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|This is the New King James text of the passages.|
Hebrews 7-10 Listen
How 'bout that Melchizedek? (Hebrews 7)
1 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him,
2 to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,”
3 without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.
4 ¶ Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils.
Introduced in Hebrews 5:1-10 (see notes), it's now time to fully develop Melchizedek, the high priest...of everyone, not just Hebrews. Paul had taken an aside from Hebrews 5:11 to 6:20 regarding their immaturity in the principles of the faith. Now, in verse 1 of chapter 7, he again takes up the issue of Melchizedek.
Here's the deal. Hebrew priests came from the tribe of Levi. Prophetically, however, the Messiah must be a descendant of the same tribe (Judah) as King David, since he is to be his descendant. Though technically, the original high priest was not Aaron, but rather Melchizedek - all the way back to Genesis 14:17-24 (see notes) when Melchizedek came out to meet Abraham after battle. Genesis 14:18 says, "Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High." That incident precedes the appointment of Aaron (a Levite) to the priesthood by hundreds of years. Then David, in his Messianic Psalm 110 (see notes) says the following in verse 4, "The LORD has sworn And will not relent, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek." So, this concept was not new by revelation to Paul; it was an old, established principle of scripture that the Messiah would be a descendant of David AND a priest after the order of Melchizedek, not Aaron.
Now Paul describes Melchizedek in a very interesting way in Hebrews 7:3, "without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually." Some scholars have sought to explain this away as simply a figure of speech, but the attributes listed in these verses are so specific, I can only assume that God incarnate is being described. Now, work with me here. Colossians 2:9 (see notes) says, "For in Him [Jesus Christ] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." I make what I consider to be a solid assumption based upon that verse and others regarding the deity of Jesus: Jesus Christ is the only physical body that the Godhead ever had. If you agree with that assumption, then Melchizedek must have been a manifestation of Jesus Christ himself to Abraham. That is unless, of course, you want to develop a doctrine that God has another human form other than that of Jesus Christ. I, personally, prefer not to make that trip with you.
So, if you can accept the supernatural priesthood of Melchizedek (and why couldn't you?), then it just makes sense, to Paul and to us, that the supernatural priesthood and not the earthly priesthood (of Aaron) should be represented by the Messiah. This supernatural priesthood, first seen in Genesis 14:17-24 (see notes), precedes that of Aaron and runs throughout the ages as the true supernatural priesthood. So, you see, Jesus Christ fulfills prophecy by being a high priest as well as a king after the lineage of David. That's the point of chapter 7 - the eternal, sinless priesthood of Jesus Christ.
With that overview, let's look more closely at the passage.
In verses 1-4 we see the qualities of Melchizedek as follows:
I am amazed that, with a list of attributes like those in verses 1-4, there are still those who maintain that Melchizedek was a mere human serving as king of Jerusalem. There is no doubt that Jerusalem was in existence in Genesis 14. Based upon its Babylonian name (Uru-Salim, "the city of Salim"), one is led to conclude that its inhabitants in Abraham's day were all polytheistic pagans. We know that it was a Jebusite stronghold before King David captured it. Instead, Paul interprets the reference to "Salem" in Genesis 14:18 (see notes) with the Hebrew equivalent for the word, "peace," making it a figurative reference (verse 2) i.e. "King of Peace." The fact that Abraham recognized him as a priest by giving him tithes, seals the deal for Paul when he mentions that fact again in verse 4. Furthermore, Paul's intentions in verse 3 seems unmistakably aimed at proving to his readers that Melchizedek was no mere human; those attributes of eternal existence only apply to God himself.
5 And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham;
6 but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.
7 Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better.
8 Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives.
9 Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak,
10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.
Paul uses the tithe of Genesis 14:18 (see notes) as his proof that Abraham recognized Melchizedek as the heavenly (as opposed to earthly) high priest before and after Aaron's priesthood in verses 5-10. Here's the reasoning Paul proposes: Abraham, the father of the Levites, paid tithes to Melchizedek as the high priest. That being the case, Melchizedek is "better" (verse 7). That priest, Melchizedek, still lives (verse 8). Therefore, the Levites paid tithes to Melchizedek through Abraham (verses 9-10), thus making his priesthood superior to that of the Levites. This proposition only works when we recognize that Melchizedek is eternal in this context. If, as some contend, Melchizedek was a mere human back in Abraham's day, this whole proposition makes no sense.
