While we don’t know the identity of the author of Hebrews, one thing is for certain: he or she was quite the writer! There’s a lot happening in verses 19–39, but if I had to look for a central theme, a common exhortation, it would be this: “Hold fast the confession of hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23 ESV). In Hebrews 10:1–18, we are reminded of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us, once and for all. The author tells us to hold fast to this confession and this good hope that Christ died for us, that He was raised to life, that He is seated at the right hand of God, and that He will return.
We read a sobering message in verses 26–31 about impostors in the church—people who professed faith in Christ with their lips but denied Him with their lives. Much ink has been spilled on these verses and whether they call into question believers’ eternal security, but I believe this passage is speaking about those who were apostates, who were perhaps part of the fellowship of faith but who never truly embraced the gospel. These people remained untransformed. Rather than holding tightly to their confession of faith, they held tightly to their sin and worldly standards. They found their identity not in Christ but in the things of this earth. They knew the truth of the gospel, but they refused to allow that truth to transform their hearts.
“But this is not your story!” the author of Hebrews seems to say in verse 32. He speaks to believers who have been transformed by the gospel, who have held fast to their confession, and who have experienced the reality of their faith, which has led to suffering. These first-century believers faced hardship because they refused to confess that Caesar was Lord. They professed allegiance to a different King, which led to poverty and imprisonment. Yet in those dark days, these Christians recognized that their only hope was in Jesus. They held fast to their faith, knowing they had a better possession—an abiding one—in the days to come, and a far better reward waiting for them when Christ would return.
What are you holding fast to? Is it your status? Is it the hope of a relationship, of a job, of retirement? Is it the promise of security and an easy life? Anything less than the hope of Jesus will disappoint you. It is only in holding fast to the confession of faith that Jesus is Lord and that He is enough that we can have true, abiding hope in the days of plenty and in the days of want. In the midst of suffering, may we, too, profess that we have a better possession and a greater reward because we have held fast to Christ, recognizing that even as we are holding fast to Christ, He also holds fast to us.
Hebrews 10:19-39 (ESV):
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean 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. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” 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 when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For,
“Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
38 but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”
39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.