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July 23, 2014
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July 23, 2014
Paul Builds His Case Point-By-Point, Background Of Epistle To The Hebrews, Paul's Approaching Death And Martyrdom, Doubts Regarding Writings Of The Church Fathers, Untrustworthiness Of New Testament Apocryphal Works, Urgency Of Paul's Message To His Hebrew Brethren, Explanation Of Hebrews 10:26-27, "We" Is The Hebrews, Biblical Definition Of Sin And Transgression, Sin Wilfully, Guard The Word In Your Heart, Knowledge Of The Truth, Jesus Is The Living Word And The Truth, Will Of God, Old Testament Law And Rituals Were A Schoolmaster To Bring Jews To Faith In Christ, Free From Bondage Through Christ, Judgment And Fiery Indignation Shall Devour The Adversaries, 70 AD And First Jewish-Roman War, Handwriting Was On The Wall Decades Before Jerusalem's Fiery Destruction, The OT Prophets Jesus Apostles And Jewish Leaders Spoke And Wrote About It, The Prophet Malachi And "Ashes Under The Soles Of Your Feet", Caiaphas Plots To Kill Jesus, Jesus Offered Ample Warnings To Jews, They Sinned Willfully And Suffered Fiery Indignation Of God, My Closing Remarks, Suggested BBB Reading Resources List
Just as I do in many of my own articles, I believe that in the Epistle to the Hebrews, Paul patiently establishes his foundation point-by-point, before arriving at the key issue. He wants his Hebrew brethren to understand the relationship that exists between the practices of the Jewish priesthood and the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He wants them to realize that Jesus Christ is the final, ultimate Sacrifice for sin, and that through His Sacrifice, He has done away with the Old Covenant, established a New Covenant, as well as a new priesthood, with Himself at the head. Paul leads his Hebrew readers along one step at a time, in order to help them to understand that the only remedy for sin is simply faith in Jesus Christ. The remedy is no longer ritualistic temple services and the yearly sacrifices which were made by the Jewish priesthood. As we have already seen, Jesus put an end to that once and for all by offering up His own life.
After explaining these various points to his audience, Paul then presents his Hebrew readers with an ultimatum, as well as a stern, prophetic warning, which is revealed in the two verses which are the focus of this current series. Now, if you feel a little confused at this point in our discussion, please just keep on reading, and hopefully, everything will become clear to you as we continue.
According to certain sources, the Epistle to the Hebrews may have been written around 63-64 AD. Personally, I believe that it may have been one of the last, and perhaps even the final Epistle which was written by the Apostle Paul, prior to his death. This may explain why the Bible's compilers chose to place it at the very end of all of Paul's various Epistles. If 63-64 AD is a close to accurate date, this means that the Epistle to the Hebrews was written only a few years prior to the assumed martyrdom of the Apostle Paul in the year 67 AD.
The reason why I say "assumed", is because while the Bible does mention Paul appearing before Emperor Nero two times, as well as the fact that Paul was under house arrest for a period of two years; and while Paul himself makes mention of his approaching death, there are no specific verses in which the actual manner of his death, or the timing of his death, are mentioned. What the Scriptures do say is the following:
"And when he [Paul] had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them: And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds. Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar. And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners unto one named Julius, a centurion of Augustus’ band."
Acts 26:30-27:1, KJV
"And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him . . . And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him."
Acts 28:16, 30-31, KJV
"For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again."
Philippians 1:19-26, KJV
"Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all."
Philippians 2:16-17, KJV
"For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing . . . The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen. [[The second epistle unto Timotheus, ordained the first bishop of the church of the Ephesians, was written from Rome, when Paul was brought before Nero the second time.]]"
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 22, KJV
Any additional information concerning the Apostle Paul's death and martyrdom is derived from certain noncanonical sources, principal among them being the writings of the so-called "church fathers", which I do not fully trust. As I mention in other articles, my hesitancy to embrace those writings as Inspired Text is due in large part to the fact that those individuals were the early progenitors of what would eventually become the state-enforced religion of the Roman Empire -- that is, Roman Catholicism -- under Emperor Theodosius I during the late Fourth Century. Those writers lived during a time when serious compromise, worldliness, as well as a lust for power, had already infiltrated the Lord's Church. You will find these developments discussed in more detail in the article entitled "Pontifex Maximus: Pagan High Priest to Roman Catholic Pope".
