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)
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; slightly
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
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
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
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
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 & Amazing...."
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. 7-9].
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 destruction.
For - The
writer now elaborates on the exhortation of Hebrews 10:25 to not
forsake the assembly of the church and return to Judaism.
This passage 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 error.
Such persons, 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,
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".
(hamartano) 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 traveller who missed
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
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). They reject
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.
"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 Heb 2:1-note,
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 immediate
defines this sin as one of the continually forsaking the
only means of
grace God provides for salvation.
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 sin. Selah.
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
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, like David.
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 subject.
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
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 and thorough:
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 (3PPPI)
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)
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
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
quotes Delitzsch as saying:
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
gnosis, but not of a false epignosis.
And the Writer (of Hebrews - referring to Hebrews 10:26)
For if we go on sinning willfully
after receiving the knowledge (epignosis) of the truth, there
no longer remains a sacrifice for sins"), 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, (He 6:4-note,
“who were once enlightened”) and therefore, he sinned with his eyes
wide open." (Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament)
Wuest commenting on the use
of epignosis in 2Peter
1:2 writes that
Knowledge” or epignosis is
full, perfect, precise knowledge as opposed to gnósis,
imperfect, partial knowledge. Strachan says: “epígnōsis,
‘involving the complete appropriation of all truth and the unreserved
acquiescence in God’s will, is the goal and crown of the believer’s
course’ (Lightfoot) … epignosis implies a more intimate and
personal relationship than gnósis. It would be a useful word,
seeing that gnósis had become associated with Gnosticism, then
incipient in the Church.… Grace and peace are multiplied in and
through this more intimate heart knowledge of Jesus Christ, in
contrast to a mere barren gnósis. ” “Knowledge” is locative of
sphere and instrumental of means. This grace and peace are in the
sphere of this knowledge and are produced by it. The particular word
for “knowledge” here, epignosis, speaks of experiential
knowledge, that is, knowledge gained by experience. This knowledge of
the Lord Jesus possessed by the believer therefore, is not a mere
intellectual knowledge of the facts concerning Him acquired by a study
of the Gospels, for instance, but a heart experience of what and who
He is gained by such a study plus a personal association with Him by
means of the Word and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is a person
with Person knowledge through intimate fellowship. (Wuest,
K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans
Trench notes that
Of epignosis, as compared
with gnosis, it will be sufficient to say that epí must
be regarded as intensive, giving to the compound word a greater
strength than the simple possessed." He goes on to explain that "Paul,
it will be remembered, exchanges the ginosko, which expresses
his present and fragmentary knowledge, for epignosomai when he would
express his future intuitive and perfect knowledge (1
Cor 13:12 "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face
to face; now I know (ginosko) in part, but then I shall know
fully (epiginosko) just as I also have been fully known
(epiginosko). Trench explains that the idea in epignosis is
that "It is bringing me better acquainted with a thing I knew before;
a more exact viewing of an object that I saw before afar off. That
little portion of knowledge which we had here shall be much improved,
our eye shall be raised to see the same things more strongly and
clearly.’ All the uses of epignosis which St. Paul makes,
justify and bear out this distinction (1Ti 2:4 Ro 1:28; 3:20; 10:2; Ep
4:13; Php 1:9; 2Ti 2:25; cf. He10:26 -see notes
He 10:26); this same intensive use of epignosis is borne
out by other similar passages in the NT (2Pe 1:2, 8; 2:20) and in the Septuagint (Pr
2:5; Hos. 4:1; 6:6); and is recognized by the Greek Fathers." (Trench, R.
C. Synonyms of the New Testament. page 285)
Marvin Vincent says epignosis is
Clear and exact knowledge. Always
of a knowledge which powerfully influences the form of the religious
life and hence containing more of the element of personal sympathy
than the simple gnósis knowledge, which may be concerned with
the intellect alone without affecting the character." Vincent goes on
to comment on Paul's use of epignosis in Ro 3:20-note
("...by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight;
for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.") noting that
"the knowledge of sin here (Ro 3:20) is not mere perception, but an acquaintance with sin
which works toward repentance, faith, and holy character." (Vincent,
M. R. Word studies in the New Testament. Vol. 3, Page 1-40)
In sum, epignosis denotes specific full knowledge, not general spiritual
knowledge. While the
knowledge to which the apostate individual was not defective or incomplete, the application of the knowledge
was flawed. Judas Iscariot is a good example of a disciple who had
no lack of knowledge (living 3+ years in the presence of "Truth"
Personified!), but lacked genuine saving faith and in so doing became the
most notorious apostate of all history!
THERE NO 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 - 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”
indicative as in Heb
4:9), for one has renounced the one and only sacrifice for sin that
does or can remove sin
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;
Titus 1:5-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;
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
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 perseverance.
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 judgment.
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, 12).
(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 10:10-note
& 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
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
(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 eternity.
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 repay!
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
“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
“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 25:41, 46).
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
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
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
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 sin wilfully.
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