The Agora
Bible Commentary

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Hebrews 10

Heb 10:1

Vv 1-18: The argument of the preceding two chapters is restated in this section, bringing the central argument of the epistle to a conclusion: the superiority of the new covenant, in every particular, over the old covenant.

Vv 1-4: The ineffectiveness of the Law.

THE LAW IS ONLY A SHADOW OF THE GOOD THINGS THAT ARE COMING -- NOT THE REALITIES THEMSELVES: Cp Heb 8:5; 9:23-24. In this last phrase NIV paraphrases what is literally "not the very image ('eikon') of the things." "Eikon" is a manifestation of the reality (it is used of Christ in 2Co 4:4 and Col 1:15) and stands in contrast to the "shadow".

FOR THIS REASON IT CAN NEVER, BY THE SAME SACRIFICES REPEATED ENDLESSLY YEAR AFTER YEAR: Cp Heb 7:27; 9:25. By "the same sacrifices" of course is meant the same KIND of sacrifices. The Greek text strongly asserts the impossibility (lit, "it is impossible") that the law can make perfect those who draw near to offer sacrifices.

MAKE PERFECT THOSE WHO DRAW NEAR TO WORSHIP: "The law made nothing perfect" (Heb 7:19). For "draw near", see Heb 7:25. Here, as throughout the book, "perfection" means arrival at the goal of God's salvation. By their very nature, the sacrifices of the old covenant were unable to bring humanity to the full salvation God intended. This fulfillment depends upon that toward which those sacrifices pointed.

Heb 10:2

IF IT COULD, WOULD THEY NOT HAVE STOPPED BEING OFFERED?: Does not the repetition of the sacrifices itself point to their inadequacy?

FOR THE WORSHIPERS WOULD HAVE BEEN CLEANSED ONCE FOR ALL: This echoes the fully and finally sufficient character of Christ's sacrifice, repeatedly stressed in the epistle. Cp Heb 7:27.

AND WOULD NO LONGER HAVE FELT GUILTY FOR THEIR SINS: This stresses that the work and effect of Christ's sacrifice under the new covenant was not just upon the body (in some legalistic sense), but upon the mind, the conscience, of the individual sinner. The change was inward, not just outward. For similar statements about the perfecting or cleansing of the conscience, see Heb 9:9,14. Where this occurs there is no further need for the offering of sacrifices (cp Heb 10:17,18).

Heb 10:3

V 3: The continuing of the sacrifices on an annual basis (cp v 1) is a reminder of the continuing problem of their sins. Nothing is absolutely forgiven, nothing is removed, nothing is remedied. Where "medicine" is required, there is only a feeble bandage. Where "repair" is needed, there is only a little "whitewash"! Where final solution is desired, there is only postponement.

Heb 10:4

BECAUSE IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR THE BLOOD OF BULLS AND GOATS TO TAKE AWAY SINS: The author returns to a fundamental point in his argument: a sort of "cleansing" can be accomplished by the blood of animals (Heb 9:13,22), but cleansing that results in the taking away of sins is beyond the power of such blood. Only the blood of Christ is sufficient for this task (Heb 9:14,25,26).

THE BLOOD OF BULLS AND GOATS: See Heb 9:12,13,19. There is no connection, truly, between the blood of the animal and the sin of the person. The animal can render no obedience, nor is it in any way related to sin and its nature -- as was Christ (Heb 5:7,8,16-18; 2:14; etc). So the slaying of the animal could be no more than a picture; it could not be a reality as regards "sin". For such reasons as these, the OT has already talked about the inefficacy of the Mosaic sacrifices: eg, Psa 50:9-13; 50:9-13; 51:6,16; 1Sa 15:22; Isa 1:11; Hos 6:6; Amos 5:21,22; Mic 6:6-8 (cp Mat 9:13; Mark 12:33).

Heb 10:5

Vv 5-10: The old and the new in Psa 40:6-8: the transitory character of the Levitical sacrifices and the permanent character of what Christ has done.

WHEN CHRIST CAME INTO THE WORLD: There is no pre-human existence of Jesus implied here. Rather, the context itself explains: "But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages" (Heb 9;26).

SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU DID NOT DESIRE: Here begins the quotation from Psa 40:6-8. All kinds of sacrifices are covered here. In Heb "sacrifice" = "zebach", used of the peace offering (Lev 3:1,3,6; 4:10,26; 7:11-13). "Offering" = "minchah", the meal offering (Lev 2; 6; 23). Then follows, in the text (Heb 10:6), "burnt offering" ("olah") and "sin offering" ("chataah"). Yet none of these sacrifices are of any avail in themselves (Heb 10:4) but only when linked by faith with the sacrifice of Christ; hence all the passages in even the OT which appear to belittle the need or effect of Mosaic offerings (see v 4n). But how true that God has delight in that which they symbolize!

