Can Salvation Be Lost?—Hebrews 10

The Book of Hebrews was written to persuade. This material was written primarily to convince unsaved Jews towards faith in Christ, and also to encourage saved Jews who were considering retrogressing to Judaism, because of the tremendous persecution which they endured.

So the Book has two audiences, primarily:

• Persecuted saved Jews, who needed encouraging &

• Hardened unsaved Jews, who needed persuading.

The interpreter must keep this in mind as he navigates through. Throughout this Book is found appeals/warnings/exhortations to convince unbelieving Jews. The writer of Hebrews continually admonishes these unbelieving Jews (to whom he writes) against rejecting the Gospel.

Hebrews 10 contains one of such warnings. Vs. 26 says, “For if we SIN WILLFULLY after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.

The word “willfully” translates the Greek “hekousiós” (ἑκουσίως) which means “of one’s accord, of one’s free will.

The Law of Moses differentiated between sins of oversight and sins of presumption. Sins of oversight were those sins done accidentally, unintentionally or in ignorance (see Lev 4:2, 13, 22, 27, 5:15, Num 15:24, 27-30).

In Acts 3:17, Peter speaks of the Jews killing Jesus in ignorance. In chapter 17 of the same Book, Paul speaks of times of ignorance God overlooked, in which the Gentiles had sinned (see vs. 30). These are “sins of oversight.”

Sins of presumption, on the other hand, were those sins done DELIBERATELY, with premeditation (see Exo 21:14, Deut 17:12). In Psalm 19:13, the Psalmist prays that he be kept back from presumptuous sins.

So when the writer of Hebrews speaks of sinning deliberately or willfully (Heb 10:26), his largely Jewish audience understood exactly what he meant. He referred to an intentional act of disobedience against God (not one done in ignorance). Willful sins also carried a higher penalty under the Law of Moses (which they were familiar with, being Jews).

Now, to “sin willfully” here (Heb 10:26) is to do so after “receiving the knowledge of the truth,” that is, the Gospel (Gal 2:5, 14). The writer of Hebrews is referring to a specific sin, committed after receiving saving knowledge. The one who commits this sin must realize that “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.”

What sin does the author refer to? The antecedent texts reveal this to us. Earlier in the chapter (Heb 10), vv. 1-4 spoke of how the sacrifices of the Law could never make anyone righteous, “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.

Vv. 8-9 speak of God never desiring animal sacrifices, “Previously saying, ‘Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them’ (which are offered according to the law), then He said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.’ He takes away the first that He may establish the second.

Only the offering of Christ can truly sanctify a man, “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (vs. 10).

It is solely His sacrifice which can truly perfect forever, “And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (vv. 11-14).

Now, all men are to draw near to God through that one Sacrifice, “Therefore, brethren, HAVING BOLDNESS TO ENTER the Holiest BY THE BLOOD of JESUS, by A NEW AND LIVING WAY which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, HIS FLESH, and having a High Priest over the house of God, LET US DRAW NEAR with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (vv. 19-22).

To sin willfully, is therefore for a Jew to reject the offering of Christ, and embrace animal sacrifices (human works), after knowing CLEARLY that salvation comes ONLY by Christ. This is what many of the Jews of that day (the first century) were doing.

The Gospel had been preached to them, yet they CONTINUALLY rejected Christ. The Book of Acts records this.

Acts 13:45-46, 50-51 (NKJV)

45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, THEY OPPOSED THE THINGS SPOKEN BY PAUL. 46 Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but SINCE YOU REJECT IT, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. 

50 But THE JEWS STIRRED UP the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, RAISED UP PERSECUTION AGAINST PAUL AND BARNABAS, and EXPELLED THEM FROM THEIR REGION. 51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium. 

