As you study
this difficult (and controversial) passage, that accurate
interpretation demands good exegesis ( taking out of the text what
is there), not eisegesis (putting into the text what is not there to
fit our "theological" persuasion). Keep the overall flow and purpose
of this book in mind and lean heavily on the
to guide your
interpretation. Finally, (actually first) ask your Teacher the
Spirit of Truth to lead you into all the Truth (Jn 14:26, 16:13, 1Jn
2:27, 1Cor 2:12)
FOR IF WE GO
ON SINNING WILLFULLY: hekousios gar hamartanonton (PAPMPG) hemon:
(He 6:4, 5, 6; Leviticus 4:2,13; Numbers 15:28, 29, 30, 31;
Deuteronomy 17:12; Psalms 19:12,13; Daniel 5:22,23; Matthew
12:31,32,43, 44, 45; John 9:41; 1Timothy 1:13; 2Peter 2:20, 21, 22;
1John 5:16) (Luke 12:47; John 13:17; 15:22, 23, 24; 2Thessalonians
2:10; James 4:17)
This willful sin must be defined
in its context. It will not do to ignore the historical background
of this book and its analysis, and then put an arbitrary meaning
upon the words. That is not
Exegesis, namely, taking out of
the text what is there, but
Eisegesis, putting into the text what
is not there. The sin which the book warns against is that of
a Jew of the first century who left the temple sacrifices,
identified himself with the visible Church and made a profession of
Messiah as High Priest, renouncing that profession and returning to
the temple sacrifices. This sin is spoken of in Heb 2:1-note
as letting New Testament truth slip away, in Heb 3:7, 8-note
as hardening the heart against the Holy Spirit, in Heb 6:4-note
as falling away and crucifying the Son of God, in Heb 10:26 as a
willful sin, and is analyzed in Heb 10:29-note
as the three-fold sin against the three Persons of the Triune God.
This sin could only be committed in the first century while the
temple was still standing and only by an unsaved Jew or proselyte to
Judaism. In this case, there can be no secondary application to
present day circumstances or individuals. This sin is described as a
wilful sin. The word is
which means, “voluntarily, of one’s own accord.” It is opposed to
sins committed inconsiderately, and from ignorance or weakness. The
Greek has it, “If we go on sinning wilfully,” stress being placed
upon the habitual aspect of the sin. The immediate context defines
that sin as one of the continued forsaking of the means of grace at
the services of the Christian assemblies, and the habitual
commission of the sin defined in Heb 10:29-note.
recognizing that the warning passages in Hebrews do not make for
popular pulpit preaching introduces his sermon in Hebrews 10:26-31
with a pithy illustration...
Charles Spurgeon tells about a
church that was asked to accept as their minister a man who did not
believe in hell. They said, “You have come to tell us that there is
no hell. If your doctrine is true, we certainly do not need you. And
if it’s not true, we don’t want you. So either way, we can do
without you” (Spurgeon's Expository Encyclopedia [Baker], 10:149;
To speak about God’s terrifying
future judgment is not pleasant, but it is necessary, since the
Bible clearly teaches that it will happen. Although
some prominent evangelical
leaders deny the doctrine of hell,
we need to remember that Jesus
spoke more about the terrors of hell than anyone else in the Bible.
We cannot claim to follow Christ and at the same time reject the
doctrine of eternal punishment. It is a doctrine with great
practical ramifications. Spurgeon
also said (ibid., p. 146),
“Think lightly of hell, and you
will think lightly of the cross. Think little of the suffering of
lost souls, and you will soon think little of the Savior who
delivers you from them.”
Although Jonathan Edwards based his
famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” on a verse
from Deuteronomy, he got the title from verse 31 of our text. God
used that powerful sermon to convert many to Christ. I have read it
many times, but I recently listened to an actor delivering the
sermon as Edwards may have given it. He hammers home with
frightening force the terrors of impending judgment, but also the
refuge of the cross. (The
Only Options: Christ or Judgment?)
introduces this difficult teaching harking back to Jonathan Edwards'
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God...
The 18th century was a remarkable
time of divine awakenings. Throughout New England the Spirit of God
invaded one community after another, bringing the spiritually dead
to life, and transforming the worship of churches. During this era
awakening appeared to follow the strong doctrinal preaching of the
evangelical pastors, often setting forth the righteousness and
severity of God in justice before broaching the subject of the
gospel of grace. It was not that there were no professing Christians
in these villages. Each little community had a village church with
many of the townspeople having been baptized into membership. But
there was little spiritual reality until the Spirit of God blew in
gale force upon the dry, dusty corpses of church members. Like
Ezekiel's vision of the valley of dry bones, upon the preaching of
the Word, the Spirit of God breathed life.
One such village was the town of Enfield, Connecticut. Though
neighboring villages had tasted of the goodness of God in spiritual
awakening, they had not. They remained stubborn and defiant,
self-satisfied with an outward form of religion; playing Christian
we might say, without knowing the peril before them. On July 8,
1741, Jonathan Edwards arose as a substitute preacher to declare
before them the word of the Lord, accompanied by his friend and
co-laborer, Eleazer Wheelock who was later founder of Dartmouth
College. The sermon was not new to Edwards since he had preached it
previously in his own church of Northampton, MA. Without any pulpit
antics, Edwards carefully followed his manuscript, delivering a
picture of divine judgment upon sinful men,
particularly upon those who were the baptized members of the
Enfield church and yet gave no evidence of regenerate life.
It was based upon a text from Deuteronomy 32:35,
"Their foot shall slide in due
It was this same passage and
context that was quoted in Hebrews 10:30 of our text. The last verse
of our text provided the basis for Edwards' title,
"It is a terrifying thing to fall
into the hands of the living God."
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
was no delicate, entertaining sermon, but a striking exaltation of God
in his righteousness and exposing of man in his sinfulness. The
effect of the sermon was immediate. Wheelock reported to a friend
that these "thoughtless and vain" people were changed before the
sermon ended so that they were "bowed down with an awful conviction
of their sin and danger."
Another eyewitness recorded in his
"There was a great moaning and
crying out through ye whole House-What Shall I do to be saved-oh I
am going to Hell-Oh what shall I do for Christ etc. So yet ye
minister was obliged to desist-ye shrieks & cries were piercing &
After referring to Edwards and
Wheelock praying and then speaking with one after another of the
people under conviction, the diarist continues,
"Some in one place and Some in
another-and Amazing and Astonishing ye power God was seen--& Several
Souls were hopefully wrought upon [that] night, & oh ye cheerfulness
and pleasantness of their countenances [that] received comfort"
[quoted by Iain Murray, Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography, 167-169].
Edwards' sermon made ten doctrinal
points regarding the certainty of divine judgment for all who reject
the gospel of Jesus Christ, and among them I would identify the
There is no want of power in God to
cast men into hell at any moment... They deserve to be cast into
hell; so that divine justice never stands in the way, it makes no
objection against God's using his power at any moment to destroy
them... They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell...
They are now the objects of that very same anger and wrath of God,
that is expressed in the torments of hell... There are in the souls
of wicked men those hellish principles reigning, that would
presently kindle and flame out into hell-fire, if it were not for
God's restraints... It is no security to wicked men for one moment,
that there are no visible means of death at hand... All wicked men's
pains and contrivance which they use to escape hell, while they
continue to reject Christ, and so remain wicked men, do not secure
them from hell one moment... God has laid himself under no
obligation, by any promise, to keep any natural man out of hell one
moment [Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 2, pp.
