Amplified: But be ever mindful of the days gone by in which, after you were first spiritually enlightened, you endured a great and painful struggle, (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
Barclay: Remember the former days. Remember how, after you had been enlightened, you had to go through a hard struggle of suffering, (Westminster Press)
NLT: Don't ever forget those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: You must never forget those past days when you had received the light and went through such a great and painful struggle. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: But constantly be recalling the former days in which after being enlightened, you remained steadfast throughout a great struggle consisting of sufferings,
Young's Literal: And call to your remembrance the former days, in which, having been enlightened, ye did endure much conflict of sufferings,
THE FIVE WARNING PASSAGES
|Heb 2:1-4 (notes)|
|Heb 3:7-4:13 (notes)|
|Heb 5:11-6:12 (notes)|
|Heb 10:19-39 (notes)|
|Heb 12:14-29 (notes)|
BUT REMEMBER THE FORMER DAYS WHEN, AFTER BEING ENLIGHTENED YOU ENDURED A GREAT CONFLICT OF SUFFERINGS: de Anamimneskesthe (2PPMM) de tas proteron hemeras en ais photisthentes (APPMPN) pollen athlesin hupemeinate (2PAAI) pathematon:
- Gal 3:3,4; Php 3:16; 2Jn 1:8; Rev 2:5; 3:3) (He 6:4; Acts 26:18; 2Cor 4:6
- He 12:4; Acts 8:1, 2, 3; 9:1,2; Php 1:29,30; Col 2:1; 2Ti 2:3-13; 4:7,8
- Hebrews 10 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
CONTRASTING MESSAGE TO
(1) Received knowledge of the truth (He 10:26)
(2) Sanctified (He 10:29)
|(1) Enlightened (He 10:32)|
(1) Go on willfully sinning (He 10:26)
(2) Trample under foot Son of God (He 10:29)
(3) Regard as unclean the blood of New Covenant (He 10:29) (Cp setting aside Old Covenant He 10:28)
(4) Insult Spirit of Grace (He 10:29)
(5) Shrink back to destruction (He 10:39)
(1) Endured great conflict of suffering (He 10:32) -- Made public spectacle -- Sharers w those made spectacle
(2). Sympathized with prisoners (He 10:34)
(3) Accepted joyfully seizure of property (He 10:34)
(4) Live by faith (He 10:38)
(5) Have faith to the preserving of the soul (He 10:39)
|(1) No longer remains a sacrifice for sins (He 10:26)
(2) Terrifying judgment (He 10:27)
(3) Fury of consuming fire (He 10:27)
(4) Deserve > punishment than those committed "high handed" sins under the Old Covenant. (He 10:29)
(5) God Himself will repay (He 10:30)
(6) Lord will judge (He 10:30)
(7) God has no pleasure in him (He 10:38)
(8) Destruction (He 10:39).
(1) A Better Possession (abiding one). (He 10:34)
(2) Great Reward (He 10:35)
(3) What was promised (He 10:36)
(4) Righteous (He 10:38)
(5) Soul preserved (He 10:39)
But (de) - marks a contrast with the preceding warning message for falling away (see the table above for points of contrast). The writer now proceeds to encourage his readers for doing exactly the opposite - enduring in the face of adversity.
Ray Stedman - Once again, as in chapter 6, we see the writer's confidence that most of those he addresses are not apostate, as he describes in He 10:32-34. He seeks to recall them to the love and steadfastness they had exhibited when their faith in Jesus was new. They had received the light as had also those now threatening apostasy, as He 10:26 makes clear. But most had: (1) accepted insult and persecution to their own person, or supported others so treated; (2) visited and sustained those put In prison for their faith; and (3) actually felt joy over watching their property confiscated, since they took comfort in the fact that their true treasures were in heaven, not on earth. Such actions were the product of true faith, and he urges them to keep this confident faith in verses 35-36, since perseverance is the proof of reality. The persecutions and injustices they endured presented strong temptations to give up, to accept the values of society around, and to forget what they had learned about the realities of life, death and eternity. Many are tempted today to throw away [their] confidence. Confidence is what motivates appropriate action in view of the times in which one lives. (Hebrews Commentary Part II)
William Kelly commenting on this section writes that "Relaxation is ever a danger for soldiers when on service, as Christians always are here below; and those who had been Jews were exposed to it as much at least as Gentile brethren… The Hebrew believers had begun well (cp Gal 5:7); they are here urged to continue enduring the fierce conflict of the enemy.
W E Vine - The writer now turns to minister comfort to his readers who are truly regenerate, just as he did at He 6:9 when he said, “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you.” He reminds them of their former afflictions, their endurance and devoted ministry, exhorts them to boldness and patience in view of the coming of the Lord, and rejoices that he and they are not of them that “shrink back unto perdition,” as in the case of those whose judgment he had mentioned in He 10:26-31, but “of them that have faith to the saving of the soul.”
Spurgeon - Some of you can “remember the former days” when you joined the church, when you had to run the gantlet for Christ’s sake. Then, in your early Christian life, you feared nothing and nobody so long as you could glorify God. Then, you had great enjoyment, sweet seasons of communion with your Lord: “Remember the former days.”
Remember (363) (anamimnesko from ana = again + mimnesko = remember so literally recall again is more forceful than mimnesko alone) carries idea of carefully thinking back and reconstructing something in one’s mind, not merely remembering. Call to remembrance. Cause to remember. To remind someone of something. In passive voice means to be reminded or to remember.
Remember is in the middle voice which is reflexive and can be rendered something like "remind yourselves" (cp similar use 2Cor 7:15).
Wuest - The words “call to remembrance” are the translation of Anamimnesko which Alford says is stronger than the simple verb, and means “call over in your minds, one by one,” the present tense implying constant habit. (Hebrews Commentary online)
John MacArthur comments that the idea of anamimnesko in this passage "is that these fellow Jews, who were so close to salvation, should, truth-by-truth and event-by-event, look back on what they had learned and on what they had experienced because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This would be a strong deterrent to apostasy and a strong encouragement to belief.
Anamimnesko is stronger than the simple verb mimnesko, and in this verse is a command in the present tense (present imperative) charging his faithful readers to continually recall to their minds the truths listed ("advantages, actions, accounting" in above table), one by one. Anamimnesko carries the idea of carefully thinking back over something in one’s mind, not simply remembering (2Cor 7:15). Compare the writer's charge here to the charge by Joshua to the leaders of the tribes to set up stones to function as signs (memorials)…
Joshua 4:7 (Context = Josh 4:5, 6) then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.”
Anamimnesko - 6x in 6v - NAS = remember(1), remembered(1), remembers(1), remind(2), reminded(1).
Mark 11:21 Being reminded, Peter said to Him, "Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered."
Mark 14:72 Immediately a rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had made the remark to him, "Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times." And he began to weep.
Comment: This surely is one of the most poignant NT uses of anamimnesko! Put yourself in Peter's sandals for a moment, imagining his body heart rate pick up as he heard the first ominous crow of a rooster crow. Surely he won't crow again. And then as the second crow sounded forth imagine how he must have painfully recalled to his mind his Master's prophetic prediction!
1 Corinthians 4:17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.
2 Corinthians 7:15 His (Titus - 2Co 7:13, 14) affection abounds all the more toward you, as he remembers the obedience of you all (This "reminds" me of one of my favorite verses for those I have had the privilege to disciple - 3John 1:4), how you received him with fear and trembling.
2 Timothy 1:6-note For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
Comment: Paul is constantly actively stirring up "embers" of past memories to stimulate Timothy not to shrink from the sufferings (reproach and tribulation) that a stand for Christ is "guaranteed" to bring but that he should press on to maturity, to run the race with endurance, to fight the good fight, to finish the course, to keep the faith. Paul is saying in essence "Remember when God did this or that for us… when He answered our prayers so clearly… when He removed incredible obstacles… when He performed the impossible… etc. Beloved of the Father, may He grant each of us His all sufficient grace to continually have a ready recall of the great things God has done in our life so that we are encouraged and confident that He will complete the work He has begun in each of us (Php1:6-note).
