The sixth and tenth chapters of Hebrews are two of the most profound and detailed of all scripture. In these texts we discover the apostate who becomes the adversary of God.
Today, we see many people who claim to have once believed in Jesus but now do not. They do not quietly leave, but take on a new mandate; to oppose Christ and all those who love Him. These persons become, in the words of scripture, his “adversaries.”
These people are described by the writers of the New Testament as “apostates,” those who draw back, fall away, become to enemies of Christ. We find them writing books in which they claim to now be enlightened by further education. They say that when they followed Jesus, it was out of ignorance. By study and education the apostate claims to know better now and they are certain the Jesus is merely a myth of the result of men embellishing his true identity.
- Men like Bart Ehrman who claims to have once been an evangelical Christian that learned through his education at university that the writers of the New Testament made Him God when He never claimed this title for Himself.
- Men like Mitchell Reddish, who has written a textbook for first year seminary students stating that Jesus never intended that His disciples would write a testimony of Him; and that the current New Testament we have today was not written by eyewitnesses, but men who did not see Jesus but wrote these texts late in the first century.
See The Statements Of These Men In: “You Are My witnesses: The Men Who Saw Jesus.”
There are hundreds of men and women today who are described as “Biblical Scholars,” who deny that the Bible is the inspired word of God, or that Jesus is who He is portrayed as in the New Testament.
The list of modern apostate New Testament scholars is extensive today, an important indicator of where the world is in the timeline of God. Paul wrote to Timothy that in the last days apostates would be prevalent. In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul warned that just prior to the return of Jesus to earth, apostates would abound (2 Thessalonians 2:1, 1 Timothy 4;1, and the book of Jude).
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the (apostasia) falling away comes first. ~2 Thessalonians 2:1-3
What Is An Apostate?
There is a marked difference between an apostate and a person who simply falls away from Jesus or backslides in their faith for a season. The original Koine Greek gives us a clear definition of apostate: ἀποστασία apostasia; defection from truth (properly, the state) (“apostasy”): falling away, to forsake, a defection. These are persons who claim to have once believed in Jesus but now forsake Him, deny Him, and in the case of the modern militant atheist, vigorously and publically refute, mock, and disdain Him.
Every Christian has doubts during their lifetime and it is to be expected that some will doubt their faith along the way. I have followed Jesus for nearly 44 years. Near the twenty year mark of my walk with Jesus I began to have doubts about my own salvation. I never doubted the true identity of Jesus, but I did doubt that I was truly saved. I didn’t understand how a true follower of Jesus could still sin as I was doing. I had not learned yet that every true follower of Jesus will continue to struggle against sin for their entire life.
I learned that my salvation rests upon the completed work of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. I am saved by God’s grace, through my faith in what Jesus has done. My struggles with sin do not cause me to lose my salvation; my victories and successes in life do not earn me greater love from God.
I also understand that when Jesus died, my old life died with Him. Although I still struggle with sin on occasion, and I do sin less now, I will not be sinless until I die and my spirit is set free from this body of sin and death (Romans 6-7).
It was the seventh chapter of Romans that finally allowed me to see that sin is going to be an ever-present adversary in my life and I will have to constantly fight against it until it is ultimately defeated by the death of my body.
Some people who do not have the benefit of constant Bible study, or who are not adequately taught the Bible verse by verse, will not understand correctly who Jesus is, nor have the reservoir of evidence from consistent study to support their faith.
One of the reasons that I write is to educate Christians on the evidence for their faith so that they have a foundation to build a life of faith upon. There are some Christians who have doubts simply because they don’t have all the information that is available to give them confidence in the Bible.
The sixth and tenth chapters of Hebrews are not about the Christian who struggles with their faith, or who have lapses in their faith. Paul is describing those who say they once believed but have now made themselves the enemies of Christ.
Hebrews 6:4-8 (NKJV)
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.
The key to the above verses is the word, “Impossible.” Everything is possible with God, but the lack of desire from some people often makes it impossible for them to continue with Christ. Paul said that it is impossible for those who have come to know who Jesus is and what He has done; people who have tasted of His goodness—but now reject Him—to renew them again to repentance if they fall away.
Paul writes that the act of denying Jesus causes a condition in the heart that makes it impossible for a person to return in repentance and follow Jesus again.
The Prosecuting Evidence
The problem for people who stop believing in Jesus and then become His adversaries is that they cannot be brought back to repentance and begin to follow Jesus again. It appears from scripture that this is initiated by the person deciding to stop follow Jesus, not because there is no evidence to continue believing.
These persons willingly decided to give up following Jesus and detached themselves from Him, ceasing to produce the fruit that comes from a relationship with Christ.
Jesus described this event in John’s Gospel where He states that in order for anyone to continue following Him, they must keep themselves attached to Jesus. If they do not and intentionally stop believing, He “cuts them off,” and they are “thrown away,” and “burned.”