Acts 17:5 (NKJV)

5 But the JEWS WHO WERE NOT PERSUADED, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, SET ALL THE CITY IN AN UPROAR and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 

Acts 21:27-28 (NKJV)

27 Now when the seven days were almost ended, THE JEWS FROM ASIA, seeing him in the temple, STIRRED UP THE WHOLE CROWD AND LAID HANDS ON HIM (Paul), 28 crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, THE LAW, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” 

Acts 25:7 (NKJV)

7 When he had come, THE JEWS who had come down from Jerusalem stood about and LAID MANY SERIOUS COMPLAINTS AGAINST PAUL, which they could not prove.

To reject the ministers of Christ was to reject He who sent them! If a Jew rejects Christ, he must only expect JUDGMENT, for it is Christ who saves from the wrath to come (1 Thess 1:10). There is no other sacrifice for sins, that is, he won’t find salvation elsewhere (in animal sacrifices)!

Hebrews 10:27 makes this clear, “But a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.

No animal sacrifice could deliver from this fiery indignation! The imagery of devouring fire is gotten from the Old Testament.

Isaiah 26:11 (NKJV)

11 Lord, when Your hand is lifted up, they will not see. But they will see and be ashamed for their envy of people; yes, THE FIRE OF YOUR ENEMIES SHALL DEVOUR THEM.

Fire was the most intense metaphor used in the Tanakh for judgment (See also Ezek 38:18-19, Zeph 1:18, Zeph 3:8).

For those who believe in Christ, they won’t be judged. The writer of Hebrews clarifies this, in Hebrews 9:27-28, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once TO BEAR THE SINS OF MANY. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, APART FROM SIN, for salvation.

Christ’s second appearance for His people (Christians) won’t be to deal with sins, but for their salvation, which Paul calls “the redemption/salvation of our bodies” (Rom 8:23). The bodies of dead Christians will be raised incorruptible, never to die again (1 Corin 15:50-57).

But for the adversaries of God (the unbelieving), that resurrection is for their judgment and destruction, by fiery indignation (Matt 25:41, Mark 9:43-48, 2 Thess 1:8-10).

These are the ones the writer of Hebrews refers to, in Hebrews 10:27. Again, the writer of Hebrews uses the Law of Moses to judge the severity of unbelief in vs. 28 (he had done so earlier, in chapter 2:1-4).

Hebrews 10:28 (NKJV)

28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 

The Law of Moses was merciless in judging sin. Condemnation was swift and unyielding. Deuteronomy 13, for example, prescribes the death penalty for idol-worship.

Deuteronomy 13:6-11 (NKJV)

6 “If your brother, the son of your mother, your son or your daughter, the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul, secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which you have not known, neither you nor your fathers, 7 of the gods of the people which are all around you, near to you or far off from you, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth, 8 you shall not consent to him or listen to him, NOR SHALL YOUR EYE PITY HIM, NOR SHALL YOU SPARE HIM OR CONCEAL HIM; 9 but YOU SHALL SURELY KILL HIM; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. 10 And you shall stone him with stones UNTIL HE DIES, because he sought to entice you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. 11 So all Israel shall hear and fear, and not again do such wickedness as this among you.

Such a one (an idolater) was to be treated with no pity or compassion—thus was judgment under the Law.

At the testimony of witnesses (who saw a man commit a sin), he was to be punished.

Deuteronomy 17:2-7 (NKJV)

2 “If there is found among you, within any of your gates which the Lord your God gives you, a man or a woman who has been wicked in the sight of the Lord your God, in transgressing His covenant, 3 who has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, either the sun or moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded, 4 and it is told you, and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently. And if it is indeed true and certain that such an abomination has been committed in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has committed that wicked thing, and shall stone to death that man or woman with stones. 6 Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death ON THE TESTIMONY OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness. 7 The hands of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall put away the evil from among you.

If the Law was THIS severe towards sinners, the one who rejects Christ (Who is greater than Moses, who gave the Law) should expect an even greater punishment, the writer of Hebrews says, “Of HOW MUCH WORSE PUNISHMENT, do you suppose, WILL HE BE THOUGHT WORTHY who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” (vs. 29).

