Hebrews 10:19-39

Practical: The Results of Christ’s Superiority in the Believer’s Life
Hebrews 10:19 – 13:17
Practical Section: “Let Us”. Now we come to the practical portion of the Epistle to the Hebrews. As with most epistles, the practical exhortations follow the doctrine, because right practice flows from right doctrine. Having considered the glories of Christ, His superiority over every element of Judaism, should He not have our full and unwavering devotion? Should He not have superiority in our lives? Do we allow Him to have that place practically? The exhortations do not take the shape of legal commands as Israel was used to under the Old Covenant. Instead of “thou shalt” we have the expression “let us”. The expression “let us” occurs no less than seven times from here to the end of the epistle! See Heb. 10:22, 23, 24; 12:1, 28; 13:13, 15. It begins with the exhortation to “draw near” inside the veil (ch.10) and closes with the exhortation to “offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually” without the camp (ch.13). These exhortations are for things that our new natures long to do, but need instruction. Hence we need to learn these things then simply make room for the Spirit of God to act in and through us. This is what James calls “the perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25).
Exhortations That Flow From Access Into the Holiest
Hebrews 10:19-39
Hebrews 10:19-39. The fact that the Person and Work of Christ has granted us access into the very presence of God is a motivation for us to live in a way that would be pleasing to God. Hence we have a number of exhortations that flow from that, beginning with the exhortation to “draw near”. There is another warning against apostasy, followed by the principle that “the just shall live by faith”. This sets up the following chapter which is a digression into the life of faith.

Draw Near to God by Faith (10:19-22)

