Potent Passages Exclusively for Christians
From the Book of Hebrews
Key Preliminary Consideration
Although there may be legitimate doubt as to the human author of the book of Hebrews, never assume that it is addressed to and/or strictly concerns any class of individuals other than Christians. Furthermore, Scripture never addresses so-called “professing [spurious] Christians,” i.e., individuals who call themselves Christians but who have never experienced the spiritual birth from above.
And although many Christian preachers and theologians assert that Hebrews is an epistle to “professing [bogus] Christians,” a conclusion primarily based upon the five dire warning passages (2:1-4; 3:7-4:13; 6:1-8; 10:26-39; 12:25-29), nothing could be further from the truth.
The book of Hebrews, as is the entire Bible, is directed to bona fide Christians, for only the children of God are able to spiritually discern the divine contents within its pages (1 Corinthians 2:14). Furthermore, there is ample evidence within the epistle revealing it is genuine Christians to whom it is addressed. Note the following.
1) The human author (hereafter termed the “author”) of the epistle includes himself in several places in the company of those to whom the epistle is addressed (hereafter termed the “recipients”), utilizing the pronouns “us” (vss. 1:2; 4:1-3, 11; etc.) and “we” (vss. 2:1, 3, 8; 3:14; 4:14, 15; etc.).
2) The author addresses the recipients of the epistle as “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling” (vs. 3:1) a designation that cannot possibly refer to individuals who are without Christ.
3) The recipients are continually called “brethren” (vs. 3:12; 10:19; 13:22) in the epistle. Things are said to them that can only apply to Christians (cf. 3:1; 5:12; 6:9; 10:24-25). Note that all these appear shortly before or after the warning sections.
4) The author verifies that the recipients of the epistle “have believed” (vs. 4:3).
5) The author verifies that the recipients have “a great High Priest . . . Jesus the Son of God” (vs. 4:14; 8:1) and admonishes them to “come boldly to the throne of grace” (vs. 4:16).
6) The author admits that at this writing the recipients of the epistle should have been spiritually advanced enough “to be teachers,” yet they continue “unskilled in the Word” as spiritual “babes” (vss. 5:12, 13).
7) The recipients are described as having experienced the blessings that come with faith in Christ. The most convincing evidence is from the passage in chapter 6 verses 4 and 5, in which they were “enlightened,” had “tasted the heavenly gift,” had “become partakers of the Holy Spirit,” and had “tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come.” Any attempt to apply these descriptions to unbelievers forces the text at the expense of good exegesis and the plain sense of the language. They had also “received the knowledge of the truth” (v. 10:26), were “sanctified” (v. 10:29), “known” God (v. 10:30), been “illuminated” (v. 10:32); and by implication are called “just” or righteous (v. 10:38).
8) The recipients are given Old Testament analogies that in the past and now in their present apply to God’s chastening of His people. In verse 16 of chapter 3 reference to Psalm 95 is used of the redeemed who had come out of Egypt and so obviously applies to the redeemed readers. In verse 30 of chapter 10 the reference to Deuteronomy 32:36 speaks of God judging “His people.” That this applies to believers is obvious in verse 31 of chapter 10 where there is the prospect of falling “into” the hands of God. They cannot fall out of His hands.
9) The author encourages the recipients to “run with endurance the [spiritual] race . . . looking to Jesus, the Author [Originator] and Finisher [Perfecter] of our [their] faith” (vss. 12:1, 2).
10) The recipients are exhorted to “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (v. 12:28), something impossible for unbelievers.
11) The author admonishes the recipients to “let brotherly love continue” within their ranks (vs. 13:1).
12) The author prays that the recipients will be made “complete in every good work to do His [God’s] will” (vss. 13:20, 21), something only possible for believers.
13) The author includes the recipients in the company of “all the saints” (vs. 13:24).
14) The recipients are encouraged to be made “complete [perfect, mature] in every good work to do His [God’s] will, [God] working in you [the recipients] what is well pleasing in His [God’s] sight” (v. 13:21), an action that cannot apply to the unsaved.
The primary difficulty most Christians apparently have in realizing that it is only bona fide Christians that are addressed in the book of Hebrews is two-fold:
1) Their misunderstanding and/or acceptance of God’s entire plan of redemption of man, all three aspects (spirit, soul, and body) of which utilize various forms of the word “save” (e.g., save, saved, salvation, etc.), and
2) Their refusal to believe that the severe consequences described in the warning passages could be applied to Christians.
One important key to understanding the warnings is to appreciate their unity. There are five warnings and all five are properly viewed as a unit. All of the warnings should be integrated. They go together and complement one another. Each warning builds upon the other. Also, the warnings intensify until the fifth and final warning, which serves as a capstone to declare the severe consequences Christians face for failing to heed God’s counsel. To complement this unified structure, the writer of Hebrews uses Israel’s Exodus generation as an example representing individual Christians.
The Exodus generation, a redeemed people, failed to heed God’s instruction and was judged for its disobedience. This Old Testament story is used throughout all five warnings to vividly describe the danger of failing to heed the admonition of God. Recognizing the unity of the warnings and the employed typology or example of the Exodus generation will alleviate much difficulty experienced by many in interpreting the book of Hebrews.
The evidence is overwhelming, both in the general nature of the epistle and in the warnings themselves, that the author is addressing Christians. But failing to recognize (or admit) that the lessons and warnings within the book of Hebrews are applicable to bona fide Christians, as previously stated, is not the only reason so many ministers of God’s Word fail to properly interpret it.
Their failure to understand (accept) the full (comprehensive and complete) doctrine of the redemption of man, which addresses the triad composition of man (spirit, soul, and body), forces them to engage in a twisted endeavor to conclude that the teachings of the book (primarily the “warnings”) can only apply to “professing Christians” (non-bona fide Christian, i.e., those who only call themselves such, but, are not). In this, they corrupt the entire and most potent teaching of the book.
Concisely stated, God’s comprehensive plan for man incorporates two distinct gospels (good news) within His Word. One is the “gospel of grace,” which speaks to the “salvation of the spirit,” the grace gift of eternal life to a person based upon the “work of Another” (Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary) and activated by his personal decision to place his faith solely in Jesus Christ for his salvation; and, the other is the “gospel of glory,” which speaks to the “salvation of the soul,” the grace gift of age-lasting life (applicable to the coming Messianic Era — the coming Millennial [Kingdom] Reign of Christ) in which he will rule/reign with Christ as part of His bride, but which is conditional upon faithful “good works” and is awarded upon his faithfulness (record of good works during his temporal life) at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
What makes the “warning passages” of the book of Hebrews so potent and compelling is the fact that they portend a high degree of adverse judgment upon Christians, those who possess eternal life based upon their faith acceptance of Jesus Christ, the One who died in their place to keep them from judgment (John 3:18; 5:24). So not only do the passages appear to be paradoxical to what Christians believe about the message of salvation, but they issue grave warnings to those who fail to properly live for Christ unlike any other passage or passages in God’s Word.
The remainder of the first section of this document will be devoted to a more comprehensive explanation of the two judgments relative to Christians, one they will never experience because of the work of Christ and one they most assuredly will face because of their own works during their redeemed temporal life.
