Monday, August 31, 2009

A Questionable Eternal Security, Part II-E: Hebrews 10:26-29

26 For if we deliberately sin after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, (Q) 27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire about to consume the adversaries. (R) 28 If anyone disregards Moses' law, he dies without mercy, based on the testimony of two or three witnesses. (S) 29 How much worse punishment, do you think one will deserve who has trampled on the Son of God, regarded as profane [c] the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:26-29, Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Geisler claims here, as he does in every passage in Hebrews that he uses, that the “loss” refers to a loss of “rewards” instead of salvation. He gives eleven reasons why his interpretation is true, but I’m only gonna focus on three of the eleven.

The first reason for his interpretation is “The reference to those who ‘insulted the Spirit of grace’ (v.29) implies these people were believers who had that Spirit to insult” (“Four Views on Eternal Security,” page 100).

But this point disproves his about the loss of rewards! Why? because, if they are believers, and believers can insult the Spirit of grace, then this seems to be a serious offense. Notice that verse 26 says, “If we DELIBERATELY SIN after receiving the knowledge of the truth…” This tells us that someone has “received” the knowledge of the truth, which means they are saved (1 Tim. 2:4), and still continues to sin (despite the fact that he or she was saved FROM sin).

Next, insulting the Spirit of grace is something that, as Geisler said, ONLY BELIEVERS can do! And there is grave danger in that. I believe that’s why Paul wrote in Ephesians,

30 And don't grieve God's Holy Spirit, (AS) who sealed you [l] for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30, HCSB)

Grieving God’s Spirit in Ephesians 4:30 is linked to being “sealed.” Why is that? I think the grieving is linked to the sealing because, should a person refuse to yield to the Spirit he or she received into their lives, the Spirit becomes “outraged” and “insulted” and comes to feel as if He’s an “unwelcome guest” in the heart of the believer. Once the Spirit has been shunned and “pushed out” of the person’s life, may God have mercy on his or her soul.

There are some who don’t believe that it is possible for a believer to push the Spirit of out of his or her life; but Scripture shows us how this can happen after a person continually rejects the work of the Spirit.

Psalm 78 tells us that

53 He led them safely, and they were not afraid;
but the sea covered their enemies. (AY) 54 He brought them to His holy land,
to the mountain His right hand acquired. (AZ) 55 He drove out nations before them. (BA) He apportioned their inheritance by lot and settled the tribes of Israel in their tents. (BB) 56 But they rebelliously tested the Most High God,
for they did not keep His decrees. (BC) 57 They treacherously turned away like their fathers; they became warped like a faulty bow. (BD) 58 They enraged Him with their high places and provoked His jealousy with their carved images. (BE) 59 God heard and became furious; He completely rejected Israel. (BF) 60 He abandoned the tabernacle at Shiloh, the tent where He resided among men. (BG) [j]61 He gave up His strength [k] to captivity and His splendor to the hand of a foe. (BH) 62 He surrendered His people to the sword
because He was enraged with His heritage. (BI) 63 Fire consumed His chosen young men, and His young women had no wedding songs. (BJ) [l] 64 His priests fell by the sword, but the [m] widows could not lament. (Psalm 78:53-64, HCSB)

According to verses 59 and 60, God rejected His people because of their continued sin. Verse 60 says that “He abandoned the tabernacle at Shiloh, THE TENT WHERE HE RESIDED AMONG MEN.” The Lord was so enraged with His people, that He abandoned them. He had been with them as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night in the wilderness. He had provided manna from heaven, and kept their clothes and shoes from wearing out. But the Lord had to respond to their sin; and Israel sinned against Him so much that He felt that abandoning the tent where He dwelled was the only way to get through to them (and the only form of justice that remained for His people). We find, however, these words of hope in John’s Gospel:

14 The Word (AA) became flesh (AB) [k] and took up residence [l] among us. We observed His glory, (AC) the glory as the One and Only (AD) Son [m] from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, HCSB)

John tells us that the Word (being Christ, who is “the Word” according to John 1:1) “took up residence” among men. The word for “took up residence” here is the Greek word that means “to TABERNACLE.” So, even though God abandoned His people and left the tabernacle at Shiloh, he RETURNED to dwell among men once more, when He took on human flesh in the Incarnation. Because we are saved when we confess His TABERNACLING here on earth, there is no other such event. The Lord now dwells on earth, especially in the hearts of His children. And if we reject the Lord’s dwelling in our hearts (1 Peter 1:21 calls the Spirit “The Spirit of Christ”), there is no other way to have His presence in our lives. If we reject Him within, and He withdraws Himself from us (because we have rejected Him), then there is no hope of us being saved in the end.

So the idea of the Spirit of Grace being insulted is not one that the writer just throws onto Scripture (to show the severity of such an action); the writer provides it here because it can happen—believers CAN REJECT THE SPIRIT OF GRACE!

The next reason Geisler lists (of the three I will provide here) is the “loss-of-rewards” position:

“The ‘fearful expectation of judgment’ (v.27) fits the description of the believers coming before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10), where their works will be tried by fire and they will suffer loss of reward (see 1 Cor. 3:13-14 and the comments above)” (Norman Geisler, “Four Views,” page 100).

I would say that 1 Corinthians 3 does involve a “loss of reward” for “God’s co-workers.” However, the context here in Hebrews 10 involves a much more severe punishment than the loss of a crown or a jewel. The writer uses the “testimony of two or three witnesses” from the law of Moses (v.28) as an analogy. In the Law of Moses, if a person was given witness to disobeying the Law of Moses, that person died a PHYSICAL death. But notice the writer’s words in Hebrews 10:29—

“HOW MUCH WORSE PUNISHMENT, do you think ONE WILL DESERVE who has TRAMPLED on the Son of God, REGARDED AS PROFANE the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and INSULTED the Spirit of Grace?” (Heb. 10:29, HCSB)

The “worse punishment” mentioned here in verse 29 must be a whole lot more severe than the physical death of those who disobeyed the law of Moses (v.28). Only SPIRITUAL DEATH is worse than physical death!

Look at verse 27. How can a loss of eternal rewards (crowns, etc.) equal a “terrifying expectation of judgment, AND THE FURY OF A FIRE ABOUT TO CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES”? Notice that the fire discussed here will not do what Geisler believes it will: while in 1 Corinthians 3, the loss will be burnt up and the person will be saved; however, here in Hebrews 10, the “reward” will not be burnt up—instead, the PEOPLE, “the adversaries,” will be consumed! Hebrews 10 is talking about eternal damnation on an entirely different scale than that mentioned in 1 Corinthians 3. As a result, Geisler’s proof-text won’t work here.

In verse 31, the writer says, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!” How can a “loss of rewards” be terrifying, if all the Lord is gonna do is take away your crowns and jewels in glory? If that’s ALL the Lord is gonna do as a punishment, I don’t see how that can be “terrifying.” It’s the same thing as if a kid loses their allowance. How is that terrifying? What is more terrifying to children is thinking of the possibility that they could be beaten with a belt or spanked by their parents. It is the physical punishment that is far more harmful to them than losing an allowance. I would say the same thing works for the issue of Hebrews 10 here. What is more terrifying than losing rewards is to lose salvation, to be told by the Lord, “Depart from me.” To be turned away from the Lord is far worse than losing a crown or a jewel in eternity.

Geisler’s final reason (the last one I will use here) concerns Hebrews 10:39—

“This chapter ends with the writer affirming with confidence that believers will not be lost: ‘But we are not of those who SHRINK BACK AND ARE DESTROYED, but of those who BELIEVE AND ARE SAVED’(10:39)” (Geisler, 100).

Notice that “shrink back” is the opposite of “believe,” and “are destroyed” is the opposite of “are saved.” If “saved” is the opposite of “destroyed,” then the writer can’t be writing an argument about “loss of rewards.” Here, the connotation of “saved” involves being delivered from eternal judgment and damnation. In other words, being “saved” takes someone away from “Hell” itself. When the writer says, “we are…of those WHO BELIEVE AND ARE SAVED,” he makes it clear that what is “saved” is clearly the PEOPLE; if “the people” can be “destroyed,” then “people” are those who are saved. But, if Geisler’s “rewards” view fit here, then only the “rewards” can be saved. Clearly, when linking damnation or salvation to the people, the writer makes it clear that crowns and jewels are not being mentioned.

We have explored another of Geisler’s proof-texts. There are still more to come, so stay tuned.

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