In this episode, we rush headlong into some of the most controversial passages in the Bible. A possible interpretation arises to address the paradox found in many of these challenging teachings. We then move to Hebrews, Chapter Ten, which tells us we should live our lives in the throne room. We are relational creatures. We don’t thrive by becoming isolated and trying to fix ourselves. We ought to live in intimacy and obedience to God, the better way. We have the opportunity to live as servant-kings on the earth, reflecting and participating in God’s glory.
Today is a big day. We’re going to, today—if things go the way I hope they do—we’re going today to end this lesson talking about the most controversial passage in all the Bible in my experience.
Half of protestant Christianity falls on one side of the argument, and the other half falls on the other side of the argument. And my goal for this lesson is that when we get to that argument, you’re going to see really clearly without—it’s going to be as obvious as it can be that the argument’s not valid. The argument’s not valid.
So let’s get into it here.
10:11. “And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices—” Which sacrifices are we talking about? Temple sacrifices. “—which can never take away sins.”
Do temple sacrifices take away sins? No, they do not. And how would we know that? He’s said it about 15 times now, hasn’t he?
10:12 “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever—” Have you heard that before? Better priest, with a better sacrifice, better covenant. “—sat down at the right hand of God.”
Now look in verse 11. What’s the posture of the temple priests? Standing. Why are they standing? They’re working. Why are they working? It’s not finished. They have to keep doing it. They’re going over and over, every day. Why are they doing that? It doesn’t work.
What’s Jesus’s posture? He’s sitting down. Why is he sitting down? He’s finished. He’s perfected. He’s teleiosi.
Look at verse 15: “But the Holy Spirit also witnesses us; for after he had said before, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them.’”
That’s a big deal. That’s why he keeps saying it over and over again. Then he adds: “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”
Do you believe me? Do you believe me that you’re cleared? Really? You going to beat yourself up? When you beat yourself up, what are you saying? Your sacrifice wasn’t enough. I need something else. More on that later.
Verse 18: “Now where there is remission of these, there’s no longer an offering for sin. Therefore, brethren—” OK, these are brethren. We have been sanctified. “Therefore, brethren—”
So what about them? Better priest, better sacrifice, better covenant. So what? “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus—” Which holiest does he want us to go in? Which holiest? The temple, the tabernacle, or the one in heaven? The one in Heaven!
See, we’re not trying to get you all to become levitical priests so you can go in once a year. I want you to go right to Heaven. And when do I want you to go? Right now. Whenever you need to.
Verse 20: “By a new and living way—” a better covenant, “—which he consecrates—” He who? Jesus. The high priest. Consecrated. How did he consecrate it? His own blood.
“—through the veil, that is, his flesh.” The veil that is separating the outer court from the inner court in the heavenly sanctuary is Jesus’s body. Jesus’s body! We’re going to partake today of Jesus’s body which is broken for us! It’s not a barrier! It’s an invitation.
“—and having a High Priest over the house of God—” This is the better high priest. “—let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith—” Faith in what? Better priest, better sacrifice, better covenant. The blood of Jesus. It’s sufficient.
“—having our hearts sprinkled—” The high priest went in on the Day of Atonement and sprinkled the ark. We go in and say, “Would you sprinkle my heart?” My sin committed in ignorance. I know I have sin. Would you sprinkle it for me? I want to be clean.
Verse 22. “—having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope—” What’s the confession of our hope? Jesus! He’s going to restore all things.
“—without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” He will really do what he said he will do.
Verse 24. “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works—” The whole point of this is to have our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience to have good works. Well, let’s stir one another up to good works.
“—not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together—” This is why we’re together in church. This is why we get together in small groups. When we are together in the marketplace, we can stir one another up.
“—as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching.” What day? Jesus is coming back! And when he comes back, the word that’s sharper than any two edged sword that will divide between the thoughts and intents of the heart will be applied to us. And then we will find whether we get this reward or not. And he wants us to have it.
So get a since of urgency, guys! Look forward to his coming! The people looking forward to his coming because he’s doing what he wants them to do, that’s who he’s going to reward.
“For—” Now here’s the most controversial verse in the whole Bible, and I bet it won’t be to you anymore. “For if we sin willfully after we’ve received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins—” Which sacrifice is he talking about? The temple sacrifice! Does the temple sacrifice work to get rid of sins? No, it doesn’t work!
“—but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.” And that’s the reason why everybody wants that sacrifice to be the blood of Jesus.
So here is the controversy. If you sin willfully, then it means Jesus’s blood doesn’t work for you anymore, and you lost your salvation. That’s Party A.
