Let Us Go On
By Arlen L. Chitwood
If They Shall Fall Away
And this we will do, if God permits.
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit,
and have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come,
if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. (Hebrews 6:3-6)
The line of teaching thus far in the third of the five major warnings in Hebrews — in perfect keeping with the things set forth in the first two warnings — is with constant reference to that coming day when Christ will reign over the earth as “King of kings, and Lord of lords.” The day is coming, at the end of the Great Tribulation, when an angel will sound the last of seven trumpets; and, in connection with the sounding of this trumpet, “loud voices in heaven” are going to be heard, announcing:
The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Revelation 11:15, ASV; cf. Revelation 10:1-7).
The whole of God’s revelation to man, beginning with the opening two chapters of Genesis, progressively moves toward the same goal — that coming day announced in Revelation 11:15. And revelation throughout the book of Hebrews, in perfect keeping with revelation as a whole, views that future day as central in all matters surrounding the past or present.
The Warning Passages
The first of the five major warnings in the book of Hebrews deals with “so great salvation” (2:3), which is the greatest thing God has ever designed for redeemed man. This salvation has to do with Christians being elevated from this earth and placed in the heavens on the throne as co-heirs with the “King of kings, and Lord of lords”; and the time when this will occur is revealed to be in that coming day when Christ fulfills the things that are stated in the seven Messianic passages making up most of chapter one, leading into the first warning.
Also in connection with the first warning there is a revealed angelic ministry (1:13, 14; 2:5); and this ministry is with a view to Christians wearing the crowns presently worn by angels when they one day rule in the kingdom under Christ (see the author’s book, So Great Salvation, Chapter 2).
The second of the five major warnings (chapters 3, 4) begins by addressing those to whom the warning applies:
Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling . . . . (3:1a).
The parallel is then drawn between Israel’s earthly calling and the Christians’ heavenly calling, with the writer drawing extensively from the type surrounding Israel’s calling for all his spiritual lessons concerning the Christians’ calling.
The land of Canaan during Moses and Joshua’s day was occupied by the Nephilim, who had infiltrated and corrupted the Gentile nations in the land (Numbers 13:32, 33 [the word, Nephilim, literally meaning, “fallen ones,” is a name used in Scripture for the offspring resulting from a co-habitation of “the sons of God” with “the daughters of men”; cf. Genesis 6:4]); and the Gentile nations, infiltrated and corrupted by the Nephilim, were there at the pre-planned direction of Satan and his angels (who ruled from the heavens through the Gentile nations on earth [Daniel 10:13, 20; cf. Luke 4:6; Revelation 13:2]) to contest Israel’s right to enter into and take possession of this land.
That heavenly land to which Christians have been called, on the other hand, is presently occupied by Satan and his angels (the one-third who went along with Satan in his attempted coup, separate from the two-thirds who refused). And at the heart of all teachings surrounding the second warning is a type-antitype parallel between the Israelites under Moses (and later Joshua) and Christians under Christ.
The Israelites, in the type, were called to leave one earthly land (Egypt) and dwell in another earthly land (Canaan) as “a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.” They were to dwell in that land, as God’s “firstborn son,” within a theocracy (cf. Exodus 4:22, 23; 40:34-38; Joel 2:27ff).
And in this manner, with God dwelling in Israel’s midst and the nation exercising the rights of primogeniture, the Gentile nations were to be ruled by and blessed through the seed of Abraham, in perfect keeping with Genesis 12:2, 3; 14:18, 19; 22:17, 18.
Christians, on the other hand, in the antitype, have been called to leave this earth and dwell in another land, in the heavens, as “kings and priests” and a “holy nation,” occupying the position of God’s firstborn son as well (following the adoption). They are to dwell in that heavenly land within a theocracy, seated on the throne with Christ (cf. 1 Peter 2:9, 10; Revelation 2:26, 27; 5:10).
And in this manner, with Christians occupying positions of rulership with Christ, exercising (with Christ) the rights of primogeniture, the Gentile nations are to be ruled by and blessed through the seed of Abraham from a heavenly sphere as well (Galatians 3:29), also in perfect keeping with Genesis 12:2, 3; 14:18, 19; 22:17, 18.
