Hebrews 10, Part III: Persevering
“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there is no sacrifice for sins left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the Law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a dreadful (fearful) thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” We hear often about the grace of God and it is amazing and wonderful. However, we must keep things in balance, and today we hear little about God’s wrath and fury against sinners. To teach both of these is balanced theology and doctrine, plus both God’s grace and God’s judgment are strong motivations to believe the Gospel, the Truth, and place our faith in His provision to escape His wrath,(which was the Son of God), who loved us and gave Himself for us. God makes it clear- there is the promise of joy and the warning of pain and judgment. In Hebrews 2:3, the writer tells us: “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” What is it we want to escape? God’s wrath and judgment. And clearly the writer tells us if we neglect so great a salvation, we cannot escape. The fire department tells us we need to have not only smoke alarms to alert us to fire, we also need to have a planned route of escape from a burning house. In Hebrews 3: 11, 12, again we are warned: “I declared an oath in my anger (wrath, KJV) they shall not enter my rest.” And again the author tells us in Hebrews 6: “ It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God- if they fall away to be brought back to repentance.” Apostasy is the sin of falling away, of abandoning the true faith in Jesus Christ. John describes this condition in I John 2: “They (apostates) went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” The only sin God cannot forgive is to deny the Holy Spirit’s witness to Jesus. God cannot forgive those who reject His Son as the way of escape from His judgment. Peter said, “God is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) And Peter had certainly denied the Lord three times and cursed he ever knew him. But Peter, unlike Judas repented. John 3: 18 tells us whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but he who believes not in Him is condemned already. Jesus told the Pharisees, ‘Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. ( Matthew 12: 31) Peter repented and Peter persevered, he endured like Paul finished the race. Perseverance, patience, long suffering endurance
THE TRUTH ABOUT GOD’S WRATH.
In Hebrews 10: 26, 27 we see a clear picture of God’s wrath which is three fold.
- Legal. God is just.
- Emotional. God possesses the full range of emotions. Love, hate, grief, joy, and He expresses them in perfection.
- Wrath- is God’s perfect righteous anger.
The legal picture is that his wrath is judgment. God is judge and as such He is always just and fair. Sin is a breaking of God’s law. And God had declared from the beginning and warned us- the wages of sin is death. Death is eternal separation from God. God would not be just if He did not carry out His judgment. He would not be God if He did not do what He said He would do. He is faithful to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all our unrighteousness, but He is also faithful to judge the sins of those who neglect so great a salvation.
Emotional. God is love. He is not willing that any should perish but all would come to repentance. There is great rejoicing in heaven over the repentance of a sinner. He would not leave us without a way of escape, which is what God provided at Calvary in the sacrifice of His Only Begotten Son. God has made Himself known to mankind through two witnesses; one is the physical witness of His creation. Romans 1, says “For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities- His eternal power and His divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so men are without excuse.” Psalm 19 states: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” We also read in Romans 2 of the second witness an internal witness of the conscience where God writes His law on our hearts, our consciences bearing witnesses. These two witnesses are our smoke alarms which alert us to a Creator who has warned us of the approaching danger. God is saying I have provided enough light for all of mankind. And being Just, God will judge those in proportion to the amount of light and truth available to them.
Physical. There is a physical picture here of God’s judgment and wrath: a raging fire as the unforgiven sinner is swallowed in the flames of legal and passionate judgment of God. Now if this makes you cringe at the thought of God doing this- realize God wants you to know full well what awaits those who neglect so great a salvation. The enemy of your soul the devil, is so skilled at imitating the truth, that the two are often mistaken for each other. The enemy came into the Garden with an idea to be planted in the thinking of Adam and Eve. The idea or thought he planted was God would not punish them with death, separation from Him. “Surely you will not die,” was the first part of the lie. The second being, ‘you will be like God.’ When I went to school, the principal still had the right to whip boys. Our principal Mr. Underwood was an All American football player, a captain in the Marine Corps who fought on Guadalcanal in World War II, it was a fearful thing to fall under his paddle and receive 5 licks. It certainly served as an incentive not to break a rule which would lead to this punishment.
Whatever your view of God, the Creator of the Universe and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is, if it does not include His righteous anger and judgment, it is a distorted, unrealistic view of God. Do people fear God today? Do Christians and unbelievers who visit your church hear about His wrath? Or is He someone we think of as a doting Father, reluctant to punish? Someone we only thank when we had a close call or received good news – or perhaps question His goodness when we do not get what we wanted? God is God and there is no other. He is in control of the situation, however bad it might be in your eyes.
WHEN IS GOD A CONSUMING FIRE?
This is the question isn’t it? When is He this way and how do we avoid this? The answer to when is God this way is found in these verses. God is a consuming fire, when “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” These truths tell us God is angry about sin. And it also means He made a way, a provision for escaping His wrath in the sacrifice of His Son in the place of sinners. The love of God provided the escape from the wrath of God by sacrificing the Son of God to satisfy a Just and Holy God and furnish the forgiveness of all the sins of the world. The way was made open to remove the barrier to a Holy God. Jesus is the Way. No man comes to the Father except by Him. If there was no wrath to escape, then there would have been no need for the sacrifice of His Only Son, the Lord Jesus. We avoid His Wrath when we accept his way of escape, the Lord Jesus is the way- there is no other way. In the early days of Christianity it was known simply as “The Way.”