Christian Priesthood. The subject of the individual priesthood of the believer is generally found in the writings to Jewish believers (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Heb. 10:19-22), but also mentioned in Rev. 1:6. The privileges that were granted to the family of Aaron under the law, and these only were but types of good things to come, are granted in full to every believer in Christ without distinction! Our priesthood is the highest sphere of Christians activity, and it covers things like prayer, worship, discernment, and testimony. The fact that Christ is our "great high priest" is evidence the He has a company of priests about Him, of which every sanctified one is a member. The fact that our priesthood is individual is a truth that must be guarded, lest we fall into the evil of a class-priesthood. There is no priesthood that God recognizes today other than the individual priesthood of the believer. As Christians, we are all priests. We are different from one another in gift, but we are alike in priesthood. We offer "spiritual sacrifices" to God, but "through Jesus Christ" as the mediator and High Priest. These sacrifices could be our person (Rom. 12:1), our praise (Heb. 13:15), or our possessions (Heb. 13:16). As holy priests (1 Pet. 2:5), we praise and pray; offering "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks," (1 Tim. 2:1). As royal priests (1 Pet. 2:9), we maintain a bright light and testimony for God here in this world (Num. 8:2). Understanding and keeping the truth of God is also part of our priesthood (Mal. 2:7).
Encouragements to Draw Near. In the following verses we have a number of encouragements to draw near, and this is based on three things: the blood of Jesus, the rent veil, and the great high priest.1 The law put Israel at a distance from God (Ex. 19:12-13), but grace brings us into the presence of God!
19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness for entering into the holy of holies by the blood of Jesus, 20 the new and living way which he has dedicated for us through the veil, that is, his flesh, vv.19-20 The Passage Opened. As “brethren” made “holy” by sanctification (Heb. 3:1), we are encouraged to do who Aaron in type could only do once a year; to enter into the holy of holies. The earthly high priest entered with fear and trembling, and only at the direct command of God. We are not only tolerated in the presence of God, but given “boldness” to enter! And this access is not restricted to one family, but all the brethren have access (Eph. 2:18). How can we enter the presence of God? It is because the passage has been opened for us! In Heb. 9:12 we find that Jesus entered heaven “by His own blood”, and we enter the same way; “by the blood of Jesus”. He entered bodily; but we enter in spirit (until the rapture). How different from the old approach! Christ has made a “new and living way”. It is “new” in contrast with the old system done away, and “living” in contrast with an external ceremony. The veil that separated the priests under the law from the presence of God was notably “rent in twain from the top to the bottom” (Matt. 27:51), when Christ died. The veil speaks of Christ’s flesh. If He had not gone to the cross, the way into the holiest would never have been made manifest. It was in the death of Christ, symbolized by the rending of the veil, that He has made a way of access for the believer into the presence of God (Eph. 2:18). The way could not be opened without that sacrifice, whereby the holy and righteous claims of God against sin have been answered. It is a touching way that it is put; “the new and living way which he has dedicated for us”. Christ dedicated that way for us it by going through the first time. Once the veil was rent: (1) God was free to come out in blessing, and (2) redeemed man was free to go in for worship.2
The Practical Side. What does it mean to go into the holiest? It is a different thought from what we have in Ephesians, that we are seated with Christ in heavenly places. That is a positional thing, but this is practical. Besides, the “heavenly places” are the spiritual realm, while the “holiest of all” is the immediate presence of God. Positionally, the way into God’s presence is always open. But to avail ourselves of that access is another thing. By faith we look up to God in the attitude of prayer, and in that instant we are there, in His presence! We can seek His face night or day, in sickness or health, at any moment and in any circumstance. You could be could be assembled with believers, or alone on a desert island. You could be a galley slave chained to an oar in the Mediterranean in the 1st century, or an astronaut hurtling through space in the 21st century, but the access is the same! The presence of God is where we worship. We do not worship in a physical place (John 4:21), and we need no earthly man to conduct us there. We enter in spirit (John 4:23) and worship in the very presence of God!3 We love to meet other priests in that place, and thus collective worship is a precious privilege. But worship is not exclusive to when we are gathered together, nor does our gathering together constitute worship!
21 and having a great priest over the house of God, v.21 The Person Present. There is One who has led us into the holy of holies: our “great high priest”. He is “over the house of God”, like the high priest of old who would handle the sacrifices brought to the Lord. Christ Himself takes our prayers and praises, and laying aside anything that is not of God (Lev. 1:16; Ex. 28:36-38), He conducts them to God. They go “to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5; Heb. 13:15). We are encouraged to draw near and commune with God because Christ – our great High Priest, a glorified man – is there! The thought of the “house of God” brings in responsibility. As priests in the house of God, we are responsible – and privileged too, because it is an aspect of our priesthood – to reflect the character of God to this world; “ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).
22 let us approach with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, sprinkled as to our hearts from a wicked conscience, and washed as to our body with pure water. vv.21-22 The Priests Prepared. Like the high priest of old, we too are prepared for entering the presence of God. It isn’t through outward ceremony, but through the work of Christ that we are prepared. First, we have been to the brazen altar (in type), and there been “sprinkled” with blood for judicial cleansing “from a wicked conscience” (Ex. 29:19-20; Lev. 8:24). This takes place when we believe the gospel and have the blood of Christ applied to us, giving us a purged conscience (1 John 1:7, Rev. 1:5; 1 Pet. 1:2b). Second, we have been to the laver (in type), where our “bodies” have been “washed” with “pure water” for moral cleansing (Ex. 29:4; Lev. 8:6). This is the once-for-all aspect in which we are “washed all over” or bathed when born again (John 13:10; John 15:3; 1 Cor. 6:11), rather than the daily aspect of washing which we need ongoing (Eph. 5:26). These were once-for-all actions that have prepared us for the presence of God. We are made fit! It required Christ coming “by water and blood” (1 John 5:5-10). Read more… Now that we are sprinkled and washed we can answer that invitation at any time, to “approach with a true heart, in full assurance of faith”. These last two things are more practical. A true heart is had through honesty, confession, and self-judgment. The “full assurance of faith” is the conscious knowledge that God desires us to be in His presence.4

Hold Fast in Hope (10:23)

