Hebrews 10:32-39 – Recall the Former Days

In Hebrews 10:32-39 the writer invites his readers to “recall the former days,” likely a reference to the time just after the accepted Christ.  The writer wants the readers to recall what they have already suffered so that they might continue to endure in the present.

They endured struggle with suffering.  Whenever people in the Roman world accepted Christ, they necessarily rejected the culture of the Roman World – their gods associated practices.  For this they suffered some level of persecution.  The book of Acts demonstrates that the Greco-Roman world did in fact “fight back” against the Pauline mission in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Ephesus.

They were publicly exposed to reproach and affliction.  While some commentators have connected this with the persecution of Nero, this does not seem to be the case.  It may refer to the Claudius’ decree expelling Jews from Rome; or it is a general comment that describes the experience of many Christians in the first century.

  • The noun used for reproach (ὀνειδισμός) is used only a few time sin the New Testament, most importantly for the suffering of Jesus in Rom 15:3 (citing Ps 68:10), and similarly in Heb 11:26 (Moses’ reproach in Egypt).
  • The word-group has the connotation of “loss of standing connected to disparaging speech” (BDAG), perhaps a reference to rumors and lies spread about Christians which led to their loss of property in the community.
  • The verb translated “be shamed” (θεατρίζω) is only used here in the New Testament and includes a public shaming, the related noun has to do with a theater or public spectacle.  The suffering described is not “behind closed doors,” but rather in front of the whole community. Christians were easy targets since they refused to worship the gods of Rome; they could be accused of atheism at the very least.

They had compassion on those in prison.  Those who have been arrested and placed in prison must be cared for by friends and family.  The Roman world did not usually imprison people for punishment, so they were in prison until they face trial.   Compassion on the prisoner is part of the duty of a disciple of Jesus (Mt 25, for example, Philippians).

They joyfully accepted plundering of their possessions.  The readers “welcomed” the loss of their property, with the connotation of friendliness.  Imagine if someone was losing their home to a creditor and their property was being repossessed, and they helped carry their stuff to the trucks and served the workers coffee!  We cannot know how the readers were joyful or if they acted in this way to the ones who were attacking them, but the idea here is that they did not fight the loss of property because they know where their treasure truly is.

These people who lost property could do so because they knew they had a “better possession” which is real, abiding. This word will also re-appear in 11:26 describing Moses loss of position in Egypt.  In fact, this verse anticipates Moses as an example of one who suffered great loss for the cause of Christ. All of this suffering is not simply in the past (when they were first enlightened). They are suffering now, and perhaps the writer is concerned that their ongoing suffering will cause some of the readers to become discouraged to the point of “shrinking back.”

For most Christians in the western world, suffering is an abstract idea or something Christians in other countries do. American Christians occasionally experience minor inconveniences or imagined insults (like those Starbucks holiday cups). How would the American church be different if it suffered like the readers of Hebrews, or the Christians in Nigeria?

21 thoughts on “Hebrews 10:32-39 – Recall the Former Days

  1. Amen, nice post! One cannot help but wonder what we in the so-called West suffer now in the “name” of Christ? Surely as the Book of Hebrews, we should suffer too as the Hebrew’s writer says: “We must go out to him, then, outside the camp, bearing the abuse (“his abuse”, NET Bible) he experienced.” (Heb. 13:13)

    Let us at least take the biblical and theological place of the Book of Hebrews, and stand with Christ outside the world of any religious system! (And boy, there are a ton of them!)

  2. Looking at recalling former days, I still wonder what exactly they are going through if the readers are looking back and remembering their sufferings. However the thing that jumps out at me most was the section mentioning that they were more than ok with the loss of their property. HEB 10:34 “You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.” I am impressed that this group was able to be alright with this problem since more often than not that is one of the most discouraging things that can happen to a person. Loss of everything that they may hold dear. But as it was mentioned they joyfully accepted the los of their property, simply because they knew that they had treasure in heaven. I feel as though this is a point that all of us should be able to get to in life. Not that we should necessarily want our property to be taken away, but if it does happen, we should realize that we really do not have anything. Everything belongs to God and all that we may or may not have still belongs to him.