Satan and his angels are present in that heavenly land today — as the Gentile nations infiltrated and corrupted by the Nephilim were present in the land of Canaan during Moses and Joshua’s day — contesting the Christians’ right to one day enter and take possession of the land. This is what the “manifold wisdom of God” being made known “by [‘through’] the Church” to “the principalities and powers in heavenly places” is all about in Ephesians 3:9-11, and this is what the warfare against these same regal powers in Ephesians 6:10ff is also all about.
The announcement has gone forth, “by [through] the Church,” to Satan and his angels in the heavens, that they are about to be replaced. Both “Christ,” the Head, and the “Church,” the body, are on hand, waiting for that day. And Satan, with knowledge of this fact, can only know that his time is short and that his days are numbered.
Christ has shown Himself fully qualified to take the kingdom (Matthew 4:1-11), and He has paid redemption’s price to redeem fallen man so that man can be brought back into the position for which he was created in the beginning (cf. Genesis 1:26, 28; 3:15; John 19:30); and the Holy Spirit is in the world today calling out the bride, who will ascend the throne with God’s Son in that coming day.
Knowing these things, Satan and his angels cannot anymore like the thought of Christ and Christians one day occupying the heavenly places that they presently occupy than the Gentile nations in the land of Canaan almost 3,500 years ago (under Satan’s direction and control) could have liked the thought of the Israelites coming in and occupying that land in their stead.
Thus, the warfare of Ephesians 6:11ff rages. And, because of this warfare, Christians are called upon to make the necessary preparations. They are called upon to properly array themselves for the ongoing “battle,” a battle which is very real. And there is a “prize” in view, which is also very real — that of one day being accorded the privilege of occupying a position as co-heir with Christ in His kingdom (cf. Philippians 3:10-14); and this prize can either be won (through overcoming in the battle) or lost (through being overcome in the battle).
Then the third major warning in Hebrews (chapters 5, 6) centers on Genesis 14:18, 19 for its spiritual lessons — the only historic account of Melchizedek in the entire Old Testament (Psalm 110:4, the only other reference to Melchizedek in the Old Testament, draws from Genesis 14:18, 19). And though the account is very brief, it is fraught beyond compare with spiritual significance. The whole of that which is taught in the spiritual lessons in Hebrews chapters five through seven draws from the whole of that which is taught surrounding Melchizedek in this one Old Testament passage.
Melchizedek was a king-priest in Jerusalem (cf. Genesis 14:18; Psalm 76:2), and though Christ is presently “a priest after the order of Melchizedek,” as He is presently “King [He was born ‘King of the Jews’],” He has yet to occupy either office (cf. Matthew 2:2; Hebrews 5:10; 6:20; 7:11). He is presently ministering as High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary, on the basis of shed blood, after the order of Aaron. It will only be when He leaves His present position in the sanctuary and comes forth as “King” that He will exercise the office of King-Priest, “after the order of Melchizedek” (ref. Chapter 1 in this book).
The writer of Hebrews dealt with this subject (5:1-10), then he dealt with spiritual babes “in Christ” who were not mature enough to understand these things (5:11-14), and then he exhorted these immature Christians to leave the foundational truths and go on to maturity (6:1, 2).
And there is no getting around one central truth in this section of Scripture: Maturity in the faith, as it is set forth in Hebrews 5:5-6:2, has to do with coming to a knowledge and understanding of those things that the Word of God reveals concerning that future day when Christ reigns over the earth as the great King-Priest, “after the order of Melchizedek.”
That which is stated in Hebrews 6:3 (“And this will we do, if God permit”), and the heart of the warning itself in Hebrews 6:4-6 (“For it is impossible . . . .”), MUST be understood within the framework of that which preceded it. These verses must, contextually, be understood as having to do with Christians coming into a knowledge and understanding of the things surrounding Christ’s coming reign over the earth “after the order of Melchizedek.”
