Hebrews Chapter Ten Study Guide
This chapter contains one of the three most misunderstood and misused passages in the Bible –Hebrews 10:26-27. We've looked at the one in chapter six (Hebrews 6:4-6) in the context of the Hebrew history and I've repeated its summary below.
For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. (Hebrews 6:4-6)
Who was enlightened (saw the light) by the bright glory of God on the mountain and the column of light every night in the desert for forty years? Over six hundred thousand Hebrews saw "the light" and still perished because they refused to enter God's rest.
Who tasted the heavenly gift –the manna which was gathered every day except on the Sabbath day of rest? They were the same people who tested their Lord all along the way to the Promised Land.
Who were partakers (sharers) in the Holy Spirit –the One who gave Moses and the Hebrew elders insight into God's will? They were the same ones who cast a golden calf and angered God to the point of nearly destroying them.
Who tasted the goodness of the word of God –and ate the Passover Lamb? They were those who God led out of slavery to a land of milk and honey.
Who saw the powers of God that were yet to come –miracle after miracle from the time of their release from Pharaoh until their entry into Canaan? They were the Hebrews who praised God with their mouths; but denied Him with their hearts.
It can be unsettling to be confronted with one of these Hebrews passages by that manipulating preacher that we talked about earlier in this study. Now, let's read on with chapter ten so that you will be familiar with its context and not be dissuaded from its truth.
By the way, if you are wondering what the third of the three most misunderstood and misused passages is, it's 1 John 1:9 –often called the "Christian bar of soap" because it's used to wash away whatever sins we've accumulated. That should sound suspicious in light of what we have been studying in Hebrews.
The Purpose of the Law
The Law does two things. It reveals the condition of the human heart and it explicitly demonstrates what needs to change within a person to bring him to God. In regard to the condition of the human heart: it is evil, selfish, sinful, untrusting, and continually desires to follow despicable ways (Jeremiah 17:9-10). And in regard to what needs to change: he must be cleansed from all sin; he must be forgiven by his Creator for the enormity of his offenses; he must permanently leave his natural tendencies behind; and he must take on a new, incorruptible life (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
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)
According to this passage, what is the purpose of the Law? You've read what I've written about in in the last several chapters; but what does the Bible actually say?
- It's only a shadow of the good things to come.
- It can never make a person perfect.
- It can't cleanse the conscience.
- It's an annual reminder of sins.
- It can't possibly take away sins.
Up to this point, we have considered the Law in terms of what the Hebrews received on their way to the Promised Land –in response to their grumbling nature. But it has enormous depth which is shown by its use of many real-life situations to explain God's ways.
That Law –replete with the tabernacle and its furniture, the regulations for worship, the priesthood with its garments and responsibilities, the rules and their punishments, and so on– was given to the Hebrews. And those people were to be examples for us.
Although their Law was not given to us Christians, we –even those of us in the most remote parts of the earth– have consciences which initially had God's desires written on them. (Regrettably, consciences become corrupt over time.)
For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:14-16)
Unlike the Hebrew Law, our law doesn't have the rich imagery portraying the heavenly wonders. Nonetheless, our law dutifully condemns us. We know that without God's intervention, we are destined for eternal punishment. We don't have to be Hebrews to realize how distant humanity is from God.
This next passage is also from Romans. It's a compilation of several Old Testament quotes that examine the human heart in its natural state.
What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written,
"There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one." "Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep deceiving," "The poison of asps is under their lips"; "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness"; "Their feet are swift to shed blood, Destruction and misery are in their paths, And the path of peace they have not known." "There is no fear of God before their eyes." (Romans 3:9-18)
Here are the quotes from the verses above along with their sources.
- Psalm 14:1-3, Psalm 53:1-3: "There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one."
- Psalm 5:9-10: "Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving,"
- Psalm 140:1-5: "The poison of asps is under their lips"
- Psalm 10:1-11: "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness"
- Isaiah 59:1-8: "Their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known."
- Psalm 36:1-4: "There is no fear of God before their eyes."
These passages apply equally to Hebrews and to non-Hebrews. They describe every person before salvation –and they describe every person's indwelling flesh (the natural tendency to distrust God) even after salvation. There can be no denial that, apart from God, mankind is contemptible.