Hebrews 10:32 But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings,
Anamimnesko - 19x in the non-apocryphal Septuagint - Gen 41:9; Exod 23:13; Num 5:15; 10:9; 2 Sam 18:18; 20:24; 1 Kgs 4:20; 17:18; 2 Kgs 18:18, 37; Job 24:20; Ps 109:14; Jer 4:16; Ezek 21:23f; 23:19; 29:16; 33:13, 16. Here are some representative uses…
Numbers 5:15 the man shall then bring his wife to the priest, and shall bring as an offering for her one-tenth of an ephah of barley meal; he shall not pour oil on it nor put frankincense on it, for it is a grain offering of jealousy, a grain offering of memorial, a reminder (Hebrew = zakar; Lxx - anamimnesko) of iniquity.
Numbers 10:9 "When you go to war in your land against the adversary who attacks you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered (Hebrew = zakar; Lxx - anamimnesko) before the LORD your God, and be saved from your enemies.
Beloved you may have begun well and if so you certainly want to end well. Here the writer of Hebrews says that a major component of finishing well is to remember well. And so the writer seeks to remind and recall them to manifest the love and steadfastness they had exhibited when they first fell in love with Jesus (cp Rev 2:4-note, Rev 2:5-note). Oh, how we all need to hear and heed the sage writer's plea!
S Lewis Johnson - Now, the encouragement that he wants to give them is the same kind of encouragement that the author offered in the 6th chapter. You can see how this is very much upon his heart; the encouragement of believers who have been suffering for their faith. Back in Hebrews 6:10, he wrote to them, “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” And, you’ll notice, He 10:32, reminds one of that, “But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings.” And then in Hebrews 6:12, he said, “[But] do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” And in Hebrews 10:36, he says, “For you have need of endurance, so that having done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” (Hebrews)
Wuest - The writer now turns from his solemn warnings against apostasy, to a word of encouragement arising from the conduct of his readers in the past. Their firmness under persecution did not look likely to end in apostasy. So he cheers and invigorates them by recalling to their memories their past afflictions because of their testimony to the crucified risen, ascended Messiah. These persecutions came from the adherents of Judaism. Just as a Jew who receives the Lord Jesus is bitterly persecuted today by his brethren after the flesh, so it was in the first century. (Hebrews Commentary online)
Application: To have enduring faith in trials, remember how God worked in the past (Heb 10:32, 33, 34).
Steven Cole - “The former days” refers to the time just after these Hebrew Christians had been saved. The author draws their minds back to how God had worked in their lives during that time, in spite of some very difficult circumstances. His point is, “You did well then, so you can hang in there now and in the future if persecution hits.” He reminds them of three things that were true of them as new converts, which also are true of all believers: Remember how God enlightened you with a new, godly understanding of life. Unbelievers are described in Scripture as being spiritually blind, unable to “see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” (2Co 4:4) Only God can command the light to shine out of darkness. (2Co 4:6) He “shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2Co 4:4, 6). Before God opened our eyes, we did not even see our need for the Savior. We mistakenly thought that we were good enough to get into heaven by our own righteousness. We had no idea of how terrible our sins were or of how holy God is. We did not appreciate the fact that the Son of God gave Himself on the cross to pay our debt of sin. But then, while we were yet in such darkness, God graciously opened our eyes. With the converted slave trader, John Newton, we could sing, “I once was blind, but now I see!” I remind you, however, that the apostates had experienced some degree of enlightenment, and yet they were not truly saved (He 6:4-note). It is possible to have a fair amount of theological under-standing, and yet be lost! Some men have devoted their lives to studying the Bible and writing scholarly books. But these scholars have never repented of their sins and put their trust in Christ as Savior. They are “enlightened,” but headed for eternal destruction.
Former (4387) (proteros from pró = forth, before) means prior (earlier in time or order), previous (going before in time, implying existing or occurring earlier), of an earlier time, all pertaining to a point of time earlier in a sequence. Proteros refers to a period of time preceding another period of time. Before (at an earlier time), formerly; first, first of all; at first, the first time, originally.
Louw-Nida add that proteros is used in Gal 4:13 to mean…
first, with the implication of emphasis, frequently in reference to time—‘the first time.’
Earlier in Hebrews the writer had used proteros to describe the OT Israelites…
Hebrews 4:6 Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience (Note: disobedience equates with unbelief in Heb 3:18, 19-note)
Proteros - 11x in 11v -Jn. 6:62; 7:50; 9:8; 2 Co. 1:15; Gal. 4:13; Eph. 4:22; 1Ti 1:13; Heb. 4:6; 7:27; 10:32; 1Pe 1:14. NAS - as before(2), first(2), first time(1), former(3), formerly(2), previously(1).
John 6:62 "What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?
John 7:50 Nicodemus (he who came to Him before, being one of them) said to them,
John 9:8 Therefore the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, "Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?"
2 Corinthians 1:15 In this confidence I intended at first to come to you, so that you might twice (Literally "a second grace" or "second favor" = idiom for a second visit) receive a blessing;
Galatians 4:13 but you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time;
Vincent on proteros in this verse: Either generally, at an earlier time than the present (as Jn 6:62; 9:8; 1Ti 1:13), or the first time (as Heb 7:27). Here in the latter sense. Paul had visited the Galatians twice before he wrote this letter.
Ephesians 4:22-note that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,
1 Timothy 1:13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief;
Hebrews 4:6-note Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience,
Hebrews 7:27-note who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.
Hebrews 10:32-note But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings,
1 Peter 1:14-note As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance,
Proteros - 61x in the non-apocryphal Septuagint -
Ge 13:3; 26:1; 28:19; 38:28; 40:13; Exod 10:14; 23:28; 33:19; Lev 4:21; 5:8; 18:27; 26:45; Num 6:12; 10:33; 14:14; 21:26; 32:17, 30; Deut 1:22, 33; 2:10, 12, 20; 4:32; 9:18; 24:4; Josh 1:14; 3:14; 10:14; 11:10; 14:15; 15:15; 24:12; Judg 1:10; 18:29; 2 Sam 19:20; 1 Kgs 13:6; 1 Chr 9:2; 15:13; 29:29; Neh 13:5; Job 42:5; Eccl 7:10; Isa 1:26; 41:22; 46:9f; 48:3, 7; 52:4, 12; 61:4; 65:17; Jer 11:10; 28:8; 30:20; 33:7, 11; 34:5; Dan 3:22; Hos 2:7
Genesis 13:3 He went on his journeys from the Negev as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning (Lxx = proteros), between Bethel and Ai,
Genesis 26:1 Now there was a famine in the land, besides the previous (Lxx = proteros) famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham. So Isaac went to Gerar, to Abimelech king of the Philistines.
Genesis 28:19 He called the name of that place Bethel; however, previously (Lxx = proteros) the name of the city had been Luz.
Isaiah 65:17 "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former (Lxx = proteros) things will not be remembered or come to mind.
The former days - This phrase identifies what the writer is saying as a definite experience of his readers at a certain time in the past - at some time in the past they had the experienced enlightening (cp He 5:12-note, He 5:13, 14-note).
After being enlightened - They had heard the truth of the Gospel and intellectually had understood that truth. While faith necessitates hearing the truth of the Gospel, faith that is effective to bring about salvation must impact not just one's head, but one's heart. In other words, the belief that brings about the new birth is more than a "demonic" like, intellectual assent to a set of facts or truths (Jas 2:19-note), for while the demons believe in God, clearly they are not saved. To be sure, genuine belief which results in salvation clearly involves intellectual assent ("enlightenment"), but it also includes an act of one's heart and will. Biblical saving faith is not passive assent but an active staking of one's life on the claims of God.
The respected Greek scholar W E Vine defines belief as consisting of
(1) a firm conviction which produces full acknowledgment of God's revelation of Truth - (2Th 2:11 -"in order that they all may be judged who did not believe [pisteuo] the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.")
(2) a personal surrender to the Truth (Jn 1:12 "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe [pisteuo] in His name") and
(3) a conduct inspired by and consistent with that surrender. This is not faith plus works but a faith that works. Faith alone saves but the faith that saves is not alone.
So what does "enlightenment" mean in the present context? Examination of their "works" ("endured a great conflict of sufferings… made a public spectacle… sharers with those who were so treated… sympathy with the prisoners [this surely would not have been "safe"]… accepted joyfully the seizure of your property" - He 10:32, 33, 34) would strongly support that these "enlightened" individuals were genuine saints who had undergone true conversion to Christ.
