Challenging, Yet Amazing and Wonderful

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

Hebrews 10:32-35

We continue now with the warnings in chapter 10. Remember the context;  Hebrews 10:19-39 is the section context in this letter written to Jewish Christians in Rome during the persecution of Nero to encourage them to hold on to their faith in severe trial, and following right after a section on the superiority of the New Covenant.

The author refers to an earlier persecution, a time of trial almost as difficult as the present one, when these Christians had come through with their faith intact, and then he urges them to continue to hold on through the present crisis promising them a rich reward.  We might ask ourselves what this reward is to be, is he referring to a temporal reward or an eternal one?  In context, it must be an eternal one- why? Because that is the reward that has been under discussion leading up to this section; there has been nothing in the text to tell us differently, thus that context remains in place. If we attempt to impose a different meaning here, then we might satisfy our doctrinal need to reinterpret this section, but we will have the wrong application for the text.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For,

“In just a little while,
he who is coming will come
and will not delay.”

“But my righteous one will live by faith.
And I take no pleasure
in the one who shrinks back.”
But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

Hebrews 10:36-39

Verse 36 keeps the last three verses of the chapter in context as an exhortation; this is critical to our understanding of 37-39.  Verse 37 tells us that Jesus is surely coming soon (so hang in there, hold on to your faith). Verse 38 tells us that the righteous will hold on to their faith, and yet some will shrink back and lose out, and verse 39 encourages us all to continue in our faith and not shrink back, for to shrink back will result in our destruction.  Notice that “destruction” is contrasted with “saved.” We are only left with one last question: What is destruction?

But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

Hebrews 10:39

It would seem entirely consistent with the context of this passage within the letter to the Hebrews, and within the New Testament, that our author is telling us that we could lose everything we have in Christ.

This chapter falls at the high point of the letter.  We’ve seen that our superior high priest has brought a superior sacrifice to establish a superior covenant based on superior promises.  We’ve seen that the old Law is gone, and that the New has come, and that the New is the reality that was only illustrated by the Old. We have learned that we can enter the Most Holy Place, the very presence of God with confidence, and we have been warned to hold on to what we have in Christ, even in very difficult times, because what we have is so great and so wonderful that nothing can compare with it.

This is a message of love and encouragement, not a threat or a warning about a God who wants to zap you!  Some have suggested that this passage is too harsh, others have suggested that it must be adapted to fit a doctrine:  Why? Too harsh- Really? Would we have God hide things from us and then fall away out of ignorance?  That would be the actions of a God looking for a “gotcha” moment, not a God of love.  Doctrinal traditions… would we really rather use this for an argument to be “right” about something that may or may not be right, when it is a message of encouragement?  Really?

All we have in the passage is a message that our hope is awesome, so hang on to your faith come what may, and you will be in an amazing place for all eternity… this strikes me as wonderful! You know why? Because I can do it, and so can you. This is not a burden, at least not until we make it one.  This isn’t negative; it’s positive… until we make it negative… and it certainly isn’t complicated until we impose our doctrines upon it and make it complicated… so why do that?

Here’s a challenge for you, just for fun: Forget everything you’ve heard and everything you’ve read, including what you’ve read here.  Then go back and read chapter 10 over again, verses 1-39. Don’t think about anything it doesn’t say… and then see if you haven’t just read the most amazing and encouraging thing ever!

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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1 Response to Challenging, Yet Amazing and Wonderful

  1. Pingback: Challenging, Yet Amazing and Wonderful — TLP – QuietMomentsWithGod

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