Hebrews 6:1-12 is one of the most misunderstood passages in the Bible. Christian scholars misunderstand this passage because they misapply it to spiritual rebirth rather than maturity in the faith and soul salvation. The passage has nothing to do with salvation in the evangelical sense. It is not addressing the loss of spirit salvation, but the loss of soul salvation. Spirit salvation is eternally secure and cannot be lost through the actions of the believer. However, a Christian’s life can become so rebellious that God will cease working through him with no chance of repentance. This situation occurs when a Christian has repented, attained to a level of spiritual maturity, and then falls away from the faith.
Many Christians have been born again spiritually, begin serving God, go to church, study the Bible to some degree and then fall away from the faith without ever having attained to spiritual maturity. This passage is not addressing these Christians, as the level of spiritual maturity attained to is specified.
The whole book of Hebrews addresses the issue of soul salvation for Christians and the receipt of the inheritance to come in the millennial kingdom. Please read my dissertation To Perish or not to Perish for a detailed explanation of the difference between spirit and soul salvation. Spirit salvation pertains to the issue of heaven or hell, while soul salvation pertains to our inheritance in the kingdom to come. Many Christians will forfeit their inheritance in the kingdom, but they will still be in heaven.
We will now begin our verse-by-verse exegesis of Hebrews 6:1-12, which explains the sin unto death mentioned in the following verse:
(1 John 5:16 KJV) If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.
It is important to note that we are not to pray for a Christian brother that has committed the sin unto death. The following passage explains why we are not to pray for this brother, as God will not permit repentance in this case.
NOTE: It is the Christian Brother that commits the sin unto death and not the unsaved reprobate. The death is that of the soul at the Judgment Seat of Christ and not the spirit.
(Heb 6:1 KJV) Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
In Chapter 5 the writer of Hebrews has been addressing the need for Christians to go on into spiritual maturity, so they can understand the meat of the Word of God. The great majority of Christians never get beyond the milk of the Word, and oftentimes in this age of Laodicea, it is clabbered milk.
In this verse, the writer is saying that Christians need to leave the elementary teachings of Christ and go on into perfection (i.e., maturity). He then describes the elementary teachings as repentance from dead works and faithfulness toward God. Dead works are unfruitful works not initiated in our lives by the Holy Spirit. Dead works are the works of the flesh. “Faith toward God” is simply faithfulness or fidelity toward God. This is basic in the Christian life, but the majority of Christians today have not yet achieved this.
The failure of Christians to understand the Judgment Seat of Christ has resulted in a generation of faithless Christians who do not measure up to even the basic tenets of the faith. There are Christians that do not fear God, revere God, tithe to God, or study God’s Word. There are Christians that routinely commit adultery, use vulgar language, curse, take drugs, get drunk, and seek after wealth and the pleasures of this world.
(Heb 6:2 KJV) Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
The writer continues to address the elementary teachings of the faith as the doctrines of baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead and the Judgment Seat of Christ (i.e., eternal judgment). Please note that these are the elementary teachings. “The doctrine of baptisms” pertains to the washings that the Christian must undergo to remain clean. Jesus taught his disciples the importance of these washings by washing their feet at The Last Supper. The doctrines of baptisms is summarized in detail in 1 John 1:9. This is elementary yet numerous Christians do not practice it.
The laying on of hands was a symbolic practice of the Church elders to emphasize the assistance of fellow Christians who are more mature in the faith. It is the receipt of spiritual power from fellow believers to help one walk worthy. The laying on of hands represents the intimacy that fellow Christians should have with one another, and especially the more mature believers with the less mature believers. It is the sharing of spiritual power by the mature believers with the immature believers. When the elders in a church perform the ritual of laying on of hands to a newly ordained Christian for a special work, it means that they are promising that they will work to help this person grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord into spiritual maturity. The hands in Scripture represent the works that a Christian performs in his Christian life. The feet represent the walk that a Christian adheres to in his Christian life. The eyes represent the things that a Christian allows into his mind, soul or life. The hands, eyes and feet are figurative parallels in Scripture with the work, the walk and the renewing of the mind that all Christians should experience in their Christian lives.
