In chapter six we saw what some believers consider to be one of the most difficult passages in the Bible (Jesus.). They’ve been told it’s directed to them. But the context of that passage shows that it’s not to, nor is it about believers. Instead, it’s a stinging indictment of the Hebrews who hadn’t put their trust in
This chapter contains another seemingly difficult passage –.
The Law that God gave through Moses (with its rules about behaviors, sacrificial offerings, annual feasts and work in the tabernacle) defined exactly how the Hebrews were to communicate their veiled gospel message.
For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.
Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins?
But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Hebrews 10:1-4)
The last several chapters tied the Law solely to the Levitical Priesthood. This passage sums it up by saying:
We’ve read that Jesus did all of this. Why did they have to convey something that didn’t work? The Law, together with the rest of the Old Testament, presents His autobiography –His life story. It’s as though He related aspects of Himself to the writers in advance of His coming with detailed pictures.
For example, when wickedness was everywhere, God provided something to lift human life out of impending death: an ark for Noah, angels for Lot, a kinsman-redeemer (Boaz) for Ruth and a rescuer (Joshua) for Rahab the prostitute.
Like those stories, the entire Law was “a shadow of the good things to come.” It predicted the birth, life, death, resurrection and purpose of the Son of God –the Messiah –Immanuel (meaning “God is here with us”). Jesus fulfilled it all –not by following what it said, but by being the One that it described. It also proves that no one else is Him.
The quote from the Hebrews passage below is from . In the psalm, David tells the story of his own salvation. He recognized that he was separated from God –in the pit of destruction, the miry clay. So he cried out to the Lord and waited for Him. God lifted his feet up and put him on the Rock with his footsteps secure. He was given a new song for singing praises. He recognized his eternal relationship with God. He asked for help with his earthly struggles and looked forward to deliverance. Through his experiences he explained that everyone needs that same Savior. That’s the context of this section.
Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says,
“Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, But a body You have prepared for Me; In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure.
“Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come (In the scroll of the book it is written of Me) To do Your will, O God.’” (Hebrews 10:5-7)
Certainly, David’s words –uttered long before the crucifixion– are a foreshadowing. Let’s compare the passage above (verses 5-7) with its companion below (verses 8-10).
After saying above, “Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have not desired, nor have You taken pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the Law),
then He said, “Behold, I have come (In the scroll of the book it is written of Me) To do Your will.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second.
By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:8-10)
Jesus’ accomplishments are combined into David’s prediction. He lived and offered Himself exactly as the Old Covenant’s Law described. Then, upon His death, His last will and testament (the New Covenant with its new Law for communicating the gospel) was put into effect.
Verse nine says “He takes away the first in order to establish the second.” The Old Covenant (with its priesthood) had to be taken away before the New Covenant could go into effect. Then verse ten adds “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” That’s what sets them apart (sanctifies them) as new priests –His ambassadors.
Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;
but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet.
For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. (Hebrews 10:11-14)
The quote here is from Jesus’. Here it is again –with a grand contrast.. It was introduced in chapter one with God the Father’s announcement that His Son is greater than the angels. It was also in chapter seven with the declaration of the transition from Aaron’s priesthood to
The Levitical High Priests couldn’t sit down in the Holy of Holies. It’s symbolic of their not being able to complete purification. But Jesus, the true High Priest, did sit down. “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”
Regardless of what the world sees and says, He has made His ambassadors (those who put their trust in Him) forever perfect.
There’s a matter identified in this Letter to the Hebrews that bears repeating. The covenants discussed in it are agreements (promises) that God made to establish priesthoods. The intent of those priesthoods is to deliver His message of salvation to the world using their respective laws. The Old uses a set of cryptic pictures to suggest Jesus –the New unmistakably identifies Him!
And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,
“This is the covenant that I will make with them After those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws upon their heart, And on their mind I will write them,”
He then says,
“And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. (Hebrews 10:15-18)
Like the New Covenant for the Hebrews of the Tribulation Period (found in chapter eight), this one is based on the samepassage. However, the words targeting a particular set of people are absent. It’s without reference to the houses of Israel and Judah –and their audience.
Instead, the first words in this passage are “And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us.” Wonderfully, with the restrictions lifted, the covenant includes all who are led by the Holy Spirit. Chapter two highlighted the parable of the Vineyard Tenants where Jesus alluded to others becoming priests to the world.
I noted above that “the Law that God gave through Moses (with its rules about behaviors, sacrificial offerings, annual feasts and work in the tabernacle) defined exactly how the Hebrews were to communicate their veiled gospel message.”