11 ¶ Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?
12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.
13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar.
14 ¶ For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.
15 And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest
16 who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life.
17 For He testifies:
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”
18 ¶ For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness,
19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.
20 ¶ And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath
21 (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him:
“The LORD has sworn
And will not relent,
‘You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek’ ”),
22 by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant.
23 ¶ Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing.
24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood.
25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
26 ¶ For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens;
27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.
28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.
To the Hebrews, this effective termination of the Levitical priesthood is a potential deal breaker. Why? Because the Levitical priesthood is an integral part of the Mosaic Law; they go hand in hand; you can't void one without the other. Hmmmm...that does seem to be a problem, doesn't it. Well...not really...since Christ fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17-18, see notes). That's the issue Paul tackles in verses 11-28, the termination of the Levitical priesthood AND the law that mandates it. A key verse to this section is verse 17 which quotes Psalm 110:4 (see notes), "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek." That Messianic declaration by David invokes the eternal existence of the priesthood of Melchizedek.
That being said, here's the question of verse 11: Why was it necessary for the priesthood of Melchizedek to be continued and not the priesthood of Aaron? The short answer is in verse 12; the priesthood changed because the law changed. Verses 13-14 point out that Levitical priests are descendants of Aaron, but Jesus was a physical descendant of Judah. However, Jesus is a priest after Melchizedek, not according to Mosaic Law (verses 15-17). Then in verses 18-19 we get a general assessment regarding the current status of the Mosaic Law, insomuch that there has been an "annulling of the former commandment." That word "annulling" comes from the Greek word "athetesis" which means "cancellation." Why has the law been annulled? Verse 19 tells us "the law made nothing perfect." It goes on to say that "the bringing in of a better hope" did. That better hope is Jesus Christ.
Now for another contrast between the Aaronic priesthood and that of Melchizedek (Jesus) in verses 20-24: Levitical priests were not selected with an oath, but Jesus was according to Psalm 110:4 (see notes), "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek." There's your oath! Verse 22 succinctly says, "by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant." The word "surety" (Greek: egguos) means "guarantor" and the Greek word for "covenant" (diatheke) is also translated "testament." The priesthood of Melchizedek was established by God himself with a covenant...an oath. Verses 23-24 address the permanence of the Melchizedek priesthood compared to the Levitical priesthood. There were many Levitical priests because they kept dying. However, verse 24 says, "But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood." Do you still wonder if Melchizedek was Jesus after a statement like that? Verses 25-27 emphasize that Jesus is perfect and eternal while verse 28 tells us that those Levitical priests were mere mortals with their own sin to deal with as well.
As we move into chapter 8, one verse from chapter 7 needs to stick in our minds; verse 12 says, "For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law." Let's look at this major change of the law in chapter 8.
A better mediator; a better covenant (Hebrews 8)
1 Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,
2 a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.
3 ¶ For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer.
4 For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law;
5 who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”
6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
7 ¶ For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.
8 Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—
9 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
11 None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, “Know the LORD,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.
12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”
13 ¶ In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Paul told us in 7:12 (see above) that we were in for a major change with regard to the law. To ease us into it, he begins chapter 8 with a summation of his argument from chapter 7:
1 Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,
2 a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.
Obviously, Jesus is the high priest of verse 1, and he's seated in heaven where the "true tabernacle" is located in contrast to the tabernacle/temple on earth.
Understand the picture here:
Verses 3-5 go on to add that the Levitical priests had prescribed offerings, but Jesus made one offering once for all. That implication is found in these three verses, but the actual statement appears later in this discourse when he says in Hebrews 10:10 (see below), "By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Paul makes the point in verse 5 that Moses was working from a pattern when he built the tabernacle as he quotes Exodus 25:40 (see notes), "And see to it that you make them according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain." That pattern, he asserts, was taken from the true tabernacle in heaven.