Though he used the text in
Deuteronomy as his base, Edwards had to have considered our text in
this sermon. It breathes of the same air that we find in the clear
warning before us.
I can think of no text that
offers a more sobering look at the final reality of playing
Christian than the one before us.
Its details are clear, and warning
is alarming. After layering one truth on top of another in
explaining the supremacy of Jesus Christ in his person and
sufficiency in his redemptive work, our writer gives a series of
summarizing applications. In the first he exhorts on the basis of
the work of Christ to draw near to God, hold fast the confession of
hope, and consider how to stimulate the church to love and good
deeds (Heb 10:19-25). In the second, that of our text, he warns of
the consequence of apostasy, the deliberate turning away from faith
in Christ and association with the church (Heb 10:26-31). And in the
third application he encourages them to endure their present
persecution in light of how God has worked in them formerly and what
he has promised for their future (Heb 10:32-39). (The
Peril of Playing Christian)
He shows how severe a vengeance of God awaits all those who fall
away from the grace of Christ; for being without that one true
salvation, they are now as it were given up to an inevitable
For - The
writer now elaborates on the exhortation of Hebrews 10:25 to not
forsake the assembly of the church and return to Judaism.
recalls John’s warning in 1Jn 2:19 concerning those who “went out
(active voice = expresses a decision of one's will, a volitional
choice) from us” where their departure (compare "apostasy")
was clear indication that they were not genuine believers. They had
known about the way of life, but they had not chosen to
"receive" (Jn 1:11, 12) the truth. An unmistakable sign of apostasy
is an unwillingness to continue association with true believers.
commenting on the related passage in 1Jn 2:19 writes that "They were
not inwardly such as we are: But they were not of us; they had not
from the heart obeyed the form of sound doctrine delivered to them;
they were not of our union with Christ the head. Then here is, the
reason upon which it is concluded that they were not of us, were not
what they pretended, or what we are, and that is their actual
defection: "For, if they had been of us, they would no doubt
have continued with us" (1Jn 2:19); had the sacred truth been rooted
in their hearts it would have held them with us (Ed: cp
"rocky soil" Mk 4:5, 6, 17); had they had the anointing from above,
by which they had been made true and real Christians, they would not
have turned antichrists. Those that
apostatize from religion sufficiently indicate that, before, they
were hypocrites in religion: those who have imbibed the
spirit of gospel truth have a good preservative against destructive
regardless of their outward appearance which might otherwise suggest
they were believers never actually believed in Christ. (See
related studies on - The verb to believe =
the noun faith =
Other NT passages have a similar warning about the danger of those who
profess to be believers, but who fail to continue in the faith and
thereby demonstrate that they are not truly born again. Here are a
few examples to ponder...
1Cor 5:11 But actually, I wrote to
you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an
immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a
drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.
1Cor 6:9 Or do you not know that
the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God (cp Jn 3:3, 4,
5, 3:36)? Do not be deceived (suggesting some were being deceived -
the teaching that you can be saved and live any way you please is
not the true gospel of grace! Do not be deceived by those who teach
this deadly doctrine!); neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor
adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the
covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit
the kingdom of God (unbelievers).11 And such were some of you; but
you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in
the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.
And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged
in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body
through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless
and beyond reproach--23 if indeed you continue in the faith
firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope
of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all
creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.
Comment: One's perseverance
does not earn their salvation but it does show that person is saved
because only a born
person (enabled by the indwelling Spirit) could persevere to the end.
O Lord, how this message needs to be sounded forth boldly from the
pulpits across America as so many I fear are deceived by their
profession as indicated by their absence of a changed life.
Wuest comments -
The word “if” in Col 1:23 is not ean, an
unfulfilled, hypothetical condition used with the subjunctive mode,
presenting the possibility of a future realization, but ei
with the indicative, having here the idea of “assuming that you
continue in the faith.”
That is, continuance in the gospel as it was preached by Paul would
show that the person was saved and thus would be presented holy,
without blemish, and unchargeable before God.
That is, Paul was here addressing truly born-again Colossians, not
unsaved professors of Christianity who would follow the Colossian
heresy. Heretics would not so be presented, only true believers.
It is not the retention
of salvation that is in the apostle’s mind, but the possession of it
that would be shown by their continuance in the gospel.
K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans
They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny
= this speaks of one's lifestyle, the habitual practices of one's life
- their lips lie, but their actions tell the truth about their
Him, being detestable (bdekluktos
from bdelusso =
to emit a foul odor in turn from bdeo = to stink!) and disobedient
and worthless (adokimos)
for any good deed.
What do your actions or deeds "say" about who (and "Whose")
Jas 2:14 What use is it, my
brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that
faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in
need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be
warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is
necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it
has no works, is dead, being by itself. 18 But someone may well say,
"You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the
works, and I will show you my faith by my works." 19 You believe
that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.
20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith
without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by
works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see
that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works,
faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says,
"AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS
RIGHTEOUSNESS," and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that
a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone. 25 And in the
same way was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works, when she
received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For
just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without
works is dead. (Jas 2:14, 15, 16, 17-note,
Jas 2:18, 19, 20-note,
Jas 2:21, 22, 23-note,
Jas 2:24, 25, 26-note).
writer includes himself in this warning ("if
go on sinning" - just as
he wrote in Heb 2:3-note)
note that he switches pronouns in Hebrews 10:29 to "he".
And at the end of the chapter (Heb 10:39-note),
the writer makes it clear that he considers himself a true believer
by including himself in the "we"
who do not "shrink back to destruction".
means to miss a mark and in this context means to miss God's will.
It means to act contrary to the will and law of God. In classic
Greek hamartano was used to describe a warrior who threw his spear
but failed to strike his adversary or a traveler who missed his
this indicates this is their lifestyle, their habitual practice. Saved
persons still commit but sinning is not their continual practice
once they are born again by the Holy Spirit. They become new
creations in Christ (cp 2Cor 5:17-note)
and if such an alteration has not transpired, such a person should
be very careful to perform a self-examination (cp 2Cor 13:5) to be
absolutely certain their is tangible evidence they are possessors of
Christ and not simply professors of Christ. Jesus gave a stern, even
frightening warning that "many" would profess knowing Him, but that
their life would indicate otherwise (ponder Mt 7:21-note,
Mt 7:22, 7:23-note).
Beloved, do not confuse what the writer is saying - he is not
teaching sinless perfection, but he is teaching about the "general
direction" of your life as indicated by your behavior.
applies the idea of the
which indicates habitual or continuous action to make the important
point that "Apostasy does not happen overnight. It is a
process, a deliberate process, on the part of one who is not
satisfied with the revelation of God in Christ and the effectiveness
of the redemptive work of Christ. (The
Peril of Playing Christian)
goes on to explain that "The "sinning" has reference to
rejection of precisely what this writer has set forth: the
person of Christ and his effective work as our great high priest.