Enlightened (5461) (photizo [word study] from phos = light <> from phao = to shine) means to give light or to cause light to shine upon some object, in the sense of illuminating the object (see below for Eadie's description of the effect of photizo). Figuratively, it means to cause something to be fully known by revealing clearly and in some detail. It means to shed light upon or to illuminate.
Eadie comments on Paul's use of the verb photizo in Ephesians 3:9 (note) -The verb photizo, followed by the accusative of the thing (Ed: "former days"), denotes to bring it into light; but followed by the accusative of the person, it signifies to throw light upon him—not only to teach (didasko), but to enlighten inwardly—to give spiritual apprehension. If one gaze upon a landscape as the rising sun strikes successive points, and brings them into view in every variety of tint and shade, both subjective and objective illumination is enjoyed. No wonder that in so many languages light is the emblem of knowledge. That mystery which was now placed in clear light was not discerned by the Jew, and could not have been perceived by the Gentile for the shadow which lay both on him and it.
In one sense every man is enlightened (Jn 1:9), but enlightenment does not necessarily guarantee salvation. Head knowledge never saved anyone. Whether "enlightenment" refers to intellectual knowledge regarding the "good news" (see Heb 6:4-note; He 10:26-note) or is indicative of Spirit wrought regeneration is demonstrated by one's life (Jas 2:20-note, cp 2Co 13:5). In the present case note that the group he is referring to in this section seems to manifest fruit in keeping with genuine repentance - they were persecuted and did not immediately fall away suggesting that they were genuine believers.
When the Spirit of Truth makes one a new creature in Christ (2Co 5:17-note), he will come under attack from the enemy and the temptation will be to turn back to their former way of life. The one who turns back (descriptive of apostasy in the language of Hebrews) and remains "turned away" from Christ, demonstrates that they were never truly born again (cp Mt 13:5, 6, 20, 21, Lk 8:6, 13).
Steven Cole - To have faith that endures trials, remember how God worked in the past, focus on doing His will in the present, and look to His promises in the future.
Endured (5278) (hupomeno [word study] from hupó = under, as in under the rule of someone + meno = to abide or remain - study noun hupomone) means literally to remain under not simply with resignation, but with a vibrant hope. The idea of enduring is not just to "grin and bear it" but to remain under trials in a such a way that we glorify God as we learn the lessons the trials are meant to teach us, instead of seeking ways to get out from under (cf the prefix preposition "hupo" = under) the trials and be relieved of the pressure. Hupomeno was a military term used of an army’s holding a vital position at all costs. Every hardship and every suffering was to be endured in order to hold fast.
Endured is in the aorist tense and the indicative mood which emphasizes that this group of readers really did endure. This was a "historical" reality for them. Hupomeno is also used in Heb 12:2, Heb 12:3 and Heb 12:7. The related noun hupomone is used in Heb 10:36 and Heb 12:1.
Hupomeno - 17x in 16v - Matt 10:22; 24:13; Mark 13:13; Luke 2:43; Acts 17:14; Rom 12:12; 1 Cor 13:7; 2 Tim 2:10, 12; Heb 10:32; 12:2f, 7; Jas 1:12; 5:11; 1 Pet 2:20. NAS - endure(3), endure… with patience(1), endured(5), endures(3), patiently endure(1), perseveres(1), persevering(1), remained(1), stayed behind(1).
Endurance is a critical Christian virtue. Unless we have endurance, we can never learn many of the truths that God wants us to learn, truths that will lead us into a deeper (experiential) life in Christ and a more fruitful ministry. Children are usually impatient; they cannot sit still long enough to get the things done that need to be done. “How long do we have to wait?” is the child's typical question. Impatience is a mark of immaturity. Impatience is also a mark of unbelief.
Bishop Trench defined hupomeno (hupomone) as manifesting the "temper of spirit in which we accept God’s dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.
Wayne Detzler recounts an amazing true life example of Christian perseverance writing that "True Christian perseverance is not tied to tenacity. It is rather the work of God the Holy Spirit in a believer's life. The starch in a saint's spine is shown by Scripture to be nothing less than the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Only in this way can one explain the work of Gladys Aylward, a London parlor maid. Societies scorned her missionary application. She seemed too dull to master Chinese and fulfill her vision of serving in China. Realizing this, she scoured up her own fare to China and sailed in 1930. After slogging her way across Siberia she reached her field in remote Yangcheng. When the Japanese invaded in 1940 she led 100 children on an epic journey that caught the imagination of Hollywood (Ed: Watch the movie about her life - The Inn of the Sixth Happiness or DVD). In 1947 failing health forced her back to England where she crusaded for missions until her death in 1970. That was tenacity, not just British grit. It is God's persevering grace. (Detzler, Wayne E: New Testament Words in Today's Language. Victor. 1986)
Another great example of a Christian who endured (persevered) under trials in a God honoring way is William Wilberforce (biography in Wikipedia or short bio in Christian History) the 19th-century parliamentarian, who was moved by the Lord to oppose the lucrative but humanly degrading slave trade. In 1807 Wilberforce brought about the banning of the slave trade in England but it was not until 1833 was slavery as an institution abolished, this news reaching Wilberforce even as he lay on his deathbed. Talk about persevering!
Great (4183) (polus) means many, much in quantity or amount.
Conflict (119) (athlesis from athleo - this is the only Biblical use; English word = athletic) is a noun which means a contest or combat, a challenge, and figuratively a struggle or a conflict. The only Scriptural use is Heb 10:32 (including no uses in Lxx or Apocrypha). In secular Greek athlesis was used of a "contest" especially of athletes. The verb form athleo means to engage in competition or conflict. Athleo is used figuratively in 2Ti 2:5-note where Paul encourages his readers to endure hardship and compares the believer to one “who competes as an athlete” to receive the victor’s crown!
Athlesis "evokes the image of public struggle in the arena". (TDNT) Athlesis conveys the idea of a struggle that requires great determination to win.
TDNT on this word group - athleo means literally “to engage in competition or conflict”; it is also used figuratively in 4 Maccabees. athleo in 2Ti 2:5 suggests the need for exertion, sacrifice, and discipline. sunathleo in Phil. 1:27; 4:3 carries the idea of striving, suffering, and working together. Athlesis in Heb 10:32–33 evokes the image of public struggle in the arena. Athlesis is used by Ignatius (To Polycarp 1.3) and 1 Clement (5.1) for leaders and the apostles, while Christ is the supreme Athlesis in Acts of Thomas 39.
Wuest - The word conflict is the translation of athlesis, which was used by the Greeks to speak of an athletic contest or combat. This word was used in the next generation, of martyrdom. It refers to a terrific struggle. (Hebrews Commentary online)
Athlesis, which always described a man involved in a tremendous athletic competition. This kind of athlete was serious about his sport and totally committed to the goal of climbing to the top in his profession. He was willing to undergo any hardship, any training, any regimen, and any kind of discipline in order to reach that goal of becoming the very best in his field of sports. The word athlesis describes this type of committed, full-time, professional, determined athlete.
The persecution was like a hard-fought athletic contest viewed by a partisan, even hostile crowd. There was nothing passive in their display. In fact, they showed superb spiritual athleticism as they stood their ground!
KJV = renders it as "fight" which is a probably a more accurate picture of the true meaning than "conflict"
Steven Cole "It was like a hard-fought athletic contest, with Satan vying for their souls."