A BODY YOU PREPARED FOR ME: This is from the LXX; the Heb text has: "Mine ears hast thou opened." Literally, "digged" or "bored" -- this is an undeniable allusion to Exo 21:5,6 (and Deu 15:16,17): the bondslave who loves his Master so much that he has no wish to be free from his service. The acted parable is very beautiful: a holy dedication to the perpetual service of a much-loved Lord, symbolized by a pierced ear at the door of God's house, emphasizes a willingness to hear and obey every word of instruction and command.

Jesus Christ, the perfect slave or servant of God (Isa 42:1,6; 49:1-7), is at the same time the "husband" of his spiritual "bride" and the "father" of spiritual "children" (Isa 53:10). This family has been given to him by his "Master" (John 17:2,6). When confronted with the choice of personal freedom or self-inflicted bondage, Jesus chooses to stay in his Master's service because of his great love for his Master, his "wife", and his "children". He says, in effect, in Gethsemane and upon the cross, "I will not go out free, or alone!" And therefore, symbolically, his ear is pierced or opened at the door of his Master's house, he being ever attentive to his Master's will (Psa 40:8; cp Heb 10:7).

But why, in the Hebrews quotation, is there such a seemingly drastic change to "A body you prepared for me"? This, like all the other OT quotations in Hebrews, is from the LXX, where the translators have very neatly interpreted the Hebrew idiom: "Soma" (the word for "body") is a double-meaning word. It also means "slave" (as in Rom 6:6; 7:24; 8:23; Rev 18:13; Jude 1:9) -- probably in the sense that under Roman law the "slave" was something less than human, having no real rights, in short... just a "body" or piece of equipment!

Heb 10:6

See v 5n.

Heb 10:7

THEN I SAID, 'HERE I AM -- IT IS WRITTEN ABOUT ME IN THE SCROLL -- I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD' ": All before had sinned (Rom 3:10; 5:12; Psa 14:1-3); none could therefore redeem his brother (Psa 49:7). Neither could animals obey!

Only Christ did God's will perfectly (John 4:34; 5:30), humbling himself (Phi 2:8; Mat 26:39).

Ultimately, obedience is the only acceptable sacrifice (Heb 13:16; Rom 12:1; Mic 6:8; Isa 1:11-17; cp Jer 7:21; Hos 6:6). "Not my will, but yours be done!" (Luk 22:42).

The exhortation is for us as well: do God's will: note the context of Psa 40:12; Heb 10:36.

Heb 10:8

The author adds the reminder that these sacrifices were divinely ordained: "the Law REQUIRED them to be made." Nevertheless, they are not what God ultimately requires. The OT itself (in Psa 40) thus recognizes the inadequacy of the Levitical sacrifices, despite the fact that it contains the Mosaic legislation that requires those sacrifices.

Heb 10:9

Vv 9,10: The obedience of Christ to the will of God (cp Mat 26:39, 42; John 6:38) -- as prophesied in Psa 40 -- necessarily requires his own self–sacrifice (cp Heb 9:28).

HE SETS ASIDE THE FIRST TO ESTABLISH THE SECOND: This is reminiscent of Heb 7:12,18,19; 8:7,13, where it is said that the former commandments and covenant must give way to the new. Here it is the sacrifices of animals that must give way to the sacrifice of Christ in obedience to God's will.

Heb 10:10

AND BY THAT WILL, WE HAVE BEEN MADE HOLY THROUGH THE SACRIFICE OF THE BODY OF JESUS CHRIST ONCE FOR ALL: The will of God referred to in the original quotation (and in its recurrence in v 9) is identified at the beginning of v 10 as that by which we have been made holy. The sacrifice that is acceptable to God because it fulfills His will is "of the body of Jesus Christ". This reference to the "body" of Jesus calls to mind the emphasis in Heb 2 upon the "flesh and blood" he shared so that "he might taste death for everyone" and that "by his death he might destroy... the devil" (Heb 2:9,14) -- which was of course the sinful nature entrenched in the flesh of man, even the flesh of Jesus himself. According to the author, the humanity of Jesus had as its purpose his atoning death, the sacrifice of his body. It was this that occurred "once for all". This one sacrifice is the counterpart to, and fulfills altogether, the entire catalogue of animal sacrifices rejected in Psa 40:6,7. For it is Jesus who has come to do the will of God, and in agreement with the teaching of the Scriptures: "it is written about me in the scroll." All of the OT in one way or another points to or prepares for the fulfillment of God's saving purposes accomplished through Christ.

Heb 10:11

Vv 11-18: The perfect offering and the fulfillment of Jer 31:31-34: the final, climactic section of the central argument in the epistle. Yet again the author asserts the definitive character, and hence the finality, of Christ's sacrifice. In the early stages of this central argument Jer 31:31-34 was quoted (in Heb 8:8–12). Now as the argument is brought to a conclusion, the author returns to that passage, quoting again words from vv 33,34. He also makes use of a favorite text, Psa 110:1, in this passage. In the last sentence it is pointed out that where the promise of Jeremiah has been fulfilled, the sacrificial system is necessarily at an end.