I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. ~John 15:1-6 (NLT)
Jesus states that because He came to earth and did the miracles that only God could do, this evidence is sufficient to prove that God exists and He is the Messiah. Because Jesus has given the world this evidence and it is recorded in the New Testament, the world is “without excuse.”
If I hadn’t done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be guilty. But as it is, they have seen everything I did, yet they still hate me and my Father. This fulfills what is written in their Scriptures: ‘They hated me without cause.’ ~John 15:24-25 (NLT)
The real issue is that people do not believe the testimony of the New Testament because they listen to the lies of liberal New Testament scholars who state that the text of the New Testament is not reliable. These men and women are atheists who have obtained degrees so that they might write and convince people to not believe in Jesus.
Jesus said that what He has done in coming to earth in fulfillment of over 400 Messianic Prophecies, which predicted everything He has done, and the testimony of the men who wrote the four Gospels which document that Jesus fulfilled these Old Testament prophecies, is sufficient to convince anyone. If a person chooses to believe a critic of the New Testament who lives 2,000 years after the events happened, rather than the men who were there and saw Jesus and heard what He said, they do so to their own peril.
On judgement day, the text of the New Testament will be the evidence that proves Jesus is who He claimed to be. Those who refuse to believe this testimony will be found guilty of wilful negligence and causing their own destruction.
Wilfully Denying Jesus Causes Irreparable Damage To The Soul
Jesus went to great lengths to explain the dangers of falling away. He provided enormous evidence to prove He is God and the Messiah whom the Prophets of the Old Testament predicted. Jesus warned that anyone who denies or ignores this evidence, places themselves in a hopeless situation.
This should be a sober warning to anyone who thinks they can deny Jesus so that they can sin as they please, and then come back to Him later. Something happens to the heart of a person who willingly walks away from Jesus so they can sin as they want. These persons cannot come back to Jesus because the power of sin will not let them leave. The soul is damaged by denying Jesus and it becomes impossible for these persons to bring themselves back to true repentance and follow Jesus again.
If you still have a desire to come back to Jesus, you have not reached this place of impossibility yet. If you once trusted in Christ but now have no desire to follow Him, you may have reached a place where you cannot return to Jesus.
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:
“For yet a little while,
And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.
Now the just shall live by faith;
But if anyone draws back,
My soul has no pleasure in him.”
But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.
In the above second description of those who deny Jesus, we see that renouncing Jesus is a willing sin that has no antidote except total and complete repentance, humility, and an absolute desire to come back to Jesus with complete submission.
The problem for those who renounce Jesus and then spend their time opposing Him with their critical words and comments, is the heart that is damaged beyond repair. It is possible to sin against Jesus in such away that we cannot bring ourselves to genuine repentance and come back to Him again. The sin is a denial of Jesus; the antidote is to repent and return to Him. We see this with Esau in the Old Testament, and Judas Iscariot in the New Testament. The scriptures say that though they sought repentance, it could not be found.
For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. ~Hebrews 12:17 (NKJV)
In Hebrews 6:4-9, Paul describes one of the most serious events that can happen in human life. A person who began with Jesus and was close to obtaining eternal life, gives up and becomes His adversary. In order to understand how this could happen all we must do is look at the example of Judas Iscariot. He walked with Jesus for three and one-half years. He saw Him perform miracles, cast out demons, walk on water, raise people from the dead, and raise Himself from the dead. Despite all of this empirical evidence that Judas saw with his own eyes, his heart still would not believe in Jesus and fully commit his life to Him.
Many people see evidence that is sufficient to trust Jesus but they love their sins too much and they are not willing to give them up in order to follow Jesus completely. They say that they have not seen evidence to convince them, but the truth is, they really don’t want to live the kind of life that Jesus demands.
The New Testament describes people during the time when Jesus was performing miracles, that even though they saw the evidence with their own eyes, they still would not believe.
But despite all the miraculous signs Jesus had done, most of the people still did not believe in him. This is exactly what Isaiah the prophet had predicted: “Lord, who has believed our message?
To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?”
But the people couldn’t believe, for as Isaiah also said,
“The Lord has blinded their eyes
and hardened their hearts—
so that their eyes cannot see,
and their hearts cannot understand,
and they cannot turn to me
and have me heal them.”
Isaiah was referring to Jesus when he said this, because he saw the future and spoke of the Messiah’s glory. ~John 12:37-41 (NLT)
The Results Of A Hard Heart
Incredibly, the prophet Isaiah predicted that this would happen. As a result of their hard hearts and unwillingness to surrender their lives to Jesus because of the evidence they saw, God will harden the hearts of these persons so that they will never believe.
We see this with Pharaoh of Egypt. He had a hard heart already towards the God of Israel. When Moses performed the miracles that should have convinced Pharaoh that the Hebrew God is the True God, it caused his already hard heart, to become even harder. It was at that point that he could never believe.