MacArthur - Do you remember when you first came to Christ and it was … you came to the fellowship of believers and you heard about Christ. And I’m not talking about being saved yet (Ed: In referring to this verse in Hebrews 10:32), but just the facts. And you knew it and it was exciting it was kind of neat and it was warm and something was real going on there and you could sense it and you showed up and you liked it. Hey, he says, anamimnesko… remember those things. Look back and pick them up again. Run over in your mind, the word means one by one, the things you felt when you first came, how exciting and how fresh and how real and how, oh, it seemed like maybe this was answer to your problems. And little by little you grew cold and indifferent and begin to fade. And even that, he says, remember that you even endured a great fight of affliction. You even got persecuted along with the rest of us. I mean, you were so visibly identified with us, you got some of the abuse that we got. Remember that? Interesting word for fight there … Athlesis from which we get athletic… you went through all the rigors with us. It’s so common when Christianity is fresh, people come and they don’t worry about what others think. I always say it’s interesting how bold new Christians are. They haven’t learned to be cowards yet. It takes a while. They come to Christianity and it’s fresh and exciting and they like it, you know. And they get into the swing of it a little bit and then the pressure mounts up and it gets to be old hat. And they really don’t want to come to Christ because they like their sin and etc., etc., and they fade. And so the writer says remember. Remember those fresh days, those exciting days when it all began? The first time you ever heard it? Remember. (Hebrews 10:28-39 Apostasy: The Negative Response to the New Covenant 2)
Sufferings (3804) (pathema) describes what happens to a person and must be endured. Pathema is talking about the actual suffering itself - it refers to the very pain that we are experiencing right now - those very things that we can "see, touch and feel" - those things that are causing us anguish and emotional trauma. The writer is not discounting the feelings of his suffering readers who are standing firm. This is a good word for all of us - it is so tempting to tell a suffering brother or sister "You shouldn't feel that way." Even as the suffering is very real, so too are the feelings that are evoked by the suffering. Yes, tell them to hold on to their faith, and their feelings may soon "get in line", but in the meantime don't discount their feelings which are very real.
The sufferings of this life are the lot of all believers but keep in mind that for believers suffering takes on a different meaning and purpose then suffering in general - as believers we suffer for our faith in Christ (and Christ in us Who the world hates) and we suffer that we might be conformed to His image. Furthermore, any suffering and shame we experience in this life for the sake of the Christ "are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (see Ro 8:18-note)
Pathema - 16x - Ro. 7:5-note; Ro 8:18-note; 2Co. 1:5, 6, 7; Gal. 5:24; Phil. 3:10-note; Col 1:24-note; 2Ti 3:11-note; Heb. 2:9-note ; Heb 2:10-note; Heb 10:32-note; 1Pe 1:11-note; 1Pe 4:13-note; 1Pe 5:1-note, 1Pe 5:9-note. NAS - note most often in plural - passions, 2; suffering, 2; sufferings, 12.
Sufferings are the universal mark of all true Christians. Realizing that other Christians suffer in other places of the world, encourages us to move on in the faith (cp 1Pe 5:10-note). Suffering also unites believers a "brotherhood" of shared experiences. We can handle anything that life may bring us if we know the principles of the Word of Truth, which is the foundation for our shield of faith (Ro 10:17, Ep 6:16). And remember that we are not to be ignorant of Satan's schemes (2Co 2:11), one of which is to use suffering, trials, adversity, etc to discourage us and to "dislodge" us so that we don't continue to stand firm in the true grace of God (cp 1Pe 5:12-note, a passage also in the context of discussion of suffering = 1Pe 5:10-note). Our inveterate foe the Devil (more likely his underling angels) shoots fiery missiles (Ep 6:16-note) like "You're the only one suffering like this." And this fiery missile is a soul withering thought if not taken captive to Christ (2Co 10:5-note), for in the midst of the fire of affliction, it is easy to grow weary and want to give up (cp He 12:3,4-note) under the mistaken impression that no one else has as much trouble as we do. In this section the writer of Hebrews reminds his readers of God's truth which defeats and deflates Satan's lie.
Trudging the Trail - On a warm summer afternoon, three young people and I decided to hike along a five-mile stretch of the picturesque Tahquamenon River in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. We started out with energy and vigor, taking the first few hundred yards with ease. But then the path began to twist and turn as it followed the river's course. We trudged through low, muddy areas and scrambled up steep ridges. Fallen trees blocked the path, and we had to climb over or crawl under. To cross some of the creeks that flowed into the river, we either jumped or walked gingerly along narrow logs. We weren't sure how far we had to go or what lay ahead. Yet we knew our friends would be waiting at the end of the trail, so we had to keep going.
When we did stop for a brief rest, we talked about some parallels between our obstacle-ridden walk and the Christian life. We usually begin our Christian walk with great vigor, excited about our salvation. But it isn't long before we come upon the twists and turns of temptations and trials. We can get mired in the mud of mediocrity or plunge from the peaks of pride. All sorts of dangers and difficulties block our path. We aren't sure what's ahead, and we get weary and discouraged. But we know what awaits us in eternity, so we "run with endurance" the path that is set before us.
All of us get discouraged and tired at times. How pleasant it would be to stay where we are. When that temptation hovers, we must take a deep breath of the Spirit and keep moving on. For rich rewards await us at the end of the trail. —D. C. Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Falling drops at last will wear the stone.—Lucretius
Amplified: Sometimes being yourselves a gazingstock, publicly exposed to insults and abuse and distress, and sometimes claiming fellowship and making common cause with others who were so treated. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
Barclay: partly because you yourselves were held up to insult and involved in affliction and partly because you had become partners with people whose life was like that. (Westminster Press)
NLT: Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: It was partly because everyone's eye was on you as you endured harsh words and hard experiences, partly because you threw in your lot with those who suffered much the same. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: on the one hand, this, while you were being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and on the other hand, this, while you made yourselves fellow partakers of those who experienced the same.
Young's Literal: partly both with reproaches and tribulations being made spectacles, and partly having become partners of those so living,
PARTLY, BY BEING MADE A PUBLIC SPECTACLE THROUGH REPROACHES AND TRIBULATIONS: touto men oneidismois te kai thlipsesin theatrizomenoi (PPPMPN):
- He 11:36; Ps 71:7; Nah 3:6; Zech 3:8; 1Co 4:9
- He 11:26; 13:13; Ps 69:9; 74:22; 79:12; 89:51; Is 51:7; 2Co 12:10
- Hebrews 10 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
Partly - He is beginning to explain some of the great conflict of sufferings they had endured. Do we all not derive some comfort from knowing that others understand the difficulties we have (or are) experiencing.
Being made a public spectacle (2301) (theatrizo from theatron; our English word "theater") means to bring upon the stage, to set forth as a spectacle, and in this context to expose to contempt or derision. It is notable that common criminals were sometimes exposed and punished in the theater. Similar action was literally carried out in the case of Christians who were exposed to wild beasts in the Roman coliseum. On the other hand Jewish believers were not so much exposed to lions (some may have been exposed in Rome) but to reproaches and tribulations.
Theatrizo means to hold up to derision as if being placed on a stage in the theater to be put to shame and humiliated in front of others. Perhaps this has happened to you as non-believing workers or relatives came to realize you shared a radically different worldview from theirs. When we are treated is this manner, is when we need to take up the shield of faith to fend off these hurtful words and actions of unbelievers. This is when we need to walk by faith not sight, in order that we might envision our promised future reward and might recall to our mind that Jesus is coming soon and that His reward is with Him (Rev 22:12-note). We need to recall that that those who endure reproach for His name down here will be abundantly recompensed by Him up there (Mt 5:10,11,12-note). So the writer cheers them on by recalling to their mind specific afflictions they have suffered in their stand for Christ.
Theatrizo is related to theatron which described the place where drama and other public spectacles were exhibited and where the people convened to hear debates or hold public consultations
Paul used theatron in describing treatment he endured for the sake of the Name of Christ…
For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle (theatron) to the world, both to angels and to men. (1Co 4:9)
This section reminds one of Peter's words describing the path on which believers are to walk…
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example (hupogrammos) for you to follow in His steps, 22 WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; (Now Peter describes that "path") 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously (1Pe 2:21, 22, 23-note)
Steven Cole says "when someone from a strong Jewish family embraces Jesus as the Messiah, he often is made a spectacle-ridiculed and rejected by all of his friends and family… These new believers (Referring to the first century Jews who received Jesus as Messiah) suffered “by being made a public spectacle through reproaches.” Why put up with that? Why not just blend in with the crowd? Why not laugh at the same dirty jokes? Why not be one of the guys? Because their new focus was not on pleasing people, but God, who examines the heart (1Th 2:4-note; He 10:38, “no pleasure”). Worldly people live for the acclaim of others. They want people to like them, and so their focus is on making a good impression. But those who have been rescued from sin by the crucified and risen Savior live to please Him."