DAY AFTER DAY EVERY PRIEST STANDS AND PERFORMS HIS RELIGIOUS DUTIES; AGAIN AND AGAIN HE OFFERS THE SAME SACRIFICES, WHICH CAN NEVER TAKE AWAY SINS: Once again the repetitious character of the Levitical priestly duties is stressed (cp Heb 7:27; 9:25; 10:1,3). The very posture of standing suggests the ever-unfinished task performed by the priests, especially when in the next verse it is stressed that having accomplished HIS task of atonement, Christ "sat down" at God's right hand. The irony of the situation of the Levitical priests is that these repeated sacrifices, by their very nature, can never take away sins (cp v 1 and Heb 9:9). Such sacrifices are thus self–condemned.

The present tense (ie, "stands") may point again to the existence of the temple and its sacrificial ritual at the time the epistle was written.

WHICH CAN NEVER TAKE AWAY SINS: We usually observe and point out how the Mosaic sacrifices, by themselves, could never bring about forgiveness for sins... and there's where we stop. But there is also the visual or the practical aspect of those sacrifices: Not only could they never take away sins. But also, they left the offerers thereof more unclean, in a natural and physical sense, than they had ever been before -- covered with blood and grime and gore and sweat.

Surely there's a lesson in there somewhere. The "outside" of our "cups" and "dishes" can never be made clean (Luk 11:37-41), by anything we can do... until the whole is cleansed by Christ, with the "redemption of the body" (Rom 8:23).

And Christ himself, in offering the one perfect-and-final-and-for-all sacrifice, was of necessity befouled by the process itself -- just like the priests under the Law, and more so! He was "cursed" by hanging on a tree, sure... but more than that -- he was treated in all outward appearance as the worst of criminals, left beaten, bloody, spat upon, and probably abused and insulted with other unmentioned horrors. Blood, sweat, and tears... and then driven down into the dust under the burden of a heavy cross. Dragged back to his feet, pushed and bullied along to the place of crucifixion, stripped possibly of even the last bit of clothes, and the last vestige of modesty, and lifted up high -- where nothing could be hidden -- and all the "beasts" that surrounded him could look, and laugh, and mock.

But it was all the "outside" of the "cup". The "inside" was pure and clean and white. It could not be tainted by anything cruel men might do to the "outside".

Heb 10:12

BUT WHEN THIS PRIEST HAD OFFERED FOR ALL TIME ONE SACRIFICE FOR SINS, HE SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD: The expected contrast, involving the single, sufficient sacrifice of Christ is now set forth (cp Heb 7:27; 9:12,26,28; 10:10).

THIS PRIEST: Or "this man" (AV): "Receives sinners" (Luk 15:2). "Never man spoke like..." (Joh 7:46). "No fault in..." (Luk 23:4,14,41). "Has somewhat to offer" (Heb 8:3). "Thru this man... forgiveness" (Act 13:38). "Is worthy of more honor than Moses" (Heb 3:3). "Sat down" (Heb 10:12). "Continues forever" (Heb 7:24). "Was Son of God" (Mar 15:39).

Heb 10:13

SINCE THAT TIME HE WAITS FOR HIS ENEMIES TO BE MADE HIS FOOTSTOOL: Psa 110:1, one of the main OT texts employed in the book, is now again cited (cp Heb 1:3,13; 8:1; 12:2). On this occasion, the author divides the quotation in order to indicate more effectively what has been accomplished and what yet remains to occur. What is now true is that Christ, having accomplished his priestly mission on earth, sits at the right hand of the Father (cp 1Co 15:25). The second part of the quotation (v 13) begins with "since that time". What remains is the final vindication of Christ wherein his enemies are fully and finally subjected to him (cp Heb 9:28). Christ's atoning work is complete, as the following verse now emphasizes.

FOR...: See Lesson, AN, Conditional deferment.

FOOTSTOOL: From Psa 110:1. The place where God is worshiped (Psa 132:7), ie the ark (Psa 99:5). So, "UNTIL I make your enemies your worshipers!"

Heb 10:14

BECAUSE BY ONE SACRIFICE HE HAS MADE PERFECT FOREVER THOSE WHO ARE BEING MADE HOLY: As throughout the letter, the word "perfect" is not to be understood as moral perfection, but as the complete realization of God's saving purpose.