The one who, having heard the Gospel, refuses the same has “trampled the Son of God underfoot.” That is, he has shown great contempt for the Lord from Heaven.

He has “counted the blood of the covenant by which He (Christ) was sanctified a common thing.” Christ’s blood sanctified Him from the blood of Old Testament sacrifices. To “sanctify” here is to separate or distinguish as special. Jesus was sanctified because of His blood (His offering, sacrifice).

John 17:19 (NKJV)

19 And for their sakes I SANCTIFY MYSELF, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.

God approves of ONLY His sacrifice, “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and GIVEN HIMSELF FOR US, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a SWEET-SMELLING AROMA” (Ephesians 5:2).

His blood sanctifies Him, because it separates HIS offering from that of bulls and goats (animal sacrifices offered under the Law). His sacrifice is efficacious in perfecting men, unlike that of animals (Heb 10:10, 14)—this is how His blood (offering) sanctified Him. It differentiated Him from all prior offerings for sin. Unlike those offerings, Jesus’ offering worked! (Heb 10:1-4). He is “sanctified” (different, distinguished as special) in this way.

Thus, the one who rejects Christ treats His blood, given in sacrifice, as a common thing, something not special (“koinos” in the Greek). He has failed to distinguish the offering of Jesus from that of animals. He has failed to realize that the offering of Christ is what saves a man. Therefore, such a one has “insulted the Spirit of grace.

The word “insulted” translates the Greek “enubrizó” (ἐνυβρίζω) which means “to mock, treat despitefully, to reproach, to treat contumeliously.

What the writer of Hebrews calls “insulting the Spirit of grace,” Jesus calls the “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit,” in Mark 3. They refer to the same thing.

Mark 3:28-30 (NKJV)

28 “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; 29 but he who BLASPHEMES AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation”— 30 because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

To blaspheme the Spirit of Christ is to reject His work in salvation. It is to continuously remain adamant to the Spirit’s call for salvation. (Read more on this in our e-book “The Unpardonable Sin” here).

To have the Gospel CLEARLY presented to one, only for him to reject the same (for the sacrifices of the Law) is the greatest insult to the Spirit of Christ!

The judgment of the Lord comes upon such a one.

Hebrews 10:30 (NKJV)

30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 

The writer of Hebrews appeals to Scripture here (vs. 30). He is quoting from Deuteronomy 32:35 and Deuteronomy 32:36.

This is very key since his audience were vast in the Old Testament Scriptures (being Hebrews). These texts are clear that judgment will come upon those who deserve it, and God would reward those who were injured by evildoers. Psalm 135:14 says, “For the Lord will judge His people, and He will have compassion on His servants.” It is therefore “a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (vs. 31 says).

Israel cannot feign ignorance as an excuse to escape the coming judgment, for the Gospel had been preached to them (Rom 10:18-21). Their sin of unbelief is therefore willful—a DELIBERATE refusal of Christ—and the consequences will be dire!

The writer of Hebrews then temporarily digresses to address Christians in his audience (who were also considering relapsing into Judaism). He reminds them of their trials which they had endured for the sake of Christ, “But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, YOU ENDURED A GREAT STRUGGLE WITH SUFFERINGS” (vs. 32).

When they were illuminated (that is, when they had received the Gospel), they faced several trials. This was common amongst the Early Christians. In Romans 8, Paul speaks of the sufferings of this time, “For I consider that THE SUFFERINGS OF THIS PRESENT TIME are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (vs. 18).

He says similiarly in 2 Timothy 1, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in THE SUFFERINGS FOR THE GOSPEL according to the power of God” (vs. 8).

Peter also speaks of persecutions suffered by Christians in all the world, in 1 Peter 5, “Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that THE SAME SUFFERINGS ARE EXPERIENCED BY YOUR BROTHERHOOD IN THE WORLD” (vs. 9).

The Book of Acts records persecutions of several Christians at Judea. Stephen is killed in Acts 7:58-60. This led to the mass incarceration, murder and expatriation of several Christians in chapter 8:1-3. Acts 12 records how King Herod had killed James and imprisoned Peter to please the Jews (vv. 1-2).

