10:1. The law, standing here for the entire Old Testament economy, offered only a shadow of the good things which were to come in the Messianic era of fulfillment, an era which, with Christ, has already begun (see note at 9:11). It did not minister the very image of heavenly realities but mere types and shadows. The thought here is the same as at 8:2, 5; 9:1, although the words used are different.
Since perfection belongs to the new order and not to the former, it is not surprising that worshippers under the old were not made perfect. That they were not is evident in the offering of the same sacrifices one year after another, continually.
10:2. If the worshippers had been purged or cleansed by those offerings, they would have had no longer a bad conscience regarding sins. By contrast see John 13:10; Acts 15:9; I Corinthians 6:11; Hebrews 9:14; I Peter 3:21.
10:3. The opposite was true, however. The offering of jealousy, for example, was “an offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to remembrance” (Numbers 5:15). Even the sacrifices of the Day of Atonement were reminders of past sins (Leviticus 16:21); furthermore, yearly repetition testified to their inability to cover future sins.
A contrast may be noted here between the sacrifices of the old covenant and the Lord’s Supper of the new. The former memorialized the sinfulness of the worshippers and constantly reminded them of their shortcomings. The latter memorializes the single sacrifice of Christ, by which worshippers now are constantly cleansed of sin. Remembrance here is the same word found in I Corinthians 11:24-25 and may be translated “memorial.”
10:4. All that has been said in the first three verses leads to one conclusion: the blood of animals cannot take away the memory of or bad conscience resulting from sins.
10:5. Foreseeing that animal blood could not take away sin, God had from eternity planned another offering to which burnt sacrifices always pointed. What follows must be seen in the light of this wherefore, as the writer begins to explain the significance of sacrificial blood and the forgiveness Christ makes possible.
The purpose of Christ’s advent into the world as a man may be expressed in words taken from Psalm 40:6-8, which our author here puts in His mouth.“Sacrifice and offering of animals or produce is not what You really desire,” Jesus says to the Father. “You have prepared a human body for me instead.”
Our author is quoting the Greek Old Testament which says “a body you have prepared.” The Hebrew text says, “you have dug out my ears.” The final meaning is the same, however, and may be explained along either of two lines. Ears may stand here for the entire body, the part for the whole. If God formed ears for the man, He prepared also the rest of his body.
Approaching the text another way, one may interpret Christ (or David, originally) to be saying “You have made ears that I may hear Your will and do it” (see Isaiah 50: 4-5). Either way the point is the same God does not desire a mere multiplication of Old Testament sacrifices and offerings. What He does want from man is indicated by the gift of a human body. He wants a human life dived according to His will.
10:6. God has never desired sacrifices above human obedience. If man had obeyed, in fact, he would not have needed sacrifices at all. This was true from the beginning of Israel’s history (Jeremiah 7:21-23; I Samuel 15:22; Psalm 51:16-17) to the time of the great writing prophets of the eighth century (Isaiah 1:11-17; Amos 5:22-24; Micah 6:6-8).
Each type of offering under the old covenant served a particular purpose, and all are included under the present principles. Sacrifice was the regular term for the peace offering, a conciliation for the restoring of fellowship. Offering was the generic term for the meal or cereal offering, a donation representing the consecration of the giver. Burnt offering indicates the oblation expressing worship. The sin-offering was made for expiation or atonement.
Whatever the purpose and whatever the offering, none was God’s first choice from man. It is better to maintain fellowship than to restore it, to show consecration by a life than by an offering, to worship by giving oneself than a burnt animal, to obey than to atone for disobedience. God simply wanted human conformity to His will, manifested in sincere and loving obedience. Christ came to give this — and the Father gave Him a body for that purpose.
10:7. The psalm quotation continues. “I come,” Jesus says, “to do thy will, O God.” The parenthetical phrase, “in the volume of the book it is written of me,” is also from the psalm. Again, two meanings are possible. Christ may be saying, “what is written in the Law I apply to myself to keep.” Or He may mean, “what David said in the psalm regarding obedience was a prophetic statement of Myself and My work.” Both are true and both should be included in our understanding.
Psalm 40:8 adds a phrase not quoted here: “Thy law is within my heart.” David of old applied what the Law said to his own life, so that God’s precepts were not written in the book alone but also inscribed in his heart. How fitting for the Christ to be foretold in such a context! For the new covenant He mediated is characterized by laws inscribed in men’s hearts (see 8:10).
