Read Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 9:26–28; Hebrews 10:25, 36–38; and Hebrews 12:25–28. What point is Paul stressing here, particularly regarding time?
There is a very important element that the apostle emphasizes that adds urgency to his exhortation: the readers are living in the very “last days” (Heb. 1:2) and the promises are about to be fulfilled (Heb. 10:36–38). It is interesting, as we will see, that throughout the document Paul compares his audience with the desert generation that stood right before the border of Canaan, ready to enter into the Promised Land. He reminds them, “ ‘For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry’ ” (Heb. 10:37, NKJV). And then he encourages them: “We are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul” (Heb. 10:39, NKJV). This last exhortation reminded the readers, and us, about the dangers that the people of God have historically experienced right before the fulfillment of the promises of God.
The book of Numbers talks about this very thing. The biblical record says that two times, right before entering the Promised Land, Israel suffered important defeats. The first time, recorded in Numbers 13 and 14, tells us about the doubts that several leaders spread through the congregation, which caused the faith of Israel to fail. As a result, the congregation decided to appoint a new leader and return to Egypt, just at the moment they were about to enter Canaan.
The second time, the Israelites got entangled with sensuality and false worship in Baal Peor (Numbers 24, Numbers 25). While Balaam was not able to bring a curse upon the Israelites, Satan used sexual temptations to lead Israel into false worship and sin and to bring God’s displeasure upon them.
Paul warns the readers of Hebrews against both dangers. First, he exhorts them to hold fast to the confession of their faith and to fix their eyes upon Jesus (Heb. 4:14, Heb. 10:23, Heb. 12:1–4). Second, he exhorts them against immorality and covetousness (Heb. 13:4–6). Finally, he exhorts them to observe and obey their leaders (Heb. 13:7, 17).
Considering our understanding of the state of the dead—and that as soon as we close our eyes in death, the next thing we know is the Second Coming—why can we say that all people have lived in the “last days”?
Supplemental EGW Notes
Just what Christ was to John in his exile He will be to His people who are made to feel the hand of oppression for the faith and testimony of Jesus Christ. . . . These were driven by the storm and tempest of persecution to the crevices of the rocks, but were hiding in the Rock of Ages; and in the fastnesses of the mountains, in the caves and dens of the earth, the Saviour reveals His presence and His glory. Yet a little while, and He that is to come will come and will not tarry. His eyes as a flame of fire penetrate into the fast-closed dungeons and hunt out the hidden ones, for their names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. These eyes of the Saviour are above us, around us, noting every difficulty, discerning every danger; and there is no place where His eyes cannot penetrate, no sorrows and sufferings of His people where the sympathy of Christ does not reach.—That I May Know Him, p. 360.
“Hold fast.” This does not mean, Hold fast to your sins; but, Hold fast to the comfort, the faith, the hope, that God has given you in His Word. Never be discouraged. A discouraged man can do nothing. Satan is seeking to discourage you, telling you it is of no use to serve God, that it does not pay, and that it is just as well to have pleasure and enjoyment in this world. But “what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” You may have worldly pleasure at the expense of the future world; but can you afford to pay such a price?
We are to “hold fast” and live up to all the light we receive from heaven. Why? Because God wants us to grasp the eternal truth, and act as His helping hand by communicating the light to those who are not acquainted with His love for them. When you gave yourself to Christ, you made a pledge in the presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—the three great personal Dignitaries of heaven. “Hold fast” to this pledge.—Ellen G. White Comments, in The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 959.
You may have your choice as to who shall rule your heart and control your mind. If you choose to open the door to the suggestions of the evil one, your mind will be filled with distrust and rebellious questioning. You may talk out your feelings, but every doubt you utter is a seed that will germinate and bear fruit in another’s life, and it will be impossible to counteract the influence of your words. You may be able to recover from your season of temptation . . . , but others that have been swayed by your influence may not be able to escape from the unbelief you have suggested. How important it is that we speak to those around us only those things which will give spiritual strength and enlightenment!—That I May Know Him, p. 228.
The above quotations are taken from Ellen G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons, published by Pacific Press Publishing Association. Used by permission.