Lost Your Salvaiton? Is it Possible? Understanding Hebrews 6
Hebrews 6 has caused much confusion among believers throughout the whole of church history, resulting in several interpretations that don’t seem to answer the pressing questions many precious children of God ask to this very day – that with regards to losing your salvation.
- The most common interpretation is the very strong assertion that believers can lose their salvation, generally referred to as apostasy.
- Some say it deals with persons who were “almost saved” but then turned their backs on Christ.
- others believe it describes a sin only possible among Jews living while the temple was still standing
- And yet others present it as a “hypothetical case” or illustration that could not really happen.
Hebrews was not written to prove that believers can lose their salvation but to encourage them to remain faithful to their Lord in even the most dire of circumstances, with the intent of gaining the rewards that Christ has in stall for them if they remain faithful. To get a more intimate awareness of the heart of the book, we need to briefly look at the purpose it was written for.
Leviticus in the Old Testament and the Epistle to the Hebrews need to be studied in tandem, the reason being that Hebrews illustrates the glorious fulfilment in Christ of all the Levitical rituals and sacrifices. Throughout the Epistle a far better dispensation than the Old Testament is put forward because SOMEONE far greater and more superior than any created being in heaven and on earth has appeared, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Indeed the keyword of the Epistle to the Hebrews is “BETTER” or “SUPERIOR”.”
On several occasions during His earthly life, Jesus said that He who is greater than the temple, He who is greater than Jonah and He who is greater than Solomon has appeared (Matthew 12:6; 38-45). King Solomon’s splendour, majesty and glory were unsurpassed in Old Testament times. Kings and queens of all the surrounding nations honoured him for his great wisdom and majesty. A great heathen nation (the Assyrians of Nineveh) repented of their wickedness when Jonah preached to them. In both these cases Jesus is the greater One. His splendour, majesty and glory far outweighs that of king Solomon, and His preaching and teaching is far greater in power than that of Jonah.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews Jesus’ superiority to the prophets, the angels, Moses, Joshua and Aaron is elaborated upon to illustrate the glory of His person and His work on earth and in heaven. Every Old Testament figure mentioned in Hebrews of whom Jesus is far greater or more superior, illustrates a certain aspect of Jesus’ accomplished work here on earth, of which we will not go into detail now.
The Epistle was written for Jewish Christians who had grown weary of the persecution and suffering they endured at the hands of the Judaizers. Judaism demanded that the Levitical rites should strictly be adhered to, especially the circumcision rite. In his Epistle to the Galatians Paul emphasizes the grave danger of preaching or advancing a different gospel or perverting the true gospel and pronounced an anathema on anyone who adulterated the true gospel.
Why did Paul react so strongly to these Judaizers who were upsetting the faith of the Galatians? The answer lies in the fact that they were maligning or ridiculing the cross of Christ which is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). In doing this they were denying God’s power working through the cross of Jesus, and simultaneously presenting something else (in this case circumcision) in the place of the cross. They were not only ridiculing the cross but also confusing the way of salvation so that many people were in danger, not of losing their salvation, but of wandering off or falling by the wayside by forsaking their public confession of Christ.
These false apostles deserved to come under God’s eternal judgment. They were enemies of the cross and constantly sought to entice the Jewish Christians into returning to their old faith of Judaism. We must always remember that Paul was very severe in his pronouncements against the leaders (especially pastors of congregations) who preached another or a different gospel. But he had compassion and pity for the sheep who where being misled by their pastors.
In Hebrews this compassion becomes evident. Some of the Jewish Christians were beginning to get so confused through the teaching of false prophets and apostles that they began to think that they had lost everything (their altar rites, priestly rites etc.) when they abandoned their old faith and started to follow Christ.
These Jewish Christians began to underestimate their Christian privileges in Christ; they were getting too absorbed with their sufferings (feeling sorry for themselves) and they began to backslide into their old ways of religious worship. Hebrews, as we shall see, offers a cure for any kind of backsliding. In fact, the cure or right treatment for faintheartedness and backsliding is a correct understanding of the glory and work of Jesus Christ. Many Christians fall back into their old lifestyles because they do not understand the glory and the work of Jesus Christ. That includes the work He accomplished on earth (the cross) and also His work now in heaven on behalf of all true believers.
