Lecture 21: Hebrews 10:26-39
Lecture: Hebrews 10:26-39
26 For if we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins is left for us, 27 but only a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fury 30 of fire that will consume God’s enemies. 28 Someone who rejected the law of Moses was put to death 32 without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much greater punishment do you think that person deserves who has contempt for the Son of God, and profanes the blood of the covenant that made him holy, and insults the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know the one who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. 32 But remember the former days when you endured a harsh conflict of suffering after you were enlightened. 33 At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and afflictions, and at other times you came to share with others who were treated in that way. 34 For in fact you shared the sufferings of those in prison, and you accepted the confiscation of your belongings with joy, because you knew that you certainly had a better and lasting possession. 35 So do not throw away your confidence, because it has great reward. 36 For you need endurance in order to do God’s will and so receive what is promised. 37 For just a little longer and he who is coming will arrive and not delay. 38 But my righteous one will live by faith, and if he shrinks back, I take no pleasure in him. 39 But we are not among those who shrink back and thus perish, but are among those who have faith and preserve their souls.
I. Plurality in leadership
Let’s look at the warning passage here in 10:26 and following. This is a very harsh word of warning in this part of Hebrews. There is no mistaking the nature of this language. If we deliberately (εκουσίως γαρ) go on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, then there is no longer a sacrifice for sin for us. When the author shifts to exhortation in Hebrews, he uses an inclusive type of Greek word here. It is a formal aspect of exhortation in Jewish Hellenistic sermons of the time. There is a shift back and forth between third person pronouns in the exposition; Christ did this, Christ did that, etc. to a shift to the
second person in the pronoun you or first person plural we. This is a formal aspect of Hellenistic sermons of the times. My wife uses the inclusive we; we need to build such and such in the back yard. So, he says that there is something that no longer remains if we go on deliberately sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth. I think what he means by deliberately sinning; this isn’t an argument for sinless perfection in a believer. I think he is describing someone who is rejecting the Gospel. This becomes clearer as we go down the passage. So, after you receive knowledge of the Gospel and continue in this pattern of rebellion against God; there no long remains a sacrifice for sin. So, in verse 25, we had the Day of the Lord concept where you have judgement on the wicked and vindication of the righteous.
II. Hebrews 10:26-29
26 εκουσίως γαρ (For where voluntarily) αμαρτανόντων ημών (we sin) μετά (after) το λαβείν (receiving) την (the) επίγνωσιν (full knowledge) της (of the) αληθείας (truth,) ουκέτι (no longer) περί (for) αμαρτιών (sins) απολείπεται (is left) θυσία (a sacrifice;)
27 φοβερά (fearful) δε (but) τις (a certain) εκδοχή (expectation) κρίσεως (of judgment,) και (and) πυρός (fire) ζήλος (a zealous) εσθίειν (to devour) μέλλοντος (being about) τους (the) υπεναντίους (adversaries.)
28 αθετήσας τις (Anyone disregarding) νόμον (the law) Μωϋσεως (of Moses) χωρίς (without the help) οικτιρμών (of compassions) επί (upon the testimony)
δυσίν (of two) η (or) τρισί (three) μάρτυσιν (witnesses) αποθνήσκει (dies.)
29 πόσω (Of how much) δοκείτε (do you think) χείρονος (worse) αξιωθήσεται (shall he be worthy of) τιμωρίας (punishment) ο (the one) τον (the) υιόν (son) του θεού (of God) καταπατήσας (having trampled,) και (and) το (the) αίμα (blood) της (of the) διαθήκης (covenant) κοινόν (as common) ηγησάμενος (esteeming,) εν (in) ω (which) ηγιάσθη (he was sanctified,) και (and) το (the) πνεύμα (3 spirit) της χάριτος (of favor) ενυβρίσας (having insulted?)
Why? It is because Christ’s sacrifice is final; the earthly sacrificial system has been done away with, because of the sacrifice of Christ. Now we can’t go to some other sacrifice to have a relationship with God. In verse 27, we have (φοβερά,) a fearful or some would translate this terrifying expectation of
judgement as a zealous fire; one translation says a fury of fire. They become a life in the fearful expectation of judgement. This is a consuming fire. He then turns to an Old Testament illustration with verse 28; if anyone lays aside the Law of Moses, apart from mercy or pity. This has to do with compassion or pity; he dies on the basis of two or three witnesses. Here is the first part of the argument from lessor to greater in this passage. If a person sets aside the Law of Moses, just putting it aside as insignificant, the punishment is death under the old covenant system. Then he turns to the greater situation in verse 29 and says, how much worse punishment do you think he deserves trampling on the Son of God and considering treating the blood of the covenant as common by which one is sanctified and outraging the Spirit of Grace. For emphasis, he includes three descriptions of a person in this spiritual condition. He first describes the nature of the punishment as much worse than simply being put to death. It is because the person is trampling on the Son of God under foot. He is secondly treating the blood of the covenant as common.
