Apostasy and Perseverance in the Book of Hebrews

Introduction to the Problem

Can a true Christian lose his or her salvation?  This question is of utmost importance for anyone in “professional” ministry and for all Christians generally.  There is widespread disagreement about the subject.  For example, most Arminians and Semi-Pelagians, being consistent with their system theology, of course, hold that a regenerated Christian can, in fact, finally fall away from saving grace.  On the other hand, sound Calvinists affirm perseverance of the saints; that is, once a person is in Christ, they cannot ultimately forfeit their salvation, for it is God who will keep them until the end.  Because of the obvious contradiction between these two views, it is clear that one cannot simultaneously insist upon both being correct.  Therefore, it is helpful to turn a careful eye to the Scriptures to aid and inform the reader’s view of this particular doctrine.

The book of Hebrews has for a long time served as an encouragement to the Christian community to persevere in faith.  Because this is the case, it is to this particular book of the Scriptures that readers should turn to continue the search for the truth.  The purpose of this paper is to explore the so-called “warning passages” in Hebrews in order to determine whether the author thought that a genuine Christian could ever fully and finally fall away from Christ.

Before beginning a full-scale enquiry into this issue, three important notes must be made.  First, the writer of the book of Hebrews is unknown.  This means that it can be exceptionally difficult to precisely determine the meaning of various statements made within the book because there is nothing against which a reader can compare.  That is, there are no other known writings that are compiled within the Christian canon written by this same author; therefore, if one should run into a troubling, obscure statement, there are no other, clearer passages written by the same author to which the reader can turn for clarification.  To demonstrate this point more plainly, the writings of Paul in his letter to the Galatians can be compared to his writings to the church in Colossae to more fully establish the meaning of various topics.  Yet the letter to the Hebrews is apparently the only piece of writing from this unknown author in the Bible.  Thus, interpreters of the book of Hebrews must always keep in mind the fact that the canon contains this solitary letter from the author; this means that exegesis should occur within a careful, considered framework, which interprets the obscure in light of the clear.

Second, the circumstances in which the recipients of the letter find themselves are slightly complicated to establish.  It is certainly clear from the content of the book that the recipients of the letter are facing a large amount of social persecution.  In Hebrews 10:32ff, for example, the author encourages the readers to “recall the former days when…you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction…and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property…”  The mention of hard struggles, public reproach, and the plundering of property seems to suggest that the surrounding culture in which these Christians found themselves was quite hostile toward the faith.  Beyond that, however, little can be known about the exact nature of circumstances.[1]  Thus, the author wrote the book of Hebrews in order to exhort the recipients to persevere in faith despite the negative situation surrounding them, whatever that may have been.

Third, a convincing case can be made that the author is simply not concerned with the hypothetical question of whether a Christian can lose his or her salvation.  That is, the author’s main goal is to encourage his audience to persevere in faith, despite the cost.  Therefore, in light of this ultimate aim of the letter, caution is advised in proceeding to answer questions where the biblical author did not himself seek to go.  Nevertheless, the question is important for theological and practical reasons.  Thus, a cautionary examination of four warnings passages follows, keeping in mind the notes made above, in order to determine whether it is possible for a Christian to commit final and ultimate apostasy.

Warning Passage #1—Hebrews 2:1-4[2]

The first warning passage of note in Hebrews is found in 2:1-4.  Notice that the text begins with the word “therefore.”  Good exegetes will immediately move backwards in order to see what the “therefore” pertains to.  In this case, the author is referring back to the revelation of the Son of God, “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature…After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high”  (1:3).  In essence, the author is stating, “because of this revelation and message from God regarding the Son of God who made purification for sin and upholds the universe by the word of his power, we must pay much closer attention to the message we heard.”  The imperative, “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard,” is firmly rooted in the indicative, that is, the content of the message regarding the Son of God.  The author exhorts his readers to pay attention to what they have heard, “lest [they] drift away from it.”  This introduces various problems.  First, what exactly have they heard?  Second, what does the author mean by the phrase “drift away from it”?  These questions will be answered in turn.

