The Evangelical Universalist Forum

JRP's Exegetical Compilation: Heb 10

This is part of my Exegetical Commentary series which I’m sllloowwwlly posting up here.

Heb 10:26-39; “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. …] For it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!” If Hebrews 6 is one of the big guns shot against the hope of final salvation from sin, this is an even bigger gun, often combined with the former chapter, and reasonably so because the topics overlap so well. By the same token, any conclusions specially due to the extra detail, will count back in the proper interpretation of Heb 6.

Once again, like Heb 6, hardcore Arminians appeal to this chapter as evidence that it doesn’t matter how far into the life of Christ someone might be, they can still permanently lose their salvation from sin and be permanently damned instead. Calvinists, and softer Arminians (who acknowledge God’s victorious persistence but who unlike Calvs think someone has to properly convince God to persist before He’ll persist), naturally argue against this by various methods (including by testimony in this chapter which we’ll get to presently); but if the punishment isn’t hopeless, and actually aims at a sure and certain salvation from sin after all, then much of the dispute can be immediately resolved.

To start with, who is being warned? People who have already “received the knowledge of the truth” (v.26); and just in case someone doesn’t recognize that phrase as involving salvation (as in 1 Tim 2:4 for example, where the context definitely involves salvation in regard to “coming to the knowledge of the truth”; also 2 Tim 2:25, where God grants “repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth”), the Hebraist goes on in verse 29 to say that such a person has already been sanctified (or at least is being sanctified) by the blood of the covenant! This isn’t aimed at those pagans or non-Christian Jews over there, or even at people superficially in the church who were only pretending to be sanctified. (See also comments on Heb 6.)

It is true that the Hebraist feels pretty sure, or at least has good hope (as also in chapter 6) that his congregation is not among those who shrink back to destruction ({apôleian}, a cognate of a standard term for being lost or punitively unmade), in whom the soul of God has no pleasure (vv.38-39), and so he exhorts them not to throw away their confidence (v.35). But he does clearly treat them as though they can throw away their confidence rather than enduring to the end so as to receive the promise (v.36).

So how are these who are already being (or have been) sanctified sinning? And why is such a sin so great?

If, after being sanctified and receiving the knowledge of the truth (and drawing near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having a heart sprinkled clean from an evil conscience, and having bodies washed with pure water, 10:22), we go on sinning willfully? Then obviously there is trouble.

Note that these are people who have previously been delivered from an evil conscience! And yet they are continuing to sin, not being troubled in their conscience (or not yet) about this for some reason. And this isn’t an accidental or incidental sin, this is some kind of continuing willful sin.

Naturally, so long as they continue to do this, no sacrifice remains for them; which implies that if they will stop, and repent of their sin, the sacrifice will apply again. Which sacrifice? The sacrifice of the Son of God, which by doing whatever they are doing they are trampling underfoot. And there at verse 29 the Hebraist gets more specific: such a person is regarding as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was, or is being, sanctified, and has thereby insulted (or blasphemed) the Spirit of grace.

Well, obviously, so long as someone regards the blood of the covenant as unclean, trampling down the sacrifice of the Son of God, and thus blaspheming the Spirit of grace, that person is certainly not going to be saved from God’s punishments! Again there are obvious parallels to Hebrews 6: so long as they are holding up Christ to scorn, even crucifying Him again and this time to themselves, they cannot be renewed to repentance.

And yet, as Calvinists and softer Arminians will properly stress in reply, the Hebraist has not long previously (back in 9:14) stressed that the blood of Christ Who {dia pneumatos aiôniou}, through His eonian Spirit, offered Himself without blemish to God, shall surely (“how much moreso”) cleanse our conscience from dead works to serve the living God! Whereupon, not incidentally, he goes on to talk about Christ as the mediator of the new covenant, specifically referencing the Abrahamic covenant made not actually between God and Abraham (except by proxy) but between the Father and the Son, with the Son vouching for Abraham as the descendant or seed of Abraham.

So if the Hebraist (and St. Paul in Galatians) is stressing that the covenant cannot fail or be broken by the sin of any of Abraham’s descendants (which by the incarnation of the Creator Himself must be all rational creatures, not by physical descent but through Christ), so long as Christ dies for any sin in order to ratify the covenant and keep it in effect – then how can anyone say that the covenant will be finally broken and Christ’s sacrifice be made of no effect?!

Because the problem, as each side is aware when critiquing the other side, is that each side is claiming (even using this scripture as evidence!) that the covenant between Father and Son will be of no effect one way or another.

Arminians complain that Calvinists make the scope of God’s covenant between Father and Son to save sinners of no effect; thus God does not effectively apply the covenant to all rational creatures only to some of them despite God sending His Son to be a propitiation not only for our sins but for the sins of the whole world.

Calvinists complain that Arminians make the assurance of God’s covenant between Father and Son to save sinners of no effect; thus the Persons of God are either beaten by sinners in bringing the covenant to fruition, or else one or both Persons choose to quit bringing the covenant to completion even though God could succeed if the Persons of God just kept at it. Calvs also complain that in order to get any assurance (which some Arminians just deny outright anyway), Arms think God has to be convinced to either put the covenant into effect at all or else to not quit on the covenant, when in fact Christ stands as surety by the promise between the Persons given gratuitously between One Another. (Calvs also complain that many Arms tacitly or explicitly exclude any rebel angels from God’s intention to save, meaning those Arminians are actually Calvinists in regard to non-election after all! – while also denying the surety of God’s original chosen intention to save whomever He does intend to save from sin!)

But then all sides look at something like the second half of Hebrews 10; and being committed to the idea that, in effect, Christ’s sacrifice must surely somehow be of no effect to save after all, they exercise themselves in dispute about who the Hebraist must really be warning instead of themselves – except for the hardcore Arminians, who acknowledge that the Hebraist is warning otherwise dedicated Christians, including themselves, not to treat the sacrifice of Christ as being worthless – but who then go on to claim that the threatened punishment involves a result where the sacrifice of Christ is actually worthless to save after all!

Yet the punishment being explicitly referenced by the Hebraist, from Deuteronomy 32, although fierce, and to be avoided if possible (and not by trying to trick God out of it by legal technicalities, nor by someone convincing God not to do it), is the very reverse of hopeless. On the contrary, God through Moses treats it as the only way some sinners will learn to stop sinning.

It is, after all, a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Yet earlier, the Hebraist said (at 3:15) that the problem was falling away from the living God, not falling into His hands; and here again the problem is clearly falling away somehow, not falling into His hands.

Maybe we (since “we” are being warned here) should check just how well “we” know Him Who said, “Vengeance is Mine! I will repay!” and “The Lord will judge His people!”

So, those being punished for doing this, are still His people; God Himself insists they are, including in the context of Deuteronomy the Hebraist is quoting there, where God vindicates His rebel people by judgment against them where necessary, even judgment to the death (until they are neither slave nor free). Consequently, Calvs are wrong if they claim this judgment isn’t being made against people who are really God’s people – just as the hardcore Arminians warn.

But on the other hand, we had better not treat Christ’s sacrifice for His people, for all His people, including for His rebel people, as being in vain. If we insist on interpreting Hebrews 10 as warning about a hopeless punishment for those being judged, we ourselves are the ones who will be trampling underfoot the sacrifice of God! Calvinists themselves insist on this point, except limited to the people they think God specially chose to be saved from their sins: to insist that God’s disciplinary punishment of God’s own people could even possibly result in non-salvation, is itself to trample underfoot the sacrifice of the Son of God!

But again, who, ultimately, are the people of God, in Christ? The prior discussion (going back to Hebrews 6) on the Abrahamic Covenant, tells us who: every creature created by the Creator Who Incarnates Himself in the line of Abraham, which is every rational creature, no matter how many there may be, as many as the stars of the sky or the sands of the sea: the Father and the Son have covenanted with Each Other (the Son standing in for Abraham as Abraham’s descendent) with a promise that cannot be broken by the sin of any creature so long as the Son keeps the covenant in effect by sacrificing Himself for the sin of any creature. Which He does. And that sacrifice is not in vain; God swears upon Himself, the Hebraist says back in chapter 6, since He has nothing any greater upon which to make the promise, so that by two immutable things (the promise of the Father and the Son) we can be assured the promise will be kept, to bring all of Abraham’s descendants into righteousness at last.

The warning is just like Christ’s occasional warnings in the Gospel reports, that God will be unmerciful to those who are not merciful, and will not forgive those who refuse to be forgiving. To insist such a punishment is itself hopeless, not as a mere mistake in doctrine (which could easily happen since the topics after all are rather complicated, strong meat for the mature believer), but as an attitude of our hearts, is to put ourselves under the same punishment, for insisting that the sacrifice of the Son must be in vain after all.

As always, members are invited to discuss interpretations of these verses below, and to link to discussions either here on the forum or elsewhere.

If you find my compilations helpful, feel free to tip me $5 here at Amazon, near or at the top of the list. You can tip me for multiple articles of course. (I get $2.50 of each single $5 tip.)

I see similar contrasts and connections in Romans 1-11, in terms of mercy, judgment, correction and eventual reconciliation… in relationship to those who fall short for various reasons and are cut off. Self-righteousness and judgmentalism are named pre-eminently with the sins of carnality as reasons for the failure of those who are cut-off… but so that they may learn humility again and be redeemed. He applies the principles of judgement to all men equally, then focuses on Israel’s failings, then speaks of God’s love for them and aims some warnings at the gentile believers…then declares that God will save all Israel, and indeed, all men.

Rom 1
Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. 3 But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or** do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? **5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who will render to each person according to his deeds: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God…

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

Rom 2
Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things…

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20** For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. **21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

For when Gentiles who do not have [m]the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.

Rom 9
I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “through Isaac your descendants will be named.”

16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved; 28 for the Lord will execute His word on the earth, thoroughly and quickly.” 29 And just as Isaiah foretold,

“Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left to us a posterity,
We would have become like Sodom, and would have resembled Gomorrah.”

Rom 10
Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. 2 For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. 3 For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the [a]end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

But as for Israel He says, “All the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.”

Rom 11
Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 21 for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. 22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. 23** And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. **24 For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?

For** I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery(See Eph 1:9-11)**—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 **and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.”
27 “This is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”**

28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.

32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.

Anyone would have to believe Paul a split personality to read all that he has written in Romans and Galatians, but then differentiate between Israel as enemies for the gospel sake while yet beloved for the forefathers sake, and insist that they will all be saved after the fulness of theGentiles come in- if judgment is not for correction, remediation and redemption. All through out Romans beginning in chptr 1 Paul is drawing distinctions between the knowledge of God and willing indifference or opposition Israel has displayed to Messiah and the Law of God that is written on the hearts of all men, as well as the law of Moses and the words of the prophets…

But Paul finishes it all with the declaration that all Israel will be saved, that indeed God has shut up all mankind in disobedience, in order to have mercy on all…so that no one can boast, but all give glory to God for His mercy…

and even as he said earlier in Romans 8

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now

And finishes the matter by revealing the goal of it all with the great benediction in Romans 11, in which Paul essentially challenges anyone who thinks that the breadth of such a plan is just to huge to be believed… to reconsider.

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!** How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35 Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things**. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

Th Roman’s Road leads to a greater destination.

God has indeed left a posterity, a remnant, and on this, in a sick way, Calvinists and Arminians agree- only the few will be saved, but… the purpose of the stump is not to give an eternal thumbed nose to all the burning tormented rebels of the ages, it is for the grafting in again of the whole creation, Jew and Gentile, each in their own order till God becomes all in all.

“But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries” (Heb.10:27).

The old man, the sinful nature, is certainly an “adversary” to God. But once “any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor.5:17). The Greek word for “adversaries” is only used one other time in the NT: “having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Col.2:14).

Heb.10:28 A man that hath set at nought Moses’ law dieth without compassion on the word of two or three witnesses: 29 of how much sorer punishment, think ye, shall he be judged worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

Stoning to death is not a very sore or longlasting punishment. People suffered far worse deaths via the torture methods of the eternal hell believing Medieval Inquisitionists and the German Nazis under Hitler.

Therefore, if the writer of Hebrews believed the wicked would be punished with something so monstrous as being endlessly annihilated or tormented, he would not have chosen to compare their punishment to something so lame as being stoned to death. Clearly he did not believe Love Omnipotent is an unfeeling terminator machine or sadist who abandons forever the beings He created in His own image & likeness so easily.

Rom 5:18 Consequently, then, as it was through one offense for all mankind for condemnation, thus also it is through one just act for all mankind for life’s justifying."

Rom 5:19 For even as, through the disobedience of the one man, the many were constituted sinners, thus also, through the obedience of the One, the many shall be constituted just."


It is, after all, a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Yet earlier, the Hebraist said (at 3:15) that the problem was falling away from the living God, not falling into His hands; and here again the problem is clearly falling away somehow, not falling into His hands.

Yet the Greek says:

εἰς χεῖρας θεοῦ ζῶντος-into the hands of a living God. εἰς means mostly in or into there is no away from in the Greek here. If the author of Hebrews wanted to express away from or from he would have used ἀπό instead of εἰς.

Yep: falling into His hands is a terrible thing, but not hopeless punishment. That’s the gist of the Hebraist’s nearby citation of Deuteronomy, too.