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III. THE HIGH PRIESTLY OFFICE OF THE SON 5:11-10:39
The transition from exposition (Hebrews 4:15 to Hebrews 5:10) to exhortation (Hebrews 5:11 to Hebrews 6:20) marks the beginning of a new division in this sermon. The structure of this division is as follows. [Note: Ibid., p. 128.]
a Preliminary exhortation (Hebrews 5:11 to Hebrews 6:20)
A The priest who is like Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:1-28)
B The single, personal sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 8:1 to Hebrews 9:28)
C The achievement of eternal salvation (Hebrews 10:1-18)
a’ Concluding exhortation (Hebrews 10:19-39)
A major theme of Hebrews, redemptive sacrifice, now comes into prominence in this section of the text.
C. The Son’s High Priestly Ministry 7:1-10:18
The great resource of Christians when tempted to apostatize is our high priest, Jesus Christ. The writer therefore spent considerable time and space expounding His high priesthood to enable his readers to benefit from their resource. This section of the book continues to glorify Jesus Christ so the readers would appreciate Him sufficiently and not turn from Him. The priesthood of Melchizedek provided an analogy, for the writer, of Jesus’ priesthood.
"Here begins the longest single expository passage in the epistle. Its very length suggests its importance. Its theme is the core theme of Hebrews. The real resource of the readership, in the midst of their pressures, is the high priesthood of Christ. They must realize the greatness of that priesthood, its superiority to the Levitical institutions, and the perfect access they have to it on the basis of Christ’s death." [Note: Hodges, "Hebrews," p. 797.]
"In Hebrews 7, the writer argued that Christ’s priesthood, like Melchizedek’s, is superior in its order. In Hebrews 8, the emphasis is on Christ’s better covenant; in Hebrews 9, it is His better sanctuary; and Hebrews 10 concludes the section by arguing for Christ’s better sacrifice." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:299.]
The very nature of the Mosaic Law made it impossible to bring believers into intimate relationship with God since it dealt with externals.
"Both Paul and our author speak of the law as ’a shadow’; but whereas Paul in Colossians 2:17 has in mind the legal restrictions of Old Testament times (food-laws and regulations about special days), our author is thinking more especially of the law prescribing matters of priesthood and sacrifice in relation to the wilderness tabernacle and the Jerusalem temple." [Note: Bruce, The Epistle . . ., p. 226.]
"The ’shadow’ [Gr. skia] then is the preliminary outline that an artist may make before he gets to his colors, and the eikon [lit. image, "form"] is the finished portrait. The author is saying that the law is no more than a preliminary sketch. It shows the shape of things to come, but the solid reality is not there." [Note: Morris, p. 95]
"Make perfect" does not mean to make sinless but to make acceptable to God. Jesus Christ provided perfect cleansing for us by His death, as the following verses show.
"This verse (and in fact the whole chapter) continues our writer’s argument regarding the superiority of the sacrifice of Christ over the Mosaic rites." [Note: Jeffrey R. Sharp, "Typology and the Message of Hebrews," East Asia Journal of Theology 4:2 (1986):100.]
3. The accomplishment of our high priest 10:1-18
This section on the high priestly ministry of Christ (Hebrews 7:1 to Hebrews 10:18) concludes with this pericope in which the writer emphasized the perfecting effect of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on New Covenant believers. He wrote this to impress his readers further with the superiority of their condition compared with that of Old Covenant believers.
As pointed out previously, Hebrews 7:1 to Hebrews 10:18 constitutes an exposition of distinctive features of the high priestly office of the Son. These are its similarity to the priesthood of Melchizedek (ch. 7), the fact that it involved a single, personal sacrifice for sins (chs. 8-9), and its achievement of eternal salvation (Hebrews 10:1-18).
". . . in Hebrews 10:1-18 the writer elaborates the ’subjective’ effects of Christ’s offering for the community that enjoys the blessings of the new covenant. Christ’s death is considered from the perspective of its efficacy for Christians." [Note: Lane, Hebrews 9-13, p. 258.]
The argument is again chiastic.
