By: Daniel Goepfrich
The Hope Behind Suffering
Hebrews 12 addresses “the hope that we confess”(Heb. 10:23). Continuing from chapter eleven, the writer pointed to Jesus, the true pioneer of our faith, who endured what he did because of hope (Heb. 12:1-3). Whereas faith believes in the truth of the unseen, hope is the confident expectation that it will certainly be fulfilled. Because our hope is in something that cannot be shaken, the writer encouraged that we do not “grow weary…and give up” when suffering and persecution come. In fact, the writer said, what seems like persecution may in fact be God’s hand of discipline, which causes pain in the short-term so that we may grow maturity in the long-term (Heb. 12:4-12).
Rather than seeing suffering only as a judgment on unbelievers, the writer quoted Proverbs 3:11-12 to confirm that God “disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son.” Discipline from God is a confirmation of sonship. As Jesus endured his suffering and learned obedience in the process (Heb. 5:8), so should we.
The Fifth Warning
The second half of the chapter offers the fifth warning, much more gentle than the last two (Heb. 12:14-29). The writer encouraged his readers to not become a poison to those around them, causing others to give up. He also warned about becoming like Esau, who gave up what was rightfully his for short-term satisfaction. If we ignore the warning and “refuse the one who is speaking,” we will suffer loss. The Israelites suffered earthly consequences (death) because of their rebellion, but Christians will suffer an eternal consequence in loss of relationship with God and blessing in this life and relationship and inheritance in the next. The immediate readers who rejected these warnings also suffered loss in A.D. 70 when many of them died in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.
Paul’s influence is unmistakable in this warning: “So we must not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not give up”(Gal. 6:9). “For our momentary, light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison”(2 Cor. 4:17). Instead of giving up and losing our inheritance, “let us give thanks” because “we are receiving an unshakable kingdom,” where we will enjoy not only the presence of God himself, but also “myriads of angels,” the whole Church, and “the spirits of the righteous, who have been made perfect”(Old Testament saints).
Each Thursday, DPH runs a Chapter-by-Chapter blog by Daniel Goepfrich, progressing readers chapter-by-chapter through the New Testament. This series is taken from New Testament Chapter-by-Chapter, published by Trust House Publishers, a division of DPH. Daniel serves as Pastor of Oak Tree Community Church in South Bend, Indiana, and blogs at www.TheologyIsForEveryone.com
Click here to purchase New Testament Chapter-by-Chapter.