In a South African mine, a supervisor made his daily rounds inspecting the security and the progress of the mine. While doing so, he saw what he thought to be a practical joke one of the workers had played. A piece of clear glass was sticking out of the earthen wall, attempting to look like a diamond. The year was 1905, the man was Frederick Wells, and the piece of glass would later be named the Cullinan Diamond, the largest diamond discovered to this date. The Cullinan Diamond as a rough diamond, before it was cut, is estimated to have been worth $2 billion, which is not bad considering its longest dimension was less than 4 inches.
Like the Cullinan Diamond, there are many magnificent treasures on this earth. Yet, no matter which forms those earthly treasures take, they all have their limitations. There is something greater than all of these earthly jewels which so easily catch our eye. Using the Bible as our treasure map, for it is God’s way of telling us what the greatest treasure is, and how to obtain it, we see that something far greater than the Cullinan Diamond is available to mankind.
"But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one." Hebrews 10:32-34
The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish believers who were struggling in their faith. As a whole, they had gotten out of the gate well. They embraced the gospel, understood Jesus to be the Messiah that the Old Testament pointed to and endured persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ. These certainly were positive marks of these believers and the churches that they represented. However, in between them starting out well and the writing of Hebrews, they ran out of endurance. The persecution likely had not subsided and now many Jewish believers were considering returning to Judaism and forsaking their faith in Jesus Christ, likely for relief from their oppression. Therefore, the author of Hebrews encourages the believers to endure with faith, and he motivates them by painting a very clear picture that Jesus is greater than anything else that they could possibly find.
When we pick up the story in Hebrews 10, we find that the author wants the people to recall how they had started out. Since it was clear that these believers knew what to do in trials, the matter was not one of knowledge but of focus. The Christians that would be reading this didn’t necessarily need to learn something new, but rather they needed to remember what they had previously believed, and how they lived it out. It seems that they found themselves doubting because they were off course and misaligned from the truth.
In case the Hebrews had truly forgotten what the writer wanted them to remember, he specifically points out their previous tribulations. Furthermore, he points out their motivation for enduring persecution and suffering. They had previously endured because they knew that they had “a better possession and an abiding one.” In essence, the author is reminding them that they already owned something of great magnitude and lasting beauty. This possession was also something that men could not touch or spoil, unlike their earthly possessions that had been taken from them. In light of this, the Hebrews had endured short term pain for long term gain. They had considered the treasures of heaven to be greater than the fleeting items of earth. This leaves us with two questions; “What exactly is this possession?” and “Can it be obtained today?”
The heartbeat of Hebrews, as mentioned, is that Jesus is supreme to all else. He is better than Moses, the angels, and even life itself. Therefore if we are to understand what this great possession is in light of the rest of the letter, it must include Jesus. In fact, this great and lasting possession not only includes Jesus, but it revolves around Him, the Son of God, as well as the Spirit of God and God the Father. This great possession is the salvation of our souls through the gospel. The reality of this means that the greatest possession of all is to know God and to be at peace with Him because of the cross of Christ (Jer. 9:23-24, Rom. 5:1). The apostle Peter further illustrates this possession as an inheritance that is imperishable, unfading and kept in heaven for believers (1 Pet. 1:3-9). So, is this great gift of salvation still available today, or did the offer expire 1900 years ago? The answer is yes, it is available. God’s Word is timeless and unchanging and the same lasting and abiding possession that Jewish Christians had as they faced intense persecution is the same possession that Christians have today.
Again, this leaves us with two questions; “Do I have this possession?” and, if so, “Have I lost sight of the greatest treasure of all?” God’s gift of salvation can still be found in our day. A firm, personal confidence that Jesus lived a perfect life and died a brutal death on the cross as an atonement for our sins is what is needed to attain this treasure. Once the gospel is made a reality in our hearts, we need to remind ourselves of it and keep it our focus and our deepest treasure. This is not easy, but when we walk in this, our hope and joy will be so deeply rooted in God that the trials and temptations of life cannot knock us over. For those of us who know these truths, let us hang on to our lasting possession with a firm grip and realize that all of the jewels of earth pale in comparison.