Church: Does Hebrews 10:25 say we must attend?
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.
Off and on all my life I’ve been hearing preachers and others say this verse tells us this command is directed to us today and that because of what it says we need to attend a local church. But I’ve always thought it interesting that these people who say this seldom quote what follows in that same passage.
26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
Is context important? As we should all know, it surely is! Hebrews 10:25 is one of the most misunderstood and mistreated verses in the Bible. Preachers habitually use it to get people to attend their church. No one needs seminary training to see that verses twenty-six and twenty-seven don’t go with our times. This is all to do with that 7-year period of tribulation that comes after the Rapture and before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Also, this is one of many passages in Hebrews that should let everyone know that the apostle Paul is not the author of this book. These verses clearly promise divine wrath to believers who fail to “assemble together.” In fact, these verses talk about the “loss” of one’s salvation. Better put, it teaches that they’re taken off the path to eternal salvation. Now you see why many preachers don’t like to quote this whole passage.
As I was saying, context is always of utmost importance if we’re to correctly understand a passage of Scripture. While there are truths that applied to Israel that apply to us today, that is not always the case. You won’t find anything in the apostle Paul’s writings [Romans to Philemon] that tells us anything like what is stated here. The book of Hebrews as a whole is TO the Hebrews. What could be clearer? This means the book is to do with Israel as it relates to the time of the earthly ministry of Christ [Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John], the early period of Acts, and the coming Tribulation period before Christ comes back to the Earth to establish His earthly Kingdom. It does not relate directly to us as members of the Body of Christ in this present Dispensation of the Grace of God or to our future in Heaven. Notice the first verses in the book of Hebrews that serve to introduce it.
1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son [in His earthly ministry], whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds [notice that Jesus Christ is here said to be the Creator, as also stated in Colossians 1:16]; [Emphasis added]
The period mentioned in this Hebrews passage was interrupted by this period of history of which we are a part today. Those would have been “the last days” if Israel had accepted her Messiah. If they had done that, Christ would have come and already established His earthly reign of a thousand years. But Israel rejected Him, and God did something different. In this interruption there was the salvation of Saul [Paul] of Tarsus and the introduction of a whole new program through the revelation given to him. We are a part of that wonderful program today. This present period we live in ends with the Rapture, at which point the old program with Israel will pick right up where it left off. The prophecies God gave Israel will then come into complete fulfillment. This book of Hebrews is, therefore, a book of prophecy, not a part of the mystery truths of which we are a part today. This, again, means this book is directed to Israel, the Hebrews. That’s not to say there’s nothing in this book that relates to us, but much of it does not. Only by being familiar with Paul’s epistles can those things be clearly recognized. Let’s notice some things that are said in Hebrews 2 that clearly show this.
3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation [something evangelistic preachers love to quote]; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord [in His earthly ministry], and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him [the apostles and some others in that period];
The “so great salvation” mentioned here is to do with Israel being delivered from God’s judgment for their unbelief, their rejection of their Messiah.
4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost [spiritual gifts we DO NOT have today], according to his own will?
This tells us Israel was given sound reason to believe in this Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah. But they didn’t! They rejected Him. And in doing so they rejected this “salvation” He offered.
5 For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come [the time of the coming 7-year Tribulation period and particularly the kingdom on Earth that follows], whereof we speak. [Emphasis added]
What we find here is a period of history that began on Mt. Sinai with the giving of the 613 commandments of the Mosaic Law recorded in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. All this was given of God to demonstrate that they would not nor could not live up to His laws for them through their own efforts. The objective was to help them see their need for God and a Savior. Things were hard enough for them with the 613, but they went on and added to that even more laws known today as what many call the Pharisaical laws. This truly made it the Jew’s religion, not God’s. The apostle Paul tells us this was the “religion” he was once all tied up in as a Pharisee.
14 And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. [Emphasis added]
It is also the “religion” Christ spoke of when He was trying to bring Israel around to the truth.
6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition [the Pharisaical laws and this which is called the Jews’ religion]. [Emphasis added]
I’m afraid this is where so much of America is today. The traditions of men are given priority over the teachings of Scripture, especially those of the apostle Paul. With Israel, they, too, were obstinate. For most of their years they were in a state of rebellion. This will continue to be the case in the time of the coming 7-year period of tribulation. But some, not all, but some will in that time have a change of mind [repentance] and believe in their Messiah. That remnant will be saved and given entrance into the coming Kingdom of Christ on Earth. All others will be cast off at what is called in Scripture the baptism of fire. Our passage in Hebrews is to exhort believers in that coming time of Tribulation to continue in faith. They are told to not forsake the assembling of themselves together. Let’s look at the verse again.
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 [Christ’s coming and the establishment of His earthly Kingdom]. [Emphasis added]
They are told to exhort one another to continue in their faith and to endure the suffering, the tribulation of that period to the end.
21 And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.
22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
23 But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come [a reference to Christ’s coming back to the Earth at the end of the Tribulation period]. [Emphasis added]
Later in His earthly ministry Christ brings this subject up again, discussing things as they will occur in this coming 7-year period of tribulation.
8 All these are the beginning of sorrows [at the beginning of that 7-year time of tribulation].
9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.
10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
But next in this same passage we’re told that right before the return of Christ to the Earth the world will be evangelized with, not our Gospel of the Grace of God, but the Gospel of the Kingdom. It is that gospel that will be in place at that time.
14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. [Emphasis added]
Hebrews 10:25 is not talking about going to “worship” in a church building in this present Dispensation of the Grace of God, even though that at times is a good idea. Instead, it is God’s instructions to Israel to stay doctrinally pure and to be ready for their Messiah [the Lord Jesus Christ] to return and establish His earthly kingdom. They are to remain separate from Satan’s policy of evil, from the apostate system that has so often strangled Israel’s spiritual life. Those Jews who forsake being a part of believing Israel will be cast into hellfire when Jesus Christ returns.
26 For if we [the Hebrew people of Israel] sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
This is telling us that in their case they had to remain faithful to the end of their lives to be saved. If they turned away, there was no hope for them.
27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation [their baptism of fire—being cast into fire], which shall devour the adversaries [the unbelievers]. [Emphasis added]
The main lesson we can take from this is simple but very important. Even though we won’t be living here on Earth during the time of the Tribulation, we have other but similar temptations in our time. Our objective should always be to stand for God’s truth, even when there’s great temptation to do otherwise. As a part of accomplishing this, we should only want close relations with people of like-mind spiritually. It is with those people that we are to have our closest relations. We are to be very careful about our association with people who will negatively influence us.
I Corinthians 5:9-11
9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world [speaking of unbelievers], or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.
11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother [a believer in the family of God] be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. [Emphasis added]
We are to always be working with some unbelievers to have an opportunity to present the gospel to them. But most of our time should be spent with people who will be a positive influence on us spiritually. We will tend to find these people assembled in places where the Word of God rightly divided is being taught. And bear in mind that for longer than the first century there were no designated “church” buildings. Believers were usually meeting in homes. Here’s the command we’re to abide by.
II Corinthians 6:14-17
14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial [things worthless]? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel [an unbeliever]?
16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. [Emphasis added]
Therefore, here are some important questions to consider. Who are your closest friends or associates that tend to influence your thinking? Are they a help or a hindrance to your spiritual progress and your service to our Lord? Are you doing whatever it takes to get regular teaching of the Word of God? Are there changes you should make for improvements in these things?