Additional information concerning the fate of the Apostle Paul and the other Apostles and Disciples can be found in yet other questionable sources, such as the New Testament apocryphal writings. These writings include quite a number of acts, apocalypses, gospels and epistles which are of doubtful origin and authorship. I have read quite a number of these writings, and as I have mentioned before, none of them impress me as being Divinely Inspired. In fact, some of them are quite outlandish in their claims, and in my opinion, reveal a strong influence by the Roman Catholic Church. This is evident by the propensity of that church to highlight suffering, piety, saintliness and good works, all of which are present in said writings.
At any rate, in my opinion, if Paul did write the Epistle to the Hebrews from somewhere in Italy, close to the end of his life, this fact helps to explain the urgency of the message, which I believe is being conveyed to the unbelieving Jews -- or Hebrews -- in that letter. If we consider what happened to the city of Jerusalem only a few years after that in 70 AD, Paul's message and ultimatum in Hebrews 10:26-27 seems even more clear to me.
In other words, at that particular time, Paul may have begun to sense by the Spirit that the end of his life was drawing near. The previous verses seem to support this view. He had already been persecuted in Israel, and all around the region of the Mediterranean Sea. Furthermore, due to his constant preaching of the Christian Gospel, he had pushed the emperor to the limit, and had in fact been brought before Nero on two different occasions. As a result, it seems to me that perhaps Paul wanted to make one final strong effort to reach his lost Jewish brethren -- the Hebrews -- with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus, he penned the Epistle to the Hebrews, in which he greatly expounded upon the things which we have already discussed. After doing so in the first ten chapters, it is then that I believe that Paul offers his unbelieving Jewish brethren an ultimatum in the following verses:
"For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries."
Hebrews 10:26-27, KJV
As I have already pointed out, to properly understand these two verses, the first thing we need to realize is who this "we" is. It should be evident to you by now that it is not talking about modern Christians. Neither is it referring to the Christians of the First Century. The "we" in fact means "we Hebrews", because Paul is writing to his fellow Hebrews who are still sitting on the fence in unbelief. In so many words, Paul is saying "Listen up! This is it! I have spent a major part of this Epistle explaining to you how Christ has brought an end to the Old Covenant system of sacrifices and the duties of the Levitical priesthood, and has introduced a New Covenant between God and man, which is based, not upon the blood of sacrificial animals, but upon His own Blood which was shed on the Cross. He is the final Sacrifice for sin, and He alone has become our true High Priest."
Paul then follows his remarks with a very serious warning to his Hebrew brethren, should they decide to make the wrong choice. Exactly what does Paul mean when he writes "if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth"? We have already seen that the "we" is referring to Paul's audience, the Hebrews. But what does it mean to "sin wilfully". In fact, what is sin? As I explain in other articles, the Apostle John offers us a clear definition in the following verse:
"Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law."
1 John 3:4, KJV
The word "transgression" is derived from the Greek "anomia", which means to have contempt for or to violate the law. In this case, we know that it is referring to God's Law. This Greek word also means iniquity or wickedness, because to break or violate God's Law is both wicked and sinful. God's Law is His Word, as well as His Will for our lives. Thus, if we resist God's Will for our lives, and go against His Word, we are sinning against Him. We in fact become transgressors. It is not surprising then that King David was inspired to write the following verse in which he expresses a desire to guard God's Word in his heart, so that he will not sin against Him:
"Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee."
Psalms 119:11, KJV
Returning to Paul's comments, he writes that this willful sinning occurs "after that we have received the knowledge of the truth". In other words, Paul appears to be telling his Hebrew brethren that God is a righteous God, and that He won't hold them accountable until after they "have received the knowledge of the truth". Then, having heard the truth, they must make a decision one way or the other. They must either accept it, or reject it. There is no middle ground. What is this "knowledge of the truth" of which Paul speaks? Jesus offers us a clear answer in the following verse that is taken from the Gospel of John:
"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."
John 17:17, KJV
So God's Word -- which is also His Law -- is likewise the Truth. Furthermore, we know from reading the Gospel of John that the Word of God took on human shape two thousand years ago in the form of Jesus Christ, and that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and the only means to the Father. It is only through Him that we can find remission of our sins, obtain Eternal Life, and inherit the Kingdom of God. These truths are made evident by verses such as the following:
"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."