However, both New Covenant priesthoods (the one for the present time –and the one for the Tribulation) share the same Law that defines their unveiled gospel message. Because of Jesus’ death, “their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Hebrews 8:12 and 10:17). This Law totally replaces all of the Old Covenant’s rules –because they only predicted Him.
In preparation for God’s coming to Mount Sinai (in the form of fire and smoke) the people cleansed themselves just as they were told. But still they weren’t to touch or even go near the mountain while He was there –else they would die. And that’s the way it was for the ark too.
Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,
and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)
Fearing God is a huge subject in the Old Testament –and even in some of the New. But this passage is about approaching Him with confidence, drawing near to Him, having full assurance. What changed so that a person can confidently go to, and remain with Him forever rather than periodically grovel to Him in fear –or worry about being thrown back out?
It certainly wasn’t religiously obeyed rules and regulations, with their rituals and ceremonies. They couldn’t cleanse anyone so that they pleased God. On the other hand, Jesus is the fulfillment of the atonement sacrifice. Everyone’s sins were transferred onto Him and then He was convicted and executed. He took His blood-offering to His Father and the whole world was reconciled to God once and for all.
Jesus is the source of eternal life. His cleansing is everlasting –“our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” The ceremonial veil that separated mankind from God was replaced with His body. Now anyone can be joined permanently with God through Him.
Yes, fearing God and groveling to Him persists –but only for those who haven’t known Jesus as the way.
The following passage is frequently used to put fear into believers. But that’s the very opposite of what’s been said in the many chapters and verses leading into it.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:23-27)
(You needn’t be distracted by the words we and us. The author is speaking to Hebrew brothers. Using these words creates an inclusive association to draw them along rather than making a pious division between the saved and the lost.)
These Hebrews were deeply undecided. They talked about Jesus as if He was Lord; but their entire lives had been patterned after the traditions that God gave them through Moses.
By meeting together, those who were wavering had an opportunity to hear and speak with some believers who had already made that crossover. They were encouraged to trust Him and discover that He is indeed trustworthy –and they were also reminded of the consequences for not trusting Him. The choice was set before them just as it was when Moses said to their forefathers: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
The disturbing quote above, “the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries” is part of Isaiah’s description of Judgment Day ( ). In that chapter he tells about the restoration of Israel –and about the destruction of the adversaries who refuse to trust God. This Hebrews passage, verse 25, states that there’s a time limit involved: “as you see the day drawing near.”
Let’s put this in context. Moses led them out of Egypt and up to the entrance of the Promised Land. The twelve spies entered and witnessed the land’s goodness. Caleb and Joshua returned to report that its inhabitants could be overcome and the land be taken.
But even after seeing the light of God’s glory, tasting the manna, hearing His word, sharing the Holy Spirit, and seeing the miracles –that stubborn people “sinned willfully.” They refused to trust God and enter the land. Those rebels died in the desert-wilderness. Chapters three, four and six each stated that unflinchingly. Joshua became the new leader and everyone who entered the Promised Land followed him.
Likewise, God has testified to everyone, in uncountable ways, that He is real and life in His kingdom is freely available. All that’s required to escape that terrifying end is trusting His Son to lead them there –through His death and resurrection.
Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
How 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?
For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:28-31)
The Hebrews knew Jesus by the name “Joshua.” They knew that it literally means Jehovah’s Salvation. They knew their third commandment: “You shall not take the name of the Lord [Jehovah] your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).
The clear implication is that His Father sent Him to save them. Those who refused to believe Him –to put their faith in Him– weren’t merely being naive or negligent. Rather, God viewed them as having:
Sinning willfully equates to deliberately rejecting Jesus as the way.
But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated.
For 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.
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. (Hebrews 10:32-36)
His followers –though not necessarily believers– were subjected to harsh treatment from the Romans and despised by their own Hebrew brothers. They knew everything that they needed to make the choice. Yet, they were effectively sitting on the fence –adoring and praising Jesus –but secure with Moses.
For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.
But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:37-39)
The quote in this passage is from Habakkuk chapter two –an end times prophecy about Jesus’ return. It puts everyone into one of two groups: “of those who shrink back to destruction” and “of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.”
The groups parallel what we’ve been reading throughout this letter. There are those who shrink back like the people who heard the good report but refused to enter the land and subsequently died in the desert. They don’t accept salvation on God’s terms –through His Son– and are destroyed. And there are those who follow their appointed leader by faith –Joshua into the land –Jesus into eternal life in the kingdom. They’re believers –the bride of the Lamb.
Just as we saw at the end of chapter three, the phrase “those who shrink back to destruction” is not about people wavering after being saved; it’s about refusing to trust Him in the first place.