Heb 10:15

Vv 15-17: Returning now to one of his key texts (Jer 31:33,34; cp Heb 8:6-12), the author asserts that what he has argued is in precise agreement with Jeremiah's prophecy concerning the new covenant. The Holy Spirit is regarded as the ultimate inspiration of the prophet Jeremiah's words; thus the Spirit bears witness through what he wrote (cp Heb 3:7; 9:8; 8:8). The quotation is given in two parts: the first predicts the reality of the new covenant positively, whereas the second (v 17) refers to the blotting out of sins (with the strongest negatives, lit, "I will in no wise remember"). The effect is, on the one hand, to underline the promise of the new covenant with its internal dimension, and on the other, to point out the close interconnection between this promise and the experience of a new level of forgiveness. This is what has come about through the sacrifice of Christ.

Heb 10:17

THEIR SINS AND LAWLESS ACTS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE: "Do we really believe that Jesus Christ came and died so that we could be forgiven from all our sins? Sometimes I wonder when I look around the faces in the seats on a Sunday morning, whether people have come along to church to commiserate about their sinfulness and to ask for forgiveness, instead of coming to church to worship the God who has poured out so much grace on us and to rejoice in his forgiveness as we remember the way he gave it to us.

"If you were asked if you were going to be in God's kingdom, what would your answer be? Yes? No? Not sure? The reason Jesus died was so we could be forgiven. Repent -- ask him -- and he will wash you clean from your sins and make you new and holy for Him. After forgiveness we can be at one with God again. Let us rejoice in His forgiveness, and have the confidence to draw near to God in full assurance of faith. Let us have confidence to come into the presence of God because we are new, clean and forgiven sinless creatures. And let us be confident that in our clean forgiven state God will be pleased -- by His grace -- to give us the kingdom" (RP).

Heb 10:18

AND WHERE THESE HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, THERE IS NO LONGER ANY SACRIFICE FOR SINS: "But" where such promised things as these have become a reality, only one conclusion about the old system of sacrifices is possible. And thus -- climactically -- the author asserts that there is no longer any need for further sacrifices for sins. Fulfillment of Jeremiah's promise has come. Christ's sacrifice is the definitive, final, and fully efficacious answer to the universal problem of human sin.

Heb 10:19

Vv 19-39: A believer's rights and responsibilities arising from this. The exposition leads on to exhortation. This exhortation bears a striking resemblance to that in Heb 4:14–16.

Vv 19-25: The grounds of faithfulness.

THEREFORE, BROTHERS: The author begins the exhortation by addressing his readers as brothers, as he has done in Heb 3:1,12 and will do in Heb 13:22. The basis of the following exhortation depends in turn on the entire preceding argument.

SINCE WE HAVE CONFIDENCE TO ENTER THE MOST HOLY PLACE BY THE BLOOD OF JESUS: That argument has demonstrated that the way into the Most Holy has been opened by a forerunner (Heb 6:20), that is, by the blood of Jesus (cp Heb 9:12,14; also see Heb 10:29; 13:12,20). This affords "confidence" (or "boldness"). What had previously been the special awe–inspiring privilege of the high priest one day in the year -- entry into the very presence of God -- is now said to be the privilege of every member of the community of faith (cp Eph 2:18; 3:12). The originally literal language is now spiritualized and understood as available to Christian experience universally (cp 1Pe 2:5). The old situation of the Levitical priesthood and sacrifices indicated by its very nature that "the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed" (Heb 9:8). But now it is evident that a new and living way has been opened for us (cp John 14:6).

CONFIDENCE: The word (parreasia) often implies boldness or courage to do something otherwise regarded as dangerous, as here and in Heb 4:16. This courage is based always on the sufficiency of the work of Christ. The word is used elsewhere in the NT in connection with drawing near to God's presence (see Eph 3:12; cp 2Co 3:12; 1Jo 2:28).

"Everything in the NT accords with this OT picture [of the Tabernacle]. Ransomed men need no longer pause in fear to enter the Holy of Holies. God wills that we should push on into His Presence and live our whole life there. This is to be known to us in conscious experience. It is more than a doctrine to be held, it is a life to be enjoyed every moment of every day. This Flame of the Presence was the beating heart of the Levitical order. Without it all the appointments of the tabernacle were characters of some unknown language; they had no meaning for Israel or for us. The greatest fact of the tabernacle was that Jehovah was there; a Presence was waiting within the veil. Similarly the Presence of God is the central fact of Christianity. At the heart of the Christian message is God Himself waiting for His redeemed children to push in to conscious awareness of His Presence" (AWT).

Heb 10:20

BY A NEW AND LIVING WAY OPENED FOR US THROUGH THE CURTAIN, THAT IS, HIS BODY: This way is obviously "new", in both its means and its effects. By "living" the author probably means something like "truly effective" or "enduring," in contrast to the ineffective and now defunct rituals of the past. (Though offered as a sacrifice, and necessarily put to death, Jesus has nevertheless been raised from the dead to eternal life: he "ever liveth": Heb 7:25!)

