“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.” (Hebrews 10:26-30 KJV)
There are many teaching and preaching from pulpit that this verse proves that a believer can lose their Salvation. They are sincere, but sincerely wrong! They are not seeing the context of the entire book of Hebrews. We must remember that chapters were added to the Bible for our benefit and studying for reference. The entire book of Hebrews is ONE WORK to read.
In Hebrews 10:1 we see the writer emphasize the point that the animal sacrifices performed under the Old Covenant NEVER took away sins but only covered their sins for a time period of one year. Each year, this had to happen again to cover another year of sins and so on. It was not a perfect sacrifice for their sins. It was just a temporary covering until the Messiah would come and be the final sacrifice for sins.
“For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.” (Hebrews 10:1 KJV)
This verse starts with the word “for”. It is the same as reading “therefore”. And whenever we see the word ‘therefore’, we need to find out why it is THERE FOR! Hebrews 10:1 is just continuing the conversation and topic from Hebrew 9. So let’s go back to Hebrews 9 and see what the topic here is for proper context.
“15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. 16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.” (Hebrews 9:15-17 KJV)
Hebrews 9 is explaining how Christ has replaced the Old Covenant with a NEW Covenant. He replaced the Old Covenant of the Law With the new Covenant of the Grace of God through Jesus Christ. Under the Old Covenant, the Israelites had to sacrifice unblemished animals as a ‘temporary covering’ for their sins. This covering would last one year and then had to be repeated so that the people’s sin could keep being covered. This sacrificing of animals is a foreshadowing and looking forward to the final sacrifice that God would make on the cross to not just cover, but PAY IN FULL all the penalty for all the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). The passage reads the “promise of ETERNAL INHERITANCE”. How long is eternal? Well, it is ETERNAL, forever and ever and ever!
Now the last part of Hebrews 9 is what leads into Hebrews 10 and this is vitally important! Watch the words CLOSELY! I have bolded some for you.
“26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now ONCE in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9:26-28 KJV)
This tells us that Jesus sacrifice has replaced the Law with Grace and all who look for His Second Coming (that would be the believers) are saved. His sacrifice was a one time event and animal sacrifices to cover sins was no long required for the Jews.
Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world ONCE and our sins have not been temporarily covered like the Old Covenant animal sacrifices; Jesus PUT AWAY SIN BY HIS SACRIFICE on the cross! The sin debt has been paid. ALL SINS. The writer of Hebrews goes on to tell us that when Christ comes at the Second Coming, He is not coming to judge the sins of believers. Only the sins of the unbelievers.
Now, reread the first part of Hebrews 10 to see that it is a continuation of this point as it reads,
“”For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.” (Hebrews 10:1 KJV)”
The Old Covenant animal sacrifices never PAID , nor PUT AWAY the sins of the Jewish people. Nor can our good works and self righteous efforts. The animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant only gave a covering for sins for one year at a time. Jesus ONCE paid for all the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2) and as Jesus cried out on the cross, ‘IT IS FINISHED’. And if you look at the Greek for that phrase by Jesus it literally is an accounting term meaning ‘a debt paid in full ‘.
In context, and throughout the book of Hebrews, the writer is addressing the Hebrew believers IN CHRIST and also mentioning unbelievers who were pressuring them. This is not talking about sins we commit as believers after Salvation. It is talking about the sin of unbelief in Christ’s atonement. Because without belief in Christ and His ONCE FOR ALL sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, there is no payment placed to their account. God’s righteousness is not imputed to an unbeliever (2 Cor. 5:17-21). Salvation is a GIFT (Eph. 2:8-9) and as a GIFT, it can be received and accepted in belief or rejected by our free will (John 3:14-18). Accepting this gift is by believing on Christ as God in the flesh, the only begotten Son of God, and His finished work on the cross. If the gift is received, and not rejected, a person becomes a Newly created Spirit of God, which is the righteousness of God, IN CHRIST (2 Cor. 5:17-21) and the person is saved from the very moment of their belief (Eph. 1:13-14) and has become COMPLETE IN CHRIST (Colossians 2).