They are rejecting or speaking against the revelation of
Jesus Christ as the one in whom God has spoken with finality, Who
created and upholds all things in the world, and Who as the
Incarnate Son came to make purification for sins (Heb 1:1-3). They
reject that Christ is more excellent than the angels and Moses
and all the Aaronic priesthood (Heb 1:5-2:9; Heb 3:1-6; Heb 5:1-10).
that Christ mediated a new covenant that totally replaces the old
covenant, and that He ratified its excellence by His atoning death
(Heb 8:6-13; Heb 9:11-28). Instead of depending upon the atoning
death of Christ they cling to the blood of bulls and goats as
superior to that of the Son of God offered at Calvary (Heb 10:1-18).
It was not a momentary lapse, a struggle because of pressure from
family or culture that was the problem. They "willfully"
sinned, in calculated fashion they picked through the revelation of
God in Christ and
rejected precisely what the gospel reveals. (The
Peril of Playing Christian) (Bolding added)
gives an accurate sense of the present tense of the verb
rendering it -
"If we deliberately keep on sinning".
John gives a
similar warning explaining that "the one who practices (present
again indicating not perfection but "direction" of one's life) sin is
of the devil" (1Jn 3:8) adding that "no one who is born of God
sin". Why not? Simply put, they can't habitually, willfully,
deliberately, continually sin because God's holy "seed abides in
(them)...because (they are) born of God." (1Jn 3:9)
from hekousios = voluntary) means willing to do something
without being forced or pressured. Doing something of one's own free
will = voluntarily, deliberately, willfully, intentionally.
observes that "Willfully stands at the front of the sentence (Ed:
In the original Greek text) in an emphatic position as a reminder
that the ones he addresses are not the weak or immature or ignorant
or occasional doubters that are true believers but struggling with
their perseverance. It is the deliberate, intentional, voluntary
rejection of the sufficiency of Christ that he refers to. (The
Peril of Playing Christian)
conveys the idea of deliberate intention that is habitual without
being forced or pressured. In other words, in context this adverb
modifies the present tense verb sinning indicating that this is a
personal choice to deliberately rebel against the truth God has
The only other
NT use of hekousios is in a positive context where Peter
exhorts the elders to...
shepherd the flock of God among
you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily,
according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with
eagerness (1Pe 5:2-note)
is not referring to "sins of ignorance" (Heb 9:7) or weakness, but
to those that are planned out, determined, done with forethought (cp
Paul's command in Ro 13:14-note
no provision [pronoia]
for the flesh in regard to its lusts.").
A similar warning against defection from the faith (falling away
from the truth about the great High Priest Jesus) is presented in
where it is described as letting truth slip away, in Heb 3:7, 8-note
where it is described as hardening the heart against the Holy Spirit,
in He 6:4, 5-note,
where it is described as falling away and crucifying the Son of God
and lastly in Heb 12:25-note
where it is described as a refusal to hear and heed God's warning from
heaven. Clearly, the writer of Hebrews viewed apostasy as a very
real and serious possibility for his Jewish audience who had heard
the good news about their Messiah, Jesus.
Henry Morris notes that "There is probably an allusion here to
such Old Testament passages as Nu 15:30,31; Dt 17:2-7; etc. The
presumptuous sins (Ps 19:13), especially of deliberate apostasy into
idolatry and paganism, were punishable by death. In similar fashion,
the deliberate rejection of Christ and His sacrifice for one's sins,
after one fully understands its significance and may even have made
profession of faith therein, is without remedy. This is the only
means God has provided, and there is nothing more that can be said
or done to save such a person. That person already knows and
understands it all and has rejected it (Heb 6:4-6). Such a person,
regardless of outward appearances, had never truly committed his
faith and life to Christ in the first place (1Jn 2:19). This verse
does not, in context, apply to other sins of a true Christian (He
10:39). The remedy for these is repentance and confession, for the
blood of Christ has already paid for them (1Jn 1:7, 8, 9).
W A Criswell
adds that to "Sin willfully" is similar to the rebellion against
God that is described in the O.T. as sinning "with a high hand" or
"presumptuously" (Nu 15:30, 31; defiantly, literally "with a high
hand"). This sin is a sin of premeditation, committed only by those
who have had the advantage of great light. In the rejecting of
Christ's sacrifice, they discover that there is no other acceptable
sacrifice for sin.
'You shall have one law for him who
does anything unintentionally, for him who is native among the sons
of Israel and for the alien who sojourns among them. 30 'But the
person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or an
alien, that one is blaspheming the LORD; and that person shall be
cut off from among his people. 31 'Because he has despised the word
of the LORD and has broken His commandment, that person shall be
completely cut off; his guilt shall be on him.'" (Nu 15:29, 30)
Comment: "Defiantly" is a
vivid picture in Hebrew as the words "yad ramah" literally
describe "a hand exalted" or "a high hand". The Septuagint
translates it similarly (en cheiri huperephanias), this Greek
phrase meaning "with a raised fist so to speak".
NET Bible note adds that "The expression ("a high hand") means
that someone would do something with deliberate defiance, with an
arrogance in spite of what the LORD said. It is as if the sinner was
about to attack God, or at least lifting his hand against God. The
implication of the expression is that it was done in full knowledge
of the Law (especially since this contrasts throughout with the sins
of ignorance). Blatant defiance of the word of the LORD is dealt
with differently. For similar expressions, see Ex 14:8, Nu 33:3).
Note that these
are not those willful sins most believers commit daily, but the
defines this sin as one of
the continually forsaking the only means of grace God provides for
Most believers either commit willful sins or can even lapse into a
season of sin and will experience broken fellowship and intimacy
with the Lord and with His people, but they will not be guilty of
the sin which this passage is describing. Believers who commit such
willful sins, will return to the Lord, for they are under too great
a conviction to stay away permanently. In the meanwhile, they will
be robbed of the Spirit given joy and peace, spiritual power,
intimacy, etc. For a believer the price of unconfessed sin is
"steep". Ponder these relevant passages...
Proverbs 28:13 He who
conceals (intentionally, actively covering over sin so as to keep
secret, cp Adam and Eve in Ge 3:7, 8, 10!) his transgressions will
not prosper (Be profitable, succeed. Root word means to accomplish
satisfactorily what is intended), but (O, the mercy of God) he who
confesses and forsakes (leaves it in a lurch = not only giving it up
but also actually "forgetting" it, so there is no longer desire for
it) them will find compassion.
Comment by J Vernon McGee -
This is a great proverb. It seems a common practice today for
Christians to try to cover their sins. You will find in the average
church that there is a Band-Aid of silence wrapped over the cancer
of sin. People don’t like to talk about it; in fact, they don’t
admit its existence. They like to think they are very good.
There are two kinds of forgiveness,
judicial and parental. When we trust Christ as Lord and Savior, we
receive forgiveness from the penalty of sins; that is judicial
forgiveness. When we, as believers, confess our sins, we receive
parental forgiveness (1Jn 1:9); this maintains fellowship with God
our Father. Anyone who confesses and forsakes his sins has the
assurance that God not only forgives but forgets (Heb 10:17).
Illustration: In a
conservative southern church, the pastor's wife found pornography on
her husband's computer. After confronting him with the evidence, he
admitted downloading the images off the internet, even using the
computer in his study which was located in the church itself.
Somehow he had separated his ongoing sexual sin from his
responsibilities and duties as a man of God. He who covers his
sin will not prosper...