10:8-9. Our author comments on the sense of the psalm. Christ first mentioned sacrifices and offerings, he notes, then He spoke of His own coming to do God’s will. Christ took away the first — the offering of all those sacrifices, to make the second stand — human obedience to all God’s expressed will for man.
10:10. Because Jesus gave God human obedience in a human body, then offered that body in death, we who are His people are sanctified or made holy on the basis of God’s will which Jesus perfectly demonstrated in His body. Will here is the same as in verses seven and nine; it is not the same word used for a testament-will.
Sanctified here is in a participle form meaning something now the case because of what happened previously. We are those who have been sanctified and still are — because of the past offering of the body (symbolizing the well-pleasing life) of Jesus.
Once for all is emphatic in the original here because of its location in the sentence. We have seen this word already at 7:27 and 9:12. A slightly less intensive form appears at 6:4; 9:7, 26-28; 10:2 and 12:26-27.
10:11. The old testament priest performed imperfect service, and stood day after day to repeat often and regularly the same sacrifices; sacrifices which, ironically but logically, could never fully remove sins.
10:12. Jesus, on the other hand, presented one sacrifice for sins, His body (or, in other places, His blood), standing for His perfect human life. This was sufficient for ever. His offering completed, Jesus has now sat down. Delitzsch expresses the contrast of these verses well. “The priest of the Old Testament stands timid and uneasy in the holy place, anxiously performing his awful service there, and hastening to depart when the service is done, as from a place where he has no free access, and can never feel at home; whereas Christ sits down in everlasting rest and blessedness at the right hand of Majesty in the holy of holies, His work accomplished, and He awaiting its reward.”
The figure of Christ at God’s right hand is taken from Psalm 110, which our author has used many times. Here he has come almost full cycle from 1:3, and is about to tie up his argument.
10:13-14. Christ as priest has made His offering. Christ as king is waiting for the total subjection of all His subjects. God has made Him king already; Christ now possesses all authority (Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:21-22; I Peter 3:22). But not all men have yet acknowledged His authority, though some day they must (I Corinthians 15:24-25; Philippians 2:8-11).
Psalm 110 forms a backdrop before which the risen Christ is seen throughout the New Testament Scriptures. As noted already, most references to the psalm outside Hebrews emphasize Christ’s kingship. Hebrews usually stresses His priesthood. Here the two are combined. As priest, Christ has made His offering and His people are waiting for His return. As king, He is at God’s right hand, waiting for full recognition by men. As throughout the New Testament writings, the end has already begun but it is not yet completed. We live in the interim.
10:15-17. Those trusting in the sacrifice of Jesus are perpetually and completely sanctified. This has been argued already, and to this the Holy Spirit agrees as witnessed in the Old Testament Scriptures. Our author refers again to Jeremiah 31, which he discussed at length in chapter eight.
The Spirit there stated first, “This is the covenant I will make,” speaking of Christ’s covenant in which laws would be placed in men’s hearts and minds. But the Spirit added (our author points out), “and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”
10:18. Remission of sins means that God does not remember them any longer. Where there is such remission, no more offering is needed for sin. With this, the argument of Hebrews ends. The rest of the epistle consists of exhortations or warnings based on the points already established.
We have a high priest who has offered a perfect offering because it represented a human life perfectly in accord with God’s will for man. By that sacrifice, we are perfected. God has promised not to remember our sins any more. There will be no further offering; there is no need for another.
Christ now is mediating the blessed benefits of His once-for-all sacrifice for all His covenant people. He waits for His kingship to be fully recognized. His people wait for His return with the inheritance already secured. The writer of Hebrews urges his readers to be among the faithful who will receive the blessing.
10:19. Boldness here represents a word which has the root idea of freedom of speech, therefore, freedom from fear or inhibition. The phrase, to enter the holiest, may also be translated “boldness for an entrance into the holiest.” Both the personal act and the general fact depend on the blood of Jesus.
10:20. Our entrance (see Ephesians 3:12) is by means of a way or road that is new, a particular Greek word which originally meant “freshly-slain.” It is also living, therefore effectual to attain its desired and intended goal.
Some commentators and translators think his flesh explains the veil, others that it refers to the way. If the former is intended, the human body of Jesus is a veil separating His perfect life from God in heaven. His spirit passed through that flesh on its way to glory. If the latter is meant, the human body of Jesus is itself the way which He consecrated through the figurative veil separating man from God. His people travel down the road of His human Life into God’s presence. In fact, Jesus did pass through the flesh to His present position of glory and man must pass through His human life (that is, the merits it secured) to find salvation.
