I’m completely burned out, and bummed out, with all the left and right-wing bellyaching about how our nation is going to hell in a handcart. The Right worries about godless secularists outlawing Christianity, while the Left worries about Christians mandating their version of morality. And both sides have constructed elaborate conspiracy alarms to fuel their fears.
Christians have the Bible to allay their fears, if they’d only read it closely and believe it, but the secularists have no hope beyond what they might achieve with their political and social action. The New Testament gives us many warnings and encouragements for the End Times, not the least of which is the following passage from the letter to the Hebrews, chapter ten:
32But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings,
33sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.
34For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.
First-century Christ-followers weren’t especially concerned about their civil rights being abridged, when their very lives might well be abridged for publicly speaking up for their Savior. By contrast, Western Christians can hardly imagine such virolent persecution, as stories of atrocities in far away lands seem so remote.
Verse thirty-five above gives us the remedy for our fear of persecution: “Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.” Please note that it doesn’t give us a way around the coming persecution, but the only way through it.
So, what’s this great reward of which it speaks? First, it’s our confident hope for divine life forever. If we’re in Christ, that’s a given, supported by numerous Scriptural promises–and God will never break his promises. Then there’s the confidence proclaimed in verses nineteen through twenty-two:
19Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,
20by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,
21and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
22let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
What does “enter into the holy places” mean to us? It means pretty much what it meant to the Hebrew priests, who, once purified by the various prescribed sacrifices, were able to enter into God’s presence in the Most Holy Place behind the temple veil. But we benefit from an extra dimension, beyond even standing in God’s presence; our purification by Jesus’ blood, instead of animals’ blood, opens to us true and full relationship with the almighty, eternal Godhead, both now, and forever.