We should all have the same view of ourselves that Paul had of himself when he realized the magnitude of the evil in his own heart. Here in Romans, he confessed his condition and rejoiced in his rescue.
"Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24-25a)
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)
Since most of the world is not of Hebrew descent and is not familiar with the imagery contained in its Law, what conveys the knowledge of God to them? His greatness and power completely surround us all. The work of His hands is found in the beauty and complexity of His creation. And in conjunction, we can all see the current order of things: the fruit of new life; the destructive power of sickness and decay; the inevitable death that awaits all; and the condemning inheritance that everything leaves behind for its next generation.
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. (Romans 8:16-22)
Even creation is suffering as a result of sin. It's also longing for the coming of the Savior!
"Why has this author been quoting Romans so much when we're studying Hebrews?" you might be asking yourself. It's because Paul's "Letter to the Romans" is a complete and succinct explanation of how the Promise applies to Christians.
The New Covenant for Christians
The quote below is from Psalm 40. In the psalm, David tells the story of his own salvation. He began in the pit of destruction, the miry clay; his feet were put on the Rock and his footsteps made firm; for that, he sang a new song of praise; he realized the purpose of the Law (that's the focus of the passage below); he recognized his eternal relationship with God; he asked for help with his earthly struggles; and he looked forward to God's deliverance. What a testimony!
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)
Compare the passage above with the one below. The latter has the New Testament explanation woven into it.
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)
Two products from His sacrifice are identified above.
- Verse nine says "He takes away the first in order to establish the second." He fulfilled the Old Covenant –and then He put the New Covenant into effect for His followers.
- Then verse ten adds "By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." "Sanctified" (or "made holy") means "set apart for a special purpose." As His followers, we Christians live in this world but we are set apart from the world as His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). There's no other reason for us to be here!
Since He has sanctified us, there is no need to strive to be holy –we aren't holy because of what we do –we are holy because of who He is and what He did!
Please note. If you read Psalm 40, then you might have found a wording difference between the psalm and its quoted text here in Hebrews. Verse five above says, "but a body you have prepared for Me" and Psalm 40, verse six says, "My ears You have opened." There's debate over why there is a difference, but the crux of the matter is that the Son of God was going to be the sacrificial body.
Back to our study. . .
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)
There was no place for the Levitical high priest to sit while performing his duties in the Holy of Holies so he stood the entire time that he was inside. That was symbolic of the fact his work was not done.
But Jesus, the true High Priest, did sit down. Psalm 110:1-4 is quoted, "The Lord says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." This psalm was referenced in chapter seven where we read about the change from Aaron's priesthood to Jesus' priesthood.
"For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified." This is one of the greatest facts that we Christians should cling to. It ranks up there with those few verses that we've chosen to learn and memorize –like John 3:16. Hebrews 10:8 said that Jesus sanctified us by His sacrifice –and verse 14 says that He perfected us with that same sacrifice.
The word "perfect" means "complete." A pastor once described this by comparing us to fruit on a tree. Even while the fruit is little and too green to eat, it is complete. It has its outer skin, its edible part and its seeds –it is complete. The fruit merely needs to become mature before it's good to eat. In the same way, all we lack is maturity. We have been made complete –perfect (Colossians 2:8-15).
Regardless of how we feel –or what others say about us, God has made us perfect. It was done with one sacrifice and there aren't going to be any more sacrifices to make us better. So, now is a good time to stop using that phrase "Nobody's perfect" –it's a lie that we have accepted as truth. Everyone who has followed Jesus into the Promise is perfect. Of course we all need to grow and be refined. But that's the business that God is in. He is the gardener; He is the refiner; and we are the work of His hands.
The Difference in New Covenants: Chapter 8 vs. Chapter 10
In chapter eight, I stated that the New Covenant for the Hebrews (contained in that chapter) looked very similar to the one for Christians (in this chapter). Let's look at this version.
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)
They both describe the change that God brings about in the hearts and minds of the heirs to the Promise. And they both talk about God's forgiveness. So, what's the big difference in wording between the two covenants?
In case you missed my earlier clarification, I use the term Christians to refer to Messianic Jews and Gentiles, alike. And I use the term Hebrews to refer to those that Paul described in the book of Romans –his people that he so dearly loved (Romans 9:1-5).
