Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
After the wonderful news of the last couple of chapters, the author is moving us toward another series of warnings, and his transition in these verses is as inspiring as any appeal in the entire New Testament. We have a confidence gained from the previous discussion of the superior high priest who has brought us a superior sacrifice to bring about a superior covenant based on superior promises, and as a result we can ourselves enter the Most Holy Place.
Imagine how this would have sounded to the original recipients… Remember, they were Jewish Christians living in Rome at the time of Nero’s terrible persecution, tempted to give it all up to avoid the Emperor’s wrath, but after reading these chapters and now coming to this incredible assertion… how can they turn their backs on Jesus? Oh yes, very persuasive!
Yes, we have an entirely new way, a way right into the holy presence of God, a way that their ancestors couldn’t have imagined, and it is here now… and yes, here it comes: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” How could they let all of this go? They have in their hands the keys to the Kingdom, what could Nero do to them to make this worth giving up? Then the author takes the next step, a very dangerous one… Not only should they hold on, they should seek out ways to encourage others, and as if this weren’t enough, they should not give up meeting together.
Let’s stop and consider this point. It was dangerous enough to simply be a Christian in those days, but meeting together was infinitely more dangerous than that. A group of believers in worship can bring attention, can be noticed. It can result in somebody reporting that they saw you with the others; guilt by association could result. Some had apparently quit meeting for these reasons, but our author urges them to continue, to persist no matter the cost, for what they had in Christ was so worth it. Even more as the Day approaches…
The Day, as we saw earlier, refers to Jesus’ coming again, and as we know, He didn’t come in their lifetimes. We can also reasonably infer that we are about 2,000 years closer to His return in our day, yet we still don’t know when His return will happen. Most of you who read this are not in places where there is persecution. For us this should be so easy, it shouldn’t even be an issue, and yet more and more have forsaken the assembling of the believers together. Even among those who have not forsaken it, how much do we really encourage others?
Since I can only answer for myself, I guess we’ll leave that as a rhetorical question…