The resurrection of the dead and “eternal judgment” are also elementary teachings. The resurrection is of the Christian in the rapture, and “eternal judgment” refers to the Judgment Seat of Christ. The Greek words for “eternal judgment” are krima aionios and refer to the judgment of Christians for the millennial kingdom. This is significant since the majority of Christians today have not the slightest understanding of the Judgment Seat of Christ after the resurrection takes place. Most Christians today think the Judgment Seat of Christ is simply Jesus asking us why He should let us into heaven, and our response being because He died for us. This is ludicrous as Jesus is going to judge our lives (i.e., our works) at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Christians would not even be at the Judgment Seat of Christ if He had not died for us and regenerated us spiritually. The Judgment Seat of Christ is a judgment of our works, and not a judgment of whether we are qualified to enter heaven.
Please note that all of the above are the elementary teachings of Christ, and all pertain to Christians and not unsaved reprobates. The Christian should have learned all of these things and now gone past these things to the deeper truths of Scripture, but this was not true for Christians at the time that Hebrews was written to Hebrew Christians. It is also not true today for the great majority of Christians.
(Heb 6:3 KJV) And this will we do, if God permit.
The writer now states that we Christians can go on into spiritually maturity if God permits us to go on to maturity. The writer, probably Paul, now elucidates a situation when God will not allow a believer to go on to spiritual maturity. The warning is given to these Hebrew Christians, since the writer knows that they are returning to Jewish traditions from their Christian faith.
(Heb 6:4 KJV) For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
Verses 4-6 identify believers who will not be allowed to go on to spiritual maturity. Please note that the criteria given are for a Christian that has already attained to a significant level of maturity in the faith, and then falls away from the faith. These Christians have committed the unpardonable sin (i.e., the sin unto death), and are destined for the destruction of their souls at the Judgment Seat of Christ. The destruction of the Christian’s soul at the Judgment Seat of Christ pertains to the loss of reward, and not the loss of spirit salvation. The failure of most exegetes to understand the difference between spirit salvation and soul salvation is the reason for the misinterpretation of this verse and the following verses.
The Christian who was once enlightened is the one who has understood spiritual truths. The Greek word for “enlightened” is photizo and it refers to spiritual enlightenment, or to be imbued with saving knowledge. We are not talking about unsaved reprobates, but spiritually enlightened Christians. The unsaved reprobate has never been quickened to spiritual life, so it is completely untenable to say that a person has been spiritually enlightened, but he is not saved.
Verse 4 confirms that these Christians have been spiritually regenerated, believed in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and baptized with the Holy Spirit. Verse 5 below confirms that they have also experienced the goodness of the Bible and the miraculous gifts that were prevalent at the time when the gospel of the kingdom was still being preached to the Jews.
(Heb 6:5 KJV) And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
This verse further defines the Christians who can commit the unpardonable sin or the sin unto death. They are Christians that have “tasted of the good word of God”. This means that these Christians have experienced the good word of God. We could argue over whether this is referring to the “Written Word” or the “Living Word”, but it is certain that both are intended. These Christians have not only studied the Bible, but they have allowed the Life of Christ to indwell him. These Christians have also tasted of “the powers of the world to come”. This means that these Christians have experienced the miracles that accompanied the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom during the 40-year period up until the heavenly aspect of the kingdom was finally taken away from the Jews as a nation in 70AD.
The above verses clearly describe these Christians as ones that have experienced the Christian life. The following passage confirms that they have suffered and endured persecution for their faith:
(Heb 10:32 NIV) Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering.
(Heb 10:33 NIV) Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. also are made manifest in your consciences.