Wuest - In this verse we are given two forms in which the persecution was aimed at the recipients of this letter. They were made a gazingstock. The latter word is the translation of theatrizo from which we get our word “theatre,” and which means “to bring upon the stage, to set forth as a spectacle, expose to contempt.” This was literally true in the case of the Roman Empire exposing Christians to the wild beasts in the amphitheatre. But in the case of apostate Judaism in its treatment of its former adherents who became converts to the New Testament truth, it was not by means of lions but by means of reproaches and afflictions. The word “reproaches” is the translation of oneidismos. The verb of the same root means “to upbraid, to revile, to cast in one’s teeth.” It is used of unjust reproach. Here the word refers to a bitter invective hurled at the Jews for having forsaken the temple sacrifices and having embraced the New Testament truth. “Tribulations” is the translation of… thlipsis. The word means “a pressing together,” thus, “oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress, straits.” All this was the result of the persecution. (Hebrews Commentary online)
Reproaches (3680)(oneidismos [word study] from oneidizo = to defame, find fault in a way that demeans another [used in Mt 5:11-note] in turn derived from oneidos = disgrace, insult, [used in Lk 1:25]) is a noun which is an expression of rebuke or disapproval and means to insult, abuse or disgrace. The idea in the present passage is that the insult or reviling represents unjustifiable verbal abuse inflicted on the readers because of their choice of Jesus (the Gospel of grace) over Moses (the works of the Law). Unjust reproach.
The suffering the readers are enduring places them in good company, for the writer uses oneidismos later in his description of Moses who considered…
the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. (He 11:26-note)
Comment: Don't miss the fact that Moses earthly choices were motivated by "heavenly vision". Lord, give us all a "Moses like" vision of Thy coming Kingdom that we might be enabled to endure for Thy Name's sake. Amen
In his closing words the writer used oneidismos of Jesus in the form of an "invitation" or exhortation…
So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. (He 13:13-note)
Comment: Clearly here oneidismos describes the “disgrace” which Jesus bore at His is crucifixion.
The reproach of these believers in Hebrews 10 is in a sense a fulfillment of Jesus' "prophetic" warning to His disciples (this includes you and me beloved)…
If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. (Jn 15:18, 19, 20, 21)
Comment: No one enjoys being "hated" but Jesus clearly states that is the lot of all true believers! Forewarned is forearmed!
Oneidismos is used much more in the OT (49x in the non-apocryphal Septuagint). You might take a moment and observe a few of these interesting OT uses. Josh 5:9; 1Sa 25:39; Neh 1:3; 4:4; 5:9; Ps 15:3; 69:7, 9f, 19f; 74:22; 79:12; 89:50; 119:39; Isa 4:1; 37:3; 43:28; 47:3; 51:7; Jer 6:10; 12:13; 15:15; 20:8; 23:40; 24:9; 25:9; 31:19; 42:18; 44:8, 12; 49:13; 51:51; Lam 3:30, 61; 5:1; Ezek 21:28; 34:29; 36:6, 15, 30; Dan 9:2, 16; 11:18; 12:2; Hos 12:14; Joel 2:19; Zeph 2:8; 3:18
Spurgeon writes that…
THE early Christians had to suffer for their faith. They were exposed to great ridicule and enmity: they were, indeed, the by-word, the laughing-stock, and the derision of all mankind. There are still to be seen in Rome, in the praetorian guard-room, caricatures of Christians and of their Lord. I dare not mention what they are, but they are so insulting to everything which we hold dear that they remain as lasting evidence that Christians were counted as the off scouring of all things for the sake of Jesus their crucified Savior. Nor did it end in ridicule: they were deprived of their goods. Ruinous fines were exacted from them. They were driven from city to city, and not thought worthy to dwell among the sons of men. They were made a spectacle to all men, both in their lives and deaths. Very frequently they were not put to death as other condemned persons were, but their execution was attended with circumstances of cruelty and scorn, which made it still harder to bear: they were daubed with pitch, and set up in the gardens of Nero to be burned alive to light that tyrant’s debaucheries, or taken to the amphitheater, there to fight with beasts, and to be torn in pieces. Everything that could be invented that was at once degrading and cruel their persecutors devised for them: malice exhausted its ingenuity upon believers in Christ. Yet there was never a braver race of men. “Men,” did I say? Why, the women were as brave as their brethren. The name of such women as Blandina will remain in everlasting recollection. Set in a hot iron chair, tormented with whips, or tossed upon the horns of bulls, such heroines showed no cowardice. The tenderness of their sex only increased the glory of the courage with which they adhered to their Master under torments unutterable. The despised sect wearied out a long succession of Roman emperors. Those despots passed edict upon edict, each one more ferocious than its predecessor, in order to exterminate the followers of the Nazarene; but the more they persecuted them the more they multiplied, and instead of hiding themselves they came boldly to the courts of the magistrates, confessing Christ, and defying death.
Never was the victory of patience more complete than in the early church. The anvil broke the hammer by bearing all the blows that the hammer could place upon it. The patience of the saints was stronger than the cruelty of tyrants. Christ them, the immortal Christ, was stronger than all the pangs of death, and they triumphed though they were slain. Truly did the apostle say, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” The secret reason for the triumph of Christians in those circumstances was their confidence in Christ. Brethren and sisters, we are not subjected to the like persecution, and it will not do for us to wrap ourselves about with the garments of our ancestors and to say that Christians are this and that, as though we were to be honored without enduring trial. Yet, remember, there are still conflicts for you. If you be real Christians you will have to endure the trial of cruel mockings. In some cases family ties are the source of far greater sorrow than comfort: truly is it written, “A man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” The coming of the gospel into a man’s heart has often rendered him the object of hatred to those who loved him before. In his own house, and in society abroad, the Christian working man has at this day to run the gauntlet much more severely than some suppose; and in almost every sphere of life the genuine Christian meets with the “cold shoulder” and the sneer, and sometimes with cruel misrepresentation and slander; for, until the hearts of men are changed, persecution in some form or other will continue. Those that are bow after the flesh will always persecute those that are born after the Spirit.
For us, then, our only defense is holy confidence — the confidence which sustained the martyrs, and to us Paul speaks as well as unto them. “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.” (Hebrews 10:35 Hold Fast Your Shield )
Tribulation (2347)(thlipsis [word study] from thlibo = to crush, press together, squash, hem in, compress, squeeze in turn derived from thláo = to break) originally expressed sheer, physical pressure on a man. Thlipsis is a strong term which does not refer to minor inconveniences, but to real hardships.
Medically thlipsis was used of the pulse (pressure). It also described a pressing together as one would do with a bunch of grapes. Thlipsis conveys the idea of being squeezed or placed under pressure or crushed beneath a weight. When, according to the ancient law of England, those who willfully refused to plead guilty, had heavy weights placed on their breasts, and were pressed and crushed to death, this was literally thlipsis. The iron cage was stenochoria (see below). Thlipsis thus refers not to mild discomfort but to great difficulty.
Morris rightly notes that…
No one likes troubles of this kind, but they may be seen as difficulties to be overcome, as ways of opening up new possibilities. One who sees them in this light glories in them. (Ed: Methinks glorying in troubles requires the enablement of the Holy Spirit!)
Martin Luther wrote that…
Whatever virtues tribulation finds us in, it develops more fully. If anyone is carnal, weak, blind, wicked, irascible, haughty, and so forth, tribulation will make him more carnal, weak, blind, wicked and irritable. On the other hand, if one is spiritual, strong, wise, pious, gentle and humble, he will become more spiritual, powerful, wise, pious, gentle and humble.
Suffering believers need to read God's OT word of encouragement…
Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, a people in whose heart is My law (An unequivocal description of a believer in the New Covenant -Ps 37:31 40:8 Jer 31:33,34 2Co 3:3 He10:16-note cp Ro 6:17-note). Do not fear the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings. (Isaiah 51:7) (Why not fear? Read the explanation in context = Isa 51:8, cp Ro 12:19-note)
We would all do well to emulate/imitate the approach of Paul who said…
Therefore (because of the truth of 2Co 12:9-note) I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2Co12:10-note)
The truth be known, tribulations have the effect of demonstrating what is really on the inside of one's heart. For example in Matthew 13:21, Jesus said that when "pressing circumstances" come because of the Word and there is no root (in Christ), that person will immediately (not a slow process) fall away (literally "be scandalized").
