Hebrews chapter 10 is in many cases a battlefield for the believers. You choose your side and prepare to battle. Someone gives you your ammunition ahead of time so that you don’t have to think much on your own or consider all of the options. As you are standing on your interpretation someone from the other side fires a shot and puts a hole in your doctrine. What to do now? Do you throw out everything? Probably not….many times it is God himself firing a shot to help you get Bible Doctrine instead of yours. In this study we will TRY to look at this openly.
So, what are the possible meanings of this passage?
- The verses are talking about someone who sins “wilfully” and they lose their salvation.
- The verses are dealing with tribulation saints who lose their salvation.
- The verses are dealing with saved people but they do not lose their salvation, this is just dealing with the judgment seat of Christ.
- The verses are dealing with Jews who will not leave Judaism and come to Christ. They never had salvation, and henceforth they did not lose it.
Problems with Each Interpretation
If we are honest each interpretation has its own set of problems.
- If salvation can be lost then it was never based on a finished work. Jesus Christ said “It is Finished”. If your salvation is not finished then it is not based the redeeming work of Christ.
- The book of Hebrews was written by Paul and if he wrote in Hebrews that you could lose your salvation then he has brought a curse on himself (Galatians1:9), because he writes all through his epistles about eternal life.
- The verses state that if a willful sin is committed by these people that there is no more sacrifice for sins. If this is a saved person then it sounds like the wilfull sins will not be paid for and will be accounted for at the Judgment Seat of Christ. No forgiveness is available between here and there.
- Sounds like in verse 29 that this person was sanctified and now they are in danger of judgment.
Before we get into the passage let us look at several introductory remarks.
Who Was It Written To
The title of the book says “The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews”. Hebrews1:1 talks about God speaking to the fathers by the prophets, who had fathers and prophets? Hebrews chapter 3 spends time dealing with the fact that Christ is better than Moses. Hebrews chapter 7 talks about the fact that Christ was of a better priestly line than the Levites. Chapters 8 and 9 of Hebrews deal with a better covenant. Hebrews chapter 11 deals with the faith of people who are all a part of the history of Israel.
From the evidence above, we would have to say that this book was written to the Jewish people. This does not mean that we should discard the book of Hebrews or any other Jewish epistles. The book is not written to us, but it is written for us (2 Timothy 3:16).
What Was the Purpose of the Letter?
The book of Hebrews contains the word “better” thirteen times. Christ is better than the angels (Hebrews 1:4), he brought in a better hope than the law (Hebrews 7:19), he was made surety of a better testament (Hebrews 7:22), he is the mediator of a better covenant (Hebrews 8:6), and he was a better sacrifice (Hebrews 9:23).
The book of Hebrews was written to the Jewish people in order to prove that Jesus Christ was “better” than Judaism.
In order to rightly divide the word of God, we must consider several things. When was the book written, who was it written to, and what does the passage mean to the people to whom it was written? We have already discussed who the book was written to, but let us now look at when it was written.
The book of Hebrews was written nearly 30 years after the death of Christ. The temple was still standing and in operation (Hebrews 13:10-11). Jewish people were persecuted when they accepted Christ (Hebrews 10:32), for many Jews were still zealous over the law (Acts 21:20). Many Jewish people were still living under the banner of Judaism and to accept Christ was to reject Judaism.
Now we will look at the question, “what does the passage mean to the people to whom it was written?”
In verse 23, the Apostle Paul says, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)”. First notice the word “profession”. A profession is not always true (Romans 1:22). Salvation is not based on our profession, but rather on a belief with the heart and confession of the mouth (Romans 10:9-10). Confession is agreeing with God, for example, when you confess your sins you are agreeing with God against your sins. The Apostle Paul warns the Hebrews not to waver from their profession.
These verses were written to exhort the Hebrews to meet together for worship and provoke one another to good works. The early church met often, and one reason was probably to strengthen and encourage each other in times of persecution.
Here we have one of the favorite verses of the Armenians, but remember the context of the book of Hebrews. Paul writes, “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”
Notice three things about this passage.