Let us now look at the way the writer starts to deal with these despondent and despairing Christians who believe that losing your salvation after being saved is biblical.
- First he fills their minds with the glory of the Person, and the grandeur of the work of the Lord Jesus.
- Next he shows that, instead of losing ‘all’, they had gained ‘all’ (please note ‘We have,’ in the following verses.
WE HAVE A GREAT HIGH PRIEST (Hebrews 4: 14)
In this verse we are not only given the assurance that we have a High Priest, but it also tells us what our High Priest has accomplished when He ascended and passed through the heavens.
WE HAVE THIS HOPE (Hebrews 6: 19)
The hope that is spoken of in the above verse is not this worldly kind of hope. This hope is not uncertain. It is CERTAIN, it is not something that has no foundation. It is founded on the promise and oath of God. (Hebrews 6:18). When someone makes an oath, he swears by someone greater than himself that he would undertake to do the thing he has promised one hundred percent (Hebrews 6:16-18).
An example is when a person swears an oath by the name of his sovereign king or queen. The name of his king or queen becomes the guarantee that he would keep his promise one hundred percent. A truly obedient and subservient citizen will never dishonour his king or queen by not keeping his promise. The dignity of the name of his king or queen will be at stake should he fail to keep his promise.
That was the basis on which Moses pleaded with God not to destroy His people when they made and worshipped a golden calf. In Exodus 32 verses 12 and 13 Moses says, “If You destroy your people, the Egyptians will ridicule and make a mockery of Your Holy Name. They will say that you were unable to bring them into the Promised Land and instead slew them in the desert.
Your Holy name will be at risk if You do not keep your promise You made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” In Genesis 22:16 we see that God swore by Himself, since He had no greater by whom to swear. God cannot swear by someone greater than Himself because there is no one greater than He. He is the sovereign, eternal and majestic God Who is above and greater than anyone or anything. It is in His Name, the One Who cannot lie, that we have received the promise (hope) with an oath.
God made doubly sure that we do not flinch or waver in our hope by two unchangeable things [His promise and His oath], in which it is impossible for God ever to prove false or deceive us, we who have fled [to Him] for refuge might have mighty indwelling strength and strong encouragement to grasp and hold fast the hope appointed for us and set before us (Hebrews 6:18).
As if this double assurance is not enough, God confirms His promise and oath by anchoring our hope in our High Priest, Jesus Christ Who is seated in the Holiest of Holies in heaven (Hebrews 6:19). Whenever a large ship moors in a harbour, the captain orders the anchor to be let down so as to prevent the strongest winds from sweeping the ship into the sea. This is the message that verse 19 of chapter 6 wants to convey to us.
Our hope is not anchored in the world where every gust of wind (persecution, suffering, hardship, doctrinal errors etc.) can sweep us away into despondency, faintheartedness or unbelief. Our hope is anchored in the most secure, most powerful, most magnanimous (noble), most wonderful, most lofty place in the entire universe, i.e. the Holiest of Holies in heaven where our High Priest is seated at the right hand of God.
WE HAVE A BETTER AND LASTING POSSESSION IN HEAVEN (Hebrews 10: 4)
Someone once said that God allows persecution with the purpose of enlarging your bank account in heaven. This seems to be a good observation, especially when Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:11, 12 is taken into account, “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things against you falsely on My account. Be glad and supremely joyful, for your reward in heaven is great (strong and intense) . . .”
As was said earlier, the Jewish Christians endured persecution at the hands of the Judaizers and some of them lost their possessions through plundering and confiscations. Instead of sympathizing with them, as we all tend to do, the writer encourages them with a burst of joyful exhortation, “you have a better and lasting possession in heaven.” Take careful note that he does not say “you shall have”; He says “you (already) have at this very moment a better and lasting possession in heaven. This reminds me of Peter’s words in 1 Peter 1:4 – 6. Where are our hearts? Are they set upon things here on earth and our belongings, or are they set upon things in heaven? As long as our hearts are set upon earthly possessions, we will never be able to endure persecution. Only when our eyes are fixed on our High Priest where we have a better and lasting possession in heaven, will we be able to endure trials, persecutions and sufferings with exceeding gladness.
WE HAVE AN ALTAR (Hebrews 13: 10)
”We have an altar” refers to our Lord Jesus Christ Who now serves our spiritual interests and needs in the Holiest of Holies in heaven. As we have seen in Leviticus, the Tabernacle with all its furniture and utensils (the Ark of the covenant, the Mercy seat, the Altar of Incense, the Candlestick, the Table of Showbread, the Bronze Laver and the Altar of Burnt Offerings) were only shadows of things to come (Colossians 2:17).
As shadows they pointed to Jesus Christ in Whom all the Levitical rites and sacrifices were fulfilled. When Jesus cried out “it is finished” on the cross of Calvary, He simultaneously fulfilled every law concerning the rites and sacrifices pertaining to the Tabernacle and the Temple in the Old Testament, and paid the debt for our sins in full. Therefore it is no longer necessary to adhere to the Levitical rites of the Old Covenant.
Nonetheless their were many Jews in those days, as there are today, who are still devoted to rules of diet and ritualistic meals as verse 9 of chapter 13 clearly indicates. These legalistic practices have no spiritual value at all and they do not profit those who observe them. In fact, these persons who cling to the shadows have no right to eat the life-giving spiritual food that Christ Jesus alone can administer.
This is the altar of which is spoken in verse 10 that all true believers have access to. Let me try to explain it to you in simpler words. It would be rather foolish to talk with the shadow of a person on a bright sunny day. Imagine keeping your eyes fixed on the shadow of a man; what do you see? Of course! You only see a dark form of a figure.
However when you turn your eyes upward and away from the shadow of the man and focus them on the man himself, everything of that man including his facial features becomes clear. So it is with the Tabernacle rites. As soon as you realize that they are merely shadows of Jesus Christ’s Person and work and you begin to turn your eyes away from the shadows and fix them on Him, you begin to benefit from everything He had accomplished for you on Calvary.
The writer warns the Jewish Christians to beware of false teachers whose intent it was to force them back into the shadows of things (to return to their old ways of worship).
WE HAVE NO PERMANENT CITY (Hebrews 11:10)
In this particular case, persecution reminded the Jewish Christians who suffered for their faith in Jesus that their sojourn (life) here on earth was merely a temporary one. Christians often become comfortable with the world when they forget that they have no permanent dwelling here on earth. We are merely strangers in a hostile world who are passing through, not to indulge ourselves in the pleasures and dainties of the world but to be light bearers of our Great Light, Jesus Christ.
Many children of God have grown so accustomed to the world and everything it has to offer that they have lost sight of the city which is to come. Persecution is often the only cure for such worldly-mindedness and complacency. The other side of the coin is that one can become so absorbed with your own suffering and persecution that we begin to lose sight of our eternal dwelling in heaven.
Some of the Jewish Christians seem to have failed to resist the temptation of returning to their former Judaist faith. The Jewish Christians began to feel so sorry for themselves that the writer deemed it necessary to remind them that they had not yet resisted or withstood sin and sinners (false brethren) to the point of pouring out their own blood (Hebrews 12:4). He explains in verses 2 and 3 of chapter 12 that Jesus Christ Himself is their supreme example of suffering. He did not cringe from His sufferings on the cross.
No! He had His eyes fixed on the things beyond the cross and suffering. He endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, for the joy that was set before Him. Like Jesus, we too have an ecstatic joy that is set before us. This joy will be realized in full when we enter the permanent city which is to come.
In this part I tried to turn the searchlight on the question why Hebrews was written to the persecuted Jewish Christians. It is evident that it was written to encourage them to remain faithful with the intent of gaining the prize that was set before them; not to grow weary and as a result fall by the wayside. Indeed, they were encouraged to copy the Author and Finisher of their faith, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12: 2) In the next part I aim to concentrate more on Hebrews 6, the chapter that causes so much confusion among our brethren.