Hebrews 10
Benson Commentary
For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
Hebrews 10:1. The apostle, in order to display Christ’s dignity as a High-Priest, having illustrated what he affirmed, (Hebrews 8:7,) namely, that the Levitical priests worshipped God in the tabernacle with the representations of the services to be performed by Christ in heaven; also having contrasted the ineffectual services performed by these priests in the tabernacle on earth, with the effectual services performed by Christ in heaven; and the covenant of which they were the mediators, with the covenant of which Christ is the Mediator; and the blessings procured by the services of the Levitical priests in the earthly tabernacle, with the blessings procured by the services performed by Christ in heaven; he, in the beginning of this chapter, as the necessary consequence of these things, infers, that since the law contained nothing but a shadow, or emblematical representation, of the blessings to come, through the services of the greater and more perfect heavenly tabernacle, and not these blessings themselves, it never could, with the same emblematical sacrifices which were offered annually by the high-priest on the day of atonement, make those who came to these sacrifices perfect in respect of pardon. Thus, For, &c. — As if he had said, From all that has been advanced, it appears that the law — The Mosaic dispensation; being a bare unsubstantial shadow of good things to come — Of gospel blessings and gospel worship; and not the very image — The substantial, solid representation, or complete delineation; of the things, can never, with the same kind of sacrifices — Though continually repeated; make the comers thereunto perfect. In the terms shadow and image, there seems to be an allusion, as Doddridge observes, “to the different state of a painting, when the first sketch only is drawn, and when the picture is finished; or to the first sketch of a painting, when compared with what is yet more expressive than even the completest picture, and exact image:” or between the shadow of a man, made by his body’s intercepting the sun’s rays, and a good portrait or statue of him, or the reflection of his person in a mirror. The good things of which the law contained only a shadow, were, 1st, The cleansing of the mind of believers from evil dispositions, by the doctrines of the gospel, and by the influences of the Spirit of God. Of this the washings and purifications of the bodies of the Israelites, enjoined in the law, were a shadow. 2d, That real atonement for sin, which was made by the offering of the body of Christ once for all, Hebrews 10:10. Of this the Levitical atonements, made by the offering of beasts, were a shadow. 3d, The eternal pardon of sin, procured for believers by the atonements which Christ made. Of this the political pardon, obtained for the Israelites by the sacrifice of beasts which the priests offered, was a shadow. 4th, Access to worship God on earth through the blood of Christ with the hope of acceptance. Of this the drawing nigh of the Israelites to worship in the court of the tabernacle, through the blood of the Levitical sacrifices, was a shadow. 5th, The eternal possession of heaven, through believing and obeying the gospel. Of this the continued possession of Canaan, secured to the Israelites by their obedience to the law, was a shadow. Now since the good things which Christ hath obtained for believers through his ministrations in the heavenly tabernacle, were not procured, but only typified, by the ministrations of the high-priests in the tabernacle on earth, it was fit that those shadows should be done away after the things of which they were shadows were accomplished.

For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.
Hebrews 10:2-3. For then would they not have ceased, &c. — There would not have been need to have offered them more than once: that is, if these sacrifices had made the worshippers perfect, in respect of pardon, they would have ceased to be offered; because the worshippers once purged — Or fully discharged from the guilt of their transgressions; should have had no more conscience of sin — There would have remained no more sense of guilt upon their consciences to have troubled them, and no more fear of future punishment in consequence thereof. But it was not so with them, as appears by the yearly repetition of these sacrifices, wherein there was a continual remembrance made of sin — A consciousness of their sins, as unpardoned, still remained even after those sacrifices were offered, as is evident from this, that in the annual repetition of their sacrifices, the people’s sins, for which atonement had formerly been made, were remembered; that is, confessed as needing a yet further expiation. And, though it is true we are daily to remember and confess our sins, yet that respects only the application of the virtue and efficacy of the atonement already made to our consciences, without the least desire or expectation of a new propitiation.