Reading into Hebrews 6:4-6 the thought of salvation by grace through faith (as so many do) is not only completely out of line with the context but it is also completely out of line with any Scriptural teaching concerning salvation by grace through faith, beginning with the opening two chapters of Genesis.
The context has to do with Christian maturity (which centers on coming into an understanding of specific future things, for a revealed purpose); and the message concerning salvation by grace through faith centers on the Christians’ presently possessed salvation, based on two finished works of the Triune Godhead:
1) The finished work of the Son at Calvary.
2) The finished work performed by the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer — breathing life into the one having no life, performed on the basis of and made possible through the Son’s prior finished work.
Hebrews 6:4-6 has to do strictly with God’s present and future work in the lives of Christians, not with His past work, effecting their present position, “in Christ.” This section of Scripture is written to and has to do solely with those who are already saved, and it has to do specifically with bringing these saved individuals into a mature knowledge and understanding of the things surrounding Christ’s coming reign over the earth, as the great King-Priest, “after the order of Melchizedek.”
And This Will We Do, If . . . .
Hebrews 6:3 should be taken at face value. That is, We will go on to maturity (vv. 1, 2), if God permits us to go on (v. 3). And one is then left with the thought that God may not permit some Christians to go on to maturity.
Leading into Hebrews 6:3, the writer had previously reprimanded a group of Christians for their lack of spiritual maturity. They had been saved for a sufficient length of time that all of them should have been well enough grounded in the Word that they could do two things (5:10-14):
1) Be able to understand teachings surrounding the coming Melchizedek priesthood of Christ.
2) Be able to teach others these things as well.
Then, following the reprimand, the writer exhorted these same Christians to leave “the elementary principles [the rudimentary things of the Christian faith]” and “go on to perfection [maturity in ‘the faith’]” (5:12; 6:1, 2).
Then after this comes the statement that going on to maturity is conditional. It is conditioned on God allowing the person to go on. But bear in mind that this is not maturity in what might be considered a general sense; rather, the reference is to maturity in a specific sense. This is maturity in that which Scripture calls “the faith” or “the word of the kingdom” (cf. Matthew 13:19; 1 Timothy 6:12; Jude 3) — maturity in things surrounding Christ’s coming reign over the earth “after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:10ff).
Thus, the writer is dealing with a specific realm of biblical teaching that is little understood in Christendom today. And this would provide a basic explanation (in conjunction with the working of the leaven in Matthew 13:33) for the existing situation. Not only is there a present lack of knowledge (much less an understanding) concerning this whole overall message in Christendom but something even beyond this exists. Along with the lack of knowledge and understanding, an overt aversion, more often than not, is exhibited toward any teaching on the subject.
(Note, by way of passing, that an aversion of this nature invariably
emanates from two spheres:
And, projecting the matter out to the end of the dispensation, this is the message Christ will not find being taught to Christians in the churches at the time of His return. Though this is the central message that Christians are supposed to hear once they have been grounded in the rudimentary things of the Word, Christ stated that by the end of the dispensation, at the time of His return, conditions will have become so completely contrary to the way they should exist that He will not find “faith [lit., ‘the faith’] on the earth” (Luke 18:8).
The reason why God will not allow certain Christians to go on to an understanding of these truths is given in the verses that immediately follow (vv. 4-6), which comprise the heart of the warning. Verse three forms a connection between that which has preceded and that which follows; and this verse must, accordingly, be understood in the light of the complete context — verses both preceding and following.
Very briefly, note the verses leading into Hebrews 6:3 before going on to the verses forming the explanation. The former verses (5:5-6:2) explain the matter from one standpoint, using one type; then the latter verses (6:4-6) explain the matter from another standpoint, using another type.
Hebrews chapter five draws its spiritual lessons from Genesis chapter fourteen (and Psalm 110, which also draws from Genesis 14). The subject has to do with Abraham meeting Melchizedek following the battle of the kings.
