Hebrews 10:32-34 – “But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.”
The writer of the book of Hebrews is considered by many to have been the apostle Paul; however, textual critics have legitimate reasons for remaining skeptical. Regardless of the author, some of the greatest truths about the earliest faith of the Messiah believers is captured within its pages.
In this passage, the author is reminding the believers of the physical struggles and hardship they endured with the result being increased compassion for those who were ultimately imprisoned for their faith.
These believers may have been some of those who had come under the early persecution after the martyrdom of Stephen, ironically, overseen by the pre-believing Saul of Tarsus who would later become the apostle Paul.
Acts 8:1, 3 – “Saul agreed with putting [Stephen] to death. On that day a severe persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria. … Saul, however, was ravaging the church. He would enter house after house, drag off men and women, and put them in prison.”
Additionally, the text in the epistle to the Hebrews says the believers “joyfully accepted the plundering of [their] property.” That is such a foreign concept for us today, as personal property rights are practically held as sacred.
This small glimpse into the world of the early believers shows us why they could remain joyful even though their belongings were being confiscated or destroyed: it was because they knew they had a better and lasting possession within the hope of their faith. The promise of eternity far outweighed their earthly struggles, and this comforted them greatly, even to the point of being joyful during some of the most demeaning and demoralizing events that could occur. They were living out the admonition of the apostle Paul when he wrote:
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 – “Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Through their trials and suffering, they were enabled to demonstrate legitimate compassion and assistance to those who were hit the hardest through the persecution they had endured, and they were also strengthened within themselves with the knowledge of eternity.
Having an eternal perspective changes everything: whether being stressed at work or in relationships at home, having financial or resource challenges; all of these things pale in light of eternity. Through that veil of spiritual understanding, we are empowered to become more compassionate and encouraging, recognizing and acting on what is truly important and needful in this life, all to the honor and glory of God.
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