************ Sermon on Hebrews 10:26-31 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on October 16, 2016
"The Doom of the Apostate"
Hebrews is meant to be a "word of exhortation" (Heb 13:22). That is, it is meant to be a letter of encouragement and comfort for true Christian believers. Yet, five horrible warnings are given to the apostate:
-chapter 2 says they have no escape from punishment
-chapter 4 warns their thoughts and attitudes are uncovered and laid bare before God
-chapter 6 states there is no repentance possible for those who have fallen away
-our Bible reading from chapter 10 tells us the doom of the apostate
-chapter 12 reminds them that God is a consuming fire
What Hebrews makes clear is that the apostate face a judgment that is frightening. Awaiting them is a fire that never goes out, execution without mercy, punishment without end. And, do you realize this is done by God? It is God Who punishes the apostate. And, it is God Who warns the apostate.
We all realize that God hates sin. God hates adultery, murder, theft, divorce, idol-worship, homosexual behavior, sexual abuse of children, racism. But the sin that God hates the most is the sin of apostasy -- even more than the sin of dissension we looked at this morning.
I Apostasy's Definition
A So what is apostasy? Over the years I have received more internet questions about our Bible reading tonight than any other passage. The Christian world is filled with frightened, scared, terrified people who think they are guilty of this sin.
If you are one of these Christians, let me direct you to Q & A 2 of the Heidelberg Catechism. It asks what you must know to live and die in the joy of the comfort of belonging to Jesus. Its answer:
first, how great my sin and misery are; second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.Our Bible reading from Hebrews is not describing the Christian who knows guilt, grace, and gratitude. In fact, if you are worried you are apostate you aren't because the apostate would never worry about this.
Now, note what we are told about the apostate in our Bible reading.
First, the apostate's sin is intentional, willful, done on purpose: they "deliberately" sin says verse 26. Their sin is done in outright defiance against God. Their sin shows contempt for God and His Word. Their sin is brazen, arrogant, and blatant.
Let me admit that you and I and every Christian here falls to sin and yields to temptation. Many times my sin is intentional, willful, and deliberate. So how are we different from the apostate? The difference is that I hate my sin, repent of my sin, and recognize that my sin is an offense against God. But this is not the case with the apostate. The apostate doesn't hate his or her sin, doesn't repent of it, and doesn't care that it offends God.
B Second, the apostate's sin is continual. Notice the use of continual action: "if we deliberately keep on sinning ..." Keep on. Not a one time or occasional thing. Don't think of the apostate as the Christian who has committed a big sin -- because then David and Peter are both apostate. Nor is the apostate the Christian who yields to temptation. Yes, to do a big sin and to fall into temptation is serious, but neither of these is apostasy. Rather, the apostate has settled into a life of disobedience. Disobedience defines them and identifies them and marks their entire life.
C Third, the apostate's sin is committed in full "knowledge of the truth." Apostates know the Gospel and sin anyway. Apostates know the story of Jesus and sin anyway. This means you can't be apostate unless you first know the message of salvation. This means you cannot be apostate unless you are a member of the church.
Compare apostates to unbelievers who have never heard the Gospel. These unbelievers know nothing of the Jesus Who died and rose and ascended into heaven and is seated at God's right hand. Yes, they are sinners. Yes, they are guilty. Yes, they deserve God's judgment. Yes, they have suppressed the knowledge of God that comes from general revelation. Yet, they are not apostates. Because an apostate knows the message of salvation in Jesus. Because an apostate knows about sin, salvation, and service.
Jesus talks about apostates after a trip through the cities of Galilee.
(Mt 11:20-24) Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. (21) "Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. (22) But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. (23) And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. (24) But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you."Those cities had the light of the Gospel. Those cities had exposure to the full revelation of God. And rejected it!
Apostates have received full knowledge of the truth. Apostates have received the maximum possible exposure to the Gospel. In our circles, apostates have been raised in a Christian home, received a Christian education, attended Sunday School and Catechism and GEMS and Cadets and Youth Group, joined a Bible Study, and attend worship every week. Their sin is not a sin of ignorance. Their sin is not because they lack the proper information.
Do you hear what I am saying? Apostasy is NOT born in the world. Apostasy is born in the church. It is a product of church life. Dear friends, dear children, do NOT take the Gospel for granted. Because apostates come out of churches like Trinity URC.
Therefore, let me say this loud and clear. It is not enough to hear the Gospel. It is never enough to hear the Gospel. You also need to turn from your sin and believe in Jesus. You must believe it in your heart and confess it with your mouth.
D Fourth, apostasy begins with neglect of worship. Our pew Bibles miss a word at the beginning of verse 26: the word "for." "For if we deliberately keep on sinning ..." What does "for" refer to? "For" refers to what is mentioned in the previous verse: namely, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing ..." (Heb 10:25).
How does apostasy begin? It begins by neglecting worship. It begins by skipping a worship service here and there. A twicer becomes a oncer and eventually a noncer. It is a gradual slide into apostasy. Remember what was said in Hebrews 2? It talks of those who "drift away." Something slow, something gradual, something small. The apostate does not wake up one morning and decide to be an apostate. Rather, he wakes up one day and decides not to go to church. And, over time, he removes himself from the means of grace. So, over weeks and months and maybe even years the apostate ends up rejecting the Gospel. Where did this begin? By becoming lazy and casual about worship.
E Fifth, an apostate is not a friend of God. Rather, she is described as an enemy of God in verse 17. Verse 29 says she has trampled the Son of God under foot, has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified her, and has insulted the Spirit of grace. To turn your back on salvation is to become an enemy of God.
The classic example of the apostate is Judas. Judas saw all that Jesus did: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised. Judas heard all that Jesus said: the good news is preached to the poor, the Sermon on the Mount, the parables, the teachings reported by John. Judas saw and heard all of this. Yet, he rejected it. He left Jesus. He left the Gospel.