- The sin was done on purpose (willfully). One point to make here is that if this is loss of salvation then we’ve all lost it. You say well I haven’t murdered anyone or committed adultery, but that is not what the verse says. The verse says willful sin. That is anything done knowingly that was unrighteous. Have you lied lately? Probably just a white lie….Have you not done something this week that you knew you should have done (James 4:17)
- This person has received the knowledge of the truth.
- If this proves that these people were saved then we have some problems.
- Were all of the religious leaders saved? According to John 3:2 they knew that Jesus came from God. They had received the knowledge of the truth, but they didn’t all get saved.
- The devils time and time again called Jesus the Son of God. Were they saved? No, but they sure did have knowledge of the truth.
- So we see that knowledge of the truth in itself merits nothing, but faith in a person is what receives salvation.
- After this sin there is no more sacrifice for sin. Keep in mind this is written to the Jewish people. What sin is it when done on purpose, allows no more sacrifice for sins?
Let us look at a scenario. A Jewish boy is born about the time of Christ’s death. He was raised to go to Jerusalem three times a year to appear before the Lord (Exodus 23:14,17; Deuteronomy 16:16). He went through all of the ceremonies and went to the schools of the Hebrews. He was taught to look for the coming of the Messiah, that He would come as a King to deliver His people. Then at about the age of 30, this young man hears a message preached that Jesus Christ was the Messiah and that He died for the sins of the whole world. This young man learns more and more about the life of Christ, and begins to compare it with the law and the prophets. God opens his eyes to the fact that Christ was in fact the Messiah and that he must receive Christ by faith. Up to this point he like the apostle Paul has been zealous for God in the law, but now he has “received the knowledge of the truth”. If he receives Christ, then he will be persecuted greatly and his family will probably have a funeral for him and count him as dead. The fear of persecution drives him to “wilfully” reject Christ and return to Judaism. God says to this young man, “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins”. A spotless lamb or any other sacrifice will no longer hold off the wrath of God, the young man has seen God’s sacrifice. This young man will die and face judgment and fiery indignation, because he rejects God’s sacrifice.
Rejecting Christ is the only sin in this age that will send a man to hell.
In verses 28 and 29 Paul writes, “He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” Under the law, the punishment of sin against the commandments in many cases meant death. All it took was the witness of two or three.
According to Hebrews, God hath in these last days spoken unto us by His son. God has three witnesses (1 John 5:7-8). The “sorer punishment” will be poured out on those who “wilfully” reject the Son of God.
Notice in verse 28 that this person has “trodden under foot” the Son of God. When Moses told the children of Israel to put the blood on the side posts and lintel, he said nothing of putting the blood on the floor. In a sense those people were spared by going into the house through or under the blood. To be saved we must go through or under the blood, but this man has lowered the blood and has “trodden under foot”.
Notice next the phrase “wherewith he was sanctified”. The word “sanctified” means to be set apart in holiness. If the word “sanctified” simply meant salvation, then you would have to say that the Sabbath was saved (Genesis 2:3), the tabernacle was saved (Exodus 29:43), the Lord was saved (Leviticus 10:3), the Father saved the Son (John 10:36) and many other things that just do not line up with scripture. Remember that the idea of Hebrews is that Jesus Christ is better. Some would say that the person sanctified is the same person who has counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, but look again. Jesus Christ’s blood sanctified himself. The blood set Him apart from bulls, goats, and all other blood either before or after.
Next notice the phrase “despite unto the Spirit of grace.” What this person has done has insulted the spirit of grace. We are saved by grace, and when someone turns from the free offer of salvation to Judaism or any other religion it is a disgrace to the spirit of grace.
In closing we will add evidence that Paul is not talking about the believers backsliding and losing their salvation. In verse 39 Paul says, “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” Paul says I’m not talking about us because we have believed to the saving of our soul. These difficult verses when taken in context make more sense and prove once again that the book of Hebrews is about the fact that Jesus Christ is better.