38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”
The “little while” of the previous verse refers to the time before the Second Coming of Christ. Israel will suffer a short period during the Tribulation until Christ comes. As future Israel must suffer for a short period before the appearing of Christ on earth, so must current Christians endure suffering until Christ comes again.
Habakkuk 2:3–4, alluded to here, refers to believing Israel anticipating deliverance from the Babylonian persecution.
38 Now the just shall live by faith;
This phrase is an allusion to (not quote from) Habakkuk 2:3–4 in the Septuagint (LXX). The word “just” refers to a believer. This is a person who lays hold of God’s faithfulness to him. This citation is the reason for the lengthy discourse of faith in chapter 11.
Paul’s quotation of Habakkuk explains how a person is acceptable to God, whereas Hebrews is concerned with remaining true to truth in the face of trial.
But if anyone draws back,
This and the next phase are a litotes where a positive idea expresses the negative opposite.
This phrase draws a contrast between the person who wavers in his faith and the one who is steadfast in his belief in what God has said. A believer who “draws back” is a believer in reversionism, a believer who minimizes the finished work of Christ. To draw back is the failure to endure suffering and stay with the assembly of believers. Drawing back is not apostasy but a mode of endurance that will result in drifting away from a clear concept of truth one has held.
My soul has no pleasure in him.”
The larger context shows that God is angered by those who draw back (He 10:27). “My soul” references God; God has no pleasure in him.
Faith lies at the root of faithfulness.
The Christian life is a life of faith. A Christian is faithful to God because he has faith in God. Faith will preserve a believer from spiritual disaster. Faith is essential for both salvation and sanctification. It also preserves us from going astray doctrinally.
Those justified need to continue to live by faith while waiting for the coming of the Lord. We as well today need to live by faith during distress by considering the Lord’s coming. The Lord’s coming in this context for the believer today is the entire period from the Rapture of the believers in the air to the Second Coming of Christ on the earth.
Christ could come at any time; He will fulfill the hope of the believer. It requires faith to believe this. Christians need to encourage one another to be unwavering in their faith, which includes undaunted confidence in God’s promises.
The warning of “drawing back” for the Christian is to not revert back to the Old Testament economy. If he did revert, he would minimize the finished work of Christ by giving credence to sacrifices. Thus, the drawing back does not refer to leaving personal salvation.