Look Forward To Your Rewards
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. (10:35–36)
The second deterrent to apostasy is the prospect of the rewards for those who believe. “You know what the promises are,” they are told. “You know how wonderful and unequaled and how superior they are, and you know that Christ will be faithful in fulfilling them. Don’t let your confidence waver now. Claim the promises. Secure the rewards. Look back and remember how wonderful it once seemed, and look ahead to how even more wonderful it is going to be.”
They needed endurance and patience to prevent their present circumstances from causing them to turn back. Their enlightenment in the gospel and their suffering and persecution and loss by outward association with believers were not for nothing. Their confidence was not in vain, but it was not enough. They had not done the will of God fully, because they had not trusted in His Son fully. And until then, they could not receive what was promised. They knew the promises, rejoiced in the promises, and even had suffered for the promises. But they had not received the promises. The church is still filled with people like this. It is the negative side of Matthew 7:22–23: “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ ”
For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. (10:37–39)
The suffering they might endure would not last forever, but their salvation in Jesus Christ would. The Lord would be coming to set His world right, and He will not delay. In the meanwhile, the way to become righteous is by faith and the way the righteous should live is by faith. From the human side, faith is the basis of spiritual life and spiritual living. Knowledge of the gospel is essential. Suffering for the gospel is possible. Serving others, especially God’s people, in the name of the gospel is fine. But only faith will bring salvation and the preserving of the soul.
The warning and appeal end on a positive and hopeful note. The writer seems confident that some of those to whom he is appealing will indeed believe—so much so, in fact, that he already identifies himself with them and the other true believers. We are not of those who shrink back to destruction.
36. For ye have need of patience, &c. He says that patience is necessary, not only because we have to endure to the end, but as Satan has innumerable arts by which he harasses us; and hence except we possess extraordinary patience, we shall a thousand times be broken down before we come to the half of our course. The inheritance of eternal life is indeed certain to us, but as life is like a race, we ought to go on towards the goal. But in our way there are many hinderances and difficulties, which not only delay us, but which would also stop our course altogether, except we had great firmness of mind to pass through them. Satan craftily suggests every kind of trouble in order to discourage us. In short, Christians will never advance two paces without fainting, except they are sustained by patience. This then is the only way or means by which we can firmly and constantly advance; we shall not otherwise obey God, nor even enjoy the promised inheritance, which is here by metonymy called the promise.
Faithfulness Past and Future (10:32–36)
The call to stand firm in the face of discouragement and persecution is not anything new to the readers. The author is asking them only to maintain the faithfulness they have already displayed. After going through so much for the sake of the gospel, surely they cannot now think of throwing it all away and losing the promised reward (as vv. 26–31 have been warning them).
The author’s brief description of their previous experience does not allow us to reconstruct a full picture of what had happened to them since they were first “enlightened.” Imprisonment and the loss of property (v. 34) suggest some measure of official suppression, and the implication seems to be that this came to them specifically because of their Christian commitment. The only official persecution of Christians as such for which we have clear historical evidence in the first century is that by Nero in AD 64–65, which was apparently limited to Rome, and it is tempting to link these comments with that unsettled period (if the letter was written to a group in the capital, as many believe); the comment in 12:4 that they have not yet had to shed their blood might then be in comparison with the large number of Roman Christians who were in fact martyred at that time (Tacitus, Ann. 15.44). But the author is apparently speaking here of a time soon after their original conversion, and this is likely to have been earlier than the sixties. In any case, our historical information is limited, and other local acts of persecution probably took place from time to time, not at the official imperial level, but involving local officials and a hostile population; cf. the frequent attacks on Paul from non-Christian Jews recorded in Acts. In the uneasy period of the church’s gradual separation from Judaism, it would be surprising if groups of Jewish Christians did not sometimes have to face such hostility and sometimes violence.
32 For “receiving the light,” see comments at 6:4; together with “earlier days” it speaks of the time when they first became Christians. The term “contest” (TNIV, “conflict”) uses a strong physical metaphor from wrestling or athletics, and the following verses will show that this “prize fight of sufferings” (lit.) involved not just adverse circumstances but the hostility of other people. The verb “stood your ground” (TNIV, “endured”) indicates the readers were the victims rather than the perpetrators of the violence. “Endurance” is a key theme of these later chapters (esp. 10:36; 12:1–3, 7).
33 “Publicly exposed” is another vivid metaphor, this time from the theater (cf. 1 Co 4:9 for the same metaphor), while “insult” and “persecution” suggest respectively verbal and physical abuse. (Cf. 1 Pe 3:14–16; 4:3–4, 12–17 for the sort of abuse some early Christians had to face.) To be forced to endure such treatment oneself is hard enough, but the author reminds them that they were willing also to stand alongside (lit., “become sharers with”) their fellow Christians when they faced it. The important NT idea of koinōnia (GK 3126) is significantly applied here not to the sharing of spiritual and material blessings but, as in 2 Corinthians 1:7 and 1 Peter 4:13, to the sharing of sufferings. In their ordeal the readers have discovered what it means to be members of the body of Christ, in which “if one part suffers, every part suffers with it” (1 Co 12:26).