But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.
For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
Hebrews 10:4. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats — Or of any brute animals; should take away sins — Should make full satisfaction and atonement for them, so as to procure the pardon of them on its own account. To understand the apostle, we must remember, that though remission of sins be originally from mere grace and mercy, yet it is not to be accomplished by sovereign grace alone, which would be inconsistent with God’s truth, holiness, and righteous government of the world. Hence shedding of blood has been the appointed means of obtaining it in all ages; and the psalmist, Psalm 50:5, represents all God’s true people as making a covenant with him by sacrifice. And for this appointment much may be said on the principles of reason. For as the most ancient way of teaching was by symbols, emblems, or hieroglyphics, God, by requiring sacrifices of mankind in order to the pardon of their sins, intended hereby to teach them, 1st, Their guilt, and desert of death and destruction: 2d, The great evil of sin, its odious nature, and destructive consequences, in that it could not be expiated without blood: 3d, The necessity of mortifying it, and the carnal principle whence it proceeds: 4th, Hereby to lay a foundation for the confidence and hope of the sinner, with respect to pardon, as the substitution, by divine appointment, of the life of the animal in the stead of the life of the sinner, manifested grace and promised forgiveness: 5th, Hereby also provision was made both for condemning and pardoning sin, both which things, in order to the glory of God and the salvation of mankind, were absolutely necessary to be done. Now, though these ends might be answered, in some faint degree, or, to speak more properly, though a shadow of them might be exhibited in the sacrifices of brute animals, yet they could not be accomplished in an adequate manner, nor the very images of the things be exhibited thereby. For, 1st, These sacrifices could not fully manifest the great evil of sin, and its destructive nature. For what great evil was there in it, if only the death of an inferior creature, or of a number of inferior creatures, was required in order to the expiation of it? Nor, 2d, For the same reason could the sacrifice of these animals adequately manifest the great guilt of mankind in committing sin, and the punishment they thereby deserved: nor, 3d, God’s infinite hatred to it, and the infinite rectitude of his nature, and dignity of his government. Add to this, as the sacrificed animals were not of the same nature with man, who had sinned, their death could not dissolve the debt of death and destruction which the human nature had contracted. Nay, being irrational, they were of an inferior nature, and the lives of ten thousands of them were not worth the life of one man, even if man were no more immortal than they. “In satisfaction to justice, by way of compensation for injuries, there must be a proportion between the injury and the reparation, that justice may be as much exalted and glorified in the one, as it is depressed and debased in the other. But there could be no such proportion between the affront put on the righteousness of God by sin, and the reparation by the blood of bulls, &c.” If a nobleman forfeit his head by high treason, his giving up his flocks and herds would not expiate his offence, and satisfy the law. And if the blood of thousands of them would not be an adequate ransom for the life of one man, much less for the lives of all men. They are in their own nature mortal; man is immortal; and surely the sacrifice of their temporal, yea, short lives, could be no adequate price for men’s everlasting lives. The appointment of these sacrifices, however, was not made in vain. Though they could not take away sin, they had their use. 1st, They purified the flesh from ceremonial defilement, and gave, or restored, to those that offered them, a right to the benefits of the Mosaic dispensation, namely, access to God in his worship, and life and prosperity in the land of Canaan; although they did not purify their conscience so as to procure them admission into the heavenly Canaan. 2d, They continually represented to sinners the curse and sentence of the law, or that death was the wages of sin. For although there was allowed in them a commutation, namely, that the sinner himself should not die, but the beast sacrificed in his stead; yet they all bore testimony to the sacred truth, that, in the judgment of God, they who commit sin are worthy of death. 3d, They were intended, as we have repeatedly seen, to be typical of the sacrifice of Christ; and the temporal benefits obtained for the Israelites by them were emblematical of the everlasting blessings procured for believers by his sacrifice.

Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:
Hebrews 10:5-10. Wherefore — As if he had said, Because the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sins, therefore Christ offered himself as a sacrifice to do it. When he cometh into the world — That is, when the Messiah is described by David as making his entrance into the world; he saith — He is represented by that inspired writer as saying, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not — Accept for a sufficient expiation and full satisfaction for sin; but thou hast provided something of another nature for this purpose; thou hast given me a body — Miraculously formed, and qualified to be an expiatory sacrifice for sin. The words, a body hast thou prepared me, are the translation of the LXX.; but in the Hebrew it is, Mine ears hast thou opened, or bored; an expression which signifies, I have devoted myself to thy perpetual service, and thou hast accepted of me as thy servant, and signified so much by the boring of mine ears. So that, though the words of the translation of the LXX., here used by the apostle, are not the same with those signified by the original Hebrew, the sense is the same; for the ears suppose a body to which they belong, and the preparing of a body implies the preparing of the ears, and the obligation of the person for whom a body was prepared, to serve him who prepared it; which the boring of the ear signified. How far the rest of the psalm is applicable to Christ, see the notes there. Then, &c. — That is, when the way appointed for the expiation of sin was not perfectly available for that purpose; I said, Lo, I come — To make expiation; in the volume of the book — That is, according to what is foretold of me in Scripture, even in this very psalm; to do thy will, O God — To suffer whatsoever thy justice shall require of me in order to the making of a complete atonement. Above when he said — That is, when the psalmist pronounced those words in his name; Sacrifice, &c., thou wouldest not — Or thou hast not chosen; then said he — In that very instant he subjoined; Lo, I come to do thy will

By offering myself a sacrifice for sin. He taketh away the first, &c. — That is, by this very act he taketh away the legal, that he may establish the evangelical, dispensation. By which will — Namely, that he should become a sacrifice; we — Believers under the gospel; are sanctified — Are both delivered from the guilt of sin, and dedicated to God in heart and life; yea, are conformed to his image, and made truly holy; through the offering of the body of Christ — Which, while it expiates our sins, procures for us the sanctifying Spirit of God, and lays us under an indispensable obligation to die to those sins, the guilt of which required such an expiation, and to live to him who made it. “Here we learn it was by the express will of God that the sacrifice of Christ was appointed a propitiation for the sins of mankind; and it must ever be remembered, that the will of God is the true foundation on which any atonement of sin can be established. Wherefore, since the death of Christ is by God made the propitiation for men’s sins, it rests on the foundation of his will, secure from all the objections raised against it, either by erring Christians or by obstinate infidels, on account of our not being able to explain the reasons which determined God to save sinners in that method, rather than in any other.”

In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.
Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.
Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law;
Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.
By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:
Hebrews 10:11-18. And every priest standeth, &c. — In token of humble service and subjection; daily — Morning and evening; ministering and offering often the same sacrifices, which shows that these sacrifices can never take away sins — Can never fully expiate them, so as to make it consistent with the justice of God to forgive them to the penitent and believing. But this man Αυτος δε, but He, the virtue of whose one sacrifice remains for ever, so that it need not be any more repeated; sat down on the right hand of God — As a Son in majesty and honour, and in token of the continuance of his priesthood, and of his dignity there as Lord; from henceforth, (το λοιπον, what remains,) expecting — Waiting; till his enemies be made his footstool — Till his ministry as High-Priest, and government as King, shall issue according to God’s promise, (Psalm 110:1,) in the utter destruction of his enemies. For by one offering — Of himself; (and it appears that he did not need to offer himself more than once;) he hath perfected for ever — Hath fully reconciled to God; them that are sanctified — Those who in true repentance, living faith, and new obedience, give themselves up to the love and service of God. Whereof — Of the perfection of whose sacrifice; the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us — Namely, in the form of the new covenant recorded by him Jeremiah 31:31. This is the covenant, &c. — See on chap. Hebrews 8:10. In these three verses, the apostle winds up his argument concerning the excellence and perfection of the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ. He had proved this before by a quotation from Jeremiah, which he here repeats, describing the new covenant as now completely ratified, and all the blessings of it secured to us by the one offering of Christ, which renders all other expiatory sacrifices, and any repetition of his own, utterly needless.