  3. In Curtis’ post he talks about getting to a place in our spiritual lives where we can have the same attitude the audience in the book of Hebrews had when they were being persecuted. It would be so difficult to have joy when our property was being taken from us. It’s amazing to see some of the believers be so on fire for God and have such a great attitudes. Hebrews 10:32 says, “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering.” The author is reminding them not to lose faith and their fire for God. Karen Jobes says, “One’s initial faith in Jesus Christ for the purification of sins must be the starting point of a lifelong commitment of growth toward spiritual maturity and holiness…(132-133). We should keep growing once we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ. The author of Hebrews gives strong warnings not to shrink back. Jobes’ quote makes me think of my own life. Am I losing my desire to stand for God when I should be growing? Would I care if I lost everything? Am I fully surrendered to God? Sadly I don’t think I would be pleased if I answered truthfully.

  4. I think one of the ironies of this passage of scripture is how these long suffering believers are encouraged, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and not delay” (Heb 10:37). Were they “joyfully accepting the plunder of your property” because they anticipated the coming of Christ who would straighten everything out? Or, did they really foresee “a better possession and an abiding one?” How would we (who basically believe the same thing i.e. second coming, rapture- “any day now-ism”) accept the tribulations that these faithful brothers and sisters were involved in. Would we be of those who shrink back? Could we as Jesus put it “endure until the end” ? How strong and self reassuring is our belief in trusting Jesus no matter what happens? I pray that none of us will shrink back.

  5. It is interesting to think of this book being written to people in Rome. Knowing this and the possible time period that this letter was written brought new life to the words “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed (v 39).” One can only wonder what kind of things happened to those “being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction (v 33).” I wonder how many other martyrs there are that aren’t recorded by church history. In the last few weeks I have gotten to read a lot about many of the early Christians who had to suffer for their faith such as Polycarp, Ignatius, and Perpetua. Their stories make me reassess my walk, but I wonder what effect they had on non-Christians during that time. If these early Christians would have decided to “shrink back” from following God they will be safer but, the people around them would not have had their eyes opened to the truth that many had died for and would have destroyed their witness. The other option was to get destroyed and be a witness displaying the truth.

  6. After reading this blog, I thought to myself, how many churches today resemble this kind of attitude and love? It’s very interesting to read the prison section because this is something that you only see Pastors or Associate Pastors do. Not once, do you see other congregational members go up to prisons and care for their fellow Christian who has fallen. In those times, I can’t imagine the roughness that those prisoners went through. However, the true words of the bible from Hebrews 10:32 initiate them to remember and celebrate because there is so much more after this life. Jobes comments on the Eternal Life aspect and gives us a sense of obedience and disobedience (121). We, as the body of Christ, can either be obedient to God and reap the benefit of eternal life, or disobedient and reap eternal separation. The section on those loosing their home, supports this argument because they were obedient to authority, and obedient to God as well. They knew what was happening and they rejoiced because of it. Sometimes these blog readings can help us shape some of our own situations in life as they relate to being rejoiceful when we either don’t get any promotion or something is taken away from us. Good self-reflection time cane be made from history and their actions as it relates to today and what the world expects our actions to be.

  7. While it is hard to suggest exactly what might happen if America was faced with similar persecution, there are certainly different ways it could go. Suffering usually has the potential to result in two ends: growth or defeat. When going through intense persecution or suffering, one will often stand their ground and end up stronger at the end of the day, or will falter and end up lost.

    With the current condition of the church, persecution would likely strengthen the church, but perhaps in the way one might not think. Those who follow Christ based on principle, family, or other small ties will likely end up fleeing the faith, which would likely be a decent chunk of the Christian population in America. To the world, it would likely appear to be the potential demise of our belief, or at least a massive loss in overall importance.

    However, for those who stuck through and suffered through it, it would mean growth. Serious Christians would likely have to band together and depend on each other and God, thus creating a more intense and strong faith with the creator. While the overall numbers of Christians would likely decrease, it could result in members of the faith becoming far stronger in their faith. Of course, this is simply just a guess, but I do think suffering for the Christian church would not simply crush us.

