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MANY DEAR SAINTS who delight in the Word of God insist on the study of the Old Testament types as setting forth fully and accurately the things of Grace we are now enjoying, and the good things to come when the Lord returns. Indeed, we have known some beloved teachers so governed by Old Testament typology as to permit no entrance of New Testament truth except as explained and defined by Old Testament types.
But the first verse of Chapter 10 flatly denies to the types the very thing that these people would give them: the Law (and its entire economy) had a shadow of the good things to come, but not the very image. The Greek word for "image" is _eikon. An image, or _eikon, like a good statue or photograph, reveals features and facts accurately. This a shadow cannot do. A tree casts its shadow on the ground: you see its general shape; but you cannot tell the kind of tree, or discern foliage, blossom, fruit. Now The Law had only shadows. One who tries to turn these shadows into images finds himself presently under their spell. Reversing things, he judges facts by shadows.
Before we leave verse 1, let us remark that "image" (_eikon) sets forth the substance, as in Matthew 22 (also Mk. 12, and Lk. 20) our Lord asks concerning the denarius, a Roman coin, "Whose image (_eikon) and superscription" (Caesar's name) "hath it?" This image was no shadow of Caesar, no mere hint that such a being existed, but the man's very features portrayed on the metal.
But God says in Hosea 8:12, "I wrote for him the ten thousand things of My Law; but they are counted as a strange thing." The "things" here are the ordinances, precepts, judgments, sacrifices, ceremonies; but "My Law" lies in God's mind as one Law. Again, what about John 1:17: "For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ"? Can you maintain that the "ceremonial law" is referred to here, while God still holds over the believer what you call the "moral law," with its blessing conditioned on your obedience instead of on Christ's work?
Finally, what will you say, with your man-made distinction between what you call "ceremonial law" and what you really trust in, "the moral law," to the distinction God makes in 2 Corinthians 3 between law-keeping and that blessed operation of the Spirit here described?
"Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit" (Vss. 17-18). Will you retain your "moral law" claim here? Very well, compare that to the contrast in that Chapter, verse 3. A Christian, as an epistle of Christ, is said to be "written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God," and further, "not in tables of stone, but in tables that are hearts of flesh." Now let your tables of stone go! There are your ten words, including the fourth commandment about the Sabbath, given to Israel as a token of God's relation to them (Ex. 31:13, 17; Neh. 9:13-14). Let it go, for Christ (2 Cor. 3:6) "made us (the apostles) sufficient as ministers of a new covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life"! Mark, finally, that the Law, the Law given on stones, the ten words, is called in verse 7 (same chapter) "the ministration of death," and described as a passing thing: and in verse 9 as "the ministration of condemnation." You are a sinner, and the Law can for all eternity do nothing for you but condemn you. The Law did not even have the very image of the (heavenly) things. There had to be a rectification (Heb. 9:10, last word), a "vanishing away" of "that which is becoming old and waxeth aged."
But you cry, What shall take the place of the Law? We have believed that God forever controls His creatures by Law!
What do you do with "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love" (Eph. 1:4)? Do you still believe that the bending of your will to Divine enactments is a stronger method?
Take the great truth next set forth: The Law can never with the same sacrifices ... make perfect (in standing) them that draw nigh. Else (verse 2) would they not have ceased to be offered? because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would have had no more conscience of sins: If the Israelitish worshiper had known that his sins were all put away forever--which the instructed Christian knows his sins are, by the one offering of Christ--he would have had no more conscience of sins. (The A.V. reads, "conscience of sins".) Doubtless all the Levitical sacrifices pointed to Christ's sacrifice: but they effected nothing in the way of putting away sin. Cleansing is an application, connected with and following Divine forgiveness in Heaven. Cleansing is the removal of sins from the person justified! See Acts 22:16: "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on His name." (We shall return to this matter of cleansing in a moment.)
Again, Hebrews 10:3 says, But in those (Levitical) sacrifices there is a remembrance made of sins year by year. Let us at once put far from our thought that the Levitical sacrifices ever removed sins. God, in pardoning any sinner, in the Old Testament, looked forward to the work of His dear Son an the Cross. Conceive, therefore, of the true meaning and effect of those Levitical sacrifices: a remembrance (not a removal) of sins year by year.
To return to the word cleansed. This is not pardon, but the result of pardon. Scripture teaches that sins are things; that they are attached to the person, yea, to the very body of the sinner. Certain unpardoned sinners are thus described in Ezekiel 32:27: "They are gone down to Sheol ... and their iniquities are upon their bones." As we read in Psalm 109:18 of a wicked enemy of David (a prophecy of Judas Iscariot--vs. 8 and Acts 1:20),
"He clothed himself also with cursing as with his garment, And it came into his inward parts like water, And like oil into his bones."
The pardoned man is described in Hebrews 10:2 as cleansed. Sins are removed from his person--literally! Christ bare our sins in His body on the tree. He was "delivered up for our trespasses, and raised for our justification." (Rom. 4:25). "So Christ also was once offered to bear the sins of many."
This being so, and God reckoning the atoning work of Christ to a believing sinner, his sins are removed forever from him, from his person. Thus is he, according to God's word in Hebrews 10:2, "cleansed". Looking back at Calvary, he sees the removal of his sins by the shed blood of Christ, and is filled with peace and joy. But the very continuance of the Levitical offerings was proof of their ineffectiveness and "shadow" character.
The conscience of a devout Jew resembled the conscience of a devout Roman Catholic today. The Catholic must go to his "priest," to the "confessional," telling this man-made priest his sins; and the promise is, that the "priest" will get him forgiveness. The "priest" resorts to the figment of the "unbloody sacrifice" of "the Mass," for he knows not the finished work of Christ, by Whose blood sin was put away once for all, on the Cross. What the Romish "priest" finds and the Jew of old found, is a remembrance of sins. (Of course this is an illustration, and we shall not at heart compare the Divinely appointed Levitical system of sacrifices with the blasphemous performances of Rome's self-appointed priests. For to the pope's puppets, with whom He has nothing to do, God makes no promise of forgiveness of sins at all, which He did make to the Hebrew bringing the appointed offering under the Levitical system. (Lev. 4:20, 26, 28; 5:10, 13, 16, 18; 6:7).)
Did a Hebrew sin? Had he committed a trespass? Let him bring the trespass offering according to Leviticus 4 to 6. But why, since on the Great Day of Atonement once a year (Lev. 16) the high priest carried the blood of the slain goat within the veil, then confessed all the transgressions and sins of the children of Israel upon the head of the live goat, and sent it away, bearing upon him "all their iniquities unto a solitary land"--why, when the high priest had done all this, should not a sinning Israelite later simply say, I will confess this trespass unto Jehovah, and rely upon the blood of the slain goat of the Day of Atonement?
He could not do that for two reasons: first, because the blood of the slain goat of Leviticus 16 did not put away all his sins forever as Christ's one Sacrifice has availed to do for us; (Note the seven cases of forgiveness: (1) "The whole congregation": Ch. 4:13, 20. (2) "A ruler": Ch. 4:22, 26. (3) "Anyone of the common people": Ch. 4:27, 31-33. (4) "Any one": Ch. 5:1, 10, 13. (5) "if anyone commit a trespass and sin unwittingly": Ch. 5:15-16. (6) "If any one sin and do" what "Jehovah commanded not to be done": Ch. 5:17-18. (7) "If any one ... deal falsely with his neighbor": Ch. 6:1, 7.); second, because each worshiper was commanded to bring a trespass offering each time he sinned; and he also knew that the high priest must again offer the blood of a goat before Jehovah, and again confess the sins of the children of Israel over another living goat, and send it away, at the next yearly Atonement, and the next--the same forms year after year. For in these sacrifices there is a remembrance (not a removal), made of sins year by year. As we read:
For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. Therefore the Israelitish worshiper, be he ever so sincere, would only know that by his trespass offering he was forgiven up to date, but must be ready to offer another trespass offering upon another failure. (Alas, many earnest professing Christians are practically upon Levitical ground as concerning Christ's sacrifice. They say, "I am saved if I hold out. And each time there is a failure, there must be a new application of the blood." God says, "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous: and He is the propitiation (on the ground of His once-for-all putting away sins) for our sins." A believer's sin does not come in before God as judge, at all. It was all dealt with on Calvary!
We repeat, the removal of sins, not the reminding the worshipper of them ("remembrance"), was the way in which the conscience was "cleansed." Sins must be "taken away." If that were done, conscience would no longer accuse, there would be "no more consciousness (or conscience) of sins." "Cleansed," therefore, refers not at all to something done to the person of the worshiper, but to his sins, having been once for all removed or taken away.
Note the recurrence in Scripture of this thought, to take away sins:
"He hath given it (the sin-offering) to you to take away (R.V., margin) the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before Jehovah" (Lev. 10:17).
"On this day (the Great Day of Atonement) shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you: from all your sins shall ye be clean before Jehovah" (Lev. 16:30).
"And why dost Thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity?" (job 7:21).
"Therefore by this shall the iniquity of Jacob be forgiven (margin, expiated), and this is all the fruit of taking away his sins (Isa. 27:9).
"Take with you words and return unto Jehovah: say unto Him, Take away all iniquity" (Hos. 14:2).
(Jeremiah speaking of those that "contended with" him): "Forgive not their iniquity, neither blot out their sin from Thy sight" (Jer. 18:19, 23).
"Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: and he touched my mouth with it, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips, and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin forgiven" (margin, expiated.) Isa. 6:6-7).
"And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against Me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned and transgressed against Me" (Jer. 33:8).
"In those days, and in that time, saith Jehovah, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I leave as a remnant" (Jer. 50:20). Note pardon connected with the removal of iniquity.
"I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake: and I will not remember thy sins" (Isa. 43:25).
"I will save (the children of Israel) from all their backslidings (margin) wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them" (Ezek. 37:23).
"And I will cleanse (hold as innocent, margin) their blood, that I have not cleansed: for Jehovah dwelleth in Zion" (Joel 3:21).
"According to the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin" (Ps. 51:1-2).
"As far as the east is from the west, So far hath He removed our transgressions from us" (Ps. 103:12).
"Jesus seeing their faith said to the sick of the palsy, Son, be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven" (Matt. 9:2).
"John ... seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
"Ye know that He was manifested to take away sins" (1 John 3:5).
Ananias said unto Saul, "Why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins" (Acts 22:16).
"And this is My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins" (Rom. 11:27).
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
But because the once for all putting away of sin forever from God's sight (see Ch. 9:26) is so seldom and so feebly grasped by Christian believers, these Levitical oft-repeated sacrifices are taken as setting forth Christian experience. Thus, even our Lord's priesthood is, in the heart of hearts of most believers, somehow connected with atonement. If it were told to the average real Christian, "Jesus in Heaven will never put away another sin for you," it would strike him with real terror: for he has not rested in that once for all putting away sin at the Cross concerning which Christ said, "It is finished."