In another warning coupled with an encouragement Jesus declared…
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
Luke records that…
“Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22b)
In Romans Paul gives this encouragement regarding tribulations…
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance (hupomone), and perseverance, proven character (dokime); and proven character, hope (elpis);
Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Ro 8:36-note )
F. F. Bruce draws from the ancient Roman writer Tacitus’ Annals to describe the public persecutions which were on the horizon - "Their death … was made a matter of sport: they were covered in wild beasts’ skins and torn to pieces by dogs; or were fastened to crosses and set on fire in order to serve as torches by night when daylight failed (Tacitus, Annals, xv.44)."
AND PARTLY BY BECOMING SHARERS WITH THOSE WHO WERE SO TREATED: touto de koinonoi ton houtos anastrephomenon (PPPMPG) genethentes:
- Philippians 1:7; 4:14; 1Th 2:14; 2Timothy 1:8,2Ti 1:16, 17, 18
And partly - As Paul Harvey used to say "And now for the rest of the story". When our brethren suffer, we suffer for we all belong to the same body. (cp 1Co 12:14, 26).
By becoming sharers - In other words one aspect of the conflict they were experiencing was related to the truth that they were in fellowship with others who were similarly treated.
Wuest comments that "these Jews were not persecuted only because they had renounced Judaism and embraced the New Testament, but because they became companions of their fellow-Jews who were being persecuted… These became co-sharers with other persecuted Jews in the sense of He 6:10-note, where the writer is speaking of the saved among his readers who ministered to the saints. That is, they helped others in a financial way when they lost their earthly belongings by reason of persecution. The writer exhorts to the same thing in He 13:3-note. For this they were persecuted, for sympathizing with others who were persecuted. (Hebrews Commentary online)
Sharers (2844) (koinonos [word study] from koinos = common, shared by all. See also koinonia [word study]) describes those who participates with others in some enterprise or matter of joint concern, in this case the "joint enterprise" of suffering! The readers in this group (in contrast to those who fell away) experienced fellowship with their suffering brethren. They were "partners" in the suffering. In a sense they took part in their suffering.
As discussed above, suffering should not surprise believers but should be expected! Obviously, this is not most of us want to hear and thus it is not popular fodder for pulpit platitudes. And so it is little wonder that so many believers are caught off guard when they encounter various trials. Does the NT speak of suffering as a believer's "destiny" in this life? Clearly it is a frequent topic of discussion - see Php 1:29-note,1Th 2:14-note 2Ti 1:8-note, 2Ti 1:16, 17, 18-note
Here their "spiritual athleticism" is manifest in the readers, for in sharing in the suffering, they transcend the normal human tendency to be passive and avoid . What gallantry and honor! “I stand with my brothers and sisters here. If you insult them, you insult me!” Side-by-side, with arms locked, they chose to face persecution together.
In the NT, there are examples of those who willingly exposed themselves to possible arrest and harassment because they sought to help those who were persecuted for their faith. Among genuine believers who might be given as examples of helping the persecuted, there was Onesiphorus (2Ti1:16, 17, 18-note).
Treated (390)(anastrepho from aná = again, back + strepho = turn) literally means to turn down or back, to wheel about and hence, to move about in a place or to sojourn. Figuratively anastrepho means to conduct or behave (as in the conduct of one's life). In the present context the literal text reads something like "to live in such a way (with reproach and affliction) and in this context means to be treated in such a way.
Hugh Latimer, the great English Reformer. On one notable occasion Latimer preached before Henry VIII and offended Henry with his boldness. So Latimer was commanded to preach the following weekend and make an apology. On that following Sunday, after reading the text, he addressed himself as he began to preach:
Hugh Latimer, dost thou know before whom thou art this day to speak? To the high and mighty monarch, the king’s most excellent majesty, who can take away thy life if thou offendest; therefore, take heed that thou speakest not a word that may displease; but then consider well, Hugh, dost thou not know from whence thou comest; upon whose message thou art sent? Even by the great and mighty God! who is all-present, and who beholdeth all thy ways, and who is able to cast thy soul into hell! Therefore, take care that thou deliverest thy message faithfully.
He then gave Henry the same sermon he had preached the week before—only with more energy!
Our text exhorts us to have enduring faith in times of persecution. It is a difficult topic to speak about because probably none of us have ever experienced what could legitimately be called “persecution” for our faith. Sure, most of us have faced instances of reproach or rejection when people discovered that we believe in Christ. I’ve had people say false things about me and slander me. Occasionally, people have tried to get me removed from my position as pastor.
But I’ve never been beaten, tortured, or thrown in prison be-cause of my faith. I’ve never had my property confiscated or my family torn away from me because I confess Christ as Lord. That probably is true of most of you, too. A who had suffered real persecution could deliver a more credible message than I can.
Another reason that it’s difficult to speak on this text is that American Christians for many years have bought into a false view of the Christian life that emphasizes the benefits of the faith in this life. We’re told,
“God offers an abundant plan for your life. Trust in Jesus and He will help you overcome all of your problems and enjoy life to the fullest!”
Jesus is marketed as the solution to every-thing from weight loss to success in business to having a happy marriage. The sales pitch is that receiving Christ will bring you the greatest happiness in this life.
Somehow, getting persecuted and losing your material possessions and maybe your life don’t harmonize with that message! Most of us signed up for the prosperity plan, not for the persecution plan! If we encounter difficult trials, we get angry at God and maybe even decide,
“If that’s the way He’s going to treat me, I’m not going to follow Him! Hardship, persecution, and suffering aren’t in the deal that I signed up for!”
How could we have strayed so far from
the biblical picture of the Christian life?
It is often referred to as a fight or war (Ep 6:10-20-note; 2Ti 2:3-note; 2Ti 4:7-note), neither of which are pleasant. Many passages tell us to expect trials and hardship (Jn 16:33; 2Ti 1:8-note; 1Pe 4:12-note). The abundant life that Jesus promised has nothing to do with a trouble-free life, but rather with having His joy in the midst of tribulation. He stated plainly the requirements for following Him: Deny yourself and take up your cross daily (Lk 9:23). A cross was not a slightly irritating circumstance; it was an instrument of slow, tortuous death!
Our text comes on the heels of the strong warning against apostasy (He 10:26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31). Following the same pattern as in the strong warning of He 6:4, 5, 6, 7, 8, the author assumes the best about his readers. He encourages them by saying that he knows they are not going to turn away from Christ, but rather that they will endure in faith, in spite of whatever hardships they may suffer. The author shows how to have a faith that endures any kind of trial, but especially, persecution. If you’re going to make it as a Christian, you must learn to apply what he says here about enduring faith:
To have faith that endures trials,
remember how God worked in the past,
focus on doing His will in the present,
and look to His promises in the future.
Before we work through the text, one other word of introduction may be helpful.
Jesus’ parable of the sower
Jesus’ parable of the sower (Mt 13:3-23; Mark 4:3-20; Luke 8:5-15) serves as a useful backdrop to our text. Jesus described the seed of the Word as sown on four types of soil.
(Soil #1) Some fell beside the road, where the birds ate it, so that it never took root and sprouted. This represents unbelievers who hear the gospel, but do not understand or believe it.
(Soil #2) Other seed fell on the rocky ground, where there was no depth of soil. It quickly sprang up, but it had no roots, and so it withered. This represents those who hear the Word and immediately receive it with joy. But when affliction or persecution arises, they quickly fall away.
(Soil #3) The third soil is infested with thorns. The seed sprouts, but the thorns, representing worries, riches, and pleasures of this life (Lk 8:14), choke out the word so that it does not bring forth any fruit.
(Soil #4) The fourth type is good soil, representing those who hear, understand, and accept the Word, and bear fruit with perseverance (Lk 8:15).
In my understanding, only the fourth type of soil represents true believers who “have faith to the preserving of the soul” (He 10:39). The rocky soil and the thorny soil both make a profession of faith for a while but eventually, they “shrink back to destruction.” In other words,
Genuine saving faith
endures trials and bears fruit.
The amount of fruit will vary (“some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty,” Mt 13:23), but there will be observable evidence of a transformed heart. True believers may fail under pressure, as Peter did when he denied Jesus. Every believer struggles daily against sin, not always victoriously. But if God has changed the heart and if His saving life is “in the vine,” the person will repent, endure in faith, and bear fruit unto eternal life.
1. To have enduring faith in trials, remember how God worked in the past (He 10:32, 33, 34).
“The former days” refers to the time just after these Hebrew Christians had been saved. The author draws their minds back to how God had worked in their lives during that time, in spite of some very difficult circumstances. His point is, “You did well then, so you can hang in there now and in the future if persecution hits.”