This new way goes "through the curtain" that divided the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Holy Place or sanctuary. And now the author finds a rich symbolism in this reference to "the curtain" by identifying it with Christ's "body" (lit, "flesh"). At the time of the crucifixion of Jesus, this veil was torn from top to bottom, ie, by an act of God rather than men (cp Mat 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45.) The tearing of the curtain symbolized the opening of direct access to God's presence accomplished by Christ's sacrificial death on the cross. Thus, for our author, although he does not explicitly say so, the tearing of the Christ's "flesh" (and this may be why the word for flesh is used rather than the word for body) in the crucifixion may be analogous to the tearing of the curtain in the temple. Through his death Christ opened the way to God's presence (cp Eph 2:14-18).

WAY: "I am the way" (John 14:6), ie the way to the tree of life (cp Gen 3:24).

Heb 10:21

AND SINCE WE HAVE A GREAT PRIEST OVER THE HOUSE OF GOD: Cp Heb 4:14. This "priest" has accomplished what no other high priest could do by preparing a way in which all may follow. And those who do follow -- his people -- are described as the house of God (see Heb 3:6). God's saving purposes are brought to fulfillment in Christ.

Heb 10:22

LET US DRAW NEAR TO GOD: The author has thus summarized what has been accomplished through Christ's work, and he now exhorts his readers to take advantage of it.

This is the spiritualized language of the temple ritual, meaning now to come into God's presence by means of worship and prayer.

WITH A SINCERE HEART IN FULL ASSURANCE OF FAITH, HAVING OUR HEARTS SPRINKLED TO CLEANSE US FROM A GUILTY CONSCIENCE: We have been cleansed internally -- having our hearts sprinkled (cp Eze 36:25, in the context of reference to the new covenant; and ct Heb 9:13,19,21) -- so that we no longer have the guilty conscience (cp 1Pe 3:21; Heb 9:9,14) from which the old, sacrificial ritual could not free us.

OUR BODIES WASHED WITH PURE WATER: Again the language of the Levitical ritual (ie Lev 16:4) is deliberately used to show how it finds its true fulfillment in the internal cleansing made possible by Christ. As the Law required certain washings (cp Heb 6:2), so believers were "baptized" -- as a sign and token of the true, internal cleansing (cp 1Pe 3:21; Eph 5:26). It is this new cleansed state enjoyed by those in Christ, as well as the open way to God's presence, that results from the sacrifice of Christ.

This language is also reminiscent of the ceremony for the ordination of the Levitical priests (cp Lev 8:30; Exo 29:4); this may imply that the believer in Christ has become, under the new covenant, a "priest" in his own right (cp 1Pe 2:9; Rev 5:9,10).

Heb 10:23

"Hold fast": Heb 3:6; 4:14; 10:23; 1Th 5:21; Rev 2:25; 3:11; 1Co 15:2. Thus the author returns to one of the major concerns in the letter, the danger that the readers will fall away from the truth (cp Heb 2:1–3; 3:12–14; 4:1; 6:4–6; 10:26–31).

LET US HOLD UNSWERVINGLY...: "The second 'Let us' [the first is in v 22] is connected with hope, although the AV obscures the matter by translating 'elpis' in this sole instance by the word faith. 'Let us hold fast the confession of our hope, that it waver not; for he is faithful that promised.' Hope is grounded upon promise, even the promises made unto the fathers. God is faithful; the promise is sure. Only man's part is in doubt; their beginning was right in their confession of Christ. The end would also be so if they held fast to that confession. Every generation sees its quota of waverers, and to every generation may this appeal be made, 'Let us hold fast' " (CHeb 192,193).

FOR HE WHO PROMISED IS FAITHFUL: Abraham "considered him faithful who had made the promise" (Heb 11:11). Moreover, God has confirmed his promises with an oath (Heb 6:16-20; cp Rom 15:8).

The faithfulness of God is a common motif in the NT (see 1Co 1:9; 10:13; 2Co 1:18; 1Th 5:24; 2Ti 2:13). Cp also Josh 23:14.

Heb 10:24

It is worth noting that we have encountered the three great virtues of faith (v 22), hope (v 23), and love in three successive verses (cp 1Co 13:13).

SPUR ONE ANOTHER ON TOWARD LOVE AND GOOD DEEDS: With "good works" contrast the "useless works" of Heb 6:1; 9:14.

"Do everything in love: love of God and love of man. Forget yourself. Forget all your own desires: they will never give you any real satisfaction -- only frustration and disappointment. There is nothing there: so quit looking for it there. Get independent of personal pleasure and desire. That is the greatest emancipation possible. It frees you to get into the real joys and satisfactions -- which are all in love of, and work for, God. This beautifies the character and purifies the flesh" (GVG).

