Online Bible Commentary
In Just a Very Little While
Hebrews 10:32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay. 38 But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him." 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. (NIV)
The writer of Hebrews has ventured into the second, and final, subject of his letter to the Hebrew Christians. The first subject was to proclaim the superiority of Christ. The second subject began with 10:19 and consists of exhortations to obedient living. The purpose of this letter, likely written by Paul to the Hebrew Christians at the church in Jerusalem, was to encourage those Hebrews to remain steadfast in their faith and not to return to Judaism.
The writer covers three main topics in this passage. He reminds the readers of their spiritual history and all that they have invested in the Christian faith (vv. 32-36). Secondly, he attempts to strengthen their resolve to persevere to the finish line by reminding them that their race will soon be over (v. 37). Finally, he warns them that God would not be pleased if they turn on Him and become apostates (vv. 38-39).
It is important at this point to align the message of remaining steadfast in the faith with the teaching of the Bible on the whole. Proper Biblical interpretation requires that a verse be interpreted within its context in the passage, in the book, and in the entirety of the Bible. The Bible teaches that we cannot lose our salvation. Once we become a Christian we will endure in our faith. That is because true Christians are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing eternal life (Eph. 1:13-14, et al.).
Merriam Webster defines an apostate as someone whose beliefs have changed and who no longer belongs to a religious or political group. This is impossible for the true Christian. Therefore, an apostate “Christian” is one who claimed to be a Christian but never was. He may have made a profession of faith but his profession was not genuine, and he was never indwelled by the Holy Spirit.
The Lord knows who is a true Christian and who is not. The Bible says that God will separate the wheat from the tares, the true Christians from the look-alikes. Those look-alikes can still be converted, and so the writer is really addressing those people when he encourages the readers to remain steadfast in their faith.
Those who sign up for Christianity also sign up for persecution. The persecution of those first century Hebrews who switched to this new “sect”, initially called “the Way”, and then Christianity, were completely disowned by friends and family. They lost everything. Their possessions were even subject to being confiscated by the state. They were subject to being imprisoned for expressing their faith or for aligning themselves with those who did (vv. 32-34a). The writer reminds them of all they gave up in order to get to this point where they are today. He reminds them that they “have better and lasting possessions” (v. 34b) and that they will be “richly rewarded” (v. 35). If they persevere in the “will of God” they “will receive what he has promised” (v. 36).
The writer then attempts to strengthen the resolve of the people by reminding them that they are approaching the finish line. “In just a very little while” (v. 37) the race will be over. Many first century Christians believed that Christ would return during their lifetime.
Finally, the writer warns the Hebrews that God “will not be pleased” (v. 38) if they do not endure in the faith. God’s judgment of apostates is eternal life in Hell. The writer then addresses the true Christians with the assurance that they “believe and are saved” (v. 39).
The worst is over, and the best is yet to come. This is not the time to give up. For the true Christian that time never comes. We are approaching the finish line. We are not promised tomorrow. Christ may return during our lifetime. However, whether He does or He doesn’t, our time on this earth is “just a very little while.” We can, and will, persevere.