in heaven.
though we thus speak: Paul is not apologizing for his analogy warning Christians to avoid apostasy; however, he is explaining the purpose of his teaching. He does not want his readers to think he has given up on them, for he has not; but he has seen the necessity of speaking plainly to warn them of the terrible result of apostasy if they continue as they are going. While it is important to warn his readers of their danger, Paul wants to make sure he does not extinguish their hope of salvation. His point in this analogy is that even though the land (representing Christians) produces thorns and briers (not growing spiritually), the land is not yet abandoned. Likewise, even though his readers have not grown spiritually and have not gone on to learn more of Jesus’ teaching, they still have not abandoned Jesus. They are still on the original foundation (verse 1). Paul has confidence his readers will heed his teaching and start doing what is right, going "on unto perfection" (verse 1).
For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love: Even though these Christians have not grown spiritually as they should have, they do have some wonderful traits regarding benevolence. He continues to reassure them that he does not believe they have apostatized to the point that it is impossible for them to be renewed unto repentance. The basis of his confidence is that God is not "unrighteous" (adikos) or "unjust" (Thayer 12) and; therefore, He will not forget their "work" (ergon) and "labour" (kopos) of love. Paul is often mindful of Christians who assist other Christians during difficult times in their lives. He mentions these same traits in the lives of the Thessalonians when he says, "Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father" (1 Thessalonians 1:3). The term "labour" (kopos) as used here in Hebrews refers to the Christians’ "intense labor united with trouble" (Thayer 355). The word "labour" is omitted from many of the more modern translations (ASV, NASV, RSV, NRSV, New Century Version, NIV, and others).
which ye have shewed toward his name: For something to be "shewed" (endeiknumi) means to "demonstrate (or) prove whether by arguments or by acts" (Thayer 213). Because of their past experiences, Paul is confident these Hebrews will continue living the Christian life and will continue to grow spiritually. Later in this epistle, Paul encourages them to remember the occasions when they demonstrated their confidence toward the Lord, saying, "But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions" (10:32).
in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister: Paul proves here that a Christian shows confidence in Jesus when he demonstrates acts of kindness and love toward other Christians. His ministering to other Christians does not guarantee his salvation, but it does demonstrate his desire to live a Christian life. In this context, Paul makes specific reference to the time, not only in their past, but also in the present, when they have demonstrated their confidence in Jesus by "minister(ing)" to saints. To "minister" (diakoneo) means "to relieve one’s necessities" (Thayer 137), and "saints" (hagios) refers to people who are "set apart for God, to be, as it were, exclusively his" (Thayer 7). This is the same message Jesus teaches:
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matthew 25:34-40).
And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence: Some are still spiritual babes and some have grown spiritually; some have abandoned the Christian faith and some have not. Some of his readers have already shown the Christian zeal that is mandatory for salvation; however, others apparently do not have this zeal, probably referring to those who prompted him to write the stern warning in the preceding verses; therefore, he says that his desire is for all of his readers to have the same "diligence" (spoude) or the same "earnestness" (Thayer 585) and exhibit more of the spirit of love for other Christians.
to the full assurance of hope unto the end: The "full assurance" that Paul wants these Hebrew Christians to have is the abundant "hope" and belief in salvation as long as they live. He wants every one of them to develop "hope" and confidence in their eternal salvation through Jesus Christ. "Hope" is an emotion consisting of a desire and an expectation for something great. Paul wants every Christian to have the same hope in their salvation at the end of their physical life that they had at the beginning of their spiritual life. Faith and hope are necessary qualities for every Christian. Paul mentions these same points when he writes to Christians in Rome:
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us (Romans 5:1-5).
That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
That ye be not slothful: Paul warns these Hebrew Christians not to lose hope in their salvation because if they do they will become "slothful" (nothros), which is the same word translated "dull" in verse 11 of chapter five, and denotes being "sluggish" (Thayer 431) or lethargic in their Christian lives.
James, the brother of the Lord, uses a similar analogy:
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh (5:7-8).
but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises:
Some of the Hebrew Christians have already become slothful; therefore, Paul’s message is: Instead of being slothful, become "followers" (mimetes) or "imitators" (Thayer 415). Christians who have not grown spiritually as they should have are encouraged to mimic other Christians who have "faith" (pistis), indicating having "trust" (Thayer 513) or confidence in the promises of God (Thayer 513) (see chapter eleven for a list of people who persevered in faithfulness). Those who have "faith" in the promises of God will generally have "patience" (makrothumia), suggesting they will show "steadfastness (and) perseverance" (Thayer 387); therefore, they will not give up on Jesus, salvation, or any other promise that comes from God the Father. "Faith" and "patience" must be together. Faith without patience or patience without faith will accomplish nothing. People will "inherit the promises," meaning they will "partake of eternal salvation in the Messiah’s kingdom (Thayer 349) only if they have both faith and patience. The term "promises" (epaggelia) in this context is "by metonomy a promised good or blessing…the blessing promised by my Father" (Thayer 227). Specifically, the "promises" referred to by Paul are all the promises leading to salvation. The Apostle John refers to this promise: "And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life" (1 John 2:25). The same "promises" are also mentioned by Paul when he writes to the Christians in Corinth regarding "houses not made with hands" (2 Corinthians 5:1-2) and being in God’s presence (2 Corinthians 5:6-10).