So, what is this change with regard to the Law of Moses? It's the provisions of the New Covenant which replace the provisions of the Law of Moses found here in verses 6-12. However, it's not a revolutionary new idea; Paul is quoting Jeremiah 31:31-34 (see notes); there you have it - the terms of the new covenant with Israel. The new covenant consists of an inward law written onto one's heart rather than an external law like the Law of Moses. It's a description of New Testament salvation in Christ. The complete fulfillment of the covenant for the Jews does not take place until every Jew is saved under its conditions - the conditions that will exist for the first time on the first day of the millennium. So, while we are today saved by its conditions, the whole nation of Israel (per the covenant) will not be saved by those conditions until the millennium.
Paul explains that this new covenant is administered by the Messiah. In setting up this new covenant before his readers, Paul explains that the Messiah (verses 1-7) is not working from a pattern of true things like Moses and Aaron, but he is working with the true things themselves in Heaven. Here's the picture: The Old Testament tabernacle was a picture of the true tabernacle in Heaven; the Old Testament priest was a picture of the true priesthood. Let's get a peek ahead at a verse in the next chapter, Hebrews 9:24 (see below), "For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." In other words, the Old Testament priesthood and law were temporary provisions from God until the permanent solution arrives, Jesus Christ himself. Paul is telling these Hebrew Christians, "The permanent solution is here!" So, what do we do with the old covenant - the priesthood and the keeping of the law? Look at verse 13, "in that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away" The problem: these Hebrew Christians were hanging onto the Law of Moses; they just had trouble turning loose. And...that's why Paul wrote the Book of Hebrews.
Let's review the tabernacle/temple (Hebrews 9:1-10)
1 Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary.
2 For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary;
3 and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All,
4 which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant;
5 and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.
6 ¶ Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services.
7 But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance;
8 the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing.
9 It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience—
10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.
Paul uses the first 7 verses to describe the tabernacle/temple setup and the function of the Aaronic high priest and the other priests within. He caps off this description with a reference to the activity of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement described in Leviticus 16 (see notes). Why was it necessary that the High Priest do the same sacrifice each and every year? He gives the answer in verse 8 when he says, "...the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest." Verse 9 tells us, "...which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience" In other words, no perfection was attained in this process.
If you'd like to review the Old Testament Tabernacle, click here to read beginning with Exodus 25 where you will also find photos of replicas.
Incidentally, let's make a point of clarification here on Hebrews 9:4; the Ark of the Covenant's contents are described in this verse as being "...the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant." That was certainly true in the period being discussed here; but later on, two of these three items had disappeared out of the Ark. By the time the Ark was moved into its new home, Solomon's Temple, II Chronicles 5:10 (see notes) says, "Nothing was in the ark except the two tablets which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they had come out of Egypt." The same statement of fact is found in I Kings 8:9 (see notes). Somewhere between Aaron and Solomon the rod and the manna had been removed.
Verse 10 has an interesting statement regarding the appropriate time for the termination of those sacrifices made in that Old Testament tabernacle when he specifies, "until the time of reformation." The Greek word for "reformation" (diorthosis) is only used here in the New Testament; it means "to set straight." That undoubtedly refers to the moment when the new covenant took effect at the time of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
We got your perfection right here (Hebrews 9:11-28)
11 ¶ But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.
12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh,
14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
What do we do about that perfection problem raised in the first 10 verses of this chapter? Notice verse 11, "But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation." This calls for a supernatural solution, and Jesus Christ is that solution. These verses compare the less-than-perfect rituals of Aaron and his descendants (the priests) outlined in the first 10 verses with the perfect sacrifice of Christ.
Verses 11-15 draw a comparison on sacrifices - animal sacrifices in the Old Testament - the blood of a sinless Jesus in the New Testament. Incidentally, the word "testament" and "covenant" are exactly the same. They are both translated from the Greek word "diatheke." Those sacrifices are found in Leviticus 1-7 (see notes). The "ashes of a heifer" reference in verse 13 is explained in Numbers 19 (see notes).
