V2828Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on [the testimony of] two or three witnesses.. We are in a portion wherein we are again warned against falling away. The consequences of falling away are presented in the most horrific way. After all it is not about a detail! It is about rejecting the only offering that God has given in His Son and to which offering the apostate firstly consented. That is nothing else than deliberate rebellion against God. Rebelling against God, while knowing His will, was and still is a very serious matter to God. Just take a look at the law of Moses. Whosoever rejected that law, in other words: trampled and despised it (thus not accidentally transgressed it), died without mercy. Actually, that happened only after two or three people bore witness of this rebellion (Num 15:30-3630But the person who does [anything] defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the LORD; and that person shall be cut off from among his people.31Because he has despised the word of the LORD and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt [will be] on him.’”32Now while the sons of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the sabbath day.33Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation;34and they put him in custody because it had not been declared what should be done to him.35Then the LORD said to Moses, “The man shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.”36So all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.).
V2929How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?. When God already punished rebellion under the old covenant that severely, how much more severe shall the punishment be when a person rebels against the new covenant. The more severe punishment is the eternal judgment, while in the Old Testament it concerned a corporal punishment. But the more severe punishment is fitting for gravity of that sin. It is ultimately about nothing less than trampling the Son of God, the eternal Son, and despising His work.
You may say that by breaking the law it was purely disobedience. How serious it might have already been, yet it is more serious to despise the grace of God and what He has done in His Son. It is rejecting the whole counsel of God’s plan of salvation with a contempt that gives no hope for conversion. To trample something under foot indicates a contemptible treatment. This is how one who is only a Christian in name treats the Son of God when he, after having first acknowledged Him as the Son of God, later on exchanges Him for a tangible religion. It is the grossest form of denial that anyone can do to Him. By such a treatment the Lord Jesus is being held for liar and His work is being labeled as meaningless.
The latter appears from the denial of the blood of the covenant. Through this blood the confessor was sanctified, which means: set apart outwardly. It is the same sanctification that also applies to the unbelieving husband whose wife came to faith (1Cor 7:1414For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.). He confessed to be hiding behind the blood, like all members of the company he joined, though he didn’t believe in the power of the blood. At a certain moment he accounted it unholy. It is not surprising that such a person also insults “the Spirit of grace”. The Holy Spirit showed him grace when he entered Christianity by making him a partaker of His work in the church. But now he ignored the grace with a gesture of contempt.
V3030For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.”. By speaking about “we” the writer places himself among those to whom he writes. He sees all of them, including himself, as confessors. They all had the same confession. But there was a chance that there were some among them for whom the confession was only a matter of the lips and not of the heart. With regard to them he speaks these serious words. He wants to appeal to their conscience, so that they still may open up their hearts to receive the truth and that they will not turn to a religion that is rejected by God and which will surely cause them to die in their sins.
They all knew God as the One Who judges. None of them was ignorant about that. God’s vengeance implies that He will righteously measure what a person is worthy of. He will recompense and judge in a righteous way.
V3131It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.. He who falls away from the living God (Heb 3:1212Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.), will surely fall into the hands of the living God. How totally differently does the believer look at the hands of God. He loves to entrust himself to them (2Sam 24:1414Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us now fall into the hand of the LORD for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.”) because he trusts that God is perfectly righteous and full of love.
V3232But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings,. After his severe exhortations the writer appeals encouragingly to the readers again from verse 3232But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings,. He has expressed his fear for the falling away of a very few, but for the many of the company he doesn’t have that fear. He saw the fruits of the new life with them. He reminds them of that by taking them back to the former days in spirit. He speaks about them being “enlightened”. By that he meant that they had discovered why Christendom involved more than Judaism. When they discovered that, they accepted the new.
They were prepared to endure the “great conflict of sufferings” that it caused. Suffering goes hand in hand with accepting the Lord Jesus. There is not a single ground for the thought that the church will take possession of everything by a worldwide advancement of the gospel. It is a good thing to think of that always.
V3333partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated.. The writer speaks about two forms of suffering. There is a suffering that they individually experienced and a suffering they experienced by sympathizing with the sufferings of others. The suffering they endured by themselves consisted of “reproaches and tribulations” which were caused to them by their unbelieving fellow countrymen. Besides, these fellow countrymen looked at them like “a public spectacle” (cf. 1Cor 4:99For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.). This suffering was visible for their surroundings. The other form of suffering is sharing in the sufferings of others. This is not personally, but it is spiritually sharing with others who endure it personally (Heb 13:33Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, [and] those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.; Mt 25:36,3936naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’39When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’). They had encouraged, probably visited, those who were kept in captivity because of their faith.
