Christ, Our Righteousness, Part 19
Let’s get into Hebrews 10, admittedly, a difficult passage, like the passage from Hebrews 6 that we dealt with previously. At the outset, let me say that I write this not to convince anyone of anything, but to simply ask you to consider your possibly strongly held beliefs with respect to this particular passage. Is it saying that a person can lose their salvation? Is it saying that a person who is actually born again can backslide to the point of completely apostatizing without returning to Jesus? Is it describing people who are, after all is said and done, merely professing Christians, but never truly experienced the new birth as described by Jesus in John 3?
For a long time, I held to the third option. But as often happens when some new information comes into play, I have reconsidered things. I’m glad I’m not alone as there are numerous conservative biblical scholars who also share my latest (and what I believe to be far more accurate), view. Whether or not you agree with me is your business and I’ll leave you to that.
By the way, this will be the second to last part of “Christ, Our Righteousness,” because Hebrews 10 provides a perfect segue from understanding the righteousness that is ours in Christ and the fact that His righteousness opens the door to fellowship with God. Stop right here and let that sink in for a moment or two; the fact that God graciously extends the opportunity to fellowship with Him. How can we ignore that? We dare not.
Our next part will conclude this article covering Hebrews 10 and then we will move into the first part of “Christ, Our Fellowship,” though there will likely be some continuing crossover between the two subjects.
Hebrews was written by someone who was steeped in understanding regarding the old covenant. It doesn’t matter who the human author was because ultimately, it was God, who had things to say that we need to comprehend and live by. The human author compares and contrasts aspects of the Mosaic Law (the Old Testament) with the Law of Love under Christ (the New Testament). In essence, we see the old and new covenants side-by-side and we should also then comprehend how the new covenant is superior to the old.
In Hebrews 10, the writer begins by noting that the Mosaic Law was ultimately a shadow of the perfect that would come to us in Jesus. In Hebrews 10:1, the writer points out very clearly that the sacrificial system within the Old Testament was unable to purify the worshipers, because that was not its purpose. Its job was to remind worshipers of their transgressions and imperfections so that they would understand that they needed a Savior in the first place.
The Law also provided a way for God to set aside or “cover” the sins created by worshipers during that time period (prior to Christ), because He was always looking at the once-for-all, perfect sacrifice that was to come in Jesus (though already existed in His eternal present).
Since God exists in the eternal present (unlike us), He was able to do this in His “real-time” though of course to us, it appears as though those in the Old Testament came long before the birth, sinless life, and criminal’s death of Jesus, sometimes by a few thousand years. In actuality, as far as God is concerned, it happened at the same time with no separation. By the way, this is another reason when God tells us He is “coming quickly,” etc., with respect to His second coming, He is telling the truth because that also is in His eternal present (not ours). The end of the age has already occurred. No, I don’t get it either because the boundaries of time constrain my thinking.
As we move along through Hebrews 10, we learn that the Mosaic Law was intended to point to the perfect way, the way found only in Jesus. Hebrews 10:16-17 tell us that through Jesus, the Law will be written on our hearts and due to the perfect sacrifice of Jesus and our faith in His efficacious sacrifice, God would be in a position of no longer having to remember our sin. This was something the Mosaic Law in the Old Testament could not (and cannot) do, but Jesus can and does.
Hebrews 10:19-25 builds upon the foundational aspect of Christ’s perfect sacrifice, ultimately pointing us toward something the Law could also not provide: fellowship with God in Christ.
19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the fresh and living way that he inaugurated for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in the assurance that faith brings, because we have had our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. 23 And let us hold unwaveringly to the hope that we confess, for the one who made the promise is trustworthy. 24 And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, 25 not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near.
Notice in verse 22, the writer to the Hebrews is urging everyone (because of the truth noted in verses 19-21), that we should “draw near with a sincere heart in the assurance that faith brings.” We should draw near to God, not as Judge, but in fellowship. The writer tells us why we should have confidence to do this:
- our hearts have been cleaned for an evil conscience by the blood of Jesus
- our (spiritual) bodies have been washed
Because of this new standing before God (our righteousness), we should have confidence in the hope we hold because the One who made it is trustworthy and cannot lie. Based on this, we should work to spur (encourage) each other to love one another and to do good works. This should involve continuing to fellowship with other believers through corporate worship and gatherings. Even then – likely due to persecution – Christians had begun to stop gathering together. During times of persecution, corporate gatherings are even more important as a stopgap against falling away.
By the way, I want to deal with Hebrews 10:24 (above) in a separate article soon. It really lays a strong foundation for our fellowship with Christ (and with one another). Hopefully, I’ll remember to cover it.
The writer to the Hebrews is building a case and he arrives at one of his main points (that he introduced in Hebrews 6), with verses 26-31.
26 For if we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins is left for us, 27 but only a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume God’s enemies. 28 Someone who rejected the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much greater punishment do you think that person deserves who has contempt for the Son of God, and profanes the blood of the covenant that made him holy, and insults the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know the one who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
This is admittedly, a long, difficult section to grasp. Again, I don’t want to tell you how to understand it. That’s for you to decide based on your own study and prayer life with God. I’m simply going to share with you how I understand this section. If it gels with you, great. If not, then I’m sure you’ll have no difficulty tossing out my understanding of it.
