Volume 7, Issue 5: Exegetica
Punishment of the Sanctified
With nearly ten chapters of doctrinal support concerning the superiority of Christ
and His covenant over the Levitical administration, the author has now exhorted
the Hebrew Christians, in the midst of temptation and anticipated persecution,
to draw near to God, hold fast to their confession of hope, and stir up one another
to love and good works. They were to do these, "not forsaking the assembling of
ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and
so much the more as you see the Day approaching" (Heb. 10:25).
Having mentioned that impending day of judgment which was to come upon the Jews
and their beloved city and temple, he now as an additional warning describes
the consequences to come upon those who ignore his exhortations and fall to those
temptations. To those who return to the fading worship of the Jews, forsaking
the assembling of the Christians and their own confessions of Christ, he writes:
"For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there
no longer remains a sacrifice for sins" (Heb. 10:26).
The context shows this "willful" sin to be a willful rejection of the knowledge
of the truth which these men had previously embraced. They had heard the gospel
of Christ proclaimed as the fulfillment of the priestly, sacrificial shadows
of the Old Covenant. They had apparently received it as true and joined themselves
with the covenant community of the saints. Indeed, the author described them
earlier as men who have been "once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift,
and have become partakers in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of
God and the powers of the age to come" (Heb. 6:4-5). But to whom much is given
much is required. Judgment begins at the house of God. Having been joined to
that house, only to forsake it for the obsolete house of Judaism, judgment will
be for them the same as for those Jews who did not join God's house initially
when God Himself dwelt among them in Christ. Their place will be destroyed.
Now that Jesus has offered Himself as the one sacrifice for sins forever, to
reject that sacrifice and return to the sacrifice of bulls and goats in Jerusalem
is suicidal presumption. For there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins there,
but only "a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which
will devour the adversaries" (Heb. 10:27). They who returned to the familiar,
tangible temple worship within a short time found themselves caught up in the
judgment of God upon the adversaries of Christ, those who persecuted His disciples
and rejected the Reality to retain the shadows. That judgment fell by the hand
of the Roman armies of Titus in A.D. 70, who surrounded Jerusalem, crucified
countless thousands, burned the temple, and left not one stone upon another.
Such heavy judgment upon apostasy from the New Covenant is fitting, for "anyone
who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three
witnesses" (Heb. 10:28). Those who turn from the fulfillment of that Old Covenant
deserve far more. The author appears to have in mind the section of the law in
which any man found "transgressing His covenant, who has gone and served other
gods and worshipped them" was stoned to death "on the testimony of two or three
witnesses" (Deut. 17:2-7).
"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?" (Heb. 10:29).
Three grievances of the one who apostatizes from the New Covenant are pronounced:
(1) He has trampled the Son of God underfoot. This first grievance is particularly
severe, the apostate being guilty of shaming the Person of God's Son. He has utterly
rejected and scorned the Son's authority, to which at one time he may have submitted
(2) He has counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common
thing. The apostate has treated as unholy the holy blood of the New Covenant.
This covenant is said to have sanctified him. This cannot refer to an ongoing,
internal sanctification, since "by one offering He has perfected forever those
who are being sanctified" (Heb. 10:14). Rather, this sanctification must refer
to the setting apart of the man as a New Covenant member, the one-time sanctification
mentioned in verse 10, "By that will we have been sanctified through the offering
of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Thus we see that sanctified men can
fall under God's wrath, when they as covenant members become covenant breakers.
(3) He has insulted the Spirit of grace. This third grievance is against the
Spirit, who testifies of Christ and the grace poured out by Him in the New Covenant.
The apostate spurns this Spirit of grace, preferring instead the law of defunct
The grave danger inherent in apostasy from Christ is yet more manifest when
we recognize who will judge it. "For we know Him who said, 'Vengeance is Mine;
I will repay, says the Lord.' And again, 'The Lord will judge His people'" (Heb.
10:30). These two quotes from the song of Moses (Deut. 32) again testify against
God's people who break His covenant to serve other gods and worship them.
But other gods are dumb and lifeless, while our God is the living God. Him you
must serve faithfully and turn to daily for the grace by which you may. If you
do not, be warned! "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living