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Hebrews chapter 10

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What does Hebrews chapter 10 mean?

Hebrews chapter 10 marks the end of the writer's primary argument and begins a transition into practical applications. For several chapters, the book of Hebrews has provided evidence that the new covenant, in Jesus Christ, is superior to the old covenant of animal sacrifices. The writer has also carefully pointed out that God always intended to replace the temple sacrifices. Those were meant to be symbolic of the "true" solution for our sins, which is Jesus.

The first half of chapter 10 completes this long and intricate argument (Hebrews 10:1–18). The writer offers a final point of logic, as well as another reference to the Old Testament. The quotation, Psalm 40:6–8, is from the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament completed about 200 years before the birth of Christ. The book of Hebrews uses this passage to show that God's intent was for His will to be completed through a "body," specifically in contrast to doing so through sacrifices.

Logically, the writer also reminds us that repeating a sacrifice is evidence that the ritual could not take away sins. If the offerings of the old covenant could actually remove the penalty of our sin, there would be no need to offer them again and again. Instead, they had to be repeated. According to the writer of Hebrews, this points us to the real purpose of the Old Covenant: a reminder of sin, not a removal of it. God's intent in setting up the old covenant was to symbolize the upcoming new covenant.

This also supports the fact that Jesus' sacrifice was a perfect, once for all event. Once the ultimate solution has been offered, there is no reason to bring that same sacrifice over again.

The second half of the chapter, beginning in verse 19, transitions into application (Hebrews 10:19–39). The overall theme of this letter is confidence in our faith leading us to "hold fast" in the face of adversity. This shift in topic, however, comes with the most strongly-worded warning given in the book of Hebrews.

Earlier, the writer warned about the dangers of careless faith (Hebrews 2:1–4), fearful disobedience (Hebrews 3:12–19), and drifting from the truth due to spiritual apathy (Hebrews 6:1–8). Here, the danger is presented in graphic, dire terms. The phrasing of this section lends itself to two possible interpretations, both of which are consistent with the rest of the book of Hebrews and the New Testament. This is either a caution given to saved Christians about the consequences of their sin, or a warning to those who are "almost" saved, but choose to reject Christ in favor of their life of sin. The context of this chapter, and the book of Hebrews, makes the former interpretation far more likely.

Sin has consequences, whether it is deliberate or not (Hebrews 2:2). However, those who should "know better" are held more accountable by God (John 9:41). This means that those who are saved—those who know first-hand what it means to be forgiven—who choose to sin can expect a far harsher punishment as a result. Since deliberate sin against the old covenant was punishable by death (Numbers 15:27–31), it's reasonable to assume that those who "profane" a greater covenant are subject to a greater consequence.

At the same time, the writer seeks to encourage his readers. These persecuted Jewish Christians have survived hardship and trials in the past; they can do so again (Hebrews 10:32–39).

The following chapters will continue to explore the implications of our confident faith in the new covenant.
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