Life-Study of Hebrewsby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In the fourth warning in the book of Hebrews (10:19-39), two important things are mentioned—the worse punishment (v. 29) and the great reward (v. 35). These two phrases are both heavy and meaningful; they are the keys to this fourth warning. The writer of this epistle was not concerned with our salvation, for according to what he has written, it is eternally secure. The writer has made it quite clear that Christ has offered Himself to put away sin once for all (7:27; 9:26, 28) and that He has obtained for us an eternal salvation (5:9). Having entered once for all into the Holy of Holies, He has found for us an eternal redemption (9:12). The writer knew that our salvation was fully, thoroughly, and completely secure and that we have been saved forever. However, he was very concerned whether his readers would receive a great reward or suffer punishment.
Throughout the centuries, most Christians have not seen the punishment as well as the reward. Many books deal with the matter of reward, saying that if we follow the Lord faithfully and do His will, we shall receive a crown as a reward. However, it is difficult to find a book which speaks about the other side—punishment. Most Christian writers do not want to touch this subject, because it will cause them difficulty. Nevertheless, “worse punishment” is mentioned in 10:29, and we cannot ignore it. We shall either suffer a worse punishment or receive a great reward.
Our God is fair, righteous, and wise. He knows how to handle everything and how to deal with His children. As our wise Father, He has a just way of dealing with us, His children: He will reward the faithful and obedient ones and punish the unfaithful and disobedient ones. According to most of the teachings, it seems that God only rewards the faithful ones but does not punish the unfaithful. This is not logical. Our Father is much wiser than this. To say that He will reward the faithful ones and discipline the unfaithful ones is logical. Our God is logical and purposeful, never doing anything without a meaning. The clear word in His oracle says definitely that if we are faithful, He will reward us, but if we are not, He will punish us.
We need not be concerned about our salvation. We may be assured that it is eternally secured according to His holy word. The question, however, is this: how shall we follow the Lord after we have been saved? Will we conduct ourselves according to the law of life? Will we come forward to the Holy of Holies, or shrink back to the Holy Place and even to the outer court? This is up to us. If we come forward, we shall receive a reward. But if we shrink back, we shall suffer punishment because we break God’s administration and disobey His will. We all must come forward to the second covenant and dive into the new covenant economy of God, forgetting our sins and devoting our full attention to the law of life that will make us His reproduction. If we care for this, He surely will reward us. But if we do not care for it, shrinking back instead, He will punish us according to His warning. It is a serious matter to break God’s administration. If we do this, breaking the law of life, we shall suffer a worse punishment than those who broke the law of letters. We need to be deeply impressed with this matter of the “worse punishment” and the “great reward.” Perhaps we even need to underline these words in our Bibles as a reminder of their significance. These words represent our future destiny. Which shall it be—a worse punishment or a great reward?
The Apostle Paul was not assured that he had the reward until he reached the end of his life. When he wrote the book of 1 Corinthians, he was very much concerned that he might be a castaway in the heavenly race (9:24-27). Even when he wrote the book of Philippians, he was still pressing on toward the mark for the prize (Phil. 3:14). Only in 2 Timothy 4:7 and 8, written shortly before his martyrdom, did he have the assurance that the crown of righteousness was awaiting him. Do not be assured that you have already attained the reward. You have not yet finished your race.
We all must be clear about four words: salvation, perdition, reward, and punishment. The reward is not salvation; it is something in addition to it. Salvation is by grace through faith, whereas the reward is according to the life and work we have after being saved. As the reward is different from salvation, so is punishment different from perdition. As we have pointed out, perdition is for the unsaved while punishment is for believers. Thus, punishment here is something altogether different from perdition. We have been saved forever and we can never perish. The unbelievers face two choices—salvation or perdition. We, the saved ones, also must consider two possibilities—receiving a reward or suffering some punishment. All the saints in the Lord’s recovery must be clear about this, for it is a matter of God’s economy, God’s way of dealing with His children.
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