Encouraging Example of Abraham’s Faithfulness
For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,
For when God made promise to Abraham: The term "For" introduces an illustration to prove God’s faithfulness to fulfill all of His promises. This same illustration proves that faith and perseverance secure promises made to God’s children. The specific promise to Abraham was made immediately after Abraham’s proof of his faith in God when he was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. The promise was not that God would save Isaac from death but that Abraham would have numerous descendants and that through Abraham, Jesus, the Messiah, would be born. In writing to the Christians in Galatia, Paul says, "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ" (Galatians 3:16). Matthew records: "So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations" (1:17).
because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself: The term "swear" (omnuo) is "to call a person or thing as witness" (Thayer 444). To have total confidence in a promise made, the one making the promise would name the greatest person known as a witness that the promise would be fulfilled; therefore, when God made the promise to Abraham, He swore by His own name because there was none greater.
Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.
Paul uses the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham to illustrate clearly the promise, the fulfillment, and the necessity of Abraham’s patience. This promise was originally recorded by Moses:
And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice (Genesis 22:15-18).
The expressions, "surely blessing I will bless thee," and "multiplying I will multiply thee," mean "surely I will bless you" and "surely I will multiply you."
And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.
The words "patiently endured" (makrothumeo) refer to Abraham’s "steadfastness" and "perseverance" (Thayer 387). Because of Abraham’s persistence in obeying God, he obtained the promise that God made regarding his seed as mentioned in Genesis 22:18: "And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice." Abraham did not experience the total fulfillment of this promise; however, he witnessed the beginning of the fulfillment when God spared Isaac’s life. The completion of the fulfillment was seen only by faith as Paul mentions later in this epistle:
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth…And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise (11:13, 39).
Paul refers to this fulfilled promise again as he writes his epistle to the Christians in Rome:
Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be (Romans 4:16-18).
For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.
For men verily swear by the greater: (See comments on verse 13).
and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife:
God’s validation of His promise by an oath is acceptable to man because it is a human custom to support an oath in such a manner. Validating a promise with an oath produces confidence; therefore, Paul says, it ends all "strife" or "contradiction" (Thayer 50). In other words, when one disagrees with the allegation of another, an oath generally will put an end to the disagreement and is expected to confirm the truth. The first recorded oath in the scriptures refers to an occasion in Abraham’s life. The scriptures say:
And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich (Genesis 14:22-23).
Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:
Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel: The words "Wherein God" refer to the previous clause regarding the human custom of affirming facts with an oath. The term "willing" (boulomai) means "to will deliberately" or to "be minded" (Thayer 105). When God speaks to "the heirs of promise," that is, His children, He does not have to guarantee His promises with an oath; however, Paul is saying that He is willing to do so because of the persuasive influence it has in the minds of man. Milligan is correct in saying that God’s purpose here is to assure the people that His promises are unchangeable:
The meaning is, Since it is an acknowledged fact that men everywhere place so much confidence in an oath, God therefore, in condescension to human weakness and human custom, being anxious to show to the heirs of the promise that it was his fixed and unchangeable purpose to bestow on them all that he had promised to their father, Abraham, became, as it were, a third party between them and himself, and so interposed as a covenanter with an oath (232-233).
The "heirs of promise" refer to the spiritual descendants of Abraham. In this promise, the writer refers to all of God’s blessings fulfilled under the New Covenant. The word "immutability" (ametathetos) means "unalterable" (Thayer 32), and "counsel" (boule) refers to God’s "purpose" (Thayer 104); therefore, the expression "the immutability of his counsel" means the unchangeableness of God’s purpose and plan.
confirmed it by an oath: Having plainly stated that God acknowledges His plans will never change, Paul says He "confirmed" (mesiteuo) or pledged His words by giving an "oath" as a "surety" (Thayer 401).
That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
That by two immutable things: The word "things" (pragma) refers to "an accomplished fact" (Thayer 534). The two immutable things or the two unchallengeable facts mentioned by Paul are: (1) It is impossible for God to break a promise and (2) It is impossible for God to misrepresent an oath; therefore, it will be fulfilled.
in which it was impossible for God to lie: It is impossible for God to break a promise, with or without an oath, for to do so would be to lie; and it is impossible for God to lie. The term "lie" (pseudomai) means "to speak deliberate falsehoods" (Thayer 675). Jesus says that He is truth:
… I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me…Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you (John 14:16-17).