So now we know when God’s wrath is this way. And how to avoid His wrath. Our next question is for whom is there no longer a sacrifice for sins? This sound ominous, scary and it should be a sobering thought. Again the text answers our question: it is for those who go on deliberately, willfully sinning after receiving the knowledge of truth. These are those Paul wrote of in Romans 1: “ Although they know God’s righteous decrees that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do such things but also approve of those who practice them.” This is not one particular sin; it is a lifestyle and pattern of practice that continues to keep on sinning in light of the truth. These are those who have heard the truth but have fallen away. They were never part of us or they would not have left us and left us to keep on sinning. Jesus said, “this is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19)
Notice in verse 27: “…. That will consume the ENEMIES of God.” Romans 5 tells us this truth about a true believer: “… we have been justified, through faith; we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We are not His enemies, we are His children. The one who keeps on sinning is not a true believer. He or she was a professor of faith, but not a possessor of faith. God’s fire is for His enemies. We are told in I Thess.1: 10: “… and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He has raised from the dead, Jesus, who RESCUES US FROM THE COMING WRATH.” Jesus does not commit Himself to those who are not true believers. John 2 tells us many believed in His Name when they saw the miracles. “But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” Man looks on the outside but God looks on the heart. Here we are told Jesus knows all men- all of mankind. And He also knows each individual, each man and woman, boy and girl.
Those who will experience the fury of God’s wrath are described as those who ‘trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctifies and have insulted the Spirit of Grace.’ The Son of God laid down His life for them as their substitute and instead of receiving Him as their life and hope has stepped on Him and over Him to pursue what they wanted to pursue. They have no discernment of what is holy and unholy, pure and impure and call darkness light and light darkness. They want to live life by their rules and determine for themselves what is right and wrong in their own eyes.
When you neglect so great a salvation you will begin to drift, Hebrews 2 warned us of this danger. The seed may have been cast, but the seed must take root. When the soil which represent the soul of man, has a heart as hard as stone the seed will die away. A false profession which received the Good News with joy but fell away when temptation came and they wanted to do what was right in their own eyes, not God’s law. Drifting leads to a hardened heart which doubts the Word of God and His Promises and cannot enter into His rest Hebrews 3 told us. And then finally, it leads to the inability to discern right from wrong, Holy from unholy.
Bottom line: the unforgiveable sin is blasphemy against the Spirit. An apostate is one who falls away from the teaching and doctrine of the Gospel. An apostate is one who has blasphemed the Holy Spirit, insulted the Holy Spirit by willfully continuing to sin after having had full exposure to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Pharisees were an example, they had seen the miracles, the signs which were a fulfillment of prophecy, and rather than credit it to the work of the Holy Spirit, they said it was the work of the devil. Judas is our prime example of an apostate. A true believer is a partaker of the divine nature of Christ and as such will persevere to the end. HERE IS THE BOTTOM LINE: FAILURE TO PERSEVERE TO THE END IS NOT A SIGN OF ONE LOSING THEIR SALVATION; BUT A SIGN OF NEVER HAVING BEEN A PARTAKER OF CHRIST’S DIVINE NATURE. THEY WERE NEVER SAVED TO START WITH- IF THEY HAD BEEN THEY WOULD NOT HAVE LEFT US.
Jude wrote about the danger of apostates and apostasy. He uses for the only time in the Bible the word ‘crept’ in the KJV. “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, which long ago were marked out for His condemnation, ungodly men who turn the grace of our Lord into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Crept carries with it the connotation of one who is cunning. (It is interesting, AA refers to alcohol as ‘cunning and baffling.’) Jude describes their ungodliness in unflattering traits which include: sexually immoral, going after strange flesh, rejecting authority, rebellious, ignorant, self destructive, grumblers and fault finders, to mention a few of their traits.
What is strange, but true, is most apostates are found in the church. Judas Iscariot is a perfect example. Having tasted the goodness of God’s Word, heard the truth, they turn their back on the truth and with full knowledge sin willfully and continually until there is no more sacrifice for their sins.
Again let me emphasize, an apostate is one who never experienced genuine faith but was exposed to the truth and rejected it. These are the tares among the wheat. Not all who says to Him, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven, said Jesus in Matthew 7. “This is the work of God that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6) “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10: 9, 10)
THE BRIDGE GENERATION: Judges 2:6-15
Many want to revise the history of our country and our founding fathers. They were great men, but like all men they were flawed. But they managed to fashion a constitution and it is a historical fact recorded by James Madison, of Ben Franklin’s call for prayer when they were unable to resolve a problem of how to equal representation in the new government for all states. We know in 1831, when America was not yet 50 years old, a young Frenchman named Alex De Tocqueville came to observe this young country and discover what made it great. He made two observations: 1. America’s greatness is not in her enlightenment, but in her ability to repair her own faults. 2. They combine the notion of Christianity and liberty so intimately in their minds, they cannot consider one without the other.
Our fathers and grandfathers led us in the 20th century through 2 great world wars with a devastating depression in-between to become the greatest and most powerful nation on the face to the earth. A thriving economy, a land of freedom and faith. President Eisenhower was the only President to ever be baptized in office. He also passed two laws we often forget: he had two words added to our Pledge of Allegiance: Under God. He also had our national motto inscribed on all paper currency: In God We Trust. This is who we used to be. They were the ‘Joshua’s’ of our generation. We grew up under them- and now we are the bridge generation.
Today in the 21st century we live in a land in America where people have had full exposure to the Word of God, yet mock the notion of absolute truth. They insult the Holy Spirit. Everything they do is wrong, yet they claim it is someone else’s fault. As a result we have trivialized wrongdoing and have become a nation which is morally and financially bankrupt. We are completely incapable as a nation, as a majority, to recognize our real problem.
Our real problem? “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked! Who can know it? I, the Lord search the heart and test the mind.” (Jeremiah 17) Our problem(s) are not without- they are within and only Jesus Christ can expose the real problem and give us a new heart. Perseverance is called for and like our examples before us- we must press on!