THE CALLING TO REMEMBRANCE OF THE DAYS OF A FORMER TIME (Hebrews 10:32-34)
The elect of God shall never perish; nothing can take them out of the hand of the heavenly Father. The truth stands, “My Father is greater than all,” (John 10:29). Those whom the Father has predestinated to eternal life shall surely be saved. For this is the will of the Father, that all which He gave to Christ should be saved, and that Christ should raise them up again in the last day! (John 6:39, 40)
In view of bringing about that salvation the Lord comes in the preaching with His threatenings, exhortations, and commands. He comes to Israel with His law (Exodus 20). And here in the book of Hebrews we have the exhortations. The writer has held before the eyes of the Hebrew Christians the dire consequences of unbelief and of total back-sliding from the confession of the hope. He pointed out what happens to reprobate, unbelieving Israel. He referred to the judgments of the Lord whereby He makes a separation between the two seeds, to wit, the Israel after the flesh and the Israel after the promise. And thus he would spur them on to greater effort and fidelity in running the race which is set before them.
Perhaps there is no greater incentive unto further patience and faithfulness than to remember past mercies, of the Lord. For, let it be remembered, the past fight of afflictions which the Hebrews endured was pure grace. It was given unto them in the behalf of Christ not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for Him, (Phil. 1:29). For to the church at Philippi too it is enjoined that they walk worthily of the gospel of Christ; that they stand in one faith, in one spirit and one soul, striving for the faith of the gospel. Thus also here this same battle, this intense contest is enjoined by reminding them of the one great, supreme contest which they waged in the past, the days when they were first enlightened. These were days when the grace of God was manifested very signally in them; they were days when God placed the seal of grace upon them, that they were counted worthy to suffer in the behalf of Christ, yea, as those of whom the world was not worthy, (Hebrews 11:38). Thus the writer calls the Hebrews to spiritual sobriety to press on to the obtaining of the salvation of their souls, walking in faith and patience as did Abraham the father of believers!
Truly, these former days were remarkable days. The Hebrews were then “first enlightened.” This does not merely refer to their seeing that Jesus is the Christ, the “MESSIAH” of the Old Testament Scriptures; but it refers to their fundamental, basic rebirth. They who had walked in the darkness of sin and unbelief, who had been children of darkness, are now become light in the Lord. The light of the glory of Christ as revealed in the gospel had shined upon them. Now they have fellowship with God and walk as children of light. Once they were blind, but now they see! Yes, they had also seen that Christ was the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth. This enlightenment had been once and for all: it could not be repeated. A man is reborn but once. This is evident from the tense employed in the Greek. Immediately following upon this enlightenment and their confession of the Name of Jesus, a great fight of afflictions had fallen upon them. They were now of the party of the living God in the world. Because God and Christ are hated of the world, these are hated for their Name’s sake.
This suffering in those days must have been very trying. Satan makes his fires hot; he hath short time and hath great wrath. And the instruments which Satan used were evil men who hated the cross of Christ, evil men who clung to the shadows but denied the very content which these shadows portrayed. Clinging to the shadows, they denied the Son of God Who came to fulfill the shadows and to perfect all things. Thus it became a “contest” between God and Satan, a “contest” of which the outcome could not be uncertain. In this contest the contestants of faith could only be more than conquerors; nothing could separate them from the love of God in Christ.
Being upheld by the power of God, through faith, unto the grace to be revealed in the last day, they had stood. They had gone through a two-fold test. In the first place, it had meant for these Christians that they had been made a public reproach and gazing-stock in the world, before God and angels (I Cor. 4:9). They had been made a theatre spectacle here on earth; earth was the stage, and the spectators were, on the one hand, evil men, and, on the other hand, God and the holy angels. All had watched the outcome! The contest was real! Faith is the victory that overcometh the world! The two-fold means were reproaches and afflictions. Scorn and contempt were heaped upon the head of these chosen saints for Christ’s sake. And they had also been afflicted. The road for them had been made very narrow. They had a very small circle in which to live. And had God not protected them, they would surely have been utterly destroyed! Such had been the great contest of afflictions; it had entailed for them cruel sufferings, the sufferings of Christ, filling up the measure of the sufferings of the Son of God, (Col. 1:24). In the second place, the contest included their proven loyalty to those who were thus cruelly entreated. Not all were directly thus despised. But the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace had asserted itself powerfully in them. They had not been ashamed to ally themselves with those who were thus shamefully made a theatre before God and angels. They claimed these as their fellow partakers of the grace of life.
