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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 6 - Verse 20
Verse 20. Whither. To which most holy place—heaven.
The forerunner. The word here used occurs nowhere else in the New Testament.
A forerunner prodromov—is one who goes before others to prepare the way. The word is applied to light troops sent forward as scouts. Diod. Sic. 17.17. Comp. "Wisdom of Solomon," (Apoc.,) xii. 8: "Thou didst send wasps, forerunners of thy host, to destroy them by little and little." The meaning here is, that Jesus went first into the heavenly sanctuary. He led the way. He has gone there on our account, to prepare a place for us, Joh 14:3. Having such a friend and advocate there, we should be firm in the hope of eternal life; and, amidst the storms and tempests around us, we should be calm.
To illustrate this fact was the object for which this discussion was introduced, and which had been interrupted by the remarks occurring in this chapter on the danger of apostasy. Having warned them of this danger, and exhorted them to go on to make the highest attainments possible in the divine life, the apostle resumes the discussion respecting Melchizedek, and makes the remarks which he intended to make respecting this remarkable man. See Heb 5:11.
1. We should aim at perfection, in order that we may have evidence of piety, Heb 6:1. No man can be a Christian who does not do this, or who does not desire to be perfect, as God is perfect. No one can be a Christian who is satisfied or contented to remain in sin; or who would not prefer to be made at once as holy as an angel—as the Lord Jesus— as God.
2. We should aim at perfection, in order to make great attainments, Heb 6:1. No man makes any great advance in anything who does not set his standard high. Men usually accomplish about what they expect to accomplish. If a man expects to be a quack physician, he becomes such; if he is satisfied to become a fourth rate lawyer, he becomes such; if he is willing to be an indifferent mechanic, he advances no higher; if he has no intention or expectation of being a first-rate farmer, he will never become one. If he sincerely aims, however, to excel, he usually accomplishes his object. And it is so in religion. If a man does not intend to be an eminent Christian, he may be certain he never will be. Religion is not produced by chance, any more than fine fruit is, or than a good harvest is. One of the principal reasons why President Edwards became so eminent a Christian was, that in early life he adopted the following resolution, to which he appears always to have adhered, that "on the supposition that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true lustre, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part, and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, To act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time." Life, by S. E. Dwight, D.D., p. 72.
3. We should aim to acquire as much knowledge of religious truth as we possibly can, Heb 6:1,2. True piety is principle. It is not fancy, or dreaming, or visions, or enthusiasm. It is based on knowledge, and does not go beyond that. No man has any more religion than he has knowledge of the way of salvation. He cannot force his religion to overstep the bounds of his knowledge; for ignorance contributes nothing to devotion. There may be knowledge where there is no piety; but there can be no true religion where there is no knowledge. If, therefore, a Christian wishes to make advances, he must gain a knowledge of the truth. He must understand the great doctrines of his religion. And in like manner, if we wish the next generation to be intelligent and solid Christians, we must train them up to understand the Bible.
4. The consequences of the judgment will be eternal, Heb 6:3. No truth is more solemn than this. It is this which makes the prospect of the judgment so awful. If the consequences of the sentence were to continue for a few years, or ages, or centuries only, it would be of much less importance. But who can abide the thought of "eternal judgment" of an eternal sentence? Here the most fearful and solemn sentence is for a short period. The sentence will soon expire; or it is mitigated by the hope of a change. Pain here is brief. Disgrace, and sorrow, and heaviness of heart, and all the woes that man can inflict, soon come to an end. There is an outer limit of suffering, and no severity of a sentence, no ingenuity of man, can prolong it far. The man disgraced, and whose life is a burden, will soon die. On the cheeks of the solitary prisoner, doomed to the dungeon for life, a "mortal paleness" will soon settle down, and the comforts of an approaching release by death may soothe the anguish of his sad heart. The rack of torture cheats itself of its own purpose, and the exhausted sufferer is released. "The excess [of grief] makes it soon mortal." But in the world of future woe the sentence will never expire; and death will never come to relieve the sufferer. I may ask, then, of my reader, Are you prepared for the "eternal" sentence? Are you ready to hear a doom pronounced which can never be changed? Would you be willing to have God judge you just as you are, and pronounce such a sentence as ought to be pronounced now, and have the assurance that it would be eternal? You seek worldly honour—Would you be willing to be doomed always to seek that? You aspire after wealth—Would you be willing to be doomed to aspire after that always? You seek pleasure, in the gay and giddy world—Would you be willing to be doomed always to seek after that? You have no religion —perhaps desire to have none—Yet would you be willing to be doomed to be always without religion You are a stranger to the God that made you—Would you be willing to be sentenced to be always a stranger to God? You indulge in passion, pride, envy, sensuality—Would you be willing to be sentenced always to the raging of these passions and lusts? How few are they who would be willing to have an eternal sentence passed on them, or to be doomed to pursue their present employments, or to cherish their present opinions for ever! How few who would dare to meet a sentence which should be in strict accordance with what was just, and which was never to change!
5. With the righteous it should be matter of rejoicing that the judgment is to be eternal, Heb 6:3. They can desire no change of the sentence which will assign them to heaven; and it will be no small part of the joy of the heavenly world, that the results of the judgment will be everlasting. There will be no further trial; no reversing of the sentence; no withdrawing of the crown of glory. The righteous are the only ones who have not reason to dread a "just eternal sentence;" and they will rejoice when the time shall come which will fix their doom for ever.