Illustration: In an August 2000 poll conducted by Christianity
Today on internet pornography, 33% of active ministers admitted
having visited porn sites. Over half of those ministers said that
they had visited those sites more than once. A total of 18 percent
of clergy said they visit sexually explicit Web sites between a
couple of times a month and more than once a week. This poll
includes many liberal and 'mainstream' ministers, but it would be
naive to think that porn was not a problem for some Bible-believing
ministers. He who covers his sin will not prosper...
Illustration: A nice Christian family joined the church by
letter from another city. Brad and Susan had four wonderful little
boys ranging in age from two years up to ten years. Susan had a
beautiful voice and sang specials in the church. Brad was a bible
teacher and had taught Sunday school at their former church. But
Brad and Susan had a terrible secret. He had a terrible temper that
caused him to abuse Susan both physically and emotionally. No one in
the church had any idea until she took her boys and left to return
to her hometown. Brad followed her back and tried to reconcile with
her. But his secret was now public and there was no turning back.
He who covers his sin will not prosper...
Spurgeon "You say that you can handle your secret sins, that
there is no one hurt by them. But you may as well ask the lion to
let you put your head into his mouth. You cannot regulate his jaws:
neither can you regulate sin.
Once done, you cannot tell when
you will be destroyed. You may put your head in and out a great many
times; but one of these days it will be a costly venture.
Christian friend, do not continue to hide your sin.
Don't harbor that sin, buried
deep in the tent floor of your heart. It will affect your family,
your home, your spiritual inheritance, and your purpose in life.
There is no sin worthy of
separating us from our Father. It is not necessary to confess your
secret sins to everyone, for it is none of their business. Do
business with God. Repent and let God restore you to fellowship.
sin under the rug.
Instead put it under the blood!
Psalm 32:3-5 (David when he
sinned with Bathsheba) When I kept silent about my sin, my
body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night
Thy hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the
fever heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to Thee,
and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, "I will confess my
transgressions to the LORD"; and Thou didst forgive the guilt of my
C H Spurgeon
on Psalm 32:3-5
When I kept silent. When
through neglect I failed to confess, or through despair dared not do
so, my bones, those solid pillars of my frame, the stronger portions
of my bodily constitution, waxed old, began to decay with weakness,
for my grief was so intense as to sap my health and destroy my vital
What a killing thing is sin!
It is a pestilent disease!
A fire in the bones!
While we smother our sin it rages
within, and like a gathering wound swells horribly and torments
Through my groaning all the day
long. He was silent as to confession, but not as to sorrow.
Horror at his great guilt, drove David to incessant laments, until
his voice was no longer like the articulate speech of man, but so
full of sighing and groaning, that it resembled to hoarse roaring of
a wounded beast.
None knows the pangs of conviction
but those who have endured them.
The rack, the wheel, the flaming
fagot are ease compared with the Tophet which a guilty conscience
kindles within the breast: better suffer all the diseases which
flesh is heir to, than lie under the crushing sense of the wrath of
almighty God. The Spanish inquisition with all its tortures
was nothing to the inquest which conscience holds
within the heart.
For day and night thy hand was
heavy upon me. God's finger can crush us -- what must His hand
be, and that pressing heavily and continuously! Under terrors of
conscience, men have little rest by night, for the grim thoughts of
the day dog them to their chambers and haunt their dreams, or else
they lie awake in a cold sweat of dread. God's hand is very helpful
when it uplifts, but it is awful when it presses down: better a
world on the shoulder, like Atlas, than God's hand on the heart,
My vitality was drained away as
with the fever heat of summer. The sap of his soul was dried,
and the body through sympathy appeared to be bereft of its needful
fluids. The oil was almost gone from the lamp of life, and the flame
flickered as though it would soon expire. Unconfessed transgression,
like a fierce poison, dried up the fountain of the man's strength
and made him like a tree blasted by the lightning, or a plant
withered by the scorching heat of a tropical sun.
Alas! for a poor soul when it has
learned its sin
but forgets its Saviour, it goes hard with it indeed.
Selah. It was time to change
the tune, for the notes are very low in the scale, and with such
hard usage, the strings of the harp are out of order: the next verse
will surely be set to another key, or will rehearse a more joyful
I acknowledged my sin unto Thee.
After long lingering, the broken heart bethought itself of what it
ought to have done at the first, and laid bare its bosom before the
Lord. The lancet must be let into the gathering ulcer before relief
can be afforded. The least thing we can do, if we would be pardoned,
is to acknowledge our fault; if we are too proud for this we double
And my iniquity have I not hid.
We must confess the guilt as well as the fact of sin. It is useless
to conceal it, for it is well known to God; it is beneficial to us
to own it, for a full confession softens and humbles the heart. We
must as far as possible unveil the secrets of the soul, dig up the
hidden treasure of Achan (Josh 7:20, 21), and by weight and measure
bring out our sins.
I said. This was his fixed
resolution. I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord.
Not to my fellow men or to the high
but unto Jehovah!
Even in those days of symbol the
faithful looked to God alone for deliverance from sin's intolerable
load, much more now, when types and shadows have vanished at the
appearance of the dawn. When the soul determines to lay low and
plead guilty, absolution is near at hand; hence we read,
And Thou didst forgive the guilt
of my sin. Not only was the sin itself pardoned, but the
iniquity of it; the virus of its guilt was put away, and that at
once, so soon as the acknowledgment was made. God's pardons are deep
the knife of mercy
cuts at the roots of the ill weed of sin.
Selah. Another pause is
needed, for the matter is not such as may be hurried over.
The sins that would entangle us
Must never be ignored;
For if we try to cover them
They'll pierce us like a sword.
RECEIVING THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH: meta to labein (AAN) ten
epignosin tes aletheias ouketi peri hamartion apoleipetai
The truth is the revelation through Christ.
The same phrase (the knowledge of the truth) appears in the
1Timothy 2:4 who desires all men to
be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God
may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the
Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the
faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth
which is according to godliness,
Note above that
in Titus Paul links the phrase knowledge the truth and
to godliness, which is what knowledge of the truth can and
should produce. The failure of the knowledge of the truth to produce
godliness in the present context does not denigrate the efficacy of
truth but does disclose the evil of the hearer's heart!
the truth - The "full" knowledge of the truth about Jesus the
Great High Priest and His better covenant promises. In short, these
individuals have not been "short changed". The cannot claim
ignorance and so God is unjust in "His austere dealing with them."
They have not been given a "watered down" version of the good news.
They have received the unadulterated truth! They clearly understood
the truth they had heard about Jesus. It was their overt rejection
of that truth which defined their apostasy which in turn warranted
such a severe "judicial sentence" by God. Exposure to such great
light, makes them guilty of even greater condemnation! (cp Jesus'
teaching of "degrees" of punishment proportional to the amount of
light - Mt 11:21, 22, 23, 24)
- It would have been better for you never to have had any
knowledge of the truth, than to have known it, and then sinned
willfully against it, and so, after all, to be a castaway. If you
are a true child of God, though a wanderer from His ways,
you will be brought back to
Him, and I pray that
you may be brought back to Him this very hour.
But if you are an apostate, a
backslider in heart, you will be filled with your own ways.
Having filled up the measure of your iniquity, you will be driven
from God’s presence into the place of woe where hope and mercy never
can come. How foolish you are who are looking for signs and wonders
or else you will not believe. May the Spirit of God show you that
Jesus is now able and willing to save you, and that all you have to
do is to take what He has done, and simply trust Him, and you shall
be saved, completely saved, perfected through His one sacrifice.
