Reproduction of Chapters 5 & 6
Let Us Go On by Arlen L. Chitwood
If They Shall Fall Away
And this will we do, if God permit. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame (Hebrews 6:3-6).
The line of teaching thus far in the third of the five major warnings in Hebrews— in perfect keeping with the things set forth in the first two warnings — is with constant reference to that coming day when Christ will reign over the earth as King of kings and Lord of lords. The day is coming, during the Great Tribulation, when an angel will sound the last of seven trumpets; and at that time, “great voices in heaven” are going to be heard, announcing, “The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ: and he shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15, ASV).
The whole of God’s revelation to man, beginning with the opening two chapters of Genesis, progressively moves toward the same goal — that coming day announced in Revelation 11:15. And revelation throughout the Book of Hebrews, in perfect keeping with revelation as a whole, views that future day as central in all matters surrounding the past or present.
THE WARNING PASSAGES
The first of the five major warnings in the Book of Hebrews deals with “so great salvation” (2:3), which is the greatest thing God has ever designed for redeemed man. This salvation has to do with Christians being elevated from this earth and placed in the heavens on the throne as co-heirs with the King of kings and Lord of lords; and the time when this will occur is revealed to be in that coming day when Christ fulfills the things which are stated in the seven Messianic passages making up most of chapter one, leading into the first warning.
Also in connection with the first warning there is a revealed angelic ministry. Angels, who at one time ruled in the kingdom of this world (under Satan, in his unfallen state), are presented as presently ministering on behalf of Christians (1:13, 14; 2:5); and this ministry is with a view to Christians wearing the crowns presently worn by these angels when they one day rule in the kingdom under Christ (see the author’s book, So Great Salvation, Ch. 2).
The second of the five major warnings (chaps. 3, 4) begins by addressing those to whom the warning applies: “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling…” (3:1). The parallel is then drawn between Israel’s earthly calling and the Christians’ heavenly calling, with the writer drawing extensively from the type (surrounding Israel’s calling) for all his spiritual lessons (concerning the Christians’ calling).
The land of Canaan during Moses and Joshua’s day was occupied by the Nephilim, who had infiltrated and corrupted the Gentile nations in the land (Numbers 13:32, 33 [the word, Nephilim, literally meaning, “fallen ones,” is a name used in Scripture for the offspring resulting from a co-habitation of “the sons of God” with “the daughters of men”; cf. Genesis 6:4]); and the Gentile nations, infiltrated and corrupted by the Nephilim, were there at the pre-planned direction of Satan and his angels (who ruled from the heavens through the Gentile nations on earth [Daniel 10:13, 20; cf. Luke 4:6; Revelation 13:2]) to contest Israel’s right to enter into and take possession of this land.
That heavenly land to which Christians have been called, on the other hand, is presently occupied personally by Satan and his angels (the one-third who went along with Satan in his attempted coup, separate from the two-thirds who refused [who presently minister on
behalf of Christians]). And at the heart of all teachings surrounding the second warning is a type-antitype parallel between the Israelites under Moses (and later Joshua) and Christians under Christ.
The Israelites, in the type, were called to leave an earthly land (Egypt) and dwell in another earthly land (Canaan) as “a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.” They were to dwell in that land, as God’s “firstborn son,” within a theocracy (cf. Exodus 4:22, 23; 40:34-38; Joel 2:27ff). And in this fashion, with God dwelling in Israel’s midst, the Gentile nations were to be ruled by and blessed through the seed of Abraham, in perfect keeping with Genesis 12:2, 3; 14:18, 19; 22:17, 18.
Christians, on the other hand, in the antitype, have been called to leave this earth and dwell in the heavens, as “kings and priests” and a “holy nation.” And they are to dwell in that heavenly land within a theocracy, seated on the throne with Christ (cf. I Peter 2:9, 10; Revelation 2:26, 27; 5:10). And in this fashion, with Christians occupying positions of rulership with Christ, the Gentile nations are to be ruled by and blessed through the seed of Abraham from a heavenly sphere as well (Galatians 3:29), also in perfect keeping with Genesis 12:2, 3; 14:18, 19; 22:17, 18.
And Satan and his angels are present in that land today — as the Gentile nations infiltrated and corrupted by the Nephilim were present in the land of Canaan during Moses and Joshua’s day — contesting the Christians’ right to one day enter and take possession of the land. This is what the “manifold wisdom of God” being made known “by [‘through’] the Church” to “the principalities and powers in heavenly places” is all about in Ephesians 3:9-11, and this is what the warfare in Ephesians 6:10ff is also all about.
The announcement has gone forth, “through the Church,” to Satan and his angels in the heavens, that they are about to be replaced. Both “Christ,” the Head, and the “Church,” the body, are on hand, waiting for that day. And Satan, through knowledge of this fact, can only know that his time is short and his days are numbered.
Christ has shown Himself fully qualified to take the kingdom (Matthew 4:1-11), He has paid redemption’s price to redeem fallen man so man can be brought back into the position for which he was created in the beginning (cf. Genesis 1:26, 28; 3:15; John 19:30), and the Holy Spirit is in the world today calling out the bride who will ascend the throne with the Son in that coming day.
