“A Text Taken out of Context Becomes a Pretext.” How often I have heard these words use by the very men and women who violate this principle. And how many times I have heard Christians use a single verse as a pretext (out of context) to either deflect from accepting the truth of Scripture themselves, to defend a predetermined belief, or to force compliance upon others. Without exception, all who use Scripture as a pretext never take consideration for the surrounding passages but use it based on a pre-conceived notion that their agenda is weightier than the Scripture itself. In the end, all they are doing is proof texting certain verses to support their own biased position. Unfortunately, the most educated Scholars are guilty of doing the most preposterous things with the Scripture, I call this self-indulgence.
I’ve said it many times, most people only interpret Scripture from within the boundaries of their own denominational belief, whatever flavor that may be. We have been conditioned to approach the Scripture subjectively rather than objectively. It’s a programing, just like walking, the left leg is error, the right leg is truth, and both coexist within the framework of what is called Spiritual reality.
We live in a time where we are hard pressed to find an honest exposition of any verse. I mean, I’m talking here about making a pretext of a particular verse, yet I have witnessed preachers take entire context’s out of context and spin it to fit their own determined agenda.
2 Peter 2:1-3 says:
“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you, whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbers not.”
Now let’s take this into perspective. False teachers will bring in damnable heresies. In the Greek heresies is the act of taking someone or something captive in the sense of storming a city. It also means dissensions which arise from diversity of opinions. There is no better way to conquer the masses (or individuals) but by causing confusion and disunity. How is this done then? Contradiction! “even denying the Lord that bought them” simply means to contradict the Lord, i.e. the Scripture. Everyone today has an opinion, and through the diversity of opinions confusion abounds and this is intentional on their part. It says in our text above that “MANY” will follow their ‘pernicious ways.’ By subtility their contradictions gradually have a subdued and hypnotic effect which is harmful to one’s spiritual well being and creates disunity amongst believers. Confuse people and you have power over them. Once they have gained power over you they nail the coffin shut by speaking disparagingly concerning the truth of God’s word, setting you on a different path all together. With feigned words they make merchandise of you…”feigned” means they form an object with a particular shape out of easily manipulated material, that is, artificially and fictitiously they mold you into their likeness.
It is through the method described above which is why we have the problem today of pastor worship. We put men so high up on the pedestal we have created golden calf’s. Which brings up my next point, sacred cow verses.
What is a sacred cow? The Merriam Webster dictionary describes a sacred cow as one that is often unreasonably immune from criticism or opposition. Collins English Dictionary defines a sacred cow as a person, institution, or custom unreasonably held to be beyond criticism. Within Christianity there are several sacred cow verses taken by virtually every church to mean something other than what it means. Many times, they are used as a gavel to control and force compliance in people. One such verse, and we will look at this verse for the remainder of the article, is Hebrews 10:25:
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another, and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
It appears that most commentaries, writers, etc. simply don’t want to rock the boat or upset the apple cart when it comes to key verses or “sacred cow” verses of the Bible. After all, there is to much money to be made and the truth is always suspended for its cause. The question here is does Hebrews 10:25 address church attendance or is it speaking of something else altogether? I will attempt to give an honest and accurate exposition of this verse for I believe the truth should never be substituted for personnel bias or opinion.
To get to the truth of this verse we must first look at its context. So, we will begin with verse 23.
“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, (for he is faithful that promised.)”
The word faith in this verse is problematic in that the Greek word is elpis, not pistis, translated “faith” in the New Testament. I’ve always said that the English translations are not completely reliable so going to the Greek is always best when searching for the truth on any giving subject. This Greek word elpis is used 53 times in the New Testament and in every occurrence, it is always translated “hope,” with one exception, here in Hebrews 10. This is important, this is talking about not wavering concerning our “hope.” If it were pistis (faith) there might be some argument to be made concerning our gathering together in verse 25 to mean church attendance. So, the question is, what is this hope we are not to waver in?
In most cases, faith deals with the hear and now, walking in faith, living by faith, etc, etc. Hope in many places is dealing with the future. That doesn’t exclude faith as eschatological, but in this context “hope” is what is in view. The Scripture often refers to our hope as the resurrection from the dead, or glorification at the return of Jesus Christ. Paul refers to “the hope and resurrection of the dead” in Acts 23:6. And again, in Acts 24:15 Paul states that he has “hope toward God, which they themselves (the Pharisees) also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.”
Hope then, in the Greek has everything to do with expectation, especially the joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation. Faith solidifies our hope, but it is hope that looks to the future.
“For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” (Emphasis mine)
It is the object of hope which forms the basis of hope, and the object of our hope is the future resurrection and glorification of the saints. Salvation itself is still something we do not totally possess but is an expectation that the future will become present. I love how Hebrews 9:28 phrases it, “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.” The past and the future are a nexus to one another and we assiduously wait for His appearance, if that is not hope I don’t know what is.