There remains no more to be done by the Redeemer. He sits down, and
He will not rise for any further sacrifice.
from verb epiginosko from epí = upon + ginosko =
to know) is a strengthened or intensified form of "gnosis"
and conveys the thought of a more full, larger and thorough
knowledge. It also conveys the idea of an intimate and personal
relationship than the simple term. Vine says the verb form
epiginosko suggests generally a directive, a more special,
recognition of the object known than ginosko.
There are a few
resources that suggest there is very little difference between
gnósis and epignosis. This discussion holds the opinion
that epignosis does have subtle but real differences.
refers to exact, complete, thorough, accurate, experiential
knowledge, not just abstract, intellectual, head knowledge of God or
even facts about Him. Epígnosis
always describes moral and religious knowledge in the NT and
especially refers to full and comprehensive knowledge of God’s will
that rests on the knowledge of God and of Christ found today in His
The word “knowledge” is
not the simple word
but the stronger word
Alford quotes Delitzsch as saying: “When
is used, there is the assumption of an actual direction of the
spirit to a definite object and of a real grasping of the same: so
that we may speak of a false
but not of a false
And the Writer, by the use of this word, gives us to understand
that he means by it not only a shallow historical notion about the
Truth, but a living believing knowledge of it, which has laid hold
of a man and fused him into union with itself.” Thus it is clear
that the Jew who committed this sin, was fully informed by the
Holy Spirit of the issues involved between the First Testament and
the New Testament, and also of the meaning and the implications
of the New Testament, (cp Heb 6:4-note,
“who were once enlightened”) and therefore, he sinned with
his eyes wide open. Should he commit this sin, there would
remain no more sacrifice for sin. Expositor’s quotes
Delitzsch as follows: “The meaning is not merely that the Jewish
sacrifices to which the apostate has returned have in themselves no
sin-destroying power, nor even that there is no second sacrifice
additional to that of Christ, but further that for a sinner of this
kind the very sacrifice of Christ itself has no more atoning or
reconciling power.” Alford, commenting upon this same thing
says: “There is but One true sacrifice for sins: if a man, having
availed himself of that One, then deliberately casts it behind him,
there is no second left for him. It will be observed that one thing
is not, and need not be, specified in the text. That he has
exhausted the virtue of the one sacrifice, is not said: but in
proportion to his willing rejection of it, has ceased to operate for
him. He has in fact, as Delitzsch observes, shut the door of
repentance behind him, by the very fact of his being in an abiding
state of willing sin.” All of which means that this abandonment
of the New Testament sacrifice, the Messiah, and the return to the
abrogated sacrifices of the First Testament, was not a snap judgment
on the part of this first century Jew, but
a confirmed state of heart.
asks "Have you ever considered how much you insult God the Father by
rejecting Christ? If you were invited to a feast and you should come
to the table and dash down every dish, and throw them on the ground,
and trample on them, would not this be an insult? If you were a poor
beggar at the door, and a rich man had bidden you into his feast out
of pure charity, what would you deserve if you had treated his
provisions in this way? And yet this is just your case. You were not
deserving of God, you were a poor sinner without any claim upon Him,
and yet He has been pleased to prepare a table. His oxen and His
fattened cattle have been killed, and now you will not come. You do
worse: you raise objections to the feast; you despise the pleasant
land and the goodly provision of God. Just think at what an expense
the provision of salvation has been made."
LONGER REMAINS A SACRIFICE FOR SINS: ouketi peri hamartion
apoleipetai (3PPPI) thusia:
(ouketi) means absolutely no longer. In other words when one knows
the truth about Jesus and rejects Jesus, "times up!".
This is a serious warning. There are no second chances!
Vincent adds "Of course not. For the Levitical sacrifices are
abolished. It is Christ’s sacrifice or none."
A T Robertson
“No longer is there left behind” (present
indicative as in Heb
4:9), for one has renounced the one and only sacrifice for sin that
does or can remove sin.
on no longer remains a sacrifice - How can there be? Do you
think when you are in hell that Christ will come a second time to
die for you? Will He pour out His blood again to bring you from the
place of torment? Have you so vain an imagination as to dream that
there will be a second ransom offered for those who have not escaped
the wrath to come, and that God the Holy Ghost will again come and
strive with sinners who willfully rejected Him? All the atonement
that could save me in ten years’ time is here now. All that I can
ever rely upon if I postpone all thoughts of faith—all is here
already. There will be no improvement in Christ. He has perfected
His work. Oh, poor troubled soul, rest on Him now.
from apo = from + leipo = lack, leave, forsake) means
literally to leave behind. Paul uses it in the active voice to describe
leaving behind of his cloak (2Ti 4:13-note
cp the two other uses of the active voice - 2Ti 4:20-note;
The passive voice as used here in Hebrews means to be reserved or to remain,
to be left over.
Apoleipo - 7x in 7v - 2Ti 4:13, 20; Titus 1:5; Heb 4:6, 9; 10:26;
Just like Heb
6:6 (impossible to renew then again to repentance) warns of the
critical danger of turning from Christ’s once-for-all, perfect
sacrifice back to the shadows which could never make the worshiper
perfect in conscience.
If we sin willfully reveals that this act is deliberate. It
parallels the sin of Nu 15:30,31. When one willingly or defiantly
disobeyed God, there was no sacrifice for such apostasy. He had to
die (Nu 15:35,36). This OT teaching gives us a picture of the
definition of "WILLFUL SINNING".
V28 seems to allude to Dt 17:2-7 which records that upon testimony
of 2 or 3 witnesses, death by stoning was punishment for
apostasy—going after and serving false gods (Dt 17:2). Now in v29,
the one who would despise the person of Jesus and His ministry as
High Priest is worthy of even greater judgment. V29 (due to the verb
and participles used) should not be understood as judgment that has
happened because of such apostasy, but as judgment that would happen
should such apostasy occur. The author places his recipients and
himself ("we" go on sinning) under this warning just as he did in
the earlier warnings. By so doing he demonstrates that the warnings
are intended for the saved as well as for the unsaved. Yet, here, as
in Heb6, the author does not say that anyone has committed this sin.
He describes what would happen, not what has happened. He is
describing a hypothetical situation. The severe admonition of this
warning, and all others in Scripture, is God’s means to ensure our
SOME TRUE BELIEVERS MIGHT WORRY THEY HAD COMMITTED THIS SIN
has some comforting remarks writing that "This text has been the
occasion of great distress to some gracious souls; they have been
ready to conclude that every willful sin, after conviction and
against knowledge, is the unpardonable sin: but this has been their
infirmity and error. The sin here mentioned is a total and final
apostasy, when men with a full and fixed will and resolution despise
and reject Christ, the only Saviour, -- despise and resist the
Spirit, the only Sanctifier, -- and despise and renounce the gospel,
the only way of salvation, and the words of eternal life; and all
this after they have known, owned, and professed, the Christian
religion, and continue to do so obstinately and maliciously."
Dennis De Haan
adds that since this "text
speaks of trampling underfoot the precious Son of God...this warning, along
with Hebrews 6:1-8, has caused untold agony to many sensitive Christians.
