“Remember the days following your conversion and how you successfully endured a hard and painful struggle. Sometimes you were made a public spectacle, as taunts and injuries were heaped upon you. At other times, you shared the injustices of those who were treated the same way. You suffered with the other prisoners and cheerfully accepted the confiscation of your property, confident you have greater and more permanent possessions in heaven. Therefore, you must never abandon your courage, for it carries with it a rich reward in the world to come. You also have need of patient endurance, so that when you have carried out God’s will you may appropriate His promises. It may be but a short time before He comes, for He will not delay His arrival. Those He accepts as righteous will live by faith, but if any shrink back, God will not be pleased with him. But we do not cower and perish, but maintain our faith and thereby assure the salvation of our souls.” (paraphrased)
Once again the writer shifts his focus from admonishment to encouragement, commending his readers for faithful endurance (6:9). To “call to remembrance” (anamimnesko) means “to remind oneself habitually, reconstruct in the mind, or ponder something precisely”. He asks them to consider their past victories (v. 32-34), present hope (v.35), and future rewards (v. 36-39).
“Illuminated” (photisthentes) means “to brighten or shine”. The same word is used earlier regarding regeneration (6:4). For most Believers, trials and testing soon follow conversion. The word “fight” (athlesis) means “a conflict.” The term was used by the Greeks regarding athletic contests and the word “athlete” is derived from it. Memories of the sunny days of their initial enlightenment should encourage those under the current overcast skies of spiritual oppression. Yesterday’s victories fortify us to face tomorrow’s challenges.
The writer proceeds to give a few specifics concerning their struggles. They had become a gazingstock (theatrizomenoi), from whence the English word “theater” has evolved. It means “to bring someone onstage and expose them to public derision, mockery, slander, defamation, and contempt.” Paul uses the same term regarding those who were made “a spectacle (theatron) to the world” (I Cor .4:9). Abusive treatment was accompanied by ridicule in the form of taunts and jeers. “Reproaches” (oneidismois) means to upbraid, revile, scorn, or shame. It difficult for any Gentile to imagine the price a Jew pays for converting to Christianity.
Here “afflictions” is defined differently than in the previous verse. It is thlipsesin and depicts stress, oppression, confinement, and pressure. The readers had been exposed to every affliction short of martyrdom (12:4) and were quick to identify with others who were similarly abused. “Companions” (koinonoi) means co-sharers or partakers. The term is sometimes used regarding partnership in Christ’s sufferings (I Pet. 4:13; II Cor. 1:7).
The most superficial perusal of the book of Acts depicts a vivid picture of the persecutions the early church endured. For example, various disciples are:
<> imprisoned (4:3)
<> falsely accused before the Sanhedrin (5:27-28)
<> flogged (5:40)
<> stoned to death (7:58)
<> faced certain death (9:24)
<> harassed by officials (12:1)
<> martyred (12:2)
<> opposed by sorcerers (13:8-10)
<> persecuted by both Jews and Gentiles (14:1-2)
<> bound and beaten (16:23-24)
<> hated by the Thessalonians (17:5-6)
<> slandered by the Ephesians (19:9)
<> victimized by mob violence (19:24-34)
Paul is warned of even greater afflictions to come (20:23). He is:
<> nearly murdered in Jerusalem (21:31)
<> slapped by the high priest Ananias (23:2)
<> defamed by Tertullus (24:5)
<> jailed by Felix (24:27)
<> deemed insane by Festus (26:24)
<> shipwrecked on Miletus (27:43-44)
<> snake bitten (28:3)
The emperor Nero lied and accused the Christians of setting fire to Rome in 64 A.D. Christianity soon became an illegal religion. During this time, Paul was decapitated. Thousands of Believers were imprisoned, fed to wild animals, raped, or burned alive.
The writer praises his readers for two things in particular that depict a spirit of selflessness:
1. “You had had compassion upon me while I was in bonds.” The writer was imprisoned at some point in his ministerial career. Thousands were thrown in the dungeons in the early days of the Church. Prisoners frequently died of starvation, for little sustenance was provided for them. They were dependent upon family and friends to minister to their needs (II Tim. 4:13). Instead of fearing similar incarceration, they responded with Christian empathy.
2. “You “took” (prosdechomia) joyfully the “confiscation” (harpage) of your possessions.” Prosdechomai means “to accept something.” These Believers happily endured these injustices. Harpage means to violently snatch away. Here it refers to the sudden and illegal seizure of personal property, including houses, land, clothes, food, money, livestock, and other possessions. Their faith enabled them to accept even home invasions with a positive attitude. They were stripped of everything – except their love for Christ.