A The inadequacy of the Old Covenant: repeated sacrifices were necessary (Hebrews 10:1-4)
B The one sacrifice of Christ: supersedes the repeated sacrifices (Hebrews 10:5-10)
B’ The priesthood of Christ: supersedes the Levitical priesthood (Hebrews 10:11-14)
A’ The adequacy of the New Covenant: no more sacrifice for sins is necessary (Hebrews 10:15-18)
The Israelites never enjoyed the extent of freedom from sin’s guilt that we do. The Day of Atonement reminded them yearly that their sins needed removing so they could continue to have fellowship with God. We do not have a yearly reminder since Jesus Christ’s sacrifice made us perfectly acceptable to God (cf. John 13:10; Acts 15:9).
"’Take away’ (aphaireo) is used of a literal taking off, as of Peter’s cutting off the ear of the high priest’s slave (Luke 22:50), or metaphorically as of the removal of reproach (Luke 1:25). It signifies the complete removal of sin so that it is no longer a factor in the situation. That is what is needed and that is what the sacrifices could not provide." [Note: Morris, p. 96.]
"Some one has well said: ’The blood of animals cannot cleanse from sin because it is non-moral. The blood of sinning man cannot cleanse because it is immoral. The blood of Christ alone can cleanse because it is moral.’" [Note: Thomas, pp. 117-18.]
This biblical writer liked to clinch his argument by appealing to Scripture.
"His argument up till now has been the negative one that the animal sacrifices of the old covenant were unavailing. Now he says positively that Christ’s sacrifice, which established the new covenant, was effectual. It really put away sin. And it was foreshadowed in the same passage from Jeremiah." [Note: Morris, p. 97.]
The passage he quoted first (Psalms 40:6-8) expresses Messiah’s commitment to offer His body as a sacrifice to God (at His first advent) because animal sacrifices of all types were inadequate. God’s will was the perfection (i.e., thorough cleansing) of believers. Jesus was not some dumb animal that offered its life unthinkingly. He consciously and deliberately offered His life in obedience to God’s will.
"The psalmist’s words, ’Lo, I am come to do thy will, O God,’ sum up the whole tenor of our Lord’s life and ministry, and express the essence of that true sacrifice which God desires." [Note: Bruce, The Epistle . . ., p. 234.]
The "role of the book" is the written instruction (torah) of God. Throughout the Old Testament the prophets presented Messiah as committed to doing God’s will completely.
God took no delight in sacrifices as such if they were not the product of a proper attitude. He took away the first Mosaic Covenant and its sacrifices to establish the second New Covenant. Psalms 40 announced the abolition of the old sacrificial system. This was God’s will, and it satisfied Him. The writer’s view of sanctification here, as elsewhere in this epistle, is positional rather than progressive. God sets aside all believers to Himself at conversion. That is what is in view here.
"Indeed it can be said that sanctification in Hebrews is almost equivalent to justification in Romans, both referring to our position, not to our condition. But there is this vital difference of standpoint: that justification deals with position in relation to God as Judge, while sanctification deals with position in relation to our fellowship with God and our approach to Him in fellowship." [Note: Thomas, p. 125. Cf. Hodges, "Hebrews," p. 804.]
". . . we must be on our guard lest we read this epistle with Pauline terminology in mind." [Note: Morris, p. 99.]
The writer stressed the finality of Jesus Christ’s offering further with the contrast in these verses. [Note: See William David Spencer, "Christ’s Sacrifice as Apologetic: An Application of Hebrews 10:1-18," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40:2 (June 1997):189-97, for a response to resurgent contemporary paganism that encourages self-sacrifice and other types of blood sacrifices.] The Levitical priests never sat down because they never finished their work, but Jesus Christ sat down beside His Father because He finished His work.
"A seated priest is the guarantee of a finished work and an accepted sacrifice." [Note: Bruce, The Epistle . . ., p. 239.]
Jesus Christ now awaits the final destruction of His enemies. Those who "are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14) are those whom Jesus Christ has perfected and are consequently fully acceptable to God (i.e., all believers). [Note: See Kendall, pp. 180-82.]