6. We should dread apostasy from the true religion, Heb 6:4. We should habitually feel that if we should deny our Lord, and reject his religion, there would be no hope. The die would be cast; and we must then perish for ever. By this solemn consideration God intends to preserve his people; and it is a consideration which has been so effectual, that there is not the least reason to suppose that any one who has ever had any true religion has fallen away and perished. Many have been almost Christians, and have then turned back to perdition, (Mt 7:22,23; Ac 26:28; ) but there is no reason to suppose that any who have been true Christians have thus apostatized and been lost. Yet Christians are not kept without watchfulness; they cannot be kept without the most sincere and constant endeavours to preserve themselves from falling.
7. If the sin of apostasy is so great, then every approach to it is dangerous, and then every sin should be avoided. He that habitually indulges in sin cannot be a Christian; and every sin which a sincere Christian commits should be measured by the guilt which would exist should it become final, and should he wholly fall away. No man can indulge in sin and be safe; and no professed Christian, who finds himself disposed to indulge in sin, should cherish the expectation of reaching heaven, Heb 6:4-6.
8. It is a matter of devout gratitude that God has kept all his true people from apostasy, Heb 6:4-6. If it is true that no one who has been regenerated has ever fallen away; if the means which God has used have been effectual in a world so full of temptations, and when we have hearts so prone to evil; and if it is the intention of God to keep all to eternal salvation who are truly converted, then it should be to us a subject of devout thankfulness and of encouragement. In view of this, we should admire the wisdom of the plan which thus secures salvation; we should look to him with the firm assurance that he will keep what we have committed to him to the final day.
9. We should improve the privileges which we enjoy, so as to receive a blessing from God, Heb 6:7,8. It is desirable that a farm should be well cultivated, so as not to be overrun with briers and thorns; desirable that it should produce an abundant harvest, and not exhibit mere barrenness and desolation. Yet, alas, there are many professing Christians who resemble such a field of thorns, and such a scene of desolation. They produce no fruits of righteousness; they do nothing to extend the kingdom of the Redeemer! What can such expect but the "curses, of God ? What can the end of such be but to be "burned?"
10. God will not fail to reward his faithful people, Heb 6:10. What we have done in his service, and with a sincere desire to promote his glory, unworthy of his notice as it may seem to us to be, he will not fail to reward. It may be unobserved or forgotten by the world—nay, it may pass out of our own recollection—but it will never fail from the mind of God. Whether it be "two mites" contributed to his cause, or a "cup of cold water given to a disciple," or a life consecrated to his service, it will be alike remembered. What encouragement there is, therefore, to labour it. the promotion of his glory, and to do all we can for the advancement of his kingdom!
11. Let us follow those who have inherited the promises; Heb 6:12. They are worthy examples. When from their lofty seats in heaven they look back on the journey of life, though to them attended with many trials, they never regret the "faith and patience" by which they were enabled to persevere. We have most illustrious examples to imitate. They are numerous as the drops of dew, and bright as the star of the morning. It is an honour to tread in the footsteps of the holy men who have inherited the promises; an honour to feel that we are walking in the same path, and are reaching out the hand to the same crown.
It is the privilege of those who are truly the children of God to enjoy strong consolation, Heb 6:13-18. Their hope is based on that which cannot fail. God cannot lie. And when we have evidence that he has promised us eternal life, we may open our hearts to the full influence of Christian consolation. It may be asked, perhaps, how we may have that evidence? Will God speak to us from heaven, and assure us that we are his children? Will he reveal our names as written in his book? Will he come to us in the night-watches, and address us by name as his? I answer, No. None of these things are we to expect. But if we have evidence that we have true repentance, and sincere faith in the Redeemer; if we love holiness, and desire to lead a pure life; if we delight in the Bible an& in the people of God, then we may regard him as addressing us in the promises and oaths of his word, and assuring us of salvation. These promises belong to us, and we may apply them to ourselves. And if we have evidence that God promises us eternal life, why should we doubt? We may feel that we are unworthy; our consciences may reproach us for the errors and follies of our past lives; but on the unchanging word and oath of God we may rely, and there we may feel secure.
13. How invaluable is the Christian hope! Heb 6:19. To us it is like the anchor to a vessel in a storm. We are sailing along the voyage of life. We are exposed to breakers and tempests. Our bark is liable to be tossed about, or to be shipwrecked. In the agitations and troubles of life, how much we need some anchor of the soul; something that shall make us calm and serene! Such an anchor is found in the hope of the gospel. While that hope is firm we need fear nothing. All is then safe, and we may look calmly on, assured that we shall ride out the storm, and come at last safely into the haven of peace. Happy they who have fled for refuge to the faith of the gospel; whose hope, like a steady anchor, has entered into heaven, and binds the soul to the throne of God; whose confidence in the Redeemer is unshaken in all the storms of life, and who have the assurance that, when the tempest shall have beaten upon them a little longer, they will be admitted to a haven of rest, where storms and tempests are for ever unknown. With such a hope we may well bear the trials of this life for the few days appointed to us on earth—for what are the longest trials here compared with that eternal rest which remains for all who love God in a brighter world?
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