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New Wine for the End Times
Evidence from Hebrews
Let’s take a close look at the book of Hebrews. This book gives very strong evidence of the unpardonable sin. Evidence of the unpardonable sin is further evidence that names in the Book of Life are blotted out when hearts are hardened to the point where these sins occur. Without the New Wine System, Hebrews can be a very difficult book to understand. To be more precise, there are two small passages that theologians have had difficulty in explaining based on their systems of theology.
Hebrews 6:4-6 ESV For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, (5) and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, (6) and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
Hebrews 10:26-29 ESV For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, (27) but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. (28) Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. (29) How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?
Theologians from the school of Calvinism and Reformation Theology, with their emphasis on election, tend to say that people who commit these sins were not truly saved to begin with. They were not part of the elect. They say, “Once saved always saved.” But how can the not-truly-saved be partakers of the Holy Spirit? How can they have tasted of the heavenly gift and the powers of the age to come? No, the author of Hebrews makes it absolutely clear that these people are truly saved, and then they turn away from Christ and lose their salvation.
Other Calvinists say these sins are only theoretical, and cannot actually be committed because of election. They point to verse 6:9, where the writer expresses hope of better things for the readers of his letter. One would wonder why the writer of Hebrews would feel the need to warn against sins for which there is no actual danger of committing.
Theologians from the school of Arminianism, especially of Wesleyan traditions, will allow for the loss of one’s salvation (1 Timothy 1:19-20, 2 Peter 2:20‑21). But they say you can repent and get it back again. Yet these verses in Hebrews 6 say that it’s “impossible to restore again to repentance,” because it would be crucifying the Son of God all over again. And these verses in Hebrews 10 say “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin.”
These verses may be somewhat in line with the Catholic doctrines of excommunication. Those excommunicated have no hope for salvation, not even that of purgatory. But even that doctrine allows for one to “recant” before the decision of excommunication is made. The author of Hebrews does not seem to allow for a “recant.” He says it’s impossible to bring them back into repentance.
God’s salvation is only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But amillennialism has restricted that faith in Christ to be only during this present age. Conservative Christian churches of all denominations have not allowed for simple faith in the Creator to be credited as righteousness, as was Abraham’s faith. God is faithful to those who are faithful to Him. God will reveal His Son to everyone who is faithful to God. Faith in the Creator will ultimately develop into faith in Christ, as God personally reveals Christ to each individual. Conservative Christian churches have never allowed for people of other religions to be saved by simple faith in the Creator. That’s because they have not allowed for the continuation of the journey of righteousness to go beyond the grave into Christ's millennial reign.
On the other hand, if the continuation of revelation and the path toward Christ continues beyond the grave, then these verses in Hebrews make a lot more sense. You don’t want to commit the sin that prevents you from getting beyond the grave. When you reject a personal revelation that God gives you, then you have rejected faith in God entirely. To those who have been given much, much is required. To those who have been given little, little is expected. God does not want to give someone so much revelation of Himself that he rejects that revelation and falls away. For some, this even includes the revelation of Jesus Christ himself. The lies of Satan have produced cultural traditions that are very difficult to reject. But Christ will be revealed to all when every knee shall bow before Him, after the resurrection.
The theme of Hebrews is that we must respond in faith to God’s revelations. We should have faith in whatever revelations God gives us. Those revelations can be spiritual as God speaks to our hearts. Or revelations can be more physical, such as in miracles. Purposefully turning away from that faith, or denying the miracles, is unpardonable. This is why God’s public and undeniable display of miracles is seldom seen, especially by the unbeliever. People can be quick to deny that these miracles are really from God.
Hebrews was written to Christians who were considering turning back to Judaism. Their reasons probably were that of persecution. But since the author goes into lots of theological details about why Christ is the Messiah, it’s reasonable to assume that these pressures of persecution were leading these Christians to express their theological doubts. The author warns that turning back to Judaism would cause them to lose their salvation.
In ancient times, the Greek style of writing was very straightforward. It was point-by-point, similar to western-style writing today. Paul’s letters to the Gentiles followed the Greek style, which is the western style employed today. This makes Paul’s letters easy for us to understand, and easy to outline. But the Jews were eastern. Their style was circular. To the western mind, circular writing seems unorganized. But to the eastern mind, it is elegant and has beauty.
Circular writing repeats the more important points by coming back to them later in the text. It’s like the important points are circled around by supporting points. You can see what’s important to the author by seeing what’s repeated. Those points are the theme of the book. In Hebrews, the point about losing your salvation is repeated. Also, the point about Christ being the high priest, in the order of Melchizedek, is repeated. Surprisingly, these are the important points of the book. The truth hides in the middle (center of the circle).
Chapter 1 of Hebrews establishes that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, and the Son of God. Verse 5 asks, “To which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father?’” This quote comes from Psalm 2:7. To the ancient Jew, Psalm 2 would have been all about the coming of the Messianic Age. It speaks of the nations and their kings taking a stand against the Messiah (Psalm 2:2). God says the Messiah is installed as King on Zion (Israel), “my holy hill” (verse 6). Verse 8 says God will make the nations an inheritance for the Messiah; and he will rule the ends of the earth with an iron scepter. How more literal can a prophecy get? How else would the ancient Jews have interpreted Psalm 2? How else could the author of Hebrews have interpreted what he was quoting when writing to Jewish people?
In the very same verse of Hebrews 1:5, he also quotes 2 Samuel 7:14, where Samuel makes a similar statement about God becoming David’s Father, and David being God’s son. The author of Hebrews sees this as a statement of the Davidic covenant, with Christ being David’s Son, and heir to David’s throne. So again, the author of Hebrews is drawing on two Old Testament passages that establish the Messiah as ruling on David’s throne, and Israel as ruling all the nations of the earth. Back then, this is exactly what the Jews believed will happen.