Jesus Christ’s sacrifice has accomplished three things for us. It has cleansed our consciences from guilt, it has fitted us to approach God as worshippers, and it has fulfilled what the Old Testament promised.
The Holy Spirit testified through Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:33-34; cf. Hebrews 8:8-12), and continues to testify, the writer said, that final forgiveness meant the end of sacrifices for sin. God promised this forgiveness in the New Covenant. Consequently no more sacrifices for sin are necessary.
"In Ch. 8 the oracle of Jeremiah 31:31-34 was quoted in order to prove the obsolescence of the old economy; now it is quoted again in order to establish the permanence of the era of ’perfection’ inaugurated under the new covenant. ’God has spoken in His Son’; and He has no word to speak beyond Him." [Note: Bruce, The Epistle . . ., p. 242.]
The statement that God will remember sins no more (Hebrews 10:17) means that He will no longer call them back to memory with a view to condemning the sinner (cf. Romans 8:1). Since God is omniscient He remembers everything, but He does not hold the forgiven sinner’s sins against him or her. This verse has been a great help to many sinners who have found it hard to believe that God really has forgiven them (cf. 1 John 2:2).
The long section on the high priestly ministry of Jesus ends here (Hebrews 7:1 to Hebrews 10:18). Priestly ministry was such an important part of old Israelite worship that the writer gave it lengthy attention here. The writer showed that Jesus is a superior priest compared with the Levitical priests, and that His priesthood supersedes the Levitical priesthood. He also pointed out that Jesus serves under the New Covenant that is superior to the Old Covenant. Furthermore His sacrifice is superior to the animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant. Finally, Jesus’ priesthood brings the believer into full acceptance with God, something the former priesthood could not do. Therefore the readers would be foolish to abandon Christianity to return to Judaism. Contemporary believers are also foolish to turn away from Christ and the gospel.
"Therefore" sums up the entire argument to this point but especially the affirmation of Hebrews 8:1-2 and its exposition in Hebrews 9:1 to Hebrews 10:18. "Brethren" recalls the writer’s address of his audience of believers in the earlier parenetic units (cf. Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 3:12; Hebrews 6:9). All believers now have an open invitation to come into the holy place. Under the old covenant that privilege was reserved for the priesthood, only part of God’s people.
There are two reasons we can and should approach God (Hebrews 10:22). First, we can have confidence to enter God’s presence now and in the future because of what Jesus Christ has done for us.
"It is striking that whenever the writer makes his most emphatic assertions concerning the saving work of Christ, he makes an explicit reference to the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 10:19; Hebrews 10:29; Hebrews 12:24; Hebrews 13:12; Hebrews 13:20). This fact is indicative of the importance of the cultic argument developed in Hebrews 9:1 to Hebrews 10:18, where the blood of Jesus is a graphic expression for Jesus’ death viewed in its sacrificial aspect. That cultic argument is clearly presupposed here." [Note: Ibid., p. 283.]
We can enter God’s presence through Jesus’ crucified flesh as though we entered the holy of holies through the torn temple veil (Matthew 27:51). This is an example of a thing (i.e., the veil in the temple) being a type of another thing (i.e., Christ’s flesh). [Note: See my comment on types that precedes my comments on 9:10-11 above.] His sacrifice provided a new and living way compared with the old now dead way of the Old Covenant. The way is not Jesus Himself, in the sense of John 14:6, but the way He opened for us through His death. [Note: Guthrie, p. 211.]
"The way to God is both ’new’ and ’living.’ It is ’new’ because what Jesus has done has created a completely new situation, ’living’ because that way is indissolubly bound up with the Lord Jesus himself.
The "living" way also connotes the fresh, vitalizing realities of the New Covenant. [Note: Hodges, "Hebrews," p. 804.]
"The author is saying in his own way what the Synoptists said when they spoke of the curtain of the temple as being torn when Christ died (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45)." [Note: Morris, p. 103.]
1. The threefold admonition 10:19-25
The writer began with a three-fold admonition, which is all one sentence in the Greek text. The long sentence intensifies the writer’s appeal. [Note: Ellingworth, p. 516.]