In either case, Christ has consecrated or dedicated or officially opened a new highway from man to God by His blood. We have confidence to venture upon it because Jesus has travelled it ahead of us and is now safely in heaven at God’s right hand (see comments at 6:19-20).
10:21. The Christian has also a high priest over the house of God (see notes at 3:1-6). Having both boldness and such a high priest, saints are exhorted regarding relationships with God, their own faith and one another.
10:22. Let Christ’s people draw near (the same word in 4:16; 7:25 and 11:6) to the Father with a true heart, a heart that is sincere and without guile (see the same point in John 4:23-24). Such an approach is to be in full assurance of faith, that is, in the complete confidence and total persuasion which faith can give.
We have been separated from dead works by the figurative sprinkling of the blood of Jesus (see 9:13-14); we have been set apart for service to God as well. The priests were to wash in water before entering the tabernacle to serve (Leviticus 16:4) — this may be in the mind of the author here.
I believe that the hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience represents the spiritual cleansing of the conscience by the Holy Spirit, through the merit of the life of Jesus as represented spiritually by His blood — in other words, the inner part of regeneration. The bodies washed with pure water represents the physical act of baptism in water, the divinely-ordained manner by which faith reaches out to take hold of sovereign grace. It is the outer element in regeneration.
It is not uncommon for New Testament writers to speak of the physical and spiritual together in this way. Jesus talked of a birth of water and the Spirit (John 3:3, 5). Peter told his Pentecost audience to be baptized for remission of sins and the reception of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Saul of Tarsus was told to be baptized and wash away his sins, calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16); neither he nor Ananias had any doubt that his sins were washed away by a spiritual cleansing based on the blood of Christ.
We read of the Corinthians being baptized by the Spirit into one body (I Corinthians 12:13); of the washing of water by the word (Ephesians 5:26); of merciful salvation by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). Peter makes it clear that baptism is related to salvation because it is the appeal to God for a good conscience (I Peter 3:21). His careful explanation that baptism is not merely the removal of bodily defilement shows that the inner and outer go together and that they might be misunderstood. The same verse emphasizes that baptism saves “by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
The full assurance of faith is possible just because our Standing is grounded in the finished work and the single offering of Jesus Christ. John Bunyan speaks of God addressing the sinner in these words: “Sinner, thou thinkest that because of thy sins and infirmities I cannot save thy soul, but behold my Son is by me, and upon Him I look, and not on thee, and will deal with thee according as I am pleased with Him.” We are accepted in the Beloved — first, last and always (Ephesians 1:6, KJV); but, praise God, in the Beloved we are accepted”
10:23. Again the exhortation to hold fast our own profession or commitment of faith. The better manuscripts here have “hope,” in keeping with previous exhortations (see 3:6, 14; 4:14; 6:11). God is the one that promised, and God is faithful reliable and trustworthy. No one who commits himself to God in hope will ever be disappointed or betrayed (see also 6:11-12, 18).
10:24. Christ’s people must also consider or pay attention to one another, with an intention to provoke or stir up to love and good works. The word here translated provoke gives the English word “paroxysm,” and appears in the New Testament Scriptures only here and at Acts 15:39. The mutual consideration enjoined is the duty of every Christian and is a clear, though frequently neglected obligation.
10:25. Such holy provocation cannot occur with the forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, although some had done just that. It happens rather by exhorting each other in assemblies called for that purpose, as well in the normal course of daily life.
It has been suggested that these readers were still meeting in Jewish synagogue assemblies, but remaining for Christian devotions on the Lord’s Day. Some were neglecting this additional assemblying, for which they are chided. Others have suggested that some were absenting themselves from the regular assemblies of the saints through pride or party-spirit and were holding private meetings instead.
It is best to take the passage in its context and simply say that those who have access to God’s presence and who have a high priest in heaven are to draw near to God, hold fast their own hope, and encourage Christian loving and living in one another. They will not do this by calling an end to Christian assemblies (through fear of persecution or simple indifference), but rather by meeting together for exhortation.