What is apostasy? Who is an apostate? Someone who has deliberately turned his or her back on Jesus and His church.
II Apostasy's Doom
A So what happens to the apostate? What happens to those church members who reject Jesus?
Look at verse 26: "no sacrifice for sins is left." Obviously, they have rejected the sacrifice of Jesus. So that sacrifice is gone. But no other sacrifice is acceptable either. Remember the audience of Hebrews? Jewish Christians thinking of going back to Judaism. Jewish Christians thinking of going back to the sacrifice of bulls and goats and lambs. But, as we have learned, it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Heb 10:4; cf 10:11). So, if you turn your back on Jesus, no sacrifice for sins is left. You are left in your misery and ruin.
B Look at verse 27: all that is left for the apostate is "a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God." Our Bibles describe the fire as a "raging" fire. Other translations use the word "fury." Words like "raging" and "fury" are used to describe people, not things. Hebrews turns fire into a person. Into an angry person. Into a furious person. Into a consuming person. This fire consumes anything and everything in its path just like it consumed all of Sodom and Gomorrah. Just like it consumed the 250 friends of Korah when they rebelled against Moses (Num 16). Just like it consumed the sons of Aaron when they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord (Lev 10). Just like the lake of fire or the lake of burning sulfur in Revelation. There is no escape for those thrown into this lake. It is a place of torment day and night for ever and ever. It is described as the second death (cf Rev 19 & 20).
What happens to the apostate? Fire. Doom. That's what happens to enemies of God and Christ and the Gospel. There is no middle ground. There is no neutral ground. There is no halfway house like the purgatory taught by the Roman Catholics. Apostates are doomed to destruction by the fury of God's fire.
III Apostasy's Severity
A You might wonder why God is so severe with apostasy? Because the sin is so severe.
In verses 28 & 29 Hebrews argues from the lesser to the greater. It begins with what happened in the Old Testament:
(Heb 10:28) Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.Hebrews refers here to what we are told in Deuteronomy 17:
(Deut 17:2-7) If a man or woman living among you in one of the towns the LORD gives you is found doing evil in the eyes of the LORD your God in violation of his covenant, (3) and contrary to my command has worshiped other gods, bowing down to them or to the sun or the moon or the stars of the sky, (4) and this has been brought to your attention, then you must investigate it thoroughly. If it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, (5) take the man or woman who has done this evil deed to your city gate and stone that person to death. (6) On the testimony of two or three witnesses a man shall be put to death, but no one shall be put to death on the testimony of only one witness. (7) The hands of the witnesses must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people. You must purge the evil from among you.Notice, there was no second chance, no appeal process, no negotiation. The punishment was immediate. And the punishment was physical death. This is what happened under the old covenant.
Now, what happens under the new covenant? "How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished ..." Physical death in the old covenant. Something worse, something far more severe, in the new covenant. So, let me ask, what is worse than immediate physical death? Eternal death, eternal condemnation. Go back to the lake of fire -- a place of torment day and night for ever and ever. That's what happens to apostates.
B Why is the apostate's punishment so severe? Because they have turned their back on Jesus. Remember what we have been told about Jesus?
-He is God's last Word for these last days.
-He is the heir of all things.
-Through Him God made the universe.
-He is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.
-He provided purification for sins.
-He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
-He is superior to the angels.
-He tasted death for everyone.
-He is our brother, like us in every way.
-He is greater than Moses.
-He is the One Who gives a better rest than did Joshua.
-He is the great high priest Who sympathizes with our weaknesses.
-He is greater than Aaron.
-He is the new Melchizedek Who mediates a new covenant.
-He is our Intercessor.
-He serves in the true tabernacle at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.
-He is the fulfilment of the sanctuary that is but a shadow and copy of what is in heaven.
Jesus is so great, so awesome, so superior. He is better than anything or anyone else. Yet, the apostates leave Him. The Jewish apostates leave Him for what is inferior and ineffective and a shadow of what is coming.
Why is the apostate's punishment so severe? Hebrews uses three phrases to describe what the apostates have done:
-trampled the Son of God under footThe apostate's punishment is so severe because their sin is so severe.
-treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him
-insulted the Spirit of grace
IV Apostasy's Surety
A The ending of our passage needs to be compared to what was said earlier in verse 23. Verse 23 encourages us to hold unswervingly to the hope we profess. And why can we do this? Why can any Christian hold unswervingly to the hope we profess? Because God is faithful. Because of God we know our hope is sure. Because of the character of God and the nature of God we have a sure and living hope.
In the same way, because of the character and nature of God, the apostate can be sure of judgment. That's the point of verse 30:
(Heb 10:30) For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people."Even as we know the God Who saves us, so the apostate knows the Lord God Who judges.
B Now, look at verse 31. "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
Is this true? Is it a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God? I say that because of what happened in the life of David. David committed the sin of counting or numbering his army; he put his trust in chariots and horses and soldiers and spears rather than in the Lord. The prophet Gad was sent by God to David with a choice of three punishments:
-famine because of the elements
-flight from enemies
David chose plague saying, "Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great" (2 Sam 24:14). In our Bible reading, Hebrews uses the same phrase as David: "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
Why is falling into the hands of the Lord a good thing for David and a bad thing in the book of Hebrews? Because David falls into the hands of God as a repentant sinner whereas the apostate falls into the hands of God as a defiant, obstinate sinner.
Dear friends, dear children, never take the Gospel for granted. Come to Jesus. Believe in Jesus. Love and confess Jesus. Because either you fall into His hands as a repentant and believing sinner or you fall into His hands as a defiant apostate. Which will it be?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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