And Satan and his angels don’t any more like the thought of Christ and Christians one day occupying the heavenly places which they presently occupy than the Gentile nations in the land of Canaan almost 1,500 years ago (under Satan’s direction and control) liked the thought of the Israelites coming in and occupying that land in their stead. Thus, the warfare of Ephesians 6:11 rages.
And, because of this warfare, Christians are called upon to make the necessary preparations. They are called upon to properly array themselves for the ongoing “battle,” a battle which is very real. And there is a “prize” in view, which is also very real — that of one day being accorded the privilege of occupying a position as co-heir with Christ
in His kingdom (cf. Philippians 3:10-14); and this prize can be either won (through overcoming in the battle) or lost (through being overcome in the battle).
Then the third major warning in Hebrews (chaps. 5, 6) centers around Genesis 14:18, 19 for its spiritual lessons — the only historic account of Melchizedek in the entire Old Testament (Psalm 110:4, the only other reference to Melchizedek in the O.T., draws from Genesis 14:18, 19). And though the account is very brief, it is fraught beyond compare with spiritual significance. The whole of that which is taught in the spiritual lessons in Hebrews, chapters five through seven draws primarily from the whole of that which is taught surrounding Melchizedek in this one Old Testament passage.
Melchizedek was a king-priest in Jerusalem (cf. Genesis 14:18; Psalm 76:2), and though Christ is presently “a priest after the order of Melchizedek,” as He is presently “King [He was born ‘King of the Jews’],” He has yet to occupy either office (cf. Matthew 2:2; Hebrews 5:10; 6:20; 7:11). He is presently ministering in the heavenly sanctuary, on the basis of shed blood, after the order of Aaron. It will only be when He leaves His present position in the sanctuary and comes forth as “King” that He will exercise the office of King-Priest, “after the order of Melchizedek” (ref. Chapter 1).
The writer of Hebrews dealt with this subject (5:1-10), then he dealt with spiritual babes “in Christ” who were not mature enough to understand these things (5:11-14), and then he exhorted these immature Christians to leave the foundational truths and go on unto maturity (6:1, 2).
And there is no getting around one central truth in this section of Scripture: Maturity in the faith, as it is set forth in Hebrews 5:1-6:2, has to do with coming into a knowledge and understanding of those things which the Word of God reveals concerning that future day when Christ reigns over the earth as the great King-Priest, “after the order of Melchizedek.” That which is stated in Hebrews 6:3 (“And this will we do, if God permit”) and the heart of the warning itself in Hebrews 6:4-6 (“For it is impossible…”) MUST be understood within the framework of that which has proceeded. These verses must, contextually, be understood as having to do with Christians coming into a knowledge and
understanding of the things surrounding Christ’s coming reign over the earth.
Reading into Hebrews 6:4-6 the thought of salvation by grace through faith (as so many do) is not only completely out of line with the context but it is also completely out of line with any Scriptural teaching concerning salvation by grace through faith, beginning with the opening two chapters of Genesis. The context has to do with Christian maturity (which centers on coming into an understanding of specific future things, for a revealed purpose); and salvation by grace through faith centers around the Christians’ present possession (based on two finished works of the Triune Godhead — 1) the finished work of the Son at Calvary, and 2) the finished work performed in the life of the believer [performed on the basis of and made possible through the Son’s prior finished work]).
Hebrews 6:4-6 has to do strictly with God’s present and future work in the lives of Christians, not with His past work, effecting their present position, “in Christ.” This section of Scripture is written to and has to do solely with those who are already saved, and it has to do specifically with bringing these saved individuals into a mature knowledge and understanding of the things surrounding Christ’s coming reign over the earth, as King-Priest, “after the order of Melchizedek.”
AND THIS WILL WE DO, IF…
Hebrews 6:3 should be taken at face value. That is, “We will go on unto maturity [vv. 1, 2], if God permits us to go on.” And one is then left with the thought that God may not permit some Christians to go on unto maturity.
Leading into Hebrews 6:3, the writer had previously reprimanded a group of Christians for their lack of spiritual maturity. They had been saved for a sufficient length of time that all of them should have been well enough grounded in the Word that they could do two things: 1) be able to understand teachings surrounding the coming Melchizedek priesthood of Christ, and 2) be able to teach others these things as well (5:10-14).
Then, following the reprimand, the writer exhorted these same Christians to leave “the first principles [the rudimentary things of the Christian faith]” and “go on unto perfection [maturity in ‘the faith’]” (5:12; 6:1, 2).
Then after this comes the statement that going on unto 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. Matthews 13:19; I Timothy 6:12; Jude 3) — maturity in things surrounding Christ’s coming reign over the earth “after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:10ff).
Thus, the writer is dealing with a specific realm of Biblical teaching which is little understood in Christendom today. And this would provide a basic explanation (in conjunction with the working of the leaven in Matthew 13:33) for the existing situation. Not only is there a present lack of knowledge (much less an understanding) concerning this whole overall message in Christendom but something even beyond this exists. Along with the lack of knowledge (and understanding), an overt aversion — more often than not — is exhibited toward any teaching on the subject.