Such encouragement is to intensify as the day is seen approaching. Throughout the Old Testament literature “the day” means an occasion when God visits a people to punish sin and deliver the righteous. The New Testament writers also speak of such a final day of punishment and salvation. Before the destruction of Jerusalem, many early Christians did not know to separate the end of the Jewish state and religion from the close of the present age and end of the world (see Matthew 24:3; Acts 1:6-8). Jesus had taught, however, that the two would not come together (Matthew 24:33, 36; Mark 13:29, 32).
The author to the Hebrews may write before or after the climactic days of the closing sixties. Whatever the date, he speaks of the final day of the Lord — the denouement of all human history at the consummation of the age His readers had not learned to separate that “day” into the separate events of resurrection, judgment and so forth, but thought of the entire event in terms of the phrase from the Old Testament.
As Delitzsch puts it, this is “the day of days, the final, the decisive day of time, the commencing day of eternity, breaking through and breaking up for the church of the redeemed the night of the present.” It is a poor argument that believers could not see this day approaching. James could urge patience in affliction “for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” (5:6-8). Paul could speak of saints “knowing the time” that “the day is at hand” (Romans 13:11-12). Peter could write of impending judgment and “the end of all things” as “at hand” (I Peter 4:5, 7). The word in all three passages is the word translated approaching here. Furthermore, all three contexts contain ethical instruction regarding proper conduct and mutual concern among Christian believers in view of the impending end.
10:26. Warning follows exhortation. To sin willfully is not to commit a single sinful act of weakness or ignorance, but, as the Greek verb form indicates, to continue in a constant practice of sin. Nor is sin here just any kind of sin, but specifically the sin of disbelief which shows itself in forsaking Christ altogether. While such apostasy may occur gradually (see the warnings of 2:1-3; 6:11-12), it ultimately comes about through an act of the will which rejects Christ and His offering for sin. One might observe that even the Old Testament sacrifices made provision only for sins committed in ignorance or weakness — not for presumptuous or willful sins (Numbers 15:22-31).
What is envisioned here is a rejection of the new covenant, after it has been received with faith and joy. Here is a will to sin in spite of a full knowledge of the truth, knowledge being a thorough knowledge both in mind and by personal relationship.
Apostasy from Christ is dreadfully severe because there is no more sacrifice for sins. His offering, once for all, is man’s last chance and only hope. The person who rejects that — especially the man who has known it personally and then rejected it — is hopelessly lost, for he has set his will against the only basis of forgiveness and the only sacrifice God will accept. Regular assemblying of saints for mutual exhortation is so important because it helps prevent the damnation that comes through loss of faith.
10:27. The deserter may look forward only to judgment and fiery indignation (see Deuteronomy 9:3; Psalm 79:5, Isaiah 26:11; 30:27; 64:2; Zephaniah 1:18), which is all the more fearful because it is certain. This judgment is designed for God’s adversaries or enemies or opponents. One places himself in that category when he forsakes Christ and rejects His sacrifice.
10:28. Under the law of Moses the man who forsook God’s covenant and worshipped idols was stoned to death without mercy upon conviction through the testimony of two or three witnesses (see Deuteronomy 17:2-7).
10:29. If apostasy under the inferior covenant was hastily and rigidly punished, how much sorer punishment must be proper for the man who rejects the new covenant instituted by the blood of the Son of God? The question is left open for consideration by each reader — suppose ye?
Rejection of Christ and His offering involves a turning from the most holy elements of divine religion, and that in the cruelest manner. It is to renounce and tread under foot (see the same word at Matthew 5:13; 7:6; Luke 8:5) the Son of God. It is to regard the blood of the covenant (see comments at 9:18-20) which makes man holy (wherewith he was sanctified) as itself common and unholy. It is to despise the very Spirit of grace.
Do despite translates a word which comes into our language in the noun “hubris.” This word was used by the ancient Greeks for the most presumptuous arrogance and haughtiness, and was regarded as the worst possible sin. The idea is seen in various forms of the word translated “entreat spitefully” (Luke 18:32; Matthew 22:6), “use despitefully” (Acts 14:5), “reproach” (II Corinthians 12:10) or “shamefully entreat” (I Thessalonians 2:2). Just as it is cruelly ironic for the covenant blood which makes holy to be regarded as itself unholy, so it is for the Spirit whose ministry brings divine grace to be rejected with arrogance and insolence!
10:30. We can appreciate the severity of punishment awaiting such a one, for we know God who has claimed vengeance as His own prerogative and has promised to recompense. These words are probably taken from the Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:35), and they are quoted by Paul in urging Christians not to avenge themselves (Romans 12:19).