16 ¶ For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.
17 For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.
18 Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood.
19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people,
20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.”
21 Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry.
22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.
23 ¶ Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
Admittedly, the argument Paul makes in verses 16-23 is a little difficult to follow, but it's really quite simple. Just as the old covenant involving the tabernacle and the priests was validated by the blood sacrifice of animals, the new covenant is validated by Jesus Christ himself with his own sacrificial blood. The high priest made annual sacrifices on the Day of Atonement on behalf of all the people. Christ offered one blood sacrifice (his own blood) that was sufficient for all time. The key verse here is verse 24, "For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." There is no earthly replica for Christ; only the real tabernacle in Heaven will do! So, you see, the Old Testament sacrifices were pictures of a perfect sacrifice to come, Christ himself...and just once.
24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;
25 not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another—
26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,
28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.
Verses 24-28 make another differentiation between the covenants - the efficacy of the sacrifices themselves. This becomes an important point moving into the discussion found in chapter 10. Here's the contrast: Old Testament sacrifices were offered over and over again, but Jesus was sacrificed just one time. The sacrifice on the Day of Atonement is in view in verse 25 when the high priest offered a sacrifice for sins each year on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16, see notes). Get ready for a new paradigm in worship - the single sacrifice for sin i.e. Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross. Paul uses the last few verses of this chapter to set this argument up in chapter 10. A single-pay sacrifice was a foreign concept to a Jew. The old covenant provided that a single sacrifice simply wouldn't do it; repeated sacrifices was the standard practice. However, there was just one Christ and one sacrifice. What will we do about this dilemma? How does one reach perfection? The answer is in chapter 10.
Incidentally, many like to use verse 27 in many applications regarding death so as to say that all men die once. Of course, that is the way of nature. However, Paul himself in I Thessalonians 4:13-18 (see notes) and I Corinthians 15:51-58 (see notes) identifies a whole generation of Believers who will not, in fact, die. Those are the ones who will be raptured (without dying).
A once and for all sacrifice (Hebrews 10:1-23)
1 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.
2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.
3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.
4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.
5 ¶ Therefore, when He came into the world, He said:
“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire,
But a body You have prepared for Me.
6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin
You had no pleasure.
7 Then I said, “Behold, I have come—
In the volume of the book it is written of Me—
To do Your will, O God.’ ”
8 Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law),
9 then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second.
10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 ¶ And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God,
13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.
14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
15 ¶ But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before,
16 ¶ “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,”
17 then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”
18 Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.
You simply must pay close attention to Hebrews 10:1, "For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect." That's the problem; the Law could make no one perfect, but Christ's sacrifice could. Paul quotes from Psalms 40:6-8 (see notes) here in verses 5-8, "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me." Verses 9-10 make it clear that the old sacrificial system is over. In reality, many Jewish Christians kept making those sacrifices at the temple. That's one big futile practice Paul is correcting with this Book of Hebrews. Of course, when the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., that practice stopped.
In verses 11-14, the distinction between Christ and those Aaronic priests is again emphasized with his reference to Psalm 110 (see notes), regarded by all Jews as clearly referring to the Messiah. The "footstool" reference of verse 13 is clearly from Psalm 110:1, "The LORD said to my Lord, 'Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.'"
Then there's the function of the priest; that's gone also. Jesus made the once-for-all sacrifice and put those priests at the temple out of work. In verses 15-18, he then reiterates the conditions of the human heart as a result of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34, see notes). This is a follow up to what he said in Hebrews 8 (see above). It's all written inside our hearts.
19 ¶ Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,
20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,
21 and having a High Priest over the house of God,
22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
Verses 19-23 itemize the process. We are our own priests; there's no room for someone else to do it for us. Christ is the high priest who made the sacrifice once and for all. Verse 19 would have been quite inflammatory to the priests and observant Jews of the day - a commoners entrance into the "Holy of Holies" (see Tabernacle layout above). That authorizes Believers to go where only Aaronic priests went before. And that's our promise from God.