23 Let us hold fast the confession of the hope unwavering, (for he is faithful who has promised;) v.23 Hold Fast the Confession. Having seen the completeness of the work of Christ and the call to draw near, the next exhortation is to “hold fast the confession of the hope unwavering”. It is a call to be strong in faith. The Hebrews had confessed Christ as their Messiah, but some of them stood in danger of giving that confession up (apostasy). There was great pressure from their unbelieving natural brethren, including severe persecution (vv.32-33). The writer addressed the true believers (“let us”), encouraging them to maintain their confession without wavering. The “hope” here is the same as throughout the whole epistle: the hope of being with and like Christ where He is in glory, of finishing the wilderness pathway, and being perfected in the ultimate sense! This hope will be realized at the rapture. But we are not to look within ourselves for strength. When faith is encouraged, we are also directed to faith’s object; “for he is faithful who has promised”. We get our strength from outside ourselves: a heavenly object. Our hope is not uncertain. It rests on the faithfulness of Him who always keeps His promises (vv.36-37). But closeness to Christ is what will enable us to be strong in faith. We must “draw near” in order to “hold fast”.

Stir Up One Another in Love (10:24-25)

24 and let us consider one another for provoking to love and good works; v.24 Mutual Edification. The Christian path is not intended to be walked alone; our Captain is leading many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10). We have a responsibility toward one another. In Hebrews 3:13 we find that we are to “exhort one another daily” for our mutual benefit. We do need to exhort one another, but “provoking” is gentler. To provoke is stimulate or give rise to a reaction or emotion in someone. It us usually used in a negative way, such as provoking someone to anger. Here it is a very positive thing; “provoking to love and good works”. When you provoke someone you are getting a reaction from them, because their nature is inclined to react a certain way. Those who know you best know how to provoke you. This is true in the positive sense as well. Children in a family respond differently, and so wisdom is involved in provoking; we need to “consider” one another. This is not merely a passive thing. Some would limit it to assembly together with believers, but provoking goes beyond that, although coming together is certainly prerequisite. It is intentional. It has to do with awakening desires that are there in the Divine nature, but lying dormant as to their exercise. For example, Paul reminding Timothy of the gift that was in him, to stir it up. This is not done by laying down the law, but by encouragement, example, and feeding the new nature. Another example might be in an assembly where believers keep to themselves outside of meetings, if one person begins to show hospitality to others, it can kindle a flame of love that can warm a cold assembly!
25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the custom is with some; but encouraging one another, and by so much the more as ye see the day drawing near. v.25 Mutual Encouragement. We can’t encourage one another by staying home when the saints are assembled. Here we find that with some, they had falling into the custom of forsaking the gatherings of the saints. It is an easy habit to fall into. The Lord’s custom was to go into the synagogue every sabbath to hear the scriptures read (Luke 4:16). We should have the habit of being with the saints when they come together, whether in the assembly or at other times. When Peter was let out of prison, he “considered the thing” and then “came to the house of Mary… where many were gathered together praying” (Acts 12:12). And what an encouragement that was! As we see “the day drawing near”, we should encourage more and more. Perhaps “the day” here is the day of Christ’s appearing (v.13). Usually when we are exhorted to do something in view of a “day” it is the day of manifestation: when Christ appears (2 Tim. 1:12). We want to pleasing to Him in that day!5 But in a positive sense too, when we realize that the time of Christ appearing and having His rightful place is drawing near, it lifts our hearts in anticipation! The lateness of the hour does not slow our feet in service; “but so much the more”. Notice too that “the assembling of ourselves together” was a very literal gathering of believers. In the New Testament we have the highest honor placed on long distance communication (epistles, etc.) but there is no substitute for physically assembling together. Electronic communication is good, but also no substitute for in-person fellowship.

(A Warning: Don’t Despise the Sacrifice of Christ) (10:26-31)

Another Parenthesis. In vv.26-31 we have another parenthetical warning against apostasy, of which there are five in Hebrews. Each warning addresses those among the Hebrews who had made a profession without reality, and were in danger of abandoning their profession. As ch.6 shows us, this would put such a person in a hopeless condition. The five warnings are Hebrews 2:1-4, 3:7–4:11, 5:11–6:20, 10:26-39, and 12:16-27. These warnings have been twisted by some to support the false doctrine of conditional security; that a person can be saved then lost again. It is important to understand what apostasy is, and how these passages relate. We do not want to blunt the warning on one hand, or deny eternal security on the other.
26 For where we sin wilfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains any sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and heat of fire about to devour the adversaries. vv.26-27 Sinning Wilfully. It is solemn to consider the word “for” in v.6 as a connecting link between those with the custom of forsaking the assembling of the saints together and those who apostatize from the faith. Forsaking the fellowship of Christians is one perilous step away from Christ, and the final, fatal step is to reject His person and work. To “sin wilfully” in the context of this epistle is to reject Christ and His work after having been fully presented with Him, “after receiving the knowledge of the truth”, and after having made a profession of faith. A person who does this is an apostate. Notice that it doesn’t say they have received the truth, but only the knowledge of the truth. The “we” is the Hebrews, not believers.