Another quotation from the Song of Moses shows the severity of divine judgment: The Lord will judge his people (Deuteronomy 32:36). This phrase may be interpreted two ways. In the Old Testament passage (see also Psalm 135:14) God judges His people by rescuing them and punishing their enemies. The author of Hebrews may be saying that God will vindicate those who are faithful to Christ in spite of adversity and temptation by punishing those who once knew Him but turned away. Or he may use the term in a general sense to mean that God will condemn the apostates and so “judge” them.
10:31. In either event, the point is the same: It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God! It is fearful because He is God, and all-powerful; it is more fearful because He is the living God and eternal in wrath.
It is well that we should realize that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not soft, shallow, or flabby. It is a matter of blood and fire, a solemn, and, at times, almost a fierce thing (Robinson).
10:32. Fear of punishment is a powerful incentive; so is the precious memory of early faithfulness. Call those former days to your mind, he urges. After becoming Christians, or being illuminated (see comment at 6:4 where the same word is used), they had endured much for their faith.
Great fight here translates a word for an athletic contest — the figure will reappear in 12:1-2. Afflictions are literally “pressures” on the Christian. This pressure results from tension, created by the opposing pulls of old nature and new, God and Satan, of the Present Age and the Coming Age.
10:33. On the one hand, our author’s first readers had been personally made a gazingstock. This word means to be brought shamefully before public view, as in a theater, and reminds us of the later martyrdom of Christians by wild animals in public displays. These saints had not faced lions or leopards but the spiritual beasts of reproaches (see 11:26; 13:13) and afflictions from their associates.
On the other hand, they had become companions or partners or sharers with other Christians so mistreated for Christ’s sake. Used here signifies a way of life characterized by affliction. This is not a one-time occurrence. Under such perpetual and constant attack, the man of faith shows the genuineness of his commitment. This will be the subject of a strong exhortation in the next chapter.
10:34. The Hebrew Christians had shown compassion or sympathy toward those who were imprisoned for their faith. The better manuscripts and later versions have “those in bonds” instead of “me in my bonds.” They had experienced the spoiling or snatching away of their own goods or substance, and that with joy. They knew that they had better possessions in heaven, possessions that were enduring, and for those they could endure the plunder of earthly goods.
10:35. They had been faithful before, they can now remain true to Christ. Do not cast away your confidence (see comment at 10:19; see 3:6; 4:16 “boldly”), he urges. It has great wages or recompense of reward (2:2; 11:26).
10:36. Patience means endurance, and is a key note in the author’s song of encouragement. What God has promised He will surely give (9:15; 11:13, 39-40), but only after faithful endurance according to the will of God.
10:37. Yet a little while, he urges, taking words from Isaiah 26:20. The Greek here literally says, “a little — how very, very little!” By comparison with the ages of eternity, how very, very well this describes the short Christian conflict on earth! For the same point from the perspective of saints already martyred, see Revelation 6:9-11.
He that cometh here refers to Christ the high priest. The author takes the phrase from Habakkuk 2:3 (Greek version). Christ was “He that Cometh” when He came into the world as Messiah (see Matthew 11:3; Luke 7:19; John 6:14). He is “He that Cometh” now to the Christian who awaits His return (see 9:28). Assurance is given that He will come and will not tarry.
10:38. Two categories of men are named. The just or righteous will live through their faith — again words from Habakkuk (2:4; see also Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11). Faith here stresses the element of endurance — with almost the sense of “hope” in other New Testament epistles. The second category consists of those who draw back in disbelief and in them God finds no pleasure.
10:39. The exhortation closes with a word of optimism. We includes the author and his first readers. We are not of that class who draw back, and end in perdition or destruction, but of those who believe and keep on believing to the resultant saving of the soul. The next chapter will demonstrate the character and behavior of saving faith through examples of saints long dead. Here the readers are urged to be among the faithful.
Some will be rejected, cursed and burned (6:8), but “we are persuaded better things of you” (6:9)! Let each believer be fully informed regarding the destiny of deserters and apostates. Let him tremble before the Wrath of a righteous God. But let him then be encouraged and consoled and strengthened, lest he become discouraged and fall to another of Satan’s devices. This is the true style of exhortation, and Hebrews is above all a “word of exhortation” (13:22).
Next: Chapter Eleven