No, Party B says, you can’t lose your salvation. It’s given by the election of God. If you sin willfully, too much—you know, too much, not some willfully, but just a whole lot willfully—then that means you never had your salvation to begin with. You weren’t elect. And the reason we know it has to be talking about the blood of Jesus here, even though we’ve just heard 50 times a contrast between what doesn’t work and what does work, is because of fiery indignation.
Let me come back to that.
Verse 28. “Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God under foot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified—” Remember we’ve all been sanctified. Paul and the people he’s writing the letter to. We’ve all been sanctified. Which sanctification were we talking about? Being born again. Put in the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.
“—counted the blood by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” So we’ve got a better high priest, better sacrifice, and better covenant. What does that better sacrifice cover? Everything.
How could you insult Jesus the better high priest and count his better sacrifice a common thing, something that doesn’t really matter? How could you do that? Trust in something else! You get it?
Hey, guys, the old priesthood is inferior; the new priesthood is better. Hey, guys, the old sacrifices don’t work; you have to keep doing them. The new sacrifice is better. Hey, guys, the law is inside the tabernacle, and this one, it’s in your heart. Hey, guys, that one doesn’t work; this one does. Hey, guys, if you want to keep on sinning and then go say, “But it’s OK because I went and did my sacrifice at the temple,” you know what you’re doing? You’re treating the blood of Jesus like it’s a common thing, and it doesn’t really matter to you anymore.
Now, what about the fiery indignation? Well, let’s go on just a little further.
Verse 30, “For we know him who said, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God.”
Now we’ve done this once before. We’re going to do it again. We’re going to go look at those verses.
But let me just finish this chapter real quick, and then we’ll come back and look at this fiery indignation.
Verse 32. “But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated—” you understood. “—you endured a great struggle with sufferings: partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated—” You were persecuted!
Verse 34. “For you had compassion on me in my chains—” So they’re ministering to Paul in his chains, which would have put them at risk for arrest.
“—and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.”
Recall what you did at the start and go back and do that again. Don’t drift away from trusting in the treasure that lasts. Don’t start wanting treasure on earth when you can have treasure in Heaven. “For we know him who said, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay—”
Does anybody remember where that’s from? We did it a couple of weeks ago. It’s from Deuteronomy. Let’s go to Deuteronomy 32:35.
Historical Background and Review
Now we did this once before, and I gave you the whole run up. I’m going to do it again, but without going through all the verses. We started in Jeremiah, and we started with the potter’s wheel. Remember this? I can just take that clay and lump it back up and make it any way I want to, guys.
Now remember, we’re in 586 BC. Abraham was 2000 BC. Moses, the tabernacle, all that was about 1500 BC. David, in 1000 BC. 586 BC. We’re now on the precipice of being deported to Babylon.
And Jeremiah is telling the people, guys, if you don’t honor your treaty with Egypt, you’re going to get mashed, and you’re going to get deported.
And, so, one of the things he tells the people is I can make you again just like a potter does.
And then, in chapter 19, he takes them out to the potter’s gate. He breaks a pot. And the potter’s gate overlooks the valley of Hinnom, which is Gehenna, which is where the trash was. There’s always smoldering fires. That’s where the child sacrifice took place when they were fallen into Baal worship. It’s a picture of evil death and corruption.
It’s often translated hell unfortunately. It should be translated just Gehenna because you’ve got to look at the context to see what it’s representing.
And he takes them to Gehenna and he says, this is where thousands of dead body are going to be because there’s going to be so much death in this city that you’re not going to be able to bury everybody. That’s what’s coming.
Then we went to Jeremiah 29:11. I know I have great things for you, a hope…
We talked about that, that it’s an odd way for God to prosper the people. But that’s the way God deals with sin. Yeah, he has catastrophe happen, to cleanse and purify. Or difficulty that comes in.
An then we went back to Deuteronomy, and we looked at chapter 30 where it says, you know, if you disobey me, I’m going to bring in a foreign nation to chastise you. And we talked about how this had been done, actually, many times over the history of Israel, the culmination of it being in Babylon.
And he gives them a song to remember that by: If you leave me, you’re going to pay the price. And the song is in Deuteronomy 32:28. “For they are a nation void of counsel, nor is there any understanding in them. Oh, that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! How could one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had surrendered them? For their rock is not like our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges. For their vine is the vine of Sodom and of the fields of Gomorrah; their grapes are grapes of gall.”
Our enemies are going to be our judges!
Verse 32: “Their clusters are bitter. Their wine is the poison of serpents, and the cruel venom of cobras. Is this not laid up stored with me, sealed up among my treasures?”
If you want to follow that path, this is the consequence you’re going to suffer, guys.
