In a world full of court rulings evicting churches from school buildings, ISIS beheading videos, and our own indwelling sin, the Church needs to hear the message of Hebrews afresh. Written to persecuted and suffering Christians, the book of Hebrews has served the Church for centuries in her hardest times.
The Absurdity of Perseverance and the Magnitude of God’s Promises
Just as the Jewish Christians to whom the author was likely writing were in danger of falling back into Old Covenant ways amidst intense suffering, the Church today is in danger of submitting to culture, fearing the threat of Islam, and buckling under the pressure of internal dissension.
We desperately need to be told to persevere and endure. Otherwise the absurdity of perseverance seems to beckon more powerfully.
But just as a massive skyscrapers requires a deep foundation, the almost absurd call to perseverance in light of the amount of trials we face requires immense and profound promises from God’s Word. This is just what Hebrews provides.
Grand Promises From Grand Chapters
As, perhaps, the grandest chapters in Hebrews, chapters nine and ten seem to lead up to and provide the basis for the author’s encouragement and exhortation to persevere in faith in 10:19 through ch. 11.
That chs. 9 and 10 serve as the ground for the exhortations of 10:19 through the greater part of ch. 12 is indicated by the use of the conjunction οὖν in 10:19. This conjunction, translated as therefore in many English Bibles, entails causality for a decision or explanatory reasoning for a specific action (Strongs, 3767).
The author’s argument is multi-dimensional in that there is not simply one basis for which the author uses to encourage his readers to remain faithful, but rather the author employs many arguments to do so. Therefore, it would be most helpful to list a few of the ways the author seems to exhort his readers by means of the promises of chapters nine and ten, as well as the preceding chapters:
- Because the blood of bulls and goats were never able to take away sins (10:4), it would be foolish to go back to the Old Covenant sacrificial system. Therefore, persevere. Besides, because Christ’s death inaugurated a New Covenant (9:15), thus rendering the Old Covenant obsolete (8:13) just as a death inaugurates a will (9:16), it would not even help anyone to go back to the old ways, for they are not even in effect in God’s mind any longer. Therefore, persevere.
- Because the things of the Old Covenant Law were merely shadows (9:23; 10:1), going back to the Old Covenant ways would be like divorcing the King to marry his shadow. By going back to the shadow and rejecting the substance, you blaspheme the ultimate sacrifice of the Son of God (10:29) Therefore, persevere.
- Because the Old Covenant sacrifices could not cleanse your dirty consciences, but only provided a daily and yearly reminder of your sinfulness (10:3), it would be existentially absurd to abandon a sacrifice that cleanses your entire life forever (10:14), as well as your guilt-ridden consciences here and now (9:14; 10:22). Therefore, persevere.
- Because we have a High Priest that lives forever to intercede for His people (7:24; 10:21), we can have confidence to draw near to God through faith (10:22, 23), even and especially in immense suffering. Therefore, persevere.
- Because perseverance in holiness is the proof that one has been perfected by Jesus’ sacrifice (10:14), if you fall away like those mentioned in ch. 6, you will prove to be among those that were never perfected in the first place (10:39). Therefore, persevere.
- Even though the gracious promises of the New Covenant mentioned in ch. 8 and 10:16 and 10:17 (a new heart, the indwelling Holy Spirit, God forgetting our sins, etc.) may seem too good to be true, too scandalous, too hard—nothing is too hard for God, because He is absolutely faithful to keep all of His promises (10:23b). Therefore, persevere.
- Because you have a better quality and longer lasting possession in Jesus Christ (10:34; Psalm 16:11), continue to endure the plundering of your property. Visit your brothers in prison because you will be rewarded in the New Heavens and New Earth (10:35). Therefore, persevere.
These are only seven of the ways in which the author exhorts his readers to persevere by means of the promises of chs. 9-10, and there are undoubtedly hundreds more that can be observed. Therefore, persevere.