John 1:14, KJV
"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:"
John 1:12, KJV
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
John 3:16, KJV
"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
John 14:6, KJV
"All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
John 6:37, KJV
"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."
John 12:32, KJV
"And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand."
John 10:28, KJV
"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
Acts 4:12, KJV
"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;"
1 Timothy 2:5, KJV
In short, the Work and Will of God for the Hebrews -- and for all people everywhere -- can easily be summed up in the following set of verses:
"Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent . . . And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day."
John 6:29, 39-40, KJV
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
2 Peter 3:9, KJV
This is the very same message that Paul is preaching to his Hebrew brethren in the Epistle to the Hebrews. However, due to their own hard-heartedness, we can say that Paul chooses to take the "long route" with them. In other words, as we discussed earlier, having once been a stubborn Jew himself, Paul realizes that he can't just hit his brethren over the head with the Gospel and expect them to accept it. Thus, he takes his time, carefully explains things to them, and then reveals to them the "bridge" that connects the rituals of the Old Covenant priesthood with the New Covenant which is founded upon the Blood of the sacrificial Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. As Paul explains in the following two verses, the Law of the Old Testament or Old Covenant era, served as a schoolmaster to bring the Jews to Christ, in order that they might be saved by faith, and not through the works of the Law:
"Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster."
Galatians 3:24-25, KJV
This then is the "knowledge of the truth" which Paul tells his Hebrew brethren they must not willfully reject. This is likewise the very same truth that Jesus preached to the Jews in the Gospels. It is a truth which sets them free from the bondage of the Law, and from the sacrifices and rituals of the Old Testament era. As Jesus Himself told them:
"Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free . . . If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."
John 8:31-32, 36, KJV
After explaining all of these things to his Hebrew brethren, it is then that the Apostle Paul offers a stiff warning to those readers who may reject the truths which he has shared with them, with the words "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries." In other words, Paul is telling the Hebrews "Look; if you don't accept the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, you are in very big trouble, because there are no other sacrifices -- meaning animal sacrifices -- which are acceptable to God, or which will atone for your sins." We know that this is exactly what Paul is telling the unbelieving Hebrews, because as we have already seen, he spent the first ten chapters of this letter explaining to them how Jesus became the Final Sacrifice who died once for all men.
Paul then warns his stubborn brethren that if they persist in their obstinacy by rejecting the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, they will have nothing to look forward to but the "judgment and fiery indignation" of God Himself, "which shall devour the adversaries".
It should be evident to you that the word "adversaries" is referring to those Jews -- or Hebrews -- who continue to oppose God, by rejecting His Word and Will; and even more specifically, by rejecting the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But what does Paul mean by "judgment and fiery indignation"? Because of the way in which some modern preachers and Bible teachers interpret these two verses in Hebrews, and falsely claim that they are referring to Christians who lose their Salvation, it should not surprise us that some people have come to believe that this phrase is referring to hellfire, the Lake of Fire, or some such thing. But is it really?
Personally, I am of the opinion that this phrase is referring to something entirely different. Let me remind you again who the audience was in this Epistle, and when this Epistle was written. As I mentioned earlier, Paul wrote this letter to his Hebrew brethren perhaps seven years prior to the terrible events of 70 AD, and quite possibly only a few years before the beginning of the seven-year First Jewish-Roman War, which began in 66 AD in northern Israel. As many of you will know, it was during that war that the Second Temple was burned to the ground, the city of Jerusalem was destroyed, and as many as one million Jews lost their lives to war, famine, disease, crucifixion and other causes, while many others were forced into foreign slave labor. I discuss these events in more detail in other articles.
There is no doubt that the Jewish political and religious leadership, as well as Jesus Himself, and the Apostles and their followers saw the handwriting on the wall, and fully understood that the time was growing short, and that the Romans would soon pounce on Israel, and destroy the Jewish nation. The Prophets of the Old Testament -- such as Daniel -- certainly wrote about it. In fact, in thinking about the phrase "fiery indignation", I am reminded of the following verses that were written by the Prophet Micah:
"For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts."