But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.
For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before,
This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
Hebrews 10:19-22. Having therefore — The apostle, having finished the doctrinal part of his epistle, now proceeds to exhortation, deduced from what has been treated of from Hebrews 5:4. For though there are some occasional intermixtures of doctrines, consonant to those before insisted on, yet his professed design henceforward is to propose to, and press on, the believing Hebrews, such duties as the truths he had insisted on laid a foundation for, and showed to be necessary to be practised. Having therefore boldness — The word παρρησια, thus rendered, properly means liberty of speech; and by an easy figure, boldness, or confidence, as it is rendered chap. Hebrews 3:6. Here it signifies that boldness which arises from a firm persuasion of our title to appear before God as pardoned persons, through the blood of Christ. To enter into the holiest — That is, the true sanctuary, the holy place not made with hands, the immediate gracious presence of God himself in Christ Jesus. Whatever was typically represented in the most holy place of old, we have access to, especially into the favour and friendship of God, and a state of fellowship with him. Of this privilege the blood of Christ, or his sacrifice, is the procuring cause. By this, all causes of distance between God and believers are removed. For on the one hand, it made atonement for our sins, and procured our free justification; and on the other gives peace to our consciences, and removes every discouraging fear of approaching him, whether in his ordinances here, or in his kingdom and glory hereafter. By a new and living way — He calls it a new way, because it was but newly made and prepared; belongs to the new covenant, and admits of no decays, but is always new, as to its efficacy and use, as in the day of its first preparation; whereas that of the tabernacle waxed old, and so was prepared for a removal. And he terms it a living way, because all that use it are alive to God, and in the way to life everlasting. And this is no other than the way of faith, or confidence in the mercy and promises of God, through the sacrifice of Christ, according to the revelation made thereof in the gospel; which he hath consecrated — Prepared, dedicated, and established; through the veil, that is, his flesh — He refers to the veil that was interposed between the holy and the most holy place of the Jewish tabernacle and temple: see Hebrews 9:3. This veil, on our Lord’s death, was rent from the top to the bottom, by which the most holy place became visible and accessible to all that were in the outward tabernacle; by which fact was signified, that by virtue of Christ’s sacrifice, whereby his flesh was torn and rent, the God of heaven was manifested, and the way to heaven laid open to all true believers. And having a High-Priest over the house — Or family; of God — Who continually appears in the presence of God, and ever lives to make intercession for us; let us draw near — To God; with a true heart — In godly sincerity, and with fervent desire after such blessings of the gospel as we have not yet received; in full assurance of faith — That we shall find acceptance with God through the mediation of our High-Priest, and the answer of our petitions; having our hearts sprinkled — That is, cleansed, by the application of Christ’s blood; from an evil conscience — Namely, a conscience defiled with the guilt of past sin. See on Hebrews 9:14. When the Israelites were ceremonially polluted, they were to be cleansed by sprinkling them with the water of separation, described Numbers 19:2-10; but the sprinkling or cleansing here recommended is not of the body from ceremonial pollution, but of the soul from the guilt and distress of an accusing conscience. This cleansing is effected neither by water nor by the blood of beasts, but by faith in Christ’s blood, shed as a sin-offering, whereby the repenting sinner hath a full assurance of pardon. And our bodies washed with pure water — All our conversation unblameable and holy, through the influence of God’s sanctifying Spirit. This seems to be spoken with an allusion to the high-priest’s washing his body with water before he entered the inward tabernacle, Leviticus 16:4. In that manner also the Levites were purified, (Numbers 8:7,) to prepare them for the service of the sanctuary.