"In view of all that has been accomplished for us by Christ, he says, let us confidently approach God in worship, let us maintain our Christian confession and hope, let us help one another by meeting together regularly for mutual encouragement, because the day which we await will soon be here." [Note: Bruce, The Epistle . . ., p. 244.]
"A loyal response to Christ is the logical correlate of the magnitude of Christ’s redemptive accomplishment [cf. Romans 12:1-2]." [Note: Lane, Hebrews 9-13, p. 281.]
D. The Danger of Willful Sinning (The Fourth Warning) 10:19-39
From this point on in the epistle the writer made application from the great truths concerning Jesus Christ that he had now finished explaining. He followed his exposition of Jesus Christ’s superior high priestly ministry (Hebrews 6:13 to Hebrews 10:18) with exhortation, another stern warning against apostatizing, and an encouragement to remain faithful to the Lord (Hebrews 10:19-39). (Even though chapter 11 is primarily exposition, it is full of application.) The Greek word parresia, which appears in Hebrews 10:19 ("confidence") and in Hebrews 10:35 ("confidence"), frames the section and forms an inclusio tying the thought together.
"With Hebrews 10:19-39 the great central division of the sermon (Hebrews 5:11 to Hebrews 10:39) is drawn to a conclusion. Viewed from the perspective of the homiletical and literary structure of Hebrews, this concluding exhortation is symmetrical with the preliminary exhortation found in Hebrews 5:11 to Hebrews 6:20 . . . . The great exposition of Christ as priest and sacrifice is thus framed by parallel parenetic units . . ." [Note: Lane, Hebrews 9-13, p. 279.]
This warning passage is in a sense central to all the hortatory passages in Hebrews. Lane entitled this warning passage "The Peril of Disloyalty to Christ." [Note: Ibid., p. 271.] It echoes former warnings (cf. Hebrews 2:1-4 and Hebrews 10:28-31; and Hebrews 6:4-8 and Hebrews 10:26-31) and repeats characteristic expressions (cf. Hebrews 3:6 b and Hebrews 10:23; and Hebrews 3:17 and Hebrews 10:26). Yet it also anticipates what is to come by introducing the triad of Christian virtues, which the writer developed in chapters 11-13 (cf. Hebrews 6:10-12). He spoke of faith in Hebrews 10:22 and developed it in chapter 11, hope in Hebrews 10:23 and developed it in Hebrews 12:1-13, and love in Hebrews 10:24 and developed it in Hebrews 12:14 to Hebrews 13:21.
Second, we can have confidence to enter God’s presence because we have a great High Priest (cf. Hebrews 7:1 to Hebrews 10:18).
We should draw near with freedom from guilt and with holy conduct (cf. Hebrews 4:16). This is the first of three admonitions (in Hebrews 10:22-25) that together constitute the main exhortation in the epistle. [Note: Guthrie, p. 213.] This first one refers to personal devotion.
"Sincere" means true and dependable. We should approach God with the assurance that Jesus Christ’s death has removed our guilt for sin and has made us acceptable to God (Hebrews 9:13-14; Numbers 8:7; Romans 5:1; Romans 8:1; cf. 1 John 1:9). The writer believed Christians can have full assurance of our faith since our confidence rests in the sufficiency of what Christ has done for us (cf. 1 John 5:13). God wants Christians to know for sure that they are going to heaven.
". . . the specific imagery of the ’sprinkling of the heart from a burdened conscience’ has been anticipated in Hebrews 9:18-22. There the writer reminded the community of the action of Moses, who sprinkled the people with blood during the ratification of the old covenant at Sinai. The thought that Christians have been made participants in the new covenant by the blood of Christ is forcefully expressed in the immediate context (Hebrews 10:19). This suggests that the ’sprinkling with respect to the heart’ in Hebrews 10:22 b is to be associated with Jesus’ inauguration of the new covenant through his death . . ." [Note: Lane, Hebrews 9-13, p. 287.]
The reference to the washed body (Hebrews 10:22) probably is to water baptism as the outward sign of inward cleansing (cf. 1 Peter 3:21). [Note: See J. D. G. Dunn, Baptism in the Holy Spirit, pp. 211-14.]
