DOES HEBREWS 10:25 REALLY TEACH WE MUST ATTEND CHURCH?
by Shawn Brasseaux
“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.” It is a most quoted verse, a most confused verse, and a most abused verse. Preachers want people to do something to advance some church tradition, so they quote a verse whenever possible to motivate people to “follow Jesus” (?). If there ever was such a verse, Hebrews 10:25 is unquestionably it! My dear friends, if left in context, this verse will be abundantly clear and be absolutely amazing. We need not handle God’s Word deceitfully, for that will profit us nothing in eternity. Let us first set aside our denominational biases, then let us search the Scriptures, and finally, let us agree, “Let God be true, but every man a liar.”
Hebrews 10:25 is one of the most mistreated verses in the book of Hebrews—maybe in all the Bible. We are urged to attend church services because it says, “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.” Preachers love to quote this over and over, but they do not continue reading the passage. Here are verses 26 and 27, the verses often omitted: “ For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,  But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” We need no theology degree or Greek lesson to see that verses 26 and 27 promise wrath, divine judgment, on those who fail to “assemble together.” In fact, they talk about loss of salvation. Now we see why preachers quote only verse 25, leaving off the next two verses!
One fundamental rule of sound, responsible Bible hermeneutics (interpretation) is to recognize a verse’s context. It is always important to remember that we should not grab a verse in Hebrews and make it fit us. While there are marvelous Bible truths shared between the nation Israel and us the Church the Body of Christ, Hebrews 10:25 is not one of them. The plain and simple truth is that we find no such verse as Hebrews 10:25 in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. There is no indication that Paul wrote Hebrews, and certainly, “Hebrews” is not a book directed to the Body of Christ. Beloved, Hebrews is Israel’s Bible book! (For more information, see our study linked at the end of this article, “Who wrote the book of Hebrews?”)
Hebrews 10:25 did not just “pop up out of nowhere.” Firstly, there were several chapters of Hebrews prior to chapter 10. Secondly, there were several books written in the Bible before Hebrews. We must use other Bible books and other chapters in Hebrews to explain Hebrews 10:25. Dear friends, let us do that now to learn some spectacular Bible truths!
THE PURPOSE OF THE BOOK OF HEBREWS
The context of the book of Hebrews is found in its two opening verses. We read in the first chapter: “ God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,  Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.” Hebrews builds on the doctrine first spoken by the Old Testament prophets, teachings further expanded upon by our Lord Jesus Christ in the books of Matthew through John. The book of Hebrews is a book of prophecy, and in no way belongs in our mystery program, our Dispensation of Grace.
Now, to Hebrews chapter 2: “ How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;  God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?  For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.”
Preachers love to partially quote verse 3 during evangelistic opportunities, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation….” What “salvation” is this? It is not our salvation in the Dispensation of Grace. It is talking about the “salvation” “which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord.” This is a reference to the “salvation” connected to Christ’s earthly ministry (Matthew through John). Hebrews chapter 2, verses 3-4 say, “and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;  God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost….” This is Acts chapter 2 onward, when the Holy Ghost worked miraculous demonstrations in and through Israel’s little flock and her 12 apostles. Hebrews focuses on the early part of the book of Acts, and early Acts is unrelated to us, the Church the Body of Christ. There is no Body of Christ here. There is no Dispensation of Grace here. There is no mystery program here.
The book of Hebrews focuses on “the world to come” (Hebrews 2:5). That is not the present-day. That is a future time, the time of the seven-year Tribulation and onward. Again, there is no Dispensation of Grace, no Body of Christ, and no mystery program. Hebrews is prophecy. The own testimony of the writer of the book of Hebrews is clear that he was not writing to us. To better understand Hebrews (and especially chapter 10, verse 25), let us now focus on John the Baptist’s ministry, Christ’s earthly ministry, and the seven-year Tribulation.
ISRAEL’S LITTLE FLOCK DURING JOHN THE BAPTIST’S MINISTRY
The Holy Spirit begins Matthew chapter 3 with: “ In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,  And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Why was John the Baptist “preaching in the wilderness?” Why was he not at the Temple in Jerusalem?