Heb 10:25

LET US NOT GIVE UP MEETING TOGETHER, AS SOME ARE IN THE HABIT OF DOING, BUT LET US ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER: The mutual encouragement that our author has in mind can occur, of course, only in the context of Christian fellowship. But some, perhaps even in this community, had been neglecting to come together. The avoidance of public meetings on the part of Jewish Christians may have been caused by the understandable desire to escape persecution, whether from the Romans or from the non-Christian Jewish community. Perhaps in the light of past experiences (see vv 32–34) as well as threats concerning the imminent future (Heb 12:4), it was deemed wise to avoid attracting attention.

AND ALL THE MORE AS YOU SEE THE DAY APPROACHING: "As FF Bruce suggests, the statement about seeing the Day approaching may possibly reflect knowledge of the increasing predicament of Judea and Jerusalem. With the prophecy of Jesus in mind, the fall of Jerusalem may have been seen to be simply a matter of time (cp Heb 8:13), and from the perspective of the author and indeed all Christians of that era, the destruction of Jerusalem would have been thought to signal the appearance of the eschaton [the 'Last Days'] (cp Mat 24:3)" (NIBC).

" 'I am too tired' -- 'I prefer to hear the lecture' -- 'Bro So-and-so is the speaker, and I never get any good from his addresses'. These are not justifiable excuses for absence from the Breaking of Bread. Christ's command is this: 'This do in remembrance of me' (1Co 11:24), and for us to ignore the command is to imperil our salvation. Was ever a divine appointment set aside without incurring disastrous consequences to ourselves and God's displeasure towards us? Those who absent themselves from the Lord's Table should think of this. To refrain wilfully from assembling together on the first day of the week is not only to display a shocking lack of appreciation of the importance and profit of the appointment, but it is a direct insult to Christ" (ATJ).

Heb 10:26

Vv 26-31: The sin of apostasy and the reality of judgment: The reference to "the Day" at the end of the preceding section leads naturally to the subject of the future judgment, and this is now used as a further incentive to faithfulness and the avoidance of apostasy. The concern of this passage is similar to that of Heb 6:4–8 (cp Heb 3:12).

IF WE DELIBERATELY KEEP ON SINNING AFTER WE HAVE RECEIVED THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH: This does not refer to ordinary sins, but to the most grievous and final sin, apostasy. This is the sin which by its nature puts the offender out of reach of God's forgiveness -- and therefore the sin from which there is no return. The unavailability of any further sacrifice for sins points thus not to the unavailability of mercy for the Christian who has sinned, but to the fact that the apostate has cut himself off from any possibility of forgiveness. V 29 underlines the nature and the seriousness of the sin in question.

That the sin involves a falling away is further indicated by the words "after we have received the knowledge of the truth". The parallel in Heb 6:4 is clear: "those who have once been enlightened... who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away..."

How might we "DELIBERATELY" sin? By forsaking the assembly (v 25). By despising a higher law than Moses' (v 29). By denying Christ (2Ti 2:12; Mat 10:33).

KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH: "Epignosis" = exact knowledge. An expression found also in the Pastoral Letters (1Ti 2:4; 2Ti 2:25; 3:7; Tit 1:1).

NO SACRIFICE FOR SINS IS LEFT: Because the temple and altar were about to be done away with: cp Heb 10:18; 8:13. Those who have turned their backs on the sacrifice of Christ (v 29) -- the sacrifice to which all other sacrifices pointed, and without which they were, in the last analysis, meaningless -- have no other remedy or answer for their sins. With resources exhausted, such a person must face the prospect of God's wrath against sin (cp 2Pe 2:21).

Heb 10:27

BUT ONLY A FEARFUL EXPECTATION OF JUDGMENT AND OF RAGING FIRE THAT WILL CONSUME THE ENEMIES OF GOD: Cp Isa 26:11: "Let the fire reserved for your enemies consume them."

JUDGMENT: The multitudes who waited outside the temple for the return of the HiPr from the Most Holy on the Day of Atonement; would he bring blessing or judgment?

RAGING FIRE: Cp Psa 79:5; Eze 36:5; Deu 29:20.

Heb 10:28

ANYONE WHO REJECTED THE LAW OF MOSES DIED WITHOUT MERCY ON THE TESTIMONY OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES: Cp Num 15:30. The reference to several witnesses deliberately recalls the OT practice as recorded in Deu 17:2,6; 19:15 (cp Mat 18:16; 2Co 13:1; and 1Ti 5:19 for an application of the principle in the early ecclesia).

REJECTED: "Despised" (AV); "set at nought" (Roth); "disregarded".