For this, the entire first chapter of Arlen L. Chitwood’s book, Judgment Seat of Christ now follows:
Eternal life is the free “gift of God,” obtained completely apart from works. Nothing that man does — not one single act, either before or after he becomes a recipient of this life — can have anything at all to do with his salvation, for he has been saved solely by grace through faith; and his salvation is based entirely on the work of Another.
Christ’s finished work at Calvary provides a means of salvation that fallen man can avail himself of by and through one revealed means alone: by and through receiving that which has already been accomplished on his behalf.
Works are involved in man’s presently possessed eternal salvation, but not man’s works. Rather, they are the works of the One who procured this salvation. Ruined man himself is totally incapable of works. He can’t operate in the spiritual realm, for he is “dead [spiritually] in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).
Thus, since redeemed man had nothing to do with bringing to pass his presently possessed eternal salvation; he can never be brought into any type of judgment where the issue surrounds that which he acquired through Christ's finished work at Calvary. A judgment of this nature would not only be judging that which man had nothing to do with, but it would also be judging once again that which God has already judged. God judged sin at Calvary in the person of His Son, and God is satisfied.
Accordingly, the judgment seat of Christ cannot function in the realm of one’s eternal salvation. Decisions and determinations made at this judgment MUST be based solely upon the actions of the justified — actions following their coming into possession of eternal salvation.
By Grace through Faith
For by grace you are saved [you have been saved] through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8, 9)
Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us . . . . (Titus 3:5a)
To properly understand issues surrounding the judgment seat of Christ one must begin with a due appreciation for the salvation that Christians presently possess — a salvation that is non-merited and non-forfeitable.
Salvation for fallen man is both free and apart from works, but the procurement of this salvation by God’s Son was by no means free and apart from works. God’s Son provided this salvation through a vicarious sacrifice — the sacrifice of Himself; and fallen man can do no more than simply receive that which has been provided.
1) It Has Been Finished
Note the words “not of yourselves” and “that we have done” in Ephesians 2:8 and Titus 3:5. Both refer to the necessity of the total absence of works on man’s part in relation to eternal salvation. The work has already been accomplished; the price has already been paid. When Christ cried out on the cross, “It is finished” (John l9:30), He announced the completion of a redemptive work that He alone could bring to pass.
The words, “It is finished,” in John l9:30 are the translation of one word in the Greek text (tetelestai). This word is in the perfect tense and could be better translated, “It has been finished.” That is, at this point, everything relating to the work of redemption had been accomplished. Nothing more remained to be done; and, consequently, there was no need for Christ to delay His death. Accordingly, immediately after Christ cried out, “Tetelestai,” “He bowed His head and gave up His spirit [Greek: pneuma, ‘spirit,’ i.e., ‘breath’; He breathed out, expired].”
The perfect tense in the Greek text calls attention to a work completed in past time, with the results of this work extending into the present and existing in a finished state. This is the same verb tense used in Ephesians 2:8 relative to the present state of redeemed man (“you are saved”; literally “you have been saved”). Redeemed man is in possession of a salvation (present) wherein everything has already been accomplished (past) on his behalf.
The Holy Spirit has performed a work (breathing life into the one having no life [cf. Genesis 2:7; Ezekiel 37:1-10]) based on Christ’s completed work (at Calvary). Both are past works, and one can no more be nullified than the other.
Redeemed man is as totally helpless to undo anything that has been accomplished in bringing about his redemption as he was to do something to accomplish his redemption in the first place. Work completed in past time through divine intervention is not something that man can change, add to, take from, etc.
Consequently, contrary to what is often taught in certain quarters, redeemed man cannot nullify the past work of the Holy Spirit in effecting his present redeemed state, wrought on the basis of Christ’s finished work. Redeemed man can no more nullify the Spirit’s work in salvation than he can nullify Christ’s finished work at Calvary.
Both constitute past, completed works wrought through divine intervention, and man is completely powerless to act in these realms.
2) God’s Established, Unchangeable Pattern
Almost 6,000 years ago, God created man. Then, resulting from satanic intervention, man fell. Man became a ruined creation. And this was followed by God setting about to restore His ruined creation.
God’s work surrounding man’s restoration was preceded by His work surrounding a restoration of the material creation upon which man was to reside. Satanic activity had brought about the ruin of the material creation, and then subsequently man’s ruin (Genesis 3:1ff; Isaiah 14:12-17; Ezekiel 28:14-19), and divine activity alone could bring about restoration of both (Genesis 1:2b ff).
Ruined man finds himself in exactly the same condition as the ruined earth, seen in Genesis 1:2a. Satanic activity brought about man’s ruin, and divine activity alone can bring about his restoration. Man is no more capable of bringing himself out of his ruined state than was the ruined earth. And, apart from divine intervention — as occurred in the restoration of the ruined earth — man would have remained in his ruined condition forever (as the ruined earth, apart from divine intervention, would have had to remain in its ruined condition forever, as well).
The former restoration sets the pattern for the latter restoration. The former is God’s unchangeable pattern concerning how He restores a ruined creation, forever established in the openings verses of Genesis. Man, a subsequent ruined creation of God, MUST be restored in complete accordance with the established pattern.
In the Genesis account, the Spirit of God moved, God spoke, and light came into existence. And matters are exactly the same relative to ruined man today, i.e. relative to a subsequent ruined creation.
Exactly as in the Genesis account, the first thing that must occur is the movement of the Spirit of God. And insofar as ruined man is concerned, this initial act of the Spirit is that of breathing life into the one who is “dead in trespasses and sins.”
And the Spirit is able to do this work on the basis of death and shed blood, for apart from death and shed blood, there can be no salvation (cf. Genesis 3:21; 4:10 [Hebrews 12:24]; 22:7-13; Ex. 12:3-13; Hebrews 10:22). In this respect, the Spirit today breathes life into the one having no life on the basis of the finished work of God’s Son at Calvary.
The living Word has performed the work, and God has spoken concerning the matter (Exodus 12:6, 7, 12, 13). The Spirit moves, God speaks, and light comes into existence (man is born from above). And God then divides between the light and the darkness (God divides between spirit and soul, between that which is associated with the man of spirit and that which is associated with the man of flesh).
Thus, the pattern concerning how God restores a ruined creation was set forth at the very beginning of His Word (Genesis 1:2b ff). And this God-established pattern can never change.
(Note also that a time element was involved in God’s complete restoration of the material creation — six days, followed by a Sabbath, a seventh day of rest. This points to the six days [6,000 years] comprising Man’s Day, to be followed by a Sabbath, a seventh day of rest [a seventh 1,000-year period], the Messianic Era [cf. Hebrews 4:4, 9].
It will only be at the end of the six days [6,000 years] comprising Man’s Day that man will be completely restored — body, soul, and spirit—as the material creation was completely restored at the end of six days in the Genesis account. Only then will the Sabbath within this complete sequence ensue; only then will there be a day [a 1000-year period] of rest.
As in the established pattern in Genesis, so will it be in that which events in this pattern foreshadow [Exodus 31:13-17; 2 Peter 1:16-18; 3:3-8].)
Blood and Leaven
For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD.
Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.
Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. (Exodus l2:l2-l5)
There is a dual truth taught in Exodus chapters twelve and thirteen concerning the application of blood and the expelling of leaven. These chapters introduce the first two “feasts of the LORD” in the prophetic calendar of Israel — the “Passover” and the “Feast of Unleavened Bread” (cf. Leviticus 23:1ff). “Blood” from the paschal lambs was to be applied first. Then, those who had applied the blood were to put “leaven out of their houses.” This is the unchangeable order established by God in the book of Exodus.
In these two chapters, the sentence of death had fallen upon the firstborn throughout all the land of Egypt (Exodus 12:4, 5). The firstborn in every household, Israelite and Egyptian alike, must die. However, provision was made for all the firstborn in Israel to experience death vicariously. Every household was to take a lamb from the flock, the lamb was to be slain, and blood from the lamb was to be applied “on the two side posts and on the upper door post” of every house throughout the camp of Israel.
When the Lord passed through the land of Egypt to execute the sentence of death, He looked for one thing at each house. He looked for the blood upon the entrance way. The presence of blood showed that the firstborn in that household had already died. Death had occurred vicariously through a slain lamb from the flock. The Lord then passed over that house. The absence of blood, on the other hand, showed that the firstborn had not yet died. Death then occurred at the hands of the Lord, for the firstborn in every household MUST die.
It cannot be overemphasized that the only thing that the Lord looked for on this particular night was the blood. “. . . when I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Exodus 12:12, 13). Nothing else was in view; and once the death of the firstborn had been executed, that was the end of the matter. Those who died vicariously held the same position relative to death in the eyes of the Lord as those who died apart from a substitute. The death of the firstborn had occurred in both instances, and God was satisfied. Nothing could, at a later time, be reversed.
In the antitype of this aspect of Exodus chapters eleven and twelve, “Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us [‘was sacrificed on our behalf'’]” (1 Corinthians 5:7). His blood was shed; and those who have appropriated His blood, through faith, have died vicariously. Death has occurred through the slain Lamb, as in Exodus chapter twelve. “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (Exodus 12:1-13, 29, 30; John 1:29; 19:16-30; 1 Corinthians 15:3). And an individual availing himself of this provision has already kept the appointment with death referred to in Hebrews 9:27. The death of the firstborn is past, God is satisfied, and that is the end of the matter. As in Exodus chapter twelve, nothing can, at a later time, be reversed.
Following the Passover in Egypt, God dealt with the Israelites on an entirely different plain. The Israelites, from this time forward, were dealt with on the basis of that which had occurred in Egypt, NEVER relative to this matter. And it is the same with Christians today. Christians are dealt with strictly on the basis of that which Christ has done on their behalf, NEVER relative to this matter.
Immediately following the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread commenced. Beginning with this festival, God dealt with the Israelites relative to “leaven” in their houses, NOT relative to that which had previously occurred (the death of the firstborn) and was now a past, finished matter. They were to put leaven out of their houses, and they were to eat unleavened bread for seven days. “Seven” is God’s number, as “six” is man’s number. “Six” shows incompleteness, and “seven” shows completeness, with “eight” indicating a new beginning. The Israelites were to put leaven out of their houses and eat unleavened bread for seven days — one complete period of time.
Leaven points to that which is vile or corrupt; it points to sin in the lives of individuals. And the spiritual significance of this festival surrounded the fact that the Israelites, as God’s redeemed people, were to put that which was vile, corrupt, associated with sin, out of the camp for one complete period of time. This period of time had to do with the existence of the nation from that point forward.
An individual Israelite refusing to expel the leaven was cut off from Israel (cf. Exodus 12:15; Psalm 37:9, 22, 28, 29, 34). He died on the right side of the blood. He was cut off from Israel, not from God. The same held true for the entire accountable generation subsequently cut off following events at Kadesh-Barnea. They too died on the right side of the blood. Their failure to enter into the land, resulting in their overthrow in the wilderness, had no bearing upon their standing before God on the basis of that which had previously occurred the night of the Passover in Egypt.
The entire matter is the same in Christendom today. Christians are commanded to “keep the feast,” which is to be done in a new way, “with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8). Christians are to put that which is vile, corrupt, associated with sin out of their lives for one complete period of time — the entire duration of the Christian life.
Christians refusing to expel the leaven will, as the Israelites who refused to expel the leaven, be “cut off.”
The Israelites under Moses were called out of Egypt to go into another land and realize an inheritance awaiting the nation. Those cut off in Israel forfeited the realization of their calling. They fell on the right side of the blood but outside the land to which they had been called.
And so it is with Christians. Those refusing to expel the leaven will forfeit the realization of their calling. They will fall on the right side of the blood but outside the land to which they have been called. Such a failure, as in the type, will have no bearing upon that which previously occurred in their lives through the work of the Son and the Holy Spirit in effecting their standing before God.
Many Christians, because of the sins of the flesh, have their lives cut short during the present time. However, this is not the primary meaning of being “cut off.” Those “cut off” in Israel were separated from a realization of their calling. They were called out of Egypt for a purpose; and most were overthrown, failing to realize the goal of their calling.
Such an overthrow for Christians in the antitype awaits the issues of the judgment seat of Christ, for it is there that decisions and determinations that directly affect Christians relative to their calling will be made. God will not countenance sin in the lives of His people; and before the judgment seat, the harbored sins of Christians will be brought out into the open and dealt with. Those refusing to judge their sins prior to that time, availing themselves of the high priestly ministry of Christ, will then be judged. Their sins in that day though will be dealt with in an entirely different manner; for, at that time, Christ will be their Judge rather than their High Priest (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:31; 1 John 1:9-2:2).
Basis for Judgment
For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,
each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.
If anyone’s work that he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.
If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)
Something little understood today is the fact that the “basis” for God’s judgments is always works.
God judged sin at Calvary, based on Christ’s completed work; and when God views redeemed man today, He views this past completed work of His Son and past judgment upon sin. Redeemed man, by and through the Spirit having breathed into him, possesses spiritual life; and Christ’s righteous, justifying act — His finished work at Calvary — has been reckoned as merit to him (Romans 5:l6-l8; Philemon l8).
However, redeemed man in this standing before God is directly responsible to his Creator; and he, in his justified state, will himself be judged on the basis of works — his own works, performed following salvation (Matthew l6:27; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
And works are the basis for all God’s subsequent judgments upon man — Israel, the living Gentiles coming out of the Great Tribulation, and those appearing before the Great White Throne. Man’s appearance or nonappearance at a particular judgment, or place in this judgment (e.g., man’s appearance at the judgment seat of Christ, or at the great white throne judgment 1,000 years later), is dependent on his acceptance or rejection of the past work of Another; but judgment of the individual will be on the basis of his own works, which will be performed either as a redeemed or as an unredeemed individual (Ezekiel 20:34-38; 2 Corinthians 5:9-11; Revelation 20:11-15).
Before the judgment seat of Christ, “Every man’s work will become clear (KJV: ‘shall be made manifest’) . . . it shall be revealed by [in] fire.” There will be works comparable to “gold, silver, precious stones”; and there will be works comparable to “wood, hay, straw.” One set of material reveals works of intrinsic value, which will endure the fire; but the other set of material reveals valueless works, which will be burned in the fire.
Works performed by Christians during the present time can vary a great deal in worth. Such works can be performed under the leadership of the Holy Spirit and redound to the praise, honor, and glory of the Lord; or such works can be performed under the leadership of man and redound to the praise, honor, and glory of man. At the judgment seat, all will be revealed; for “the fire shall test each one’s work, of what sort it is.”
