In chapter 3 believers are addressed as partakers of the heavenly calling. In chapter 11 we learn that heaven has been secured to the believer, for Christ has entered heaven itself now to appear in the presence of the Father for us. In chapter 10 we learn that believers have been fitted by the work of Christ for heaven, so that, even now, while on earth, they can enter in spirit into heavenly fellowship within the veil.
In chapter 11 we have set before us that path which the heavenly man is to tread as he passes through this world on his way to heaven. The teaching clearly shows that from the beginning to the end it is a path of faith. Remembering to whom the Epistle is written we can understand that a whole chapter should be devoted to the insistence of “faith” as the great principle by which the believer lives. “The just shall live by faith.” These Hebrew believers might have special difficulty in accepting the path of faith, seeing they have been brought up in a religious system that very definitely appealed to sight. The Jewish religion centered around a magnificent temple with its alters and material sacrifices offered by an official priesthood clad in beautiful robes, including ornate ceremonies according to a prescribed ritual.
All this, however, had been set aside by Christianity into which they had been brought. These believers had to learn that in Christianity there in nothing for sight, but everything for faith. Moreover, the seen things of the Jewish religion were only the shadows of good things to come; whereas the unseen things of Christianity are the substance. They were called to go without the Jewish camp to reach Christ, who was in the outside place of reproach. Having come outside, the Apostle warns them not to “draw back.” The Apostle’s exhortations and warnings have solemn voice for us today, seeing that Christendom has to such a large extent drawn back, not perhaps in the full sense of the words used in chapter 10:38, 39, for that is actual apostasy.
Christendom has drawn back in the way of imitation. It has copied the Jewish system once again in rearing magnificent temples, with visible altars, and appointed official priests to conduct elaborate ceremonies which appeal to sight and the natural man, while raising no question of conversion or the new birth. Thus Christendom, though not giving up the profession of Christianity to go back to Judaism, has attempted to link Judaism on to Christianity. The result is that Christendom is losing the vital truths of Christianity, into which the true believer can enter, while retaining the outward things of Judaism which the natural man can appreciate.
In this great chapter we leave the shadows behind to enter the path of faith in which alone the real and vital things of God can be known and enjoyed. We learn, too, that in all dispensations faith has been the vital link with God. The great realities to which we have come in Christianity can neither be touched, nor heard, nor seen by the natural man; then can only be known by faith. This fact must have been especially testing for the Hebrew believers accustomed, as they were, to a religious system in which everything was designed to appeal to man in the flesh.
Now they found themselves introduced to that which was entirely new, and which set aside all the things that appeal to sight. They had to learn that the things of Judaism were but shadows, and the unseen things of Christianity were the substance, the reality. Everything for sight is gone, and they, with ourselves, are brought into a wonderful circle of blessing which only faith can apprehend and appreciate.
- Hamilton Smith