The "veil" (verse 20) that separated the holy place from the Holy of Holies is passed through by Believers through "his flesh," the death of Jesus on the cross. He, therefore, is our high priest (verse 21). Just as the priests were consecrated in Leviticus 8 (see notes) through blood sprinkling and washing, so are Believers consecrated in Jesus Christ (verse 22). Our "hearts" are sprinkled and our "bodies" are washed with "pure" (Greek: katharos) water. Just as there was a physical washing in Leviticus 8, this verse identifies a true spiritual washing as a result of Jesus' sacrifice. Verse 23 then emphasizes that Believers should rest (without wavering) upon the finished work of Christ on the cross.
No relapse for these Hebrew Christians (Hebrews 10:24-39)
24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,
25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
26 ¶ For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.”
31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
32 ¶ But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings:
33 partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated;
34 for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.
35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.
36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:
37 “For yet a little while,
And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.
38 Now the just shall live by faith;
But if anyone draws back,
My soul has no pleasure in him.”
39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.
Verses 24-25 encourage positive Christian fellowship among Believers. The emphasis here is that Christians should meet regularly, at which time they "exhort" (Greek: parakaleo) - encourage, console one another. The "day" that approaches is undoubtedly a reference to the catching away of Believers seen in I Thessalonians 4:13-18 (see notes) and I Corinthians 15:51-58 (see notes).
The terminology in this passage has caused some folks to conclude that these verses are talking about enlightened, but not saved, Hebrews. I do not concur. Verse 26 says, "For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins." Now, "receiving the knowledge of the truth" coupled with "no more sacrifice for sins" tells me that these are saved people. Lost people could in some respect have a "knowledge of the truth," but without having been saved, they would not have already appropriated Christ as the "sacrifice for sins." Therefore, the phrase "NO MORE sacrifice for sins" simply could not be applied to a lost person. I am convinced that this is the same scenario as Hebrews 6:1-6 (see notes). As a matter of fact, it is a continued discussion from Hebrews 6.
Paul goes on to explain how the Israelites were dealt with who spurned the law - physical death. This line of thought continues into chapter 11 with examples of perseverance and into chapter 12 with an indisputable explanation of chastisement of Believers when they sin in Hebrews 12:6-8 (see notes). This same chastisement of disobedient Believers is seen in I Corinthians 11:27-34 (see notes) as resulting in physical death for those Believers who insist on the continuation of their rejection of God's exhortations. Add to that the quote in Hebrews 10:30, "...The Lord will judge His people." How could Paul be talking about lost people? "But what about the 'fire' of verse 27, ain't that hell?" you might ask. Naaaaa! God's judgment is often expressed with an image of fire; just look at I Corinthians 3:11-15 (see notes) - all the fire you can handle, and it's talking about saved people there. Look at the reference to "Believers" and "fire" in I Peter 1:6-7 (see notes) - no lost people there. Hey! Don't jump to conclusions; fire doesn't always mean hell. Here it is an obvious reference to physical chastisement. Read carefully verses 32-39; those are not almost-saved people; they are saved. So, to recap, Paul is telling these Hebrew Christians to persevere and not revert back to their sinful past; to do so will result in physical chastisement from God. I'm convinced that nobody's going to hell in this passage.
Finally, a word of explanation is fitting for verse 39. The Greek structure in this verse does not flow well in English without the addition of some words. Let me give you a word-for-word substitution (Greek to English) without the addition of any extra words: "But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul (inner life). The "we" there indicates that Paul is talking about himself and those laboring with him. While "perdition" rather than "pernicious ways" definitely holds a little different connotation in English, I'm convinced that the context of verses 32-38 is talking about lifestyle rather than destination; either is a valid usage without consideration for context. The Greek word commonly used for "save" (sodzo) is not used here; "peripoiesis" is used. The connotation of that word is "preservation." In short, I'm certain that Paul is speaking of living a life of faith that preserves the inner life (soul) in one's Christian walk. This verse makes no reference whatsoever to the possibility of losing one's salvation. I'm certain of that. He uses this verse to introduce a life of faith, the subject of chapter 11.