(Note, by way of passing, that an aversion of this nature invariably emanates from two spheres: 1) ignorance rather than knowledge, and 2) immaturity rather than maturity.)
And, projecting the matter out to the end of the dispensation, this is the message Christ will not find being taught to Christians in the Churches at the time of His return. Though this is the central message which 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 into an understanding of these truths is given in the verses which immediately follow (vv. 4-6), which comprise the heart of the warning itself. 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 explanation. These verses explain the matter from the standpoint of one type, and then the explanation explains 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 the most high God, 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 lift up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, ‘I have made Abraham rich’: Save only that which the young men have eaten…” (Genesis 14:22-24).
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 unto Jesus… [lit., ‘Looking from (the surrounding things of the world) unto Jesus…’]”).
Abraham, through 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 lifted up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth…”
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 unto 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 lays the secret to questions surrounding Hebrews 6:3. We are dealing with the very choicest of God’s choice things which 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 upon Christ’s name (this will be further dealt with later in the chapter within the framework of that which is stated in v. 6).
The matter surrounding God allowing or not allowing a Christian to go on unto 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 any man will do [‘is willing to do’] His will, he shall know of 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 knowledge and understanding of the various things surrounding His Son’s coming reign over the earth.
But, if on the other hand, interest in and seriousness about the matter are not present, there is no Biblical reason why God should allow such a person to go on into a knowledge and understanding of these things. In fact, within a Biblical perspective, the opposite would exist instead. From a Biblical perspective, God would not allow such a person to go on, for a revealed reason.
And with this in mind, we’re ready to go on into the heart of the warning and see the explanation to verse three from the perspective of another type.
FOR IT IS IMPOSSIBLE…
Hebrews 6:4-6 is looked upon by numerous Christians as probably the most difficult, and sometimes 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 also invariably find themselves being forced into erroneous views concerning salvation.
Then, beyond the preceding, the correct subject matter is not even being dealt with. Rather, through this erroneous interpretative approach, the correct subject matter is, instead, being 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” (ASV).
Contextually, Hebrews 6:4-6 must be looked upon as dealing with four basic issues surrounding Christians, from the standpoint of possibility: a) Christians coming into a mature knowledge and understanding of the things surrounding Christ as King-Priest, “after the order of Melchizedek,” b) the same Christians falling away (apostatizing), c) that which would befall such Christians, and d) how such an act on the part of Christians would negatively reflect upon Christ Himself. These four issues will be dealt with under two subsequent headings. Issues under “a” and “b” will be dealt with under the first; then issues under “c” and “d” will be dealt with under the second.
1. ONCE ENLIGHTENED…BUT FELL AWAY
Certain descriptive words appearing in verses four and five make it virtually impossible to look upon these verses as describing unsaved people.
There is the word, “enlightened” (v. 4), which is used in Hebrews 10:32, translated “illuminated.” And according to 1 Corinthians 2:14, “the natural man” cannot be enlightened or illuminated in spiritual matters. Then, beyond that, the passage is dealing with things other than the “milk” of the Word; it is dealing with “strong meat” (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 also.
And the last descriptive word is “partakers” (v. 4). This is the same word translated “fellows” in Hebrews 1:9 and “partakers” in Hebrews 3:1, 14. This is the word metochoi, which could be better translated, “companions.” It is used in chapters one and three describing Christ’s co-heirs, His companions, in the coming day of His power.
Being “enlightened,” tasting “of the heavenly gift,” being made “partakers of the Holy Spirit,” tasting “the good word of God,” and tasting “the powers of the world [‘age’] to come” form a description of Christians progressively coming into a mature knowledge and understanding of the things surrounding Melchizedek from chapter five. It, thus, has to do with Christians coming into a mature knowledge and understanding of Christ’s coming reign over the earth, with His companions.
Then, spiritual lessons surrounding the possibility of Christians falling away after coming into this mature state is drawn from the type dealt with prior to the introduction of Melchizedek in chapter five — the account of the Israelites under Moses (chaps. 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 which 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 matter. They understood their calling and that which lay out ahead. And it is at this point that they fell away and, within the framework of that stated in the antitype in Hebrews 6:4-6, found it impossible to be renewed “again unto repentance.”
2. IMPOSSIBLE TO RENEW AGAIN…BECAUSE…
The report which 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, which included the Nephilim, were strong and lived in walled cities (Numbers 13:26-29, 32, 33).
Caleb and Joshua, exhorting the people, said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.” But the remaining spies said, “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we” (Numbers 13:30, 31).
The people of Israel heard the report and both exhortations, but they believed the evil report of the ten spies rather than the true report of Caleb and Joshua. And their resulting actions said it all. They wept, began to murmur against Moses and Aaron, and then looked back to Egypt, wishing that they had never left. Then, to climax matters, they
sought to appoint another leader and return to Egypt (Numbers 14:1-4).