I translate this by which one is sanctified, not by which he was sanctified. I think that the impersonal there is important theologically. It also works grammatically. You could translate this, by which a person is sanctified. The idea of treating the sacrifice of Christ as common is a very rich Old Testament concept. If you had a sacrifice to come in that was blemished, you would say that it wasn’t worthy of a sacrifice. The animal was treated as common rather than a worthy sacrifice. So, a person turning their backs on Jesus; they are trampling on Jesus with their feet which is an interesting contrast for all of Jesus’ enemies will be put under his feet according to Psalm 110:1. They are treating the blood of the covenant as common by which a person is sanctified and they outrage the Spirit of Grace, that is, the Holy Spirit. He re-enforces this harsh warning. How can you argue that this warning passage is dealing with believers? If these people are trampling on Jesus under their feet, treating his blood as common and outraging the Holy Spirit; to me this is too harsh for these passages to be referring to believers. To me, again, it isn’t something that seems to fit. The author re-enforces this warning with a quote from Deuteronomy 32. The purpose of the section is to warn; the process, in part, is a process of lessor to greater. In this case the lessor situation is rejecting the Law of Moses under the old covenant. The greater situation is the trifold description of trampling Jesus under your feet, which is an image of ultimate insult and treating the blood of the covenant as unfit or common and thus out-ragging the Holy Spirit. If this is what you have been involved in, you deserve much worth than death.
III. Hebrews 10:30-31
30 οίδαμεν γαρ (For we know) τον (the one) ειπόντα (having said,) εμοί εκδίκησις (Punishment is mine,) εγώ (I) ανταποδώσω (will recompense,) λέγει (says) κύριος (the Lord.) και (And) πάλιν (again, saying) κύριος (The Lord) κρινεί (will judge) τον λαόν αυτού (his people.)
31 φοβερόν (It is fearful) το εμπεσείν (to fall) εις (into) χείρας (the hands) θεού ζώντος (of the living God.)
There is a twin quote in verses 35 and 36 of Deuteronomy 32 here in Hebrews 10: 30. He is talking about vengeance. You would say that vengeance is mine, I will repay. The Lord will judge his people. The author includes in verse 31which says that it is a fearful thing to fall in the hands of the Living God. It is very clear that the first part of the passage quoted here is about judgement. The second part, it is possible to interpret this in two ways. In the context of the second part, there is the idea of the Lord having compassion on his people. You could read it as a parallel, but there is a theological dynamic of
vengeance, repaying his people. Another way of understanding this; it would not be a statement of judgement but of vindication. So, it would be a contrast in that the Lord will vindicate those who are his people. In favor of that second view is the original context of the Old Testament passage in Deuteronomy 32. Secondly, the author is about to mitigate this warning by saying that God has acted among you in the past. Then in chapter 12, the climax of the book in verses 18 and following, he gets to the passages on the new covenant, we of the new covenant have come to the Lord, the righteous judge. It is not that we are coming to God who will judge us, but we are coming to God who vindicates us as his people. His role as judge is a role of vindication in terms of the new covenant. This second statement I believe is a statement of vindication that leads into the mitigation. He ends this thought in verses 31 by saying that it is a fearful thing falling into the hands of the Living God. This sums up the statement of judgement. This is a very potent type of warning here.
IV. Hebrews 10:32-39
32 αναμιμνήσκεσθε δε (But call to mind) τας (the) πρότερον (prior) ημέρας (days,) εν (in) αις (which) φωτισθέντες (having been enlightened,) πολλήν (much) άθλησιν (conflict) υπεμείνατε (you endured) παθημάτων (of sufferings;)
33 τούτο (this) μεν (indeed) ονειδισμοίς τε (both in scornings) και (and) θλίψεσι (afflictions) θεατριζόμενοι (being made a public spectacle;) τούτο δε (but by this) κοινωνοί (partners) των (of the ones) ούτως (thus) αναστρεφομένων (behaving in being scorned) γενηθέντες (having become.)
34 και γαρ (For both) τοις (in) δεσμοίς μου (my bonds) συνεπαθήσατε (you sympathized;) και (and) την (the) αρπαγήν (seizure) των υπαρχόντων υμών (of your possessions) μετά (with) χαράς (joy) προσεδέξασθε (you accepted,) γινώσκοντες (knowing) έχειν (to have) εν (in) εαυτοίς (yourselves) κρείττονα (a better) ύπαρξιν (possession) εν (in) ουρανοίς (heavens,) και (and) μένουσαν (abiding.)
35 μη (Do not) αποβάλητε (throw off) ούν (then) την παρρησίαν υμών (your confidence,) ήτις (which) έχει (has) μισθαποδοσίαν (payment) μεγάλην (1 great.)
36 υπομονής (of endurance) γαρ (For) έχετε (you have) χρείαν (need,) ίνα (that) το (the) θέλημα (will) του θεού (of God) ποιήσαντες (having done,) κομίσησθε (you should receive) την (the) επαγγελίαν (promise, saying,)
37 έτι γαρ (For yet) μικρόν όσον όσον (a little while) ο (the one) ερχόμενος (coming) ήξει (shall come,) και (and) ου (will not) χρονιεί (delay.)