*This leads us to say, Most Christians do not have peace. If my house is mortgaged, and I am in daily expectation of foreclosure, what can give me rest? One thing: for some one to pay off the mortgage, and let me behold it cancelled: then I can rest. In Heaven now, at God's right hand, He is not atoning for sin! That would make Him simply the equal of one of the Levitical priests who kept standing, offering up sacrifices for sin daily. This, Christ is not now doing. Why? This He did as Priest, once for all and forever, on the Cross.
Every Christian uncertain whether all his sins have been put away forever, needs to look to God's words about the Cross and the death of Christ, not to His priestly work on high. The mortgage on your soul has been paid off: "One sacrifice for sins forever"! Oh, read Ch. 10:12 over and over, repeat it daily, hourly, if need be; and say, It was for me!
That it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin is at once apparent: compare in your mind the precious blood of Him Who did put away sins, with the blood of these animals! You may ask then, Why did God prescribe sin and trespass offerings of their blood? Well, first, to bring sin to the remembrance, to consideration, by the trespasser; (2) to make him see that the Divine sentence upon his sin was death; (3) to make him see that God had a way and plan of mercy, for the trespasser was to be forgiven--till he should trespass again; (4) to bring some apprehension of substitutionary atonement to the offender's mind. Read most carefully Leviticus 4:1-12--better still, Chapters 4 to 6. From the Cross we look back and understand as the Israelites of old could not; and yet they could see even then that sin was to be forgiven on the ground of substitutionary sacrifice, that is, through blood shedding, or through blood.
Nevertheless, no offerer under the Levitical system ever went away with a conscience "cleansed" forever.
There is a perfect illustration of a saint's apprehension of the truth that God had no pleasure in the death of the sacrificial animals; and that these had no efficacy in putting away sin, in David's prayer in Psalm 51. Adultery; murder to hide it; refusal to judge himself; impenitence and guile till Bathsheba's child was born and had become dear to David--all this had come in when the prophet Nathan charged home his sin upon him (2 Sam. 12); yet told him that God had put away his sin, and he should not die. Read this 51st psalm: you say, Was not David under the Law? Outwardly, yes. That is, the Law was the external method of a gracious God in dealing with the Jewish nation. You say, Were not sin-offerings and trespass-offerings prescribed? Yes, as you read in Leviticus 4:22 ff:
"When a ruler sinneth, and doeth unwittingly any one of all the things which Jehovah His God hath commanded not to be done, and is guilty; if his sin, wherein he hath sinned, be made known to him, he shall bring for his oblation a goat, a male without blemish. And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the goat, and kill it ... it is a sin-offering."
But David did not do this; instead he went directly to God:
"Have mercy upon me, O God," he asked, "according to Thy loving-kindness,:"
(Not according to the principles of the Law, but according to the realities of His own Being).
"According to the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions." (Ps. 51:1).
Then he said,
"For Thou delightest not in sacrifice; else would I give it: Thou hast no pleasure in burnt-offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit:
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise." :(Ps. 51:16-17).
This we find revealed in Psalm 40:6-8, quoted in Hebrews 10:5-7:
5 Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, But a body didst Thou prepare for Me;*
*There is something exquisitely beautiful in this quotation in Hebrew: "Sacrifice and offering Thou hast no delight in; Ears hast Thou pierced for Me;" (R.V., margin.) This is the fulfillment by our blessed Lord of Ex. 21:6, the very first "ordinance" after the Law was given; where the "Hebrew bondman" so delights in his master that he says, "I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free"--when he might go out free at the seventh year.
"Then his master shall bring him unto God (or, the judges) and shall bring him to the door, or unto the door-post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him forever" (Ex. 21:5-6).
This is the very spirit of what our Lord chose to do, and wonderful to relate, in passing Out Ps. 40 into the Greek language, reaching all the earth (the Septuagint was translated about 270-285 B.C.--Angus), the Spirit of God, Who watched over His Word (Jer. 1:12), saw to it that the type as here set before us in its fulfillment, so that Christ's prophetic word, "Ears hast Thou digged for Me," becomes in the book of Hebrews, translated into Greek (quoting the Septuagint), "A body didst Thou prepare for Me." (Nearly all godly and scholarly commentators on Hebrews state that Paul invariably, in quoting O.T., used the Septuagint. See Angus, Alford, Stuart, etc.)
6 In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hadst no pleasure:
7 Then said I, Lo, I am come (in the roll of the book it is written of Me) To do Thy will, O God.
What a discovery David made! This was not David's "breaking the Law." It was his going to the very spirit of God's will, casting himself as guilty on a God of mercy. David knew grace perhaps better than any Old Testament saint. You remember how the Lord Jesus referred the legalistic Jews to his (David's) eating the show, bread which our Lord said was "not lawful for him to eat, neither for them that were with him, but only for the priests" (Matt. 12:1-4).
This brings us face to face with an overwhelming fact: that the Law was not that in the fulfillment of which God trusted; nor in the sacrifices of which as such (but only as types of Christ) He delighted. (How frightful is the wickedness of those who speak of Jehovah as "delighting in the slaughterhouse," and thus reject the sacrifice of Christ for their sins! These will shortly answer direct to Him Who said, He "delighteth not in sacrifice" (Ps. 51:16); and Heb. 10:5, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not. Blood sacrifices were necessary, we repeat. But how hateful for men, creatures to whom God gives life and breath and all things, walking through a world of beauty created by a loving God Who cares daily for all His creatures,--how hideous that bits of selfish, guilty, condemned dust, should call true Christianity "a slaughterhouse religion"!)
It will not be under Law that His saints will be before Him in the New Jerusalem, in eternity! But "They shall see His face; and His name shall be on their foreheads." We were "chosen in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blemish before Him IN LOVE"--not under Law!
* But there seems no hope of turning Christendom back from the "other gospel" (Gal. 1:8) which has brought in the Law as a "rule of life," daring to rob it of its power to curse, but professing that its enactments are God's final method of governing His people: "giving them power through the Spirit to keep it." But all this is a falsehood. God says that even those who were under the Law were made dead to it by the body of Christ-made-sin (on the Cross) that they might be "joined to Another, even to Him Who was raised from the dead"--with what effect? "that we might bring forth fruit unto God ... So that we serve in newness of the Spirit." in happy freedom, "and not in oldness of the letter" (Rom. 7:4-6). "A new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life" (2 Cor. 3:6).
Let us be instructed: If David, who was outwardly under Law, discerned that animal sacrifice did not delight God; if he threw himself upon the mercy of God, what shall be said about us, if we do not obey the "Let us draw near" of Hebrews (4:16, 7:19, 10:22) since Christ the Son of God has come and put away sin by His infinite sacrifice, and God commands us to draw near, relying upon His shed blood, because the veil is rent, and Christ our Great High Priest is there? Dare you say, I am not worthy? Was Christ offered for worthy people? A thousand shames upon such nigh-blasphemous unbelief!
Then said I, Lo, I am come (In the roll of the book it is written of Me) To do Thy will, O God.
Here is summed up our Lord's blessed work.
First, Then said I, Lo, I am come--Here is the Creator entering the world, as Gabriel said to Mary, "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall keep overshadowing thee."
God the Father prepared our Lord a body by the Holy Spirit's power. Nonetheless Deity, He is there in the manger, having entered the creation He created. And His eye is ever toward the Father Who sent Him. These words, Lo, I am come, are addressed after His birth to His Father.
Second, In the roll of the book it is written of Me--Ah, that Scripture! How infinitely dear to our blessed Lord! Unto this blessed "roll of the book" God wakened Him "morning by morning ... to hear" (Isa. 50:4-6). Even at last, on the Cross, "Jesus knowing that all things are now finished, that the Scripture might be accomplished, saith, I thirst" (John 19:28).
Third, To do Thy will, O God: Take the four Gospels, upon your first opportunity, and find and mark our Lord's constantly repeated testimony that He "came to do the will of Him that sent Him." Over and over He told His disciples that He was going up to Jerusalem to be crucified and the third day be raised from the dead. Triumphantly, just before His ascension He said, "These are My words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the Law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning Me" (Lk. 24:44).
Had He not said as He was going up to Jerusalem, "I have meat to eat that ye know not ... My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to accomplish His work"? (John 4:32, 34).
Now comes the Divine application of this precious passage: Saying above, Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou wouldst not, neither hadst pleasure therein (the which are offered according to the Law), then hath He said, Lo, I am come to do Thy will. Here are the four classes of offerings enumerated, with the amazing statement that God did not desire them or have pleasure in them: though from Moses to Christ they were offered according to the Law. However much God might delight in the loving subjection of the offerer, yet no offering whatever was in itself His delight, except as pointing to Calvary.
For example, you need a load of wood: you go to your wood man, and he takes you to a large oak tree in the far corner of the lot. Pointing to the long shadow it casts, he offers to sell you this shadow. Will you take it? Now, if God says that in the Law there was a shadow, not even the very image of the things--and, of course, not the things themselves, why will you hold to the shadow? Yet Reformation theology does so, alas!
How wonderfully clear in this epistle is God's repeated declaration that the old Levitical things, yea, the whole Law, had been supplanted:
In Ch. 7:18-19 it is, "There is a disannulling of a foregoing commandment (for the Law made nothing perfect)."
In Ch. 8:6 it is, "He is also the Mediator of a better covenant, which hath been enacted upon better promises." In verse 13: "In that He saith, A new covenant, He hath made the first old. But that which is becoming old and waxeth aged is nigh unto vanishing away."
In Chapter 9:9-10, "gifts and sacrifices" offered according to the first tabernacle, "cannot, as touching the conscience, make the worshiper perfect, being ... carnal ordinances, imposed until a time of rectification."
He taketh away the first, that He may establish the second: Note here that "the first," the sacrifices "offered according to the Law," must be "taken away," before "the second," Christ's infinite sacrifice, can be "established," for God Himself gave the Law and the Levitical code, with its sacrifices. Now if Christ is to come with His one infinite sacrifice for sin--if that be God's will, then the other, the multiplied sacrifices, must disappear. "The first" must here mean all the Law economy, as we read in Chapter 7:18-19, "A disannulling of a foregoing commandment (the Law) ... and a bringing in thereupon of a better hope." For Christ, and Christ alone, must perform God's will. His work is, therefore, the "second" thing of the verse we are studying, Chapter 10:9.
Therefore, to sum up this most important verse, two matters stand out: first, as over against the oft-repeated sacrifices of verse 8, Christ had come to do God's will--in this place, as to sacrifice. Second, that the first (Levitical system of sacrifices) was taken away, that He may establish the second.
Note then that it is not the devotion to God's will, abstractly considered, blessed as that is, that is here in view; but that express will of God by which Christ was offered up on the Cross. Consequently, we come to verse 10, which (along with verse 14), must be studied by us with the greatest attention:
By which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all: The moment we come to the word "sanctified," the holy life of the believer comes to mind. But this meaning is not possible here. For, the statement is, We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all--not through the operation of the Holy Spirit, nor through consecration or devotion, but as the result of Christ's work for us.