They, in the words of the antitype, fell away. They had turned their backs upon God, and God, correspondingly, turned His back upon them. Because of that which had transpired, the most severe judgment possible was pronounced upon the entire accountable generation. Every single individual comprising that generation, twenty years old and above, save Caleb and Joshua, was to be overthrown in the wilderness.
And once this apostasy had occurred (with its corresponding pronounced judgment), there could be no renewal “again unto 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 unto the place” which the Lord had promised. But the Lord didn’t repent (He didn’t change His mind). He was no longer with them relative to their entering the land and victoriously combating the enemy; and, consequently, the Israelites, trying to enter 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 King-Priest, “after the order of Melchizedek,” and that Christian apostatizes, the same thing will occur as that which occurred with the Israelites under Moses (it would have to, for the antitype must follow the type in exact detail).
The Christian would be cut off insofar as those things surrounding his calling were concerned. He would not be allowed to subsequently enter that heavenly land to which he had been called and victoriously combat the enemy therein. He could never be brought back to the position which he had previously occupied. Which is to say, he could not be renewed “again unto repentance.”
Though the Christian may later change his mind about the matter (as the Israelites did), God would not change His mind (as in the type). The Christian, like the Israelites, would be overthrown on the right side of the blood but on the wrong side of the goal of his calling.
And the reason for such severe judgment on God’s part results from the fact that, through this act, such a Christian could only bring shame and reproach upon the name of Christ. Note the entire expression, “crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh [‘afresh’ is not in the Greek text, though implied], and put him to an open shame” (v. 6). The thought has to do with the shame and reproach surrounding Calvary, not with subjecting the Son to a second crucifixion, for such an act is impossible (Hebrews 7:27).
But subjecting the Son to this same type 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: a) He would first have to come into a mature knowledge and understanding of the things surrounding Christ’s coming reign over the earth, and b) 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 humiliation and shame which He experienced at Calvary. The expression, “crucify to 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 through 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 which God will not allow. Thus, the verse, “And this will we do [we will go on to maturity in the things surrounding Christ’s coming reign over the earth], if God permit [if God permits us to go on].”
Two Kinds of Growth
For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessings from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned (Hebrews 6:7, 8).
The subject matter, contextually, must center around that which has preceded. The writer uses an illustration drawn from nature which corresponds to that which he has been discussing. It is an illustration concerning two kinds of growth, resulting in two types of fruit.
This illustration would refer back to the immediate context, which deals with maturity in the faith. It deals with Christian growth or nongrowth and a corresponding fruit-bearing in relation to each. The two types of fruit presented though are quite different, with one type being looked upon as barrenness in other passages of Scripture (cf. Mark 11:13; James 2:20 [ref. ASV; some mss. have the word arge, “barren,” rather than nekros, “dead,” in this verse. Regardless though, “dead” or “barren,” in the sense spoken of here, would be the same]).
The unsaved are not in view in Hebrews 6:7, 8; nor is one’s eternal destiny in view. The passage deals strictly with those who are already saved, those in a position to bring forth fruit.
Drawing from the type in the context, the passage deals with things beyond Exodus, chapter twelve — with man at a point beyond the death of the firstborn. It deals with man in a position to bring forth fruit relative to the hope of his calling.
Preceding events surrounding the death of the firstborn, there is no such thing as man being placed in a position of this nature. Prior to the point of salvation, a person is connected only with the earth. He is connected with Adam, who was made from “the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7). And at the time of the fall, the dust of the ground came under a curse: “…cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee…” (Genesis 3:17b, 18a).
Fallen man is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). And insofar as works or fruit-bearing are concerned, he can only do two things: 1) He can only produce works or bring forth fruit in association with the earth, with which he finds himself connected (which is under a curse), and 2) he can only be active after this fashion within the sphere of the one life he possesses (“natural,” i.e., “soulical” [cf. 1 Corinthians 2:14ff]).
He could never, in an eternity of time, rise above his connection with the earth; nor, in the same eternity of time, could he remove himself from the “natural.” Thus, he, in and of himself, could never bring forth anything acceptable to God. All which he, in his fallen state, might consider as “righteous” would only be looked upon by God after one fashion — “as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).
Man has a spiritual problem, which had its origin in the fall. Man, at that time, found himself separated from God; and, apart from Divine intervention, resulting in redemption, that’s where he would not only continue to remain today but for all eternity as well.
Unredeemed man’s association with the “natural” leaves him alienated from God; and his association with the “earth” leaves him destined for destruction.
This is the reason man MUST be born from above, which is a spiritual birth. There is no alternative. If he would escape the state in which he presently finds himself, he must escape it through God’s provided means.
Unredeemed man has no capacity whatsoever to act either relative to or within the “spiritual realm.” Insofar as spiritual matters are concerned, unredeemed man has no more ability to act than any person in any graveyard has the ability to act physically. Both are dead — one spiritually, the other physically. And, apart from Divine intervention, neither could ever make even the most minute move conceivable — one in the spiritual realm, the other in the physical realm.
Unredeemed man, to escape his present state, thus must be made alive spiritually (John 3:6). He must be brought from his dead, alienated state to a living, nonalienated state. That is, he must be removed from his present state and be placed in an entirely different state. He must pass “from death unto life” (John 5:24).