True to Christ’s instructions, the readers were joyful, knowing their heavenly reward will be great (Mt. 5:10-12). Peter instructs us that being reproached for the name of Christ is grounds for joy (I Pet. 4:14). The Holy Spirit assures Believers their inheritance is preserved in heaven, where eternal riches are subject to neither depreciation nor confiscation. Treasures beyond comparison are reserved for us where no thief can enter (Mt. 6:19-20 & I Pet. 1:4). Such heavenly property is termed “a better and enduring substance.” These things are of incomparable value and are superior compensation for any loss sustained on earth.
The readers had proven their loyalty to Christ in the “former days” (v. 32). They must not now abandon (apobalete) their confidence in God. Apobalete means to deem something as worthless and discard it. In Greek literature, the term was used of a cowardly soldier who threw away his weapon and ran from the enemy. But Christians are encouraged to arm themselves for spiritual warfare (II Cor. 10:4 & Eph. 6:11-17).
“Confidence” is parrhesian and is used regarding “boldness” to enter into the Holiest of All (10:19). The bravery they maintained throughout their persecutions was necessary for faith to increase. They are encouraged to not cast aside the fearless confidence they displayed earlier. Their courageous stand for Christ will be abundantly compensated. This reward is the “enduring substance” alluded to in the previous verse. It is a “great” (megalen) repayment compared to the temporal possessions taken by their persecutors.
Although the writer has praised them for their attributes, continual patience (hupomene) was essential in order to bear these evils without stress or despondency. Hupomene describes a particular aspect of patience: the quality of endurance under pressure. It is a term used regarding a soldier or athlete who withstands all opponents, yet reserves the strength to win. Even strong confidence will eventually fail without the patience necessary to support it. They are exhorted to remain steadfast during persecutions, rather than seek refuge by renouncing Christ.
The sequence here is reminiscent of Paul’s instructions to the church at Rome:
<> Tribulations produce patience.
<> Persevering patience provides experience.
<> Experiences result in greater hope.
<> Hope gives us superior courage (Rom. 5:3-4).
Jesus told His disciples they will preserve their souls only through steadfast endurance (Lk. 21:19). The patience of the saints is exemplified by those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus Christ (Rev. 14:12). We must allow patience to complete her perfect work within us (Jas. 1:4).
The key concept of “promise” is found sixteen times in Hebrews. After we have done God’s will we can appropriate His promises. “Receive” is komizo, meaning to carry something away for use and enjoyment. Those who stay true to God will “carry off” God’s payment for their perseverance. However, there will be no inheritance for those who draw back and forsake Jesus (v. 38).
The hope of their promised reward in verses 35-36 is now coupled with the promise of His coming. When the appointed time arrives, the Lord will not delay His arrival. The phrase, “a little while” (mikron) means “very little.” When He appears the troubles and trials of Believers will instantly cease. The writer borrows from Habakkuk’s prophecies. As visions of the future Messiah sustained those in the era of the prophets, so our expectation of His eminent return should fortify us today.
In Habakkuk’s day, the proud Chaldean is contrasted with the righteous man who endures opposition and oppression (Hab. 2:4). Here the writer’s emphasis is on the one whose faith in Christ is their primary reason for living. It pictures a Believer whose spiritual growth and development evolves from his faith. Paul twice quotes this same verse in order to prove that one is saved by faith and not by works (Rom. 1:17 & Gal. 3:11). To “draw back” (huposteiletai) is to retreat, shrink back, or withdraw in fear. Though the possibility of apostasy exists, righteousness before God is maintained through steadfast perseverance.
The writer affirms “we are not with those who draw back” and apostatize. Again he associates himself with his readers as one exposed to the same dangers, but continues to live victoriously. Both the negative and positive aspects are presented: drawing back in fear is contrasted with moving forward in faith. To apostatize is to incur God’s displeasure, be despised, abhorred, and finally destroyed. “Perdition” (apoleian) means damnation and eternal misery. “Saving” is peripoiesin and is used here in the sense of preserving or strengthening the soul. The ultimate aim of the Gospel is to prepare us for heaven. The more passionately one serves Jesus the less he will be attracted to a destructive lifestyle.
QUESTIONS: CHRIST AND PATIENCE
1. According to Hebrews 10:35, what must we never cast away?
2. According to Hebrews 10:39, what does faith in Jesus result in?
3. When their property was confiscated, the readers responded with:
4. According to Ephesians 6:16, what is the shield of faith used for?
5. What prophet is quoted in Hebrews 10:38?
6. For most Christians, trials and testings soon follow their conversion. Discuss why this is true.
7. According to 10:36, what are we in need of?
8. According to James 5:11, who serves as a great example of this?
9. List things that make you impatient. Pray over each item, asking God to give you patience.