It’s as if Satan uses Hebrews 6:4 and Hebrews 10:26 to create hopelessness
and despair. But what do these passages teach? F. F. Bruce points out
that they refer to people who have deliberately abandoned reliance on the
perfect sacrifice of Christ. Raymond Brown said that theirs is not a
single act of falling away, but a state of willful, determined renunciation
of all dependence on Christ’s atoning work. God has no other plan for saving
those who regard Christ’s sacrifice as useless.
Steven Cole in his sermon on
Hebrews 10:26-31 emphasizes that...
If we reject Christ as God’s
sacrifice for our sins, we will face His certain, terrifying
This is the second difficult warning passage in Hebrews (Heb 6:4, 5,
6, 7, 8 was the other). It is difficult not only because of the
subject, but also because some of it is difficult to interpret.
Before we work through the text, I will give you the major options,
beginning with the least likely, as I understand things.
(1) The least likely view is the Arminian view, that our text
describes true believers who sin and lose their salvation. The
problem with this view is that they have to explain away the many
passages that clearly teach that salvation is God’s free gift, not
based on anything in us, but only on the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
Even this very chapter (Heb 10:1-18) strongly makes the point that
Christ’s sacrifice once for all perfected us and took away
all of our guilt (Ed note: cp Heb 10:1-note
and Heb 10:14-note
- notice that the verb "perfect" is in the
which defines a past completed action with ongoing effect or result;
thus even the tense used in this verse speaks of the permanence of
Christ's perfection of the believer!). Some early church fathers,
however, mistakenly inferred from this and other passages in Hebrews
that there was no forgiveness for sins committed after baptism. This
judgment was usually reserved for “big” sins, such as denial of the
faith under persecution, murder, idolatry, and sexual sins. But, the
problem was, baptized Christians did sometimes commit such sins and
later repent. Could they not be forgiven? Some, following The
Shepherd of Hermas (ca., A.D. 140), argued that forgiveness could be
obtained once after baptism, but no more. Tertullian, who was more
strict, condemned Hermas for this concession, which he saw as the
thin edge of a dangerous wedge. Others who were more tolerant
extended Hermas’ concession indefinitely, but demanded penance. F.
F. Bruce, who discusses this (Commentary on the Epistle to the
Hebrews [Eerdmans], pp. 260-262), points out the irony, that this
strong warning in Hebrews could give rise to a system that was quite
similar to the Jewish sacrificial system that Hebrews dismisses as
forever superseded! Any
system that teaches the loss of salvation or penance to restore it
is contrary to God’s free grace in Christ.
(2) A second view is that the author is talking about genuine
believers who renounce the faith, but the punishment he describes is
not hell, but some awful temporal judgment (Zane Hodges, The
Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. by John Walvoord & Roy Zuck [Victor
Books], 2:805). This view is in line with Mr. Hodges’ non-lordship
salvation view, that a person can believe in Christ, subsequently
deny and strongly oppose the faith, and yet he will be saved,
although he will lose his rewards (1Cor 3:15). Apart from the many
problems with non-lordship salvation, in our text the judgment is
described as “the fury of a fire that will consume the
adversaries” (Heb 10:27-note).
Limiting this to temporal judgment, no matter how severe, does not
do justice to the severity of the warnings.
(3) A third view is that the author is warning true believers, who
cannot possibly lose their salvation, about what would happen to
them if they did apostatize (which true believers cannot do).
So, it is a hypothetical warning used to frighten believers away
from leaving the faith (Homer Kent, The Epistle to the Hebrews
[Baker], pp. 206-207). But, as I argued when we studied Hebrews 6, a
hypothetical warning is really pointless. If these people were truly
regenerate, how could God hypothetically cast them into hell if they
hypothetically apostatized, none of which is possible? This entire
line of thinking makes no sense to me. (Ed comment: I agree!)
(4) The correct explanation, as I understand it, is that the
passage is warning those who have made a profession of faith and
have associated themselves with the church, of the danger of God’s
eternal judgment if they turn back to Judaism. These people
outwardly seem to be regenerate, but they are not truly so. To
abandon Christ’s sacrifice and to return to Judaism would show that
they had never truly trusted Christ in the first place.
The main difficulty for this view is the phrase “by which he was
sanctified” (Heb 10:29). There are several ways that those who
take this view explain the phrase.
(a) John Owen (An Exposition
of Hebrews [The National Foundation for Christian Education], 4:545)
argues that it does not refer to the apostate, but to Christ
Himself, “who was sanctified and dedicated unto God to be an
eternal high priest, by the blood of the covenant which he offered
unto God….” This is possible grammatically, although it seems to
force into the context something that is specifically taught in John
17:19, but only alluded to in Hebrews (Hebrews 2:10; 5:7, 9; 9:11,
(b) A second way to understand “sanctified” is that it refers to
outward sanctification in the sense of being identified with God’s
people, but not to the person’s true heart condition before God.
This outward sanctification may have been through baptism or
communion. The person is “set apart” from the world in the sense
that he has joined with the church and its ordinances. He sits under
the preaching of the Word and even agrees with it intellectually
(Hebrews 10:26, he has received “the knowledge of the truth”).
But his heart has not been transformed by God’s saving grace (Ed: Jn
3:3, 5). When pressure comes to turn away from Christ due to
persecution or temptation to sin (Ed: Mk 4:7, 18, 19), he shows his
true colors by repudiating his faith in Christ.
This terrible sin (further described in Hebrews 10:29) puts the
apostate on the path toward certain, terrifying judgment.
This view is in line with the interpretation that I took of Hebrews
6:4-8 (See sermon
Hebrews 6:4-8 When Repentance Becomes Impossible).
The difficulty of the view, I admit, is that you must take the word
“sanctified” in an outward sense (contrary to its use in
& Hebrews 10:14-note,
but in line with Hebrews 9:13-note).
But in spite of this difficulty, I think that it best fits the
context of Hebrews. It also lines up with Hebrews 10:39-note,
which contrasts those who shrink back to destruction with
those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.
With that as an overview, let’s work through the text, which falls
into three sections.
1. To reject Christ willfully after receiving the knowledge of the
truth is to reject God’s only sacrifice for sins and to fall under
His certain, terrifying judgment (Hebrews 10:26, 27).
When the author says, “if we go on sinning willfully,” he is
not talking about the “normal” sins that every believer commits. If
he were, then who could be saved (?), because no one has ever lived
without sin after salvation!
While we do sometimes sin
most of our sins are willful!
We sin because we choose to sin!
But the Bible is clear that if we
sin, God graciously forgives and cleanses us when we confess our
sins (1Jn 1:7, 8, 9).
“Sinning willfully” refers to what Numbers 15:30 calls sins
of defiance, for which there was no sacrifice available.
Commentators compare such sins to the sin of blasphemy against the
Holy Spirit, representing an unpardonable sin of “high treason and
revolt against God” (Walter Kaiser, Toward Rediscovering the Old
Testament, p. 132, cited by Ronald Allen, Expositor's Bible
Commentary, ed. by Frank Gaebelein [Zondervan], 2:830). To go on
sinning willfully means deliberately and knowingly to renounce
the faith by repudiating Christ’s sacrifice for sins.
It is a total defection
from the faith in Christ as Savior.
The only ones who can commit this
sin are those who have received “the knowledge of the truth.”