That’s why Jesus told Nicodemus, “Ye must be born again [lit., ‘born from above’]” (John 3:7). This is the great imperative. A man can make no move toward the Red Sea and the things lying beyond (Exodus 13ff) until he has first settled the matter surrounding the death of the firstborn (Exodus 12).
Until he has settled this matter he can never be associated with anything other than Egypt and the things of that land. But once he has settled this matter, a new land comes into view. Once he has settled this matter, he finds himself associated with a land removed from Egypt.
But, there is still a problem.
And that still-existing problem is what Hebrews 6:7, 8 is about. Though redeemed man finds himself associated with a land removed from Egypt, the land of Egypt is not done away with. The land of Egypt remains in existence.
And, correspondingly, though redeemed man possesses a new nature, the old nature is still present. It is as in the original type in Genesis 1:3-5 when God “commanded the light to shine out of darkness” (2 Corinthians 4:6). The darkness remained, though light now shined forth out of that darkness (ref. the author’s book, From Egypt to Canaan, Ch. 7).
Redeemed man thus finds himself in a position where he can go in either of two directions. He can either fix his attention on the land out ahead, or he can turn and fix his attention on the land from which he was called.
Insofar as his eternal destiny is concerned, it could never make one iota of difference which direction he takes. But, insofar as the hope of his calling — the purpose for his salvation — is concerned, it would make every difference.
Hebrews 6:7, 8 presents man with a dual capacity in this realm. That is, he possesses the capacity to go in either direction. Thus, not only contextually, but textually as well, it is evident that the passage is dealing only with those who have passed “from death unto life.” Those remaining “dead in trespasses and sins” do not possess this dual capacity and cannot be in view at all.
(Man must be made alive “spiritually” [John 3:6] because “God is spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” [John 4:24; NASB, NIV]. Consequently, in order for man to find himself in a nonalienated state once again, he must, through Divine intervention (for he himself is powerless to act), be restored “spiritually”; and this can be accomplished only through the spiritual birth from above.
John 4:24 has nothing to do with God in a physical sense, as the verse is often understood [stating, on the basis of this verse, that God does not have a physical existence]. The word “spirit” is anarthrous in the Greek text, referring to God’s character rather than to His identity. The expression is used in the same sense as another expression by John,
“God is love” [1 John 4:16]. And the latter has no more to do with the physical than the former, or vice versa. Both refer to God’s character.
This is the reason that the natural man finds himself alienated from God. He, within the framework of his character, acts in the “natural”; and that is the only sphere in which it is possible for him to act. But God, within the framework of His character, acts in the “spiritual,” never the “natural.” And one is totally incompatible with the other. Ishmael cannot act within the sphere occupied by Isaac. It is impossible.
Thus, the “natural man” cannot worship God “in spirit and in truth”; nor can he exercise “faith,” apart from which it is impossible to please God [Hebrews 11:6]. Only the person having experienced the spiritual birth from above is in a position to do either.
But, such a person may or may not conduct his affairs in the realm of the spiritual, though Scripture, time after time, exhorts him to so do. Those things which characterize his life may or may not be in line with those things which characterize God, though they should be. He still possesses the old nature [the natural (soulical) man, connected with the earth], though he [unlike unredeemed man] also possesses the new nature [the spiritual man, connected with God, another land, etc.]. And a Christian is fully capable of following either nature, going in either direction.
And for this reason Scripture is filled with spiritual lessons, exhortations, and warnings concerning the overall matter surrounding the Christians’ calling. And herein, as well, lies the reason for the necessity of proper spiritual growth unto maturity, for redeemed man lives within the sphere of which ever nature is cultivated, nurtured, and fed.)
BLESSINGS FROM GOD
Several lines of teaching can be drawn from Hebrews 6:7, 8. One would have to do with redeemed man in relation to two lands — one earthly, the other heavenly. Another line of teaching would contrast the two lands themselves — one land having to do with our natural birth and the other with our spiritual birth. However, the latter (referring to the two lands) would still have to be understood in conjunction with the former (referring to redeemed man), for one cannot be separated from the other.
1. THE LAND OF CANAAN
That heavenly land to which Christians under Christ have been called (in a place removed from the earth) is typified by the earthly land to which the Israelites under Moses were called (Canaan). And the land from which the Israelites were called (Egypt) would typify the land from which Christians have been called (the earth).
Just as the Israelites were to separate themselves from Egypt and fix their attention on the land set before them, Christians are to separate themselves from this world and fix their attention on the land set before them. Both callings thus concern two lands — one from
which the person has been called, and the other to which the person has been called; and God draws spiritual lessons from the former calling (the Israelites under Moses) to teach His people great spiritual truths concerning the latter calling (Christians under Christ).
The land of Canaan was the place wherein the Israelites under Moses could realize both a “rest” and an “inheritance” (Deuteronomy 12:9). God said of the land of Canaan, “But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven: A land which the Lord thy God careth for: the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year” (Deuteronomy 11:11, 12).
“Rain,” in this respect, is associated with God’s blessings. In Deuteronomy 32:2, the Lord states, “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass.”