Melchizedek, at this time, brought forth “bread and wine” and blessed Abraham, “of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:17-19). This, of course, points to that day in the antitype, following the battle of the kings (Revelation 19:17-21), when Christ comes forth with “bread and wine” — as King-Priest, “after the order of Melchizedek” — to bless Abraham and his descendants, both heavenly and earthly (Matthew 26:29).
Now note something about the type, which must carry over into the antitype. Abraham, after meeting Melchizedek, no longer manifested any interest in the things of this world. The king of Sodom offered him goods, but his response was completely negative. Abraham said to the king of Sodom:
I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth,
that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, “I have made Abram rich” -
except only what the young men have eaten . . . .” (Genesis 14:22-24a).
Having met Melchizedek, Abraham manifested total disinterest in that which the king of Sodom had to offer. He had found something so far greater than the things this world could offer that he refused to take anything (other than food) from the king of Sodom. Rather, his interest was focused on the things surrounding Melchizedek (cf. Hebrews 12:2, “looking to Jesus . . . [lit., ‘Looking from (the surrounding things of the world) to Jesus’]”).
Abraham, by this experience, could only have gained a whole new perspective on the present in relation to the future, and vice versa. Thus, Abraham, relative to the magnanimous offer of the king of Sodom, in a word, told the king, No!
And that is where Christ comes into the picture in prophecy as the great King-Priest, “after the order of Melchizedek.” The Father — “the possessor of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:22) — has given all that He has to the Son (cf. Genesis 24:36; 25:5; John 16:13-15); and in that coming day, with the Son occupying both His own throne in the heavens and David’s throne on the earth, blessings will flow out to the Gentile nations through the seed of Abraham (“possessor of heaven and earth [through inheritance]”) from both heavenly and earthly spheres.
And when a Christian sees Christ, within this framework, as the great King-Priest, “after the order of Melchizedek,” this should drive him to manifest the same attitude toward the things of this world as Abraham manifested toward the things of the world after he met Melchizedek. In the words of the song, “the things of this world” should “grow strangely dim.” The Christian should possess an entirely new perspective on the present in relation to the future, and vice versa.
But, how often is the preceding really the case in the lives of Christians? How many really understand these things? Or, how many really view matters within the framework of “the light of His glory and grace”?
And therein lies the secret to questions surrounding Hebrews 6:3. We are dealing with the very choicest of God’s choice things that He has set aside for Christians, and God has placed certain conditions around allowing Christians to move into a knowledge of the Son in this realm (cf. Philippians 3:10-14). God knows what is in man; and He also knows what man coming into a knowledge and understanding of these things will, too often, do.
God knows that numerous Christians, after coming into a knowledge and understanding of Christ as King-Priest, “after the order of Melchizedek,” would not manifest the same attitude at all toward the world as Abraham manifested after he met Melchizedek. They would, instead, either continue in or one day return to their worldly interest and involvement (cf. 1 John 2:15-17), which is within a world presently ruled by Satan and his angels. And by so doing, such Christians could only bring shame upon Christ’s name (this will be further dealt with later in the chapter within the framework of that which is stated in v. 6).
The matter surrounding God allowing or not allowing a Christian to go on to maturity though should be viewed more within the framework of man’s attitude toward these things than it should within the framework of God’s omniscience per se. Scripture clearly states,
If anyone want to do [is willing to do] His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine . . . . (John 7:17)
That is: Do you really want to know Christ as “author [‘source’] of eternal salvation [salvation for the age (the Messianic Era)]”? (Hebrews 5:9). Are you serious about the present warfare and one day coming into a realization of the proffered inheritance? If so, there should be no reason why God would not allow you to go on into a knowledge and understanding of the various things surrounding His Son’s coming reign over the earth.
But, if on the other hand, an interest in and a seriousness about the matter are not present, there is no biblical reason why God should allow such a person to go on into a knowledge and understanding of these things. In fact, within a biblical perspective, the opposite would exist instead. From a biblical perspective, God would not allow such a person to go on, for a revealed reason.
And with this in mind, we’re ready to go on into the heart of the warning and see the explanation to verse three from the perspective of the type in the preceding warning in chapters three and four.