These people had come into the church and had heard teaching on the
meaning and significance of the death of Christ, such as the author
has just given (Heb 10:1-18). These apostates knew that Christ is
God’s only, once-for-all sacrifice, who fulfilled and thus abolished
the Old Testament sacrificial system. They knew the truth about the
person of Christ and His exalted role as High Priest.
Yet even so, some were forsaking the assembly of the church and
returning to Judaism (Hebrews 10:25). The author is saying that to
make such a choice is to trample on the Son of God and to treat His
shed blood as worthless. It is to turn from the only way of
salvation to an obsolete system that never could remove the guilt of
sins (Heb 10:4-note).
It is to place oneself on the side of God’s adversaries. All that
awaits them is not salvation, but a “terrifying expectation of
judgment and the fury of a fire that will consume the adversaries.”
The word “terrifying” is emphatic in the Greek. He repeats it in Heb
(the only other NT occurrence is in Heb 12:21-note).
He wants to hit us with the frightening consequences of turning away
2. If the Law of Moses had stiff penalties for disregarding it, the
penalty will be much greater for spurning the Son of God who
fulfilled the Law (Heb 10:28-29-note).
In Heb 10:28, the author states what every Jew knew well: If a person
brazenly defied the Law of Moses, he or she was to be stoned to
death on the evidence of two or three witnesses (Deut. 17:2-6).
There was no place for mercy or a second chance (Deut. 13:8). The
Law was to be applied to all (see Lev. 24:10-23; Num. 15:32-36). The
author has just shown how that Jesus is greater than Moses (Heb.
3:1-6). He is a superior priest to the Levitical priests (Heb
5:1-10; Heb 7:1-28). He inaugurated the new covenant, which is
better than the old (Heb 8:6-13). He is the better sacrifice (Heb
9:23). So the author is saying, in effect, “In light of the
superiority of Jesus to Moses, and in light of the severity of
punishment under Moses, go figure what will happen to the person who
deliberately rejects Christ!”
He describes such apostates by three phrases.
(1) First, he “has trampled
under foot the Son of God.” To trample something under foot is
to treat it as completely worthless. The use of the title, “Son of
God,” seems “to indicate that the form of apostasy in view involves
a scornful denial of the deity of Christ” (Philip Hughes, A
Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews [Eerdmans], p. 422). It
means repudiating all that the author has argued for ten chapters on
the supremacy and superiority of Jesus Christ, who is God’s final
word to us. He is the radiance of God’s glory, the exact
representation of His nature, and He upholds all things by the word
of His power (Heb 1:1-3). To treat this exalted Son of God like a
bug under one’s foot is an indescribably horrific sin!
(2) Second, such an apostate “has regarded as unclean the blood of
the covenant by which he was sanctified.” The first charge
trashed the person of Christ. This one despises His work on the
cross. I have already explained that the best way to understand
“sanctified” is in an outward sense, of being set apart with God’s
people through public worship and outward confession of Christ. “To
regard as unclean” means, literally, “to treat as common.” It may
refer to partaking of communion even though his faith was not
genuine, and so profaning the cup representing the blood of the
covenant (Hughes, p. 423). Or, it could mean viewing the death of
Jesus as a common death. The apostates shrugged off any vi-carious,
substitutionary significance to Christ’s death. Maybe they viewed
His death as a noble tragedy, but nothing more. By so doing, they
treated the blood of the new covenant as commonplace.
(3) The third charge was that the apostates had “insulted the
Spirit of grace.” (This is the only time this phrase is applied
to the Holy Spirit; but see Zech. 12:10.) He imparts God’s
undeserved favor to us through the sacrifice of God’s own Son. The
phrase shows that the author viewed the Holy Spirit as a person, not
as just an influence, since He could be insulted. “Insulted” has a
nuance of arrogance or insolence (“hubris” comes from the Greek
word). This is similar to the unpardonable blasphemy against the
Spirit of which Jesus spoke. (Matt. 12:31, 32). For a guilty sinner
to spit in God’s face when His Spirit offers a free pardon made
possible through the death of God’s Son is simply outrageous.
Picture a man lying in the gutter in rags, covered with sores, hungry
and homeless. He is there because of his own sinful choices. A kind,
generous man offers to take this man to the hospital, pay all of his
bills, and then to bequeath on him all that he would ever need in
life. He would have a comfortable home, all the food he could eat,
and every comfort he could dream of. But the ungrateful wretch in
the gutter spits in the man’s face, curses at him, and then tells
others that the man’s offer was worthless. That would not be as bad
as insulting the Spirit of grace by turning your back on the free
pardon that He offers through the blood of Jesus Christ! The person
who spurns God’s grace in Christ deserves far greater punishment
than physical death by stoning. He will suffer justly throughout
3. We know that God’s judgment is as certain as His Word, and it
will be terrifying (Heb 10:30-31).
Even though he has been issuing this strong warning, the author has
all along included himself with his readers by using the first
person plural (“Let us,” Heb 10:22, 23, 24; “we,” 10:26, 30). Here
he says, “For we know Him who said,” and then he cites two
references from the Song of Moses (Dt. 32:35, 36). As we have seen
before (Heb 3:7; 8:8; 10:15), for this author what Scripture says,
God says. The first quote establishes God’s sole right to take
vengeance, but here the emphasis is on the fact that those who wrong
such a Being as God have no chance of escape. You may wrong another
person and somehow manage to escape his vengeance. But God will
The second quote in its original context has the nuance of God
vindicating His people by judging their enemies. Although the
apostates had formerly been associated with God’s people, their
rebellion has put them on the side of God’s adversaries (Heb 10:27).
They will not escape. Leaving the fellowship and repudiating the
sacrifice of Christ does not remove them from judgment, but rather,
places them squarely in line for judgment! As Hughes says (p. 426),
“So far from escaping from God, the apostate falls into the hands of
the living God: he abandons God as his Savior only to meet him as
his Judge.” So the author concludes, “It is a terrifying thing to
fall into the hands of the living God.” He is trying, quite
literally, to scare the hell out of them!
The Apostle John (Rev. 6:12-17) describes the terror of God’s judgment
as it overtakes kings and commanders, the rich and the poor. After a
great earthquake, the sun turns black and the moon turns blood red.
The stars fall to earth and the sky splits apart. Mountains and
islands move out of their places. Hiding themselves in caves and
among the rocks of the mountains, everyone cries out to the
mountains and to the rocks,
“Fall on us and hide us from the
presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the
Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to
Conclusion - Sometimes
people will say,
“I don’t believe in a God of
judgment. My God is a God of love.”
If you subscribe to that view, then
your “god” is not the living God who reveals Himself through His
Word! In one of the earliest records of God’s revelation of Himself,
He said to Moses,
“The Lord, the Lord God,
compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in
lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands,
who for-gives iniquity, transgression and sin.” [So far, we all
cheer, “Yeah! That’s my kind of God!”] But keep going: “yet He will
by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of
fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and
fourth generations” (Ex 34:6-7).
You may protest,
“But that’s the God of the Old
Testament. I believe in Jesus, who was always gentle and kind.”
