Take Earnest Heed

“We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.” —Hebrews 2:1

MANY ADMONITIONS ARE given in the Bible to encourage continued zeal and patient endurance on the part of the Lord’s dedicated people. Our ‘first love’ enthusiasm needs to be maintained, not for a few months or years, but to the end of the way of sacrifice. It is only those who endure unto the end, and are faithful even unto death, who receive the crown of life and live and reign with Christ a thousand years.—Rev. 2:10; 20:6

Our text indicates that ‘holding fast’ consists in not letting slip “the things which we have heard.” It is the truth that is thus referred to, and the purpose of the truth is to guide us in the knowing and doing of God’s will. Only through the Word of truth do we know what our Heavenly Father wants us to do and to be. To let the truth ‘slip’, therefore, would be like a builder neglecting his blueprints. He might continue to build, but he could not be sure that a building thus erected would be in harmony with the architect’s plans.

Our text opens with that meaningful word, “therefore.” This indicates that the preceding context has an important bearing on what follows. When we turn back to the preceding chapter it at once becomes apparent why the word ‘therefore’ is used. The things which we have ‘heard’ are of vital importance because of the source from which they have reached us. That source is mentioned in the very first word of the epistle—“God.” Paul reminds us that God had previously spoken to his people through his holy prophets, and that now he had spoken through his Son.—Heb. 1:1,2

And what a high position of authority the Heavenly Father had given to his Son! He had appointed him “heir of all things,” exalted him to the “express image” of his own person, and seated him “at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Jesus had been made “better than the angels,” and had “by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” Because he had “loved righteousness and hated iniquity,” God had anointed him “with the oil of gladness above his fellows.”—Heb. 1:3-9

It is through this divinely authorized channel that our Heavenly Father spoke to his called-out ones at the beginning of the Gospel Age, and has continued thus to speak throughout the age. In a very special sense this is true at the present time, when the Son is again present, serving his followers with “meat in due season,” for this is what he promised to do when he returned.—Luke 12:37; Rev. 3:20

“Therefore,” as Paul said, it is important that we take earnest heed to “the things which we have heard,” for they have not reached us through any ordinary channel, but from the glorified Jesus, who has been exalted to the right hand of God! This means that every aspect of the divine plan is of vital concern to each dedicated follower of the Master. To let any part of the truth slip through lack of interest or zeal, would be as though we “refused” him who has spoken to us.—Heb. 12:25


The Epistle to the Hebrews indicates that it was written to a group of Jewish believers in Christ who were not fully living up to their privileges as followers of the Master. They had not applied the principles of the truth in their lives as they should have done. For this reason they needed to be taught again the basic doctrines of the divine plan.—Heb. 5:12-14

The lack of a clear understanding of the truth would subject the Hebrew brethren to discouragement, and thus to a lack of patience in meeting the experiences which inevitably would be theirs as Christ’s disciples. In Hebrews 2:9-12, we are told of Jesus’ death as the world’s Redeemer, and of the fact that his brethren had the privilege of suffering and dying with him, that just as the Captain of their salvation had been made perfect through suffering, they also should expect to suffer; and in this and other respects they “are all of one, for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.”

Suffering is not pleasant, and ordinarily it tends to discourage. In the early days of their Christian walk, the Hebrews did not become disheartened. Paul explains that they had taken joyfully the spoiling of their goods, and had “endured a great fight of affliction,” partly while they themselves were made a “gazing-stock,” and partly while they were the companions of those who were so used.—Heb. 10:32-34

Apparently, however, this had been their attitude only in the beginning, in the “former days,” and now they were admonished to call this time to remembrance, with the implication that they were to return to their former position of zeal and joy in the face of Christian persecution.