* Concerning the word for "sanctify" (_hagiadzein), Thayer well says: "Since the stamp of sacredness passes over from the holiness of God to whatever has any connection with God, _hagiadzein denotes to separate from things profane, and dedicate to God."
The word is even twice used in 1 Cor. 7:14 concerning the unbelieving husband "Sanctified" by the wife--and the unbelieving wife "sanctified" in the husband. That is, God regards the home of such ones as--as we would Say--"Christian,"--entirely different from a wholly unbelieving home. This was not, of course, because of any operation of the Spirit in either the unbelieving husband or unbelieving wife.
"Sanctified," then, in Hebrews means set apart to God wholly, not referring to our "surrender" or "consecration" or action of the Holy Spirit within us, 1 Thess. 5:23, 2 Thess. 2:13; and 1 Pet. 1:2, where believers are seen as "elect ... according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ."
We see in these words of 1 Pet. 1:2, that the blood of sprinkling and the sanctifying of the Spirit are distinct, connected with different persons of the Trinity. We are born of the Spirit; baptized by the Spirit into the Body of Christ; indwelt by the Spirit; filled with the Spirit, and are to walk by the Spirit, Who by His indwelling power "cleanses our hearts by faith." But sanctification in Hebrews is looked at as the effect of Christ's death, on account of which God counts anyone believing the gospel and confessing Christ's name as cut off from the world, separated to Him.
This (as compare Thayer, above) was what was meant of old when God said, "Whatsoever toucheth the altar shall be holy." The character of the object was not changed, but its relation to God was changed.
(Alas people thus professing and confessing may afterward turn their back, indeed, as do those in Heb. 10:29, rejecting the Christian position, and refusing to regard longer as of infinite worth, the blood of Christ, "the blood of the covenant wherewith they were "sanctified" as the one thing that separates to God).
Christ will need to make no further offering! We are completely, eternally, gloriously separated to God. This peculiar result of Christ's one offering should be emphasized to every believer at the very beginning, as Paul says to the Corinthians, "Ye are not your own; for ye were bought with a price: glorify God therefore in your body" (1 Cor. 6:19-20). The recognition of this separating to God not only brings rest and untold blessing to the believer, but is the only attitude of soul consistent with the facts. For Christ said, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." Through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all, we were, the "sanctified," or separated to God: for, the shedding of His blood took away all our sin and guilt; and, being identified with Him, Who was made to be sin on our behalf, we died with Him; and since He died unto sin and now lives to God, we also are commanded to do so, since He is our Adam, and what happened to Him belongs to us: "Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 6:2, 6, 10, 11). For we were cut off from the human race in Adam, at the Cross; and created in Christ Risen, the Second Man, the Last Adam. This is true of all believers and of all those who are in Christ.
We shall see that in verse 14, which is plainly to be connected with verse 10, it is emphasized further that by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified--separated unto God. This can have no reference to our "growth in grace," which belongs, as we have seen, to the operation of the blessed Spirit. Perfected forever must therefore refer to the absoluteness of the effect of Christ's work on the Cross: both in respect of the putting away of our guilt and defilement through His blood; and the removal of sins from our persons forever, in His death, which separated us unto God. That work, has "perfected" us forever, inasmuch as we are one with Christ before God, as we have seen. There is no difference in this respect between one saint and another: there cannot be, since all are in Christ.
In this passage we have seven elements: (1) The standing priests. (2) The day-by-day repeated sacrifices, utterly unable to take away sins. (3) Christ's offering one sacrifice for sins forever. (4) His sitting down on the right hand of God. (5) His "expecting" His coming triumph over His foes in His millennial kingdom. (6) The inspired witness of the Holy Spirit to Christ's blessed work, No more offering for sin (vs. 18). (7) His one offering perfected the saints forever!
The central words in all this passage are one sacrifice, expecting, perfected, sat down. We draw especial attention to the words sat down. A seated priest argues a completed work.
* Contrast the blasphemous performances of the Romish "priests": you never heard one of them preaching on the finished work of Christ, the One Sacrifice, and our Lord's session at God's right hand in view of it. But there is always some so-called "priestly" activity on the part of these Judaeo-pagan pope-appointed "priests." They are always standing gabbing in Latin, an unknown tongue; or fiddling about their Satanic invention of the "unbloody sacrifice of the Mass."
Scripture (Rev. 1:5) gives glory unto our blessed Lord thus: "Unto Him that loved us, and loosed us from our sins by His blood; and He made us to be a kingdom, to be Priests unto His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
Yea, all believers are priests, and this only is Scriptural.
The Pope-appointed "priests" make "signs" of the Cross, but never preach the work of Christ finished there!
But He when He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God--It is offering up once for all that is of eternal consequence. It is important to translate this central verse as do both the King James and the Revised Version, that is, the Greek words meaning "for ever" (eis to dienekes), are to be taken with the preceding verb, "offered," rather than with the following verb, "sat down."
But on the other hand, if we allow the phrase translated "for ever" to modify offered one sacrifice, and read offered one sacrifice for ever, all is clear. (We have in this tenth chapter three of the four occurrences in N.T. of this remarkable phrase, eis to dienekes: vss. 1, 12, 14. The fourth in Ch. 7:3.)
Christ sat down on the right hand of God. Why? Read godly Andrew Murray's note (and others), quoted below; and mark its spiritual understanding:
By One offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified (vs. 14). The once of Christ's work is the secret of its being forever: the more clear the acceptance of that Divine once-for-all, the more sure the experience of that Divine forever, the continually abiding working of the power of the endless life.
"Once and forever: see how the two go together in the work of Christ in its two principal manifestations. In His death, His sacrifice, His bloodshedding, it is once for all. The propitiation for sin, the bearing and the putting away of it, was so complete that of His suffering again, or offering Himself again, there can never be any thought. God now remembers the sin no more forever."--Murray.
"The sacrifice was efficacious forever, through all time, being appropriated by each believer (vs. 14). The connection of eis to dienekes with the following ekathisen (forever sat down), is contrary to the usage of the Epistle; it obscures the idea of the perpetual efficacy of Christ's one sacrifice; it weakens the contrast with esteken; and it imports a foreign idea into the image of the assumption (ekathisen) of royal dignity by Christ.--Westcott.
"'Forever'; construe with 'offered'. The reason appears in vs. 14. It is according to the age of the epistle to place this phrase after that which it qualifies. Thus one sacrifice forever is contrasted with the same sacrifices often. This agrees also with what follows. He offered one sacrifice forever, and then sat down awaiting its eternal result."--Vincent
In verse 13, we find Him henceforth expecting till His enemies be made the footstool of His feet. But this, according to all prophecy, was to follow His one sacrificial work--as it will indeed--and, we today believe, follow swiftly.
For by one offering He hath perfected (in standing) forever them that are sanctified (made to be saints): When the heart realizes that sin has all been put away forever, the conscience becomes "perfected," in the language of Hebrews (10:1, 14), and then, and not until then, does the thought of an ever-continuing High Priest become a delight. (See again comment on vs. 14 under vs. 10).
*A "perfect" conscience in Hebrews does not mean that of a perfected, or fullgrown, believer. A babe in Christ might learn that his sins had been put forever away: he might believe the Word of God in 1 Pet. 2:24: "Who His own self bare our sins in His body upon the Tree"; he would have many things to learn, and indeed he might be at that time in ignorance doing that with which God was not pleased. But that is not the question. The minute he should see that Christ bore his sins and by His blood put them away before God, his conscience would be at rest.
In verses 15-17 above we find again the verses from Jeremiah quoted in Chapter 8:10-12. They are quoted also as the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit to Hebrew believers: The Holy Spirit also beareth witness to us. (This word "witness," by the way, is the most direct reference to the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer in all Hebrews).
This is the covenant that I will make with them--See Chapter 8 for comment on the covenants.
The application that is made of Jeremiah's prophecy in this connection is, to insist that since God said: And their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more, therefore, (vs. 18) Where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. How utterly wonderful are these words! The infinitely holy God, Who knows all about all human sins and iniquities, Who alone saith of man, "I know their thoughts," declares to His saints, I will remember (your) sins and iniquities no more! Surely all things are possible with God! Certainly, then, There is no more offering for sin! Sins have been remitted, remembered no more forever!
In the words, No more offering for sin, we reach the conclusion of the doctrinal part of this great epistle to the Hebrews. Would it might sink into the heart of every reader that the only offering for sin that will ever be made has been made on the Cross, and can be rested in by any willing heart! From the "Now once at the consummation of the ages hath He been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Ch. 9:26) follow on to the "Once offered to bear the sins of many" (Ch. 9:28), and to "The offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Ch. 10. 10), "One Sacrifice for sins forever" (10. 12), "By one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified" (vs. 14), down to verse 18. There is no more offering for sin! The soul that leans or rests on that ONE OFFERING will spend eternity in the delights of Heaven!
Since Hebrews is an epistle of exhortation, and in verses 19-25 of this chapter we have the great central exhortation, the consideration of this next passage becomes most important:
Three things we have: (1) Boldness to enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus (vs. 19); (2) A freshly-slain and living way through the veil, that is to say, His flesh (vs. 20); (3) A Great Priest over the House of God (vs. 21).
Five things we are to do: (1) Draw near, (2) Hold fast confession, (3) Consider one another, (4) Assemble together, (5) Exhort one another (vss. 22-25).
Having a Great Priest over the house of God, LET US DRAW NEAR--
It is into the presence of God, as God, that believers are invited to come with boldness. Our own salvation is, of course, the first thing; and next come love and service toward Him Who saved us: publishing the good tidings to all whom we should reach. Third, we become occupied with God's plan of salvation, doctrinally; and if we are instructed aright, we learn to expect the coming again of the Lord from Heaven, to rapture His Body, the Church, and to sit upon His millennial throne in Jerusalem.
But all these things may be true of us without our entering into that worship into which Hebrews introduces us. To have boldness to enter into the Holiest ... draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith, involves an active godliness which superficial study of the Scriptures may not beget in us. How many saints do we know, who, when they pray, carry us with them into the very presence of God? But Christ is there, maintaining forever that character set forth in verse 20: the Way which He dedicated for us, a FRESHLY-SLAIN* AND LIVING WAY. (Freshly-slain, R.V.: "new": (Gr., _prosfatos): "Properly, lately slaughtered (Thayer.) "The original sense would be, 'newly slain.' ... Later the word was weakened into 'new'."--Vincent.) It is eternally as if just now He had borne our sins in His own body on the Tree, as if just now He had said, "It is finished," and the soldier had pierced His side and there had come forth blood and water. He is evermore freshly-slain. Not, mark it, slain anew, but there before God Who inhabiteth eternity, as His Lamb provided in His infinite love, and just now slain! How shall a sinner then dare be filled longer with terror of God? God's eyes are on His Son perpetually as upon a Lamb just slain, Who has just now put away sin.
"My God is reconciled,
His pardoning voice I hear.He claims me as His child,
I can no longer fear.With confidence I now draw nigh
And Father, Abba, Father, cry."