Remember, God only gave one religion in all of human history. Given at Mount Sinai through Moses for him to teach it to Israel, Judaism was a system of 613 laws (listed throughout Exodus through Deuteronomy). The Mosaic Law was a very severe system. God gave it to thoroughly demonstrate that Israel could never become His people in her own strength and through her own efforts. He would have to work to make them His people. Alas, Israel never got the message that she was a sinful nation that needed God’s salvation. She still believed she could do everything God commanded. (Just like today’s legalists!) Eventually, through the centuries, Israel’s religious leaders added more and more laws. When we come to Jesus’ earthly ministry, Judaism was no longer pure. Paul even called it the “Jews’ religion” (Galatians 1:14). It was not God’s religion anymore because sinful Israel had corrupted it.
The Lord Jesus remarked about Israel’s spiritual condition in His day: “ 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.  Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.  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.  And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition” (Mark 7:6-9).
Does this rebuke’s focus sound familiar? Sure it does! “Tradition” is still readily accepted instead of Scripture. Patristic (church fathers) writings, denominational creeds, papal encyclicals, church council decrees, and myriads of other volumes mean everything in Christendom, but the Holy Scriptures mean almost nothing (unless a verse can bolster the denomination, and then it is ripped out of context and quoted—such as Hebrews 10:25!).
John the Baptist’s ministry in the “wilderness” was God’s method to ensure doctrinal purity. John’s father Zacharias was a Levitical priest (Luke 1:5ff.), so John should have followed his father in serving in Israel’s Temple twice a year. Yet, the Bible never says John ever served as a Temple priest. Instead, Scripture says of young John, “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel” (Luke 1:80). In fact, Matthew 3:1-2, what we just read, says that John the Baptist, now about age 30, began his ministry in the wilderness. In order to understand John’s peculiar ministry, we need to be mindful of the spiritual condition of the Temple.
The Tabernacle—from King Solomon onward, the Temple—was the hub of Israel’s religious system: there, her priests served JEHOVAH, the Ark of the Covenant rested, and her male Jews visited three times a year. That building was highly important because it was the place where JEHOVAH manifested Himself to Israel: hence, it was called “the house of the LORD” (Exodus 23:19 et. al) and “the house of God” (Ezra 3:8 et al.). Jesus Christ called it “my house” (Matthew 21:13) and “my Father’s house” (John 2:16).
However, Israel’s religious leadership defiled JEHOVAH’S pure Temple, and thus His nation, in various ways. According to Malachi 1:8, her priests offered in it sick and lame animals (which God forbade in Deuteronomy 15:21)—a main theme of Malachi’s message is Israel’s corrupt priesthood. Micah 3:11 spoke about Israel’s priests who taught for “hire.” Isaiah 29:13 (which Jesus quoted to describe the apostasy in His own day; Mark 7:6-7) mentioned how the Jews “have removed their heart far from [JEHOVAH], and their fear toward [Him] is taught by the precept of men.” Religious tradition was venerated, and God’s Word (the Old Testament scrolls) was largely ignored. Sound familiar?
So, God the Father had sent John into the wilderness to call Israel away from the apostate Temple, away from the false religious system that Satan has used to mislead Israel. Over 700 years before Christ, the Prophet Isaiah wrote of John the Baptist: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3; cf. Matthew 3:1-11; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-18). The Prophet Hosea elaborates regarding Israel’s restoration to God: “[JEHOVAH speaking] Therefore, behold I will allure her [Israel], and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her…. And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi [“My Husband”]; and shalt call me no more Baali [“My Master”]. And I will betroth thee unto me for ever… Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God” (Hosea 2:14,16,19,23).
John the Baptist was preaching in the wilderness to fulfill prophecy, but why did prophecy have him preaching in the wilderness? John’s purpose is described in Luke 1:16-17: “ And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.  And he shall go before him [the Messiah, Jesus] in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Through John, God the Father (John 1:6) was calling Israel away from the apostate, satanic religious system that had so gripped and entrapped her, the system that her religious leaders—those “vipers” (Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7), those spiritual children of Satan (John 8:44)—had placed upon her and with which they led her away from JEHOVAH’S truth (Matthew 15:1-14).