He reminds them of three things that were true of them as new converts, which also are true of all believers:
A. Remember how God enlightened you with a new, godly understanding of life.
Unbelievers are described in Scripture as being spiritually blind, unable to “see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” Only God can command the light to shine out of darkness. He “shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2Co 4:4, 6). Before God opened our eyes, we did not even see our need for the Savior. We mistakenly thought that we were good enough to get into heaven by our own righteousness. We had no idea of how terrible our sins were or of how holy God is. We did not appreciate the fact that the Son of God gave Himself on the cross to pay our debt of sin. But then, while we were yet in such darkness, God graciously opened our eyes. With the converted slave trader, John Newton, we could sing, “I once was blind, but now I see!”
I remind you, however, that the apostates had experienced some degree of enlightenment, and yet they were not truly saved (He 6:4-note). It is possible to have a fair amount of theological under-standing, and yet be lost! Some men have devoted their lives to studying the Bible and writing scholarly books. But these scholars have never repented of their sins and put their trust in Christ as Savior. They are “enlightened,” but headed for eternal destruction.
B. Remember your newfound joy in the faith, no matter what your circumstances.
Coming to Christ is like falling in love. The Lord rebukes the church at Ephesus for losing their first love. He tells them to remember from where they had fallen and repent (Rev 2:4-note, Rev 2:5-note). These Hebrew Christians had known the same exuberance when they had first come to faith in Christ.
Not long into the process, they encountered some difficult trials. The author calls it “a great conflict of sufferings.” Our word “athletic” comes from the Greek word translated “conflict.” It was like a hard-fought athletic contest, with Satan vying for their souls. Some of them were “made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations.” We get our word “theater” from the Greek word for “public spectacle.” As you know, when someone from a strong Jewish family embraces Jesus as the Messiah, he often is made a spectacle-ridiculed and rejected by all of his friends and family.
Some of these Hebrew Christians had been imprisoned. Those who remained free showed sympathy to the prisoners and publicly identified themselves in solidarity with them. They probably visited them and brought them food and clothing, since the jails in that time did not supply such things. Some of them lost their property, either by corrupt officials taking it or by mobs stealing everything of value and then destroying their houses.
But the significant word in He 10:34 is joyfully! They didn’t just grimly endure the loss of their property; they accepted it joyfully! Many modern Christians would rage at such unfair treatment and file a lawsuit to recover what they lost, plus damages for emotional suffering! But these new believers had such profound joy in knowing Christ that they sang the doxology as the mob hauled off their belongings and leveled their houses. They were not rocky-ground or thorny-ground believers!
C. Remember how your values and focus in life radically shifted.
These verses reveal four ways that these new believers had experienced a radical shift in their values and focus. If you think back to your conversion, you should be able to identify with them.
1) There was a change in your priorities and values from the temporal to the eternal.
The only way that they could joyfully accept the seizure of their property was, they knew that they had “a better possession and a lasting one.” They had
“treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” (Mt 6:20-note).
They knew that Jesus had gone to prepare a place for them to dwell with Him forever and that He was coming again to take them to be with Him there (John 14:2, 3). So while, no doubt, it was hard to lose their earthly possessions, their focus had shifted from the temporal to the eternal.
In 1986, I was preaching through 1 Corinthians and came to 1Co 15:19, where Paul caps his argument for the resurrection with these startling words:
“If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”
That verse jarred me. I asked myself, “Can I really say that?” Being a Christian provides me with a good life. I have a wonderful wife and children. I get paid to study and teach God’s Word. I have brothers and sisters worldwide. I know that my sins are forgiven. And, heaven is thrown in as a bonus after this life is over! Such a deal!”
But Paul says, “If there is no heaven, if this life is all there is, being a Christian is ludicrous!” Why suffer ridicule? Why give your money away? Why spend this short life serving the Lord? Why deny yourself the pleasures of sin? Why bother living for anyone other than yourself? Better to eat and drink today, for tomorrow you may die. But, a Christian knows that this life is not all there is. Christians have shifted their priorities and values from the temporal to the eternal.
2) There was a change from valuing what others think of you to valuing more what God thinks of you.
These new believers suffered “by being made a public spectacle through reproaches.” Why put up with that? Why not just blend in with the crowd? Why not laugh at the same dirty jokes? Why not be one of the guys? Because their new focus was not on pleasing people, but God, who examines the heart (1Th 2:4-note; He 10:38, “no pleasure”). Worldly people live for the acclaim of others. They want people to like them, and so their focus is on making a good impression. But those who have been rescued from sin by the crucified and risen Savior live to please Him.
3) There was a change from putting self first to putting God and others ahead of self.
Every unbeliever lives for himself or herself. We are innately self-centered. If helping someone will get us some advantage, we’ll do it. But our overall aim in life is to be happy and get ahead, even if it means stepping on others at times.
But a Christian focuses on loving God and others (the two great commandments). Christians take their focus off of self and consider the needs of others (the Golden Rule). So these Hebrew believers had showed sympathy for the prisoners. They were willing to share in the sufferings of those who were mistreated.
4) There was a change from demanding that God be “fair” to submitting to His sovereign will.
Unbelievers want God to treat them “fairly,” as they think they deserve to be treated. They don’t understand that if God gave them what they deserve, they would go straight to hell! When a tragedy strikes them, they rail against God and complain, “This isn’t fair! I don’t deserve to be treated in this way!”
Notice that some of the new Hebrew believers were thrown in prison, but some were not. God has different purposes for His people with regard to persecution and suffering. We have no right to question His wisdom or justice if He chooses to send trials our way, while other believers escape such trials. If we are the ones who are not in the hospital or in prison for our faith, then we ought to visit those who are there and show them compassion (He 13:3-note). If trials come our way, we should submit to God’s dealings, trusting Him to work all things together for our good.
So the first way to have enduring faith in times of trial is, remember how God worked in your life in the past. Remember how He saved you and opened your eyes to the truth. Remember your new joy in knowing Christ. Remember how faithful He was to bring you through trials. Remember how He turned your life around. Remembering these things will help you endure by faith in the present time of trials.
2. To have enduring faith in trials, focus on confidently doing God’s will in the present (He 10:35, 36).
The author gives two aspects of this:
A. To do God’s will in the present, don’t throw away your confidence in Christ (He 10:35).
He is not talking about confidence in yourself, but confidence in Christ. I have heard many Christians say, “You’ve got to believe in yourself!” That is a worldly idea, but not a biblical one! Our confidence is in God (2Co 3:5). This is the fourth (and last) time that the author uses this word. In He 3:6-note, he exhorted us to “hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.” In He 4:16-note, he encouraged us to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace.” In He 10:19-note he reminds us again that “we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus.” Clearly, our confidence is in Jesus Christ and His shed blood, not in anything in us. It refers to maintaining and testifying to a settled assurance of the truth of the gospel in the face of persecution or trials.
Such confidence is at the core of saving faith, and thus it has a great reward, namely, heaven and eternal glory with Christ. The “great reward” of He 10:35 is synonymous with “the promise” of He 10:36. Both refer to God’s promise of eternal life.
B. To do God’s will in the present, persevere in obedience, especially when you are tempted to compromise under pressure (He 10:36).
The author further explains, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” God’s will refers to His moral commandments and priorities as revealed in His Word. Under the pressure of trials, it is easy to justify moral compromise. In He 10:7, 8, 9-note, the author cited Psalm 40 to show that Jesus came to do the Father’s will, namely, the cross. It was not easy! Satan tempted Jesus to dodge it: “Just worship me and I’ll give you all the kingdoms of this world” (Mt 4:8, 9; see also Mt 16:21, 22, 23). “No need to suffer and die as the sin-bearer!” But Jesus resisted all compromise and steadfastly obeyed God’s will, even when it meant a horrible death. We should also endure in obeying God, even if it means suffering or persecution. After you have suffered, you will receive God’s promise of salvation. This last phrase of He 10:36 points toward the future:
3. To have enduring faith in trials, look to God’s promises for the future (He10:37, 38, 39).
The author combines a quote from Isaiah 26:20, 21 with an-other from the LXX of Habakkuk 2:4, inverting the order of the Habakkuk quote to suit his purpose here. The Hebrew of this verse is translated, “Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith.” The difference between the Hebrew and the Greek may be due to a now unknown Hebrew variant, or the Greek translators may have rendered an interpretive paraphrase. Philip Hughes explains,
“The discrepancy between ‘he shrinks back’ here and ‘he is puffed up’ in the Hebrew of Habakkuk 2:4 is not fundamental, for the man who shrinks back is precisely the man who is puffed up with self-sufficiency and is therefore blind to the need of trustful and patient endurance” (A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews [Eerdmans], p. 436).
