“For if we deliberately sin after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire about to consume the adversaries” (Heb. 10:26-27).
This is one of those passages that most of us would like to wish away. Until recently, I would’ve included myself in that category. But recently, the Lord helped me hear the exciting message these verses actually declare.
Our biggest problem is how we hear the first verse: “For if we fail morally (even a little bit) after receiving the knowledge of the truth there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment….” Our minds go to a dark place here. Perhaps the cross only covers the sins we commit before conversion. Or maybe we can only be forgiven if we don’t mean to sin. Salvation shrinks to a tightrope with no net. One wrong step could see us free-falling into the outer darkness…forever.
Before we mentally fall to our deaths, let’s revisit the word “sin” in verse 26. We had better know what “sin” means here because if we “sin” no sacrifice for sins is left. Kind of a big deal.
Hebrews starts off by presenting Christ’s complete work of atonement (Heb. 1:3). Throughout the rest of the letter we are warned about not entering into Christ’s finished work. One of the prime examples is found in chapters three and four. The Israelites failed to enter into the land because they didn’t believe God (Heb. 3:19). In like manner, unless we believe the gospel, we will fail to enter into what God has promised (Heb. 4:1-2). His pledge (which He sealed with an oath) is that atonement is complete; there is nothing to prevent our coming boldly to God and His throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). Hebrews 10 discusses this in depth. It contrasts the continual sacrifices of the old covenant with Jesus’s one offering: “This man, after offering one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12). “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14).
This is why verse 10:27 says there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins. Jesus offered the last sacrifice anyone will ever need. It covers every sin—past, present, and future. His offering was so effective we are urged to draw near to God “in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22). Here’s where the “sin” of verse 26 comes in. We sin by failing to believe in Christ’s comprehensive, limitless, eternal sacrifice; by not entering into what God has prepared for us in Christ (as Israel failed to enter the land). If we look for some other solution to our daily moral failures, we will find nothing. God has no other sacrifice to offer us. The sacrifices of the law have ceased, and were powerless to perfect us anyway (Heb. 10:11). If we try to enter God’s presence through prophets, angels, or by keeping the 10 commandments, only judgment and the fury of fire await us (Heb. 1:1-2, 2:5, 3:5-6). To reject Jesus’s sacrifice is, as Hebrews says, to insult the Spirit of grace (Heb. 10:29). What are we left with? That the arms of Jesus are the gates of heaven nailed wide open. There is no reason in heaven, in earth, or under the earth that we shouldn’t run rejoicing into them! With this in mind, Hebrews 10 ends with this encouragement: “But we are not those who draw back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and obtain life” (Heb. 10:39).