Then in verse 8, the author quotes Psalm 45:6‑7. Verse 5 of Psalm 45 speaks of arrows piercing the hearts of the king’s enemies, and the nations falling beneath the king’s feet. Then verse 6, as quoted in Hebrews, speaks of the Messiah’s throne lasting forever and ever. Again, no Jew of that day would have interpreted these words any differently than a literal Messianic Age.
The first chapter is also about Christ being the Son of God. This is framed as messages that are spoken to the angels, and messages from the angels. Then Hebrews 2:1 warns against drifting away by ignoring this message. Verses 2 and 3 speak of the great punishment that awaits those who ignore this message. This is the theme of Hebrews. These messages to and from the angels are revelations about God. We must be faithful to the personal revelations that God gives us. If we turn away from those revelations, it can cause us to fall into eternal condemnation.
Hebrews 2:8 says that everything was put under the feet of Christ. Everything is subject to Him. This reflects back to chapter 1, where the author makes it clear that Christ is the Messiah and reigns on David’s throne. But this verse also says that at the present we do not see everything subject to him. Hence, the author is affirming that Christ will reign in the Messianic Age, just as they expected the Messiah to do. The covenant with David is being partially fulfilled. Everything was put under the feet of Christ. But, according to the verse, it’s not yet completely fulfilled. We don’t yet see everything subject to him. The author obviously believes that in the future everyone will see that everything is subject to him. So in the future, the literal Messianic Age will come. In the future, the covenant with David will be literally fulfilled.
In chapter 3, verses 1‑6, the author of Hebrews talks about the faithfulness of Moses, and Moses being a part of God’s house. God builds the house, which is the church (the temple). We are God’s house. Christ is the Son of God. Thus, Christ is the Son of the owner of the house. Also, notice that the author calls Christ the High Priest in verse 1. This is a topic that the author will keep coming back to.
Gentiles would not think it’s a problem to call Christ the High Priest. But to a Jew, there is a problem in that the Messiah is from the house of David, which is the tribe of Judah. Priests can come only from the tribe of Levi. These Jewish Christians, because of persecution, were considering turning back to Judaism. They may have seen this question as a reason for rejecting Jesus as the Messiah. The author will come back to this issue several times. This little bit about relating Christ to Moses gives the author a stepping-stone back to the unpardonable sins that were committed during the generation of Moses.
Verses 7‑10 warn that if today, you hear God’s voice, to not harden your hearts as they did in the rebellion. In other words, the author is relating the possible turning away from Christ to the sins of Israel after they came out of Egypt. In chapter 7 of this book, we showed that sinful generation as being the first occurrence in Scripture in which people’s names were blotted out of the Lamb’s Book of Life (Exodus 32:32-33). The author of Hebrews calls this the rebellion or provocation (verses 8 and 15). In other words, it’s a rejection of God when you already know God.
In verse 11, the author quotes Psalm 95:11, in which God declares an oath in his anger, “They will never enter my Rest.” The author quotes it again in Hebrews chapter 4, verse 3, and again in verse 5. It’s quoted three times. In other words, this is very important to the author. It’s a direct description of the consequence of the unpardonable sin. To never enter God’s rest means two things. First, it means you are always at odds with God. Secondly, it means you don’t get resurrected when Christ returns. Your name is blotted out of the Lamb’s Book of Life.
In the context of the passage, why would one never enter God’s rest? Three times, the author quotes, “They will never enter my Rest.” And three times, the author says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do no harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where you fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years” (ESV Hebrews 3:7-10, 3:15, 4:7). According to the author, the consequence of hardening one’s heart when one hears God's voice is that they will never enter God’s rest.
Also notice verse 9 says that they saw God’s works forty years . This goes back to what Jesus taught about the leaders having eyes to see, but not seeing and ears to hear, but not hearing. They do not see the miracles and they do not hear Christ’s voice in their hearts. Forty years after the miracles of Christ, without repentance by the Jewish leaders, Jerusalem was destroyed. When the Holy Spirit speaks through God’s works, and one denies the works as being of God, it’s unpardonable. When one hears God’s voice, and denies its God, it’s unpardonable.
The unpardonable sin is to harden one’s heart and no longer hear Christ’s voice, or to fall away, after having received the knowledge of God. In these verses, it’s after hearing God’s voice. In chapter 6, it’s rejecting Christ after having received the Holy Spirit. As we will see, this warning is given three times in Hebrews. Three times the author gives a warning against hardening your heart when you hear God’s voice (Hebrews 3:7-9, 3:15, 4:7). Three times the author says you will never enter God’s rest (Hebrews 3:11, 4:3, 4:5). And three times the author warns about the rejection of Christ, saying the sin cannot be forgiven (Hebrews 6:4-6, 10:26-27, 12:25-29). Therefore, this is the theme of Hebrews.
In Hebrews 4:3-5, the author relates the rest that God has for us to God’s rest on the seventh day of the Creation. It’s important here to interpret this in the way an ancient Jew would have done so at that time. The Sabbath rest was an extremely important part of their culture. The author relates the weekly Sabbath to entering God’s rest, something that the wicked generation of Moses was not able to do.
It’s also important to note that in these verses, the author points out that the gospel given to the generation of Moses was of no value to them because they didn’t have faith in the Creator. In other words, you must have faith in the Creator in order to be saved. God then gives you a personal revelation of Himself. This is described as a message, which relates it back to the messages to and from the angels, in chapter 1. When the message of God’s revelation is combined with faith, your faith is made stronger, and eventually you can enter God’s rest.