The Hebrews' New Covenant
We saw in chapter eight that their covenant is prefaced with "when I will effect a New Covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah," and with "Behold, days are coming," and "after those days." This covenant will not go into effect until after Israel's enemies have been punished –after the Tribulation period.
The specific words of their New Covenant are "I will put my Laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother saying 'know the Lord, 'for all will know Me, from the least to the greatest of them.' For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more."
Take a look at the sequence in which their covenant is realized. First, God says "I will first put My Laws into their minds" to make them immediately understand who Jesus was and is. They will be appalled at what they did to their Messiah when He came those many years ago –and how they shamefully ignored Him ever since. And then He says "I will write them on their hearts" –gradually making His love evident –as expressed through His Son. Those who accept the Promise will have their identity changed from being driven by the Law to being driven by His love.
There are two phrases in the chapter eight version that do not appear in chapter ten. The first, "And I will be their God, and they shall be My people" is tied to God's not speaking to them since Jesus was with them in bodily form. And "not teach everyone . . ." comes from Deuteronomy 11 which has to do with the role of the Hebrews as God's ambassadors. Since the cross, the Holy Spirit has been charged with teaching people (John 16:7-11).
The Christians' New Covenant
The first words in this passage say "the Holy Spirit also testifies to us." It's to us and it's in effect now!
The words of our New Covenant are "I will put My laws upon their heart, and on their mind I will write them, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."
Now, Take a look at the sequence in which our covenant is realized. First, God says "I will put My Laws upon their heart." He has expressed His love by putting the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the seal of our salvation (2 Corinthians 1:21-22), as our Helper (or Comforter) who teaches us all things (John 14:25-29), as the Spirit of truth who guides us into all truth (John 16:12-15). And then He says "on their mind I will write them." As we experience life, we gradually learn to depend more on God and less of the things of this world. That's God's process of "renewing our minds" (Romans 12:1-2).
Hebrews: Make Your Decision Wisely
Romans, chapter eight, gives us titles for the laws of the New and Old Covenants. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death" (Romans 8:2). Laws are established on a basic principle: an action is followed by a corresponding response. The simplistic view of the law gravity has an action: "whatever goes up" and a corresponding response: "must also come down." Similarly, under the Law of the Old Covenant, "whoever sins must die" and under the Law of the New Covenant, "whoever has the Holy Spirit has eternal life."
The true High Priest lived under the Old Covenant and fulfilled it by transferring the sins of the world on to Himself and then dying as its Law required. Upon His death, His last-will-and-testament ushered in the New Covenant. The people were "set free" from the Old so that they could become heirs under the New and receive the inheritance of eternal life.
The Hebrews that Moses led were faced with a choice. They could either remain in the desert-wilderness or enter the Promised Land. They didn't have the option to keep one foot in the wilderness and the other foot in the Promised Land –effectively stand in the middle of the River Jordan. Likewise, the Hebrews of New Testament time had to choose whether they would either remain under Moses' Old Covenant or enter Jesus' New Covenant. They too, had no middle-ground.
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, 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)
Jesus was punished for every sin –for every person. Justice has been served. Not even a tiny bit of punishment remains to be carried out. By sacrificially offering His life, He has made His followers righteous, sanctified, and perfect. Because of that, they have unlimited access to God.
There is a particularly relevant passage in First John which contains the familiar phrase "God is love." But it's the whole of the passage that's important.
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. (1 John 4:15-18)
This 1 John passage concludes that as long as a person is fearful of God, they cannot be perfected in love. The only reason to fear Him is that He might punish them in some way. That raises the questions, "Did Jesus die for all of your sins or not? If He did, then have you entered the Promise?" Everyone who entered has become a new creation and that creation can never die again (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
If Proverbs 1:7 comes to mind, "The fear of Lord is the beginning of knowledge," read it in the context of the two covenants. When it says "the beginning of knowledge" it's talking about the first step toward salvation –entering the Promise. The rest of the proverb goes on to say "Fools despise wisdom and instruction." Fools despise God's testimony and His Son.
This world is filled with distractions from faith in God and preoccupations with the things that mankind tries to control. That's what is so appealing about the Law. People believe that because they present their sin offering –whether it's the blood of animals, religious rituals, or merely prayers– then God has to forgive him. How ridiculous to think that God can be controlled by using His own rules to manipulate Him.
