The Gathering TogetherSeries: An Eschatological Mix
THE GATHERING TOGETHER
Sermon By Terry Siverd / July 25, 2021 / Cortland Church of Christ
This morning I want to invite you to join with me in taking a fresh look at Heb.10:25. This ancient text, like Rev.1:10, has traditionally been on the receiving end of some very shallow interpretations. In Rev.1:10 John speaks of being in the Spirit on the Lord's day (kuriakos). This is not a reference to Sunday (the first day as in 1Cor.16:2), but rather it addresses the day of the Lord. The book of Revelation is an expansion of Jesus' Olivet discourse - - a declaration of judgment against an apostate Israel. Interpreting this verse correctly plays a large part in setting the tone for a proper understanding the Apocalypse. Within our beloved fellowship, more often than not, Heb.10:25 is rendered as such - - Don't neglect going to church on Sundays because your participation will greatly encourage the whole church. Resolve to be faithful in this regard - - all the more as you see each Sunday drawing near. Of course this exhortation has much merit. And it behooves all of us to consider how our participation, or lack thereof, affects the body of Christ. Certainly it is a good thing to consciously work to build up the church and to engage in practices which will serve to stimulate others to grow in their love for God and the church. I get a bit discouraged when our Sunday attendance is anemic and many are absent. I imagine you do as well. On the other hand, a robust gathering tends to be inspirational and uplifting and a great source of encouragement.
This application of Heb.10:25 has a legitimate place, but it is not the primary meaning of the text.
Turn with me to Heb.10:19-25, as we read the immediate context of this important admonition from Paul.
Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking the assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.
This text demands careful scrutiny and is worthy of a deeper examination than it has often received.
Here is the broader context of the epistle to the Hebrews.
The New Covenant was in the process of being fully established as the new and living way (Heb.10:20). The old covenant was becoming obsolete...growing old and ready to vanish (Heb.8:13). According to Heb.1:2, this epistle was written in the last days - - i.e., the last days of Judaism, probably c. mid 60's. It was a warning against apostasy - - falling away - - Christians falling back into Judaism. Heb.2:3 cautions, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? Those who had been following Jesus were urged to hold firm to the end (Heb.3:6); to not harden their hearts (Heb.3:8). The brethren were admonished not to become a part of those who were falling away (Heb.3:12). We have become partakers with Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance until the end (Heb.3:14). Like with the exodus from Egypt, some would be disqualified from entering God's rest, because of unbelief (Heb.3:19). Let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should come short of it (Heb.4:10). Although some would fail to enter God's rest because of disobedience (Heb.4:6) ... Let us be diligent to enter (Heb.4:11). Heb.6:1 exhorts, Let us press on to maturity … not be sluggish (Heb.6:11-12) ... to not fall away (Heb.6:4-6)- - In the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,and then have fallen away, it is impos-sible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame. Paul was exhorting strongly Jewish & Gentile Christians: Let us - - draw near (Heb.10:22) … hold fast (Heb.10:23) … encourage others (Heb.10:24). If we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but (instead) a terrifying expectation of judgment (Heb.10:26-27) … Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy...How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot Son of God, and has disregarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which was sanctified and insulted the Spirit of grace (Heb.10:28-29). It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb.10:31). For yet, in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay (Heb.10:37). We are not of those who shrink back to destruction... (Heb.10:39). Let us run with endurance the ran that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…Consider Him who endured such hostility...so that you may not grow weary and lose heart (Heb.12:1-3). You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant... (Heb.12:22-24). Do not refuse Him who is speaking...Do not turn away (Heb.12:25) Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven (Heb.12:26). Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire (Heb.12:28:29). Therefore Jesus also, suffered outside the gate. Hence, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come (Heb.13:12-13).
Having completed this important overview, can we not identify the day approaching? It was not any given Sunday, it was the day of Christ - - the awesome coming of the Lord. This was the very occasion that Jesus predicted in Mt.24:30-31 and Paul prophesied about in 2Thess.2:1 - - Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together God's elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.
To best understand this sermon YOU MUST READ TODAY'S COMPANION ESSAY - - Making Two Into One. Paul wrote about the mystery of Christ - - the gathering together of both Jews & Gentiles into one body. This was God's plan - - to reconcile all men into one body by means of the cross of Christ Jesus.
In Jn.10:16 Jesus spoke to His Jewish disciples saying: I lay down My life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock with one Shepherd.
One final citation - - 2Tim.4:10 provides an example of one who did the unthinkable. The apostle Paul (perhaps with a mixture of sorrow and anger) writes: Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted and gone to Thessalonica. Note: Thessalonica was a hotbed of anti-gospel hostility and home to many who were rabidly determined to stop God's plan to make two into one, by uniting both Jews and Gentiles into ONE BODY. cf. 1Thess.2:14f.