In part one, I told you this passage has three sections.
- Let Us (vv 19-25)
- A Warning (vv 26-31)
- How To (vv 32-39)
While I intended to cover it all in one article, here we are, part two. We covered the Let Us in part one. Now, we’re entering the author’s warning. Let’s hop to it.
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
-Hebrews 10:26-31 (ESV)
When I studied through this, it hit me harder than it did last Spring. Last Spring, I hadn’t made it very far into Hebrews, but this warning has even more weight now that I’ve forged through and taken it all in. The supremacy of Christ over the law of Moses, which the author had meticulously unpacked, gave this warning a lot more weight. Consider what you would be rejecting. I hear the author’s pastoral heart for his flock is pleading here.
Jesus Christ has been portrayed in every way, superior to what some of you are desiring. Don’t go back! Hold fast! Believe! If you don’t, it demonstrates that you never believed in the first place, and you’ll be consigning yourself to a fate intended for the adversaries! It’s nothing but fiery, all-consuming judgment!
So, let’s clear up a potential misunderstanding. When the author said, “if we go on sinning deliberately,” he had something specific in mind. This misunderstanding is this: sinning deliberately is not talking about moral failures. The deliberate sin in mind was what he had been teaching against all along: unbelief. What’s in mind here is a deliberate unbelief in the Gospel. If you reject the Gospel, as the author said, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins. Outside of Christ Jesus, there is no forgiveness of sins, inheritance, promises, or eternal life, but only a fearful expectation of judgment.
Note the fury of fire that awaits was intended for the adversaries. Remember what Jesus said would happen to the goats at the final judgment?
Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
– Matthew 25:41 (ESV)
The eternal fire was prepared for the devil and his angels. Did you know that God never intended for humans to go there? It wasn’t made for us. The eternal fire was made for supernatural rebels, Satan, and his demonic servants. But because mankind followed Satan in his rebellion, people will end up there as well, as members of Satan’s hoard of rebels. That tells me two things.
First, God doesn’t send people to hell. He didn’t prepare hell for humans. Hell was made for beings beyond human comprehension. It was Adam who consigned humanity to hell by his rebellion. This subject will eventually receive its own post, but this is all I have time to say about it for now. Adam, created to be the head of mankind – like Christ is the head of His church – condemned humanity by his actions – just as Christ redeems humanity by His actions (See Romans 5).
Second, hell is far worse than anything you can dream up. We have the descriptions of fire, darkness, and undying worms given in the New Testament, but those are just analogies that we can understand. Hell was prepared as a place for the punishment and torment of rebelling supernatural beings. Ask yourself this. What degree of severity is necessary to punish an anointed guardian cherub? What magnitude of judgment is sufficient to torment powerful spiritual beings? Now consider that people will end up there as well. Friends, it makes all the hellfire and brimstone sermons I’ve heard in my life pale in comparison.
This is what the author warned his hearers/readers awaits those who remain in unbelief. Verse 29 helps us understand the magnitude of things.
How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?
Unbelief tramples Jesus underfoot, profanes His blood, and outrages the Holy Spirit. I don’t know about you, but outraging the Holy Spirit isn’t on my bucket list. This is blaspheming the Spirit. Unbelief prevented God’s people from entering His rest (Hebrews 3:19). Unbelief infuriates the LORD. He swore in His wrath that they would not enter His rest (Psalm 95:11). Why so furious? Redemption came at the cost of His eternal Son’s life. The brutal murder of His eternal Son ups the ante on the outrage against unbelief. If I may simplify it, when your daddy is also the judge, those who commit crimes against you will get the book thrown at them. Unbelief is the crime, outrage and furious judgment are the penalty. No wonder the author penned one of the most memorable statements in God’s Word concerning the LORD’s outrage.
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
-Hebrews 10:31 (ESV)
Thankfully, the author follows his warning with instructions for his hearers/readers on how to return to faithfulness. If unbelief is the problem, belief is the remedy, so how does a professing believer buttress his soul against unbelief?
32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.
-Hebrews 10:32-34 (ESV)
This isn’t the only time the LORD gives this instruction. Jesus told the church of Ephesus to do the same thing.
5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.
– Revelation 2:5a (ESV)
Remembrance can be a powerful motivator. The Israelites were constantly building altars and erecting monuments in significant places so that they could remember what God did in that place. The LORD’s Supper was instituted to remember Christ’s spilled blood and broken body for our redemption. Here, the author invokes another call for remembrance. Recall the former days. Specifically, remember what you endured after you initially believed! Remember how you loved others after you believed! Remember the joy you experienced when you suffered for your faith! Jesus told the Ephesians to recall how they loved when they first believed. So should we.
Of course, building monuments isn’t always the practical way to remember, so let me suggest a few practical ways we can remember.
- Journaling – I can already hear the objections. My handwriting is atrocious. I’m not a writer. I’m not wordy. Look, all three of those objections are easily overcome by putting pen to paper and practicing this discipline. Also, I think there’s an undeserved stereotype that mainly women journal. That might be true in recent history, but throughout history, men journaled prolifically. The manliest of men in history usually maintained a journal. It’s a discipline that waned as men were increasingly made to believe that manly men were of few words. Get over it, and start doing this. It is the most practical way to create a record of what God has done in your life. Don’t expect that you’ll be able to rely on your memory. Pen on paper and some effort to keep up with what you write will outlive your brain cells.
- Testify – when the LORD does something, don’t keep it to yourself. Share it with others. Say it out loud again and again. When we bring others into our joy, it becomes a part of the larger faith community and part of their faith as well.
- Make something – this is kind of like monument building, but on a smaller scale. When God does something you want to remember, make something that will remind you of His faithfulness. When the LORD delivered my daughter from her rebellion in Cape Town last Spring, I began looking for a rock I could put in my suitcase, bring home, and laser something on it to remind me of what He did for our family! That black rock sits above our coffee bar with a message engraved that reminds me of what He’s done every I see it. But it doesn’t have to be a laser-engraved rock. Order a coffee mug with a personalized picture or message commemorating what the LORD did.
The point is to remember what He’s done and return to faithfulness. Therefore…
35 …do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For,
“Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
38 but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”
39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
– Hebrews 10:35-39 (ESV)
Believe. Enduring in belief will result in receiving the promised rest. I love that the author concludes his thoughts on a high note. We are not of those who shrink back. Again, including himself in this, together we don’t shrink back, together we walk in faith and preserve our souls. As I wrap this article, I’m once again struck by the togetherness of our faith. We persevere in the faith together. None of the commands for individual holiness, individual sanctification, and individual repentance are complete outside of the togetherness of the body of Christ. Together, we do all things. We find encouragement, upbuilding, and consolation (1 Corinthians 14:3) when we are together. We suffer spiritual malnutrition when we aren’t together.
This is the last element of the how-to: do this together.