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. (Hebrews 10:23-25)
The Hebrews needed reminding that Jesus has been here and seen it all. He was the Son of God who lived among men and experienced life's troubles. He died to redeem mankind from the destination they deserve. He tore down the wall of separation between man and God. And He is faithful to lead all, who follow Him, into the promised kingdom.
The express purpose for the Hebrews to do good things, and to meet together, was to encourage them to step over the threshold of faith. The word threshold really fits here. It comes from the word "thresh," which is to tread or step, and the word "old." The intended picture is stepping out of the Old Covenant and into the New.
Early in this study we looked at that manipulating preacher who misuses the Bible –especially some of these Hebrews passages– to beat us down and make us feel unworthy. His sermons go something like this:
- "You discovered sometime ago that what you were doing was sinful; and yet, you're still doing it."
- "You can't claim ignorance any more."
- "You are sinning willfully against God and you are on your way to Hell."
- "You better change your ways now or you're going to spend eternity with the Devil."
By now, you have seen and grasped the context of the book of Hebrews. Hopefully, you have become more discerning so that you aren't easily led down that road of manipulation. Here's the passage that preacher would be misusing in an attempt to exploit you.
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 10:26-27)
The source of the quote in this section, "The fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries," is Isaiah 26:11 where God promises vengeance for His people. Like the Jeremiah 30 passage in chapter nine, the context of Isaiah 26 is Israel's triumph over her enemies at the Tribulation.
A Recap of the Hebrews' History
Moses led the Hebrews to the entrance of the Promised Land.
Caleb and Joshua entered –they witnessed the land's goodness –they reported that it could be easily taken.
But even after seeing the light of God's glory, tasting the manna and His word, sharing the Holy Spirit, and seeing the miracles, that stubborn people "sinned willfully" –they intentionally refused to trust God and enter His rest.
After those rebellious people died in the desert-wilderness, Joshua led the next generation into the Promised Land –God's Sabbath rest.
"Sinning willfully" equates to deliberately rejecting Jesus as "the way" into eternal life in the kingdom of God. Those who do not follow Him are God's adversaries and they will be consumed.
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)
These Hebrews knew the Law of Moses. When Jesus came to earth, He came as the Son of God –He came in God's name. Anyone who did not follow Jesus was guilty of breaking the third commandment. "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain" (Exodus 20:7). They weren't merely being naive or negligent. Rather, God views them as having:
- "Trampled under foot the Son of God"
- "Regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified"
- "Insulted the Spirit of grace"
There is nothing worse that a person can do. It's the unforgivable sin.
The source of the quote "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay." and "The Lord will judge [vindicate] His people" is Deuteronomy 32:35-36. Although this passage in Hebrews uses the word "judge," Deuteronomy uses "vindicate." It too means judge, but it's in the context of "determining (judging) that an accused person is innocent." Those who don't follow Jesus will receive vengeance and those who follow Him will be declared innocent.
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.
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 10:32-39)
The Hebrews that we are talking about had been exposed to Jesus' teachings and lived among His followers. They had even endured the same persecution. The message here is for them to continue pressing forward –until they cross the finish line and receive their reward –until they accept the Promise and receive their salvation.
The quote, "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" is from Habakkuk 2:3-4. It's prophesying about Jesus' first coming. People often ask, "What about the 'shrinking back' part of this verse? Will God be displeased with me if I lose heart at some point?" There is only One who was righteous and faithful His entire life. And He is the One who did not shrink back –from the cross. Jesus' Father said "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased" (Matthew 3:17).
The phrase "in Christ" (or words very similar to it) is found over 170 times in the New Testament. The concept is to be immersed in Jesus –much like being baptized in water (Galatians 3:26-28). We who have followed Him into the Promise have been clothed in His righteousness like Adam and Eve were clothed in the skin of the first sacrifice. We need none of our own (Philippians 3:7-11). I've referred to the last part of Second Corinthians 5 several times in this chapter. Verse 21 says "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). It's hard to comprehend that we have become the righteousness of God –yet it's true because we have entered the Promise –we are "in Christ."
Continue reading: "Chapter Eleven: Examples of Those Rewarded for Living by Faith"
Law (Legalism) vs. Grace
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. (Galatians 5:18 - NIV)