Apostasy is abandoning a belief once professed, especially in the context of renouncing the profession of faith in Christ. Apostasy is different from backsliding. A backslider is one who has truly believed on the Son of God, but has fallen into systematic failure, and is in need of restoration. An apostate is one who once made a profession of Christ, even partook of the outward blessings of Christianity, entertained the truth of it in their thoughts, yet never truly believed it, and ultimately turned away from it (1 Tim. 4:1). An apostate for a time is part of "the faith", but then abandons it, having never truly possessed "saving faith". For for such a person there is no possibility of restoration.

Read more… When a Person turns their back on that one sacrifice described in Heb. 10:1-18, they have turned their back on the only thing God will accept, and therefore “there no longer remains any sacrifice for sins”. God has nothing more to give than what He has given. The only prospect for those who reject the sacrifice of Christ is “a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and heat of fire about to devour the adversaries”. Without a sacrifice for sin, the only expectation is of judgment!
28 Any one that has disregarded Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses: 29 of how much worse punishment, think ye, shall he be judged worthy who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and esteemed the blood of the covenant, whereby he has been sanctified, common, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? vv.28-29 Worse Punishment. The writer now labors to warn the Hebrews of the severity of judgment for those who reject the Person and work of Christ. Scripture shows that the more light a person has, the more responsibility they bear, and the more severe judgment will result from rejecting that light (a principle that runs throughout scripture, see Luke 12:47-48, Rev. 20:12, Prov. 24:12, Psa. 62:12). To blatantly disregard the law of Moses, as seen in a presumptuous sin, resulted in a death sentence, under the testimony of two or three witnesses (Num. 15:30-36; Deut. 17:12). No mercy was shown under that system of types and shadows – no sacrifice was provided for strident rebellion. How much more severe would be the judgment on one who was presented with the Person and work of Christ and rejected it! An apostate:
  1. “Has trodden under foot the Son of God” by rejecting the Person of Christ, casting aside the greatest gift God ever gave as worthless.
  2. “Esteemed the blood of the covenant, whereby he has been sanctified, common” by rejecting the work of Christ. How can someone who was sanctified by the blood of Christ be lost? When a person makes a profession of Christ (usually through baptism), they come onto Christian ground, and in a provisional sense they are set apart (this is an example of Provisional Sanctification, see also 1 Cor. 7:14; Rom. 11:16). The “blood of the new covenant” (Matt. 26:28) is involved in this. To turn away from Christianity is to regard the precious blood of Christ as a common thing.
  3. “Has insulted the Spirit of grace” by rejecting the witness of Spirit, a Divine Person sent according to the gracious heart of God in response to the finished work of Christ being accepted, and Him glorified at God’s right hand.
30 For we know him that said, “To me belongs vengeance; “I” will recompense,” [Deut. 32:35] saith the Lord: and again, “The Lord shall judge his people.” [Deut. 32:36] 31 It is a fearful thing falling into the hands of the living God. vv.30-31 Testimony of Scripture to the Judgment of God. The writer now quotes from Deuteronomy 32 concerning the judgment of God against Israel should they abandon Jehovah and turn to idols. It might seem strange to find these quotations in the New Testament, but we must remember that they are addressed to those who were in danger of apostasy, and that they come after eight chapters of the greatness of Christ’s Person and two chapters of the greatness of Christ’s work. They are solemnly appropriate in the context of the Hebrews being addressed. The most severe judgments of God are reserved for false profession, those who claim to be “His people” (Rev. 17-18). But as to dealing with these ones, it is a matter for the Lord to handle, and He will in due time. There is every reason for those who have made an empty profession to fear the judgment of God; “It is a fearful thing falling into the hands of the living God”.