Hebrews 2:2 indicates what the readers heard: “For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable…”  The word “for” signifies a coming argument based upon the previous statement.  Thus, the readers should pay attention to what they heard, so that they do not drift away from it precisely because the message declared by angels proved to be reliable.  Now then, what exactly had the readers heard?  Verse 2 tells the reader that the message “proved to be reliable” because “every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution.”  The reliability of the message manifested itself in the form of justice and retribution for those who were transgressors or disobedient.  This gives a massive clue as to the nature of the message: on some level, the content has to do with judgment.  Moreover, the author asks this question in v. 3: “how shall we escape (this aforementioned judgment) if we neglect such a great salvation?”  The second piece of the message is found here.  What the readers had heard, according to the context of vv. 2-3 was a two-fold message of salvation and judgment.  The revelation of the Son of God who made purification for sins (1:3) constitutes the salvific part of the message.  On the other hand, “every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution,” just as the judgment piece of the message had proclaimed.  Thus, the message the readers heard was the gospel.

Having established that the content of the message is the gospel, a closer look at the phrase “drift away from it” now follows.  In what sense does the author mean that his hearers can drift away from the gospel?  There is an obvious contrast between the exhortation to “pay much closer attention” and the result of failing to pay attention, namely, “drifting away.”  Accordingly, if the readers do not pay closer attention, they will drift away.  Now, what does it mean “to drift away”?  Cockerill puts it this way: “This drifting is not unintentional and thus is culpable even though it is aggravated by societal pressure.  Such ‘drifting’ is ‘neglect’ of the salvation God has provided through the high priesthood of the Son as described in Hebrews 7:1-10:18.”[3]  And so, he equates the drifting from v. 1 with the neglect from v. 3.  To drift away from the gospel message is to neglect the great salvation proclaimed by it.

As such, the warning in Hebrews 2:1-4 does not convincingly teach that a genuine Christian can finally fall away from grace.  To “neglect” means to not pay attention to or to disregard.  Thus, the term “neglect” can signify two different possible groups: the first group is characterized as those who have something and subsequently disregard it.  But it is possible that there is another group in mind.  A second group may not, in fact, have something, and then they disregard or neglect to obtain that something.  To illustrate, the first group owns a home and neglects to keep it up; the second group, on the contrary, does not have a home and neglects to acquire one.  This group, it could be said, does not have salvation, and they neglect to attain it.  It is this second group of people that the author of Hebrews has in mind.  This is the case because he is exhorting his hearers to pay closer attention to what they have heard.  This implies that some of the hearers may not be genuine believers, for they have apparently only heard of the gospel.  Simply hearing the gospel does not signify that they truly believed or received the gospel.  It could logically follow from this that they never had salvation to begin with.  If this is the case, it means they belong to the second group from above: those who never had salvation and completely and finally disregard it.  Thus, how will such a group escape judgment after completely neglecting the gospel?  Answer: they will not escape.

Consequently, to neglect such a great salvation strongly implies that those who have disregarded it have never had a part in it in the first place.  They have always been indifferent towards it; they have continually neglected and disregarded it.  To drift away only means that the ones who stumble and fall have not paid close attention to it.  Owen put it this way, “A neglect of the Gospel is mentioned here.  It means, ‘if we do not take due care about it.’  This word intimates an omission of all the duties that are necessary if we are to retain the Word that has been preached to us.”[4]  In this way, the omission of all the duties necessary means that those who drift away and neglect the gospel have never really received the gospel in a saving manner.  In themselves, they have not met the conditions for salvation, namely, faith and repentance, and so they drift away, having omitted their necessary duties.  To use a vivid illustration, MacArthur notes, “the verse could be translated, ‘Therefore, we must the more eagerly secure our lives to the things which we have been taught, lest the ship of life drift past the harbor of salvation and be lost forever.’”[5]  Thus, the force of the exhortation is felt even more powerfully: “They must pay much closer attention to” the gospel, lest they fall away and demonstrate that they were never partakers therein in the first place.