“Vengeance is mine, and recompense—” That’s the quote that we had over in Hebrews. God is going to see that all things are put to right, all things are brought to justice.
“—Their foot shall slip in due time—” This is going to eventually happen to Israel. “—For their day of calamity is at hand.”
This is the song their supposed to sing so they can remind themselves: there’s real consequences to my actions.
Verse 35. “—And the things to come hasten upon them. For the Lord will judge his people and have compassion on his servants, when he sees their power is gone, and there’s no one remaining, bond or free.”
What Do We Want?
So let’s go back to Hebrews.
So you see that in Hebrews, when he says “’Vengeance is mine, I will replay’…and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people,’” he’s giving you the entire picture. The Lord will judge his people, but why? So he can restore them.
You see the whole picture? These consequences are going to happen, but I’ll bring you back once your power is gone.
The point here is: is that what you want?
He’s bringing this song back to mind for these guys and said, hey, you know, those people who wandered in the wilderness, what did they get? They died in the wilderness, and they didn’t get to possess their inheritance. Is that what you want? Or do you want to repent while it’s called today? You see the illustration he’s giving us?
So that would give us a fearful expectation of judgment, wouldn’t it? And fiery indignation? What about fire? Don’t we know that fire is just for the bad people? We never get any fire, do we?
Let’s just look at I Corinthians 3. This is a chapter that I don’t think is controversial in terms of Christian theology. Everybody agrees that I Corinthians 3 is talking about believers.
Paul speaking to the church at Corinth. I Corinthians 3:9 “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.” He’s using an illustration here, the church is like a building.
Verse 10. “According to the grace of God which was given to me—” Paul “—as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he build on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Jesus is the only legitimate foundation.
Verse 12. “Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the day—” Remember stir one another up to love and good works and even more as the day approaches. Well, this is the day.
“—the day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he’s built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, though as through fire.”
Let’s go back to Hebrews 10:26. “For if we sin willfully after we’ve received the knowledge of the truth, there’s no longer a sacrifice for sins.” These temple sacrifices don’t work for that! They never have.
Verse 27 “But a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation—” which will do what? What will the fiery indignation do? Consume who? The adversaries! Who are the adversaries! Satan and his demons. Is that who this letter’s written to? Are we concerned about being consumed? We’re not worried about being consumed. We’re worried about all of our works being concerned and us being saved so as through fire.
You see, the Babylonians came, and they completely decimated Israel; and they deported them for 70 years. And then what? What at the end of 70 years? He returned them. He brought them back. Because for us the goal of judgment is always the same. Which is what? Restoration. Purification. That’s the goal.
For the adversaries, the goal is consumption. Get rid of it. Get it out of here.
Those same Babylonians that chastised Israel were also chastised, but they weren’t restored. They were just consumed.
It’s the same judgment. It has a different purpose and outcome. But the point is: is that what you want?
Now, for us, it’s not much of a temptation for us to rely on temple sacrifice to take care of sin. But we have the equivalent, don’t we?
In our world of pop psychology, and selfism, narcissism, self esteem, one of the ways we can insult the Spirit of grace, and count as a common thing the sacrifice of Jesus is to be self-correcting. I would say this would probably be my number one nomination for how we do this. Because we’re self-fixing.
It’s not fixible. If it was fixible, those levitical sacrifices would have fixed it.
It takes the blood of Jesus to fix it. And, guys, we’re invited. You see this whole picture? We’re invited.
Let me just end by rereading verse Hebrews 10:19.
I covered a lot of ground today because I wanted you to see this verse was part of the continuation of the contrast between temple sacrifice and the sacrifice of the One, the one that doesn’t work vs. the One that does. But the application is immense.
And what he wants us to do, 10:19, “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus.”
This is where we should live our life. Not in self help. Not in self esteem. Not in talking ourselves out of having a guilty conscience, which always ends up with blame of some sort. It is our problem. It is our fault. Will we accept the forgiveness that Jesus has provided on an ongoing basis?
We can’t out do the blood of Jesus. There’s nothing we can do that outdoes the blood of Jesus. And that cleansing is what sets us up to then move on to perfection, maturity, completion.
And we do all that by living in obedience. And obedience is the essence of loving other people.
We’re not really going to be able to love other people until we can see what they see. We’re not really going to be able to see what they see until we can get self out of the way.
Most of what we see is other people seeing us. Because what we’re mostly focused on is us And when we can get us out of the way, then we can become great in the Kingdom.
What God wants is restoration of the whole world, and we can do it, in part, now, by living as a servant‑king now. And it starts by entering the Holy through the new and living way, through the new veil that’s the body of Jesus, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and then stirring one another up, and all the more as the day approaches.