Hebrews 2:3, 4 implies that the audience of Hebrews had not heard Jesus Himself preach; instead, they had received the gospel from other evangelists who had announced to them the news of salvation.

Paul also says that the evangelists had “confirmed” the message to the audience and that God Himself had borne “witness both with signs and wonders.” This means that God had provided experiential confirmation of the gospel by signs and other powerful deeds—among them the distribution of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The New Testament relates that signs such as miraculous healings, exorcisms, and the outpouring of spiritual gifts often accompanied the preaching of the gospel in new places.

At the beginning of the Christian church, God poured His Spirit upon the apostles in Jerusalem so that they were able to announce the gospel in languages previously unknown to them and to perform miracles (Acts 2, 3). Philip performed similar wonders in Samaria (Acts 8), Peter in Joppa and Caesarea (Acts 9, 10), and Paul throughout his ministry in Asia Minor and Europe (Acts 13–28). These powerful deeds were experiential evidence that confirmed the message of salvation—the establishment of the kingdom of God and a salvation from condemnation and freedom from evil powers (Heb. 12:25–29).

The Spirit gave early Christian believers the conviction that their sins had been forgiven; thus, they were not fearful of judgment, and as a result their prayers were bold and confident, and their religious experience was joyful (Acts 2:37–47). The Spirit also delivered those who were enslaved to evil powers, which was compelling evidence of the superiority of the power of God over the forces of evil and revealed that the kingdom of God had been established in their lives.

When believers confessed their faith in Christ and joined the church, however, they set a boundary marker that distinguished them from the rest of society. Unfortunately, this became a source for conflict, because it implicitly passed a negative judgment on their community and its values.

It is very likely that the readers of Hebrews suffered verbally and physically at the hands of mobs stirred up by opponents (e.g., Acts 16:19–22, 17:1–9). They were also imprisoned, and it is possible that they were beaten as well, because officials had the power of authorizing punishment and incarceration, often without following appropriate judicial norms, while they gathered evidence (e.g., Acts 16:22, 23).

To “bear the reproach of Christ” (1 Peter 4:14–16) simply meant to identify oneself with Christ and endure the shame and abuse that this association implied. Public animosity against Christians was the result of their distinctive religious commitments. People can get offended by religious practices that they don’t understand or by people whose lifestyle and morals could make them feel guilty or shamed. By the middle of the first century ad, Tacitus considered Christians to be guilty of “hatred against mankind.” (Josephus Tacitus, “Annals,” in The Complete Works of Tacitus, ed. Moses Hadas, trans. Alfred J. Church and William J. Brodribb (New York: The Modern Library, 1942), 15.44.1.) Whatever the exact reason for that charge, although certainly false, many early Christians, such as the ones that Paul had written this letter to, were suffering for their faith.