In order to become JEHOVAH’S wife (Hosea’s prophecy above), Israel had to forsake her idols and vain religion (the center of which was the Temple). The Gospel of the Kingdom that John preached in Matthew 3:2 was Israel’s chance to escape Satan’s bondage and become God’s chief nation in the earth. His message to Israel was simple, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Israel was to “repent”—change her mind about JEHOVAH, to remember God’s covenant with her, to acknowledge her failure to keep that covenant, to quit thinking like the Gentiles and to stop serving Satan and his evil world system. Israel’s confession of sins in the following verses was to acknowledge her breaking the Old Covenant, the Mosaic Law (see Leviticus 26:40-46). John’s water baptism was the means whereby Israel was cleansed of her idolatry, equipping her to become JEHOVAH’S kingdom of priests (Ezekiel 36:25; cf. Exodus 19:5-6). Israel’s conversion was urgent: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand [near]” (Matthew 3:2). In the near future, Jesus Christ would be baptized of John, thus manifesting Himself as Israel’s Messiah-King (John 1:31). Israel’s long-promised kingdom (foretold through the Old Testament prophets) was soon to be established.
Most of Israel’s priests were entangled in spiritual error, so John’s ministry was out in the wilderness, far from the Temple, far-removed from Satan’s religious system. This arrangement ensured John’s converts would be pure, untainted by the evil world system that had deceived Israel previously. God’s people would hear God the Father’s message about His coming Son and Israel’s Messiah, Jesus, from John the Baptist (see John 1:6-34). It was a message unadulterated by Israel’s satanically-inspired priesthood.
ISRAEL’S LITTLE FLOCK DURING THE EARLY ACTS PERIOD
We will now move into the early Acts period, that is pre-Acts-chapter 9. Jesus Christ’s three years of earthly ministry have ended. He has already been crucified, buried, and resurrected, and has just ascended into heaven (chapter 1). The Apostle Peter concluded his famous Pentecost sermon with Acts 2:40: “And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward [wicked, rebellious] generation.” In other words, Peter echoed the words of John the Baptist: “Fellow Jews, come out of your apostate, wicked, rebellious nation! Leave that vain religious system and trust Jesus as your Lord and Christ! Quit trying to please God with your works and come to Him by faith! This evil generation will be consumed in God’s wrath when Jesus comes back! Get right with JEHOVAH God now!” (Peter was encouraging them to make the right decision, just as Hebrews 10:25 teaches, “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.”)
We read in Hebrews 13:10-15: “ We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.  For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp.  Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.  Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.  For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.  By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” The believing Israeli, in accordance with Peter’s words, is again urged to separate himself from the nation Israel. Israel is apostate, and just as they rejected Jesus Christ, a believing Jew is to be ready to “bear his reproach.” As they hated Jesus Christ for believing and teaching God’s Word, so they will hate the believing Israelis for believing and teaching God’s Word.
Hebrews 11:9-10, 13-16: “ By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:  For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God…. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.  And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.  But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.”
As their faithful patriarchs of old did, Israel’s believing remnant is not to be fixated on this world. This wicked world is passing away. They themselves will not be here forever. This evil world system is not their home. The Lord Jesus Christ will be returning soon to abolish the wicked system and bring to them a literal, physical, visible kingdom beyond their wildest dreams! Thus we find the exhortation to believing Israel in 1 John 2:15-17: “ Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
Psalm 22:22 says, “I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise him.” Written by King David, this is really the Messiah Jesus talking, some 1,000 years beforehand. Psalm 22:1-21 describes Christ’s crucifixion and death but Psalm 22:22-31 describes His resurrection and reign as King. Hebrews 2:11-13 provides commentary: “ For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,  Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.  And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.” This believing congregation, this “assembling of [themselves] together” (Hebrews 10:25), this believing remnant (Romans 11:5), this little flock (Luke 12:32), this Messianic Church (Matthew 16:18), is in stark contrast to the unbelieving part of Israel. As Psalm 26:5 says, “I have hated the congregation of evil doers; and will not sit with the wicked.”
Psalm 1 sheds additional light on Hebrews 10:25: “ Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.  But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.  And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.  The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.  Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.  For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”
ISRAEL’S LITTLE FLOCK DURING DANIEL’S 70TH WEEK
Israel’s believing remnant during the (future) seven-year Tribulation is to behave like John the Baptist’s converts and those Jewish kingdom believers in early Acts some 2,000 years ago; they are to separate themselves from the national apostate religious system and be ready for Jesus Christ to return for them. Just as a false religious system engrossed Israel back then, another false religious system, the Antichrist’s regime, will pollute Israel yet future from our day. This Antichrist (political leader) and his False Prophet (religious leader) will arise after our Dispensation of Grace is over. Our dispensation is parenthetical—what preceded it and what follows it are one and the same program. What prophetic program God would have finished back in early Acts He has postponed until after our mystery program ends. So, the verses from the previous sections—John the Baptist’s ministry and the early Acts period—carry over into the end-times portion of Israel’s prophetic program. The books of Hebrews through Revelation will be useful to Israel’s little flock during this time. We now begin to better understand Hebrews 10:25.