1) Works . . . Revealed by Fire
Works emanate out of faithfulness to one’s calling and bring faith to its proper goal, which will result in the salvation of one’s soul (cf. James 2:l4-26; 1 Peter 1:5-11). At the judgment seat, the worth of every man’s work in this realm will be revealed; and decisions and determinations emanating out of this judgment will determine every man’s position in the coming kingdom (cf. Matthew l6:24-27; 24:45-51; 25:l4-30; Luke 19:12-27).
“Judgment” on the basis of works is alien to the thinking of many Christians, for they have been exposed time and again to a proclamation of salvation by grace through faith apart from works, unbalanced by the proclamation of the coming judgment of Christians on the basis of works. The emphasis has been placed almost entirely upon the finished work of Christ at Calvary, with little regard given to Christian living, the coming judgment seat, and the coming kingdom.
Teachings of this nature have centered almost solely on the salvation that we presently possess; and things having to do with the inheritance awaiting Christians, the salvation of the soul, etc., have been removed from their respective contexts and applied to our present salvation. Ministries centering on this type of teaching in the churches have produced both confusion and complacency in Christendom.
Then, there is another type widespread teaching in the churches that recognizes works but has every Christian performing good works. The reasoning of those who teach along these lines centers on the thought that if a person is really saved he will produce good works; if, on the other hand he doesn’t produce good works, this simply shows that he was never really saved in the first place. Aside from being completely contrary to any Scriptural teaching on the subject, such a teaching produces both an erroneous view of salvation by grace through faith and an erroneous view of issues surrounding the judgment seat of Christ.
If every Christian produces good works to show that he has been saved, then works enter into an area where works cannot exist.
And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work. (Romans 11:6)
The presence or absence of works on the part of Christians can have no connection whatsoever with their prior reception of the finished work of Christ. Christ’s finished work allows an individual to be placed in the position where he can produce good works. There is nothing in Scripture that teaches that he, of necessity, will produce good works. Such would be completely contrary to the teaching of salvation by grace through faith apart from works. Man’s works simply cannot enter into salvation by grace at any time, either preceding or following salvation.
Relative to eternal salvation, man simply cannot do anything to:
1) Be saved.
2) Stay saved.
3) Show that he has been saved.
If man could do any one of the three, salvation would cease to be by grace through faith, for man’s works would have entered into an area where works of this nature cannot exist.
If it be maintained that every Christian must produce good works to show that he has been saved, then it must follow that every Christian would appear at the judgment seat of Christ with works that would “abide” the fire. Possessing works of this nature, every Christian would “receive a reward.”
But such a thought is at once seen to be erroneous by reference to the text in 1 Corinthians chapter three. There will be Christians appearing at the judgment seat who will “suffer loss” and “be saved; yet so as by [through] fire” (v. 15). ALL of their works will be burned, but they themselves will “be saved,” i.e., they themselves will be delivered. And this deliverance will occur “through fire.”
This deliverance at the Judgment Seat can have nothing to do with eternal salvation, for all issues surrounding one’s eternal salvation, whether during the present time or at the future judgment seat, are past issues (e.g., Christ’s finished work at Calvary, the Spirit’s finished work of breathing life into the one having no life, allowing him to pass “from death to life”). God judged sin in the person of His Son at Calvary, God is satisfied; and the Spirit can breathe life into the one having no life, on the basis of the finished work of God’s Son.
And this work of the triune Godhead is a past, finished deliverance that could never be referred to in the future sense seen in 1 Corinthians 3:15.
The deliverance seen in 1 Corinthians 3:15 is, contextually, a deliverance out of the fire at the judgment seat. Though all of the person’s works will be burned and he will appear naked in Christ’s presence (Revelation 3:17, 18), he himself will not be burned. Rather, he will be delivered — delivered from being burned with his works.
But, though he himself will be delivered in this respect, “so as through fire,” he will be unable to escape the dire consequences that will result from his works being consumed by the fire and his consequent naked appearance.
And there can be no deliverance from these consequences, for there will have to be a “just reward [KJV: ‘just recompense’]” — exact payment for services rendered in the house during the time of the Lord’s absence. If not, God would not be perfectly just and righteous in His dealings with His household servants.
One-sided views of the Judgment Seat that maintain that every Christian will appear with good works are little different than the teaching that ignores works. Confusion and complacency, once again, can only be the ultimate result.
Much of the preceding, erroneous teaching is fostered by a misunderstanding of 1 Corinthians 4:5. This verse in the King James Version reads,
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. (1 Corinthians 4:5, KJV)
The problem emanates from both a mistranslation in the text and a non-contextual understanding of the words, “then shall every man have praise of God.” The words “every man” could be better translated “each man”; and the reference is back to the faithful stewards in verse two. Faithful stewards will, individually, receive praise from God; but there is nothing in Scripture that teaches that “every man,” who, apart from the context would also include unfaithful stewards, will receive such praise.
To the contrary, Scripture quite clearly reveals that both faithful and unfaithful stewards will appear at the judgment seat and that the judgment seat will be operable in two realms; and, that faithful stewards alone will receive praise of God.
2) If Anyone’s Work . . . Endures
“Rewards” are being reserved for the faithful alone. This is one side of the judgment seat. Christians have been “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:l0). Works of this nature, performed by a Christian exhibiting faithfulness to his calling, will “endure” at the judgment seat. They will be manifested as works comparable to “gold, silver, precious stones” and will endure the fire. Such works will result in the Christian receiving a reward and a position with Christ in the kingdom.
Works that endure the fire will be the type of works necessary to bring faith to its proper goal, resulting in the salvation of the Christian’s soul. Following the testing of such works, the Christian will receive praise from his Lord. He will hear his Lord say,
“Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things . . . .” (Matthew 25:21a, 23a).
And he will subsequently be positioned, in a regal capacity, among those destined to rule as joint-heirs with Christ (Matthew 24:45-47; 25:l9-23: Luke 19:l5-19).
3) If Anyone’s Work is Burned
“Suffering loss” is in store for the unfaithful. This is the other side of the judgment seat. It is possible for a Christian to appear before the judgment seat of Christ without one single good work to his credit. He may have works, but not works done under the direction of the Holy Spirit, for the praise, honor, and glory of the Lord. Such works, comparable to “wood, hay, straw” will be burned. They will not endure the fire. But the Christian himself “will be saved [delivered]; yet so as by [through] fire.”
The presence of works, the absence of works, or the type of works can have no bearing on his eternal salvation, wrought completely apart from his own works. He will come out of this judgment, as Lot from Sodom, with nothing to show but escape from the condemnation befalling the unregenerate.
Works consumed by fire will be the type of works unable to bring faith to its proper goal, resulting in the loss of the Christian's soul. Following the testing of such works, the Christian will be rebuked by his Lord. He will hear his Lord say: “Thou wicked and slothful servant . . . .” (Matthew 25:26a)
Then, that which had been entrusted to him during the time of his Lord’s absence will be taken from him. He will be denied a position with Christ in the kingdom, a position that could have been his had he previously exercised faithfulness in his calling; and he will be appointed “his portion with the hypocrites.” (Matthew 24:48-51; 25:l9, 24-30; Luke 19:l5, 20-26).