Let’s at least start this and hopefully finish it with our next post. We’ll see how that goes though. The above section is really a pericope that highlights something specific. In this case, it is highlighting the possibility of judgment. The writer is focusing on this to warn his readers how to avoid judgment. If you’re a Christian who thinks you will never fall under God’s judgment, think again. Now, I’m not talking about God’s wrath, which is something that true Christians (those who have actually placed their faith in Christ’s redemptive work allowing God to grant them salvation) will never experience.
But God will absolutely judge our works, which include our deeds, our thoughts, and our words. Those will be judged to determine what, if any rewards are given to each Christian. This judgment will occur at the Judgment Seat of Christ, otherwise known as the Bema Seat (2 Corinthians 5:20). While we are inclined to think this will be painless, as though it’s merely a matter of bookkeeping on God’s part, I believe we also need to seriously think again. Try to imagine seeing yourself as you truly are now. Every thought, every intention of our hearts will be laid bare before God (Hebrews 4:13). There is nothing hidden from God and on that day, each one of us will have to deal with the fact that we fell very short on many occasions. Frankly, I believe it will actually sicken us and leave us a bit shocked. Tragically, we will also – in many cases – realize that we knew our true intentions at the time, but chose to ignore them, making what we are seeing all that much more terribly real.
I believe this is why Jesus will find it necessary to wipe away tears (Revelation 21:4). We will see all of our missed opportunities to share the gospel and for the first time, will also see the reasons why we did the things we did. Our true intentions will be seen, something we rarely (if ever) see in this life. I don’t know about you, but I can just imagine how embarrassing all of it will be! I’m not really looking forward to it at all, even though I am saved.
Remember, this time of judgment is not regarding our salvation, which is safe and secure. That cannot be removed from us. We’re talking about our actions, words, and intentions, for which we are accountable. How would God be able to provide us with any rewards if He doesn’t judge those things? I guess what I can hope for when the time comes for me to stand before Him is that there will be a marked difference in my life as I grow toward Him. I’m hoping that as time progresses toward the end of my life, I will be a good student, a good soldier for Jesus, one who boasts in the Lord and willingly submits to Him in all things. I’m hoping my times of sin will be fewer and further between and my actual intentions for the actions and words that flow from me will stem from a heart that is more molded in His image and character. We can only hope this will be the case for all of us, but certainly, much of that is up to us and our desires for God in the first place.
“For if we…” refers to the writer and the people to whom he is writing. He includes himself in the picture, not out of politeness, but because it applies. As writer, he is like the reader – believers, meaning he is including himself in what he is going to say about the dangers of apostatizing.
“deliberately keep on sinning…” is talking about willful sin, sin that is actively chosen.
Willful sin in the context of Hebrews is deliberate apostasy, turning away from God (2:1; 3:12; 6:4-8). If an apostate rejects Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, there is nothing else that can protect him or her from God’s judgment (cf. 6:6; Num. 15:30-31).
So far, so good. Most of us could still take this to refer to professing Christians, not authentic Christians, right? Well, there’s more.
The “judgment” in view will take place at the judgment seat of Christ, not the Great White Throne. It is the judgment of Christians (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10), not of unbelievers (cf. Rev. 20:11-15). 
The statement made above is based on the whole of God’s Word, taken together as one. Constable is not simply pulling this idea out of his hat. He is basing it what the Scriptures teach about this subject. In other words, Constable is allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture. But wait, there is still more.
It will result in loss of reward, not loss of salvation. The same “fire” (divine judgment) that will test believers will also consume unbelievers. “Fire” is a frequent symbol of God and His work in Scripture (Exod. 3:2; 19:18; Deut. 4:24; Ps. 18:8-14; Isa. 33:14; Ezek. 1:4; Mal. 3:2), and it often indicates His judgment (Mal. 3:2; Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16). 
How does Constable (or any scholar) gain this understanding? Clearly, he has done so based on his understanding of the entirety of Scripture. Just look at the variety of verses he referenced as proof of that. While some might accuse him of picking and choosing and taking things out of context, in reality he’s pointing to other areas of Scripture that deal with the same motif, though he is only referencing one or two verses from many sections as a main verse in that section.
Let’s keep going, but I want to try to end this part with the end of verse 26. The writer of Hebrews uses the word “knowledge” in verse 26. He says, “…after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins is left for us.”
The word “knowledge” here is from the Greek word epignosis and literally means full knowledge, according to Constable (and other Greek scholars and unless you’re an expert in the Greek language yourself, you’ll have to take someone’s word on this subject). What this implies is that the person in question has full knowledge of God’s saving grace, which has led them to and embraced salvation. Once again, we are talking about a person who is actually saved, not someone who simply professes to know God or have salvation through God, the Son. The person in view is an authentic Christian and the writer to the Hebrews is telling us that if/when an authentic Christian apostatizes to the point of being unable to return to God through repentance, several things happen. Verse 27 starts to open the door to let us know what these things are that will happen. We need to pay attention.
We’ll pick this up next time with verse 27 and hopefully, wrap things up in this series as well.
 Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Notes on Hebrews 2015, p. 108
Entry filed under: christianity, eternity, israel, Judaism, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation, second coming. Tags: falling away, hebrews 10, hebrews 10:26.