Those were the glorious days of faith!
And of this wonder-work of the power of God these Hebrews are reminded. They must call this all vividly to remembrance and must, as it were, recount the mighty power of the grace of God in them. The Lord had done great things for them!
The memory of these great deeds of God must spur them on to persevere unto the end, that no one take their crown. The same God can still break prison bars and set the captives free in the future! They must remember the great strength of faith and hope which was theirs in those former days. At that time they “took joyfully the spoiling of their goods.” This must not be understood as though the Christians did not suffer pain in this. They were a theatre-spectacle at best from a natural point of view. They shed tears which the Lord caught in His bottle. But they saw the end. They saw that they had a better and more abiding substance to themselves. Yes, this would be the promised inheritance in heaven. And seeing this, they rejoiced in hope; they smiled through their tears. In the aching pain of imprisonment, confiscation of goods, they had the sweet solace that their better and abiding inheritance could not be taken from them. That possession thieves could not steal, and moth and rust could not corrupt it. They possessed their souls in patience and obtained life! It is the boldness which has great recompense of reward!
THE HOLDING FAST THE BOLDNESS WHICH HAS G R E A T RECOMPENCE OF REWARD(Hebrews 10:35-39)
The Hebrews must not “cast away” their boldness, their utter other-worldliness. The term in the Greek for “cast away” is apobaleete. It is the aorist subjunctive with the negative particle. The meaning is that the Hebrews must not ever begin to throw away this confidence as a worthless thing. Here is the highest value. It is losing one’s life to gain it. It is thus in the eyes of the Judge of heaven and earth. The boldnesshere spoken of is the sufferings which they endured by faith and hope in the former days, when they were first enlightened. The inference here is the one which the Hebrews also must draw from their former glorious experience of the grace of God in their sufferings.
For this boldness of the sufferings of faith has a great recompense of reward. And it ought to be underscored that the one who recompenses here is the Lord. It is a recompense from Him in this life and in the life to come.
The recompense is inseparably connected with the boldness revealed in the sufferings of Christ: they are connected as cross and crown. If we suffer with Christ, we shall also be glorified together with Him. Such is the blessedness of this suffering. It has a reward, a recompense in it for this life. It is the reward of the day of Christ as this is now experience in hope of a conscience cleansed from sin to serve the living God. Wherefore we have need of patience. Patience is not weakness, but power. It is the power which endures suffering in hope while the final reward is not yet in sight, (Rom. 8:24).
This teaching concerning the need of patience is bolstered by an appeal to the sacred Scriptures of the great prophets Isaiah and Habakkuk. Both are written as comfort for the Israel of God in their sufferings when they shall be removed from their land of inheritance to a far and foreign land, Babylon.
God will bring the invader from afar. He will be very cruel and relentless and will conquer the land. It is then that God’s people need to be comforted and need a place of refuge, a shelter in the time of storm. Then they must know that this calamity is “for a little moment.” It will not be long, although it will last for seventy years. Yet, even so, it is true that “soon the indignation will be overpast.” For the Lord will recompense His people. For the Lord cometh forth from His holy habitation. The Lord is in His temple; let all the earth keep silence. For the Lord will punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity of robbing the saints of their land. Such is the burden of the passage from Isaiah 26:20, 21 as quoted here in Hebrews 10:37. And it is a very apt and proper quotation, applicable in every instance also here for the Hebrews. The Hebrews are here given to compare themselves not only with their former days, but also most emphatically with conduct which was enjoined upon the Israel of God in the darkest night of her history.
And likewise is also the case with the prophet Habakkuk. It seemed to him that it was time that the Lord purified the land. Yet, when the Lord will use a cruel and evil nation as the Chaldeans to execute this judgment upon the land, then Habakkuk complains that now the Lord is using those who are more evil than Judah to chastise her. It is then that the Lord gives the solution to this problem. Habakkuk receives a vision; he climbs in the watchtower to await the divine reply. He is told to write it upon tablets, that he may run that readeth it. The vision has the revelation: my just one shall live by faith!