Today’s passage is simply frightening; there is no way to soften it. It is sort of the spiritual equivalent of being told by the doctor that there is nothing else that can be done to save a person’s life. This is the end of the road.
This section is one of several warning passages in Hebrews, and they are difficult to teach and explain easily and clearly. But as always with this letter, remember the situation of the readers – people being warned not to throw off the Christian faith to return to an easier life of convenience.
The previous passage ended with a thought about the approaching day of the Lord and the end of time. Peace and stability in this life is great, but to trade off the truth for such would be to make a pretty stupid deal. And beyond ignorant, it put a person in a place of terrible judgment as an enemy of God. There were no sacrifices for such an apostasy.
The Old Testament Scripture being referenced was one that talked about the judgment that fell upon someone who embraced idolatry. How much more severe judgment would surely therefore befall someone who walked away, not merely from the shadow of things in the OT system, but actually from the fulfilled reality of redemption in the person and work of Jesus Christ. If you reject the final payment, there is no other payment in the pipeline.
These verses also picture more than a merely mild decision. The “trampling” verb used in this verse is one that means to stomp all over and trample completely under foot. This level of apostasy would only be done by one who never really had received and fully trusted in the truth of Christ to begin with.
26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
So how do we apply such a passage as this to our lives? Our current circumstances don’t quite match up in a one-to-one way with these original readers. However, a day may come when it is more like what they faced. It is a common theme of discussion in our country right now about the increasing pressure upon Christians and societal disdain for our values. The future may be more difficult for living for Christ in an open way.
At the very end of Paul’s writings, at a time when his own martyrdom was fast approaching … of being “poured out,” he said, “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” The abnormal thing is to not be persecuted.
The Christian life can be very difficult in a hostile and secular culture, but there is no other place to go.