It will not do for us to stop at the Cross where Christ shed His blood for our sins, and where we have peace through that blood, security from Divine judgment. For the blood of Christ has a heavenly ever-present power and efficacy connected with our acceptance and worship, and this is the peculiar message of Hebrews. If we do not become worshipers really occupied with the things of God, with the praises as well as prayers which the blood of Christ has made a delight to God, at which Heaven wonders and worships, this great Epistle to the Hebrews has failed to reach our hearts. For the immediate presence of the all-holy God, Whose Name is LOVE, is where Christ is now sitting; whither every true believer is going; and into which, by the principle of faith, every believer is exhorted to enter with boldness.*
* I have frequently asked an audience of believers, "How many Of YOU want to go to Heaven?"
All hands go up Then I Put another question: "How many of you want to go to Heaven today?" A silence falls, and then here and there goes up a hand of some one whose earthly hopes have died out and to whom the world has become weary. They want to go to Heaven, for they are through with earth. The rest want to go eventually, but as I have often said to Florida audiences "You want to go to Heaven when You have to, but you want to stay in Florida as long as you can!"
But is this to be the spirit of the saints in the book of Hebrews? No, a thousand times No! On the contrary God says, Come near, enter boldly, now, today! And not as with Levitical Priests of old, for a brief tarrying for prescribed worship but to abide forever. For we read in the last chapter "Through Him (Jesus) let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually" (13:15).
And if people "neglect," or "doubt," or "refused" to draw nigh to God in Heaven, into the Presence of God as a worshiper now--what is that? It is an insult against God Himself, against His holy Being (which was satisfied by the blood of His Son); against His infinite love (which was shown in the free gift of that Son to die); against His righteousness, against His majesty--as the Judge of all; against His truth--for unbelief makes Him a liar! Unbelief is the root sin.
Since the death Of the Son of God, which in its value utterly Put away sin before God, there have been no degrees of standing for those who rely on Christ's shed blood. It is not, as in the old tabernacle, a place into which the People can come, and then the priests, and finally, the high priest, once a year, into the Holy of Holies, the very presence of God. Whether believers realize it or not, the full value of the blood of Christ is reckoned to them by God. They are invited to come into God's immediate presence. All believers are so, here in Hebrews.
Through the veil, that is to say, His flesh--"The Word was made flesh, and tabernacled among us," wrote John. But no one as yet came in before God in Heaven. "The way into the holiest was not yet made manifest" (Heb. 9:8). But when our Lord was pierced, when He poured out His blood, laid down that life (which was indeed His blood--Lev. 17:11), and was raised up, through and in that pierced flesh--behold! the veil was gone! Was not sin gone? Yes, by the blood of Jesus. Was not He the Son of God? Yea, indeed, yet He was man: "See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself." Were we "made nigh unto God"? Yes, in Christ's blood. And His pierced flesh proves all this to our hearts, and lo: we are before the throne of grace in Heaven! So we enter into the Holies (1) by the blood of Jesus, (2) by the newly slain and living way, (3) through the veil ... His flesh, and (4) we have Him as our Great Priest over the house of God.
* "The _Way must be opened, for every other way is closed. Through the veil: the veil of the Holy of Holies is rent. Christ's work does not stop short of the believer's complete access to God Himself, through the veil, which consisted in His flesh. His flesh was the state through which He had to pass before He entered Heaven for us. The veil of the temple was rent. He passed through humanity to glory as the Forerunner of His people."--Vincent, Word Studies in the N.T., pp.499-500, Vol. IV.
* On the Cross, upon our Lord's death, the _veil of the temple, we know, was rent in two from the top (God's side) to the bottom. This was the veil within which the high priest of Israel was permitted to enter once a year on the Great Day of Atonement. It witnessed this: that Israel, by the whole Levitical ceremony, was shut out from God's immediate presence. But what was signified by the rending of it? First, that which separated man from God's immediate presence was gone. Second, any religious rites, ceremonies, observances, would constitute a rebuilding of the barrier between man and God, and therefore a denial of the rent veil, and a rejection of our Lord's word, "It is finished." Third, all official priesthood is by the rent veil denied. There is no such thing! All believers are alike priests, and our Lord is the one Great High Priest above.
Therefore all human "religion" has become an insult to God, a denial of Christ's finished work, a turning away from grace back to legal things, a refusal to draw near with a true heart, relying on the shed blood of Christ and on His presence as our Great High Priest. God's dear Son is seated at His right hand in all the acceptance of His perfect sacrifice. There is no cessation, day or night, in the delight God has in Christ and His work. But down on earth, people are "observing sabbaths" (despite Col. 2:17); abstaining from certain meats, or from all meats on certain days; "going to church" as a "religious" duty; even going to "the confessional," to a "priest." Others are glorying in men, in "Doctor" this or that, in "my church"--all which things are contrary to Scripture, subversive of the truth, and dishonoring to God. For they ignore the Great High Priest and the heavenly worship being carried on in the Spirit, and the "access" to God's throne which is continually exhorted in this great book of Hebrews.
But there came a time in A.D. 70 when God had Titus burn the temple of the Jews and destroy Jerusalem, having warned the saints to flee the city (Lk. 21:20,24)--a warning which history tells us they obeyed. So also will it be with those today who either indifferently or presumptuously keep on with things God says are done away. He will by and by deal with such inattention and disobedience. (It may be in such a manner as will leave the objects of His dealings quite unconscious of it! We have seen People deeply exercised for awhile by some spiritual question, only to have that exercise fade away; an awful state!) Of course, God looks at the heart: where there is true grace and devotion to Himself, He puts up with "religious" performances, though an abhorrence to Him. God is patient and loving, but He is a God Who can say even yet, "Ephraim is joined to His idols; let him alone." Thus it seems to be with most of Laodicean Christendom. How awful to step into eternity self-deluded!
And having a Great Priest over the house of God--Let us remember that in our worship, we being the house of God over which Christ our Great Priest now is, we do not pray to the priest, but instead, He leads our worship to God as God. (It is not true to say, as do some, that Christ's work as Priest in Heaven did not begin until after His resurrection, for it includes (1) His praying for His own before His death, as the wondrous prayer of John 17; and the particular watching of Lk. 22:31: "Simon, Simon, I have made supplication for thee." (2) the "offering up of Himself once for all"; (3) His intercessory work in Heaven for those who are passing through this world; and (4) His leading the praises of God's people, and declaring God's Name, for all eternity.) How foreign to all things, on the Day of Atonement when Israel gathered about the tabernacle, would have been a prayer to the priest! The great fact that their priest had gone in beyond the second veil, representing them, was before their mind. To begin to pray to the priest would have been to indict his fidelity to the people.
A prophet came from God to the people: he represented God; he was on God's side. Contrariwise, a priest went in for the people to God. He was on the people's side; he represented the people. So Christ also, having "obtained eternal redemption," is now a Great Priest over the house of God. As we have seen, it is by the will of God that He came to offer Himself: therefore we trust God, and know that Christ is on our side, appointed so by God. He is committed to our case; He is our Priest. As Son He is God; as man, He is Priest. We beseech you, receive this glorious fact, and walk in it by simple faith. He will not cease from being God, and High Priest, forever. (He is God's Christ [not our Christ, as I have heard excellent saints, in testimony or prayer, speak of Him]; He is our Saviour, our Lord, and in His full name. He is our Lord Jesus Christ [in which, Lord governs the expression.]) Get this great matter firmly established in your conscience, laying hold of it for yourself. Then follows fellowship, as it is written, "We have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin." There is no fellowship, we believe, in this universe, such as is enjoyed by believers who are resting, individually and thus as a company, upon the Person and work of our Great Priest over the house of God.
Now, why a Priest? Let me ask in answer, Would you like to go into the presence of God as an independent one--redeemed indeed by the blood of Christ, but set free to go on your own way forever? You know you would not if you are one of God's own. Your union with Christ forbids such a thought. And His revealed priestly work draws the heart. Weaklings are we, passing through a world over which Satan is still the prince, and living in an age of which he is the god--in a world that has not changed since it joined in the cry against Christ: "Crucify Him!" Do we not need help? Ah, we need nothing else! "I can do nothing of myself," cries the apostle; "I glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Cor. 12:9). Yes, we need a Priest, and we have a Priest, thank God, a Great Priest over the house of God (vs. 21).
* We might do well to sum up here Christ's varied relations to us: (1) Redeemer (Sin-Bearer); (2) Life (Risen) we have in Him; (3) Our membership in His Body, of which He is the Head, our being "built up" in Him; (4) He is the Giver of the Holy Spirit, and through Him Bestower of "gifts" (as, evangelists, pastors, teachers, apostles, prophets) to His Church: Eph. 4:8-12; compare 1 Cor. 12:4, 28, (5) LORD: Rom. 14:9, John 13:13-14, Col. 3:24, Eph. 6:6, 7. This includes His Lordship over each individual believer, and also His direction of the service and affairs of the Assembly. (6) Great High Priest in Heaven; (7) The coming King according to Heb. 10:13.
Let us mark, however, that we do not serve Him as Priest: He serves us. We are not directed to come to Him as Priest, but to God's throne of grace, relying on Christ's shed blood, and having Him as Great Priest over the house of God.
You and I do not need to "get God on our side." He is already on our side! We may say boldly with Paul, "God is for us." He spared not His own Son: "how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?" So we come directly to the throne of God, having a Great Priest over the house of God. In "things pertaining to God" He still "appears before the face of God for us."
"There is an eye that never sleeps
Beneath the wing of night;
There is an ear that never shuts
When sink the beams of light."
Now the five things we are to do, as outlined on page 344:
1. Let us draw near:
(a) With a true heart--"The heart is deceitful above all things." Millions pray, even using the Name of the Lord Jesus and speaking of His sacrifice, whose hearts are not true. Repentance of sin has not broken them up. "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise." A true heart does not mean a heart that trusts in itself, but one which genuinely comes to a holy God.
(b) In full assurance of faith--This does not mean that there will be no consciousness of unworthiness, but rather, a confidence in a faithful God, Who is sure to bless one who is trusting in the shed blood of Christ.
(c) Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience--This is a beautiful picture of the same deliverance as in Chapter 9:14: "The blood of Christ, Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish unto God, cleanseth our conscience from dead works to serve the Living God." And we are told in Chapter 12-24 that "we are come to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better than Abel." True faith brings about this Divine action of "sprinkling," that is, of so appropriating the effect of the blood of Christ shed on our behalf as to relieve our burdened consciences because we see that our sins have been laid on our Substitute. There is no other deliverance from an evil conscience (that is, a conscience that is accusing us). God "sprinkles" such believing hearts by reckoning to them the value and power of Christ's shed blood; and the heart has rest.