But it could be that their laxity in holding fast to the truth had resulted in their overlooking the real purpose of Christian suffering. Perhaps they were now looking upon their persecutions as evidences that the Lord’s blessing was no longer with them. If they were failing to rightly divide the Word of truth, they may have wondered why the Lord did not take away the “rebuke” that was upon his people, as he had promised to do.—Isa. 25:8

Whatever the reason, they were not facing up to their privileges of suffering with Christ as courageously as they did in the beginning. To remind the brethren afresh of their privilege of suffering with Jesus, Paul admonished them to look unto Jesus as their example, explaining that they had not yet resisted “unto blood, striving against sin.”—Heb. 12:24

To resist unto blood means actually to die for righteousness’ sake. They had suffered much in the beginning. Their ‘goods’ had been ‘spoiled’, and they had endured ‘a great fight of afflictions’, but they had not as yet ‘resisted unto blood’ as Jesus had done. They had not as yet been faithful even unto death. They had done the will of God in consecrating themselves to him and to the divine cause, but they had need of patience—patience that would enable them to endure unto the end.—Heb. 10:35,36

In order to be patient in tribulation it is essential to know that trials are an important facet of the divine will for us. The reason for Christian suffering is clearly revealed in the Book of Hebrews, as well as elsewhere in the Scriptures, and if through neglect, worldliness, or lack of faith we let this understanding ‘slip’, we will become discouraged by our experiences, hence will fail to endure unto the end of the way, which is necessary if we are to receive the crown of life.

Incentive to Faithfulness

Hebrews 3:1, 2 reads, “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.” Here we are reminded that the consecrated followers of the Master in the present age are ‘partakers of the heavenly calling’.

Much is implied by this. Paul referred to the “prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14) A prize is something for which a person is willing to strive, and to make sacrifices to attain. This is especially true of the ‘prize of the high’, or ‘heavenly, calling’. If for any reason we lose sight of this glorious prize, one of the great incentives for Christian faithfulness is lost.

It is appropriate that Paul should associate the heavenly calling with the fact that the called ones of this age are a priestly class over which Jesus is the Head—our High Priest. Peter wrote of this priesthood, and pointed out that its object is to offer sacrifices, “acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (I Pet. 2:5) Members of this antitypical priesthood do not offer animals in sacrifice. Instead they offer their own bodies, or themselves.—Rom. 12:1

This entails suffering and death. Paul explains that Jesus was faithful to his Heavenly Father, who appointed him to this high office; faithful, that is, in offering himself in sacrifice for the sins of the world. We, too, must be faithful in the offering of sacrifice if we are to remain a part of this antitypical priesthood. This means that we are to be planted together in the likeness of Jesus’ death, to suffer and to die with him. Jesus needed an incentive to endure the shame, ignominy, and suffering which came to him as he was laying down his life. We read of the “joy” that was set before Jesus, which enabled him to “endure the cross” and to despise the shame. Because Jesus was faithful, he is now “set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”—Heb. 12:2

In prophecy Jesus is represented as saying, “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Ps. 16:11) Clearly the great joy which was set before Jesus of returning to the presence of his Heavenly Father was one of his great incentives to faithfulness. And, as Paul asserts, Jesus received the fulfillment of this hope, for he is now “set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

In addition to this great joy of returning to his Heavenly Father’s personal presence, Jesus was also inspired by the hope of accomplishing the divine purpose of restoring mankind to life. This is referred to by Isaiah as “the pleasure of the Lord.” We quote: “It pleased the Lord to bruise him [Jesus]; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.”—Isa. 53:10,11

His Brethren Also

The brethren of Christ, his dedicated followers, have these same joys set before them as an encouragement to faithfulness. In Hebrews 12:22-24 some of the details of these joys are beautifully set forth in symbolic language. By faith we have come to “Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God.” Thus the hope of rulership with Christ in his kingdom is set before us.—Rev. 14:1,4,5; 21:9,10,14

By faith we also approach unto “an innumerable company of angels.” These are the angels referred to in the first chapter of Hebrews, and described as “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.” (vs. 14) These are our guardian angels, who do always behold the face of our Father in heaven. (Matt. 18:10) In Psalm 34:7 we read concerning these, “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them.”

