What Does The Passage Mean?

HEBREWS 10:2 5

James Finley

Hebrews 10:25 is one of the most misused and abused passages in the book we call the Bible. Many people will say that through Hebrews 10:25, God commands us not to miss the "worship services of the church". Dare I point out that the verse in question says nothing about worship, nothing about services and nothing about a church? In addition to not being a command, it is not even a complete sentence in most translations. The New King James Version renders it as follows:

not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more, as you see the Day approaching.

Anyone should see that the above is only part of a sentence. The sentence AND THE THOUGHT begin in previous verses. To make this matter even worse, not all of the above is usually quoted. What we usually hear is "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as is the manner of some". I repeat, that is not a sentence and that fact alone should warn us that perhaps we are not getting the full message that the writer intended to convey. We should always be very careful to study the context in which a word, phrase, sentence, etc. occurs if we are to understand the meaning. Before we look at the context of the verse under discussion, let's discuss some of the words that are used.

FORSAKE

Forsake means to give up, to quit, to leave, to abandon. It implies finality. Here it refers to stopping a practice. It does not refer to "perfect (or imper-fecO attendance" at a religious ceremony. Instead, the writer is encouraging those addressed to continue their practice of meeting together. The time of such meetings is not specified but rather a general statement that could only refer to a practice. If we were told not to forsake eating we would not wonder which meal was meant or how much to eat on which day. We would understand that the writer was telling us to continue to eat without being specific as to when to eat, what food to eat, or where to eat. Likewise, Hebrew-s 10:25 says to continue to meet together without being specific as to when and where to meet.

ASSEMBLING

Assembling means coming together, meeting together, or gathering together. Notice that the word is "assembling" and not "the assembly". People today often say that Hebrews 10:25 teaches us that we are not to forsake "the assembly", which means Sunday Church services in today's vernacular. This is not the message! As pointed out above, a specific meeting is not identified therefore we must understand this to mean a practice. The time, place, and frequency of the meeting together is not specified, therefore, meetings or gatherings at any time would satisfy the instruction. It is probably safe to assume that the writer was familiar with the practices of those addressed and he is urging them not to abandon those practices. He does not specify the time, frequency, or length of meetings. It is interesting to note that the Greek word here is a form of the word that is usually translated synagogue. I do not conclude that this implies a meeting "at the synagogue". As previously stated, meetings anywhere and at anytime would satisfy the instruction.

THE DAY

The day in this verse has given many people trouble and has been the focus of many heated discussions. The positions I have heard advanced are that "day" means (1) Sunday, (2) the destruction of Jerusalem, (3) the second coming of Christ, or (4) any day for which a meeting is scheduled "at the local church". I do not believe that we can prove conclusively which day the writer had in mind. I do believe that those addressed understood but because we do not have their exact perspective and the writer did not positively identify the day we can not know beyond some doubt. I do believe, however, that we can eliminate choices (1) and (4). If the writer had meant Sunday, we would be in the unhappy position of needing to increase our exhorting each day from Monday through Saturday. Then on Sunday we could rest from our exhorting and begin all over again on the next Monday. Such a conclusion borders on the absurd and I do not believe anyone would seriously try to defend such a belief. Choice number (4) would have a similar problem.

It is plausible to assume that those addressed had been warned of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and therefore it is possible that this could be the meaning of "the day". It also appears that many of the people of this period believed the second coming of Christ was imminent so this is another possible interpretation of "the day". In addition, the writer makes reference to that occasion in verses 27 and 28 of chapter 9 by saying "and as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation." It is certainly possible that "the day" of verse 25 refers back to these statements. Verse 37 of Chapter 10 states that "He who is coming will come and will not tarry". Some believe this is another reference to the second coming and others believe it is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem. Again, we cannot be certain of the specific day meant but choices (2) and (3) seem to offer the best possibilities.

It should not disturb us that we cannot definitely determine which day is meant here. A principle is being taught and that principle remains the same regardless of the day meant. Those addressed were to continue to assemble and that principle is as good today as it was then.

THE CONTEXT

For a better understanding of the passage under consideration, let's consider the context in which the remarks are set. The Hebrew writer has been arguing in previous chapters that the new covenant is superior to the old and that the priesthood of Christ is superior to the priesthood of Aaron and his descendants. Then verse 19 of chapter 10 begins with "Therefore" which tells us that the writer is about to draw some conclusions based on his foregoing remarks. He then lists three conclusions all of which begin with "let us". The first in verse 22 says "let us draw near with a true heart ..."; the second beginning with verse 23 states: "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope..."; and the third, beginning with verse 24, says "Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much as you see the day approaching."

The primary instruction in verses 24 and 25 is to "stir up love and good works" in one another. The writer then specifies how to do that: by meeting together and exhorting (encouraging) one another. Those who do not meet together are not considerate (do not consider) of others and do nothing to increase love and good works. These Christians were being severely persecuted and had special need for encouragement. This sort of activity is very important in times of stress or when, for whatever reason, people have a tendency to not hold fast the confession of their hope.

Now as then we need to meet together with people of like faith. All of us need to be encouraged because our pathway through this world is strewn with obstacles. We need to share our good times with others so that they may be encouraged and we need to share our bad times with others so that they may encourage us. This, I believe, is the message of Hebrews 10:25. Once more, the writer is not talking about attendance records.