Hebrews 10:32-39 “The just live by faith.”
Some have argued that the presence of this idea of being “enlightened” or “illuminated” with respect to both apostates (6:4), and our author’s audience here (v. 32), suggest that these apostates were genuine Christians who were in danger of losing their salvation. However, as has been demonstrated to this point, the apostates were those who refused to accept the testimony that the Son was the Messiah hoped for, who came in fulfillment of the word. What sets the audience apart is, among other things, was that they had persevered under “a great struggle with sufferings” (v. 32). Again, we must remember the context as one of old covenant lawsuit and new covenant renewal, and in those early days a great deal of the church’s suffering came from the apostate Jews and Gentile converts to Judaism, who were leading the persecution of Christians, as in the case of Christ’s death itself.
On the other hand, our author’s audience had endured, despite being made a “spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations” (v. 33a). They also “became companions of those who were so treated” (v. 33b). In what for some sounds reminiscent of Paul, our author commends them for helping him while he was “in chains,” but Paul was certainly not the only one to suffer in this way for the faith (v. 34a Cf. I Cor. 4:9; Phil. 1:7; II Tim. 1:16). Even his audience had suffered the “plundering” of their goods (v. 34b). They were able to endure this also, knowing that they had “a better and an enduring possession…in heaven” (v. 34c Cf. Mt. 5:12; 6:20). It is confidence in the promise of the word which enables one, by God’s mercy and grace, to endure. “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (v. 36 Cf. Lk. 21:19; Col. 3:24).
The central promise is not specifically heaven. Not everyone will go to heaven, but only those who have the hope of eternal life. That hope rests on a more fundamental promise, which our author highlights here with his quote from Habakkuk. “The just shall live by faith” (v. 38; Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17). The time had arrived when this vision found fulfillment in the one who would make this complete (v. 37; Hab. 2:3). Again, the acceptance of this message was what set our author and his audience apart from the apostates. This is why, next to a return to the word, that this was so central to the protestant reformation. Our author includes himself with his audience as those who do not “draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul” (v. 29 Cf. Acts 16:31). Endurance in living according to God’s will, is a sign and evidence of true saving faith (Cf. II Pet. 2:20).