The Apostle Paul confirms this same truth in his writing to Titus: "In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began" (Titus 1:2).
we might have a strong consolation: Both of these truths, that is, it is impossible for God to break a promise and it is impossible for God not to fulfill an oath, are made that all Christians will have a "strong consolation." The term "strong" (ischuros) means something that is "firm (or) sure" (Thayer 309), and the term "consolation" (paraklesis) means "comfort" (Thayer 483), or possibly better "encouragement" (Vincent 452) as it is translated in the Revised Version. Every promise made by God is or will be fulfilled and is unchangeable.
who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Paul’s message is that Christians are represented as running from the threatened danger and laying hold of that which promises safety. The suggestion of "refuge" is compared to people who would run to certain cities for refuge, as instructed by Moses:
That the slayer might flee thither, which should kill his neighbour unawares, and hated him not in times past; and that fleeing unto one of these cities he might live…These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them, that whosoever killeth any person at unawares might flee thither, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, until he stood before the congregation (Deuteronomy 4:42; Joshua 20:29).
The "refuge" today is not a city or even a place. The only hope of safety for sinful man is patience and perseverance in faithfulness to Jesus Christ.
Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul: An "anchor" (agkura) in ancient times, as well as in modern times, is used as a symbol of hope. In this passage it is used figuratively signifying a "safeguard" (Thayer 7). The Christian’s anchor is his "hope" of salvation in Jesus Christ. As long as he maintains his hope and it remains steadfast, there is hope for salvation; but when he loses his anchor, he loses salvation in Jesus Christ.
both sure and stedfast: The adjectives "sure" (asphales) and "stedfast" (bebaios) indicate that a Christian’s hope is unfailing and firmly fixed. A literal ship anchor with large iron hooks will grab rocks to keep the ship from being shipwrecked; likewise, a Christian’s spiritual anchor is fixed on Jesus Christ. This spiritual anchor (hope) is sure and steadfast; it can be trusted.
and which entereth into that within the veil: The word "within" (esoteros) refers to "the inner space which is behind the veil, i.e. the shrine, the Holy of holies, said of heaven by a fig. drawn from the earthly temple" (Thayer 254). The Lord God, speaking of the "veil," tells Moses:
Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat… And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the LORD, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail (Leviticus 16:2; Leviticus 16:12).
Only the high priest, once a year, was allowed to enter within "the veil" (katapetasma), that is, "the space within the veil, i.e. the Holy of holies, figuratively used of heaven, as the true abode of God" (Thayer 335). The Most Holy Place in the Tabernacle was a type of heaven:
The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us… For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us (9:8-12, 24).
In 1882, Priscilla Jane Owens, a 49-year-old school teacher from Baltimore, Maryland, penned the following words of a song titled "We Have An Anchor" that reminds us not to put our trust in man, but rather on the Rock of our salvation, our Lord Jesus Christ:
Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?
It is safely moored, ’twill the storm withstand,
For ’tis well secured by the Savior’s hand;
And the cables, passed from His heart to mine,
Can defy that blast, thro’ strength divine.
It will surely hold in the Straits of Fear—
When the breakers have told that the reef is near;
Though the tempest rave and the wild winds blow,
Not an angry wave shall our bark o’erflow.
It will firmly hold in the Floods of Death—
When the waters cold chill our latest breath,
On the rising tide it can never fail,
While our hopes abide within the Veil.
When our eyes behold through the gath’ring night,
The city of gold, our harbor bright,
We shall anchor fast by the heav’nly shore,
With the storms all past forevermore.
We have an anchor that keeps the soul,
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.
Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus: A "forerunner" (prodromos) is "one who comes in advance to a place whither the rest are to follow" (Thayer 538). Jesus is spoken of as the "forerunner" who has already entered into heaven before His followers. Jesus says:
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also (John 14:1-3).
Paul has already mentioned in this epistle that Jesus is now with the Father in heaven:
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings…Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession (2:9-10; 4:14).
Jesus’ superiority over the other high priests is recognized in that He is a "forerunner" into heaven; therefore, He is in the presence of God and carries our hope with Him. His presence in heaven is a guarantee that all of God’s faithful children will follow. By His death and resurrection, He secured for us power to rise again and to enter heaven, following where He has gone. The other high priests, on the other hand, did not enter the sanctuary as a "forerunner" but only as a representation of God’s people. But Jesus Christ, our High Priest, has gone into heaven and there He is in the presence of God to mediate for every Christian. Paul says, "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us" (9:24).
made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec: Jesus was "made an high priest" in the sense that His office was inaugurated as High Priest by His suffering and death. With these words, the Apostle Paul makes a natural transition back to the subject matter regarding the high priest, Melchisedec, that he began in verse 10 of chapter five. After introducing this subject, he digressed to warn Hebrew Christians of the dangers of apostasy and of losing their hope of salvation through Jesus Christ.