The author is repeating here for emphasis the same concepts that he has already stated or implied.
A. Get God’s perspective on time and eternity (He 10:37).
“For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay.” The “very little while” is from God’s perspective of time, not from our perspective! The original quote in Isaiah was written to the people of Judah who were being threatened by hostile enemies. God is encouraging them to hold on for a little while, until He delivers them and judges their enemy. The point is, this present life is “a very little while” in comparison with the eternal joys of heaven. That is why Paul could call his many trials “momentary, light affliction” which was producing “an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2Cor. 4:17). To have enduring faith in trials now, get God’s eternal perspective.
B. Live by faith every day (He 10:38).
The Christian life is not a 100-yard dash; it’s a marathon. God’s righteous ones (the ones He declares righteous through faith in Christ; Ro 1:17-note; Gal. 3:11) live by faith. Saving faith is not a one-time action, but an ongoing, daily matter of trusting in God’s promise of salvation in Christ. (Ed: Do not misunderstand. Saving faith brings about our one time justification but then faith is necessary for our daily sanctification - we walk by faith not by sight!) Peter reminded suffering Christians of their inheritance,
“reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1Pe 1:4, 5-note).
I meet many Christians who live by their feelings, not by faith in Christ. We are to walk with Christ just as we received Him, by grace through faith (Col 1:6-note; Ep 2:8, 9-note). Our aim should be to please Him, as the author will go on to say: “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (He 11:6-note). Not to trust God is to call Him a liar and to question His integrity. Genuine faith perseveres through difficult trials. False believers shrink back to destruction.
C. Let eternal reality govern your present way of life (He 10:39).
The author expresses his confidence that his readers, with him, “are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving [lit., obtaining] of the soul.” He is saying, “Let God’s threat of eternal damnation and your faith in His promise of eternal life govern the way you live.” We should live in such a manner that if God’s promises about heaven are not true, we are fools to live as we do. Paul said,
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Ro 8:18-note).
If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, pity us! But if there is a heaven and a hell, living by faith in God’s promises is the only way to go.
Spend your time, your money, and your very life as if God’s promises in the gospel are true. Remember how God worked in your life in the past, when you first came to faith in Christ. Live in that same way now, because you know that in Christ you have a better and lasting possession than you ever had on earth. Focus on doing God’s will in the present, especially when trials tempt you to compromise. Look to God’s promises for the future. Live with enduring faith in God and He will sustain you through every trial.
- Some Christians did not have a dramatic conversion experience. How can they apply the first point?
- Has the American church put too much emphasis on the present benefits of the gospel and not enough on the eternal benefits? How does this affect our view of suffering?
- Some counselors advise Christians to express their anger at God when they think He has treated them unfairly. Is this wise counsel? Why/why not?
- How would your life be different if you lived with an eternal focus?
- What needs to be changed in light of the reality of heaven? (Hebrews 10:32-39 Enduring Faith)
THE solemn warning now, just as was the case in Hebrews 6:9, turns to encouragement and exhortation. As there, the Hebrews are reminded of the former days, when they were first enlightened--the time of their first love. But, in the previous instance, they were told that God was not unrighteous to forget their work and love; here they are urged themselves not to forget what had taken place.
Call to remembrance the former days.
The retrospect would call up the joy with which they once had sacrificed all for the name of Jesus, would humble them in view of past backsliding and present coldness, (Ed: Beloved do either of these descriptions "stab" at your heart?) would stir within the desire and the hope of regaining the place they once had occupied (cp Rev 2:4, 5).
Call to remembrance, he says, the former days, in which ye endured a great conflict of sufferings, in not only bearing reproaches and taking joyfully the spoiling of your possessions, but also in compassion towards and being partakers with others who were in bonds.
It is a sad thought that a community that had so remarkably proved its faithfulness to the Lord, in the midst of persecution and suffering, should in a few years have gone so far back as to need the warnings that have just been given. And yet it has often been so. In some cases it happened that the persecution ceased, and the spirit of case and of sloth, or of worldly prosperity, obtained the mastery. In others, the persecution lasted too long, and those who had appeared to forsake all, succumbed to the severity and length of the trial. The Hebrews were not only an instance of such defection, but of so many other cases, in which Christians, after having begun well, wax weary, fainting in their souls.
They stand out as beacons to warn us of the danger the Epistle so strongly urges--that the best beginning will not avail unless we endure to the end (Hebrews 3:14; 6:11; 12:3).
They call us to remember that we need a faith and a religion that stands fast and lasts; because it has its steadfastness, as the Epistle teaches, in the promise and the oath of God; in the hope within the veil; in Him the surety of the covenant, who is seated on the right hand of God, the Priest after the power of an endless life, the surety of an everlasting covenant.
In reminding them of the past a very remarkable expression is used to indicate what the power was that enabled them at first to endure so bravely.
Ye took joyfully the spoiling of your possessions,
knowing that ye yourselves have a better and abiding possession.
The Christian stands between two worlds; each offers him its goods as possessions. In unceasing conflict the two compete for mastery. The one has the advantage of being infinitely more worthy than the other, giving infinite satisfaction, and lasting for ever. The other is in no wise to be compared with it--it cannot satisfy, and it does not last.
But, in the conflict, it has two immense, two terrible advantages. The one is, it is nearer; it is visible; it has access to us by every sense; its influence on us is natural and easy and unceasing. The other, that our heart is prepossessed; the spirit of the world is in it. And so it comes that the possessions of this world with the most actually win the day, even against the better and abiding possession.
Ye took joyfully the spoiling of your possessions, knowing that ye have a better and abiding possession.
What is this better and abiding possession? It is the love and grace of God. It is the eternal life within. It is Christ as our heart's treasure. It is a life and a character in the likeness of Christ. The old heathen moralists teach us most striking lessons as to the nobility of a man who knows that all earthly possessions are as nothing compared with the being master of himself. How much more reason the Christian has to rejoice in the good things, in the eternal realities which Christ bestows, both in the heaven above and the heart within. The world may rob you of personal liberty or earthly goods; it cannot compel you to commit sin or separate you from the living God in Christ Jesus. Heaven and its blessing in your heart can fill you with a joy that counts every sacrifice a privilege, that makes every loss a gain, and that turns all suffering into an exceeding weight of glory.
Alas that the Hebrews, after knowing this better and abiding possession, and having, for its sake, joyfully taken the spoiling of their possessions, should yet, many of them, have waxed weary, and fainted and turned back! Alas for the terrible possibility of making sacrifices, and enduring reproach for Christ, and then falling away! No wonder that our author at once follows up his appeal to the former days with the exhortation: Cast not away your boldness--ye have need of patience.
Let us learn the solemn lesson: the lawful possessions and pleasures and occupations of this world, its literature and its culture, are unceasingly and most insidiously seeking to undermine the influence of the better and abiding possession. This influence is greater than we know, because they are seen and near and ever active. Nothing can secure us against their power but a life of faith, a life in the Holiest, a life in the power of Christ, the Priest for ever, who works all in the power of the endless life. Alone through Him who abideth continually can we abide continually too, can we endure unto the end.
1. If there be any reader who has to look back with shame and regret on his first love, and his leaving it, let him listen to the call: Remember the former days. Think of them. Face the fact of your having gone back. Confess it to God. And take courage in the assurance, there is restoration and deliverance. Trust Jesus.
2. A better and abiding possession. A rich man counts his money. He spends time and thought on preserving it safe, and making it more. Our power to resist the world, so that its possessions shall not tempt us, nor its threats terrify us, lies in the full consciousness and enjoyment of our heavenly treasures. Take time to know your possessions, draw out am inventory of what you have and what you expect, and all the world offers will have no power.
Andrew Murray. The Holiest of All