Heb 10:29

HOW MUCH MORE SEVERELY DO YOU THINK A MAN DESERVES TO BE PUNISHED WHO HAS TRAMPLED THE SON OF GOD UNDER FOOT, WHO HAS TREATED AS AN UNHOLY THING THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT THAT SANCTIFIED HIM, AND WHO HAS INSULTED THE SPIRIT OF GRACE?: Transgressing the law of Moses, grievous though that may be, is not as serious an offense as rejecting the work of Christ, once a person has received it as the truth. The language of v 29 is very strong, but that is the point: this is what "apostasy" is! To be an apostate means that one reckons Christ's blood -- the blood by which the eternal covenant has been confirmed or ratified -- to be common or unholy -- this despite the fact that the person has been sanctified by this very blood! The apostate is one who has therefore insulted God's most generous grace -- which is the greatest blessing ever offered to man.

This means that apostasy is the equivalent of the unforgivable sin, the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (eg, Mat 12:31,32). Obviously this person deserves to be punished more severely than one who was judged under the Mosaic law.

TRAMPLED... UNDER FOOT: The verb also refers to: (1) salt that has lost its savor, and is cast out as worthless so that it is "trampled by men" (Mat 5:13), and (2) pearls cast before swine, which "trample them under their feet" (Mat 7:6). Cp also 1Sa 2:29.

UNHOLY: Sig "unclean" or unholy (cp Mark 7:2; Acts 10:14; 11:8; Rev 21:27).

THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT: Initially this referred to the sealing of the covenant with Israel as, for example, in Exo 24:8, which is quoted in Heb 9:20. In Hebrews, however, it is clear that the blood of the covenant refers now to the blood of Christ and the inauguration of the new covenant (Heb 7:22; 9:15–18; 10:12–18, and Heb 13:20: "the blood of the eternal covenant").

INSULTED: "Done despite to" (AV); "affront" (NEB); "outrage".

Heb 10:30

FOR WE KNOW HIM WHO SAID, "IT IS MINE TO AVENGE; I WILL REPAY": The reality of judgment upon those who spurn the salvation offered by God is now emphasized by the quotation of two statements from Deu 32:35,36. This passage is also quoted in Rom 12:19.

AND AGAIN, "THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE": The second quotation occurs verbatim not only in Deu 32:36, but also in Psa 135:14.

Heb 10:31

IT IS A DREADFUL THING TO FALL INTO THE HANDS OF THE LIVING GOD: The thought of the judgment of the living God is something that can only fill the heart with fear (cp v 27; Heb 12:29; Mat 10:28). Yet this is to be the lot of those who repudiate their original faith.

THE LIVING GOD: God is so referred in Heb 3:12; 9:14; 12:22. It is a common Hebrew way of referring to God in His dynamic power, and is found frequently in the NT. Cp Deu 32:40: "I live forever." A LIVING God can provide a LIVING hope!

Heb 10:32

Vv 32-39: An exhortation to endurance and faithfulness: this is based upon the past successes of the readers during the most trying of circumstances. The readers had endured persecution in the past and had come through it victoriously. Now they apparently face difficult times again, to the extent that they are tempted to abandon their Christian faith (cp Heb 2:1-3; 3:12–14; 4:1,11; 6:4–6; 12:3–11; 13:13).

REMEMBER THOSE EARLIER DAYS AFTER YOU HAD RECEIVED THE LIGHT, WHEN YOU STOOD YOUR GROUND IN A GREAT CONTEST IN THE FACE OF SUFFERING: This persecution was more probably that under Claudius in AD 49 -- something like 15 years earlier. If we are right that Hebrews was written in the early sixties, the events remembered may have occurred more than ten years earlier. This was clearly sometime after the Jewish readers had become believers in Christ.

Heb 10:33

SOMETIMES YOU WERE PUBLICLY EXPOSED TO INSULT AND PERSECUTION; AT OTHER TIMES YOU STOOD SIDE BY SIDE WITH THOSE WHO WERE SO TREATED: They were made a public spectacle of, suffering verbal abuse and physical punishment. And when the readers did not suffer directly, they "shared" with those experiencing similar sufferings -- presumably supporting them in any way possible, and at considerable personal sacrifice (v 34).

PUBLICLY: Gr "theatrizo", a verb occurring only here in the NT that means "to make a public show" (NEB). Cp the cognate noun "spectacle" ("theatron") in 1Co 4:9, describing the experience of the apostles.

Heb 10:34

YOU SYMPATHIZED WITH THOSE IN PRISON: Lit, "you suffered with the prisoners". "Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners" (Heb 13:3).

YOU... JOYFULLY ACCEPTED THE CONFISCATION OF YOUR PROPERTY, BECAUSE YOU KNEW THAT YOU YOURSELVES HAD BETTER AND LASTING POSSESSIONS: This reference to the superiority of an unseen, eternal reality will become an important motif in Heb 11 (cp vv 10,16,40 there). The readers, in the midst of difficult circumstances, were thus able to make an unseen reality their priority and in light of it to endure great personal hardship and loss. Possibly it is the sharing of the sufferings of others referred to in these verses that was in the author's mind when he wrote in Heb 6:10 that God "will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them."