He will then find himself cast “without,” into the place that Scripture calls, “the outer darkness” (ASV). In this place there will be “the weeping and the gnashing of teeth [an Eastern expression showing deep grief]” (ASV) on the part of Christians who realize too late that they could have occupied one of the proffered positions with Christ in His kingdom. Their rights as firstborn sons — the rights of primogeniture — will have been forfeited; and they, as Esau, will lift up their voices and weep.
(For a detailed discussion of “the outer darkness,” refer to the Appendix in this book)
Receiving rewards or suffering loss at the judgment seat of Christ are grave issues about which most Christians seem to know very little, or, for that matter, appear to even be concerned. But such will have no bearing upon the fact that there is a day coming in the not-too-distant future when every Christian MUST render an account to his Lord for the “things done in his body” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Events of that day will come to pass at the end of the present dispensation, immediately preceding the Messianic Era; issues of that day will surround a review of the works performed by Christians in view of their receiving rewards or suffering loss; the purpose of that day, aside from providing a “just reward [KJV: ‘just recompense’]”, will be to make decisions and determinations concerning Christians occupying positions with Christ in His 1,000-year rule from the heavens over the earth.
Everything is moving toward that l,000-year Messianic Era when God’s Son will reign supreme. Man’s Day, in conjunction with his rule over the earth, is about to end; and the Lord’s Day, in conjunction with His rule over the earth, is about to commence. A kingdom, such as the coming kingdom of Christ, requires a King with numerous vice-regents. Christians are today being tested, tried, and refined with a view to that coming day.
Events of the entire present dispensation revolve around the thought that God is today calling out the vice-regents who will reign with His Son during the coming dispensation; and the presence of the Church upon the earth will extend, in one sense of the word, to that point in time when God will have acquired the necessary rulers to occupy the proffered positions in the kingdom under Christ. It will extend to that point in time when the Spirit successfully completes His search for a bride for God’s Son.
The removal of the Church and the appearance of Christians before the judgment seat will involve the issues of two dispensations: The basis for this judgment will have to do with works, emanating out of faithfulness or unfaithfulness of the Lord’s servants during a past dispensation (the activity of Christians during the present dispensation, which will be past in that coming day).
The purpose for this judgment will have to do with Christians participating in the reign of God’s Son during the coming dispensation (co-heirs ascending the throne with God’s Son in the kingdom of Christ).
(For information relative to “dispensations” and “ages,” refer to the author’s book, The Study of Scripture, chapter 5.)
Preparation occurs today; placement, based upon preparation, will emanate out of issues and determinations made at the judgment seat, immediately preceding the time when the Father delivers the kingdom to His Son (cf. Daniel 4:17, 25, 32; 7:13, 14; Matthew 20:20-23); and positions in the kingdom will be realized in the reign of Christ that follows (cf. Matthew 25:19ff; Luke 19:15ff; Revelation 2:26, 27).
Nowhere else in the Bible can such warnings be found regarding the impropriety and subsequent consequence of a Christian who turns his back on Jesus Christ to live a life of self-interest, self-indulgence and ingratitude. Due to the severe nature of the warnings, most of Christendom either ignores them or denies that they could possibly have application to the children of God. Consequently, there has been extensive effort by ministers and laymen alike to relegate their application to “bogus (spurious, fake, counterfeit, imitation) Christians.”
Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. (2) For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, (3) how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, (4) God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? (Hebrews 2:1-4)
Commentary on Hebrews 2:1-4
This passage, as it is with all that is contained in the book of Hebrews, is based on a type-antitype comparison of Christians with the children of Israel, God’s chosen people who were delivered from their state of suffering to occupy a land in which they would rule and reign under God; but, who instead rebelled from God in their journey toward that land and were excluded (excepting only two individuals) from entering it due to their unbelief (Hebrews 1:1; 3:16-19; cf. 1 Corinthians 10:1-12).
God used every miraculous means to demonstrate to His chosen people His “great salvation.” And as Christians today read (and hopefully study) the Word of God, they too become aware of God’s boundless grace, mercy, and love by becoming flesh (John 1:1, 14; 3:16-18; Ephesians 2:8, 9) and experiencing the judgment of sin in their place (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10) so that through faith in Christ they might pass from their death “in trespasses and sins” to become the “righteousness of God” and receive eternal life (Ephesians 2:1; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
By their eternal (spirit) salvation, they are positioned in a place where they may through faithfulness in good works for which they have been “created in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:10) progress toward the “salvation of their souls” (Hebrews 10:39; 1 Peter 1:9), the result of their approval at the Judgment Seat of Christ to taking their place within the Bride of Christ to rule and reign with Him during the Messianic Era.
To this end, which reflects the very purpose for which man was created (i.e., to “have dominion” over the earth and its creatures [Genesis 1:26, 28]), the writer of Hebrews urges Christians to “give the more earnest heed to the things [they] have heard, lest [they] drift away” so that they might avoid “every transgression and disobedience,” a life-style that will never allow them to “escape” from their “neglect of so great a salvation.”
(Ch.3) Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, (2) who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. (3) For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. (4) For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. (5) And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, (6) but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. (7) Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you will hear His voice, (8) do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, (9) where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years. (10) Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.’ (11) So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’” (12) Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; (13) but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. (14) For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, (15) while it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” (16) For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? (17) Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? (18) And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? (19) So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
(Ch. 4) Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. (2) For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. (3) For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’” although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. (4) For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; (5) and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.” (6) Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, (7) again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” (8) For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. (9) There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. (10) For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. (11) Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. (12) For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (13) And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 3:7-4:13)
Commentary on Hebrews 3:7-4:13
This second warning in the book of Hebrews is not unlike the first. In fact it simply amplifies the distinct possibility of and result from a Christian’s failure to “hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing firm to the end” (vs. 3:6), to not “harden [his] heart as in the rebellion . . . through the deceitfulness of sin” (vss. 3:7, 13), to not adopt an “evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God” (vs. 3:12), and to “hold the beginning of [his] confidence steadfast to the end” (vs. 3:14).
All aspects of this warning are embodied in a type-antitype representation of the children of Israel as they continued (1) after their deliverance from Egypt by means of the sacrificial and substitutionary death of a “lamb . . . without blemish,” as they passed under the blood (Exodus 12:5, 7, 13; 1 Peter 1:19), were “baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Corinthians 10:1, 2) and (2) onto the goal (a specific, revealed purpose) of their salvation, the promised land, which flowed “with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8, 17; 13:5; 33:3; Numbers 13:1, 2; 27; Deuteronomy 1:25).
Unfortunately for all but two from this generation of these “saved” Israelites, they failed to maintain their faith in God as they passed through the wilderness, where their hearts were hardened and with an evil heart of unbelief departed from the living God resulting in their apostasy (turning their back on God) relative to understanding the truth (after hearing the report concerning the land by the twelve spies [Numbers 13, 14]) of the Promised Land — the result of which was that they were denied entry into the Promised Land, were “destroyed by the destroyer” as their “bodies were scattered in the wilderness”— serving as “examples” and an “admonition (instruction)” to Christians who think they “stand” but must “take heed lest [they] fall” (1 Corinthians 10:1-12).