While these angels are invisible to us now, we know of their interest in us, and of how, as the servants of our Heavenly Father, they watch over all our affairs. And, Paul reminds us that one of the joys set before us will be the great blessing of meeting and knowing these honored servants of our Heavenly Father. How very sweet and wonderful that will be!

By faith we are also looking forward to “the general assembly of the church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven.” It is a joy to assemble with the brethren in our local gatherings and in conventions, but how much greater will be the joy of assembling with the entire ‘church of the firstborn’ beyond the veil! This blessed future ‘convention’ will never end; and in that gathering will be Jesus, Peter, Paul, John, and all the apostles, as well as those with whom we have been personally acquainted and have loved, but lost awhile.

As with Paul, so with us, we are looking forward to meeting and being with “God the Judge of all.” It is impossible even to approximate what a great joy this will be. In the case of Jesus it is described as “fullness of joy,” meaning that there could be no greater joy than that experienced by those whose inestimable privilege it is, or will be, to abide in the presence of our loving Heavenly Father as members of his immediate and divine family.

We are also looking forward to association with those described by Paul as “the spirits of just men made perfect.” These are the ones mentioned in the 40th verse of chapter 11, where we read that God has “provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” These are the Ancient Worthies, some of whom are listed in that chapter, who will be restored to life to be the human representatives of the divine, invisible Christ.

True, the church will be on the divine plane of life, while the Ancient Worthies will be on the human plane, yet there will be, in ways now unknown to us, a close association. And it will be a great joy indeed to work together in the kingdom with these who were willing to suffer and to die in their loyalty to God and to his messianic cause. One of the superlative joys to which we look forward is to meet and forever be associated with Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant. Throughout our walk in the narrow way Jesus has ministered to us as Advocate, Brother, and Friend. His example of faithfulness is a continuous inspiration as we endeavor to walk in his steps of sacrifice while we are being planted together in the likeness of his death. But ‘over there’ we will meet him face to face, and as ministers of the New Covenant will be associated with him in bringing the world into atonement with our Heavenly Father.—II Cor. 3:6

This will be made possible through the merit of the blood which will then speak “better things than that of Abel.” (Heb. 12:24) Abel’s blood cried out (Gen. 4:10) to the Lord to accuse Cain of the sin of taking human life, and a curse was placed upon Cain. But the blood of Jesus will not cry out for punishment, but for the deliverance of the condemned world from sin and death. What a joyful experience it will be to participate in the work of extending life to the people which has been provided by “the blood of the Lamb.”—Rev. 5:6-14

Through the Truth

This glorious prospect of future joys in the kingdom is ours only because we know the truth—the things which we have heard—in these last days. If we let these doctrines slip from us for any reason whatsoever, the inspiration to patient continuance in the way of sacrifice and suffering will also be lost. The doctrines of the truth not only reveal God’s will for his people; they also are their inspiration to faithfulness.

The Hebrew brethren had, in a measure, let the doctrines of the truth slip away from them, and needed to be taught the principles of the divine plan again. (Heb. 5:12) The Greek word used by Paul in telling us about these principles literally means an ‘orderly arrangement’. It is the orderly arrangement of the doctrines of the truth that constitutes the divine plan of the ages, and how important it is that we hold fast to these doctrines.

Paul explains that we should not have to lay again “the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” (Heb. 6:1,12) “And this we will do,” Paul observes, “if God permit. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”—Heb. 6:3-6

Thus we are reminded that letting the truth slip could lead to the loss of everything, even life itself. On the other hand, we should endeavor to “go on unto perfection.” (vs. 1) This does not mean that we leave the principles of the truth and progress into an indefinable state of emotionalism. Going on to perfection, rather, is to make the proper and intended use of the truth, and thus to become established in its fundamental doctrines. “For,” as Paul illustrates the point, “the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed receiveth blessing from God.”—vs. 7

So we will receive blessing from the Lord if, as the waters of truth come often upon us through fellowship and study, we bring forth the fruit of righteousness. But if we bear “thorns and briers” instead of “fruit,” we will not receive the blessing of the Lord. Instead, we will suffer loss, for our works will be burned, even though we ourselves may be saved “so as by fire.”—Heb. 6:8; I Cor. 3:15

Continuing his admonition to the Hebrews, Paul wrote, “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things which accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”—Heb. 6:9-12

Faith and Patience

It is only through faith and patience that we can hope to inherit the fulfillment of God’s promises—faith in the promises, and in the plan of God contained in them; and patient continuance in well-doing in the face of trials and discouragements. “He is faithful that promised,” Paul wrote. (Heb. 10:23) Now it remains only for us to be faithful.