For It Is Impossible…
Hebrews 6:4-6 is looked upon by numerous Christians as possibly the most difficult and/or controversial passage in all Scripture. And the reason why the passage is looked upon after this fashion is because of an erroneous interpretative approach. The passage is invariably approached from the standpoint of teachings surrounding the Christians’ presently possessed eternal salvation — salvation “by grace through faith.”
The passage though, as previously stated, doesn’t deal with this subject. And, not dealing with this subject, it is understandable why those who seek to interpret the passage from the standpoint of teachings surrounding salvation by grace through faith find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings. And not only is this the case, but they often, as well, find themselves being forced into erroneous views concerning salvation.
Then, beyond the preceding, the correct subject matter is not even being dealt with. Rather, through this erroneous interpretative approach, the correct subject matter is, instead, completely obscured. And such can only foster the present work of the enemy as it is outlined in 2 Corinthians 4:4 — blinding the minds of Christians relative to “the gospel of the glory of Christ” (NKJV; ASV).
1) Once Enlightened…but Fell Away
Certain descriptive words appearing in verses four and five make it virtually impossible to look upon these verses as describing unsaved people.
There is the word, “enlightened” (v. 4), which is used in Hebrews 10:32, translated “illuminated.” And according to 1 Corinthians 2:14, “the natural man” cannot be enlightened or illuminated in spiritual matters. Then, beyond that, the passage is dealing with things other than the “milk” of the Word; it is dealing with the “solid food [strong meat]” of the Word (5:12-14).
Then there is the word, “tasted” (vv. 4, 5). This is the same word used for Christ tasting death “for every man” in Hebrews 2:9. The experiences entered into by those in Hebrews 6:4, 5 must be looked upon as a tasting to the same extent that Christ tasted “death” at Calvary. The latter was full and complete, and the former must be as well.
And the last descriptive word is “partakers” (v. 4). This is the same word translated “fellows” in Hebrews 1:9 and “partakers” in Hebrews 3:1, 14. This is the word metochoi, which could be better translated, “companions.” It is used in chapters one and three describing Christ’s co-heirs, His companions, in the coming day of His power.
Being “enlightened,” tasting “of the heavenly gift,” being made “partakers of the Holy Spirit,” tasting “the good Word of God,” and tasting “the powers of the world [‘age’] to come” form a description of Christians progressively coming into a mature knowledge and understanding of the things surrounding Christ as the great King-Priest “after the order of Melchizedek” from chapter five. It, thus, has to do with Christians coming into a mature knowledge and understanding of Christ and His companions’ coming reign over the earth.
Then, spiritual lessons surrounding the possibility of Christians falling away after coming into this mature state is drawn from the type dealt with prior to the introduction of Melchizedek in chapter five — the account of the Israelites under Moses (chapters 3, 4).
The Israelites under Moses passed through similar experiences within the framework of their earthly calling, climaxed by their hearing the report of the twelve spies and tasting the actual fruits of the land that they had brought back with them.
And that which happened to the Israelites at this point (in the type) is where one must go in order to understand the falling away and accompanying statements (in the antitype) in Hebrews 6:6.
The Israelites at Kadesh-Barnea were in possession of the Word of God (received at Sinai), God dwelled in their midst (in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle, built and erected at Sinai), they had heard the report of the spies, and they had tasted the actual fruits of the land (brought back by the spies).
And occupying this position, they were then ready to enter the land, conquer and possess the land, and subsequently realize their calling in the land as God’s firstborn son.
They, at this point, were in possession of what could only be looked upon as a mature knowledge of the whole of that which was in view. They understood their calling and that which lay out ahead. And it is at this point that they fell away and, within the framework of that stated in the antitype in Hebrews 6:4-6, found it impossible to be renewed “again to repentance.”
2) Impossible to Renew Again…Because…
The report that the spies brought back concerning the land was both positive and negative. It was a good land, flowing with “milk and honey”; but the inhabitants, infiltrated by the Nephilim, were strong and lived in walled cities (Numbers 13:26-29, 32, 33).
