1Charles C. Bing is the founder and president of GraceLife Ministries, Burleson, Texas.
2For the purpose of this study, when we speak of eternal damnation or a similar concept, we will not distinguish between those who view the final eschatological condemnation of unbelievers as eternal punishing (traditional view) and eternal punishment (annihilation view). Some commentators who see eternal condemnation as the judgment in view: F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964); Wayne Grudem, Perseverance of the Saints: A Case Study from Hebrews 6:4-6 and the Other Warning Passages in Hebrews,? in The Grace of God, the Bondage of the Will, ed. Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce Ware (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995), 133-82; Homer Kent, The Epistle to the Hebrews, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1972), 205; John MacArthur, Hebrews, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody, 1983); Scott McKnight, The Warning Passages of Hebrews: A Formal Analysis and Theological Conclusions,? Trinity Journal 13 (Spring 1992): 34-36; Stanley D. Toussaint, The Eschatology of the Warning Passages in the Book of Hebrews,? Grace Theological Journal 3 (Spring 1982): 68.
3Randall C. Gleason, The Old Testament Background of the Warning in Hebrews 6:4-8,? Bibliotheca Sacra 155 (January-March, 1998): 89-90; J. Dwight Pentecost, The Apostles' Use of Jesus' Predictions of Judgment on Jerusalem in A.D. 70,? in Integrity of Heart, Skillfulness of Hands: Biblical and Leadership Studies in Honor of Donald K. Campbell, ed. Charles H. Dyer and Roy B. Zuck (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 140?41; and A Faith that Endures (Grand Rapids: Discovery, 1992): 173; Peter Walker, Jerusalem in Hebrews 13:9?14 and the Dating of the Epistle,? Tyndale Bulletin 45 (1994): 39-71; Brooke Foss Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), 153.
4Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings, (Hayesville, NC: Schoettle, 1992), 452-453, 464-466; Gleason seems to allow for this as well as the destruction of Jerusalem: Old Testament Background,? 86-88; Zane C. Hodges, Hebrews? in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, eds. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1983), 795-796, 803-804: Tanner admits this possibility: J. Paul Tanner, 'But If It Yields Thorns and Thistles': An Exposition of Hebrews 5:11-6:12? Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 14 (Spring 2001): 30-32; and For Whom Does the Punishment of Hebrews 10:26-31 Teach a ?Punishment Worse Than Death'?? Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 19 (Autumn 2006): 73.
5The Judgment Seat of Christ is understood as a future judgment for believers only where their works and faithfulness are evaluated and rewarded (or denied reward) accordingly. See Rom. 14:10-12; 1 Cor. 3:9-15; 2 Cor. 5:10. Those who view this judgment as a loss of reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ: DIllow, 453-453 (He also allows for temporal judgment); R. T. Kendall, Once Saved, Always Saved (Chicago: Moody, 1983), 175-182; Thomas Kem Oberholtzer, The Thorn-Infested Ground in Hebrews 6:4?12, ? Bibliotheca Sacra 145 (July-September 1988): 319-28; The Danger of Willful Sin in Hebrews 10:26?39, ? Bibliotheca Sacra 145 (October-December 1988): 410-19; and The Failure to Heed His Speaking in Hebrews 12:25?29, ? Bibliotheca Sacra 146 (January-March 1989): 67-75; J. Paul Tanner, Hebrews 5:211-6:12,? 40, and Hebrews 10:26-31,? 73-77.
6The New King James Version is used unless otherwise noted.
7McKnight, The Warning Passages,? 35. See also Buist M. Fanning, A Classical Reformed View,? in Four Views of the Warning Passages in Hebrews, ed. Herbert W. Bateman (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007), 189-190; Robert A. Peterson, Our Secure Salvation: Perseverance and Apostasy (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2009), 159.
8See for example, McKnight's criticism of Nicole's theologically biased interpretation of the state of the readers in Hebrews 6. McKnight, The Warning Passages,? 51-53.
9I use the word genuine? as a concession to the discussion which demands such clarification. The Bible uses no such qualifiers to describe believers as genuine, real, true, etc.? or to disqualify unbelievers as false, insincere, temporary, spurious?, etc. I believe it can be shown that when the Bible refers to someone as a believer (in the context of Jesus Christ or the gospel as the object), it always intends someone who has believed unto salvation. To conclude otherwise is to impose one's theology on the given text rather than allow it to speak for itself.