Then during the coming Messianic Era the presence or absence of “rain” is associated with the presence or absence of blessings. On the one hand, the prophesied “latter rain” is associated with blessings for Israel, which will result in blessings for the nations (Joel 2:23); and, on the other hand, the absence of “rain” is associated with a withholding of blessings from the nations (Zechariah 14:17-19).
(Though the land of Canaan is part of the earth, which is under a curse, it is used in an eschatological sense within the framework of the type [referring to that day when the earth will be removed from the present curse]. In this respect, it is used of both the rest set before us [to be realized in that coming seventh day, earth’s coming Sabbath] and a land contrasted with Egypt. In the latter respect, the land of Canaan would be associated with “the spiritual” and the land of Egypt with “the natural.”)
Thus, the land of Canaan corresponds to the land of Hebrews 6:7, which “drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it,” which “receiveth blessings from God.” And the land of Canaan (to which the Israelites under Moses were called) is set forth as a type of that heavenly land (to which Christians under Christ have been called).
Contextually, this verse would have to do with those who have been allowed to go on unto maturity within the framework of Hebrews 6:1- 6, remaining faithful to their calling. The blessings in view would have to do with being enlightened concerning the things out ahead — tasting “of the heavenly gift…the good word of God, and the powers of the world [‘age’] to come” — and with being made “partakers [‘companions’] of the Holy Spirit” in these matters, as He leads individuals “into all truth” (vv. 4, 5).
And further, contextually, the verse would have to do with that coming day when Christ will be the great King-Priest, “after the order of Melchizedek” (5:5-14). That will be the day when the blessings of God will find their ultimate fulfillment insofar as man on the present earth is concerned. In that day the blessings of God will flow out through the Seed of Abraham to the Gentile nations from both heavenly and earthly spheres. And the Seed of Abraham, in that day, will dwell in these lands (heavenly and earthly), corresponding to the land of Hebrews 6:7.
2. CALEB AND JOSHUA
Caleb and Joshua — two of the Israelites under Moses at Kadesh- Barnea, and two of the twelve spies sent in to obtain a report concerning the land of Canaan — had a proper respect for God’s calling and the land set before them. All twelve of the spies first presented a uniform report to Israel concerning the land (a land flowing with “milk and honey [they had brought back some of the actual fruits of the land for the people to see],” but strong Gentile nations, infiltrated by the Nephilim, dwelled in the land). Then Caleb and Joshua, apart from the other ten, “stilled the people before Moses” and exhorted them after a positive fashion: “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 13:26-30; cf. v. 33).
Though the enemy was stronger and more numerous than the Israelites, Caleb and Joshua believed that which God had to say concerning their calling and the land set before them. They had seen God’s previous dealings with the Egyptians the night of the Passover
(Exodus 12:29ff), they had seen God’s miraculous parting of the waters of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21, 22), they had seen God’s destruction of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea (Exodus 14:23-28), they had seen God’s provision of food and water in the wilderness (Exodus 16:4-18; 17:1-7), and they had seen God’s continued provision of victory over anyone who stood in the way of their march toward Sinai and their subsequent march toward the land of Canaan (Exodus 17:8-14).
(In fact, God’s attitude toward anyone standing in Israel’s way was such that He not only completely destroyed the Egyptian army which moved into the sea after Israel [“there remained not so much as one of them” (Exodus 14:28)] but He pronounced a terminal, annihilating judgment upon the “first of the nations” [Numbers 24:20] to war against Israel in the wilderness. God said to Moses: “Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven” [Exodus 17:14; cf. Deuteronomy 25:17-19].
The Amalekite nation existed for hundreds of years following the Exodus under Moses; but, during the days of Hezekiah, this nation was finally destroyed after the fashion which God had previously stated at the time of the Exodus centuries before [1 Chronicles 4:39-43]. And, as a consequence, the only available record today that this nation ever even existed can be found only one place — in the pages of Scripture. Secular history knows nothing of the Amalekites, for God destroyed this nation to the extent that man, in his secular world, can find no trace of it whatsoever.)
Caleb and Joshua had seen and experienced these things; and they knew that it was through the Lord’s strength and power, not their own, that deliverance or provision had been forthcoming at every point. The Lord had slain the firstborn in Egypt (Exodus 12:12), the Lord had destroyed the Egyptian army, and the Lord was the One who warred with Amalek (eventually blotting him out of existence [Exodus 17:14-16]). And the Lord was the One Who, as well, over the previous one and one-half years, had miraculously provided food and water in the wilderness for the Israelites (Exodus 16:4; 17:5-7).
Thus, for Caleb and Joshua (and it should have been the same for the remainder of the nation), it was really a simple matter to look out ahead to the land set before them and believe, regardless of the strength of the land’s inhabitants or the comparative weakness and seeming inability of the Israelites, that the people of Israel could “go up at once, and possess it.” The people of Israel would be “well able to overcome it,” but not in their own strength and power. They, as before, would have to rely upon the Lord, with His strength and power; and by so doing, through faith in the Lord, nothing could stand in their way as they marched into the land and victoriously engaged the enemy.