In Hebrews 4:7, the author quotes Scripture that says, “Do not harden your hearts” when you hear God’s voice. This is a quote from Psalm 95:8, just a few verses above Psalm 95:11 in which God declares, “They will never enter my rest.” So the point is repeatedly made. We are judged based on the personal revelation that God gives us. To those whom much is given, much is required. To those whom little is given, little is expected. Do not be fearful when God speaks to you. At some point, God will speak to everyone. Our eternal salvation depends on how we respond to God’s voice. Christ’s sheep hear his voice.
Verses 8‑10 say there remains a Sabbath rest for God’s people. Again, it’s very important to interpret these verses about the Sabbath in the way an ancient Jew would have done. “For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work just as God did from his” (verse 10). People have come up with all sorts of ways to interpret this verse other than the way an ancient Jew have interpreted it.
The Jews grew up resting on the Sabbath of each week. The sentence ends with “just as God did from his.” Especially in the context of verse 4, this is without doubt a reference to the seventh day of the Creation. The phrase, “For those who enter God’s rest,” is about the rest that the generation of Moses was not able to enter. The phrase, “also rests from his own work,” is talking about keeping the Sabbath each week. No Jew would have interpreted it in any other manner.
Some have tried to say we rest (or cease) from doing good works that we think will earn our salvation. In other words, we stop doing our own good works. But that simply doesn’t fit the context of the passage. Some people try to say this phrase is talking about God’s rest. But then the sentence would make no sense. It would read thus: “For anyone who enters God’s rest also [enters God’s rest]”? Obviously that’s not what the author intended to mean. The author is saying that those who will be able to enter God’s rest must also follow God’s example and rest on the Sabbath. Verse 11 confirms this by saying that failing to do so is disobedience.
We rest to have time with God so that we can hear Christ’s voice. We may go to church on Sunday. And sure, we should pray every day. But the Sabbath is a time to really deepen our personal relationship with God. Sunday church services can be good, but they are not a time to spend alone with God. Our Sabbath is a time to build our faith. That’s why the author relates the rest of the Sabbath with God’s rest. We rest alone with God. The author stated that the generation of Moses was lacking in faith. They saw all the miracles, but they didn’t have the faith they needed. You build faith by spending time with God. This makes us holy, as we overcome sin. We thus keep the Sabbath holy.
During the great tribulation it will be the same. God will reveal himself in miracles. The miracles will be of a nature which will cause people without great faith to deny that God is doing the miracles. The trumpet-plagues of Revelation will be miracles that many people will deny are from God. The rebellion that occurs during the great tribulation will be similar to the rebellion at the time of Moses.
Many people will harden their hearts and get their names blotted from the Lamb’s Book of Life. Many carnal Christians will not have the faith to endure. They will wind up worshiping the antichrist and taking the mark of the beast. It’s important to build a strong relationship with Christ in order to be able to endure to the end, and so be saved (Matthew 10:22, 24:13, Mark 13:13). Spending the Sabbath with Christ is one good ways to build your relationship with Christ.
The last chapter of this book is titled, “Christian Perfection in the Sabbath.” The issue of the Sabbath is discussed in more detail in that chapter. Just remember that the Sabbath is an important aspect of what God has given us for the purpose of overcoming sin.
Those who don’t believe in the millennium do not accept other aspects of what’s being said in these verses (Hebrews 4:4‑11). The early church, before Augustine, believed in the millennial reign of Christ. They also believed the millennium is the seventh of seven millennia. In other words, the Messianic reign of Christ occurs on the Sabbath millennium. Christ is literally Lord of the Sabbath millennium.
Israel had to wander in the desert forty years before they could enter the Promised Land. The Promised Land is the land of Palestine that God promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:18‑21). National Israel, at the time of Solomon, possessed most of this land, but only for a short time. The promise remains. Those who are in Christ are heirs to the promise of Abraham (Galatians 3:29). Thus, the complete fulfillment of Abraham’s covenant will be in the millennium as Christ reigns with the saints from Old and New Jerusalem.
The partial fulfillment of Abraham’s covenant, at the time of Moses, is therefore a type (symbol) of its complete fulfillment in the millennium. That generation was not able to enter the Promised Land, and God’s rest. The Promised Land is not only a region of the earth; it’s also a time. It’s the Sabbath millennium of seven millennia. The Sabbath millennium is God’s rest. For six days God works to redeem his people. On the Sabbath day, God rested. Therefore, those who hear Christ’s voice in their hearts will enter God’s rest by being resurrected to live during the millennial reign of Christ.
In chapter 5, the author gets into a complex issue, saying that Jesus is the high priest in the order of Melchizedek. He gets this from an obscure Old Testament passage, which is Psalm 110:4. This is the same Psalm from which he quoted, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet" (Hebrews 1:13). Hebrews speaks to a Jewish audience, who would naturally question that the high priest could be from any tribe other than Levi. Remember that the author’s intent is to keep these Christians from turning back to Judaism. This passage in Psalm 110:4 is going to be the author’s main evidence that Jesus can, in fact, be the High Priest. But then the author takes a step back from this complex issue (5:11). The author returns to this topic in more detail in chapter 7. The arguments about Melchizedek are to get past this stumbling block for Jewish Christians. The arguments about the unpardonable sin are about the consequences of them turning away from Christ and going back to Judaism.
The author indicates that he would like to discuss the more foundational issues of (1) “repentance from acts that lead to death,” (2) “faith in God,” (3) “instruction in baptism,” (4) the “laying on of hands,” (5) the “resurrection of the dead,” (6) and “eternal judgment” (all NIV - 6:1-2). The author wants to return to these issues later. And for some of them he does. But the author skips over these foundational issues and moves straight to his number one point. Even if you have received the Holy Spirit, if you fall away from Christ, you cannot be brought back into repentance (6:4‑6).