10For example, R. C. H. Lenski, The Epistle to the Hebrews (MinneapoIis: Augsburg, 1966), 174-187, 355-357; I. Howard Marshall, The Problem of Apostasy in New Testament Theology,? Perspectives in Religious Studies 14 (1987): 68; Clark Pinnock, The Grace of God and the Will of Man (Minneapolis: Bethany, 1989), 17. Bateman claims that all contributors to the book Four Views, which includes the views of Classical Arminiansism (Grant R. Osborne) and Wesleyan Arminian (Garreth Lee Cockerill), as well as Classical Reformed (Buist M. Fanning), and Moderate Reformed (Randall C. Gleason), believe that the recipients of Hebrews are true believers (Four Views, 24).
11For example, Gleason L. Archer, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1957), 40; Bruce, 118-19; Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), 215; John MacArthur Jr., Hebrews (Chicago: Moody, 1983), 135-149; Roger Nicole, Some Comments on Hebrews 6:4?6 and the Doctrine of the Perseverance of God with the Saints,? in Current Issues in Biblical and Patristic Interpretation, ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 362; Peterson, 175; Toussaint, Eschatology of the Warning Passages,? 68.
12For example, Donald Guthrie, Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 145?47; Thomas Hewitt, The Epistle to the Hebrews (London: Tyndale, 1960), 108, 111; Homer A. Kent, Jr., The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1972), 113; Westcott, 165; Kenneth S. Wuest, Hebrews Six in the Greek New Testament,? Bibliotheca Sacra 119 (January-March 1962): 52.
13See Matt. 5:22; 13:37-50; Mark 9:43-48; 2 Thes. 1:8-9; Jude 7; Rev. 14:10-11; 19:20; 20:10, 14-15; 21:8. Interestingly, it is difficult to find in the Old Testament a reference to eternal hellfire. Isa. 66:24 is usually thought to be behind the references to Gehenna? and eternal punishment in passages like Mark 9:43-48, but as we will see, the imagery of fire was commonly used for temporal judgment in the Old Testament. Also, Isaiah's image of the worm devouring decaying bodies in the grave is used elsewhere for an activity in time, not eternity (Job 17:14-16; 34: 19-20). Not all commentators see all New Testament references to Gehenna? as an automatic reference to eternal punishment. See W. F. Albright and C. S. Mann, Matthew: A New Translation and Introduction, in The Anchor Bible, (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1971), 60ff; Adam Clarke, A., Clarke's Commentary: Matthew, electronic ed. (Logos Library System, 1999), s.v. Mt 5:22;? Michael Eaton, No Condemnation: A New Theology of Assurance (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1995), 206-207; N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (London: SPEK, 1996), 332-368, 445. 14:10-11; 19:20; 20:10, 14-15; 21:8.
14John 5:24; 10:28-30; 17:9-12; Romans 8:28-39; 2 Cor. 1:22; Eph 1:13-14; 4:30; Note also the teaching of Hebrews on eternal security: 7:25; 9:14-15; 10:14.
15See note no. 6.
16See Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The Promise Theme and the Theology of Rest,? Bibliotheca Sacra 130 (April-June 1973): 141-50; and Thomas Kem Oberholtzer, The Kingdom Rest in Hebrews 3:1?4:13, ? Bibliotheca Sacra 145 (April-June, 1988): 185?96.
17These arguments are adapted from an article by John Hosler, Were the First Century Hebrew Christians in Danger of Losing Salvation and Falling into Hell Fire?,? http://www.napierchurch.org/pdf/articles/bible_study/falling_from_grace.pdf (accessed December 19, 2009).
18Others who argue that the readers of the warnings are regenerate include Bateman et al. in Four Views (see note no. 10); Dillow, 435-444, 459; Michael Eaton, No Condemnation: A New Theology of Assurance (InterVarsity 1995), 212-217; Kendall, 175-182; William L. Lane, Hebrews 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 47A (Dallas: Word, 1991), 141; Tanner, Hebrews 5:11-6:12,? 30-32, and Hebrews 10:26-31,? 57-77; Oberholtzer, in his previously cited series in Bibliotheca Sacra vols. 145 (1988) and 146 (1989); Andy M. Woods, The Paradigm of Kadesh Barnea as a Solution to the Problem of Hebrews 6:4-6,? Chafer Theological Journal 12 (Spring 2006), 50-62.