But there was another side to the matter, and that was the attitude exhibited by the ten remaining spies, with their “evil report.” They, in a faithless manner, overlooking all God’s works which had proceeded, said to the Israelites, “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we” (Numbers 13:31).
It is these two reports, with the resulting action of Caleb and Joshua on the one hand and the remainder of the nation on the other, which establish a basis for much of that which is taught in Hebrews 3-6. And nearing the end of this whole section in Hebrews 6:7, 8, these two totally incompatible ways in which the Israelites viewed the land set before them typifying the two totally incompatible ways Christians can view the land set before them) are set forth in a very simple illustration, drawn from nature.
Within one sphere, there are acceptance and blessings; within the other, there are rejection and curses. And no middle ground lies between the two (cf. Matthew 12:30). Thus, these two verses outline the only two options open to any Christian: a) that of one day coming into a realization of his calling (v. 7), or b) that of one day being overthrown short of the goal of his calling (v. 8).
The land of Canaan is set forth, on the one hand, corresponding to the land of Hebrews 6:7; then it is set forth, on the other hand, as being sharply contrasted with the land of Egypt, which corresponds to the earth under a curse. And though the curse will be lifted for one thousand years (during the coming Messianic Era), at the end of this time “the earth…and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (cf. II Peter 3:10-13).
It is the land of Egypt which corresponds to the land in Hebrews 6:8 — that which bears “thorns and briers…whose end is to be burned [set in sharp contrast to the land of v. 7].” And the land of Egypt is a type of the world in which man presently lives — a world under a curse, which brings forth “thorns also and thistles” (Genesis 3:17, 18). Whether it be the earth under a curse or natural man connected with the earth, insofar as God is concerned, there can only be total, complete rejection. “That which beareth thorns and briers is rejected.”
The reference in Hebrews though is not to unredeemed man on the earth (although he has been rejected). The reference is to redeemed man who looks to that land which bears “thorns and briers” (v. 8) rather than to that land which brings forth “herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed” (v. 7). The reference is to the antitype of those Israelites under Moses at Kadesh-Barnea who believed the evil report of the ten spies concerning the land of Canaan, causing them to look back to Egypt rather than out ahead to the land of their calling (Numbers 13:31-14:4).
These Israelites looked back to a land which bore “thorns and briers” rather than out ahead to a land which brought forth “herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed.” And their subsequent overthrow in the wilderness was completely in line with that which God had to say about Egypt, the land to which they had sought to return. Relative to their calling and the land set before them (called out of Egypt to dwell in the land of Canaan as God’s firstborn son), they were “rejected.” They were overthrown in the wilderness, short of this goal.
And the warning to Christians is that they can, by following the same example, only suffer the same fate. Eternally saved? Yes! But, just as the Israelites under Moses were overthrown on the right side of the blood at a place short of the goal of their calling, so can Christians under Christ be overthrown for the same reason, after the identical fashion (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:11).
1. RIGHTEOUS LOT
The experiences of “righteous” Lot (2 Peter 2:7, 8) form another Old Testament type — from a different perspective — concerning redeemed man’s calling from the world to a land removed from the world. And, within this account, the type is quite instructive concerning the inability of a carnal, worldly person (though redeemed) to act in any depth at all within the “spiritual.”
Lot was among those whom Abraham rescued in the battle of the kings in Genesis, chapter fourteen. And, from the record, it seems apparent that Lot was with Abraham when Melchizedek came forth with bread and wine following this battle. However, it was Abraham alone who was blessed by Melchizedek and was allowed to understand enough about that which was happening to make him lose all interest in the things which the world had to offer (Genesis 14:18-24).
Nothing like that which Abraham experienced is recorded concerning Lot. Though he, in all likelihood, was present with Abraham at this time, he apparently saw and understood little or nothing beyond the “letter” of the matter.
(Note one facet of teaching from this aspect of the type relative to Christians in the coming kingdom. All will be present when Christ exercises the Melchizedek priesthood, but not all will be blessed.)
Abraham and Lot, in this respect, would fit within the framework of Hebrews 6:1-6. One was allowed to go on into an understanding of the things surrounding Melchizedek, but not so with the other. Viewing their individual backgrounds, the reason becomes evident; and viewing that which occurred in the lives of these two men in subsequent years, the end result is quite instructive.
Abraham lived in the “plains of Mamre,” near Hebron, located in the mountainous terrain of the high country (Genesis 13:18; 14:13; 18:1; 23:17-19; 35:27). Lot, on the other hand, lived in Sodom, in the “plain of Jordan,” in the low-lying country (Genesis 13:10-12; 14:12; 19:1).
The difference in these two places would be similar to the difference between Jerusalem and Jericho. Jerusalem was located in the mountainous terrain of the high country, but Jericho was located near the lowest point in the land, near the Dead Sea at the southern end of the Jordan Plain (where Sodom and the other cities of the plain are believed to have once existed).
