Losing Salvation in Hebrews

Justin Johnson

Losing salvation is a serious controversy in Christianity. After becoming a Christian can failure and sin lead to God’s rejection or is salvation secure apart from performance?

Both sides of the debate have clear Bible verses to support their position. Salvation security teachers claim the verses that speak of God’s grace and unfailing promises. Salvation losers claim verses about God’s judgment, and conditions to endure, bear fruit, keep, and work to receive those promises.

Which verses are right? The answer for the dispensational Bible believer is all of them… to whom they were written.

The Dispensational Answer

This confusion, like many others, arises from a failure to understand the Bible dispensationally. Dispensational Bible study employs context, timing, and audience to reconcile verses that otherwise, taken literally, are at odds with each other.

It is no surprise, then, that this controversy can be resolved by recognizing the dispensational difference between Israel and the church. More specifically, Paul’s epistles to the church must be rightly divided from the Hebrew epistles to Israel.

If Paul’s epistles are where people learn about salvation by grace complete in Christ, then Hebrews is where people go to “lose” it.

Salvation Now

Paul’s epistles alone contain the doctrine of Jesus Christ according to the mystery: the doctrine, position, and pattern of the church today.

Paul’s epistles also contain the strongest statements of present salvation by grace without works, conditions, or unfulfilled promises. According to the mystery, salvation is found in the present dispensation of grace complete in Christ.

Salvation in the End

The Hebrew epistles contain the doctrine concerning the remnant of Israel going through persecution while waiting for their promised kingdom come.

The Hebrew epistles also contain the strongest statements of future salvation dependent upon endurance, works, and performance unto the end. The reason it sounds as if the Hebrews can lose salvation is that, for them, salvation is found in the future fulfillment of covenant promises.

They have not yet received their promised salvation, and so until then, they can lose their future claim on it.

Of the epistles written to remnant Israel, the book of Hebrews has the most warnings about failing to receive what they were promised. Below is an incomplete list of such warnings.

  1. Heb 1:14 – Angels ministered to Israel. Israel shall be heirs of salvation. Israel’s salvation is yet future.
  2. Heb 2:1-3 – Hebrews exhorted to give heed, lest at any time they should let them slip, receive judgment, and neglect salvation.
  3. Heb 2:8 – Hebrews were not yet seeing the promised kingdom, they had to wait.
  4. Heb 3:6 – For Israel to be the house of Christ requires holding fast unto the end.
  5. Heb 3:7-12 – Hebrews could depart from the living God and not enter into rest.
  6. Heb 3:14-19 – Hebrews could be partakers of Christ if they hold fast unto the end.
  7. Heb 4:1 – Hebrews should fear lest they come short of the promise of rest.
  8. Heb 4:11 – Hebrews were told to labour to enter into that rest.
  9. Heb 4:16 – The believing remnant still needed more grace in time of need (compare to 2 Cor 12:9).
  10. Heb 6:4-6 – It is impossible for enlightened Hebrews to be renewed after falling away.
  11. Heb 6:7-8 – If they do not bear fruit then they are rejected, cursed, and burned.
  12. Heb 6:10-12 – Their assurance was in faith and patience unto the end.
  13. Heb 6:14-15 – Hebrews quotes Gen 22 which is what James uses to prove the necessity of works.
  14. Heb 9:28 – Salvation comes to Hebrews when Christ appears the second time.
  15. Heb 10:24-29 – Do good because there is no more sacrifice for sins but judgment.
  16. Heb 10:36 – Hebrews receive the promise after patiently doing the will of God.
  17. Heb 10:38-39 – Drawing back is rejection, moving forward is salvation.
  18. Heb 11:13 – The Hebrew example are those who died in faith not yet receiving promises.
  19. Heb 12:11-14 – Without chastening and holiness, no man shall see the Lord.
  20. Heb 12:15-17 – A warning against failing the grace of God, selling their birthright, and being rejected.
  21. Heb 12:25 – There is no escaping the wrath of him who speaks from heaven.

Ignoring the dispensational context of Hebrews causes salvation confusion. Hebrews is where people go to lose their present possession of salvation and reject the dispensation of the grace of God for today.

Hebrews must be rightly divided from Paul’s epistles to the Body of Christ if men are going to clearly see Christ according to the mystery (Eph 3:9).

Follow our verse by verse lessons to learn about Hebrews in its dispensational context.

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Published: May 14, 2016
Last Modified: September 1, 2018
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