The author’s drumbeat continues loud and clear in our passage this week: “Don’t turn back, don’t turn back, don’t turn back – don’t throw it all away! No! Persevere, persevere, persevere!” We must not be like that person Jesus spoke with in Luke 9, who was in danger of being unfit for heaven:
Luke 9:61–62 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
LOOKING BACK (Hebrews 10:19-25)
The writer has been going into some detail essentially from Chapter 1 verse 1 onwards about how much better Jesus is than all that has come before, and yet how closely linked He is through prophecy, types, shadows etc with that past economy. But now he wants to say to his readers, including us, “It’s not enough to admire Jesus’s superiority conceptually.” It is not enough to smell a delicious meal so that your mouth starts watering in anticipation but never actually eating it. It’s not enough to be able to recite all the specifications of an electric car that is standing in front of you but never getting in to drive it. You have to experience these things, not just know about them!. And much, much more importantly for the wellbeing of our souls, we have to experience Jesus – actually to know Him, rather than just knowing all about Him.
He first reminds us again that Jesus shed His blood and opened a way for us to draw near to God that was closed off (almost totally) under the Old Covenant. He draws to our minds that Jesus is our eternal High Priest Who saves to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them. Then He says, in effect, “The benefits and blessings of what Christ has done are meant to be enjoyed and experienced by His brothers and sisters, so:
- Draw near. Jesus fully cleansed our consciences by His sacrifice. He opened a way for us so that we may draw near to God – well, then, get on and do it! Experience the closeness with the Father that Jesus died to make available to you!
- Hold fast to your hope! THe writer has said before that this hope belongs to the children of God. So that we might be assured of it, the Father promised it and then swore by Himself to give it to us – well, then, get on and hold fast to it! Experience the peace and the assurance that are meant to be ours because our hope is so certain!
- Stir one another up! We are meant to experience relationship with Christ as we fellowship with one another – since He is being formed in them and in ourselves. Well, then, get on and experience the joy of fellowship and the encouragement there is when brothers and sisters live together as the work of Christ has enabled. Of course, we cannot do this if we drift away and get into a habit of not meeting with other believers.
So then, let’s heed the exhortation in this passage. Let’s not be content with knowing about Christ and all that He accomplished in His work to save lost souls like yours and mine. How foolish to die still in our sins when we knew all about a wonderful Savior and a glorious and certain salvation that He gives to all who will come to Him. You can experience Christ right now! You can feel what it is like to have a clean conscience. Truly knowing Christ, you can know love which surpasses all understanding, joy which is unspeakable and full of glory, supernatural peace in your soul. You can sense the spiritual ties that are created between you and every other true believer. What could possibly be holding you back from this?
LOOKING FORWARD (Hebrews 19:26-39)
We have seen the writer skillfully blending warning and encouragement as he addresses these dear ones who were tempted to turn away from Jesus and return to the vastly inferior Old Covenant and the law of Moses. He does the same here, in a passage that parallels chapter 6 of this letter quite closely.
He begins with the warning in verses 26-31. The sacrifice of Christ cleanses the consciences of those who trust Him so that they can draw near to God. It put an end to the Old Covenant sacrifices for sin, because it was so efficacious and no need for another sacrifice remained after His. What should we think, then, of someone who comes to a knowledge of the truth about this once for all sacrifice, designed to put an end to sin, who then makes no effort to stop sinning but continues in willful and deliberate rebellion against the will of God? Surely such a person cannot truly be saved!
To put it another way, those who were under the Old Covenant and set out to deliberately break its terms and conditions effective turned back to their previous lives of slavery, idolatry and godlessness, away from the gracious covenant God had made with them. These were put to death provided there were two or three credible witnesses to their wickedness. “Well, now,” says the writer, “I have shown you a new and incomparably better covenant that is sealed with the blood of the Son of God Himself. What do you think will be done to those who turn their backs on Jesus?” The God of the Bible is infinitely kind, loving and gracious. However, He is also a consuming fire and we should tremble to have Him as our enemy. There are few greater offenses against God than unbelief – to know the truth about Jesus and yet to harden our hearts and refuse His gracious offer to save us. It is, as it were, to spit contemptuously in His face. It will not end well for such people when this day of salvation is ended and the Day of Judgment dawns.
And then, as he does after his warning in Chapter 6, the writer adopts a tone of kind encouragement (verses 32-39). He rehearses before them all the evidences of genuine salvation that they have so far produced. They had accepted hardship in this world and lived in the light of the hope of glory.
Finally, he pleads with them not to throw away their confidence in Christ and its certain, great reward, but to keep on keeping on, which is the surest and most hopeful sign to them and to others that they belong to Christ and not to this world any longer. He urges them, for the little while until Christ returns, to continue living a life of faith and to produce the fruit that must go along with it.
We need to persevere in Christ – we must persevere, and God has given us everything we need so that we may! Among a very long list of these things are:
- His Son to be our Great Priest;
- His Spirit to live within us;
- His Word to nourish and strengthen our souls (in which are His great and precious promises);
- Access to Him in prayer by a new and living way that Jesus opened for us by His blood;
- A body of believers in the church to encourage us (and with whom we can celebrate His ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper);
- “The whole armor of God,” so that we may stand under the assaults of the Evil One.
We need not despair, nor feel that God doesn’t care, or that He has abandoned us – this incomplete list is abundant proof to the contrary and you can certainly add to it, because having given us His Son, God has along with Him given us all good things! Press on to the end, friends, strong in the strength that He supplies!