Fifteen times in Exodus 7-14, the hard heart of Pharaoh is described. On some occasions we see that Pharaoh hardened his heart (Exodus 8:15, 19, 32), on other occasions we see that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 9:12,10:1, 20,27). The Lord gave Pharoah many opportunities to repent, but Pharaoh chose to resist the Lord instead, hardening his heart towards God. This demonstrates that the fault was with Pharaoh, not God. The same sunlight that melts ice in spring, also hardens clay in the summer. God hardens the hearts of people who are already hardened against Him in their hearts. He does not cause the original hardening of the heart, but He does confirm what is already there.
If we persist in rejecting Jesus’ offer of a pardon for our sins, and instead spend our time telling people that He is only a myth, our heart will become so hardened that we will never be able to come back to Him. This is the emphasis of Paul’s words in Hebrews chapters 6 and 10.
Paul’s warning at the end of Hebrews 10 reminds us that becoming Jesus’ enemy after a person once claimed to follow Him, puts this person in a place of certain doom. Their is a judgment facing the enemies of Christ who tell others not to trust Him that is unimaginable. The punishment of these individuals will be much greater than those who simply do not believe.
Degrees Of Punishment In Hell
Many people don’t understand that hell has different levels of punishment. People who suffer the judgment of confinement in hell will discover that their personal level of suffering will depend upon how much they knew and whether they knowingly violated the laws that God ordained or they simply did them in ignorance. The Lord knows the difference.
And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished. But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required. ~Luke 12:47-48 (NLT)
The greater a persons knowledge of Jesus is, while rejecting Him, the more severe their punishment. Those who are militant and active enemies of Christ, suffer one of the most severe punishments. These are people whom Paul describes in Hebrews 6:4-5, “…who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God…” These individuals knew the truth, began to enjoy the truth, were made partakers of the truth, but chose lies instead.
There is no ambiguity in whether God exists, or that Jesus has come to earth and demonstrated by empirical evidence that God exists. The problem is never with the evidence that is available, but with the hearts of people who choose not to believe it. To these persons Paul warns: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God,”a warning that no person should dismiss.
Evidence That Evidence Is Not Enough
Paul describes Judas Iscariot and the many others who saw Jesus present evidence for who He is. People who deny Jesus today, have been given far more evidence than the people who saw Jesus at that time. Today we have the complete Bible assembled which predicts a Messiah, and documents that Jesus is this Messiah.
People who saw Jesus perform miracles would not believe in Him, just as people today see the New Testament Gospels which document that Jesus performed these miracles. Both are lost, not because there was insufficient evidence, but because they chose not to believe.
Paul writes that this present apostasy was predicted by the Prophet Isaiah 2,700 years ago. Isaiah said that many who would hear about Jesus from the testimony written in the New Testament would not believe, though they saw the evidence.
Just as people saw Jesus at that time but chose not to believe in Him, people do the same today when they read what the men who saw Jesus wrote about Him. Many people at that time had their eyes blinded and their hearts hardened by God, because they would not believe despite seeing Jesus prove who He is.
The same is true today. The modern atheist claims that he cannot see any proof for the existence of God, when in truth, Isaiah said the God would blind their eyes and harden their hearts because they saw the evidence of the New Testament but still would not believe.
A person can make it impossible for themselves to be saved by persistent unwillingness to accept the evidence that God has presented to us. When this takes place, Romans 6:4-8 (above), takes place: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance…”
Who Causes And Completes Salvation
Our salvation comes from God and is His work from start to finish. It is also true that we must at least be willing to trust Jesus and continue with Him for our entire life. God did not force anyone to be saved and He will not force us to remain saved if we do not want to.
We might wonder how the scriptures can state that once a person believes upon Jesus and they are saved, they cannot be lost. Jesus speaks of people who are saved in John 17 as always belonging to the Father and known to Him before He created the universe.
This can only mean one thing: The people who claim to have once believed but later fall away, are not included in Jesus’ statements of John 17. The scriptures which describe believers as a work of God and their salvation is secure, are not the individuals who once claim to have believed, but now do not. These are the people whom Jesus described in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. They looked and sounded just like the saved, but they were pretenders. Some of these people uproot themselves and leave Jesus. Others will not be known as false believers until Jesus returns and He commands the angels to separate the Wheat from the Tares.
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ” ~Matthew 13:24-30 (NKJV)
No one knew that Judas was a false believer until he denied Jesus and hung himself. No one today can really tell who the true and false believers are. Jesus said that this is not our job. It is our task as His followers to love everyone who claims to love Jesus and to not second guess whether they are sincere or not. Jesus will reveal this to the world when He comes again. Perhaps if we love all those who claim to be believers that some of the Tarres will become Wheat because of our love for them.
Categories: Agnostics and Skeptics, Chosen/ Elected, Following Jesus, How Salvation Occurs, Jesus Church, Living For Jesus, No one is "good", One Way to Heaven, Predestination, Pretend Believers, Religion vs. Relationship, Robert Clifton Robinson, Salvation is a free gift, True Repentance, We must see our need, What is required for Heaven?