In the Book of Hebrews, in fact looking in all the first 10 chapters, there is only ONE sin that is mentioned and is the focus of attention and that sin is the sin of unbelief in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, crucified, died and risen as the only atonement for our numerous sins during our lifetime. Why? Because Jesus’ sacrifice REPLACED THE OLD COVENANT and THE LAW with the NEW COVENANT of God’s GRACE! The writer of Hebrews is basically pleading with the Jewish people to put their trust in Salvation in Christ and not their own self righteous good deeds, works or religious rituals. In context, Hebrews 10, is about not going back to Jewish Law of Moses and trying to make it a requirement of their justification and Salvation. And that under the Law the unbelieving Jews can only expect the judgement and wrath of God.
The writer continues , in verse 10-14, to show the Jewish people the contrast between the Old Covenant, with continuous sacrifices needed to COVER SINS, and the New Covenant through the FINAL ONCE FOR ALL SACRIFICE for our sins (Hebrews 10:10) through Jesus Christ crucified; paying for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).
“By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ ONCE FOR ALL. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which CAN NEVER TAKE AWAY SINS: But this man, after he had offered ONE SACRIFICE FOR SINS FOR EVER, SAT DOWN on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For BY ONE OFFERING he hath PERFECTED FOR EVER them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:10-14 KJV)
This passage makes me shout in my heart ever time I read it! What great love and GRACE has God bestowed on us! A believer is FOREVER (ETERNALLY) PERFECTED in our Spirit. And what is the significance of Christ ‘sitting down’? The High Priest of the Old Covenant was only permitted to stand and was busy to do all the Lord commanded about the animal sacrifices to make sure the sins of the people were covered. Jesus was the ONCE FOR ALL PAYMENT for all the sins of the whole world from all of time. His work in accomplishing this is FINISHED! So He sat down. And believers are IN CHRIST and so, we sat down WITH CHRIST! He is waiting for His enemies to be His footstool now. Just as when kings of the past would go into battle and capture their enemy king when defeated. The king would make the enemy king kneel on all fours and the winning king would place his feet on their back. Jesus has ALREADY WON THE WAR!
And then the writer goes on to make this claim of truth,
“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities WILL I REMEMBER NO MORE. Now where remission of these is, there is NO MORE OFFERING FOR SIN.” (Hebrews 10:16-18 KJV)
So Hebrews verse 1 to 18 are all saying that Jesus paid the FULL PRICE for the sins of the whole world and replaced the Old Covenant with the New Covenant of Grace, just as John reads in 1 John 2:2. Those who BELIEVE on Christ are saved and have eternal life; heaven bound. Our sins cannot prevent that! Only unbelief on Christ will prevent that.
Those who tell others, that based on Hebrews 10:26, that a believer can lose Salvation are conveniently omitting all the other verses in Hebrews 9 and 10 and making verse 26 mean something opposite to what it actually means! You can see here just how important reading verses in proper context is.
This passage in verse 26 reads , “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins” and that is what throws people off on the true understanding of this Scripture when taken out of the context of the entire book of Hebrews. Reading this verse alone and ignoring all the other verses in Hebrews will cause GREAT CONFUSION and turn what it really means into a lie!
The writer of Hebrews (I believe it is Paul by the way it is written, but we do not really know who wrote Hebrews) is writing to both believers and about non believers who are Jewish. Remember that it was hard for believers at the time Hebrews was written. The Jewish believers on Christ’s final atonement for sin had family and friends entrenched in the tradition of Law of Moses following. These believers were being persecuted and had great pressure to go back to following the Law and relying on animal sacrifices to cover their sins.
Now back to the TWO verses, used out of context, that some are teaching wrongly that it is about a believer losing Salvation. Let’s look at it again in the proper context just shown to you.
“26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. 28 He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: 29 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?” (Hebrews 10:26-30 KJV)
One objection I have heard is that the verse says “WE”. Yet, why does it say ‘we’ and not ‘they’. Because the writer is being nice here and trying to persuade the persecuted believers to not go back to animal sacrifices. These believers and the writer are JEWS. As Jews they are a group of people and so using ‘we’ makes sense. Let me give you an analogy to explain. You are out with a group of friends. They all decide to go rob a store and there is no way you want to do that! Now, do you just quietly walk away or try to persuade them to not do that? So you say to them, “Guys, look WE cannot do such a thing. It is wrong. WE could go to jail.” You see it now? The writer of Hebrews is not judging the unbelievers. He is telling the persecuted believers to not go back to the Law. It is wrong. And besides if you did, there ‘remaineth no more sacrifice for sins‘ because Jesus is the ONLY sacrifice that pays for sins in full. Sacrificing animals never would anyway – that only ‘covers sins’ as it shows in Hebrews 9 and 10:1.