34 “Sympathize” translates a Greek verb which more literally means “suffer along with” (TNIV). While it need have no more than the emotional sense of our “sympathize,” here it picks up the “sharing” of v. 33 and suggests an active involvement with imprisoned fellow Christians (cf. 13:3). Prisoners in the ancient world depended on the active help of friends and family for the necessities of life, not just for supportive visits. Such open identification with those in prison might put them at risk of the same punishment.
The loss of possessions (a very general term not limited to real estate, as our use of “property” tends to be) is expressed using a strong word (“seizing, plunder”), which implies strong-arm tactics and victimization, perhaps in this context looting, rather than the official action suggested by the NIV’s “confiscation.” The phrase translated by the NIV as “better possessions” is in fact singular, and while the noun can be used in a collective sense, it is possible the author uses it to indicate the one single great “possession” (NASB) that outweighs all the (plural) possessions (a related term) they have lost. The term “better,” so often used in this letter for the nature of Christian salvation in contrast to its OT antecedents, here points to something on a different level from those earthly possessions, and the phrase “and a lasting one,” added prominently at the end of the sentence (NASB), underlines the contrast with the temporary advantage of earthly wealth. The whole verse therefore portrays the true riches of their heavenly calling (3:1), and ch. 11 will go on to illustrate repeatedly how faith puts such wealth before earthly security (11:8–10, 13–16, 24–26). For “joy” in such circumstances, cf. Luke 6:22–23.
35–36 The opening “So” shows the link with vv. 32–34: their past record is the basis for the author’s appeal for continuing faithfulness. Having come so far so well, they must not think of giving up now. In these verses, three terms express the demands of the present (their “confidence,” “persevering,” and “doing the will of God”), while two speak of what lies ahead (a “rich reward” and God’s “promise”). For “confidence,” see on v. 19; here too the more objective sense of their standing before God underlies their subjective assurance or boldness. “Reward” represents a compound term peculiar to Hebrews in the NT (cf. 11:6, 26 and, in a negative sense, “punishment” in 2:2), not essentially different in meaning from the simpler term used by other writers but conveying more vividly the sense of full recompense. The “promise” is here unspecified, but by now the theme is familiar (cf. 4:1; 6:12; 8:6; 9:15; 10:23). The promised reward is reserved only for those who have remained faithful in “doing the will of God.” To turn back now would be to lose it all, as vv. 26–31 have spelled out.
10:35–36 / It is precisely this that the readers are now to remember and to take to heart. The author exhorts them not to throw away their confidence (or “courage” or “boldness”). This boldness, if it is exercised in the present situation, will enable the readers to endure as they have done in the past, and it will be richly rewarded. Above all, the readers need to persevere (lit., “endure”). This noun is formed from the same root as the verb “endured” (stood your ground) in verse 32. They endured in the past times of hardship; they must endure now. Endurance is the will of God and is necessary in order to receive “the promise.” The promise is left unspecified here, but it is obviously that eschatological hope of the final realization of God’s saving purpose. It is what has been described in verse 34 as “better and lasting possessions” and what will be described in chapters 11 and 12 with different metaphors.
10:36. What did they need to endure? They needed stamina or staying power. You need to persevere described a persistence in the face of persecution and difficult circumstances. In James 1:2–4 we learn that God develops this trait in those who trust him through trying circumstances. Staying power comes through learning to trust God in trials.
Two events would happen if these believers showed staying power. First, they would do the will of God. Second, they would receive the benefit of God’s promises. Mature Christians have learned that God’s strength will take them through adversity. They trust that God will provide them his glorious promises because he is dependable and trustworthy.
36. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.
The writer shows tact and pastoral concern. He exhorts the readers to persevere; as in the past they stood their ground in the face of suffering (10:32), so now they ought to persevere in doing the will of God. When he writes the phrase the will of God, he immediately reminds the recipients of the obedience of Christ, who came to do the will of God (10:7, 9–10). The exhortation, then, is to follow Christ in obediently keeping the commandments. And when they persevere in faithfulness to God’s will, they will “receive what he has promised.”
The expression promise is a key word in the Epistle to the Hebrews. It stands for forgiveness of sins, in terms of the new covenant, but especially for complete salvation in Jesus Christ.40 God’s promise to man is unbreakable. What God has promised, the believer will receive.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (pp. 282–283). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews (p. 256). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 France, R. T. (2006). Hebrews. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 143–144). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Hagner, D. A. (2011). Hebrews (pp. 174–175). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Lea, T. D. (1999). Hebrews, James (Vol. 10, p. 190). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of Hebrews (Vol. 15, pp. 301–302). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.