19McKnight, The Warning Passages,? 26.
20From parapiptoo, to fail to follow through on a commitment, fall away, commit apostasy,? BAGD, 3rd Ed. (2000).
21Bruce, 122-124; Lenski, 185-186; McKnight, The Warning Passages,? 26, 39-42.
22From pipto, BAGD, 3rd Ed. (2000).
23Gleason, Old Testament Background,? 62-91; Woods, The Paradigm of Kadesh Barnea,? 44-70.
24See 10:19-39; 12:1-4. The historical occasion could be the persecution of Christians under Roman emperor Nero.
25It is best to take the aorist participle parapapesontas not as conditional, but as concessive by implication. Hughes quotes the New English Bible approvingly: for when men have once been enlightened ? and after all this have fallen away ?? Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), 212, n. 56. Other Scriptures show that believers can harden their hearts to the point of abandoning their faith (Luke 8:13; 1 Tim. 1:19; 2 Tim. 2:18).
26Paul Ellingsworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek Text, in New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 664; Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 385.
27Gleason, Old Testament Background,? 64; Lane, cxii-cxxiv.
28See note no. 13.
29Jude 11 is not commenting on whether those who followed Korah were punished eternally, but that they were punished suddenly and severely in their deaths. Jude uses the aorist tense in perished? (apolonto) to emphasize that judgment of the false teachers is likewise certain.
30Some think that the term flames of fire? is a play on the name of Yahweh. See the NASB and the comment in The NET Bible. If so, this makes the comparison even stronger.
31The context of this passage is not soteriological. In the Upper Room Discourse Jesus is discussing fruitfulness with the saved disciples (15:3) who are compared to branches that are in the Vine, which is Christ (15:1-2). For more discussion see Charles C. Bing, Lordship Salvation: A Biblical Evaluation and Response, GraceLife Edition (Burleson, TX: GraceLife Ministries, 1997), 36-40.
32Not standing the test, unqualified, worthless,? BAGD, Third ed. (2000). Cf. 1 Cor. 9:27; 2 Cor. 13:5; See Kendall, 173-175.
33So Hodges, 795-796; In this way, it reminds of God's disciplinary judgment intended to make believers holy and fruitful (cf. 12:5-11).
34See Dillow, 453; Oberholtzer, Hebrews 6:4-12,? 326; Tanner, Hebrews 5:11-6:12,? 40.
35See note no. 3.
37Again, note that the author includes himself as a possibility by using the first person plural we.?
38The author of Hebrews apparently has a particular sin in mind, which becomes evident as we consult the context. He had exhorted his readers previously to hold fast to their confession (3:6; 4:14) and has warned them about the dangers of not pressing on in their faith (6:1-8). He reinforces this concern in the verses immediately preceding this warning about the willful sin (10:23-25). The readers were on the verge of abandoning their confession of faith in Christ and returning to the Mosaic Law and its sacrifices, which is why he discussed the inadequacy of the Mosaic sacrifices especially from chapter 8 onward.
39In reference to the Judgment Seat of Christ mentioned in 2 Cor. 5:10 , 5:11 uses the word fear? (phobos).
40Taken appositively by Ellingsworth, 535.
41Tanner, Hebrews 10:26-31,? 71-72. He points out that Isaiah 33:14-15 shows that the righteous in Israel will survive God's consuming fire.
43Cf. Lam. 4:6, 9; Jonah 4:3.
441 Cor. 3:13-15. Commenting on the parallel of 1 Cor. 3:13-15 with the warnings in Hebrews, Gleason remarks, If it is true that believers will face a judgment after death linked to ?fire' that poses no threat to their eternal salvation, then why would we object to temporal fiery judgments experienced in life by genuine believers as divine discipline? For these reasons I find the common assumption that Hebrews warns of eternal damnation unproven.? (Randall C. Gleason, Moderate Reformed Response,? in Bateman, Four Views, 255). In my opinion, the severity of these judgments upon believers whether divine chastening in this life and/or loss of rewards for eternity answers the argument that eternal damnation must be in view because Hebrews presents an escalated? judgment (See Fanning, A Classical Reformed View,? in Bateman, Four Views, 189-90).
46BAGD, Third Ed. (2000).
47The phrase uses peripoiesin (keeping safe, preserving, saving). BAGD, Third Ed. (2000).