Malachi 4:1-3, KJV
The previous verses certainly seem like a prophetic picture which perfectly describe the fiery destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple compound in 70 AD. In fact, it has been said that when the Romans made their final assault, many of the Jews sought refuge in the Temple compound, because they had embraced the erroneous belief that God would protect them there. Instead, they were all burned to ashes, just as the Prophet Malachi had warned them would occur.
The high priest Caiaphas likewise understood the delicate times in which he lived. Thus, when it came to deciding the fate of Jesus Christ, Caiaphas is recorded as having stated the following in the Gospel of John:
"And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death."
John 11:49-53, KJV
In other words, Caiaphas made the determination that Jesus had to be killed in order to appease the Romans, and prevent an even worse uprising by Jewish rebels and malcontents who might try to take advantage of Jesus' popularity.
Of course, as many of you will know, Jesus Himself offered ample warnings regarding the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple compound in such chapters as Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. Regarding the specific destruction of the Temple, consider the following verses:
"Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."
John 4:20-24, KJV
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down."
Matthew 23:37-24:2, KJV
"And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down."
Mark 13:1-2, KJV
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."
Luke 13:34-35, KJV
"And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down . . . And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh."
Luke 21:5-6, 20, KJV
Taking into consideration this preponderance of Scriptural evidence, it should be easy for you to understand that in the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Apostle Paul was delivering a very powerful and prophetic message to his fellow Hebrews, when he warned them of the "judgment and fiery indignation" which would result if they continued to "sin wilfully" after having "received the knowledge of the truth" regarding the life, mission and Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Sadly, as we have already discussed, many of the adversaries -- that is, the stubborn, recalcitrant Jews -- were indeed devoured by fire, because they failed to take heed to God's warnings to them to repent of their unbelief. In thinking about this, I am reminded of two other verses which are found in Hebrews, which seem to support everything which I have shared with you here:
"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God . . . For our God is a consuming fire."
Hebrews 10:31, 12:29, KJV
Is there any doubt then that the Apostle Paul knew exactly what was coming to the Hebrew nation, and that he was trying to convince his Jewish brethren to repent of their unbelief before it was too late? I hope that it is clear to you by now that Hebrews 10:26-27 has absolutely nothing to do with saved Christians losing their Salvation during the First Century, or even now. Those verses have nothing to do with Christians burning in Hell because they turned away from Jesus Christ. In my view, that is a misguided interpretation of those two verses which has been propagated by a lot of modern preachers and Bible teachers who reject the OSAS -- Once Saved, Always Saved -- doctrine.
In my view, it is clear that the Apostle Paul was writing to his own unbelieving Hebrew brethren. He was not writing to Christians who had already received Christ. In the future, and as my time permits, I may possibly write another article or two in which I will discuss other verses which have been erroneously used to try to convince Christians that they can lose their Salvation. We shall see.
With these thoughts I will bring this series to a close. I hope that you have found it informative, and I pray that it has been a blessing and an inspiration in your life. If you have enjoyed reading this series, please consider sharing its URL with your online friends. If you have an account with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, etc, I would also appreciate if you would take the time to click on the corresponding link that is found on this page. Thanks so much, and may God bless you abundantly!
For additional information and further study, you may want to refer to the list of reading resources below which were also mentioned in this series, or which are related to the topics which were discussed in this series. All of them are also located on this very same Bill's Bible Basics website:
A Treasure in Earthen Vessels: God's Promise of the Spirit
Are You Saved and Sealed and Healed and Filled?
Backsliding, Divine Chastisement and the Divine Agreement
Dead to the Law: God's Laws Written on Our Hearts
Free From the Fear of Death: Law and Works vs Grace
Is Jesus the Only Begotten Son of God
One From Beyond: Hebrew of Hebrews
OSAS: Are We Once Saved, Always Saved?
Pontifex Maximus: Pagan High Priest to Roman Catholic Pope
Psalm 83 War False Doctrine Exposed!
Striving for Perfection: Are You a Sinless Saint?
"Jesus Died Once for All Men" KJV Bible Verse List
"Jesus is Our Great Intercessor" KJV Bible Verse List
"Jesus is Our High Priest, and Priests" KJV Bible Verse List
"Jesus is Our Only Mediator" KJV Bible Verse List