Willful Sin and Judgment of Hebrews 10:26

Justin Johnson

Who is this statement addressing? What is the willful sin? Who lives in fear of the fiery judgment? These are important questions when considering the dispensational context of Hebrews 10:26.

The Audience

First, the audience of the book is given to those who will receive Israel’s promises, law, priesthood, covenants, and future hope in that heavenly city to come (Heb 7:12, 13:14).

Since these doctrines are reserved for Israel and cannot be reconciled to the grace teaching of the Apostle Paul, it must be recognized immediately that Hebrews is not for our participation who live under God’s grace today (Eph 3:1-2). The audience then is prophetic Israel not Jews or Gentiles under Paul’s ministry.

Second, it has been commonly described as speaking to the unbelieving Hebrews who reject the Messiah. Yet, if this is true then it would have been impossible for the Christ-rejecting Saul to receive God’s grace when he clearly did “despite the Spirit of grace” which was given at Pentecost.

Instead, the verse is speaking to those who were already participating in the new covenant. This is consistent with the previous ten chapters of the book.

The passage refers to “us” four times in the immediate context. The writer says “let us draw near”, “let us hold fast… without wavering”, “let us … provoke unto good works”, and “the assembling of ourselves”.

The “us” people are those who have already heard and received the Spirit of grace. They were being encouraged to hold fast to the precepts of the new covenant without wavering as it was their second and final opportunity to enter the kingdom without sin (Heb 11:16-18). This understanding is the key to answering the remaining questions.

The Willful Sin

The reason the audience is being exhorted to “hold fast” and to do “good works” is because their endurance and admittance into the kingdom is contingent upon their behavior (Mark 13:13).

Of course, if we understand the revelation in Romans 3-5 we know that it is impossible for anyone under the gospel of grace to do any work to secure or release God’s forgiveness imputed unto us now by God’s grace (Rom 5:11).

However, while we enjoy the benefits of God’s appropriations now, Israel does not receive those prophesied benefits until the kingdom come. They had to endure unto the “end” to receive the salvation purchased by Christ’s blood (1 Pet 1:9,13).

The willful sin is committed by a partaker of the new covenant Spirit of grace who was “falling away” back into unbelief, doubt, and sin. This is evident from the exhortations after this strong warning:

“Cast not away therefore your confidence…” – Heb 10:35
“…if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” – Heb 10:38
“… we are not of them who draw back unto perdition…” – Heb 10:39

Also, remember the warning of Hebrews 6:6 to those who were “falling away” from the basic elements of faith:

“It is impossible … if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance;” – Heb 6:4-6

The believing Hebrews were partakers of the “heavenly gift” and the Holy Ghost which “caused them to walk in [God’s] statutes” (Eze 36:27). Their willful sin was contrary to the Holy Ghost’s provision and persistence against the new covenant blood of Christ. This was worthy of greater punishment than the first time Israel rejected God’s covenant (Heb 10:28-29).

The Fiery Judgment

If we have successfully exposited Hebrews 10:26 then verse 27 falls simply into place.

“But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” – Heb 10:27

The fiery indignation and judgment for sin cannot be for our participation today who have “peace with God” and “stand in grace” (Rom 5:1-2).

Although it would describe the punishment of the unbelieving Hebrews it could not primarily address them since they were never partakers of the new covenant and would more correctly be the “adversaries” who are in the verse.

Instead, this fear of judgment falls on those who are partakers of the covenant and are tempted to reject it just as those who rebelled under Moses’ covenant.

The Hebrew epistles of Peter, James, and John are filled with encouragements to endure until the kingdom comes while consistently bearing good fruit. If these remaining Hebrew believers would perform good works, then admission into the kingdom would be assured and they would receive the salvation that was purchased by the blood of Christ (2 Pet 1:10-11).

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Published: July 17, 2010
Last Modified: September 6, 2016
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