Conversion, persecution, and malaise : life in the community for which Hebrews was written

08 Feb 2010

Hebrews was written for Christians whose situation had developed as a result of several stages. Firstly the readers’ community was established when the message of salvation led to conversion and was confirmed by experiencing miracles and a sense of the Spirit’s presence. Secondly, during a time of persecution conditions became more difficult but the community remained steadfast in the wake of abuse, dispossession, and imprisonment and was not pressurised into relinquishing their commitments. During the third stage, conditions within the community seemed to deteriorate as ongoing friction with non-Christians and the demands of mutual support within the Christian community evidently moved some to exhibit a diminished commitment to the faith and to neglect the community’s gatherings. In response, the author develops the contrast between the seen and the unseen in order to address the apparent contradiction between the promises of glory that drew them to faith and the inglorious experience of life in the world. The author seeks to bolster the readers’ confidence by showing that Jesus’ suffering was followed by exaltation to heavenly glory and that Jesus’ followers can be confident that God will also bring others who suffer into the glory that has been promised to them.