One objection that could be made here is that genuine Christians can in fact “neglect” their salvation; this disregard leads consequently to sin, though it may not involve total apostasy.  A supporting notion for this objection is the fact that the author of Hebrews is apparently addressing a Christian congregation and using the plural “we” multiple times in this section.  Hence, “We (Christians) must pay attention, lest we (Christians) drift away…how shall we (Christians) escape if we (Christians) neglect such a great salvation?”  While this objection carries a lot of weight, it is not insurmountable.  Look carefully at the phrase “how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?”  This clause points to the future aspect of salvation.  Essentially, the author is asking how it is possible for one to escape the coming judgment after finally neglecting the gospel.  Using Owen’s definition of “neglect” from above, these people have omitted the necessary duties to retain the Word.  That is, they have not believed and repented (the necessary duties for salvation) and have thus neglected the gospel.  This final disregard of the gospel leads to the impossibility of escape.  On the other hand, Christians have not disregarded or neglected the gospel; they have repented and believed, meeting the necessary requirements to be saved.

Accordingly, it is not Christians (those who have repented and believed) who finally neglect and drift away from the gospel, losing their salvation; rather, it is those who have constantly neglected the gospel, never meeting the necessary conditions for salvation, who ultimately fall away.  The Christian life is characterized by faith and repentance; and those who fall away demonstrate that they have not ever repented or believed savingly.  While it may be possible to make a case from this warning that true Christians can, in fact, finally apostatize, the context does not inevitably warrant such a conclusion.  Nevertheless, the exhortation to pay closer attention to the gospel is one that should be heeded carefully by all humans alike.

Warning Passage #2—Hebrews 3:7-4:13

The second noticeable warning in Hebrews is found over an extensive period of text from 3:7-4:13.  Sprinkled throughout the passage are such exhortations as “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion” (3:7-8; cf. 3:15, 4:7), “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God” (3:12), and “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (4:11).  Riddled with quotations and examples from the Old Testament, this passage causes a variety of problems for even the most scrupulous readers.  Nevertheless, an examination of this warning can be undertaken to determine whether the author thought that a genuine Christian could lose their salvation.  Three distinct parts of the warning will be examined here: 1) The concept of rest in 3:11 and 4:1-11; 2) The clauses which state, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion” in 3:7, 15, and 4:7; and 3) The clause which states, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.”

To begin with, the biggest theme in this warning is that of “rest.”  Whether in reference to those who “shall not enter [God’s] rest,” (3:11) or an exhortation to “strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (4:11), rest is obviously a fundamental idea to this passage.  That said, what does this rest entail?  What does it mean to enter into God’s rest?  Blomberg notes the rich history of this theme throughout Scripture:[6] God rested on the seventh day of creation in Genesis 2:2; Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land, providing them rest from their enemies; the offer of rest for those in right relationship with God from Psalm 95.  Moreover, Blomberg declares, “It is appropriate, therefore, to speak of people who become Christians as entering into God’s rest, a kind of “Sabbath-rest” that is not tied to a particular day of the week or frequency of celebration but continues endlessly, even into the age to come.”[7]  Thus, it may be concluded from this that all of the exhortations to enter into God’s rest are aimed at unbelievers.  That is, according to the concept Blomberg puts forward, it would be pointless to exhort Christians to enter into God’s rest because they are already partaking in God’s rest.  Furthermore, the author develops an idea of two different groups of people in view regarding the theme of rest.  In 3:14-19, he is comparing Christians (i.e., those who have come to share in Christ, v. 14) with unbelievers.  He shows that the disobedient Israelites were unable to enter God’s rest because of unbelief (3:19).  Obviously, the question of apostasy is not even in view in this part of the warning.

A second troubling piece of this warning occurs when the author tells his readers not to harden their hearts.  However, upon closer examination it can be resolved rather easily.  This piece of the warning is closely related to the previous theme of rest.  In 3:8-11 the author declares, “Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test…Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’  As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”  Again in 3:15 and in 4:7, the author repeats the same warning.  What exactly does it mean to “not harden your heart”?  Contextually, it means the opposite of entering into God’s rest.  Thus, the Israelites in the Old Testament hardened their hearts and subsequently failed to enter God’s rest (3:19).  If this line of thought is carried to its end, hardening the heart is equated with unbelief.  Hence, the exhortation means: do not disbelieve; or, more clearly, decide today to have a share in Christ.  This strongly points to the fact that these exhortations, while clearly addressed to a largely Christian congregation, have two distinct aims.  First, the author is urging those unbelievers who are closely associated with the group to believe in the gospel.  Second, he is encouraging the Christians in the group to continue to hold fast to the hope they have.  Therefore, the main issue for the author is not apostasy at all, so it would be unwise to build any sort of doctrine off of this piece of the warning.

The third distinct piece of this warning passage comes in 3:12-14:

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

The obvious language of “falling away from the living God” causes problems for those who hold to any sort of doctrine of perseverance of the saints.  But note carefully what causes the falling away: an evil, unbelieving heart.  Surely it is a contradiction to say that a believer has an unbelieving heart.  Thus, it is not a Christian who falls away from the living God; it is unbelievers.  Moreover, Blomberg notes, “The language of verse 14 does not settle the Calvinist-Arminian debate…Both sides would have agreed that the way one determines who the true saints or believers are is to see who perseveres to the end.”[8]  Thus, the second warning passage certainly pleads for the salvation of unbelievers and simultaneously encourages believers to maintain their hope, but it does not definitively teach that a genuine Christian can lose their salvation.  One author comments, “Those who repudiate Christ thereby give evidence that they have never partaken in the benefits of Christ’s cleansing sacrifice, and the writer wants his readers to see the consequences of this in the starkest terms.”[9]

Warning Passage #3—Hebrews 6:4-6:12

By far the most difficult of the warning passages in the book of Hebrews is found in 6:4-12.   The complexity stems from 6:4-6:

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

This is terrifically dramatic language, and on the surface it seems to clearly demonstrate that a genuine believer can ultimately apostatize.  Scholars from both sides of the metaphorical aisle have produced massive volumes regarding the nature of this particular warning.[10]  Among the most intricate problems of the passage are the exact meanings of the terms “enlightened,” “tasted the heavenly gift,” “shared in the Holy Spirit,” and “tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come.”  What do all of these mean specifically?  One commentator “argues that the key to understanding Hebrews 6:4-6 is the agricultural illustration of verses 7-8.  Indeed, he holds that these verses ‘form the basis for verses 4-6.’”[11]  While the agricultural metaphor is certainly important, there is a far more significant note in the context.  In verse 9, the author reveals an astonishing truth: “Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation” (emphasis added).  Thus, none of these things: having “once been enlightened,” having “tasted the heavenly gift,” having “shared in the Holy Spirit,” and having “tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,” definitely constitute saving faith because the author is sure of better things in the case of his hearers.  These “better things” actually belong to salvation in the mind of the author, whereas these other things listed do not.

Nevertheless, it is still imperative to determine what the author means by these other things.  The seriousness of the threat cannot be minimized.  That is, it really is impossible for someone to be restored again to repentance after they have partaken in all of these things.  That much is abundantly clear.  This means that the warning is not simply hypothetical.  But what is the nature of all of these things?  What exactly does it mean to “have once been enlightened” or to “have tasted the heavenly gift”?  Blomberg suggests this possibility: “While the verbs in verses 4-5 (“enlightened,” “tasted,” “shared”) all readily sound as if they refer to true believers, parallels inside and outside of the Bible show that they can describe people who have only a close association with something without having fully embraced it.”[12]  On the other hand, McKnight argues that the Greek word for “enlightened” (which also occurs in Hebrews 10:32), “apparently refers to conversion (‘remember the former days, the days after which you had been enlightened’), as it regularly signifies conversion in early Christian literature.”[13]  Thus, the scholarship literally goes both ways.  If one should be predisposed to favor a more Calvinistic scheme of salvation, they will probably tend to side with Blomberg.[14]  Conversely, Arminians and Wesleyans will most likely favor McKnight’s position.

Given this evidence, how is one to reconcile this passage?  The major key to understanding these verbs comes in verse 9, where the author states that he is “sure of better things—things that belong to salvation.”  The verbs “enlightened,” “tasted,” and “shared” do not mean the hearers have been categorically converted simply because these things do not belong to salvation, at least in the mind of the author.  “Enlightened” can just as easily mean intellectual perception of truth without saving faith.  While McKnight argues that Greek word for “enlightened” refers to salvation in 10:32, it does not necessarily follow that the word means the same thing every time it is used.  Owen argues that “tasted,” “means no more than to make a trial or experiment, for this is what we do by tasting what is offered to us for eating.  We taste such a thing to see if we want to receive or refuse it.  Therefore, it does not include eating, much less digesting something and being nourished by it.”[15]  The word for “shared” need only mean that these people were closely associated with the group who possessed the Holy Spirit rather than actually possessing it themselves.  Moreover, MacArthur argues, “It is possible to have an association with the Holy Spirit, to share in what He does, and not be saved.”[16]  This interpretation strongly fits within the context of verse 9, which claims that these things do not properly pertain to salvation.

Thus, this warning, like the one before it, has a kind of two-fold aim.  First, it seeks to demonstrate the dire consequences of someone who is ever so close to believing the gospel but then turns back.  This functions to persuade the unbelievers to “not harden their hearts,” in order that they will not forever fall away, much like the previous warning.  The force of the exhortation should not be lessened: it really is impossible to restore those who know the truth in their minds, who have been closely associated with the body of believers, who have even seen the work of God around them, yet have failed to ultimately repent and believe in Christ.  This warning functions as a metaphorical push-over-the-edge in order to convince the unbelievers to fully commit to Christ.  The second aim of the warning is to encourage the believers to hold fast until the end.  The author is sure that the work of God is manifest among them; this work of God is the work pertaining to salvation.

Warning Passage #4—Hebrews 10:26-39

The second most difficult warning passage in Hebrews is located in 10:26-39.  This warning is no less stunning than the previous one: language such as “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,” “fury of fire that will consume the adversaries,” trampled underfoot the Son of God, and profaned the blood of the covenant,” and “has outraged the Spirit of grace” all seem to point to the severe cost of rejecting Christ.  To the careful reader, though, this warning functions to exhort readers to receive the fullness of Christ, yet does not teach that a true Christian can finally apostatize.  There are two distinct areas to explore: 1) The phrase “If we go on sinning deliberately after receiving a knowledge of the truth” (10:26); and 2) Verse 38: “if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”

The warning properly begins in 10:26 with this phrase: “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.”  Does this passage mean that a person cannot be restored after any sin has been committed?  Certainly not!  The phrase “go on sinning deliberately” does not necessarily refer to the action of sinning; rather, it pertains to a certain kind of sin: namely, a lifestyle of ongoing rejection of Christ.  Owen describes it as, “the sin of renouncing the truth of the Gospel and its promises after we have been convinced of its truth and experience its power….This sinning deliberately does not refer to those times of spiritual darkness that may press down on our minds, even though they are evil and dangerous.”[17]  The idea is that a person is confronted with the truth of Christ (i.e., “after receiving a knowledge of the truth”), knowing that salvation is found nowhere else and that there is no way apart from him.  Yet instead of choosing to follow Christ through faith and repentance, the person goes “on sinning deliberately,” meaning they remain in their sinful lifestyle.  Because Jesus is the only sacrifice for sins that truly sanctifies (10:12, 14), “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” for anyone who remains in their sin.  To conclude, Grudem states “the passage does not talk about someone who is genuinely saved, but someone who has received some beneficial moral influence through contact with the church.”[18]

In verse 38, there is a strong warning against abandoning God: “if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”  On the surface, this seems to indicate that genuine Christians have the ability to apostatize.  But read the next verse: “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”  Notice two things: First, the warning is strengthened by the fact that shrinking back leads to destruction.  This is no mere hypothetical warning; if one shrinks back, he or she will be destroyed.  But who has the ability to shrink back?  Note also how the author clearly demonstrates two different groups: those who shrink back and those who have faith.  They are not the same, for the author says, “we are not of those who shrink back.”  On the contrary, they are of those who have faith and preserve their souls.  There is a definite connection between having faith and not shrinking back.  That is, those of faith do not shrink back: they preserve their souls.  Those who shrink back are not those of faith.  As such, this warning does not affirmatively teach that a Christian can lose their salvation.  MacArthur closes with these words: “The warning and appeal end on a positive and hopeful note.  The writer seems confident that some of those to whom he is appealing will indeed believe—so much so, in fact, that he already identifies himself with them and the other true believers.”[19]

Conclusion

While the warning passages in the book of Hebrews are meant to encourage Christians to persevere in faith to the end, they do not positively affirm that a genuine Christian can, in fact, finally fall away from Christ.  Thus, it may be concluded that the author to the Hebrews did not believe that Christians could ultimately forfeit their salvation.  Hebrews 2:1-4 addresses readers who may be on the fence about Christ, warning them of the impossibility of escape if they do not receive him.  Hebrews 3:7-4:13 continues this line of thought by calling readers to enter God’s rest, not hardening their hearts, lest their unbelief cause them to fall.  Hebrews 6:4-12 is the most complex of the four warnings explored in this paper, but verse 9 leads readers to the conclusion that the Hebrews have possession of better things, things belonging to salvation.  Hebrews 10:26-39 reminds readers of the exclusivity of Christ, urging them to embrace him as the only available sacrifice for sins.  Those who embrace him, those of faith, will preserve their souls while everyone else will be destroyed.

The practical value of this doctrine is immense.  First, it can provide a certain measure of hope, even during the dark night of the soul.  Life on this already-not yet planet can be terribly difficult to bear at times.  But knowing the sureness of hope is one incredible reality provided for those who are in Christ.  To close, an exhortation from the author of Hebrews: “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (10:23).


[1] An excellent overview of who the “Hebrews” were can be found in David A. DeSilva, An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods, and Ministry Formation (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 776-781.

[2] There are four distinct passages in Hebrews that will be explored in this paper.  The structure for these four passages is loosely related to Bateman’s in: Gareth L. Cockerill, Buist M. Fanning, Randall C. Gleason, and Grant R. Osborne, Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews, ed. Herbert W. Bateman IV (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2007), 27.  The traditional fifth warning passage, Hebrews 12:25-29 was intentionally omitted.

[3] Ibid., 261.

[4] John Owen, “Hebrews,” in Crossway Classic Commentaries, ed. Alister McGrath and J.I. Packer (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1998), 34.

[5] John MacArthur, Hebrews, MNTC (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1983), 44.

[6] Craig Blomberg, From Pentecost to Patmos: An Introduction to Acts through Revelation (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2006), 418-419.

[7] Ibid., 419.

[8] Ibid., 418.

[9] Buist Fanning in Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews, 218-219.

[10] Cf. David A. DeSilva, “Exchanging Favor for Wrath: Apostasy in Hebrews and Patron-Client Relationships,” Journal of Biblical Literature 115, no. 1 (Spring 1996): 91-116; Randall C. Gleason, “The Old Testament Background of the Warning in Hebrews 6:4-8,” Bibliotheca Sacra 155, no. 617 (Jan-Mar 1998): 62-91; Scot McKnight, “The Warning Passages of Hebrews: A Formal Analysis and Theological Conclusions,” Trinity Journal 13, no. 1 (Spring 1992): 21-59; and Robert A. Peterson, “Apostasy in the Hebrews Warning Passages,” Presbyterion 34, no. 1 (Spring 2008): 27-44.

[11] This quote comes from Peterson, “Apostasy in the Hebrews Warning Passages,” 28, where Peterson is quoting Verlyn D. Verbrugge, “Towards a New Interpretation of Hebrews 6:4-6,” Calvin Theological Journal 15 (April 1980): 61-73.

[12] Blomberg, From Pentecost to Patmos, 422.

[13] McKnight, “The Warning Passages of Hebrews,” 45-46.

[14] Cf. Owen, “Hebrews,” 146-158; MacArthur, Hebrews, 142-158.  Interestingly, MacArthur notes, “First of all, we should notice that this passage makes no reference at all to salvation.  There is no mention of justification, sanctification, the new birth, or regeneration.  Those who have once been enlightened are not spoken of as born again, made holy, or made righteous.  None of the normal New Testament terminology for salvation is used.”

[15] Owen, “Hebrews,” 148.

[16] MacArthur, Hebrews, 144.

[17] Owen, “Hebrews,” 213.

[18] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 802.

[19] MacArthur, Hebrews, 283.


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