Bible Passage: Hebrews 10:26-39
This book of Hebrew is the gospel for those who have heard of the gospel. After convincing the readers that Jesus Christ is the greatest and final salvation, freely offered to sinners, the author calls the reader to pay attention to Jesus, to trust in the complete redemption, to rely on his ongoing work as the High Priest and to persevere in this faith until the very end of their lives. This path toward salvation is presented side by side with the alternative path of eternal damnation. The author asks the reader to pick one and pick carefully. True Christians can still sin and need to repent. Jesus didn’t condemn Peter who denied Him after knowing the Gospel but instead He gave comforting words and prayed for Peter as the High Priest. The word ‘deliberately’ in verse 26 means not any sin, but a specific kind of sinning. It is a sin which considers other things better than faith to the gospel then rejecting the gospel of Jesus.
Some Jewish people at that time think that Old Covenant faith is better than faith in Jesus Christ. They initially received the gospel with joy but overtime some of them wavered. They wonder how their sin is paid for if they don’t sacrifice animals, how they belong to God if they are not circumcised. But here the author convinced them that Jesus is better than the Old Covenant, Moses or Aaron and asked them not to leave Jesus.
Verse 19-25 tells us four things: to believe in the gospel, to continue to believe in the gospel for the rest of our lives, to live out the gospel in love and good works, to encourage one another to love in good works. All these can be summarized in this call: believe in Jesus. All sin can be forgiven when we are united in Christ. In this union Jesus bears the punishment of our sins and gives us His righteousness. So if we leave Christ there is no longer any other place to find salvation. The Old Testament saints saw the advertisement of Jesus in the animal sacrifices. However New Testament saints tasted Jesus when they saw Him nailed on the cross, so if they still don’t want Jesus it means they didn’t actually believe in the animal sacrifices in the first place.
Verse 27 shows the path of eternal damnation. Jesus is infinitely better than the other options, because He is the only way to the Father and all other ways lead to hell. It is a fearful thing to turn from the gospel. Public stoning is the punishment for those who turned from the law of Moses in Old Testament. New Testament is not less horrifying. If someone turns away from Jesus to false religions, the book of Hebrew tells us, he is not ‘just’ kicked out from the church and removed from the membership list, he will face greater punishment – ultimate hopelessness, eternal death, hell (God’s judgement and fiery fire) – waiting for him.
These days, the world no longer believes in punishment and retributive justice. Suffering the loss of freedom (prison) is no longer seen as a formal punishment for a crime but instead as a way to make a better person. Is this right? Yes we hope the prisoner can be a better person, however this doesn’t diminish the fact that punishment must be applied in proportion to the crime they have committed. This is applied as a form of payment, because it is justice. This is what God says so in the teaching of hell. If hell is just a containment facility, God wouldn’t set in on fire (Isaiah 66:24). If the ultimate purpose of hell is to make a better person, then Jesus wouldn’t tell the story of Lazarus and the rich man. It is the warning of hell that changes man.
The world nowadays believes in emotional utilitarianism. They don’t believe in justice, it’s all about benefiting humans. They think if punishment can make people better than it has no objective value. If punishment makes humans sad, and does nothing for humans, why punish? If something wrong can make more people happy, then what’s wrong becomes right. If justice is subordinated to human’s emotions, then there is no justice. This is why a prison becomes more and more comfortable and countries abolish capital punishment.
In a similar way Christians can struggle with God’s sovereignty when it comes to salvation. They don’t understand that if God doesn’t send people to hell, then He hates justice, holiness and Himself. An unjust god is actually a hateful god. This kind of god doesn’t love humans, but worship humans. Our God is a loving God and a justice God. He can save as many people as He will according to His grace and He can condemn as many as He will according to His justice. Truly justice can only exist if the satisfaction of justice is above the satisfaction of human desire. It can only occur in Christian worldview where God rules above mankind, and mankind is responsible directly to God. According to God the punishment of hell is appropriate for the severity of the crime – rejecting and despising the death of Jesus (verse 29).
Beware of Jesus’ parable of the sower. There are many people who confess as Christians but actually they are the rocky grounds. For us who want to walk the Christian path, following the lead of Jesus, there will be trials on our way: pleasure and persecution. These trials serve two purposes. First is to train Christians to believe and obey God more and more. The other purpose is to differentiate the true and false Christians. The same fire from God purifies some while destroying others. Let’s prove ourselves to be true Christians by enduring this hardship that God places in our path. When following Jesus becomes costly, how much are you willing to pay to continue? Will you be able to show that Jesus is worth more than everything you have acquired in this world? The passage tells us there is joy reserved for those who perseveres, which comes from knowing that our precious in Christ can not be taken away, and this treasure is much greater than anything in the world (verse 34).