We should not only exercise faith (Hebrews 10:22) but also hope (Hebrews 10:23) and love (Hebrews 10:24). The admonition to hold fast to our hope is the one the writer emphasized most strongly in this epistle. It is an exhortation to perseverance. The basis of our steadfastness is the fact that God is faithful to His promises concerning our future.
The third admonition (Hebrews 10:24) moves from the vertical to the horizontal dimension of Christian living. This admonition to love one another, our social obligation, was also necessary since some were abandoning the faith. The readers needed to stimulate one another to remain faithful to the Lord. This type of love is the product of communal activity; we cannot practice it in isolation from other believers.
"Any early Christian who attempted to live like a pious particle without the support of the community ran serious risks in an age when there was no public opinion to support him. His isolation, whatever its motive-fear, fastidiousness, self-conceit, or anything else-exposed him to the danger of losing his faith altogether." [Note: Moffatt, p. 147. Cf. Guthrie, p. 216.]
Regular attendance at church meetings facilitates love for one another because there we receive reminders and exhortations to persevere. It is only natural for one who has abandoned his faith to absent himself or herself from the meetings of his or her church. However this is the very thing such a person should not do. We need each other.
"Whatever the motivation, the writer regarded the desertion of the communal meetings as utterly serious. It threatened the corporate life of the congregation and almost certainly was a prelude to apostasy on the part of those who were separating themselves from the assembly . . ." [Note: Lane, Hebrews 9-13, p. 290.]
The writer was urging mutual accountability since we will have to give an account of ourselves to God. The "day" that is approaching is the day we will give an account of ourselves to God (cf. Hebrews 10:37). This may have been an allusion to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 for the original readers. [Note: J. Dwight Pentecost, "The Apostles’ Use of Jesus’ Predictions of Judgment on Jerusalem in A.D. 70," in Integrity of Heart, Skillfulness of Hands, pp. 140-41.] But it is definitely an allusion to the judgment seat of Christ.
"The word ’we’ cannot refer to any other group of people than his readers and himself [cf. Hebrews 2:1]." [Note: Marshall, pp. 141-42.]
Willful sin in the context of Hebrews is deliberate apostasy, turning away from God (Hebrews 2:1; Hebrews 3:12; Hebrews 6:4-8). If an apostate rejects Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, there is nothing else that can protect him or her from God’s judgment (cf. Hebrews 6:6). The judgment in view will take place at the judgment seat of Christ, not the great white throne. It is the judgment of Christians (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10), not of unbelievers (cf. Revelation 20:11-15). It will result in loss of reward, not loss of salvation. The same fire that will test believers will also consume unbelievers. Fire is a frequent symbol of God and His work in Scripture (Exodus 3:2; Exodus 19:18; Deuteronomy 4:24; Psalms 18:8-14; Isaiah 33:14; Ezekiel 1:4; Malachi 3:2), and it often indicates His judgment (Malachi 3:2; Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16).
"The motif of inescapable judgment is developed with an allusion to Isaiah 26:11. The imagery of ’raging fire ready to consume God’s adversaries’ is vividly suggestive of the prospect awaiting the person who turns away from God’s gracious provision through Christ. The apostate is regarded as the adversary of God. The description of judgment as a fire that devours and utterly destroys recalls the actual experience of the followers of Korah who were consumed by fire because they had shown contempt for God (Numbers 16:35; Numbers 26:10). The consequence of apostasy is terrifying, irrevocable judgment." [Note: Lane, Hebrews 9-13, p. 293.]
"Knowledge" (Hebrews 10:26) is full knowledge (Gr. epignosis).
2. The warning of judgment 10:26-31
The writer turned from positive admonition to negative warning to highlight the seriousness of departing from the Lord.
"Between the imperatives of Hebrews 10:22-25; Hebrews 10:32; Hebrews 10:35, the author describes, more fully than in Hebrews 2:2 f.; Hebrews 6:4-6, the nature and consequences of apostasy, previously described as ’falling away from the living God’ (Hebrews 3:12)." [Note: Ellingworth, p. 530.]
