Verses 26-31 reads: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (NKJV)
Though some commentators believe this is speaking of apostates who were never saved, the writer of this column believes the Hebrews’ writer is exhorting true Jewish believers in Christ (3:1,6; 5:12; 6:9; 10:10) not to return to the Mosaic Law. They had been sanctified (v. 29) and were God’s people (v. 30). But out of fear of persecution, they were being tempted to forsake their public identification with Christ (10:23-25).
An illustration is made to the Old Testament Law where there were no sacrifices prescribed for intentional sins such as pre meditated murder, adultery, and idolatry (Ex. 21:12-14; Num. 15:27-31; 35:30-34; Deut. 17:2-6). In Old Testament times, the Israelite’s penalty for these sins was death (Heb. 10:28).
The sacrifices, the feasts, the tabernacle, and temple had all pointed to Christ. These New Testament believers were well aware that Christ’s one-time sacrifice for sins had completely fulfilled the Mosaic Law. He had now replaced the Mosaic Law as their new rule of life. Having received full knowledge of the truth (even more so after reading this letter), should these believers still intentionally defect back to the Mosaic Law, they could expect God’s chastisement.
To return back to the Law would be tantamount to publicly treating the triune God’s redemptive work with contempt. It would demonstrate ingratitude to the Father for the gift of His Son. Reverting back to the Old Testament would treat Christ’s holy blood as a common thing, no different than anyone else’s blood. It would insult the Holy Spirit who had regenerated them, who was presently teaching them the things of Christ, and who was in the process of sanctifying them. Though saved eternally, if they willfully chose this course, there was no Old Testament sacrifice that could prevent God from punishing them on earth.
The writer quotes two Old Testament verses to show that God reserves the right to judge His people (Deut. 32:35-36; Heb. 10:30). He judges and disciplines the wayward Christian as a loving Father to draw them back to Himself in repentance (Heb. 12:5-11). When the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word reveals sin in our lives we must judge ourselves, confessing and forsaking it before God, so that He will not need to judge us. When a believer persistently rejects the chastening of the Lord, He sometimes takes them home early to prevent any further harm to His Name (1 Cor. 11:30-32; 1 John 5:16-17).
Should these Jewish believers permanently desert back to the Law, God’s judgment upon them was certain and it could involve their death.
However, their salvation was eternally secured and kept by Christ. It is the same for us today. Since Scripture affirms the believer’s eternal security in numerous passages, we know these verses cannot teach that one can be saved today and then lost tomorrow (ex. John 10:28-30; 17:12,24; Phil. 1:6; 1 Pet. 1:5). Salvation is a work of God and He has the power, desire, and will to complete His work and fulfill His eternal purposes in every believer.1
See cornerstonemagazine.org/webinars or Cornerstone Conferences YouTube channel for our latest webinar “Safe in Christ” that addresses the topic of eternal security with other difficult passages (Heb. 6:4-6; 2 Pet. 2:20-21; Gal. 5:4; etc.).