  8. Christian suffering in America is nothing compared to suffering of other countries. If American Christians suffered like other Christians do, it would change the dynamic of faith in America. First and foremost, this suffering would either strengthen or demolish a certain group of Christians. There are a group of Christians in America that believe that being a Christian will solve all their problems. I call these people “feel good Christians”. Christianity will take away all of the bad stuff in life and only good will come because God wants to bless us. However, this is not the case. These Christians will either fall away from God or go to the Bible for answers. If they do go to the Bible they will find many verses about suffering (Rom 8:17, 36, Phil. 1:29, 2 Corinth. 2:10, etc.). However, there will be Christians who fall away from the faith as they do not wish to endure suffering. This would be very sad to see, however, one can debate if they were truly Christians as they were fed false teachings and did not take the Christian faith seriously. However, there will be a group of Christians who will wholeheartedly accept this suffering for Christ. I have quite a few people in mind as I am writing this actually. These people will help others who are in suffering as well, setting an example. All of which is based off of the first example, the persecution of Jesus, and bringing glory to God.

    • Sarah,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic. You are not the only who have seen the people that you categorized as “feel good Christians.” This is something that I have become more aware during my time here at Grace. I believe I could have been put into that group before I came to Grace. This was because I was lacking in the understanding of what it meant to be a true Christian. Suffering is something that all Christians must understand and they will go through it sometime during their lives. Something I would like to add to your post is that Jobes talks about that Jesus did not become perfect all by Himself rather His sufferings is what helped Him reach perfection (Jobes, 124). This makes sense because Hebrews 2:10 even states that, “For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” Overall, very well written post.

  9. I think the cultural break between American Christians today and early Christians wouldn’t even be able to measure up. I realize that we put a lot of heat on ourselves — sometimes — that we haven’t endured the sufferings that the beginning church had. There’s more entitlement in American culture, and I guarantee you a Christian wouldn’t be so chill with someone out here just pillaging their stuff. A fight would take place, altercation, what have you. I think back then they understood the humbleness of what Jesus Christ did and how he handled his many mistreatments in a way we might not be able to.

  10. American Christians think that a struggling Christian is having to have a job while going to a Private college. Too often do I think of the body of church that makes up the American Church and wonder how easily if their life was threatened would they denounce their faith. We all are not like this, but personally from what I see in this generation there is not much that people would not do for a like on their Instagram. I personally wish we as American’s in the Church could actually struggle because it is in those struggles that we are made strong according to Hebrews. We need to finish the race even when it hurts beyond the point of shedding our own blood.

    • Mark,

      I would concur with your statement, I would just say that it is true in general regardless of where one person goes to a private college or not. I have seen it way too much lately to where it comes off that people tend to resort to complaining about things in life, whether that might be with the nature of how certain things happen or like you described, working while going to college. They basically just want to be perfect and everything they’re a part of be perfect. In our textbook for this class, it states that the book of Hebrews is distinct in using a specific word group that all relates back to one specific word, and that is perfection. The reality is that no one thing or person can ever be perfect. The only person I believe that is and always will be perfect is God himself. I also agree with you in that at some point, we need to feel a certain amount of struggle (fail) because like you worded it, it is in those struggles that we are all made strong.

  11. Being a Christian and receiving salvation is not necessarily a “happily ever after”. The truth is that nobody is perfect, and that life is going to be difficult. I find that during every testimony, everyone says that their life was awful before receiving Christ, and that their lives have been perfect ever since. I find that this section does really well with understanding that there are going to be hardships, but we also need to remember what those hardships were like before we received Christ.

  12. Very good post, and I agree with the question of are we as Christians here in the western world experiencing persecution. I would say not nearly to the level that the early church experienced or other around the world today. At most we experience a little bit of social ostracism from time to time if we are bold enough to even endure that! I consider it a blessing that we as Christians here in America do not have to experience that kind of persecution that the early church faced. I don’t hope and pray for persecution. But, I believe that just means we have all the more reason to be even bolder here in America and should be able to endure the little bit of “persecution” that comes our way. If America does ever undergo any kind of persecution like China has experienced, I think there would be a lot of Christians that would “shrink back”, probably the majority of “Christians” here. But, the few that wouldn’t, their faith would be flourishing and stronger than ever, because they are completely dependent on God.