Really? I again remind you that
Jesus spoke more often about the terrors of hell than anyone else in
the Bible. He called it a place “where their worm does not die, and
the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48, citing Isa. 66:24). He said
that the punishment for one who causes one of His little ones to
stumble would be far worse than if he had a mill-stone hung around
his neck and was cast into the sea (Mark 9:42). He described hell as
a place of outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing
of teeth (Mt 8:12; 24:5 1). He said that it’s better to pluck out
your eye or cut off your hand than for your whole body to go to hell
(Mt 5:29, 30). He described the rich man in hell as being in agony
in the flames (Luke 16:24). He further described those flames as
“eternal fire,” which is the same word used for “eternal life” (Mt
Also, our text is in the New Testament, and its very argument is
that judgment will be more severe for rejecting the Son of God than
it was for the one in the Old Testament who disregarded the Law.
The God of both Testaments is the same God, who is rich in mercy and
love towards all who repent of their sins and trust in Christ. But
He is terrifying in His judgment against those who reject His Son,
who is the only sacrifice for sin.
Note carefully who is most in danger of committing this terrible
sin of turning away from Christ: it is those who knew the truth and
who had associated with God’s people! It is not those who are
notorious sinners. It is those who think,
“I’m a child of Abraham! I’m not a
sinner like the Gentiles! I keep the Law. I offer my sacrifices.
That’s good enough! I don’t need a crucified Savior and His blood to
atone for my sins!”
In other words, it’s the
church-going religious person who does not see his need for the
blood of Christ!
I once conducted a funeral where I got to the service and read the
little bulletin that the mortuary prints up. It quoted John 3:16 as
follows: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only
be-gotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall have eternal life.”
It omitted ´shall not perish! I don’t know whether the
mortuary or the family of the deceased man was responsible, but I
didn’t let them get away with it! I called attention to this glaring
omission and made the point: If you do not put your trust in Christ,
you will perish!
The only options are: Christ or judgment. If you reject Christ after
hearing the gospel and being associated with God’s people, you will
fall into the hands of the living God, and it will be an eternally
terrifying ordeal! You don’t want to go there! But if you entrust
yourself into the hands of Christ, which were pierced for you, you
will find God’s abundant mercy and grace to cover all your sins!
Some evangelicals have denied the doctrine of hell as being “morally
repugnant” and not worthy of God. How would you answer this charge?
Why should it send off warning
signals when someone pits the “Old Testament God” against the “New
Is it biblically correct to tell
sinners, “God loves you” or should we (with Edwards) say, “God is
angry with you”?
List as many practical benefits as
you can from the doctrine of hell. (The
Only Options: Christ or Judgment?)
OF WILFUL SIN
IN mentioning those who forsake the
assembling together of God's people, the writer has touched one of
those sore places which, to him, are the symptom of imminent danger.
This neglect of Christian fellowship is at once the indication of
that indifference which is so dangerous, and the cause of further
backsliding. All this leads him once again to sound the alarm, and
to point out how neglect of outward, apparently secondary duties,
opens the way to positive sin and eternal loss. He has scarcely
finished his wondrous exposition of the glory of the heavenly Priest
and the heavenly sanctuary and the way into it, he has only just
begun to speak of the life and walk to which that opened sanctuary
calls us, when, thinking of the state of the Hebrews, he sounds a
trumpet-blast of warning more terrible than any we have heard yet.
In the three previous warnings he had spoken first of neglect
(Hebrews 2:1-4), then of unbelief and disobedience (Hebrews 3:1;
4:13), then of sloth, leading to hopeless falling away (Hebrews 5:3;
6:9): here he now speaks of wilful sinning, with the awful rejection
of God's mercy it implies, and the sore and certain punishment it
will inevitably bring. John Bunyan, in his dream, saw a way leading
from the very gate of heaven down to the pit. It is not only the
Holiest of All that is set wide open for us; the gate of hell is
opened wide, too, to receive all who neglect or refuse to enter the
gate of mercy and of heaven. Let all who believe that it is indeed
God who, by His Spirit speaks in this word, listen with holy fear.
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of
the truth, there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins. As we had
in Hebrews 10:26. mention of those who were once enlightened, and
tasted the heavenly gift and the good word of God, and who yet fell
away, so here he speaks of those who, after having received the
knowledge of the truth, yet sin wilfully. The expressions used show
us that in the case of these the enlightening and the acceptance of
the truth had been more with the mind than with the heart. Their
judgment had been convinced, through the mind their desire and will
had been affected and wrought upon; and yet, the heart, the whole
inner life, had never been truly regenerate, had never received that
eternal life, which cannot be taken away. And so there was a
possibility of their still sinning wilfully and being shut out for
ever from the one sacrifice for sin. As we saw before, the true
assurance of salvation, the assuring of our hearts before God, cam
only be enjoyed in a life under the teaching of the Spirit, and a
walk in obedience to God's will (1 John 3:19-24.) True assurance of
faith is the witness of the Holy Spirit that is given in living
fellowship with and obedience to Christ as Leader.
If we sin wilfully. The question will be asked, But what is wilful
sin? How are we to know when we are guilty of it? No answer can be
given; no one on earth can draw the line between what is and what is
not wilful sin. Only He who sits on the throne, and who knows the
heart, can judge. But how will this warning profit, if we cannot see
what wilful sin is? The warning will just thus profit us most--it
will make us fearful of committing any sin, lest it might be, or
lead us into wilful sin. He that would know what wilful sin is, with
the thought that he is safe, as long as he keeps from that extreme,
deceives himself. The only sure way of being kept from wilful sin is
to keep far from all sin.
A captain of a ship, sailing between two harbours on a rocky coast,
was once asked by an anxious passenger if the coast was not very
dangerous. The answer was, Very. And was he not afraid? No; our way
is perfectly safe; you can be at ease. But how, if the rocks are so
dangerous? Oh, very simply! I put out to sea, and keep far from the
rocks. O Christian! here is thy only safety: launch out into the
deep of full obedience to all the will of God; keep far from all
sin, and thou shalt be kept from wilful sinning.
For if we sin wilfully, there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins.
What a terrible contrast to the same expression as we had it before
(Hebrews 10:18): No more offering for sin. There it was the blessed
secret of the glory of the gospel and redemption, the joy of
Christian faith and life no more offering for sin: salvation
finished and perfected for ever. Here it is the awful revelation of
the highest sin and its terrible doom: the one sacrifice rejected,
and now no more a sacrifice for sins ever to be found, How awful to
There remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful
expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire, which shall
devour the adversaries. Fearful judgment, fierceness of fire,
devouring the adversaries,--these words are in God's gospel; they
follow close on its highest teaching; they are words He speaks to us
in His Son. In the religion of the world, alas, in a great deal of
the Christian teaching and the religious literature of our day,
professing to honour the God of love whom the Bible reveals--these
words are set aside and rejected. And yet there they stand, and
behind them stand the divine realities they express. God help us to
believe them with our whole heart, and to exhort one another, if so
be we may save some, snatching them out of the fire!
1. Let all who have entered the Holiest of All turn round and look to
the hole of the pit--the horrible pit--whence they have been drawn
up. And as they see the multitudes going down to the pit, oh let
them remember that the highest glory of life in the Holiest is, even
as it is of Him who opened it with His blood and sits on the throne,
to go out and bring others in.
2. Even though thou knewest, through grace, that thou hadst escaped
the judgment and the fire, take time to gaze upon them. Take upon
thee the burden of those who are asleep, and plead with Christ to
use thee to warn and to save them.
Andrew Murray. The Holiest of All