38 ο δε (But the) δίκαιος (just) εκ (2 of) πίστεως (3 belief) ζήσεται (1 shall live;) και (and) εάν (if) υποστείληται (he keeps back,) ουκ ευδοκεί (2 takes no pleasure)
η ψυχή μου (my soul) εν (in) αυτώ (him.)
39 ημείς δε (But we) ουκ εσμέν (are not) υποστολής (keeping back) εις (to) απώλειαν (destruction,) αλλά (but) πίστεως (of belief) εις (for) περιποίησιν (a procurement) ψυχής (of life.)
The final unit is verses 32 to 39. The purpose and process includes the mitigating of the warning in a very specific way. It does this by offering a positive example to those who hear it. It softens the blow to an extent by offering a positive example to the hearers. It is their own past example of their own experience. The process in that he uses is their-own past experience as the example. He concludes a conflated passage to a text that is brought together.
The details involve encouraging them to remember the former days. He is pointing them back to a previous time of their experience. He describes this kind of experience to a time that they had stood their ground for Christ with the church. He says, remember the former days which having been enlightened, they endured. They endured a great struggle (άθλησιν) or trial of suffering; some might even translate this as contest. He is pointing to their past experience of which they were able to continue in that situation in the midst of this difficult time in the past. You have a construction of (τούτο μεν/τούτο δε) in the next verse. This is communicating a kind of sometimes and other times. Sometimes, they were put to shame with reproaches meaning insults or being insulted; basically being abused is the idea given here. At other times, he says that they were sharers (κοινωνοί) or participants with the ones being treated in the same way. It may convey the idea of standing with those who were going through public insults and being abused. They may have been participating in the abuse being put on the Christian community in a very direct way. As he goes on in verse 34 talking about the sympathizing with those who were prisoners. There are two parts here in verse 34 that characterize their experience of being sharers with others. They sympathize with the prisoners and they welcome with joy as others plunder of their possessions. So Christians were being put in prison and jail; there were those who were taking their property. Why were they able to do that with joy; they knew that they had a better and lasting possession. Being able to suffer with those who are in prison and dealing with the seizing of property. Their ability to do that was because of the bigger external perspective; they were receiving something that was going to last. The way he states it is that they already owned it. Historically, it may be the expulsion under Claudius, what the author is referring to here.
There were times in the Greco-Roman world which the Romans had forced expulsions. Perhaps there was a time if that is the expulsion that is being talked about in which there was a conflict within the Jewish community. We know that Aquila and Priscilla were expelled from Rome because of this. If that is what in mind here, then when people were displaced during these times; people were evicted from their homes and afterwards people would loot their homes. Some people were put in jail; so this may be the historical backdrop of what is going on here. The thing to remember is that the manifestation of this persecution involved being publically ridiculed. The term there of being put to shame was a word originally meaning of bringing them upon stage. They also experience the emotional trauma of standing with those who were being abused. They sympathized with those who were in prison and some of their property was taken off them. But, there is a happy response; they were able to receive all of this with joy because they had an eternal perspective. The author says in verse 35; telling them to cast away their confidence, (την παρρησίαν υμών). We see this word at the beginning of 10:19; this involves a great reward. So, don’t throw that away. I think that the use of this term suggest that of turning their backs on the Christian community and the message of the Gospel. In continuing: for you have need for endurance in order that having done the will of God, you may receive the promise. He ends this section by a quotation which is actually a conflation of two Old Testament passages: Isaiah 26:20 and 21and Habakkuk 2:3 and 4. So, there are two Old Testament passages brought together here. He is contrasting the righteous who live by faith and the wicked who reject God. I think the reason why the author brought these together is because both passages mention the coming. Isaiah says that the Lord is coming and Habakkuk says that the revelation of judgement will come. So, it seems that this relates to the Day of the Lord; the righteous are going to be rewarding and the wicked are going to be punished. This is tied very directly to the Lord’s coming. So, in the face of the challenging and difficulties they need to live out endurance in light of the second coming of Christ in which there will be vindication of the people of God and punishment of the wicked. Yet, in a very little while, the coming one will come and not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. This leads us into chapter 11.
The author concludes the unit with this; we are not those who shrink back unto destruction, but of faith unto the preservation of the soul. So, he plays off of the conflated quotation here; contrasting the righteous and those who don’t endure. Then he says that we are not those who shrink back but instead
those who endure to the preservation of the soul. We are those who are of faith. So, the passage needs to be interpreted in light of inaugurated eschatology. In regards to application of this section; what does this say to us about a pastoral concern in dealing with people who are struggling with the faith. We see that warnings are appropriate but strong encouragement is also appropriate. One aspect of encouragement is to encourage on the basis of someone’s past faithfulness and endurance. The Book of Hebrews gives us an example of how we deal with people who are struggling in the faith. In part, we deal in terms of warning and in part we deal on the basis of encouragement and also examples of those who have endured.