A very important element, which the apostle emphasizes, 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). 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). This last exhortation reminds 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 different 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 and 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 when they were about to enter Canaan.
The second time, the Israelites got entangled with sensuality and false worship in Baal Peor (Numbers 24, 25). While Balaam was not able to bring a curse upon the Israelites, Satan used sexual temptations to lead Israel in false worship and sin, and to bring God’s displeasure upon them.
The apostle 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; 10:23; 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).