The point of these verses is this. Since an Israelite who spurned the Old Covenant suffered a severe penalty, we will suffer a greater penalty if we spurn the superior New Covenant. Apostasy under the New Covenant has the effect of walking roughshod over the Son of God by despising Him. Also it involves despising the superior blood of Jesus Christ that "sanctified" the apostate (who is a Christian; cf. Hebrews 10:10; Hebrews 10:14). Furthermore the apostate insults the Holy Spirit who graciously brought him or her to faith in Christ. These three parallel participial clauses in the Greek text stress the serious effects of apostasy.
"Taken cumulatively, the three clauses in Hebrews 10:29 define persistent sin (Hebrews 10:26 a) as an attitude of contempt for the salvation secured through the priestly sacrifice of Christ. Nothing less than a complete rejection of the Christian faith satisfies the descriptive clauses in which the effects of the offense are sketched." [Note: Ibid., p. 295.]
"It is an extreme case of apostasy which is being envisaged." [Note: Guthrie, p. 219.]
Willful rebels under the Old Covenant only lost their lives (cf. Deuteronomy 17:2-7; Deuteronomy 13:8), but willful rebels under the New Covenant lose an eternal reward. Not only so but God often begins to punish modern apostates in this life.
"It was commonly inferred [incorrectly] in the Early Church from this and other passages in the epistle that forgiveness for all kinds of post-baptismal sin, inadvertent as well as deliberate, was ruled out." [Note: Bruce, The Epistle . . ., p. 260.]
In Deuteronomy 32, which the writer quoted here twice (Deuteronomy 32:35-36; Deuteronomy 32:40-41), Moses warned the Israelites against apostatizing. That was this writer’s point here as well. It is a terrifying prospect for a believer who has renounced his or her faith to fall under God’s hand of chastisement. Note that the writer addressed this warning to believers, though many interpreters have applied it to unbelievers. [Note: See Fanning, pp. 407-8.]
"Actually, Hebrews 10:30-31 forms a parallel reference to 2 Corinthians 5:10-11, and the preceding verses (Hebrews 10:26-29) provide additional information concerning that facet of the judgment seat associated with the ’terror of the Lord.’" [Note: Arlen L. Chitwood, Judgment Seat of Christ, p. 31.]
Hebrews 10:31 is not so much a logical conclusion from what precedes as it is a summary recalling the context of the Deuteronomy quotations. [Note: Ellingworth, p. 543.]
In the past the original readers had proved faithful in severe trials of their faith. They had stood their ground when others had encouraged them to abandon it. They had withstood public shame and persecution for their faith. They had also unashamedly supported other believers who had undergone persecution in the same way.
"In the world of the first century the lot of prisoners was difficult. Prisoners were to be punished, not pampered. Little provision was made for them, and they were dependent on friends for their supplies [including food [Note: Moffatt, p. 154. Cf. Guthrie, p. 222.] ]. For Christians visiting prisoners was a meritorious act (Matthew 25:36). But there was some risk, for the visitors became identified with the visited. The readers of the epistle had not shrunk from this. It is not pleasant to endure ignominy, and it is not pleasant to be lumped with the ignominious. They had endured both." [Note: Morris, p. 110.]
They had also been willing to suffer material loss because they looked forward to a better inheritance in the future (cf. Luke 21:19). Moreover they had done this joyfully, not grudgingly.
"The eternal inheritance laid up for them was so real in their eyes that they could lightheartedly bid farewell to material possessions which were short-lived in any case. This attitude of mind is precisely that ’faith’ of which our author goes on to speak." [Note: Bruce, The Epistle . . ., p. 270.]
3. The encouragement to persevere 10:32-39
The writer concluded his warning by reminding his readers of their former faithfulness when tempted to encourage them to endure their present and future tests (cf. Hebrews 4:12-16; Hebrews 6:9-20).
"The juxtaposition of Hebrews 10:26-35 suggests that it may have been the experience of suffering, abuse, and loss in the world that motivated the desertion of the community acknowledged in Hebrews 10:25 and a general tendency to avoid contact with outsiders observed elsewhere in Hebrews (see . . . Hebrews 5:11-14)." [Note: Lane, Hebrews 9-13, p. 297.]
