Hebrews does not teach that a born again Christian in the church age can lose salvation.
Author and Audience
The Book of Hebrews is written to Hebrews and the King James translators saw fit to make that fact clear in their addendum to the very last verse of the book, saying, “Written to the Hebrews from Italy, by Timothy.” And, of course, Timothy and others wrote the inspired (God-breathed) words dictated to them by Paul as he was directed by the Holy Spirit. Paul suffered from an eye-ailment (see Galatians 4:15) and usually only wrote a short closing remark at the end to authenticate his letters (see Galatians 6:11).
The fact is, the Book of Hebrews is written to Jews who were professing to believe in Jesus as Messiah, but were trusting in the temple sacrifice for salvation–an obvious contradiction and comparable to the false cults (Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, etc.). These temple-bound Hebrews were operating under a faith plus works system and Paul wrote to thoroughly and lovingly refute this false gospel. He did the same regarding the Judaizers in the church of Galatia and that is clear when we read the Epistle to the Galatians.
Who Are These “Brethren”?
Some might object that Paul refers to the Hebrews as “brethren”. But in context, he is using that term in the sense of his being a JEW and these Jews are his brethren after the flesh. He does the same in Romans 9:3 where he says, “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”
By reading from start to finish, it is clear that the theme throughout this letter to the Hebrews is that any belief system that relies on anything other than, or in addition to, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross is a false gospel that does not save. Therefore, only by taking verses out of context and ignoring the whole context of Hebrews, could anyone even think that this has anything to do with losing salvation.
Paul spends the first 16 verses establishing the deity and authority of Jesus Christ and then asks:
“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him” (Hebrews 2:3)
The answer is simple: you will NOT escape if you neglect the pure, simple Gospel (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-4) and trust in any other works-based false gospel. And that is the whole point that Paul is making from start to finish in the Book of Hebrews.
“If They Shall Fall Away?”
By the end of Hebrews chapter 5, Paul has clearly established that the blood of animals cannot save and only the blood of the divine Son of God can and does save, apart from any other blood sacrifice or other “sacrifice” (ie., works) on our part.
That is where the Holy Ghost puts the message down loud and clear in chapter 6, but is also one of those places where many choose to wrest the text out of it’s context and end up believing and teaching dangerous, false doctrines. We should heed Peter’s warning in 2 Peter 3:15-16 where he says that many have read Paul’s letters and wrested the Scriptures (taking them out of their proper context) to their own destruction! Here is what Peter says:
“…even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”
So, let us keep these things in context. When we read Hebrews 6:4-6, we must remember the previous 5 chapters which have clarified that a sinner cannot be saved by trusting in animal sacrifice. Then we read:
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
This explains why 99 out of 100 people who make a PROFESSION of faith in Jesus Christ but later profess to REJECT the Gospel never return.
This explains why 99 out of 100 college professors (like Bart Ehrman, for example) who testify of having “been an evangelical” but now attack, or at least repudiate, the historic Christian faith will die in unbelief.
Did they “lose salvation”? No. They are simply revealing outwardly that they were never true believers inwardly. And they fulfill this warning with their lives.
You may ask, “But preacher, you said 99 out of 100 and the text says it is “impossible… to renew them again unto repentance.”
Yes, because only God knows the heart. And once in awhile someone will appear to be an exception. But the exception proves the rule!
And the bottom line is, there are people in this world who will be enlightened (like Judas Iscariot) and will taste of the heavenly gift (see Matthew 12:1-4) and will be made partakers of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 10:5-8) and taste of the good word of God (Matthew 11:1) and the powers of the world to come (Matthew 19:28), yet they (like Judas Iscariot) will fall away.
And when such people fall away, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance:
“Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
“Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.
“And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.”
Why is this? Why is it impossible to renew a Judas to repentance?
The answer is in Luke 22:3 where we are told, “Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.”
The fact is, there is an entire generation of Judas Christians carrying Vatican versions and following the Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Robert Schuler, ecumenical, new age, Emergent Church apostasy. They are denying the Rapture. They are watering down the doctrines of grace. They are embracing Sodom. And they, like the Hebrews, are denying the full and exclusive salvation provided in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ alone as they embrace “all paths lead to God” and “there can’t only be one way” spirit of the age.
And when the Rapture happens, these will be left behind and it will be impossible to renew them again to repentance (though these all PROFESS to have “believed” or “been save”). Paul describes this in 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12, “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
Again, in Romans chapter one, Paul explains this process where men reject the Creator and it becomes impossible to renew them again unto repentance, even connecting the dots from rejection of God to the embrace of Sodom in verses 26 and 27 saying, “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.”
So, why is it impossible to renew them again? Well, just as it was with Judas, God hands these Christ-rejectors over to Satan. Paul puts it like this in Romans 1:28:
“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.”
And for those who “hob nob” with such reprobates, Paul warns us in Romans 1:32, “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”
What About Hebrews Chapter 10?
With the previous 1,000 words (plus), we have laid down with clarity that only by keeping things in context, reading the whole Book and not just select portions or verses, and by taking “all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) into consideration, we know that the warnings in Hebrew are toward those who are trusting in some other sacrifice, in addition to that of Jesus Christ on the Cross, for eternal salvation.
We will close by seeing this play out, again, in Hebrews 10. And this is how simple a matter it is. Let’s survey this one chapter and see that it follows the same pattern that we have spelled out above:
Verse 4 “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.”
Verse 10 “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
Verse 12 “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;”
Verse 14 “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”
Verse 23 “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)”
With this survey, we see the groundwork laid, again. No other sacrifice can add to what Christ has done. We must trust in Christ alone,…
”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.”
What is the “sin”? Unbelief. Hebrews 10:29 spells this out:
“Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?”
When these Hebrews replace the blood of Christ with the blood of bulls, they are committing blasphemy and revealing a heart of unbelief. When anyone, including these Hebrews, add works or some other sacrifice, laws or works, they have “done despite unto the Spirit of grace.”
And such a person cannot be saved in their unbelief.
The Sin of Unbelief
Four times in the Book of Hebrews, the “sin” that Paul is dealing with is stated in no uncertain terms to be UNBELIEF.
Hebrews 3:12 says, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.”
Hebrews 3:19 says, “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”
Hebrews 4:6 says, “Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief:”
Hebrews 4:11 says, “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.”
Question To The Hebrews: Do You Believe or Not?
The purpose behind the Book of Hebrews and the theme of the Book of Hebrews is the same as the closing thought of Hebrews chapter ten. Paul is presenting a choice to the Hebrews. They must be saved by faith or be LOST. Hebrews 10:38-39 makes this clear:
“Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”
I have been in the ministry for 20 years as of the time of this writing. I can tell you that I have seen some believe to the salvation of their souls and I have seen others draw back. Of those who draw back, there are some who do so immediately upon hearing the Gospel. There are others who play along, even learning the terminology and “Christianese” that would make them sound Christian, but they later draw back.
Upon the authority of the word of God, none of these were ever saved. This is illustrated for us by Jesus in the parable of the sower. Those pictured as having received the seed by the way side, in stony place or among thorns were LOST.
Those who received the seed by the way side were exposed immediately in their unbelief. Those who received the seed in stony places “dureth for a while” but later were exposed in their unbelief. And those who received the seed among thorns seem to last a good while but are also, eventually, exposed in their unbelief.
There is a difference among believers. Some bear more fruit than others. Some are “saved so as by fire” (1 Corinthians 3:15). But ALL are saved by FAITH (Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 3:5, John 3:16-18, etc.).
The warning of Hebrews is not that truly born again Christians (a term you don’t find in Hebrews, at all) can “lose salvation” (also terminology not found in Hebrews). The warning of Hebrews is for those who are playing Christian while not truly trusting in the Gospel of Jesus Christ alone for eternal salvation. You either get to Heaven through the blood of Jesus Christ alone, or you don’t get to Heaven at all.