As I said above, it is faith which solidifies our hope, and we see the nexus of the Cross with Jesus’ Second coming again in Titus 2:13-14 as the basis of our hope.
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
Hope will never be fully realized until the consummation of the age, but the provision of the Cross does make it real. That is why it is called a blessed hope because on that day we will finally be redeemed from all iniquity, now spiritually, then physically. Our lives now live conformably to the blessed hope of Christ’s appearing. So, the two subjects, Christ’s provision of salvation on the Cross and His appearing the Second time to put away sin by raising us from the dead are synonymous, one is the basis of our hope, the other, the object of it.
If we understand that we are to hold fast to the profession of our hope to be the expectation of Christ’s second coming and our future glorification then it makes Hebrews 10:24 so much easier to understand. “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works.” In context then, because of our hope of glorification in the resurrection at Christ’s return, we are to continually incite each other to love and good works, hope is the foundation for right living (See Titus 2:12-13). As believers we are to keep one another in check, looking forward to that day when we will be united with our Lord.
This then brings us to our main verse, Hebrews 10:25. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Two things need to be addressed here, “the assembling of ourselves together,” and “the day approaching.” Is this “day” talking about Sunday,” when the saints assemble? Or is this “day” referring to the future coming of Christ when we “gather together” unto Him in the Clouds?
“Assembling together” is from one Greek word, episunagōgē, it is a noun and is used in only one other place, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2. “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.” The verb form episunagō is found in Matthew 24:31 and Mark 13:27; “And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” The point is, these verses, Hebrews 10:25; 2 Thess. 2:1; Matthew 24:31; and Mark 13:27 are all speaking about the same thing, the Second Coming of Christ to rapture/resurrect His elect church. This gathering together in Hebrews 10:25 is our being gathered to Christ.
Two things here, first, if Hebrews 10:25 where speaking about the Church assembly on Sunday morning, why not just use the Greek word sunagō meaning “to bring together, come together, gather together, assemble,” as is the case in Acts 11:25-26;
“Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves (sunagō) with the church and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”
Clearly both the Noun episunagōgē and the Verb episunagō are dealing with the Coming of Christ to rapture His Church unto Himself. This is way these forms are used, to describe the type of gathering it is. Adding the Greek preposition epi to the noun sunagoge and to the verb sunago gives direction to the gathering. Epi basically means “on” or “upon” just as epidermis refers to the top layer – epi – of one’s skin – dermis. When this preposition is added it gives an upward direction to the gathering. And when you take the rest of the verse into account in 2 Thess. 2:1 and Matthew 24:31, both clearly are speaking of Christ’s Coming. It is safe to say that when a word means something in one place of Scripture it often means the same in another. And since episunagōgē is only use twice in the Scripture we see were one verse 2 Thess. 2:1 defines the other, Hebrews 10:25.
Secondly, “the day” approaching can only be used to described the day of Christ’s Coming, and we find this phrase use in connection to His coming in 1 Corinthians 3:13; “Each one’s work will become clear; for the day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will text each one’s work, of what sort it is.” This verse and its context is dealing with the Judgment seat of Christ where believers works are tested by fire. There are many other verses which could be used where His coming is described as “that day,” “his day,” etc. but I believe the point has been made here.
In every place where we find the verb episunagō, it is used to refer to a gathering of some sort to Christ.
“In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that hey trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, beware of the leaven of eh Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”
“And the whole city was gathered together at the door.”
See also Matthew 23:37, Jesus used the way a hen gathers her chicks to describe the way He desired to gather Jerusalem unto Himself. Thus, episunagō is used again for a gathering to Christ. Where we find the noun form episunagōgē used, it is used for the gathering to Christ on the day of His return and our resurrection. Hence, its usage in Hebrews 10:25 we must suspect that perhaps it is not speaking of attending church on Sunday at all, rather, is speaking of “the day approaching,” i.e. His Second Coming.
The Day Approaching
Just a little further in the chapter, we read: “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry” (verses 35-37). “He that shall come” is certainly a reference to Jesus Christ. We are to have patience (verse 36) in waiting for that day, the day of Christ’s return. But apparently some did not have patience and forsook the hope of our gathering to Christ at His return.
The evidence from both verses 25 & 35-37 are weighty. It clearly leads us to the conclusion that Hebrews 10:25 is saying that we are not to forsake the hope of our gathering to Christ at his return, as some had done, but instead we are to exhort one another concerning this hope, and we are to do this “all the more” as we see the day of His return approaching.
Verses 26-27 then gives the hypothetical case if we were to forsake the truth of this hope: “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” In other words, to forsake our glorious gathering to Christ is to forsake the very thing our salvation points to. It would be a forsaking of the truth and a willful sin. Anyone doing this would suffer the condemnation and fate of the adversaries. But remember, this is a hypothetical case. Verse 39 says, “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” God causes true Christians to persevere so that they will not forsake their hope.