Although a vast majority within Christendom believe the example of the Israelites typifies a loss of eternal life — a failure to achieve “heaven”— they would be and are completely wrong. What the Israelites actually lost, due to their forfeiture of confidence and rejoicing from their salvation, was their ability to enter into God’s “rest,” an objective represented by an entrance into the Promised Land, which pictured the seventh day of rest that followed God’s restoration of a ruined creation in the first book of Genesis.
God’s “rest” for the Christian should be understood as that which awaits a Christian who qualifies with works of “gold, silver, precious stones” at the Judgment Seat of Christ for which he will be awarded a position of rulership as part of the Bride of Christ during the coming Messianic (1,000 year) Era. This rest has nothing to do whatsoever with one’s eternal (spirit) salvation.
There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (vss. 4:9-13)
Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, (2) of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. (3) And this we will do if God permits. (4) For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, (5) and have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come, (6) 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 6:1-8)
Commentary on Hebrews 6:1-8
(Taken from Redeemed for a Purpose, Appendix 1& 2, by Arlen L. Chitwood)
If God Permits
And this we will do if God permits. (Hebrews 6:3)
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 (5:10-14). They had been saved for a sufficient length of time so 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 pertaining to the coming Melchizedek priesthood of Christ.
2) Be able to teach these things to others 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 pertaining to 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.
This is the one message that Satan does not want taught today, for it deals with his overthrow. He has ruled the earth since time immemorial, but this is about to change. The One whom Melchizedek foreshadowed will shortly appear, at which time the government of the earth will change hands. And Satan does not want this proclaimed. As a consequence, 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. These verses explain the matter from the standpoint of one type, and then the explanation clarifies it from the standpoint of 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! “. . . I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:22b).
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 possesses 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 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 knowledge and understanding of these things will, too often, do.
God knows that numerous Christians, after coming into 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 and reproach upon Christ’s name.
The matter pertaining to 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 wills 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 may not allow such a person to go on to maturity in the things pertaining to the Word of the Kingdom, for a revealed reason (cf. Hebrews 6:4ff).
If They Shall Fall Away
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 6:4-6)
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, by using 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).
Contextually, Hebrews 6:4-6 must be looked upon as dealing with four basic issues surrounding Christians, from the standpoint of possibility (“If they fall away . . . .”):
First, the Christians referred to in this passage must have come into a mature knowledge and understanding of the things surrounding Christ as King-Priest, “after the order of Melchizedek [a position that Christ will realize only during the coming Messianic Era]” (5:6ff).
Second, these same Christians must fall away, apostatize.
Third, after these Christians fall away, they can never be restored to the position from which they fell.
Fourth, such a falling away would negatively reflect on Christ Himself.
These four issues will be dealt with under two subsequent headings. The first and second will be dealt with under the first heading, and the third and fourth will be dealt with under the second heading.
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,” referring to being enlightened in things pertaining to the Word. 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 “strong meat” [“solid food”] 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” [“companions”] in Hebrews 1:9 and “partakers” in Hebrews 3:1, 14. These are translations of the Greek word, metochoi, which could be better rendered, “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,” having “tasting the heavenly gift,” being made “partakers of the Holy Spirit,” having “tasting the good Word of God,” and having “tasted . . . the powers of the 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 to this mature state is drawn from the type that is 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 which is stated in the antitype in Hebrews 6:4-6, found it impossible to be renewed “again to repentance.”
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 fortified (KJV: 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 ten 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 on God; and God, correspondingly, turned His back on 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” that 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).
This 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. That 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 will 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,
. . . crucify again (KJV: “afresh” [‘afresh’ is not in the Greek text, though implied]) for themselves the Son of God, 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 introducing Hebrews 6:4-6:
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]. (v. 3)
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, (27) but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. (28) Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. (29) 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? (30) For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people." (31) It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (32) But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: (33) partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; (34) for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. (35) Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. (36) For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: (37) “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. (38) Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” (39) But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:26-39)
Commentary on Hebrews 10:26-39
(Taken from Redeemed for a Purpose, Appendix 3, by Arlen L. Chitwood)
The Willful Sin
Christ provided Himself as the Sacrifice for sin, His blood is today on the mercy seat in heaven, and He is presently occupying the office of High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary on behalf of sinning Christians.
Christ is presently performing a cleansing from defilement for Christians who sin, and all a Christian needs to do in order to avail himself of this provided cleansing is to confess his sin. When he does this, cleansing will occur (1 John 1:9).
The willful sin of Hebrews 10:26 results in defilement, as any sin. But, a different situation exists with this sin. This verse states that no sacrifice exists for those who sin after the manner dealt with by the verse, which separates it from Christ’s present ministry.
How does this sin differ from any other sin that Christians can commit? Is it possible that this sin could somehow be brought under Christ’s present ministry and confessed, with forgiveness resulting from the person’s confession? If so, How? If not, Why not?
Christ’s Present Ministry
To properly understand the willful sin, for several reasons (one reason being contextual), it should be viewed, first of all, in the light of Christ’s present high priestly ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. Note the context of Hebrews 10:26 (vv. 19-22) and also 1 John 1:6-2:2. The “blood” of Christ is presently on the mercy seat in the “Holiest [Holy of Holies]” of the heavenly sanctuary; and a “new and living way” of access has been provided through the One who shed this blood, our “High Priest over the house of God” (Hebrews 10:19-22).
The blood of Christ, presently on the mercy seat of the heavenly sanctuary, “cleanses [‘keeps on cleansing’]” Christians who have become defiled (through sin) as they “walk [‘keep on walking’] in the light” (1 John 1:7; cf. Hebrews 10:22). It is impossible for the ones walking in the light to occupy a position other than being cleansed from sin; but, viewing the other side of the picture, it is entirely possible for Christians to not walk in the light, in which case there will be no cleansing.
To understand exactly what is meant by walking in the light, one must draw from the typology of the tabernacle. The light was provided by a seven-leafed golden candlestick inside the Holy Place where the priests carried on part of their ministry, and the only way that these priests were permitted to enter the holy place and walk in this light was through a previous cleansing at the brazen laver in the courtyard.
This laver lay between the brazen altar and the Holy Place and had upper and lower basins for washing the hands and feet. The entire bodies of these priests had been washed upon their entrance into the priesthood (Exodus 29:4; 40:12-15) — an act never to be repeated — but in their subsequent ministry, it was necessary to avail themselves of partial washings (washings of parts of the body) at the laver. Their hands and feet became soiled in their ministry, and these parts of the body had to be cleansed prior to entering the Holy Place (Exodus 30:18-21; 40:30-32).
Exactly the same thing holds true for Christians, New Testament priests, in the antitype today. Christians have received a complete washing (received at the point of the birth from above, upon their entrance into the priesthood) — an act never to be repeated. But, as the Old Testament priests, they must now avail themselves of partial washings in their ministry. And this is seen in the type through the actions of Old Testament priests washing at the laver.
This is what Jesus alluded to in John 13:8, 10:
If I do not wash [Greek: nipto, referring to a part of the body (the Septuagint uses this same word in Exodus 30:19, 21)] you, you have no part with me [note: not ‘in me,’ but ‘with me’]”; and “He who is bathed [Greek: louo, referring to the entire body (the Septuagint uses this same word in Exodus 29:4; 40:12)] needs only to wash [Greek: nipto] his feet . . . .
