Hebrews 10:30–31, “For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Over the past few days we have been studying the second half of Hebrews 10 and the exhortations and warnings that are given about our need to persevere. We have seen that deliberate and unrepentant sin can lead professing church members into final apostasy and the awful judgment that it deserves (vv. 26–29).
These warnings may frighten us, and that is not altogether a bad thing. After all, the fear of the Lord is an important theme throughout Scripture (Prov. 1:7; 1 Peter 2:17). It would be a mistake, however, to let this fear paralyze us. It would be a mistake for us to think that just because we have some sinful tendencies that there is no hope for us. We must not think that Christ will not receive us back after committing gross sin if we confess it (1 John 1:8–10).
The purpose of these warnings is to prevent us from falling into final apostasy. The author is not telling us that we can snatch ourselves from the Father’s hand. Rather, he has a biblical view of providence. He knows that God accomplishes His will, including our salvation, through human agency. He knows that one of the ways God preserves us is by giving these warnings so that we will heed them and, by doing so, persevere in the faith (Heb. 10:39).
At this point in redemptive history, we still await the consummation of all things. We wait for the day when the sheep will be separated from the goats and the wheat separated from the chaff. Until that day, the visible community of faith will include true believers, as well as unbelievers who have made a false profession. Warnings are needed to help distinguish the two groups and to ensure that the elect will stand with Christ no matter the cost.
We all must heed these warnings. We must not take our salvation for granted (Heb. 2:3). We must live in a way that we grow more obedient to God and more in line with the great cost Jesus paid for our salvation. Only if we do this can we know that we truly believe.
The author of Hebrews knew this quite well. In today’s passage, he includes himself in his warnings (v. 30). He knew that only those who persevere until the end are saved. When we heed these warnings, we confirm the reality of our faith and avoid the judgment for those who ignore them and fall into the hands of the living God (v. 31).
John Owen writes concerning these verses: “People are prone not to think about this. But God’s judgment exists and will be dreadful, terrible, and eternally destructive of everything that is not good.” These warnings are real. If we do not think they apply to us then we are ignoring them at our own peril.