Jerusalem and Jericho are set in contrast to one another in Scripture. One is “the city of the great King,” from which blessings for the nations of the earth will flow during the coming age (Psalm 48:2; Zechariah 14:1-21); but “a curse” rests upon the other (Joshua 6:18, 26). And the two places where Abraham and Lot lived are set in similar contrast.
Lot’s downward path can be seen in different places from Genesis 13:10 to Genesis 19:1, and the results of his downward path can be seen in Genesis 14:12-24; 19:1-38.
Lot “lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere…” He then “chose him all the plain of Jordan…dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.” And in the process of doing this, he separated himself from Abraham (13:10-12). That is, the carnal believer separated himself from the spiritual believer.
The day came when Lot got into trouble and had to be rescued by Abraham (14:12-16 [numerous spiritual lessons could be drawn from this account]). But his long association with the cities of the plain apparently prevented him from seeing beyond the “letter” when Melchizedek subsequently appeared (14:18-24); and his failure to see beyond the “letter,” coupled with his long prior association with the cities of the plain, eventually resulted in his not only again living in Sodom but also in his being actively involved within the affairs of the city (19:1 [affairs of a city were carried on by men seated at the gate, as was Lot]).
Abraham, during this same time though, dwelled in the high country, removed from the cities of the plain. And, apart from instances such as his rescue of Lot and his intercession on behalf of the righteous in Sodom (14:14-16; 18:23-33), the affairs of the people in the
Jordan Plain were of no moment to him.
Thus, when the day arrived for the destruction of the cities of the plain — as the day will arrive for the destruction of the present world system — two completely contrasting saved individuals can be seen.
And that’s what’s in view in Hebrews 6:7, 8, along with fruit-bearing in each sphere — one of value, the other worthless (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:12).
Some Christians have been allowed to go on and see that which is taught concerning Melchizedek. Consequently, their interest doesn’t lie in the things of the Jordan Plain but in the things of the high country. And they dwell where their interest lies.
Other Christians though, as Lot, have not been allowed to go on and see that which is taught concerning Melchizedek (and, invariably, for the same reason set forth in Lot’s life). Consequently, their interest doesn’t lie in the things of the high country (concerning which they have little to no knowledge) but in those of the valley instead. And they too dwell where their interest lies.
2. ESCAPE FROM SODOM
The Jordan Plain with its cities was destroyed during Abraham and Lot’s day by “brimstone and fire” from heaven (Genesis 19:24, 25). And though Lot was delivered from Sodom prior to this destruction, his deliverance was, as in 1 Corinthians 3:15, “so as by [‘through’] fire.”
Prior to this destruction, Lot was placed outside Sodom and commanded, “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed” (19:17).
Note what’s involved in this five-part command. First, “Escape for thy life [‘soul’].” This is the saving of the soul/life. Physical life in this instance? Yes! But far more than just the physical is involved, as becomes evident from the remainder of the command.
The next three parts relate how the soul/life can be saved: a) “Look not behind thee” (cf. Luke 9:62; Hebrews 12:1, 2), b) “neither stay thou in all the plain” (don’t remain in the low-lying country [equivalent to Egypt]), and c) “escape to the mountain” (a “mountain” is used in Scripture symbolizing a kingdom, particularly Christ’s coming Kingdom [cf. Isaiah 2:1-5; Daniel 2:35, 44, 45; Matthew 17:1-5]).
(Note: Contrary to some English translations, the word “mountain” in the Hebrew text is singular, as in the KJV. the reference is to a “mountain” symbolizing a kingdom, not to “mountains” symbolizing kingdoms. A distinction between “mountain” and “mountains” in this respect can be seen in Isaiah 2:2, 3 — “…the mountain of the Lord’s house [the kingdom of Christ] shall be established at the top of the mountains [all the individual earthly kingdoms]…”)
The escape from the plain to the mountain is an escape from Egypt to Canaan — to that land associated with the coming kingdom. This is where one’s attention is to be centered. This is where he is to dwell. Then the last part relates what will happen to a person should he not follow the Lord’s command in this respect: “lest thou be consumed.” That is, he will be consumed by that which will itself be consumed; and, as a consequence, he will lose his soul/life. Lot though had no concept of that which was being stated; and, in reality, even though the Lord had given him this five-part command, he couldn’t follow it.
His spiritual senses had not been sufficiently developed or exercised. He could do no more than act after a carnal fashion, which he did (19:19, 20). And this is the apparent reason why the Lord, apart from remonstrance, honored his request to be allowed to go to Zoar instead of the mountain (19:21-23).
However, Zoar — a city in the plain, spared for Lot — wasn’t the last stop. After the destruction of the other cities of the plain, Lot became afraid to dwell in Zoar and moved out into the mountain to which he had previously been commanded to escape. But, unlike
Abraham, Lot dwelled on the mountain in “a cave” (19:30) rather than standing in a place “before the Lord” (19:27; cf. 18:22). He, in effect, dwelled in a place of shame rather than in a place of honor.
And therein is the account of two pilgrims who governed their lives after two entirely different fashions, one day arriving at the same destination and finding themselves occupying positions completely commensurate with the fashion in which they had governed their lives during their previous pilgrim journey. Thus will it be with Christians on the Mountain in that coming day.