This is also what is alluded to in Hebrews 10:22 and 1 John 1:7.
Old Testament priests whose hands and feet had become soiled through activity in the courtyard could not bypass the laver and proceed on to the Holy Place. Nor can New Testament priests. New Testament priests must first, as the Old Testament priests, avail themselves of cleansing. Defilement in the Christians’ case comes through contact with sin; and cleansing, according to the context of 1 John 1:7, is accomplished through confession of sin:
If we confess our sins, He [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (v. 9)
And this cleansing is accomplished solely on the basis of Christ’s shed blood on the mercy seat in the heavenly sanctuary:
My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate [Greek: Parakletos, one called alongside to help in time of need] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
And He Himself is the propitiation [Greek: hilasmos, (God appeased, through Christ’s work on the basis of His shed blood on the mercy seat)] for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world [contextually, a reference to all of the saved in the world, not the unsaved (a cleansing for Christians alone is in view; the unsaved and eternal salvation are not in view at all in these verses)].
(1 John 2:1, 2)
Thus, the ones walking in the light in 1 John 1:7 are Christians who have availed themselves of the provision in 1 John 1:9. As they continue walking in the light (continue availing themselves of this provision, allowing continued access to the Holy Place), the blood of Christ continues cleansing them from “all sin.”
And a Christian refusing to avail himself of provided cleansing today is seen walking in darkness. He has not come to the laver and, consequently, can only remain in the darkened courtyard outside the light in the Holy Place. He has refused confession of sin; he has refused the cleansing provided by Christ. And for such an individual, in reality, “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” That is, there is no sacrifice for those refusing the sacrifice that God has provided in the person of His Son.
Thus, contextually (Hebrews 10:19-22), one might think that the willful sin in verse twenty-six (for which there is no sacrifice) would be a Christian’s refusal to avail himself of Christ’s present high priestly ministry. In this respect, there would be no sacrifice for his unconfessed sins (for a Christian refusing to confess his sins would be refusing the provided sacrifice).
But . . .
But Christians harboring sins of the flesh and refusing to confess these sins cannot possibly be that which they are warned against in Hebrews 10:26. This verse continues the thought from the immediately preceding verses (vv. 23-25), and this thought has nothing whatsoever with Christians confessing (or not confessing) their sins.
Nor can the willful sin in this verse be thought of in the broad sense of sins committed by Christians in a willful, or a deliberate, or a knowing manner. If the truth were known, it could probably easily be shown that most sins committed by Christians would fall into a singular category — things that Christians knew were sins before they committed them, knew were sins during the time in which they were committing them, and knew were sins after they had committed them.
The only possible way to properly understand the willful sin in Hebrews 10:26, for which there is no sacrifice, is to view this sin, contextually, within the book of Hebrews where it is found. If this is not done, a person will invariably go wrong at this point in Scripture.
Note first that all of the warnings in Hebrews are closely related, drawing heavily from the Old Testament types. The second warning (chapters 3, 4) draws from the account of the Israelites under Moses, and the same thought is continued in the third warning (6:4ff), relating the matter to Christians.
In both the type (chapters 3, 4 [second warning]) and the antitype (chapter 6 [third warning]), the sin referenced in the fourth warning (10:26ff) is present. The Israelites under Moses committed a sin for which there was no sacrifice (second warning), and Christians today can commit exactly the same sin, with the same result following (third warning). Then the fourth warning continues with thoughts pertaining to this sin; and the matter has to do with “so great a salvation” (chapter 2 [first warning]), resulting in “blessings” associated with the “birthright” (chapter 12 [fifth warning]).
That is the broad contextual scope of the matter. The Israelites, in the type, by their actions at Kadesh-Barnea — refusing to go in and take the land to which they had been called — committed a sin for which there was no sacrifice. And, with there being no sacrifice for this sin, God didn’t, He couldn’t, change His mind concerning that which He had decreed pertaining to the matter.
And Christians, in the antitype, can commit exactly the same sin relative to the heavenly land to which they have been called. And, as in the type, no sacrifice exists for such a sin. As in the type, God won’t, He can’t change His mind concerning that which He has decreed pertaining to this sin, if committed by His people today.
This is plain from that which is stated in Hebrews 6:2-4, again drawing from the type in chapters three and four:
For it is impossible . . . if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance . . . . (Hebrews 6:2-4)
(For additional information on the preceding, refer to the author’s book, Let Us Go On, Chapter 5, “If They Shall Fall Away”.)
Then note that the reference to this sin is the continuation of a text having to do with a central purpose for Christians assembling together during the present dispensation — whether on Sunday at a regular meeting place, or at any other time or place during the week (vv. 23-25). The particular purpose given in the text is singular: Christians meeting together in order to exhort and encourage one another concerning the hope set before each one of them (“profession of our faith” [v. 23, KJV] should be translated, “confession of our hope,” as is in the NKJV). And this hope set before every Christian is the hope that they might one day realize the very thing to which they have been called — win a crown in the present race of the faith and, as a result, occupy a regal position with Christ in that coming day of His power.
In short, Christians are exhorted to assemble together for a particular purpose, and then they are warned concerning the danger of failing to assemble together on a regular basis for this purpose. They can either find mutual strength in the race of the faith through assembling together, or they can fail to assemble for this mutual strength and find themselves in danger of falling away and becoming involved in that which Scripture refers to as willful sin.
The willful sin, simply put, has to do with apostasy, after one has come into a mature knowledge of the things surrounding the hope set before Christians — something seen in the type in the second warning and in the antitype in the third warning. And sinning after this fashion will result in a Christian failing to come into possession of so great a salvation (first warning), synonymous with failing to realize the rights of the firstborn (fifth warning).
Numbers 15:30, 31, immediately following the account of the Israelites refusal to enter into the land at Kadesh-Barnea (chapters 13, 14), deals with God’s statement concerning a sin for which there was no sacrifice. And an example of such a sin — a man violating the Sabbath — immediately follows God’s instructions concerning the matter.
God’s statement concerning a sin for which there was no sacrifice in this passage had to do with a person acting in open rebellion, followed by his being cut off from the people of Israel (which was exactly what occurred at and following the events at Kadesh-Barnea). And the contextual example not only had to do with the experiences of the Israelites, beginning at Kadesh-Barnea (chapters 13, 14), but it also had to do with a man violating the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-36).
As with the Israelites at Kadesh-Barnea, so with the man violating the Sabbath. There was no sacrifice for the sin committed by either. Rather, in both instances, the Lord commanded that a sentence of death was to be carried out. And, resultantly, an entire accountable generation died on the one hand, and a man was taken outside the camp and stoned on the other.
The land set before Christians is associated with a rest, a Sabbath rest, drawing from Genesis 2:1-3 (Hebrews 4:4-9). And a Christian turning his back on this land (after coming into a mature knowledge of the things surrounding the land) would be doing exactly the same thing that the Israelites under Moses did at Kadesh-Barnea (after hearing the report concerning the land by the twelve spies). Then, in another respect, such a Christian would be doing violence to that which God had to say about the Sabbath rest set before the people of God, in a similar respect to the man violating the Sabbath in Numbers 15:32-36.