(Heb 6:6 KJV) If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
This verse states that the Christians described in verses 4 and 5 who decide to turn away from the faith are in deep trouble spiritually, as it is impossible for them to be renewed again unto repentance. We must remember that repentance is the first step in the Christian life after a person has been born again. There are actually seven levels to spiritual maturity represented in the seven feasts of God, and the top level is the Christian who has entered into the spirit-filled life. A Christian who has reached this level, and then turns away from God can never be brought back to even the first step in the Christian life, which is repentance from dead works. The Christian who has committed this act has committed the unpardonable sin. He has committed the sin unto death, which is the death of the soul, and not the death of the body or the spirit. The Christian that has committed the sin unto death is set aside in this life, and he will be dealt with at the Judgment Seat of Christ. There is no chance of repentance in this life, but he will still be saved in accordance with the following Scripture:
(1 Cor 3:7 KJV) So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
(1 Cor 3:8 KJV) Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
(1 Cor 3:9 KJV) For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.
(1 Cor 3:10 KJV) According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
(1 Cor 3:11 KJV) For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
(1 Cor 3:12 KJV) Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
(1 Cor 3:13 KJV) Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.
(1 Cor 3:14 KJV) If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
(1 Cor 3:15 KJV) If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
NOTE: These Christians still go to heaven and they are still conformed to the image of Christ. Unfortunately, the old life, old man, or old soul must perish at the Judgment Seat of Christ in order for them to be conformed to the image of Christ. The loss of the soul at the Judgment Seat of Christ is the loss of reward only. They do not “enter into the kingdom”, which is to enter into the reign and rule of Jesus Christ. These Christians lose their inheritance in the kingdom, but they are still saved.
Verse 6:6 also states that these mature Christians that fall away from the faith are figuratively causing Christ to be crucified all over again, and they are causing Christ to be publicly shamed. It is ludicrous to think that unsaved reprobates could figuratively cause Christ to be crucified all over again, and to cause Christ public shame simply because they are not saved. Only a child can cause extreme shame to the father, and only a Christian can put Christ to public shame by gross and callous disobedience. The gross disobedience of a neighbor’s child does not cause me shame, but the gross disobedience of my own son does cause me great shame. This is especially true when he has walked in obedience for a long time, and then turns against me when he is a mature adult and should know better.
(Heb 6:7 KJV) For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:
This verse goes back to distinguish the difference between a faithful Christian and an unfaithful Christian by using the analogy of plant growth from the earth. This is simply a parable by the writer comparing the faithful Christian to the earth, which brings forth herbage or plants that are appropriate for food. The Christian who feeds the flock of God with solid food is greatly blessed for it.
(Heb 6:8 KJV) But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
In contrast to the Christian who feeds the flock of God with strong meat, the Christian who feeds the flock with unnourishing food, represented by thorns and briers, will be rejected at the Judgment Seat of Christ and will suffer the loss of his soul. His life will be wasted and burned up at the Judgment Seat of Christ. It is important to note that it is the works or fruit that will be burned. The life or soul of the Christian who bears thorns and briars will be burned at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
(Heb 6:9 KJV) But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.
After stating the dire consequences for Christians that bears thorns and briars, the writer exhorts his fellow Christians that he expects better things from them, and he clarifies that these things that are expected from them are “things that accompany salvation”. In addition, the following verse nails down that he has been speaking of issues pertaining to their work and labor out of love for the Lord, and not the issue of heaven or hell.
(Heb 6:10 KJV) For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
This verse clearly establishes that the issues addressed in this passage pertain to the Christian’s work and labor, and not to the spirit salvation that all possess. The work is even identified as ministering to the saints.
(Heb 6:11 KJV) And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
This verse continues to clarify the issue as works out of diligence that continue until the end. The hope is that of soul salvation and the inheritance that will be accorded when the diligence continues until the end. Soul salvation at the Judgment Seat of Christ is a hope and not a certainty.
Note: Spirit salvation is not a hope. It is a certainty for believers. I do not hope that I will go to heaven. I do not hope that I am spiritually saved. I do hope that I will be found faithful at the Judgment Seat of Christ and that I will receive the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven.
(Heb 6:12 KJV) That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
The writer summarizes the passage in this verse in exhorting the believers not to be slothful or lazy, and to continue in their works of faith to the point where they will inherit the promises. It is clear that laziness, infidelity, and impatience work against the receipt of the inheritance.