Caleb and Joshua, exhorting the people, said,
Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it. (Numbers 13:30)
But the remaining spies said,
We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we. (Numbers 13:31)
The people of Israel heard the report and both exhortations, but they believed the evil report of the ten spies rather than the true report of Caleb and Joshua. And their resulting actions said it all. They wept, began to murmur against Moses and Aaron, and then looked back to Egypt, wishing that they had never left. Then, to climax matters, they sought to appoint another leader and return to Egypt (Numbers 14:1-4).
They, in the words of the antitype, fell away. They had turned their backs upon God; and God, correspondingly, turned His back upon them. Because of that which had transpired, the most severe judgment possible was pronounced upon the entire accountable generation. Every single individual comprising that generation, twenty years old and above, save Caleb and Joshua, was to be overthrown in the wilderness.
And once this apostasy had occurred (with its corresponding pronounced judgment), there could be no renewal “again to repentance” (as in the antitype). And the reason, drawing again from the antitype (“crucify to themselves the Son of God”), is because they had brought shame and reproach upon the One (God) dwelling in their midst, who was to have led them victoriously into the land.
(“Repentance” simply means a change of mind. And in both the type and antitype, the change of mind is on the part of God, not on the part of the Israelites [type] or on the part of Christians [antitype].)
The Israelites, the very next day, repented (changed their minds). They “rose up early” and sought to “go up to the place” which the Lord had promised. But the Lord didn’t repent (He didn’t change His mind). He was no longer with them relative to their entering the land and victoriously combating the enemy; and, consequently, the Israelites, trying to enter the land apart from the Lord’s leadership, were smitten and driven back (Numbers 14:40-45).
And that’s what Hebrews 6:4-6 is about. If God allows a Christian to come into a mature knowledge of His Son’s coming reign as the great King-Priest “after the order of Melchizedek,” and that Christian apostatizes, the same thing will occur as that which occurred with the Israelites under Moses (it would have to, for the antitype must follow the type in exact detail).
The Christian would be cut off insofar as those things surrounding his calling were concerned. He would not be allowed to subsequently enter that heavenly land to which he had been called and victoriously combat the enemy therein. He could never be brought back to the position that he had previously occupied. Which is to say, he could not be renewed “again to repentance.”
Though the Christian may later change his mind about the matter (as the Israelites did), God would not change His mind (as in the type). The Christian, like the Israelites, would be overthrown on the right side of the blood but on the wrong side of the goal of his calling.
And the reason for such severe judgment on God’s part results from the fact that, through this act, such a Christian could only bring shame and reproach upon the name of Christ.
Note the entire expression,
. . . they crucify again for themselves the Son of God [‘afresh,’as in the KJV, is not in the Greek text, though implied], and put Him to an open shame” (v. 6).
The thought has to do with the shame and reproach surrounding Calvary, not with subjecting the Son to a second crucifixion, for such an act is impossible (Hebrews 7:27).
But subjecting the Son to this same type of shame and reproach at the hands of the world is very possible today; and such shame and reproach can result from the act of any Christian falling away in the antitype of the Israelites at Kadesh-Barnea.
A Christian though, to fall away after this fashion, would have to do two things:
1) He would first have to come into a mature knowledge and understanding of the things surrounding Christ’s coming reign over the earth.
2) He would then have to apostatize after the same fashion in which the Israelites apostatized (looking away from Moses and the land [an earthly land], back to Egypt; i.e., looking away from Christ and the land [a heavenly land], back to the world).
And doing this, a Christian would be subjecting God’s Son to the same type of humiliation and shame that He experienced at Calvary. The expression, “crucify again for themselves,” is actually explained by the remainder of the verse — “put [expose] Him to an open shame.” It is subjecting the world’s coming Ruler to humiliation and shame by the one “in Christ” turning from that which lies out ahead and focusing his attention back on the present world system under the incumbent ruler, Satan.
And this is something that God will not allow. Thus, the verse,
And this we will do [we will go on to maturity in the things surrounding Christ’s coming reign over the earth], if God permits [if God permits us to go on]” (Hebrews 6:3).