Nearly forty times, beginning with Exodus 29:16: "Thou shalt slay the ram, and thou shalt take its blood, and sprinkle it round about upon the altar," this word "sprinkle" in the Old Testament describes the application of the blood of the typical sacrifice. Writing as he was to Hebrews, Paul addressed their vivid consciousness of the meaning of "sprinkle"--to apply "the blood of sprinkling," with faith, in obedience to God's directions. This faith is illustrated in Hebrews 11:28: "By faith he (Moses) kept the passover, and the sprinkling of the blood, that the destroyer of the firstborn should not touch them." Peter illustrates the use of the word in Hebrews in the expression: "Unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:2). (Note that Paul, in his epistles to the Gentiles, does not use this word.)
Thus are fulfilled the types of Leviticus 4 and the Great Day of Atonement (Lev. 16), which spoke of the sprinkling of the blood--though of course repeated then, time after time. Both sprinkling and washing with water are illustrated in the consecration of Aaron and his sons (Lev. 8:6, 24).
And having our body washed with pure water--We believe that 1 Peter 3:21, as well as the necessary spiritual application of washed with pure water, forbids the interpretation of this expression as water baptism. The water washing of the body is not "baptism," for Peter, as noted above, says, "Which after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God." Also, the baptism of a believer is just as real when he is immersed in muddy water in a stream or pool, as when the water is clear!
Ridout well says: "The body washed with pure water speaks of the sanctifying work of the Spirit in the new birth; and also, of the practical cleansing in connection with the daily life of the priests."--Ridout, page 204.
2. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope--
* The Greek word here, krateo, built from the word meaning force, strength, indicates a holding fast against foes, a fight of faith on earth. For there were many indeed that would rob the Hebrew believer of his heavenly faith and hope, and destroy his confession of them; just as indeed with all believers: such foes as Satan, the world, worldly Christians, the earthly church-system, false friends. So Paul says to us: "If Ye then were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth" (Col. 3:1-2) The beginning of Christian warfare, indeed, the essence of it, we have here!
Here we have again what is constantly urged upon believers-- the public confession of our hope in our Lord. This was set forth in Luke 12:8: "Every one who shall confess Me before men, him shall the Son of Man also confess before the angels of God"; and in Romans 10:9-10: "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."
It is especially emphasized in Hebrews 13:15: "Let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to His Name."
That it waver not--How wonderful has been the constancy and boldness of the many saints recorded in Scripture: Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, Daniel and the prophets, and the apostles in the Acts!
For He is faithful that promised: The great preventive of wavering is remembering that He is faithful that promised. Our hope is built upon the faithfulness of God, and not in any wise upon anything in ourselves.
3. Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works: You say, Consider one another to provoke, is strange language for Christian guidance. Yes, brother, if we turn to human reasoning and practice, there is plenty of considering others--their faults, their failures, in merciless criticism, which provokes. But this passage reads, To provoke unto love and good works. How can we provoke one another unto love? By loving others, constantly and tenderly. They will find it out, and will be provoked to return love! The same is true concerning good works. We provoke others to good works by constant good works toward them. As I look back through the years, my heart lights upon one and another, and another, whose tender love and constant goodness "Provoked" me, "provoked" everyone to imitate them.
4. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves--as Christians--This speaks of an assembling together which is remarkably designated as our own (R.V.), or that peculiar to us, Greek heauton--an assembling belonging to our very own selves. (heauton: This is an emphatic word in this verse. it is thus used in Matt. 8:22, "Let the dead bury their own (heauton) dead." So Christians have their Own assembling. There is no thought in Scripture of an assembly of "Hebrew-Christians," as some have dreamed. Such an assembling would build up again the "middle wall of partition" (Eph. 2:14) which Christ "brake down," fill Hebrew believers with legal pride, and end in the rejection of all Paul's gospel.) Since there is a real presence of the Spirit in the whole Body of Christ, as well as His individual indwelling of each believer, this assembling of themselves as believers becomes both the channel of blessing and the protection against apostasy.
The custom of some was to "forsake" this Christian gathering, whether from indifference, fear, ignorance, or self-centeredness. Our own assembling together does not demand a large or outwardly important company: "Where two or three are gathered together in My Name"--we know the promise. The Name in which and unto which we gather characterizes our own assembling. The book of Hebrews does not enter upon what the Assembly of God is, as over against what the Hebrew nation was,--and some day will be, except to say that those written of were "partakers of the heavenly calling." And it is remarkable that even here the gathering together of believers should thus be insisted upon.
Note how continual it was in the early Church, as the quotations from Acts in the footnote show.
* "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship in the breaking of bread and the prayers" (2:42).
"And all that believed were together ... and day by day, continuing steadfastly with one accord in the temple" (2:44, 46).
"Being let go, they came to their own company" (4:21).
"The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and soul" (4:32).
"They were all with one accord in Solomon's porch. But of the rest (outsiders]) durst no man join himself to them: howbeit the people magnified them; and believers were the more added to the Lord" (5:12-14).
"For a whole year they (Paul and Barnabas) gathered together with the assembly ... and the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch" (11:26).
"Peter, therefore was kept in the prison: but prayer was made earnestly of the Church unto God for him ... He came to the house of Mary, the mother of John ... Where many were gathered together and were praying" (12:5, 12).
It does not mean turning on the radio! Much as that has been blessed, it is, we are sure, often made an excuse for not going to the trouble of gathering ourselves together. You may say, There is no "denomination" in our community where the Truth is set forth as I know it. That may be so, but if you prayerfully seek, you will find at least two or three who will gather in the Name of the Lord in the simple Christian gathering together meant in the passage here in Hebrews.
5. Exhorting one another--Our "own gathering together" gives an opportunity to fulfill this word, Exhorting one another; especially in view of the coming of the Lord--so much the more, as ye see the day drawing nigh. Christian exhortation means the expression of our hearts to others to urge them to continue on the Christian path. It may include testimony, and often will necessitate warning. May God make us faithful, not only in our gathering as Christians, but also in exhorting one another, for the day draweth nigh, indeed!
One further remark here: May I say that there is a deadly danger to us in this verse, unless we have this whole hortatory passage, verses 19-25, before us? When we come to the words, Not forsaking our own (Christian) assembling, we may say, "Well, I certainly fulfill this condition, for I assemble with Christians, as a believer, every Lord's Day." And there will be those who may say, "I have given especial attention to this very matter of assembling. I have abandoned all divisions and sects, which I see are contrary to Scripture; I gather only with separated believers who meet to remember the Lord in the breaking of bread, as He instructed us."
But listen again: Having a Great Priest over the house of God, let us draw near-For the worship of God is carried on by the Church of God, by those who, having been cut off from the human race in the death of Christ, are called by Paul in Philippians 3, "The circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God, and have no confidence in the flesh." This worship is defined in Ephesians 2:18: "Through Him (Christ) we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father." I do not say this to judge my brethren, but I profoundly fear, alas, that there are many who take heed not to forsake the assembling of themselves together after the letter, concerning whom it could not be said that they have drawn near ... into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, and by Christ Himself as their Great Priest, and are worshiping "in the Spirit of God." Is it not so?
Have I made it plain that even "Brethren," gathering in the most careful (and some in the most "exclusive" manner), could miss the great exhortations of this passage to draw near with a true heart, into God's very presence, and really worship "in one Spirit"? If I have not made this plain, sad indeed is my failure.
In these verses we have a passage which, like Chapter 6:4-8, views apostates from that faith which they once professed. No true exposition can account for either Hebrews 6 or Hebrews 10 on any other ground. (The danger is that this great warning in Heb. 10 shall be handed over in our minds to outrageous blasphemers, publicly declared apostates; whereas, all three attitudes here spoken of: toward (a) the Son of God, (b) His sanctifying blood, (c) the blessed Spirit of grace, may be drifted into by those who simply "forsake" Christian assembling. They gradually but really desert and reject Christ within, as did those of Ch. 6 who "crucified to themselves the Son of God." Such will indeed, by their return to the world, out of which their temporary faith in the word of a kingdom delivered them, go on, though not perhaps boisterously, to put Christ "to an open shame." (6:6).)
You will notice that just as in Chapter 6:4-8 there occur the "better things" people, with the "things that accompany salvation"--though Paul did "thus speak"; so in Chapter 10:32-35, there is the same sharp distinction. There are those who "endured a great conflict of sufferings" for Christ's sake, who were "made a gazing-stock by reproachers and afflictions," and had fellowship "with them that were so used" (vs. 33). They "had compassion on believers that were in bonds," and "took joyfully the spoiling of their possessions," in the knowledge that they had a "better and abiding possession" (vs. 34). They had "boldness" of faith (vs. 35).
But those in view in Chapter 10:26-31 were those who, after receiving the knowledge of the truth (vs. 26), and being "enlightened" (compare 6:4 and 10:32), sinned hatefully. For the Greek word for "willfully," ekousios, Thayer defines: "Voluntarily, willingly, of one's own accord: tacitly opposed to sins committed inconsiderately and from ignorance or from weakness." The other occurrence of the word (1 Pet. 5:2) translated "willingly" as over against under constraint, illustrates the situation also. In Hebrews 10:26 there is the absence of that holy "seed" which does not consent to sin, which we see in 1 John 3:9: "Whosoever is begotten of God does not practice sin, because His (God's) seed abideth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God."
* There is reference here to that holy nature which true believers have--they having "become partakers of the Divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust" (2 Pet. 1:4). In 1 John 2:1, "These things write I unto you that you may not sin ... we have an Advocate"--we see the possibility of a true believer's sinning, and the benefit of the Advocate. But the case in 1 John 3 is quite different, as vs. 4 reads: "Every one that practiceth (poion) sin" makes sin his business. This is also the statement of vs. 9, which reads literally, "Every one that has been begotten of God, sin does not practice" (Poiei).
As Dr. Charles F. Deems used to say: "The unregenerate man lives in sin and loves it; the regenerate man may lapse into sin, but he loathes it."
The primary meaning of this verb poieo is "to make, to produce, to form or construct." The producing of sin is not the work of the nature (seed) born of God!
Vs. 26-27: There remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness (Margin, jealousy) of fire which shall devour the adversaries: There is no "adversary" equal to a traitor--one who has enjoyed the privileges he now forsakes and betrays. Nor are we at all questioning the blessed doctrine of the security of Christ's sheep in what we say. Remember that in John's Gospel, both those eternally given by the Father to Christ (17:6, 12), and those who were His disciples for awhile and then "went back and walked no more with Him" (6:66) are seen. There is then a "choosing" by Christ, and an association with Him, which may not mean eternally abiding in Him. So John 6:70 sets forth: "Jesus answered them, Did not I choose you the twelve, and one of you is a devil?"