The Sabbath was a sign pointing to a day of rest following God’s present six days of work (Exodus 31:13-17). As God rested on the seventh day after working six days to restore a past ruined creation (the material creation) — establishing an unchangeable, foundational pattern — He is going to rest on a seventh day (a 1,000-year day) after working six days (six 6,000-year days) to restore two present ruined creations (both man and the material creation once again).
Thus, drawing from both Numbers 13-15 and Hebrews 3, 4, 6, it can easily be shown how Christians, in Hebrews 10:26ff, can sin willfully today. They can do so by only one means: coming into a mature knowledge of the truth surrounding their calling, and then apostatizing (turning away from this truth).
Any Christian committing such an act, according to Hebrews 10:29 will have done three things:
1) “trampled the Son of God underfoot”
2) “counted the blood [of Christ] of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing.”
3) “insulted the Spirit of grace.”
God places the willful sin in a category of this nature simply because of the high place in which He holds that which He has stated concerning the coming reign of His Son. And, according to Scripture, any Christian coming into a mature knowledge of that which God has stated in this realm, and then turning away — apostatizing — has only one thing awaiting him:
. . . a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. (v. 27)
Then note how verses thirty and thirty-one parallel 2 Corinthians 5:10, 11:
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. (Hebrews 10:30, 31)
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men . . . . (2 Corinthians 5:10, 11a)
Events at the judgment seat will be one of the most terrible times many Christians will ever experience; for Christians who have refused to follow the Spirit’s leadership during the present day and time will, at the judgment seat, “fall into the hands of the living God.”
Such Christians will find it to be a “fearful,” “terrible” experience, for there the “terror of the Lord” will be manifested, and a completely just reward will be meted out.
See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, (26) whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” (27) Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. (28) Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. (29) For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:25-29)
(Taken from Redeemed for a Purpose, Appendix 4, by Arlen L. Chitwood)
From Encouragement to Apostasy
Christians are warned over and over in the book of Hebrews concerning the goal of their calling. This is the central subject of the book, it is the central issue within the Christian life, and it should be the issue that occupies the central place in every activity of every Christian
at all times. This overall matter is set forth in the Word of God to be that important in God’s sight.
Beginning of Our Confidence
In Hebrews 3:13a, Christians are told,
But exhort one another daily [lit., each day, every day], while it is called Today [the present time] . . . .
And this is to be done in order to avoid, at all costs, following a similar course of action to that which the nation of Israel followed at Kadesh-Barnea (cf. Hebrews 3:8, 13b). For, according to Scripture, Christians will occupy positions with Christ on the throne, as His “companions,”
IF. . . . Christians will hold positions of this nature with Christ in that coming day only IF, during the present day, they hold the beginning of their confidence “steadfast to the end” (Hebrews 3:14).
(The word “companions” rather than “partakers” [KJV, NKJV] would be the preferred translation of the word used in the Greek text in Hebrews 3:14, the word metochoi. This is the same word that the writer of Hebrews also used in 1:9 [translated “fellows” in the KJV] and in 3:1 [translated “partakers,” as in 3:14]; and the preferred translation in these two instances as well would be “companions.”)
Holding “the beginning of one’s confidence steadfast to the end,” with a view to being “companions” with Christ in that coming day, must be understood within the framework of the type.
Caleb and Joshua held the beginning of their confidence steadfast to the end; the remainder of the nation, however, didn’t.
Relative to entering the land, overthrowing the enemy, and occupying the position for which they had been called, Caleb and Joshua said,
Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it. (Numbers. 13:30)
But the remainder of the nation manifested an entirely different attitude and took an entirely different approach toward the matter. They feared the inhabitants of the land, they wept through the night, they murmured against Moses and Aaron, and they sought to appoint a new leader and return to Egypt (Numbers 13:32-14:4).
This is where the difference lay, and, contextually, Hebrews 3:14 must be understood within this framework.
Confession of Our Hope
In Hebrews 10:23-25, the same command is restated after a slightly different fashion in connection with Christians assembling together. In verse twenty-three, Christians are exhorted, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.” Then, in the following two verses, Christians are told to “consider one another in order to stir up love and good works . . . exhorting one another”; and Christians are to conduct their affairs among one another in this manner “so much the more” as they “see the Day approaching [that coming day when one’s present hope will be realized].”
Contextually, in Hebrews chapter ten, a central purpose for Christians assembling together (actually, the central purpose in the text) — “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together . . . .” (v. 25) — is with a view to exhorting one another relative to the hope of our calling (cf. vv. 23, 25).
And to do this, Christians would have to be knowledgeable, after some fashion, concerning this hope. They would have to talk about and discuss this hope with one another, for there could be no exhortation apart from some type knowledge of the facts surrounding the Christians’ calling.
In other words, in the light of Hebrews 3:13; 10:23-25, Christians are to assemble together with a view to talking about and discussing among themselves the things surrounding their calling. They are to talk about that land out ahead (that heavenly land), the enemy therein (Satan and
his angels), the necessity of present victory over the enemy (through the spiritual warfare), and the hope set before them (that of one day occupying that heavenly land with the “King of kings and the Lord of lords,” as Christ and Christians ascend the throne together [replacing Satan
and his angels] and exercise the rights of the firstborn).
And, with these things in view, Christians are to spend time exhorting one another (“daily” in the text [3:13]) relative to the importance of keeping their eyes fixed on the goal out ahead; and they are to carry on an interchange with one another after this fashion so much the more as they “see the Day approaching.”
And that’s exactly where we are today — at a time when Christians should be exhorting one another “so much the more,” for we are living very near the end of the present dispensation, very near the end of man’s allotted six days (6,000 years), immediately prior to the fast-approaching seventh day (the Lord’s Day, the Messianic Era, to last 1,000 years).
But . . .
But are Christians assembling together today with this purpose in view?
Christians, by large, know little to nothing about this whole matter. This is not something that they talk about, discuss; nor, much less, is it something which is uppermost in their thoughts, governing their actions, allowing them to exhort one another daily.
Consequently, Christians are assembling together today for purposes that completely ignore that which is stated in Hebrews 10:23-25. This is how complete the leaven has done its damaging work.
Are conditions going to improve? Are Christians going to one day wake up?
Not during the present dispensation!
The present dispensation, according to Scripture, will end in total apostasy relative to Christians understanding and manifesting an interest in the Word of the Kingdom; and that’s exactly the direction in which the Church has been moving for centuries.
And, not only has the Church been moving in this direction for centuries, but the Church continues to move in this direction today — a direction which, for all practical purposes, has carried the Church completely away from “the faith” which was held almost universally
among Christians during the first century.
Christ’s statement, “till it was all leavened” (Matthew 13:33), and His companion statement that at the time of His return He would not find “the faith on the earth” (Luke 18:8), must be taken at face value. Christ, in His omniscience, knowing the future as well as the past and present, stated the matter exactly as it would exist at the end of the dispensation.
After two millennia, at the end of the dispensation, the leavening process, according to Christ’s statement (cf. Matthew 13:3-33), would be so complete that, correspondingly, the message surrounding “the faith” would no longer be heard in the churches — in so-called fundamental and liberal churches alike. And the Church as a whole, with respect to this message, would be as the Laodicean Church in Reverlation 3:14-21, “. . . wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.”