V3434For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one.. They were robbed from their possessions. Resentful Jews did that by plundering or confiscation. But they did not grieve about it. On the contrary, they “accepted joyfully” their loss. Did they still recall how that happened? Because they were convinced that they had a possession, which they could never lose, namely “a better possession and a lasting one”. It is a treasure in heaven where thieves cannot ever come (Mt 6:2020But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;; 1Pet 1:44to [obtain] an inheritance [which is] imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,). When the eye is focused on that then there is power, courage and perseverance to continue the path of faith till the end. The suffering they endured was simply because they had chosen the right path.
V3535Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.. Because of that (“therefore”) they were not to cast away the boldness with which they were proceeding the path of faith. At the end the reward was surely awaiting them: the eternal inheritance in the promised land.
V3636For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.. It was, and it is for you, a matter of perseverance. A lack of perseverance results in falling away from faith. Perseverance means remaining in the circumstances one finds oneself without escaping them. By persevering you partake of “the promise”: the inheritance.
Therefore “the will of God” has to be done. Always when ‘the will of God’ is spoken about in a letter it is said in relation to the content of the letter. The will of God here has to do with the faith in the testimony, concerning Jesus as the Messiah, Who is crucified, Who has died and raised, which caused that the sins are taken away. It is also His will that you look at a High Priest in heaven at the right hand of God, while on earth you possibly have to endure tribulation and persecution. It is God’s will that you persevere in that until you will be with Him.
V3737For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay.. And that will only last “in a very little while”, for Christ is coming soon and will fulfill everything that has been promised. His offering fitted you to partake of the fulfillment of the promises. The reason why you still have to wait and why you were not immediately transferred to heaven right after your conversion is that the faith you are confessing is tested as to its genuineness. He is coming and will not dealy. If ‘delaying’ becomes a central matter in your life you will become unfaithful to the Lord (Mt 24:48-5048But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’49and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards;50the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect [him] and at an hour which he does not know,) and from the good servant you are now you will turn into an evil servant.
V3838But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.. To prevent that, it is necessary to live according to the principle of faith. The writer cites here for the third time in the New Testament a verse from Habakkuk (Hab 2:3-43“For the vision is yet for the appointed time;
It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
For it will certainly come, it will not delay.
4“Behold, as for the proud one,
His soul is not right within him;
But the righteous will live by his faith.
). In each of the three citations the emphasis is different.
1. In the first citation, the emphasis lies on ‘righteous’ (Rom 1:1717For in it [the] righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous [man] shall live by faith.”);
2. in the second, it lies on ‘faith’ (opposite to the law) (Gal 3:1111Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.”) and
3. in the third, the emphasis lies on ‘life’ (opposite to perishing in the wilderness, falling away) (Heb 10:3838But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.).
As long as the coming of the Lord is delayed, the righteous should live from the power of his faith. He who lives as a righteous one has nothing to fear for and will surely persevere. God speaks here of “My just”. This resonates the affection God has for everyone who lives from the faith in Him in a world that is against Him.
V3939But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.. He who is a Christian by name will turn off and will be rejected by God. Drawing back is withdrawing from the path of faith, leaving that path. That can happen for example because of fear for men, which causes the necessary perseverance to disappear. It can also happen by ignoring the Word of God and not looking upon the High Priest alone anymore. Such people do not please God. They return to the dead works from which they had turned off under the confession of the power of the blood of Christ. In the next chapter God will present people who do please Him.
The writer does not assume that his readers are such apostates, just as he himself is not, for because of the word “we” he is using, you see that he again includes himself. I suppose that you too are not of the kind that shrinks back and who from fear abandons Christendom and has to meet such a terrible judgment, are you?
I suppose that you belong to those who “have faith to the preserving of the soul”, which means that you live by faith and in that way you preserve your soul until the end of the journey.
Now read Hebrews 10:28-39 again.
Reflection: Do you sometimes fear for falling away from faith or do you know of another person who does? What is your reply to that fear?