  13. I think if American churches today suffered like the readers in Hebrews and the Christians in Nigeria, Christianity would look a lot differently. In America, we have been very fortunate to be able to express our beliefs and our practices with no consequences other than a few insults here and there. I do believe that with each generation that being a Christian will only get harder and harder. If you take a look at today, religion isn’t what it used to be like when our grandparent’s were growing up or their parent’s were growing up. In my opinion, it seems like every other religion is accepted by the “majority” of people other than Christians. I hear atheist or agnostics defend Islam faith, Buddhism, and Hinduism, but it is rare when Christians are defended by those outside Christianity, we are definitely deemed “less” or the “evil” religion to many, many people outside the Christian faith. So, I think if there were ever a time when we were truly persecuted for being Christians, there would be less “Christians” and like said in class, larger churches would not be large, Christians would be more secretive with their beliefs and practices and we would see those that truly believe and those who never did.

  14. Other countries serve much higher consequences from their sufferings than Christians do over here in America. There are some groups of Christians that believe if they say that they are Christians they think that their suffering will disappear, and they won’t have to deal with any of it. Every Christian deals with suffering whether that is the little inconveniences in our day to day lives or whether it is more major where someone is going through some hard times in our lives. Although having the belief that God is superior and is able to guide us through those tough times, it does not save use from all suffering as we still need to go through the summering as part of our lives. We should be very thankful that in America we have the use of the first amendment where we have the freedom of speech and religion so we can have any belief we want, and we are able to express that belief where we want and when we want to without any punishment.

  15. If American churches suffered today like the Hebrews and the Christians in Nigeria, it’s a lot different from Christianity. In America we have the right to express our beliefs and practices by not having consequences but may have few insults, but we get through it. For generations, each will learn about being Christians and those who are new to being a Christian and have not been raised as a Christian it will get harder. We have Christians that were raised well growing up in a church or it was different what they learned in church. Some churches think they are doing the right thing to preach to the Christians. Few Christians will leave the church for a reason and will go to a different religion of what they believe in. Back in the days religion was different and it was not like our parents or grandparents were growing up. I think all different religions are accepted by believing they have different gods or have more than one god. Christians get offended about outside Christianity, even though we see its evil or false idols. Christians can be judging and try to share the gospel by forcing people to listen to the truth. We can be tough and easy going on the people, but we should be loving, caring, and pray for the church and our people to help the world. In other countries, people are being persecuted for being Christians. Everyone is different in what they believe in. People who grow up in their Chrisitan faith, face trials that will be hard for them whether they are prepared or not.

  16. I agree that suffering in the western world is an abstract idea as compared to a third world country as you said above the things, we deal with in America are imagined insults. I feel as though the American / Western culturized church would look much different than the ones in Nigeria, Israel, or China. In western culture it’s appropriate to discuss one’s opinion and religious affiliations in public though it might raise some feathers it’s widely accepted. When looking at Asia Minor, East Asia or Africa it’s much different, speaking freely or practicing religion isn’t widely accepted rather it’s looked down upon and is punishable by death. The change that the Western church would face is being restricted with just about everything and not being able to speak unless spoken to, with a heavy amount of authority above each individual. The suffrage would take a toll on individuals making them question if their faith in Christ is even worth the torture they might face. The churches would have to essentially have to turn upside down and have a more communistic approach and less of a representation of Christ. I am not making light of the problems we face in the western church; rather, I am trying to make it a point to say that we don’t think about the wide range of freedom and comfort we do have within the church. Suffering in the Scripture and even now is dependable on each culture and geographical location of it; they cannot be compared but there can be a bit more remorse or an understanding of how privileged the western church actually is at times.

  17. American society is one that is very self-focused. Everything is about you and whatever you do you do for yourself. We are caught up in a busy life that is all about how much we can make, what we feel, what we need, what we want, etc. We take our freedom of religion for granted. Our experience of “persecution” is someone simply not liking us because they don’t agree with our beliefs. We get scared of not being liked for what we believe in. Somehow, we put keeping a friendship above saving a life with the gospel. But believers who lived during the Roman empire rejected the Roman culture as well as their gods (Long). If the American church suffered like the readers of Hebrews, we would be less possessive of our things, care less about ourselves, and care more about helping and serving others. Ironically, we would be bolder in sharing our faith. Life and death situations bring a lot of clarity to someone’s perspective on what is most important. It would cause us to start living for God’s eternal kingdom rather than living for worldly things.

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