Let’s look at the subjects the author mentions and skips over. The first is “repentance from acts that lead to death” (NIV). Most translations render it as “repentance from dead works.” Dead works are generally understood to be works of self-righteousness instead of works motivated out of love for God and neighbor. Those who ignore the Father’s leadership and will do dead works. “Dead works,” or “acts that lead to death” can also be found in Hebrews 9:14. Here it seems more to suggest that these “acts” or “works” are sin from which we need to be cleansed.
Could “dead works” really be sins that lead to death, as the NIV translation seems to suggest? Could “dead works” really mean “acts that lead to death?” Based on the overall context of Hebrews, I believe that’s what the author is saying. This brings to mind some interesting and sometimes confusing words of John. He talks about sins that lead to death and sins that don’t lead to death.
1 John 5:16-18 ESV If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death[foolish] , he shall ask, and God will give him life--to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death[wicked]; I do not say that one should pray for that. (17) All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. (18) We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning[wise], but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
Do you see the three types of people in just these three verses?
1) The wise are those who do not keep on sinning.
2) The foolish are those who are committing sins not leading to death.
3) The wicked are those who commit the sin that leads to death.
No doubt theologians have had some very interesting explanations for this verse in 1 John. But the most obvious interpretation is that there are two types of sin. There is a sin which is unpardonable, and there are other sins for which we can repent. This context of this verse is 1 John 5, which is probably John writing against Gnostics. They knew Christ but then they started to heavily distort the teaching for their own selfish gains. The Gnostics taught that Jesus was not born of God (John 5:1), but that the “Christ-spirit” came upon him when he was baptized and left him before he died. Almost every point John makes in this chapter goes against Gnostic teachings. John probably considers the Gnostic leaders to have sinned in the unpardonable way that leads to death.
Next, the author of Hebrews mentions faith in God. Hebrews 11, of course, is the great faith chapter. But as we will see, this chapter is not just about faith. It’s about combining faith with the hearing of God’s voice. And the hearing of God’s voice is fundamental to understanding about the unpardonable sin. We must respond with faith when we hear God’s voice.
The author speaks about the laying on of hands. This is probably in relation to receiving the Holy Spirit. Some Pentecostals believe that receiving the Holy Spirit comes sometime after your initial profession of faith. Non-charismatic groups disagree. But either way, the author is probably talking about the Holy Spirit, because in Acts, the Holy Spirit did come with the laying on of hands.
This verse says all of these preliminary points are “foundational” to the next point, which is the unpardonable sin. The Holy Spirit is mentioned in verses 4‑6 of chapter 6, where the author first spells out his warning. The unpardonable sin is a deliberate rejection faith. The warning is for those who have heard God’s voice and know deep inside God’s truth. The teaching about Christ’s voice has been foundational in everything that’s been said up to this point. This personal deep down knowledge of God comes through Christ’s voice and the Holy Spirit.
The author speaks about the resurrection of the dead. Those who have not committed the unpardonable sin will be raised from death. This too is an important foundational teaching that relates to the unpardonable sin.
Finally, the author mentions the eternal judgment. As John said, there is sin that does not lead to death. We can repent from those sins. But there is also a sin that leads to death. John is saying that prayer for those people will not help them. The eternal judgment is about the sin that leads to death, as John puts it.
The author is concerned that his audience does not understand these fundamental issues. Getting into the details could have caused the reader to get lost in confusion. The author, accordingly, skips these fundamental issues and gets straight into his main point.
Hebrews 6:4-6 ESV For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, (5) and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, (6) and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
Reading this can be scary. It’s scary for a lot of Christians today who are confused by this verse. The author immediately speaks of his confidence that this fate will not come to his readers (verse 9-12). We can have assurance that this fate will not come to us simply by having faith in God (verses 12‑15).
Some would say that this verse is not talking about true believers because you can’t lose your salvation. But only true believers would have shared in the gift of the Holy Spirit. People who see the miracles of the Holy Spirit but attribute them to Beelzebub (Satan) are in danger of committing the unpardonable sin. They would be unbelievers. But believers have the Holy Spirit. If believers deliberately turn away from God they are danger of committing this unpardonable sin for the very same reason. They would be rejecting the Holy Spirit. Those who argue that you can’t lose your salvation are doing so on the basis of the incorrect doctrine of salvation election. They assume that if your name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that it can’t be blotted out. But as we have seen, it works just the opposite.
Everyone is in the Lamb’s Book of Life until they are blotted out due to the unpardonable sin. Salvation and election are not the same. The elect are those who have an [agape] love for Christ and who learn to walk as Jesus walked (1 John 2:9) before they die. You can be saved without being one of the elect. The author of Hebrews is addressing these Christians as having the Holy Spirit, yet being immature. He views them as still being on milk, not solid food (5:13). Their immaturity actually threatens loss of their salvation.
Jesus speaks of the wicked servants who beat their fellow servants. They will not know the day or the hour of Christ’s return. They are assigned a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. These wicked servants would have received the Holy Spirit but they choose to reject the teaching of the Holy Spirit and instead they use their positions towards their own evil desires.
When people have been given true down-deep revelations of God, and they harden their hearts, their names can be blotted out. The author of Hebrews is addressing Christians who are considering turning back to Judaism. The Holy Spirit confirms the understanding of the truth of Jesus Christ down deep. It would be unpardonable to intentionally reject that revelation.
The author must go to great lengths to affirm their faith in Christ, showing why Jesus Christ really is the Son of God, the Messiah. The author must argue against obstacles that would naturally be seen by the Jews.
Hebrews 6:7-8 ESV For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. (8) But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.