Another objection I have heard about this proper context is that the verse contains the word ‘sanctified’. The thing is, in this verse the writer is not talking about believers. He is talking about the Jews persecuting the believers to go back to The Law and animal sacrifices. This is telling the believers that the Jewish unbelievers were slapping God in the face by trying to get them to go back to animal sacrifices. The animal sacrifices only covered the people’s sins for one year at a time as a temporary ‘covering’ for their sins as they looked forward to the promised Messiah to come who would be the FINAL sacrifice for the sins of the world. This is what the Hebrews looked forward to and why they sacrificed animals. The animal sacrifices itself is not what kept them saved. It was the BELIEF in the Messiah to come that did. Yet, the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah. So the writer is just saying, here these Jews are looking forward to the Messiah to be the final sacrifice and yet they reject Christ who actually IS the Messiah who already MADE that sacrifice! It really is a slap in God’s face right?
But the word ‘sanctified’ is only for believers, isn’t it?
Actually the answer is, no. This is not the process of a believers sanctification after Salvation. This sanctification is for the unbelieving Jews. To see this as truth, we need only look at the Greek for the English word ‘sanctified’ used here and then compare it to other places in Scripture that the same Greek word is used. And when we do, we find the truth. This word in the Greek is Strings G37, ‘hagiazō‘ and we see the same word in passages about a believers sanctification, when the topic is about believers, but we also see that it is used for unbelievers too! Look at this passage of Scripture,
This is talking about a mixed belief marriage. If one person is a believer and the other is not. Is the curse of God on the believer for marrying the unbeliever? No. God’s blessing will fall on both. Is the UNBELIEVING Husband saved or sanctified? Well, he is still an unbeliever and is NOT SAVED and will not be until he accepts Christ. But in marriage, God’s blessing will be on him because the WIFE is a believer, or vice versa as this verse shows.
This is exactly what is meant here in Hebrews. The Jews are still, to this very day, sanctified; that is God’s people. They have God’s blessing on them. But only the Jews that believe on Jesus as the Christ, as the Messiah, are actually saved believers.
In verse 26 and 27, the writer is just explaining to these persecuted believers to not go back to the Law like their Jewish friends and neighbors are pushing them too. It is like committing adultery against Christ and all He did for them! All verse 26 and 27 are meaning is that going back to animal sacrifices and deeds of the Law to remain justified with God is like rejecting the great ONCE FOR ALL sacrifice Christ did for us on that cross.
In comparison to the unbelieving Jews, if they do not rely on Christ alone in faith for Salvation but are doing animal sacrifices to keep themselves saved, there remains no more sacrifice for sins because there is only ONE SACRIFICE FOR SINS, and that was Jesus Christ on that cross when He took our sin debt and eradicated it forever! Animal sacrifices do not forgive sin! They only covered them until the final sacrifice would come; Jesus on the cross.
The writer goes on to explain to these Jewish believers in Christ, that the unbelieving Jews in thinking animal sacrifices will save them eternally without belief on the true ONCE FOR ALL SACRIFICE, is REALLY WRONG. And that is is a fearful thing for those who are rejecting Christ’s FINAL sacrifice for sins. It is slapping God in the face when He shed His blood for them to not just cover their sins, but to be the ONCE FOR ALL sacrifice for their sins. It is a warning also for the Jewish people to accept Christ based on faith alone without self righteous deeds and religious rituals to keep you saved. It is GOD who keeps you saved!!
To the unbelievers in Christ’s final once for all sacrifice for the sins of the world, that is the unbelieving Jews,the writer tells the believers that,
“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31 KJV)
The writer then tells the believers,
“But WE ARE NOT of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that BELIEVE to the saving of the soul.” (Hebrews 10:39 KJV)
The whole misunderstood passage of Hebrews 10:26 is the writer of Hebrews encouraging the persecuted believers to press on in the faith of the New Covenant of God’s Grace Through Jesus Christ and not to be following the Law for righteousness. while their Jewish unbelieving friends and family are telling them that they must have an animal sacrifice to have their sins covered.
That is the truth of the Gospel of the Grace of God Through Jesus Christ! And it is the BEST NEWS ever for all of us – if we believe on Christ alone for our justification.