Exhortation to Endure Persecution (10:32-39)

32 But call to mind the earlier days in which, having been enlightened, ye endured much conflict of sufferings; 33 on the one hand, when ye were made a spectacle both in reproaches and afflictions; and on the other, when ye became partakers with those who were passing through them. 34 For ye both sympathised with prisoners and accepted with joy the plunder of your goods, knowing that ye have for yourselves a better substance, and an abiding one. vv.32-24 Remember the Past. Turning from the warnings, the writer now encourages the true believers. The first thing is to remember the past. This does not mean we should dream about the old days (Ecc. 7:10), nor does it mean we should dwell on past failures and achievements (Phil. 3:13). It is good to think back on the freshness of first love. These dear Hebrew believers had, in the earlier days after their conversion, “endured much conflict of sufferings”. They suffered greatly both physically and socially at the hands of their natural unbelieving brethren. They themselves were publicly shamed when they confessed Christ, and also they suffered by association with imprisoned believers (similar to how Onesiphorus suffered for associating with Paul, 2 Tim. 1:16-18).6 It is a sign of faith that they took their place with others of faith amidst suffering. This cost them dearly, even the plundering of their goods, perhaps because the Jews treated them as traitors. But the Hebrew believers had taken that persecution “with joy”, because they had a “better substance, and an abiding one”. Their portion in Christ was something that could not be taken away! This was the character of their faith in those early days, and the writer appeals to it for their encouragement at the present time. The Lord uses the past victories of the saints for their present encouragement.
35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which has great recompense. 36 For ye have need of endurance in order that, having done the will of God, ye may receive the promise. 37 For yet a very little while he that comes “will come, and will not delay” [Hab. 2:3]. vv.35-37 Look to the Future. The exhortation is to not cast away the confidence that the believers had placed in God, in view of a coming reward; “which has great recompense”. The hope of a bright future with Christ motivates endurance in the present; ” ye have need of endurance in order that, having done the will of God, ye may receive the promise”. To endure pain, discomfort, persecution, trial with joy is possible because of what lies ahead. When we are with and like Christ, we will have the effect of the “promise”. It is our place now to “do the will of God”, encouraged by the promise of coming blessing, similar to Abraham and other Old Testament saints. Here the recompense for faith is being with and like Christ in the glorified state! It may imply also specific rewards for service, which will be given at the judgment seat of Christ, following the Lord’s coming. The Lord’s coming is kept before the saints as their immediate hope. It is a touching way in which the intervening time before the Lord’s coming is called “a little while”“For yet a very little while he that comes will come, and will not delay”. The whole period of Christ’s absence, almost 2000 years, is viewed as “a little while”. When the time comes, the Lord will not delay. He will not wait a moment longer than necessary! The wording here is borrowed and modified appropriately from Habakkuk 2:3, “For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry”. Our hope is different from Habakkuk’s, but the passage is suitably applied to Christians. The point is that “He will come”. The second coming as a whole is in view, not only the Lord’s coming for us, but also His appearing when reward for responsibility will be manifested!7
38 But “the just shall live by faith;” [Hab. 2:4] and, if he draw back, my soul does not take pleasure in him. 39 But “we” are not drawers back to perdition, but of faith to saving the soul. vv.38-39 Live by Faith in the Present. The writer now quotes from Hab. 2:4 (brought in by the allusion in v.37) to show that our life here in this world can only be lived for God’s pleasure if we live by faith. The quotation from Hab. 2:4 is quoted three times in the New Testament, and each time with a different emphasis.89 Habakkuk was frustrated that he didn’t see the fulfillment of God’s promises in his day, when everything was upside down. The Lord’s answer to him was to wait for the fulfillment, and in the meantime to “live by faith”. Habakkuk eventually learned this lesson, and expressed it beautifully in Hab. 3:17-19. The writer uses this scripture powerfully to encourage the believing Hebrews to hold fast in their faith. This quotation from the Old Testament brings out the principle that living for God has always