The “rain” is the voice of Christ, or the Holy Spirit. If, after receiving the “rain,” the land does not bear fruit, then it is burned. This is similar to the teaching of John 15:1-6. This illustrates the unpardonable sin.
Beginning with chapter 6, verse 15, the author starts talking about the covenant with Abraham. He brings up Melchizedek again to show why Jesus can be the High Priest, and yet not be a Levite (chapter 7). He speaks of the new covenant that was prophesied by Jeremiah (chapter 8). This is important to the author because he quotes quite a bit of it (Hebrews 8:8‑12, Jeremiah 31:31‑34). The author talks about how the sacrifice of Christ’s blood was the final sacrifice, under the new covenant, and unlike the old covenant, only one sacrifice was needed (chapters 9 and 10, through verse 15).
The KJV of Hebrews 9:27 says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” On the surface, this verse could appear to speak against my view that people can get resurrected in the millennium before they accept Christ as Lord. But as we will see, that common view is taking the verse out of the context of Hebrews and its theme.
Are all men really appointed to die once? Were Enoch and Elijah appointed to die once? There is a theory that the two witnesses must be Enoch and Elijah, based on this verse, because they have not yet died. However, these two men are not the only ones who will bypass death. How about those in Christ who will endure to the end of the tribulation and are alive at the time of the rapture? Are they appointed to die once?
The context right before this verse is that Christ died once for our sins. The verse after this verse says that Christ will appear a second time to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Verse 27 is often yanked out of this context.
The Greek word for "appointed" is used only four times in the New Testament. In the other three cases, it's always translated as "laid up." For example, Luke 19:20 says, "Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth." Does this sound like "appointed?" Appointed is much too strong for this Greek word. Young’s Literal Translation (YLT) renders it as “laid up.” A better translation for this word, in this context, is “one’s lot.” In other words, it’s what is generally expected to happen. But it’s not a strong statement of unalterable destiny.
Another important Greek word used here is the word for “once.” It’s found in verses 26, 27, and 28. It can be translated as “once for all time.” A parallelism is drawn between the facts that Christ died “once for all time,” and, that likewise, most of us will die “once for all time.”
The author simply makes an analogy about Christ’s single sacrifice, using the fact that most of us will die once. It is our hope that we will not experience the second death that is spoken of in Revelation. And true believers will not die a second death. Even believers who do not overcome sin will most likely mature in Christ during the age to come. Thus, a better translation might be, “And it’s our lot for men to die once and for all time, and after this the judgment.” Again, this is in the context of Christ dying for us. So the verse is mostly about believers, including those who will believe in Christ in the age to come.
What then, is the judgment? After we die, there is a judgment as to whether we are to be resurrected. However, for a broader view of the judgment, think back to the four parables taught by Jesus in the Olivetti Discourse.
The parable of the wise and the wicked servants and the thief in the night (see sections 5.5 through 5.7) is interpreted in the context of Daniel 12. The wicked will not know the day and time of the resurrection and the judgment of sudden destruction until it suddenly comes upon them.
The parable of the ten virgins, five are wise and five are foolish (see section 5.8), is about a judgment between believers, some of whom have not had a true discipleship relationship with Christ. Jesus tells them, "I never knew you." They are resurrected but do not inherit the kingdom.
The parable of the talents (see section 5.9) is about the judgment of the wicked servant who was given one talent. This servant of Christ knows about Jesus and professes to serve Christ. But he really despises Christ. So he is judged as wicked and is not resurrected.
The parable of the sheep and the goats (see section 5.10) is about the ongoing judgment of the nations as Christ reigns as King (and Judge). The attitudes of those in the nations about Christ will largely determine if they are truly willing to become true disciples of Christ in the age to come.
Let’s bring this verse back into the context of Hebrews. The book of Hebrews is a warning about the unpardonable sin. With a focus on the resurrection instead of heaven or hell, the judgment is primarily about whether or not one is resurrected. If the unpardonable sin is committed, then one will not be resurrected. That’s the judgment being spoken of after death.
This same judgment also determines whether one is resurrected into a spiritual body or a natural body. It is a resurrection of eternal life or a resurrection of judgment, meaning that one is still under judgment. But that is outside the discussion of Hebrews. The book of Hebrews is more focused on the issue of whether or not one will be resurrected. That’s the judgment in the context and the theme of Hebrews.
Another way to look at this judgment is to point out that Christ's Messianic reign is a thousand years of judgment. Christ is the King, and the King is the Judge. See section 17.9 for more information about the Day of Judgment being a thousand years. But again, while this is true, the context of Hebrews is whether or not one commits the unpardonable sin.
In Hebrews 10:16-18, the author quotes some of the new covenant again. (The largest New Testament quote of Old Testament Scripture is back in Hebrews 8:8, where the author quoted the New Covenant from Jeremiah 31:31.) This is that eastern circular writing style, which repeats the important points, surrounding the important points with supporting points.
This time, in quoting the new covenant, he states that there is no longer an animal sacrifice for sin (10:18). This reminds us of his original reason for why the sin is unpardonable (6:5‑6). To forgive it would require the crucifixion of Christ all over again.
Hebrews 10:16-18 ESV "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds," (17) then he adds, "I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more." (18) Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin .
Here we see the author’s logic. Under the old covenant, the sacrifices were made over and over. That’s because it’s impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin (10:4). But under the new covenant, only one sacrifice is needed. The one sacrifice is good enough for all our sins. If we nevertheless reject that one sacrifice, there is no other sacrifice available.
Some would argue that verse 18 is simply a statement that Christ’s sacrifice covers all our sins, so that he only had to die once. That’s certainly part of what verse 18 is saying, but verse 18 is also a link back to the unpardonable sin of verse 6:5‑6. This is shown in verse 26 and 27 of chapter 10, which makes it clear.