To remind us of God’s faithfulness, Paul takes us back to the promise made to Abraham, a promise which God confirmed by his oath. This promise to Abraham is a very comprehensive one, for it briefly expresses God’s plan for the blessing of all the families of the earth. Abraham did not realize that this promise would not be fulfilled in his day, but he did patiently wait for it.

Besides, Abraham actively waited in the sense that he was alert and ready to do the Lord’s will as it was revealed to him. His great act of obedience was the offering of his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice to God, or the demonstration of his willingness to do so. This required great faith and much fortitude. But his faith was victorious, and his fortitude enabled him to endure the great strain that such an ordeal placed upon him.

Having passed this test, God did for Abraham all that could be done at that time. The promise to bless all the families of the earth through Abraham’s seed could not then be fulfilled because the seed of promise was yet to be produced, but God confirmed the promise by his oath. And since he could swear by none greater, he swore by himself. Thus the Abrahamic promise became the oath-bound covenant.

And this means as much or more to us now than it did to Abraham. Paul explains that by an oath to Abraham (Heb. 6:13), and his oath to Jesus as the fulfillment of the Melchisedec High Priest (Heb. 7:21), by these “two immutable things [God’s two oaths—one to Abraham, and one to Jesus], in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor to the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil: whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an High Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.”—Heb. 6:18-20

Are the links in our chain of faith strong, and well forged together? Is our faith securely anchored to that glorious hope within the veil? If, for any reason, we are letting slip the things which we have heard from our Heavenly Father’s spokesman—our present Lord Jesus Christ—our rejoicing in hope will be diminishing, and suffering with and for Christ will become a burden to slacken our pace along the narrow way.—Rom. 12:12

There is no reason now why our faith in the Lord and in his promises should not be strong and active. Conditions all around us in the world testify to the presence of our Lord Jesus, and that Satan’s world is being weakened, in preparation for its overthrow and the establishment of Christ’s kingdom. We still have the privilege of bearing witness to the Gospel of the kingdom, and the Lord is richly blessing this testimony as his faithful people endeavor to tell the whole world the blessed tidings of the kingdom.

To the Hebrew brethren Paul wrote that they had need of patience, and that it would be only a “little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” (Heb. 10:36,37) Today we know that he who was to come has come, and while to our finite minds the fruition of our hopes may seem to tarry, this is not actually so, for every detail of God’s loving plan is being carried out exactly in accordance with his “due time.” (Rom. 5:6; Eph. 1:10; I Tim. 2:6) The vision of truth which we have seen written upon “tables” may seem long drawn out, but it does not tarry.—Hab. 2:2,3

Let us, then, “hold fast the profession of our hope, that it waver not.” (Heb. 10:23, RSV) We know that God has been faithful to his people in every age, and that now he will give us strength for our every time of need. Through his beloved Son he has fed us with “meat in due season” (Matt. 24:45), and in this glorious feast of truth we have rejoiced and will continue to be glad. This is particularly true as the ‘sign’ (vs. 30) of the Master’s presence becomes more and more apparent with each passing day.

We see the signs of the parousia of our Lord, and Jesus said that when all these things begin to come to pass, we can lift up our heads with confidence, knowing that our deliverance draws near. (Luke 21:26-28,31) This is not time for lukewarmness, but it is the time for energy and zeal in learning and doing the Lord’s will. Can we say with Paul that “we are not of them that draw back?”—Heb. 10:39

Dawn Bible Students Association
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