The eternal choosing is set forth in John 13:18: "I know whom I have chosen: but that the Scripture may be fulfilled. He that eateth My bread lifted up His heel against Me." As He says in His great prayer of John 17:12, "While I was with them, I kept them in Thy name which Thou hast given Me: and I guarded them, and not one of them perished, but the son of perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled"--which unutterably solemn necessity is set forth by Peter in Acts 1:15-20. Meditate deeply on this: (The distinction to be noted in John 15 between the two branches, is, the branch that did not bear fruit is "taken away," while the fruit-bearing branch is cleansed "that it may bear more fruit." "Taken away"--whither? To Heaven, certainly, for this one was "taken away," but remained a branch in Christ; while the one in vs. 6 refused to abide in Christ, and therefore "as a branch is cast forth, and is withered," and finally "cast into the fire, and burned.") for inexpressibly solemn are the words, "That he (Judas) might go to his own place" (Acts 1:25). The simpler the protection of your own heart here, the better: remember, "Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37).We know well that the thought of anyone's "tasting" that eternal life that is in Christ and then falling away, as we saw in Hebrews 6:4-6, is alarming and repugnant to the mind of those who have been accustomed to lax or false teaching of the words of God on the subject of apostasy. It is customary often to dismiss these Hebrews passages with a gesture, saying, "That belongs to the Jews." But indeed it does not: certainly it is spoken directly to Hebrew believers, but the truth taught concerns every believer.
A man that hath set at nought Moses' Law dieth without compassion on the word of two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, think ye, shall he be judged 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? Here there is a complete setting at naught. This comes out further in the words of verse 29, accounted the blood of the covenant a common thing--the true rendering of the Greek word, koinos.
* Note the use of common in Acts 2:44, 4:32; and of "common and unclean" (Acts 10:14, 28). This ceremonial use of the word "common" occurs, for example, three times in Rom. 14:14. The translation "unholy," occurring in both the King James and the Revised is incorrect, as "unholy" is understood today. Not holy, or, not sacred, would be nearer the thought. To a Hebrew, things and acts were either clean or unclean, ceremonially; unclean meaning "common--not sacred. (See Heb. 10:29, R.V., margin.)
Westcott well says, "The offence (against Moses' Law) is regarded in its isolated completeness: the culprit set at nought Moses' Law. His act was final and decisive."
The King James translation falls so wide of the truth as to be dangerous. For this culprit counted the blood of the covenant wherewith He was sanctified not as an "unclean" thing, but just a common thing, to be disregarded, or forgotten. It is implied that he had had this revelation of truth, that he knew about the covenant. He had "tasted of the heavenly gift" as in Chapter 6:4. There is no separation from this world, no life apart from the world, except through faith in Christ. They of Hebrews 10:29, therefore, are they of whom our Lord spake, who "for awhile believe, and in time of temptation fall away" (Lk. 8:13). In connection with such apostates neither is the word "salvation" used, nor "sanctification of the Spirit": salvation is rooted in grace; and the Spirit seals and sanctifies God's elect.
The last clause in verse 29 is, hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace--This word done despite, used only here, is an intensified form of the word translated "to treat shamefully" in Matthew 22:6; "to insult" in Luke 18:32, Acts 14:5, 1 Thessalonians 2:2. Bagster's Interlinear renders "insulted"; Thayer, "treated with contumely." Now we may agree that perhaps no form of insult is quite equal to that of ignoring one's presence. Yet considering that these in Hebrews 10 as in Chapter 6, were "enlightened," and were made "companions" of the Holy Spirit (not sealed as born of God; but companions of His presence and operations, intelligently recognized by them); there must have been noncooperation with the Spirit's influences; then such inward resistance as to render His voice less and less audible; and at last so to make the Spirit's voice entirely unheard that they counted as a common thing the blood of the covenant wherewith, in their previous "enlightenment" and "tasting" and so in their Christian confession, and consequent public setting apart as the Lord's, these persons were sanctified.
* As regards the danger of seeking to solve by our puny minds the mystery of the incarnate Christ--Son Of God, Son of Man--we will simply quote a few passages:
"The blood of Jesus" (Heb. 10:19); "The blood of Christ" (Heb. 9:14); "The blood of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:2); "The precious blood of Christ" (1 Pet, 1:19); "The blood Of Jesus His Son" (1 John 1:7, R.V.); "White in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev. 7:14).
But the Lamb is worshiped as God, in Rev. 5:11,14!
Christ is ONE PERSON. He is as truly man as any of us! God prepared for Him a body Heb. 10:5); but it is "the blood of Jesus His Son" that "cleanseth us from all sin." See prayerfully these words in 1 John 1:7.
It is God become man with a body of blood and flesh. He poured out that blood to redeem US! Let your faith rejoice in this.
But woe to those who undertake to explain through their foolish reasoning how this could be! Christ, we repeat, is one Person, both God and man. Here let our hearts rejoice!
It is significant that those in Heb. 10:29 who have trodden under foot the Son of God, have therewith counted the blood of the covenant ... a common thing. Here the Son of God and His shed blood are indissolubly connected!
And finally, in verse 29, we must ponder deeply the solemn question, Of how much sorer punishment, think ye, shall he be judged worthy who hath done the things just enumerated, and which we have just studied? Here is a question submitted to our judgment: How much sorer punishment, think ye? In the case of Moses' Law the glorious appearing and authority on Sinai of Jehovah, "Whose voice then shook the earth," are set at naught. But there was no revelation at Sinai of the heart of God. Yet the commandments were righteous, and the creature knew his obligation, and, setting it at naught, died without compassion.
How much sorer punishment? This one has despised the infinite love of God, Who gave His Son; and hath trodden under foot this Son. A bit of rebel dust has counted the blood of the covenant which he once confessed, a common thing--the blood by which he was numbered among the Christians--and hath insulted the Spirit of grace Himself! Remember, "The Father hath given all judgment unto the Son," and this bit of creature dust has despised the bleeding wounds of the Son of God, the Creator! HOW MUCH SORER PUNISHMENT? Who can answer!
For we know Him that said, Vengeance belongeth unto Me, I will recompense. And again, The Lord shall judge His people: The judgments recounted in the Book of The Revelation are awful in character and solemnity; but in the book of Hebrews judicial visitation has a peculiarly personal character, because in Hebrews God is speaking in tenderness "in a Son," and woe to them that will not hear! This personal element in God's punishment of Christ-rejecters you hardly hear mentioned in these days. Even earnest preachers, who do show the danger of "losing the soul, rarely describe the far more fearful thing of meeting an infinite God full of eternal jealousy. But what will it be to face the offended Majesty of the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings? To feel the jealousy of love despised? The penalty of contempt of a court where God is judge of all? To meet the fury that comes upon patience finally exhausted--the infinite hatred of God towards rebels who have finally allied themselves with the sin that God hates? To feel the terrible impotence of finite rebels against infinite aroused wrath? To know the meaning of that word "vengeance" when a Being of infinite power arises bent at last upon revenge?
"Love is strong as death;
jealousy is cruel as Sheol;
The flashes thereof are flashes of fire,
A most Vehement flame of Jehovah!"
(S.S. 8:6, R.V., margin).
Those who are forever seeking to do away with a God Who is capable of wrath, and to make void His words, are ready to quote the last part of verse 30, The Lord shall judge His people, and claim that the expression His people must make the verse mean that here God is dealing in "chastening" with His own children. But let us turn to the Old Testament passage (Deut. 32:35, 36) from which the words are quoted:
"Vengeance is Mine, and recompense, At the time when their foot shall slide: For the day of their calamity is at hand, And the things that are to come upon them shall make haste. For Jehovah will judge His people, And repent Himself for His servants."
No one with Scripture open before him will deny that in dealing with His people (Israel), God has done "terrible things in righteousness." Korah, Dathan and Abiram, "these wicked men" (Num. 16:26), were "swallowed up" by the earth, and "went down alive into Sheol." "They perished in the gainsaying of Korah" (Jude 11). Thus God judged His people? Will any claim that those whom the fiery serpents slew (Num. 21:6), or the idolaters who fell by the sword (Ex. 32:28), or the 70,000 who died by the plague when David numbered Israel (2 Sam. 24)--will any claim that these were true children of God, dealt with in chastening? Nay, the wicked of whom we read in the Psalms are, in general, the wicked of Israel. And the very first Psalm says, they "... are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the wicked shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous." "The righteous," of course, are saved Israelites. Every Israelite "written in the book" (Dan. 12:1); "even every one that is written unto life (R.V., margin) in Jerusalem" (Is. 4:3), by Divine grace, will be among the Remnant that are saved even amid the judgment which then is, raised up to salvation along with the preserved Remnant of Daniel 12:1, which we repeat in full: "At that time thy people (Daniel's people, Israel) shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book."
Therefore the word, The Lord shall judge His people, involves the culling out from His people by His judicial action, in any age, those who profess, but who depart from their confession, even to viewing lightly the salvation purchased by the blood of the covenant, of the Son of God.*
* "The more we examine the cross, the more we shall find how all good and evil found its issue, and how it connects together the consummated evil of man in hatred against God. manifested in Christ in love, the full power of Satan as prince of this world, his hatred against goodness, and audacity against the Lord. Then perfection in man in Christ, and love to the Father, and obedience (and we may thankfully add to us), the double character of love to God: as man upward, and divinely to us. And all this in the very place of sin where it was needed, Christ being made sin. Then in God, perfect righteousness against sin, and perfect love to sinners. All was concentrated in the cross."--J.N. Darby, Vol. XXVI, 175.
For, alas, there are those who "neglect so great a salvation," which means that they do not care. There are those whose souls were never really roused, who, while they professed, remained "sluggish," became "disobedient," and "hardened by the deceitfulness of sin"; who forsook Christian assembling; who became unconcerned that God had made an infinite sacrifice for them. Their lives of sin put "to an open shame" Him they had once confessed. They did not care! (Hush! The streets of Christendom are crowded today with those who do not care! though many of them have heard the story of God's love, all their lives.) But their personal rejection of the Living God will bring on the Personal dealing of the Living God. And what will that be? And for how long?
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God: In Chapter 3:12 we saw him with "an evil heart of unbelief" "falling away from the Living God"--that is, from all His gracious offers and operations, but not getting away from His jurisdiction. But here, the apostate falls into the hands--frightful thought! of
the same Living God, now unappeased, unpropitiated, forever! "Be silent, all flesh before Jehovah and hear." "What if God, willing to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much long-suffering vessels of wrath fitted (not by God, but by themselves) unto destruction?" We repeat, four times in Hebrews, THE LIVING GOD appears: twice with reference to the saved, who, with conscience cleansed by Christ's blood, serve Him (9:14); and who are thus come to "the city of the Living God" (12:22). And twice as to the lost, who fall away in unbelief from the Living God (3:12), and who here (10:31), unsaved and unsavable, lost and damned, FALL INTO THE HANDS OF THE LIVING GOD.
We may say regarding these eight words:
- All men are in the hands of God (a) as the Author of their being: "Of Him are all things"; (b) as the Upholder and universal Provider (see Belshazzar, Dan. 5:23: "In Whose hand thy breath is"; the God-forgetters on Mars Hill: Acts 17:25-28; and Rev. 14:7, the God that made all things); (c) as the Judge, Who has pronounced all men "sinners."
- But all are, potentially, placed in the protection, in this life, of Christ's sacrifice: "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses" (2 Cor. 5:19).