The Lord Jesus in His earthly ministry talked about how He would send angels at His Second Coming to gather His believing Jews. This is the ultimate “assembling” of Hebrews 10:25. As John preached years earlier in Matthew 3:11-12, believing Jews will be gathered into the garner (kingdom), and the unbelieving Jews will be gathered and thrown into fire (eternal hellfire). Jesus commenting in Matthew 24:30-31: “ And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Now we see why failing to gather with believers results in hell in Hebrews 10:25-27. It is not a common gathering at a local church building. It is not a member of the Body of Christ losing eternal life. It is rather a Jewish kingdom believer abandoning lost Israel, trusting Jesus as Messiah, thereby preparing to enter Christ’s Millennial Reign! It is a Jewish unbeliever being cast into hell for refusing to break away from wicked, apostate Israel!
GOD’S FIERY WRATH AT CHRIST’S SECOND COMING
Returning briefly to the wrath of Hebrews 10:26-29: “ For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,  But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.  He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:  Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” Now, verses 30 and 31: “ For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth to me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Those who fail to “assemble” with Jewish believers in verse 25, will be consumed by God’s righteous indignation, His vengeance (cf. Isaiah 61:2), when Jesus Christ returns to end the seven-year Tribulation. Remember, God’s impending judgment is connected to the Old Testament prophecies of Israel’s coming Messiah (Deuteronomy 32:22-43; Psalm 2:4-5; Psalm 68:1-8; Isaiah 34:1-15; Jeremiah 25:29-33; Joel 1:1–2:32; Nahum 1:1-8; Zechariah 14:12; et al.). Hence, John the Baptist, just before Messiah (Christ) Jesus began His earthly ministry, warned his audience of that “wrath to come,” when Jesus would baptize Israel “with fire,” “to burn up the chaff [lost Jews] with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:7-12). Jesus Himself forewarned of this future “burning,” this “fire,” when angels would gather unbelieving sinners and “cast [them] into a furnace of fire,” a place with “wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:30,40-42,49,50). At that Second Coming of Christ, the Jesus-rejecters (Matthew 24:37-41) and the Jewish-haters would be consumed and tossed into the lake of fire (Matthew 25:30,41-46). Jesus Christ will come back in “flaming fire” to take vengeance on rebels, those who want nothing to do with Him (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
As we commented earlier, the Apostle Peter concluded his famous Pentecost sermon with Acts 2:40: “And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” Once again, the message in Hebrews 10:25 to Jews is clear: “Come out of that apostate, wicked, rebellious nation! Leave that vain religious system and trust Jesus as your Lord and Christ! Quit trying to please God with your works and come to Him by faith! This evil generation will be consumed in God’s wrath when Jesus comes back! Get right with Him now!” That Day of Jesus Christ’s Second Coming is that “day approaching” that Hebrews 10:25 refers to, “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.”) See how much sense this all is than a shallow explanation, “Come to church because Hebrews 10:25 says so!”? Revel in the richness of God’s Word rightly divided, dear friends! Oh, the clarity! Oh, the wisdom!
Hebrews 10:25 is not talking about going to “worship” in a church building in this the Dispensation of the Grace of God. Rather, it is God’s instructions to Israel in regards to staying doctrinally pure and being spiritually ready for the Messiah (the Lord Jesus) to come back and establish His earthly kingdom! They are to remain separate from Satan’s policy of evil, from the apostate system that has strangled Israel’s spiritual life. Those Jews who fail to assemble with believing Israel will be cast into hellfire when Jesus Christ returns (Hebrews 10:25-31).
The lesson we can take from this is simple. Satan has perfected his operations. What was advantageous to Satan’s program then is still successful right now. Never forget that the same pagan religious system that gripped Israel still pervades Christendom. (For more information, see our study linked at the end of this article, “Did Paul quote verses out of context in 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1?”) Hence, we do not appeal to clergymen, denominational teaching-bodies, preachers, catechisms, creeds, seminarians, papal bulls and encyclicals, et cetera. We should go to the Apostle Paul (Romans through Philemon) to learn what God has to say to us Gentiles, just as the nation Israel was to go to John the Baptist to learn what God had to say to them. Thus, we will be a pure agency for the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 11:1-33).