Hebrews 10:26-27 ESV For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, (27) but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
Here the author repeats his important point. It’s the circular eastern style of writing. In our understanding of the overall context of Hebrews, we can see that this verse is not talking about weak moments of sin, or even about sinful habits (addictions) that we have not been able to break
It’s talking about hardening one’s heart against the teachings of the Holy Spirit. One can lose their salvation and then no sacrifice would be left for salvation. If the Holy Spirit is still convicting you of a sin, the Holy Spirit has not left you. But if you get to the point where you continually want the Holy Spirit to go away, and don’t want to hear Christ’s voice, then there will no longer be a sacrifice for later repentance. It’s the unpardonable sin. As John says, it’s the sin that leads to death.
Next, in verses 28‑31, the author relates the unpardonable sin to disobedience against the Law of Moses. Those who rejected this revelation of God were put to death after the testimony of two or three witnesses. Again, it’s all about hardening the heart against God’s revelations. It’s not about weak moments in which you slip up and sin. God’s mercy is awesome. If we repent of our sins, there is mercy. But acts of rebellion to God’s revelations lead to death. Verse 31 says, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
The author then reflects upon the earlier days of his audience, when they had first received the light. Receiving the light is a metaphor for hearing Christ’s voice and receiving God’s revelation. They had responded to that revelation with faith. Faith in that revelation enabled them to persevere through persecution, and to have little concern about the confiscation of their property. Faith in Christ’s voice caused them to sympathize with those in prison. The author is asking his audience to remember those days, and to return to that faith.
Then, in verses 37‑39, the author restates the unpardonable sin again. The author makes it clear that if we respond to God’s revelations with faith, then we will not be destroyed.
Hebrews 10:37-39 ESV For, "Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; (38) but my righteous one shall live by faith , and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him." (39) But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
Christ told us that he is coming again. We respond to that revelation with faith.
The requirement of faith to God’s revelations leads the author into his famous chapter on faith. How does faith tie to the overall theme of the book? In verse 4:2, we see that witnessing the miracles in the desert was of no value to them, because they did not combine this revelation of God with faith. In verse 4:14, the author speaks of the revelation of God, about the great High Priest who has gone through the heavens, who is Jesus, the Son of God. He tells us to hold firmly to this revelation with faith. In verse 6:1, the author lists faith in God as one of the foundational teachings. It’s a foundational teaching that must be understood in order to understand the unpardonable sin.
Back in verse 6:12, after speaking about the scary unpardonable sin, the author assures his audience that he is confident of better things for them. In this verse, he asks them not to become lazy, but to imitate the faith of those who came before, and who will inherit the promises. In verse 10:22, after speaking about the one sacrifice of Christ, the author asks us to draw near to God through faith. We must respond to the revelation of Christ’s sacrifice with faith. And finally, this chapter is introduced in verse 10:38 (quoted above), with the statement that we must live by faith, because those who shrink back from God’s revelations are destroyed.
This chapter is a survey of God’s revelations, and how these people responded to revelations with faith. Interestingly, the first revelation was the Creation itself. This is stated in verse 11:3. Everyone has had revelation of the Creation. Everyone has some revelation of God to which they must respond. To those whom much is given, much is required. To those whom little is given, little is expected.
The author subsequently speaks of the faith of Abel and Enoch. Enoch walked with God and was no more (Genesis 5:24). The author of Hebrews elaborates on this, saying that he did not experience death. Enoch had a huge amount of revelation about God as he walked with God. Enoch was commended as one who pleased God. The author then deduces that without faith, it is impossible to please God.
We must believe that God exists, and he rewards those who seek him (verse 6). In other words, even those who only have the revelation of the Creation, if they respond to that revelation with faith, they will be rewarded. These are the two extremes. There are those who only have the revelation of the Creation. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those like Enoch, who walk with God and receive huge amounts of revelation. Enoch’s faith in huge revelations was enough that he didn’t die.
Noah received revelation that the rains would come. He responded to that revelation with faith and built the ark (verse 7). Abraham received revelation that he should go to a place where he would receive his inheritance (verses 8‑9). He responded to that revelation by going to the Promised Land, and it was credited to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:3, 5, 9, 11, 22, Galatians 3:6, James 2:23). In addition, the author goes though many more examples of people responding to God’s revelation with faith.
This brings us back to chapters 3 and 4 of Hebrews, in which three times he quotes Psalm 95:7 (Hebrews 3:7, 3:15, 4:7).
Psalms 95:7b-11 NIV Today, if you hear his voice, (8) do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert, (9) where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did. (10) For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, "They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways." (11) So I declared on oath in my anger, "They shall never enter my rest."
In chapter 12, the author takes these examples of faith and concludes that we must live holy lives.
Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore let us also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, (2) looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
We respond to God’s revelations with faith. God’s revelations tell us that God is holy. We respond to the revelation of God’s holiness by fighting to overcome sin in order to be holy ourselves. The author then speaks about the disciplines in whom the Father corrects in order to achieve holiness in the ones he calls sons. Verse 14 says, “Without holiness, no one will see the Lord.”
The metaphor of running a race, used in this verse, is also used by Paul in Acts 20:4, 1 Cor. 9:24, Gal. 2:2, Gal. 5:7, and 2 Tim. 4:7. In Hebrews, we can find another of Paul's metaphors. Colossians 2:17 speaks of the shadow of things that were to come. This same metaphor is also found in Hebrews 8:5, and Hebrews 10:1. The author of Hebrews uses the eastern writing style, which is different from the western writing style used in Paul’s letters. But then again, Paul’s letters were written to Gentile churches. Paul was both a Roman citizen and a well-educated Jew. He would have known how to write in both styles.