- To fall into the hands of the Living God is, therefore, to have resisted His love, refused His salvation, despised the warnings of His Spirit, and to have persisted thus past the point where God can consistently show further grace.
- It is to fall, therefore, into the hands of Infinite Power, moved by naught but wrath, vengeance, and eternal indignation, into the hands of the LIVING GOD; into the hands of unpropitiated holiness, loaded with unexpiated guilt. Vessels of wrath are they which became fitted for destruction only, upon whom shall be poured out forever and ever infinite, continual vengeance.
* Those vacillating in mind concerning eternal punishment should read some of the great sermons of Jonathan Edwards, probably the greatest mind, and one of the most devoted saints God has given America. (May be obtained from Grace Publications, Inc., 100 West Chicago Ave., Chicago.) God greatly used him around the eighteenth century to arouse this nation to a sense of sin, and to the salvation of untold thousands: we quote: "But know, thou stupid, blind, hardened wretch, that God doth not see, as thou seest with thy polluted eyes: thy sins in His sight are infinitely abominable. Thou knowest that thou hast a thousand and a thousand times made light of the majesty of God. And why should not that majesty, which thou hast thus despised, be manifested in the greatness of thy punishment? Thou hast often heard what a great and dreadful God Jehovah is: but thou hast made so light of it, that thou hast not been afraid of Him. Thou hast not been afraid to sin against Him, not afraid to go on day after day, by thy sins, to provoke Him to wrath, nor to cast His commands under foot, and trample on them. Now why may not God, in the greatness of thy destruction, justly vindicate and manifest the greatness of that majesty which thou hast despised?
"Thou hast despised the mighty power of God; thou hast not been afraid of it. Now why is it not fit that God should show the greatness of His power in thy ruin? What king is there who will not show his authority in the punishment of those subjects that despise it? and who will not vindicate his royal majesty in executing vengeance on those that rise in rebellion? And art thou such a fool as to think that the great King of Heaven and earth, before Whom all other kings are so many grasshoppers, will not vindicate His kingly majesty on such contemptuous rebels as thou art? Thou art very much mistaken if thou thinkest so. If thou be regardless of God's majesty, be it known to thee, God is not regardless of His own majesty; He taketh care of its honor, and He will vindicate it."
"Jehovah is slow to anger, and abundant in loving-kindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; and that will by no means clear the guilty" (Num. 14:18).
As the Holy Spirit saith in Nahum 1:2, 6, 7:
"Jehovah is a jealous God, and avengeth; Jehovah avengeth and is full of wrath; Jehovah taketh vengeance on His adversaries, and He preserveth wrath for His enemies. Who can stand before His indignation? and who can abide the fierceness of His anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken asunder by Him. Jehovah is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth them that take refuge in Him."
* "We must be careful to define God's enemies as Scripture defines them. There is much looseness in sermons, hymns, and testimonials concerning these things. Recently we were in an assembly of devoted believers who were singing a hymn in which the line occurred:
"That I, a child of hell, should in His image shine."
Now, all called the children of hell in Scripture will go to hell. Scripture does not call the children of men, by nature children of hell, but calls them "children of wrath" (Eph. 2-4), that is, possessed of a nature against which God's wrath must arise. But Eph. 2:5 is, "But God, being rich in mercy"! There is hope for the children of wrath. To them the gospel is preached. David was born a being who would excite the wrath of God: he said:
"Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; And in sin did my mother conceive me."
But this does not touch the will. Paul (Rom. 7:7-24) mourned the presence of such a nature in himself, but finally found deliverance from its power (as he had from its guilt) "through Jesus Christ our Lord."
In Matt. 23:15 we read our Lord's words, "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is become so, ye make him twofold more a child of hell (Gr., Gehenna) than yourselves."
In John 5:39,40, we find these Jews refusing, as a matter of will, to hear the "witness" the Scriptures bear of Christ: "Ye will not come to Me (Gr., Ye do not will to come) that ye may have life," and, "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do" (R.V.). "Ye are actuated by him (the devil) of your own freedom, lusts and choice" (Thayer).
Thus do men by resisting the truth become "Satan's children," as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to Elymas the sorcerer. "O full of all guile and all villany, thou son of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?" (Acts 13:9-10).
Our Saviour called the Scribes and the Pharisees and their dupes "sons of Gehenna," for they then belonged there, having rejected the only Redeemer: He said, "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels."
We have then the fact that the children of men are by nature "children of wrath," but by the mercy of God may become children of God in accepting Christ; and we have other children of men who, rejecting Christ, become such sharers of Satan's attitude as to be called "children of the devil," "sons of Gehenna." Awful thought!
These Hebrew believers, in their earlier experience--the former days after they were enlightened, had endured a great conflict of sufferings ... had had compassion on them that were in bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of their possessions. Here is constancy in suffering and trial. They had come to the Cross; they had believed on the Son of God Who had borne their sins there and had returned to Heaven in resurrection blessing. Their unbelieving countrymen treated them as they had treated Christ Himself. Look at the words, gazing-stock, reproaches, afflictions, bonds, spoiling of possessions!
And how did they endure: In the knowledge that they had for themselves an abiding possession on high! Look again at several other words now: partakers, compassion, joyfully, confidence of a better possession and an abiding one.
Cast not away therefore your boldness, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, having done the will of God, ye may receive the promise: The temptation, ever present with all of us, was to grow weary in welldoing, which in their case was to cast away their boldness, that is, to leave the path of simple faith. This path of faith was "bold" indeed to a Hebrew who had been taught from his youth to stand back from the presence of God; that he could not enter: only priests could; that his path was to fulfil religious obligations, only; never come boldly to God!
* The Greek word for "boldness" is a combination of the Greek word pan, all; and hresis, spokenness--giving parresia, all-spokenness, boldness. Ponder and appropriate this great word. The verbal form means "To bear oneself boldly or confidently, to be free-spoken" (Thayer). See 1 Tim. 3:13; 2 Cor. 3:12. "Speaking out every word, as opposed to fear, ambiguity, or reserve" (Vincent).
The boldness toward God of Heb. 10:19 rested on consciousness of sin "remembered no more"--remitted; "no more offering for sin" going on (10:17-18). See Chs. 3:6, "if we hold fast our boldness"; and 4:16, "Let us draw near with boldness," and read the comment at these places.
To Hebrew believers of those days, such "outspokenness" toward God, such consciousness of the absence of any condemnation, or of any conditions, was unheard of. Had not Moses himself said, "Thou hast set our iniquities before Thee, our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance"? And had not even David, who danced before the ark in his love for Jehovah, yet been "afraid of Jehovah on that very day"? (2 Sam. 6:9, 14).
If this boldness toward God be entered upon, then the devil's constant threat is, You are in presumption: cast away this boldness and return to religion. But God says it hath great recompense of reward ... Cast it not away. Witness the apostles in the Acts, and Paul (who says, "In Whom we have boldness and access in confidence through our faith in Him," Eph. 3:12; and John, who having once seen the glorified Christ (Rev. 1), goes in vision to Heaven and speaks with elders and angels, and at last says, "Amen: come, Lord Jesus!"
And so we see what we might call the gap which patience is quietly, firmly, even ploddingly, to bridge: For ye have need of patience, that, having done the will of God--that is, in our own way of speaking, one bridgehead of the gap; and (that) ye may receive the promise is the other. "Patience" is one of those deep, quiet words of Scripture (Gr., _hupomone), which means literally to remain down under; so, not to fly up, or be disturbed, either by the afflictions from man's hand, or from the enemy (Jas. 1:12); or by chastening from God's hand, as see Hebrews 12:7. We are to abide steadily in the path despite all opposing temptations from without, or, still more subtly, from within our own fickle, naturally fearful hearts.
Doing the will of God, to these Hebrew believers, meant believing the testimony concerning Jesus as their Messiah, crucified, dead, risen; and their sin put away, and their worship a heavenly one, their High Priest being now at the right hand of God. Then, of course, would follow the afflictions and persecutions; and the temptations to return to Judaism and earthly worship, and to peace with unbelieving Israel.
Having done the will of God, they would be ready to receive the promise: What promise?
Verse 37: For yet a very little while, He that cometh shall come, and shall not tarry.
Throughout Hebrews is this great return of the Lord for His millennial reign in view: see Chapter 1:6: "When He again bringeth in the Firstborn into the world He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him." Compare The Revelation 5:11-12. Again in Hebrews 2:5: "Not unto angels did He subject the inhabited earth to come:" this is the millennial earth, not, of course, any mere condition of things.
Then Christ is "named of God a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek" (5:10), and finally to fill that name, must be "a Priest upon His throne"--the throne of David in Jerusalem (Lk. 1:32-33). Again, our Lord is seen in Hebrews 9:11 as "a High Priest of the good things to come," which we believe must be interpreted in the light of the passage just quoted. See also Chapter 9:15, "A death having taken place ... they that have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance." What then is THE PROMISE of Chapter 10:36? The coming of the Lord! He'll bring the inheritance. Look also ahead to Chapter 11:39: "The PROMISE": they "received it not" as yet.
We repeat verse 37 and ask you to study it phrase by phrase with profound attention: "For yet 'a little while,' how short! how short! The Coming One will be here, and will not delay."--Rotherham's translation.
First, He that cometh--This, believer, is the definition of Christ which God desires to print on your soul. You are not looking for death: like those at Thessalonica, we "wait for His Son from Heaven"; or like the Philippians, "Our citizenship is in Heaven, whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of His glory." (Phil. 3:20, 21).
The Christian who is looking for death is already, as it were, sitting in the cemetery! But, "He is not here, but is risen!" Get your eyes upon this mighty hope: He that cometh is the definition of your Saviour! Let it be in all our hearts, and remember that He said, "Watch," as well as "Wait." See Hebrews 9:28.
Second, He that cometh shall come--As Peter says, "In the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for, from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (2 Pet. 3:3-4).
Loathe, abhor, fear, utterly avoid such wickedness! Did not two witnesses from Heaven tell the apostles at His ascension, "This same Jesus, Who was received up from you into Heaven, SHALL SO COME in like manner as ye beheld Him going into Heaven"? Did not Paul in the Holy Spirit write: "The Lord Himself SHALL DESCEND from Heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air"?
There must be no uncertainty of this coming mighty event. It is THE PROMISE before us now. "The promise" to Israel of old was the Messiah: He came. Then He Himself called "the promise" the coming of the Holy Spirit which He would send (Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:4). Now the Holy Spirit has come, and lo, the expression THE PROMISE is transferred to the Person of our Lord in the matter of expectation of His arrival on earth again. This is "the lodestar of the Church."
THE Promise of Hebrews 10:36 is the "blessed hope" of our faith. When our Lord said, "Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is" (Mk. 13:33), He based His warning on our ignorance, I say, our utter ignorance of the time. Nay, He had just said that neither the angels, nor Himself, the Son, knew of that day and hour, "but the Father" alone (Mk. 13:32). Therefore when the opponents of the doctrine of the imminent coming of our Lord begin to point to any event which they say, must come first, such as the evangelization of the world, in the very face of Christ's words, "But watch ye at every season ... in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh"; "Take ye heed: ... Ye know not when the time is" (Lk. 21:36; 12:40; Mk. 13:33), they are placing their own judgment about facts or conditions before our Lord's warning to "watch."
