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
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.
IF IT COULD, WOULD THEY NOT HAVE STOPPED BEING
OFFERED?: Does not the repetition of the sacrifices itself point to their
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).
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
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
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).
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
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
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
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
See v 5n.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
The present tense (ie, "stands") may point again to the
existence of the temple and its sacrificial ritual at the time the epistle was
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".
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).
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.
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
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
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.
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).
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.
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).
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
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).
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.
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).
"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' "
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.
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
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).
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
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
" '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"
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
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
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;
KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH: "Epignosis" = exact knowledge.
An expression found also in the Pastoral Letters (1Ti 2:4; 2Ti 2:25; 3:7; Tit
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
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.
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);
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
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").
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
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!
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
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.
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
JOYFULLY: "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our
sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance" (Rom
HAD BETTER AND LASTING POSSESSIONS: The AV's "In
heaven" is omitted in many mss.
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.
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
"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
"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
"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' "
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
FOR IN JUST A VERY LITTLE WHILE: From Isa 26:20 (LXX):
"For a little moment" -- until the indignation (punishment for drawing back) be
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).
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
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)."
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