But let’s get back to the text. The author tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus. This is how we overcome sin. We don’t look at ourselves. We look to Christ. This reminds us of Peter walking on the water (Matthew 14:25‑31). When Peter began to look at the waves, and think about himself instead of Christ, he began to sink. Jesus said, “You of little faith. Why did you doubt?” (verse 31). To keep your eyes fixed on Jesus builds faith. So the author says to keep our eyes on “the author and perfecter of our faith.” As we act on our faith to be more like Jesus, we become holy. We must always consider what Christ went through, at the cross, as we endure hardships and persecutions, and as we overcome sin (Hebrews 12:3).
The next verse (12:4) tells us that our struggle with sin must continue even to the point of shedding our own blood. This should be taken both literally and figuratively. In context, the author has just mentioned the cross. We must take up our cross and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). This means we must be ready to literally die a martyr’s death if it’s needed in order to avoid sin. But figuratively, this verse tells us how important it is to overcome sin. It’s like when Jesus said to gouge out your eye if it causes you to sin. If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off (Matthew 5:29-30, 18:8‑9, Mark 9:43‑47). This is not to be taken literally. Doing so literally would not stop the sin. But these verses give us an idea of just how important it is to overcome sin. If we truly have faith in Christ, then we must overcome sin.
Hebrews 12:5‑11 talks about how God disciplines those he calls his sons. The child may not understand why it’s so important to obey his parents. But loving parents know there will be major problems for their children if they are allowed to grow up without overcoming the sinful habits (addictions) they have.
Verse 14 warns that without holiness no one will see the Lord. It’s easy to read this verse and say we get our holiness from Christ. The blood of Christ covers our sins and makes us appear holy to God. It’s easy to read this verse and say that nobody is perfect, that we will always have some sin. So these little sins in my life are going to be covered by Christ’s blood anyway, right? Would the author of Hebrews be in agreement with this type of thinking? Is this what the author meant when he asked if we had resisted sin to the point of shedding our blood?
This type of inappropriate thinking comes from equating salvation with holiness. If we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, then we will be saved. But you can be saved without seeing the Lord, in this context. To be saved simply means we will be resurrected. However, we must completely overcome sin if we are to be caught up in the rapture to the wedding banquet inside Paradise. We must completely overcome sin if we are to see the Lord. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord. That’s why the Lord disciplines those he calls sons.
Then, we get the third warning about the unpardonable sin.
Hebrews 12:25-29 See that you don't refuse him who speaks. For if they didn't escape when they refused him who warned on the Earth, how much more will we not escape who turn away from him who warns from heaven, (26) whose voice shook the earth then, but now he has promised, saying, "Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heavens." (27) This phrase, "Yet once more," signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, that those things which are not shaken may remain. (28) Therefore, receiving a Kingdom that can't be shaken, let us have grace, through which we serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, (29) for our God is a consuming fire.
This is a warning against refusing him who speaks, which is the unpardonable sin. When we hear God’s voice, we must respond with faith. “At that time,” refers to the days of Moses. Those that did not escape had been warned by the miracles of Moses. The Holy Spirit warns us from heaven. This is in the context of verses 18-21, with the voice speaking from the mountain. It’s also in the context of the entire book. The author uses the generation of Moses, the generation that would not enter God’s rest, as an example of the unpardonable sin.
At that time his voice shook the earth. Again, the voice was from the mountain. In the future, the voice will shake not only the earth, but the heavens as well. This relates to verses 22-24, which speak of the new covenant and the heavenly New Jerusalem. It started with Christ’s first coming and is fulfilled with his second coming.
“Once more” indicates the removal of created things. The shaking of the heavens and the earth is like the new heavens and the new earth. It’s a figurative shaking. Isaiah 65:17 and 66:22 speak of the new heavens and the new earth. These chapters are about the coming Messianic Age. Isaiah is a book of poetry. The new heavens and new earth, in these chapters, are figurative. They mean a new age. It’s like Isaiah 24:23, in which the sun and the moon are ashamed and abashed. Emotional characteristics are given to elements of the creation to indicate the prevailing emotion for the time.
But in the Bible, figurative speech tends to later become literal. We are saved now from sin and death. But we still die. Later, we will be literally saved and will literally no longer die. We are new creatures. Later, we will literally be born again into new spiritual bodies and literally be a new creation. Likewise, at the start of the millennium, it will be figuratively new heavens and a new earth. After the millennium, there will literally be a new earth. When Christ returns, there will be a great figurative shaking. The entire world’s governments will be overturned. At the end of the millennium, the heavens and the earth will be “removed.” We are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.
As we have seen, Hebrews warns Christians that turning back to Judaism could result in their permanent loss of salvation, even for true Christians who have received the Holy Spirit. The author of Hebrews uses the example of the people of Israel in the desert. They heard God’s voice and saw all the miracles, but they rejected God. They went back to the worship of an Egyptian idol, which was the golden calf. Their names were blotted out of the Book of Life.
1 Corinthians 10:1‑21 can be viewed as a summary of the book of Hebrews. Verses 1‑3 speak of the miracles that were performed. Paul uses the miracles themselves as a symbol and evidence of the baptism they had into Moses. Verses 3-4 says they all ate the same spiritual food, and drank the same spiritual drink. Verse 4 says they drank from the Rock of Christ. Thus, Paul draws a parallelism between the bread and wine in remembrance of Christ, to their experience in the desert. Paul believes that these things happened and were written down as a warning to us (verse 6). In verse 12, Paul says that if we think we are standing firm, we should be careful that we don’t fall. In other words, Paul is warning us that we could lose our salvation, just as they did in the desert.
The writer of Hebrews follows his warning with an assurance that he does not expect them to fall. Paul does the same in verse 13, saying that there is no temptation that we cannot bear, and that God will provide us with a way out.
In verses 14‑21, Paul explains the warning further, exhorting against falling into idolatry. He recognizes that eating the food offered to idols is nothing. But he also warns that pagans themselves are sacrificing to real demons. He follows that getting involved in this is not compatible with being in Christ. We cannot eat from the Lord’s Table and the table of demons at the same time. So this is a further warning against turning away from Christ toward idol worship, which is the worship of demons. That’s what was done in the desert. When they built the golden calf, then wandered in the desert without repentance forty years, they lost their salvation. Their names were blotted from the Book of Life.
All pagans have the opportunity to repent from their idol worship and accept Christ. On the other hand, for a Christian, who has received the knowledge of Christ through the Holy Spirit, to turn back to the worship of demons could be unpardonable.
Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. Faith typically involves action or a response. We know that Christ lived a holy life. We know that God is holy. Our response to this revelation is to overcome sin. Otherwise, where is the faith?
Christ is holy and lived a holy life as a man. God is holy. We were born sinners and sinners cannot even look upon God without dying. As the author of Hebrews points out, Christ’s sacrifice can only happen once. That one sacrifice paid for all our sins, whether past, present, or future. The unpardonable sin is to reject the personal revelation of that one sacrifice. Or it’s to reject God’s personal revelation that we are sinners and that we need Christ’s sacrifice.
Just as the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) responded to God’s revelations with faith, we must do likewise with this revelation of the cross, the greatest revelation of all time. The response of Abraham was to go to the Promised Land. Our response must be to accept Christ’s sacrifice and then to overcome sin, through a life of faith. And a life of faith involves doing the good works that the Father has for us. As we do the Father's good works, our self-centered ways of sin just naturally disappear.
The great part of the journey is that God will personally reveal this truth to all men. All who have not committed the unpardonable sin will at some point receive this personal revelation. God would not sacrifice his Son for all men without revealing this truth to all men. So, even after Christ returns and even after the resurrection, God’s greatest revelation will continue to be preached.
Some will argue that when Christ returns, nobody will be able to be saved by faith, because he will be here. But true faith is not just head knowledge. The disciples saw Christ and the miracles. Alone, that head knowledge was insufficient. It was not even enough for the disciples to see the resurrected Jesus. They had to respond the way Thomas did, saying “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). At the same time, many saw Jesus and did not believe. When Christ returns, it will be the same. Those who respond by saying, and truly meaning, “My Lord and my God,” will be saved by their faith.
True faith, with the personal revelation of God’s holiness, is to overcome sin and to do the will of the Father. Christ’s first-time presence produced faith in some, but not in others. Likewise, Christ’s return will produce faith in some, but not in others. After Thomas’ profession of faith, Christ said, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29). John 3:16 says that whosoever believes on him will be saved. The Greek word for belief here is “pisteuo,” which means faith, hope, and belief. It’s much more than mere head knowledge.
Some people, who haven’t yet committed their lives to Christ, might read this and conclude that they don’t have a problem. They could reason that if everyone who doesn’t commit an unpardonable sin will be saved, they could just remain as they are, and not worry about their salvation. But if they really do have a personal revelation from God, about this truth, and choose to ignore it, that could be considered the unpardonable sin. Also, the great tribulation is coming very soon.
It’s my firm belief that this baby-boom generation is the generation that will not pass away before Christ returns (Matthew 24:34). Only those who mature in Christ will be able to endure the great tribulation and be saved (Matthew 10:22, Matthew 24:13, Mark 13:13). (It will be great tribulation against the Church, not against the world.) Therefore, unless you wind up getting killed, you will need to mature in Christ in order to be saved in this generation. The sooner you accept Jesus Christ as Savior, the easier it’s going to be.
Remember that even though God draws all men to himself, he doesn’t do so forever. The more you learn about God, the more responsibility you have to respond to what God shows you. This book is only words. My words mean nothing. But if God speaks to you through my words, then they become God’s words. If God speaks to you through this book, then it would be very dangerous for you to reject God’s revelations about Himself.
If you have not committed your life to Jesus Christ in a personal way, then you need to do so in order to be eternally saved. Tell Jesus that you are a sinner, and ask him to forgive you. Ask Jesus to come into your heart personally. Ask Jesus to take control of your life.
Then start spending lots of time with Jesus. Like any other relationship, it has to mature. Spend time each day in prayer. Seek to find what areas of your life are sinful and need to be changed. Pray for others as well. If possible, try to make Saturday a day that is about prayer, Bible reading, and spending time with God. Find out what God wants you personally to do in order to advance his kingdom. Be constantly asking to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Christ, through the Holy Spirit, will lead you down the road toward sainthood, which is to be a part of the true Israel.
A countless number of people from every nation, tribe, people, and language will “come out of great tribulation” and stand before the throne of Christ (Rev. 7:9‑14). This countless number has been assumed to be representative of the number that will be saved. But these are only the people who inherit the kingdom to become priests and kings (Rev. 1:6, 5:10, 20:6) during the millennium. In other words, they are only the teachers who will rule over a much greater number.
It’s been the impression of many Christians that the number of people saved will be in the small minority of all people who have ever lived. But I think the number of people saved during the Messianic Age will be in the high majority. This includes everybody who has ever lived. The countless number, from every nation, tribe, people, and language is just the tip of the iceberg.
This is the Mystery of God (Romans 11:25, Ephesians 3:6-9, Col. 1:26‑27), that Christ really did come to save the world in a much more glorious way than has ever been understood. Thus, the glory of Christ and the glory of His salvation are far greater than anyone has ever imagined.
Faith is knowing that you will follow Christ, no matter the cost.