Now was not the time to discard that confidence in a better reward (cf. Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 4:16; Hebrews 10:19). They needed to persevere, to keep on keeping on. By doing this they would do God’s will and eventually receive what He promised, namely, an eternal reward (Hebrews 1:14; Hebrews 3:14; Hebrews 9:15; Matthew 6:19). [Note: Cf. Dillow, p. 129.] This exhortation is a good summary of the whole message of Hebrews. [Note: Cf. Hodges, "Hebrews," p. 806.]
"What they had endured for Christ’s sake entitled them to a reward. Let them not throw it away. The NT does not reject the notion that Christians will receive rewards, though, of course, that is never the prime motive for service." [Note: Morris, pp. 110-11.]
"The safeguard against degeneration, isolation, and consequent failure is to make progress in the Christian life, and to proceed from point to point from an elementary to the richest, fullest, deepest experience." [Note: Thomas, p. 11.]
If the writer’s concern had been the salvation of those readers who were unbelievers, this would have been an opportune time for him to exhort them to believe in Christ. He could have written, "For you have need of regeneration." Instead he exhorted his readers to endure rather than apostatize.
After all, we will not have long to persevere. The Lord’s return is near (Revelation 22:20). In the meantime we need to keep walking by faith. If we abandon that purpose, we will not please God.
"This observation [in Hebrews 10:38 b] is a figure of speech called litotes in which a positive idea is expressed by negating the opposite. As the larger context makes plain, he means, ’God will be severely angered’ (see Hebrews 10:27)." [Note: Hodges, The Gospel . . ., p. 74.]
The allusions in these verses are to Isaiah 26:21 and Habakkuk 2:3-4 in the Septuagint. The writer took all his Old Testament quotations from this version except the one in Hebrews 10:30, which he took from the Hebrew Bible. "My righteous one" is a believer. "Shrinking back" refers to apostasy. [Note: Lane, Hebrews 9-13, p. 305; Moffatt, p. 158.]
"Paul is concerned with the way a man comes to be accepted by God; the author [of this epistle] is concerned with the importance of holding fast to one’s faith in the face of temptations to abandon it." [Note: Morris, p. 111.]
The writer assumed hopefully that his readers, along with himself, would not apostatize. "Destruction" (or ruin) could refer either to eternal damnation in hell or to temporal punishment. In view of what has preceded, the latter alternative is probably in view (cf. Matthew 26:8; Mark 14:4; Acts 25:16). The writer did not want his readers to be the objects of God’s discipline. [Note: See Dillow, pp. 336-37.]
"I personally believe that ’waste’ is the best translation for this word ["destruction"] in Hebrews 10:39. A believer who does not walk by faith goes back into the old ways and wastes his life." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:317.]
Likewise the positive alternative set forth at the end of this verse is not a reference to conversion. It refers to the preservation of the faithful believer until he receives his full reward (cf. 1 Peter 2:9). The "preserving of the soul" is equivalent to "saving the life" (cf. James 5:20). [Note: Moffatt, p. 158.]
"This meaning agrees well with the exposition of Hebrews 10:32-39. The readers were to live by faith in the midst of difficult times. The result of obedience to the Word of God would be a life-preserving walk instead of temporal discipline, the loss of physical life." [Note: Oberholtzer, 145:418.]
This is the most direct and severe of all the warnings in Hebrews. In view of the Son’s priestly ministry (Hebrews 5:1 to Hebrews 10:18), apostasy is a sin that will draw terrible consequences for the believer. It will not result in the loss of eternal salvation but the loss of some eternal reward.
"The nature of the writer’s response to the men and women he addressed confirms the specifically pastoral character of the parenesis, in which he closely identifies himself with his audience. The severity with which he writes of apostasy and of the destructive lifestyle of those who have deserted the house church expresses anguish and compassionate concern that Christians should not be subverted by a form of worldliness that would separate them from the life and truth they have received from Christ and from one another." [Note: Lane, Hebrews 9-13, p. 311.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Hebrews 10". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent