Hebrews 6:7–8, “For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.”

Over the past few days we have been studying one of the more difficult passages to interpret in all the Bible — Hebrews 6:4–6. In these three verses we are told that those who fall away cannot be brought again to repentance. Many people believe that this passage refers to genuine Christians and that those with true faith can lose their salvation. But, as we have seen, there is nothing in this passage that suggests that the author must be talking about genuine Christians. Rather, because an unregenerate person can experience the new covenant blessings listed in 6:4–5, the text could be referring to people who claim to have faith who are, in reality, far from the kingdom.

Hebrews 6:7–8 confirms that 6:4–6 is not referring to those with true faith. In these two verses we read of a land upon which rain falls. In context, the rain is an example of the continual blessings from God that are poured out upon the church as a visible group. One part of this land receives the water and produces a good crop (6:7). Another part of the land receives the water and produces only thorns and thistles (6:8). Both parts receive the blessing of rain, but only one produces a good crop. If the soil is not good to begin with, and if it does not truly embrace all the benefits that the rain provides, it cannot, and will not, produce a good harvest. It is not that the soil bears forth good fruit at first then later ceases to do so and then bears thorns and thistles. Rather, the soil only produces one or the other from the beginning of the rainfall. The rain never produces a good crop if the soil was poor to begin with.

This analogy demonstrates that Hebrews 6:4–6 is referring to people who profess faith outwardly but were never saved. They are the poor soil that produces growth but is later revealed to be worthless thorns and thistles. Because they are part of the new covenant by virtue of the fact that they agree to be in the visible church, they do receive some blessing; they do receive the rain. But because they are not good soil, they fall away, crucifying again Christ as they go (v. 6).

Apostasy is a real sin and its possibility is fearful. But note that just because someone seems to have committed it, that does not mean that they have. We cannot see the future, and the person who today seems to have denied Christ may, like Peter, in time reveal himself as a true Christian through repentance.

Coram Deo

Some Christians think that they have committed the sin of apostasy, thus demonstrating that they were never really saved. But the very fact that they worry about it might show that the Holy Spirit is working in their hearts to bring them to repentance. Someone who doesn’t care about falling away demonstrates that he was never a true Christian.

A Good Crop, Copyright (2020), Ligonier Ministries.

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