JOYFULLY: "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance" (Rom 5:3).

HAD BETTER AND LASTING POSSESSIONS: The AV's "In heaven" is omitted in many mss.

Heb 10:35

SO DO NOT THROW AWAY YOUR CONFIDENCE; IT WILL BE RICHLY REWARDED: This "boldness", if it is exercised in the present situation, will enable the readers to endure as they have done in the past, and it will finally receive its great reward.

Heb 10:36

YOU NEED TO PERSEVERE SO THAT WHEN YOU HAVE DONE THE WILL OF GOD, YOU WILL RECEIVE WHAT HE HAS PROMISED: They endured in the past times of hardship; they must endure now. Endurance is the will of God and is necessary in order to receive the "better and lasting possessions" (v 34).

"There is a sign hanging over a secretary's desk which says 'Oh, God help me to be patient, and please hurry.' We live in such a helter skelter world that we want to even hurry patience.

"The writer to the Hebrews tells us that 'ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.'

"Patience is surely a virtue that has to be learned. We are not born patient. The little one wants what he wants when he wants it, and lets the whole world know his impatience by a loud and lusty bellow. Little children need to be taught to be patient. In God's eyes we are all little children and is it any wonder that 'we have need of patience?'

"How do we acquire patience? First of all, God helps us by sending us tribulations for we are told by Paul that 'tribulation worketh patience.' [Rom 5:3] So God in his wisdom allows trouble to come our way for the express reason of teaching us patience. Again we can see this in the life of a little child. If the child gets everything it wants exactly when it wants it then it has no patience at all and soon becomes miserable when going out into the cruel world where mommy and daddy are not there to supply every request. Parents are wise to teach their children patience by sometimes making them wait, and no doubt from the viewpoint of the child this waiting is a form of tribulation.

"God too, is teaching us to be patient by making us wait. Again Paul gives us the advice we need when he says, 'The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ' " (MM).

Heb 10:37

Vv 37,38: Cit Hab 2:3,4. The time of suffering is a limited one and the return of the Lord is imminent. The author may understand Habakkuk's words concerning imminence quite literally, especially if persecution were increasing. The end of the age, it had been promised, would see an increase in the persecution of the righteous (cp Mat 24:9-14). But with the Lord's return in view, faithfulness becomes a special consideration. Hab 2:4 is quoted here, but not with the same meaning as when Paul cites it in Rom 1:17 and Gal 3:11 (see v 38n).

FOR IN JUST A VERY LITTLE WHILE: From Isa 26:20 (LXX): "For a little moment" -- until the indignation (punishment for drawing back) be past.

HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME: "The coming one" was a title of the Messiah, Jesus, in the early church (cp Mat 3:11; 11:3).

Heb 10:38

IF HE SHRINKS BACK: Cp Hab 2:4: "his soul... which is lifted up (puffed up: RV) is not upright." There, a haughty man; here, a fearful man: both are condemned.

MY RIGHTEOUS ONE WILL LIVE BY FAITH: The central affirmation of Habakkuk is the last part of Hab 2:4: 'the righteous will live by his faith.' There are three key words in this affirmation: righteous, live, and faith. It is interesting that in the three places where this verse is quoted in the NT, in each case a different word receives the emphasis: (1) In Rom 1:17, the emphasis is on 'righteous.' Paul's concern in Romans was with the righteousness of God and how people can obtain it. (2) In Gal 3:11, the emphasis is on 'faith.' Paul contrasted salvation by works and salvation by faith in Galatians. (3) And in Heb 10:38, the emphasis is on 'live.' The writer to the Hebrews stressed the importance of living by faith as a way of life rather than turning back to Judaism and living by the Law.

Thus we can see that this statement is packed with meaning. In fact, many people believe that this verse expresses the central theme of the entire Bible.

This verse may be amplified thusly: "The righteous (ie, those who are justified and declared righteous by God -- being absolved of their sins) shall live (ie, NOW, in their daily lives of faith, and in the FUTURE, in the day of resurrection and glory) by their faith (ie, by acknowledging their utter dependence upon the LORD)."

Heb 10:39

BUT WE ARE NOT OF THOSE WHO SHRINK BACK AND ARE DESTROYED, BUT OF THOSE WHO BELIEVE AND ARE SAVED: The author here, as in Heb 6:9, encourages the readers by believing not the worst, but the best, concerning them. He furthermore speaks of himself together with them in the plural and emphatic "we". 'We don't belong with those who shrink back' [alluding to the word in Hab 2:4], but 'we belong to those who believe' [using the same word as in Hab 2:4]. The connection between endurance and the gaining of one's life is referred to in the context of persecution in Luke 21:19, where Jesus says: "By standing firm [lit, "by your endurance"] you will gain life."

OF THOSE WHO BELIEVE: Or "have faith" -- leading into Heb 11.

Previous Index Next