been by faith, for saints from all ages, and it sets up the next chapter which is a digression on the life of faith. On the other hand, to draw back from the profession of faith in Christ (apostasy) is a fatal step, leading to “perdition” or eternal judgment. The expression “my soul does not take pleasure in him” is drawn by the Spirit of God from the next part of Hab. 2:4; “his soul is puffed up, it is not upright within him”. A soul that ultimately turns away from Christ was never right in the first place, and God has no pleasure in them. Just as Cain rejected the sin offering, so these ones reject the sacrifice of Christ. But the writer is not addressing unbelievers, but those of faith, who hold fast their profession “to saving the soul”.
  1. Now, we have in this scripture, to speak generally, three things — the blood of Jesus, the rent veil, and the High Priest (literally, the great priest) over the house of God; and it is on the foundation of these three things that we have the exhortation to draw near for worship. – Dennett, E. Twelve Letters to Young Believers. Chapter 8.
  2. If we think about the rending of the veil of the temple when Jesus died, what could be seen through that opening? The ark was no longer there. The emptiness of Judaism was exposed! – Stewart, Stephen. Reading on Hebrews 10. Vestal, NY. 2022.
  3. And the place to which we are invited to approach, or into which we are urged to enter, is the holiest — the holy of holies. That is the place which was typified by the holy of holies in the tabernacle in the wilderness, the place into which Christ, as our Representative and Forerunner, has already entered (Heb. 4:14; Heb. 6:19-20). Our place of worship therefore is in the immediate presence of God, the scene of the ministry on our behalf of Christ, as the High Priest. True that we are down here on the earth as strangers and pilgrims when we think of priesthood. But this earth can never be the scene of our worship; for we have “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,” and there alone can worship be rendered or accepted. Nay; if I would do homage even to the King, I must go to the place where he sits in state to receive it. Much more, if I would worship God I must do so in the place where He sits on His throne, and into which, for this very purpose, He has, in His ineffable grace, given me a title to enter at all times through the precious blood of Christ. There above, therefore, inside the rent veil, in His own immediate presence, and in no other place, must His people worship. – Dennett, E. Twelve Letters to Young Believers. Chapter 8.
  4. Hence, the first two things (“bodies washed” and “hearts sprinkled”) make us priests and the second two (“a true heart” and “full assurance of faith”) make us priestly. The first two are connected with our position before God and the latter two have to do with our state of soul. – Anstey, Bruce. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
  5. As responsibility is here in view, it is “the day” or appearing of the Lord that follows, when our fidelity or the lack of it will be manifested. – Kelly, W. Exposition of Hebrews.
  6. Some translations render this “For ye had compassion of me in my bonds”, limiting the application to their compassion for the writer, but better translations render it “For you had compassion on those in prison”, leaving the application of it wider. W. Kelly commented, “All the old English versions save that of Rheims (1552) narrow their sympathy according to the Text. Rec. to the bonds of him who, now wrote. but the better reading seems to be “the prisoners” i.e. those of the Lord in general.” – Kelly, W. Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
  7. Some passages in Hebrews are intended to be intentionally vague, so that, in this instance, the believing Jew, not yet knowing the body of Christian hope and blessing could rightly apply it to the appearing; but, on the other hand, as we read it, to realize it also applies to the rapture. Christ is coming in the both senses and exactly when He should, without delay. – W. Brockmeier quoting D. Graham
  8. In Rom. 1:17 the emphasis is on faith, showing that is the principle on which God justifies. In Gal. 3:11 the emphasis is on the just, showing that justification is by faith alone. In Heb. 10:38 the emphasis is on live, showing that faith is the way the believer lives pleasing to God in this world.

  9. It is plain that in this Epistle the order is adapted to the object in hand, which is not to enforce justification by faith as in Rom. 1:17, nor to set aside the interpolation of the law in opposition to grace as in Gal. 3:11, but to insist on faith as the power of life, and this too practically, as in all else; of which the chapter that follows is the weighty, full and interesting illustration. – Kelly, W. Notes on the Epistle to the Hebrews.