Suppose I am a servant, sent to the railway station to meet my master's guest. I go at noon. But I bear the reports of the movements of trains, and judge by them that the guest will not arrive for several hours. I may await, from then on, the guest's arrival; but I cannot watch for him, for I no longer believe he is coming soon: I have so judged from official reports. But if my master has specifically said to me, "You go to the station and watch for my friend's arrival," these directions take precedence of all else. If I am a faithful servant, I will allow nothing to turn me from obeying the command of my master to watch.
Dr. I.M. Haldeman, in His sermon, "The Imminent Coming of Christ," says that the Christian's attitude towards our Lord's coming should be "to be ready for that event--which is not in the sequences of time, nor bound by its laws!" to which we heartily agree. The Christian is to be ready for the "unknown" hour in which our Lord may come.
Someone may object that all events are "in the sequences of time." This we flatly deny! Did not our Lord Jesus Christ, being God the Son, know the "sequences"--the before-during-and-after, of all events? You say, Of course He did--using your reason rather than believing His word, which is, we repeat: "Of that day or that hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in Heaven, neither the Son, but the Father!" And again, in Acts 1:7, "It is not for you to know times or seasons, which the Father hath set within His own authority." Nor does this knowledge, exclusive to the Father, detract in the least from the Deity of the Son, Whom our book of Hebrews in one chapter alone calls Son, Creator, Heir, Upholder, God, Lord! (1:2, 5, 8).
* Some 44 years ago, when, although a "church member," I had never heard a sermon on the coming of our Lord, I came down very early in the morning, long before breakfast, from my room in the Alliance House in New York, and heard voices talking eagerly and earnestly. Looking into the front parlor, I saw a circle of perhaps ten or a dozen Christians, and to my complete amazement, they were speaking intimately of the arrival of the Lord Jesus from Heaven as if it might really occur that very day! HE THAT COMETH SHALL COME had filled their hearts and governed their thoughts!
Third, And shall not tarry: Remember, it is the wicked servant that said, "My Lord tarrieth," and he said so "in his heart." He did not want Him to come.* This, by the way, has been the history of ecclesiastical Christendom. Has it not given up really looking for our Lord's return?
* Of course I recognize that the quotation is from Hab. 2:3 ff, where the prophet is agonized by the coming of the Chaldeans against Israel, yea, looking further, to the awful last wicked one (Chaldean, Babylonian, as well as Roman). In Ch. 2:1 he stands upon his watch to see what Jehovah will say to him. The answer is, "Write the vision, and make it plain upon tablets, that he may run (the godly remnant from Babylon, the Chaldean land: Jer. 50:8, 28; 51:6, 45, 50) that readeth it. "For the vision is yet for the appointed time, and it hasteth toward the end, and shall not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not delay" (vs. 3).
But again the prophet's anguished eyes are upon him that hath "plundered many nations" (2:8; Rev. 13, etc.), he knowing all the while (vss. 13, 14) that, "The peoples labor for the fire, and the nations weary themselves for vanity. For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea."
But yet, as he is in anguish with the vision in answer to the prayer of Ch. 3:1, there is shown to him the glorious coming of Jehovah at Armageddon, when He rides upon His horses and "chariots of salvation" to fulfill "the oaths to the tribes" (8, 9). and the sun and moon shall stand still, and He "wounds the head out of the house of the wicked man"--i.e., Antichrist: vs. 13.
The prophet hears, and his body trembles (vs. 16) in his place: "Because I must wait quietly for the day of trouble" (the time of Jacob's trouble), "for the coming up of the people that invadeth us" (Zech. 14--all nations against Jerusalem).
Then the glorious trump of faith of the Remnant: "Yet I will rejoice in Jehovah, I will joy in the God of my salvation" (vs. 18).
All this is rendered in the Septuagint as of the coming of the Messiah; the Coming One of Hab. 2 is made the Messiah in the LXX.
Alas and alas, it is not only Christendom in general, that has said, "My Lord delayeth His coming," but those who have been taught prophetic truth, only to turn aside from the plain teaching of the imminent coming of the Lord and the command to watch daily for Him, with some vain--always "religious" excuse! Perhaps the latest one, and that which is deceiving many excellent Christians, is the claim, that the Church has not yet brought the gospel to the whole inhabited earth.
Now the Holy Spirit by Paul in Colossians 1:23 says the gospel in Paul's day was "preached in all creation under Heaven." ("By 'was preached' he means not merely 'is being preached, but has been actually, as am accomplished fact, preached.' Pliny, not many years subsequently, in his famous letter to the Emperor Trajan (B.X., Ep. 97), writes, 'Many of every age, rank, and sex, are being brought to trial. For the contagion of that superstition (Christianity) has spread over not only cities, but villages, and the country.'"--Fausett. J.F.B. Commentary, Col. 1:23.)
This affirmation is very positive, the form of language, the aorist participle, indicating what has taken place, not what should or will do so. To call this passage hyperbole is therefore impossible--except we reject the accuracy of Scripture statement. Again, in Romans 1:8, the apostle declares, "Your faith is proclaimed (or better, announced, talked about) throughout the whole world." In Colossians 1:23, it was the whole creation; in Romans 1:8, it is the cosmos, the ordered world. And note 1 Thessalonians 1:8: concerning this remarkable assembly Paul says, "From you ... in every place your faith to God-ward is gone forth." Again, Acts 17:6: "These that have turned the world (Gr., _oikoumene, inhabited earth) upside down are come hither also," said the jealous Jews to the rulers of the city of Thessalonica. (See Appendix F, "Delayers of Our Lord's Coming.")
Verse 38: But My righteous one by (_ek, along the line of) faith (or, along the line of believing) shall keep living, (or, be living), And if he should shrink back, My soul delights not in him.
The three N.T. occurrences of this quotation from Hab. 2:3-4, "The just shall live by faith," are, Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11 and Heb. 10:38, our text. Proper emphasis in each case brings out the special meaning.
In Romans, the question is one of righteousness before God, so that we read there, "Therein (in the Gospel) is revealed a righteousness of God on the principle of faith, (where faith exists) as it is written, The righteous shall live by faith." Here the emphasis is on the just, or the righteous.
In Galatians, it is the subject of being perfected. They were "foolish." Having "begun in the Spirit," they were now seeking to be "perfected in the flesh" (3:3). So the question is about living, and the answer, "The righteous _shall _live by faith."
In Heb. 10:38 the emphasis is on the word "faith." The "great conflict of sufferings" of "former days after they were enlightened" has been brought up. They were not to "cast away their boldness ... For they had need of patience, that, having done the will of God (which may involve suffering and trial), they might receive THE PROMISE,--the great promise of our Lord's coming again--His absence being for "a very little while." Meanwhile, God directs, My righteous one shall live by faith, faith being his spirit's constant attitude God-ward--the vital air of all the hosts of witnesses who are about to be set before us in the great eleventh chapter!
Here, of course, not only the first step of faith, but a vital continuing on the path of faith, is set before us as a way of life: not only the obtaining of life, but the manner of life of the true believer--one of whom God says, My righteous one. Then the contrast: one of the most solemn and awakening warnings in all the book of Hebrews: the one who shrinks back from the path of faith, through fear, through weariness, through influence of mere religionists about him; or through neglect of the means of living (the Word of God, and constant contemplation of the great salvation); or through unjudged thorns and thistles of the old life (Ch. 6); but most particularly through that unreadiness of the human heart to "endure as seeing Him Who is invisible" (Ch. 11:27).
* The father and mother were out for the evening, and had left little Mary for the first time, in the sole care of her grandmother. By and by, the grandmother took the little girl upstairs, heard her "say her prayers," and covered her up in bed. Then she turned out the light.
"O Grandma, Mother always leaves a light burning till I go to sleep!"
"Oh." said the old grandmother, "God is up here with you. He is in the darkness as well as in the light. Don't forget, He is here with you."
Then she went down to the living room below. After a while there was the patter of little feet and a tremulous voice, "Grandma, please turn on the light for me till I get to sleep."
"Oh, my dear, God is there with you! Go back to bed!"
Reluctantly the little one obeyed, but by and by again came the pleading voice down the stairs:
"Grandma, O Grandma, please come up here and stay with God, while I go down where the light is!"
God has sent Christ; Christ has been here; Christ has "obtained eternal redemption" for us at the Cross; but Christ has gone up out of sight. Yet the living Word is in our hands, and the blessed Holy Spirit Who inspired it is in our midst, and the command is to live by faith, that God's justified ones, having believed, keep on believing. To give up faith, is the greatest of all snares. "We walk," says Paul, "by faith, not by appearance," (2 Cor. 5:7, R.V., margin). It seems a little thing to yield to this fearfulness of the path of faith, to shrink back. But how terrible really are the results: God takes no pleasure in such a one, for he has turned back from God's path; he is no longer conscious of a Living God. He turns back to "dead works" (6:1; 9:14), from which the shed blood of Christ has set him forever free. The next verse will set forth the end of each path, the one to doom; the other to glory:
But we are not of shrinking back (of those who do shrink back) unto perdition; but on the contrary (we are) those of faith unto the preservation of the soul (a preservation [or preserving] of the soul, of course, which has been purchased by the blood of Christ). Here we have the same stepping into the circle-shall we say?--of true believers, as in Chapter 6:9. There, it was "Beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation"--though he had just spoken most solemnly of those who merely taste, and fall away. Here, we have in the "we" the same circle, and the same blessed consciousness of persevering in that living faith which in the preceding verse was the faith in which God's justified ones were living; the faith is viewed as that which operates to preserve the soul from that perdition unto which go those that shrink back from the path of faith.
* Remember that in Rev. 21:8 "the fearful" head the list of all who go into the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death; the fearful who shrank back from resting upon the work done by any other than themselves--by Another at the Cross.
Once more we shall see them in Ch. 12:15 in the words, "Looking carefully lest there be any man (that is, any professed believer) that falleth short of the grace of God."
Unto perdition--(eis apoleian) sets forth damnation, especially as the destination and condition of those who have left this world under judgment, as in Rev. 17:11 of the Antichrist: "He goeth into perdition;" and in 2 Thess. 2:3, same word concerning the same being. The wicked, in Rom. 9:22, are called "vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction." Judas is called "the son of perdition." Destruction (Gr., olethron), and perdition, are named together in 1 Tim. 6:9. Destruction, I suggest, indicated the ruin that accompanies their earthly overthrow: compare 1 Cor. 5:5, "the destruction of the flesh," even in the case of this man whose spirit was to be "saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."
Thus in Chapter 10 is prepared the way for those great examples of faith, living faith, set forth in the following chapter, "the Westminster Abbey of Scripture."
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Newell, William. "Commentary on Hebrews 10". Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and Revelation. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter