Perhaps the 1 Cor5 verse is what is being explained in Hebrews 6: there is a state that one can reach in which confrontation by the church is unsuccessful, therefore the person is cast out to Satan’s realm for redemptive punishment. Why would that not fit? It would have to assume that “impossible” is referring to the church in its attempts to restore. I wonder why no one has proposed this- does it fit the Greek?
Otherwise, it would seem to fit annihilationism or ECT.
I’ve been meaning to write up my notes on judgment and salvation in EpistHeb since I guest-taught a class on it at church last year.
Until then, some notes on chp 6:
1.) Whatever else is being talked about in Hebrews 6, I don’t think it involves being thrown to Satan, or into Satan’s realm, in order to be taught a lesson. The context here, and in Hebrews 10 (which is even more explicit on the same topic), involves direct punishment from God.
2.) The Greek leaves open the question of termination. The NASB features two translations of verse 6, “since” or “while” “they again crucify to themselves the Son of God”. The Greek has neither “since” nor “while”, simply stating the cause to be that they are crucifying the Son of God again. So far as the contextual grammar goes, it could be either way: it is impossible to renew them to repentance (the term for impossibility is actually back at verse 4 but to smooth it better in English it’s often written in verse 6) since or because they do this; or it is impossible to renew them to repentance while they are doing this.
Strictly speaking the language is a present active verb, so “while” would make sense, although “since/because” wouldn’t be wrong. It would be a further question whether this action continues on permanently or stops eventually. So far as the grammar goes, it could go on never-endingly, but the Hebraist doesn’t say that (or why) it necessarily would.
At the least, any translator should be able to agree that the statement means so long as someone continues crucifying the Son of God, putting Him to open shame, it is impossible to renew them to repentance. (An ultra-universalist could even agree with this, provisioning however that, as Christ stated in regard to salvation, “with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible!” The implication however is that God is the One Who will be doing the punishing as a result, especially in light of chapter 10 on the same topic.)
3.) The reference to cursed ground is an allusion/paraphrase of Deuteronomy 29:22-23, which in turn has a double contextual importance. On the one hand, the curse happens because the people whom God has chosen for certain blessing boast to themselves that they need not fear the punishment of the curse and can walk in the stubbornness of their hearts doing things which will destroy the watered and the dry: in other words, they take the surety of God’s promises to them as meaning they will never be punished for doing evil. God strongly warns in verse 20 that He “shall never be willing to forgive [such a sinner] but rather the anger of YHWH and His jealousy will smoke against that man, and every curse which is written in this book will lie down on him, and YHWH will blot out his name from under heaven.” And as with one man, so will YHWH do toward all the tribes of Israel eventually. (v.21) God prophecies through Moses that this will in fact happen, so that when it does eventually happen, and the people (and their land) have been overthrown like Sodom and Gomorrah, Jew and Gentile both will know that this should have been no surprise because God foresaw it was going to happen.
That’s one side of the context. The other side, though, is the subsequent promise (in chapter 30, and also in the Song of Moses from chapter 32 which the Hebraist obviously has in mind because he himself also quotes it in regard to exactly this topic in his own 10th chapter) that once God has destroyed rebel Israel to the point where they are not even slave or free (i.e. a euphamism for killing them as utterly as possible, for so long as they live on the earth they must be either slave or free), then they will finally repent and turn to YHWH for salvation, and YHWH will save them from their sins and vindicate them and triumphantly restore them to all the promised blessings which He assured them He would bless them with. (Which assurance, remember, was what they had abused in their presumption leading to having their names blotted out!) So that His prophecy of their final ultimate blessing would be in fact realized, though not before He had destroyed them as far as possible while not annihilating them so that they could not repent leaving His promises for them void.
(The Hebraist has some things to say about those promises made by YHWH to Abraham, too, in chapter 6: since God has nothing higher to swear by, He swears by Himself in the covenant “I will surely bless you and surely multiply you”. It is this covenant which is being presumptively abused and punished in Deut 29, as alluded to by the Hebraist earlier in chapter 6 applied in regard to crucifying again the Son of God–but not hopelessly punished, because then God would not be able to fulfill His promises!)
This is all exactly why the Hebraist references Deuteronomy 32 later in his 10th chapter, when returning to this topic and this warning, that God will judge (actually vindicate!) his people, and why vengeance should be left to God; and why it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
But the reference to Deut 32 indicates explicitly that falling into the hands of the living God, while terrifying, is not at all hopeless. God will fulfill His promises of blessing one way or another, and has foreseen that some people will insist on being punished first to the farthest extreme before finally repenting and being restored.
thanks for another great read, Jason!
Just noticed this, so I’m cross posting with a little addition based on what Jason said:
Perhaps the passage is contrasting knowing with not knowing? The ones who have really tasted will not fall away, they will be watered, productive, blessed… The ones who fall away have not really tasted. Once you taste, there is no turning back… (who would want to turn back?) “It’s IMPOSSIBLE!”
Have to think about it, but I think the above understanding could fit with Jason’s analysis. I think a lot of people who sit in pews and think they are “in” have a false sense of security and have never really tasted nor been cleansed by the fire of God.
Jason. thanks so much for the reply. I had a question- is it seen as good exegesis (I am asking this sincerely, not being rhetorical) to make a parallel interpretation to whatever OT passage is quoted in the NT? Can we apply all aspects of the OT situation to the NT quote?
if i could hazard a reply to that…i think we HAVE to use a parallel interpretation. we must assume that the author knew the text, and must’ve trusted that the recipient of the letter would also know (and would check for themselves).
the reason is that it would’ve been as vital for them to get context right as it is for us.
but even if that assumption is wrong and they didn’t know, God would have inspired them to use it knowing full well what would happen when someone eventually added 2 to 2…
so even if the author didn’t know the full truth that he/she was inspired to right, it’d still end up working as the Spirit purposed.
so yes, i think we are right to check the context of quoted scriptures for parallels as well as doctrinal check points to ensure we’re not on the wrong track.
this verse seemingly contradicts so much that it requires us to work extra hard to see what the truth is behind the statement.
Good stuff Jason. Very helpful.
It’s all hidden away snugly in the Amplified Version.
A slight paraphrase:
“If we Christians deviate from the faith and turn away from our allegiance, it is impossible to bring us back to repentance so long as we crucify Christ afresh and hold Him up to contempt and public disgrace.”
Brilliant. That makes sense.
We should avoid sin like the plague because we do not wish to drive in one more nail. Christ has suffered enough. Our faithlessness puts him right back there on the cross. Rather, we should desire to bring some comfort to God in his suffering. “Inasmuch as you did it for the least of these my brothers, you did it for me.”
That interp seems an odd thing to say, as if what was said was: “as long as you remain unrepentant it is impossible to bring you back to repentance”. As long as you are unrepentant you are unrepentant. Doesn’t make sense.
I wondered about that too.
As long as we return like a dog to the vomit of our sin, we cannot enjoy God’s feast. But it’s not just ourselves we’re hurting. We’re hurting God.
I wouldn’t apply it in some automatic fashion. Sometimes the authors are midrashing; they have an idea that sounds sort-of similar to suggestive language from the OT and so they quote that. Matthew’s application of Rachel weeping for her children is one of the more famous examples: that passage from Jeremiah is not at all about innocent children being slaughtered by a rebel king, or even an overt prophecy about it. (What it is about, is a prophecy from God to faithful Israel, poetically represented by Rachel, who is weeping inconsolably over her rebel children “for her children–they are not!”, having been slain by God for their rebellion. God consoles her that He will restore them to her and she will eventually rejoice; and that somehow He’ll bring this about in a way that involves doing an enigmatic new thing with a woman encompassing a man. Be that as it may…)
The Hebraist could have been midrashing his references to Deuteronomy in chapters 6 and 10. But the express topical overlaps otherwise tend to weigh, I think, against mere pick-up quotes and allusions. (To give another topical overlap example, the Hebraist shows afterward in chapter 12 that he is very concerned with the notion of God punishing people He intends to succeed in saving from their sins, and with how scary and unpleasant this can be, but that we ought to expect a good father to be doing this for good reasons related to our eventual benefit–without thereby disregarding the numinous fear of what’s happening and Who is doing it!)
Taken with Paidon’s observation on the other thread that the Greek translation “impossible” would be better understood as “powerless”, your analysis makes sense to me.
As long as one is crucifying Christ afresh, holding him up to contempt and public disgrace, God is powerless to bring one to repentance.
God is a gentleman. He let’s one go when one chooses to behave in a prodigal manner. When Christians sin doesn’t it hold Him up to contempt and public disgrace? I have often been embarrassed to call myself a christian because I think the behavior of some who name Christ bears no resemblance to Him.
Which I believe was more or less Ghandi’s reason for not becoming a Christian in the first place…
Yea, well the standard of Christ exists whether we fail to live by it or not! “The abuse does not take away the use”.
Do we not eat pizza because some eat 3 pizzas a day in gluttonism?
I see where you’re going there, even though I’m not sure the analogy quite works (although the statement itself is internally logical).
Ghandi was attracted to Christ, but not to Christ’s followers, because his experience was that they were so unlike the Christ they were supposedly trying to emulate.
But this raises an interesting question; do we need to be/ call ourselves “Christians” in the traditional sense in order to be saved, participate in the kingdom, or be “Christ followers”? Jesus did not come to start a new religion, he came to show us how to have and participate in the abundant kingdom life (aionios zoe, the life of the ages)
Loved this conversation!! Remember Rob Bell’s book . . .LOVE WINS. “That’s” the Omega. We know what it is. I’ve heard many a sermons where Pastors yell at their congregations “we read the end of the book and we know God’s gonna win it all and send all those evil people to eternal hell where they deserve . . .do I hear an amen!!!” And of course, the congregation would eat that kind of stuff up. But there’s never been an arguement about whether or not God wins . . .the difference is . . .HOW he goes about bringing that into completion. I can’t see how sending the vast majority of God’s created beings that were formed in his image to eternal damnation is considered winning in the first place. But . . .my point is, LOVE WINS. Love doesn’t function under the same restrictions as logic and reason. Love isn’t governed by time. The idea of someone being in a form of hell after they die “for a time” before they are fully restored to the Father, for me, is still trying to apply the natural laws of nature to spiritual truths. Time does not exist in the spirit realm. It’s not measured. Only those of us in this realm measure time and use time to measure us.
Ever think about a time when you were much younger and someone really pushed you over the edge? The further back you go, the harder it is to remember, let alone hold a grudge. So . . .if you could go as far back as you can . . .to the FIRST time your feelings were hurt by someone . . .how strong is the offense today? How does it “measure” up now? It’s hard to hold on to something that has been lost “in time”. Imagine now that in the spirit, time has no power or influence whatsoever. The offense is nonexistent. It’s as far as the east is from the west. So how can we be so convinced that evil people will go into some sort of purification tank after death “for a time” when the life after death isn’t bound by the effects of time?
Probably should have started a new thread for that one. Had no intention of going where that went.
The reason I wanted to respond was, the topic is about the impossibility of bringing someone back into the fold . . . so . . .is it safe to say this is a salvation issue? Which it “appears” to be . . .but the funny thing is . . .Paul “JUST SAID” we’re to let go of the elementary levels of salvation . . .if we’re to let them go, why would he then turn around and focus on the very thing we’re supposed to be letting go of? Unless . . .
1Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the **foundation of repentance **from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3And this will we do, if God permit.
So . . . he says we’re not to camp out on the topic of repentance through dead works . . .then in the very next breath . . .
4For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
Now . . .here’s my proposal . . .WHAT IF it’s NOT about the impossibility of bringing you back . . .WHAT IF what he’s talking about is the impossibilty of YOU FALLING AWAY in the first place??? You all understand the principles of DNA . . .right? If YOUR child was born into this world . . .regardless of what that child ate, thought, did, or believed . … is there ANYTHING that would remove your DNA from within the child? Even if they spit in your face, changed their name . . .moved to the other side of the world . . . chose to have other people as their parents even!!! Would they STILL not have your DNA in them? ONCE you are born again into the kingdom of God . . . .it is IMPOSSIBLE to remove his nature from within you REGARDLESS of what you think, say, do or believe. Because IF it “could” happen, whatever it was that did the separating would be greater than God’s love. And we all know NOTHING is greater, not “on” this earth, below or above it. His love is just that great.
For me, it’s not about the impossibilty of bringing someone back . . .I think “that” part of it was just an elaboration on the main point. And the main point isn’t about bringing them back . . .it’s about the impossibility of falling away to begin with.
7For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: 8But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
See, there is a part of us that is to be burned . . .but even “that” is a good thing. We were born into a curse. Thus, the need to be born . . .again . . .not born into a church’s definition of salvation. I believe many who believe they’re born again in Christ are merely born into a church’s religious image of Christ. Because the end result is that you will then be able to “see” the kingdom of God. Yet the majority of people out there professing Christ are the blindest people on the planet. Why? Because they repeated a prayer after someone else that led them into a denominations slant on who God is. And now that truth is beginning to manifest, people can’t recognize it. They need to be born again . . .again. Instead of going from the bondage of sin into the bondage of religion, we need to experience the freedom of light, life and love in our OWN relationship with the Father through the finished works of his Son.
Good thoughts, Nathan.
I thought it might be speaking of the impossibility of falling away but slightly different than what you are saying. You suggested “it is IMPOSSIBLE to remove his nature from within you REGARDLESS of what you think, say, do or believe” while I was thinking along the lines of once I have really tasted of God His heavenly gift, His blessing, drinking forth the rain, it would be impossible for me to fall away. I can’t imagine living apart from the Lord. But your take might be better. Maybe someone could really be intimate with Him and still walk away
Liked your DNA bit. And agree with you that lots of people in pews are blind and have never experienced deep intimacy with God (was in that condition myself for a long time and God forbid I ever turn back to that!!! It would be like crucifying the Son of God afresh).
Nathan, I was just reminded of another passage about the results of blindness which seems to fit with what you were saying in your closing paragraph of your most recent comment.
once enlightened, once I see, once I taste of the heavenly gift, is it possible to fall away?
as long as I am in this earthly tent, do I see clearly?
I love your quoted passages there. Becoming sinless. People go two ways with that and for me, one is incomplete, the other is inaccurate . . .Starting with the latter . . .they think that you “can” acheive sinlessness in your flesh. In other words . . . you’re so self-disciplined that bad thoughts never enter your mind, you never make bad decisions, never take wrong turns, never blow off steam . . .all of that. Problem is, the emphasis is all on “me” and my actions. And believe it or not, other people will actually “avoid” that kind of person because it’s tough to live with a perfectionist.
This relationship God has extended to us isn’t meant to elevate “us”. It’s meant to glorify “Him”. The more I focus on my ability to not sin, the less effective I become at manifesting his nature to others. Sounds a bit out there, but the truth is, what Jesus encouraged us to do was not to be perfect, but to love one another. I see Romans 3 very much connected to this when it speaks about law being the “knowledge of sin”. This isn’t about “being” perfect. It’s about walking in “perfection”. And yes, there is a difference.
Perfection is a finished work. It covers a multitude of sins. It’s where grace abounds. If you think about it, people who spend all their energy on trying to be perfect have a lot less tolerance toward those who don’t. Love ignores all of that.
I’d mentioned there are two general interpretations . . .the other is, people just assume that this is mistranslated due to the fact that it’s impossible to live a sinless life, with Christ or without him, we are still living in these bodies of flesh which continue to crave fleshly things and as Jesus himself said, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Even the disciples couldn’t remain awake and alert at the most trying time in Jesus ministry just before the soldiers came and took him away. Flesh just can’t keep pace with spiritual truth no matter how you dress it up.
And as I said, I do believe that to be true, but incomplete. And the part that I seldom hear people embrace is realilzing that IN SPITE OF our flesh’s inability to remain pure, God’s power of redemption disregards all of that because the cross was never established for the purpose of measureing sin. It’s purpose was to enable us to be free from it’s power but not it’s presence. In this world, sin runs rampant. But the question is, from which perspective are you observing? God’s? Or man’s? When Scripture says things like . . .it’s impossible to sin we either skim over that or . . .we misinterpret it. We can’t imagine our flesh being sinless. But like everything else about Christ, this isn’t a literal observation . . .it’s not being observed on a level of flesh . …but in the spirit is where perfection manifests.
We still make bad decisions in this realm . . .but unlike what the church has forced upon us . . .salvation didn’t come by what we did or didn’t do. It’s a gift. We didn’t earn it . . .we don’t deserve it. And in the same light, “keeping” that gift doesn’t come by way of disciplinary controls either.
2This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
3Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
4Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.
5He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
We are called sinless because that’s what our IDENTITY has become . . .sinless. “I” am not a soul with a spirit . . .I am a spirit that . . .oh . . .my take on this might be different as well. Suppose I should at least share out my take on it.
Anyone ever define what their “soul” actually is? The church teaches it’s your mind, will and emotions. Which for me . . .would be your “personality”. But when it occurred to me that it was what I was “taught” rather than what the Father “revealed” . . .I laid it down for a bit. Let my spirit hover over the face of the deep . . .walked around in the room for a while . .waiting to see where it would lead. It lead me to this . . .see if your spirit connects with it or not . . .
First, God made man from the earth . . .just a clay pot so to speak. There was no life, no nothing going on. God created man out of the dust of the earth . . .but then . . .a second piece was added . . .God “breathed” into this man God’s breath. Well, “breathe” and “breath” are Hebrew words for “spirit.” When Adam walked with God in the “cool” of the day . . .look up that word cool . . .it’ll mess you up . . .it has nothing to do with temperatures . . .it’s the same word as all the other Hebrew words for spirit . . .it’s actually “breathe” or “breath”. God walked with Adam in the “breath” of the Day . . .that’s why I personally believe they can send every scientist alive over there to search for the garden of Eden but they’ll never find it . . .it’s not “on” this earth. That’s why when God created Adam from the dust of the earth, he then “placed” him in the garden. Natural was not the predominant realm in the beginning as it is to us now. Spirit was.
At any rate . . .there was a body, and “now” God breathed into it . . .so . . .we now have body + spirit. And when God did this, IN the body man BECAME a LIVING SOUL. The soul didn’t manifest until after the spirit entered into the flesh. So . . what is my soul? For me . . .it’s the manifestation, it’s the evidence that a spirit is living in the body. It’s the light that’s on so other’s know someone is home. Another way to look at it is . . .put a person in a dark room . . .nothing else, just a guy standing in the dark. Then turn the light on. When the light is on, there now is, the person and something else. What is the something else? For me, this helps explain where the soul goes after the spirit leaves the body. In the room when the light goes on . . .now . . .there’s a person . .and . . . a shadow. Turn the light off . .the shadow goes away? Where is it? Did it go to purgatory? Did it go with the spirit? Is it still hanging around the body? Turn the light “on” and immediately it’s back again.
I believe that’s the same with our soul. when my spirit leaves my body, my soul no longer manifests that life is in the body. It doesn’t “go” anywhere . . .it’s just the manifestation of my spirit being in this body. We are not fully manifesting “his” image if we are merely spirits . . .which I believe is what we are when we’re not in these bodies. We still exist, just not in bodies. At any rate, we’re incomplete. Which for me explains why it’s so important that in the end, we return to our bodies, but ones that are fitted for a bit of a longer duration . . .like . . .eternal . . .and when we “do” reenter these bodies, our souls will once again manifest our spirit’s existance.
I think I just ran the subject off in another direction . . .I hate it what that happens!!! Kinda.
Nathan, I think I’m tracking with you on the sin issue. In the Garden there were two trees. One was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (TOKOGAE). The other was the tree of life. When we eat from the first tree either by our evil OR by our self righteous focus on our own good works, it leads to death. My friend Stella has some good insights on this:
I believe that Jesus is ready willing and able to empower us to walk as He did. This IS the Good News IMO. This does not happen by focusing on the elimination of sin in my life (or the life of others). It happens by drawing close to Him, being filled with the Spirit, and crucifying the flesh.
I see the spirit soul and body differently than you. The Greek word for body is soma; soul is psuche, from which we get “psyche,” and spirit is pneuma. IMO, the soul/psyche is where the sinful flesh dwells. http://www.raystedman.org/leadership/smith/dyingtolive/fig3.jpg
How is that different? I totally agree in that my soul is directly connected to carnality. I believe it’s also directly linked to my mind . . .I don’t think the soul is ever destroyed, I believe it’s renewed and carnality is destroyed but for the soul itself to be destroyed would then be separating our “being”. Kinda like separating Jesus the Son from God the Father . . . they are one, like an egg that consists of three major componants . . .shell (body) egg white (soul) and yolk. (spirit) but if you separated one from the other, you would destroy the continuity of the egg.