By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;
And having an high priest over the house of God;
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.
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
Hebrews 10:23-25. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith — Or, rather, of our hope, as the most approved MSS., indeed all but one, read the clause. The apostle referred to that profession or confession of their hope of eternal life, which believers made at their baptism. For being God’s children, and heirs through faith in Christ, (John 1:12; Galatians 3:26,) they had an undoubted right to hope for the heavenly inheritance: without wavering — Without giving way to any doubt or fear in a case where we have such certain and indubitable evidence; or unmoved by the threats of our persecutors. For he is faithful that promised — That is, all the promises of God shall be made good to us, if we continue steadfast. And let us consider one another — Let us reflect seriously on one another’s temptations, trials, infirmities, failings, and other circumstances attending us, that we may judge what influence we can have over one another for our mutual advantage: and especially to provoke and excite one another unto love to God, his people, and all mankind; and to good works — Of all kinds, the proper fruits of love. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together — For public or social worship; as the manner of some is — Either through fear of persecution, or from a vain imagination that they are above external ordinances; but exhorting one another — To constancy in the faith, zeal and diligence in all works of piety and virtue; and so much the more as ye see the day approaching — That awful day, in which we must appear before the tribunal of God, preceded by the day of death, which is drawing continually nearer, and will fix our character and condition for ever. As also that day of vengeance coming on the Jewish nation, which Christ hath described as so terrible an emblem of the day of final judgment, and the conflagration of the world. From what Christ had said concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and the dreadful calamities awaiting the Jews, as events that should happen during the lives of some who had been present with him about thirty years before the date of this epistle, these Hebrews might infer that these judgments were now near, and doubtless might see them approaching, by the appearing of those signs which our Lord had said should precede them.

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
Hebrews 10:26-27. For, &c. — As if he had said, It concerns us to use all means to ensure our perseverance, because apostacy is so dangerous; if we — Any of us Christians; sin wilfully — By total apostacy from God; (see on Hebrews 6:4;) after we have received the knowledge of the truth — As it is in Jesus, namely, an experimental and practical knowledge thereof, so as to have been made free thereby from the guilt and power of sin; there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins — None but that which we obstinately reject. “As the apostle, in the former part of the epistle, had proved that the sacrifices of the law were all abolished, and that the only sacrifice for sin remaining was the sacrifice of Christ, it followed that apostates, who wilfully renounced the benefit of that sacrifice, had no sacrifice for sin whatever remaining to them.” But a certain fearful looking for Φοβερα δε τις εκδοχη, a kind of fearful expectation: intimating something inexpressible, such as no heart could conceive or tongue describe. Thus St. Peter, 1 Epist. 1 Peter 4:17-18, What shall be the end of them who obey not the gospel? Where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Of judgment and fiery indignation. The apostle refers both to the final judgment of the great day, when apostates from the religion of Jesus, as well as those who obstinately rejected it, shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, &c., 2 Thessalonians 1:9; and also to the dreadful and fiery indignation which God was about to bring on the unbelieving and obstinate Jews, in the total destruction of their city and temple by sword and fire, devouring them, as adversaries to God and his Christ, of all others the most inexcusable. The reader should observe that the apostle lays it down here as certain, that God will not pardon sinners without some sacrifice or satisfaction. For otherwise it would not follow, from there remaining to apostates no more sacrifice for sin, that there must remain to them a dreadful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation. In these last words, the conflagration of the heaven and the earth at the day of judgment seems especially to be referred to.

But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
Hebrews 10:28-29. He that — In capital cases, such as by the sins of sabbath- breaking, disobedience to parents, blasphemy, adultery, murder; despised — Presumptuously transgressed; Moses’s law, died — Was put to death; without mercy — Without any delay or mitigation of his punishment, if convicted by two or three witnesses — See the margin. Of how much sorer punishment — Than that of the death of the body; shall he be thought worthy, who — By wilful, total apostacy; (to which only it appears that this passage refers;) hath, as it were, trodden underfoot the Son of God — A lawgiver far more honourable than Moses, and the true Messiah, the only Saviour of the world; him whom God hath exalted above principalities and powers, and whom therefore all mankind ought to exalt and adore in their souls; but who now, by this sort of persons, was esteemed an evil-doer, a seducer; one not in any sense sent of God, but a malefactor, justly condemned and executed for his crimes: herein they trod under foot the Son of God with all contempt and scorn. And hath counted the blood of the covenant — That is, the blood of Christ, whereby the new covenant was confirmed; wherewith he was sanctified — Dedicated to God, and taken into covenant with him, and even inwardly renewed in the spirit of his mind; an unholy Κοινον, a common thing, of no value or virtue; a worthless thing; not even of so much use to the glory of God as the blood of beasts in legal sacrifices. Observe, reader, those by whom the efficacy of Christ’s blood, for the expiation of sin, is denied, may be truly said to make it a common thing; and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace Ενυβρισας, having treated with contumely or reproach that Holy Spirit which the grace of God confers upon his people, and which is the author of saving grace to them. Macknight renders it, Hath insulted the Spirit of grace; observing, “the apostle means the Holy Spirit, whose gifts were bestowed in the first age on believers, for the confirmation of the gospel. Wherefore if one apostatized in the first age, after having been a witness to the miraculous gifts, much more, after having possessed them himself, he must, like the scribes and Pharisees, have ascribed them to evil spirits; than which a greater indignity could not be done to the Spirit of God.”

Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.
Hebrews 10:30-31. For we know him — As if he had said, We may well think that such shall be punished very severely, because God has declared as much, saying, Vengeance belongeth unto me, Deuteronomy 32:35; Psalm 94:1-2. Though this was originally said of the idolatrous nations who oppressed the Israelites, it was very properly applied by the apostle to apostates, being a general maxim of God’s government, according to which he will act in all cases where vengeance or punishment is due. I will recompense — Recompense is the actual exercise of vengeance, and vengeance is the actual execution of judgment on sinners, according to their desert, without mitigation by mercy. He however oftentimes exercises great patience and forbearance even then, when vengeance might justly be expected. And this commonly adds to the security of wicked men, who take occasion from it to despise all the threatenings of the divine judgments which they have deserved; concluding from it, that either vengeance doth not belong to God, or that it shall be executed when and where they are not concerned. And the Lord will judge his people — If they rebel against him; and that far more rigorously than he will judge the heathen. It is a fearful thing — A thing above all others the most to be dreaded; to fall into the hands — To be exposed to the avenging justice; of the living God — Who, living for ever, can for ever punish, in what degree he pleases, the wretched creatures who have made themselves the objects of his final displeasure.

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;
Hebrews 10:32-34. But — As if he had said, I trust you will be preserved from so terrible a ruin; and in order that you may, I exhort you to call to remembrance the former days — To look back upon past events, which, if duly considered, may be very instructive, and may prove the means of establishing you in your resolution of adhering to the gospel. In particular, reflect on what you have suffered, and how you have been supported and delivered, that you may not despond upon the approach of similar evils, but may still trust in God and persevere in his service; in which, after you were enlightened — With the knowledge of God and of his truth; ye endured — Courageously sustained, through God’s help; a great fight of afflictions — A grievous persecution from your unbelieving brethren, and great and various troubles and distresses, on account of your faith in, and profession of, the gospel; and therefore you should not fall off now at last, lest you lose the fruit of all these sufferings. There were various persecutions of the Christians in Judea, particularly the great persecution after the death of Stephen, Acts 8:1, and Herod’s persecution, Acts 12:1. But perhaps the apostle here refers to the persecution in Judea, mentioned 1 Thessalonians 2:14, in which the believing Hebrews showed great love to their suffering brethren, Hebrews 6:10. Their enduring this persecution with fortitude and patience, the apostle calls here πολλην αθλησιν, a great combat, in allusion to the combats in the Grecian games. Partly, &c. — Both in respect of your own sufferings and of your sympathy with others in theirs; while ye were made a gazing-stock Θεατριζομενοι, made a public spectacle, or openly exposed, as in a theatre. See on 1 Corinthians 4:9. By reproaches — Cast on you as atheists, or enemies to the true God, for deserting the institutions of Moses; and afflictions — Which befel you on that and other accounts; and partly while ye became companions of them that were so used — In pitying, owning, visiting, and relieving them who were treated in the same cruel manner. For ye had compassion on me — Ye sympathized with all your suffering brethren, and with me in particular; in my bonds — Both at Jerusalem and at Cesarea; and ye took joyfully — For the sake of him who died for you; the spoiling of your goods — The loss of your property; knowing in yourselves — Or, rather, knowing that you have for yourselves; in heaven — Laid up for you there; a better, than any which you lose, and an enduring substance — Even unspeakable and eternal riches, glory, and felicity, when all the possessions of earth have perished, and all its sorrows have come to a perpetual period.

Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.
For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.
Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.
Hebrews 10:35-37. Therefore, having formerly behaved with such fortitude, cast not away your confidence — As cowardly soldiers cast away their shields, and flee in the day of battle; but since God has supported you under, and brought you through all your sufferings hitherto, with much patience and joy maintain and improve your confidence and courage against all difficulties and dangers; which hath — That is, will receive; great recompense of reward — That is, a great reward, (namely, eternal glory,) by way of recompense for your obedience. For ye have need of patience — Or, of perseverance, as υπομονης may be properly rendered; that is, ye have need of the continual exercise thereof in well-doing, and waiting for the accomplishment of the promises; that after ye have done the will of God — Have conducted yourselves as it is God’s will you should, by enduring whatsoever he is pleased to lay upon you; ye might receive the promise — The promised reward of glory. For yet a little whileΜικρον οσον οσον, a little, a very little time. And he that shall comeΟ ερχομενος, he who is coming; the appellation given by the Jews to Messiah, Matthew 11:3, Art thou he, ο ερχομενος, who should come? will come — As if he had said, Be patient, for it will not be long before he will take you hence by death, and release you from all your trials. Or rather, It will not be long before Christ will come to take vengeance on your persecutors, the unbelieving and obdurate Jews, and deliver you from all the sufferings to which you are exposed from them; and will not tarry — Beyond the appointed time. It must be observed, though the apostle in this verse uses some words of the Prophet Habakkuk, (Habakkuk 2:3,) he doth not introduce them as a quotation from him, containing a prophecy of any coming of Christ. There is therefore no necessity of endeavouring to show that, as they stand in Habakkuk, they may be interpreted of Christ’s coming to destroy Jerusalem. In the passage where they are found, the prophet exhorted the Jews to trust in God for deliverance from the Chaldeans, by putting them in mind of the faithfulness of God in performing his promises. Wherefore, as the faithfulness and power of God are a source of consolation to which good men, at all times, may have recourse in their distresses, the apostle might, with great propriety, apply Habakkuk’s words, by way of accommodation, to Christ’s coming to destroy Jerusalem and the Jewish state. Christ had promised to come for that purpose before the generation then living went off the stage; and as the believing Hebrews could entertain no doubt of his being faithful to his promise, the apostle, to encourage them to bear their afflictions with patience, very fifty put them in mind of that event in the words of this prophet, because it assured them that the power of their persecutors would soon be at an end.

For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.
For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.
Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
Hebrews 10:38-39. Now — That is, in the mean time, as it is there added; the just, δικαιος, the righteous — He that is pardoned and renewed, or justified and regenerated, and who therefore is humble, meek, sincere, resigned to the will of God, and relying on his wisdom, power, goodness, and faithfulness; shall live — Shall be supported and preserved even in the midst of surrounding dangers, trials, and troubles, and shall live in God’s favour a spiritual and holy life; by faith — See on Romans 1:17; namely, as long as he retains that gift of God. In this passage the prophet, as well as the apostle, speaks of the efficacy of faith to support and comfort a man under temptations and afflictions in such a manner, that he neither faints in the combat, nor withdraws from it. But if any man — The words any man are not in the original, and certainly are not necessary to be here supplied. The Greek, και εαν υποστειληται, are, and, or but, if he (who lived by faith) draw back — If he make shipwreck of his faith, and cease to believe and rely on God’s promises; or if, by reason of sufferings and temptations, he cease to exercise faith in Christ, and in the truths and promises of the gospel, and in consequence thereof renounce his profession of Christ, and withdrew himself from communion with other professors; my soul shall have — Or rather, hath, (the word being in the present tense,) no pleasure in him — That is, I withdraw my favour from him, nay, and cast him off in my displeasure. But we are not — But I am persuaded that the persons to whom I address my letter, together with myself and my fellow-labourers; are not of the number of those that draw back unto perdition — Like him who backslides and apostatizes, as mentioned in the preceding verse; but of them that believe — That continue in the faith grounded and settled; to the saving of the soul — To the attaining of final eternal salvation.

But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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