In writing to the saints at Thessalonica, Paul speaks of the trials which those in Judea faced, “For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, JUST AS THEY DID FROM THE JUDEANS” (1 Thessalonians 2:14).

Persecution seems to be one of the devil’s greatest weapons against the Church, to thwart the spread of the Gospel.

The writer of Hebrews continues in chapter 10, “Partly while YOU WERE MADE A SPECTACLE both BY REPROACHES AND TRIBULATIONS, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated, for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven” (vv. 33-34).

These Jewish Christians had been made a “spectacle” (“theatrizó” in the Greek), which means “to be made a gazing-stock.” It was common practice in ancient times to lead criminals through the theatre, exposing them to the insults of the multitude. This, these Jewish Christians faced.

Jesus had forewarned that this would happen, in Matthew 10, “But beware of men, for they will DELIVER YOU UP TO COUNCILS and SCOURGE YOU IN THEIR SYNAGOGUES. You will be brought before governors and kings FOR MY SAKE, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles” (vv. 17-18). The first century Christians saw this prediction come to pass in their time.

Not only were these Jewish Christians persecuted, they also aided others who suffered same fate. Vs. 33 says, “…you became companions of those who were so treated.” Vs. 34 says, “For you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods.

So they supported other suffering Christians too, as much as they could. They would be rewarded for this, the writer of Hebrews says. They “have a better and an enduring possession for themselves in heaven” (vs. 34).

Therefore, patience and perseverance is required, “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward” (vs. 35).

Jesus is our example, that after much suffering comes glory.

Philippians 2:8-9 (NKJV)

8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore GOD ALSO HAS HIGHLY EXALTED HIM and given Him the name which is above every name.

There is great reward at the end of Christian suffering.

Matthew 5:11-12 (NKJV)

11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for GREAT IS YOUR REWARD IN HEAVEN, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 

The suffering saint is to endure, Hebrews 10 says, “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (vs. 36).

Patience works a good work in the believer, “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:4, cf. Rom 5:3-4).

At the end of their trials, the saints will receive the promise, which is compensation for their sufferings, “Blessed is the man who ENDURES TEMPTATION; for when he has been approved, HE WILL RECEIVE THE CROWN OF LIFE which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

In vs. 37 of Hebrews 10, the writer of Hebrews alludes to our Lord’s coming, “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry.” This is a comforting statement for these persecuted Jewish Christians. They understood this manner of speaking, even from the Old Testament. It meant their salvation (from persecution) was near.

Isaiah 46:13 (NKJV)

13 I bring My righteousness NEAR, it shall NOT BE FAR OFF; MY SALVATION SHALL NOT LINGER. And I will place salvation in Zion, for Israel My glory.

Vs. 38 of Hebrews 10 then appeals to Scripture again, “Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” The author quotes Habakkuk 2:3-4 here. Those who are justified are so on the basis of faith. These, he contrasts with “those who draw back.

The phrase “draw back” translates the Greek “hupostelló” (ὑποστέλλω) which means “to withdraw from something.” This word was used in ancient times for one who stops on his way or on a journey i.e. reverses his course, before reaching his destination.

Here, it describes those unsaved Jews (in the audience) who had began the journey of salvation, by hearing the Gospel, but drew back just before reaching the end-goal (which is faith for JUSTIFICATION).

The Christian is not “of those” who turn back to perdition (unbelieving Jews), but of those who have believed and are saved, “But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul” (vs. 39).

So the writer of Hebrews is saying to these believing Jews who consider turning back, “You’ve already endured so much, persevere just a little longer. Do not let your past sufferings be in vain! Your endurance will be rewarded.

Nothing in this chapter implies a loss of salvation. It contains a warning to unbelieving Jews, who still clung to the Levitical offerings for justification (vv. 26-31), and comfort to persecuted Christians, who were considering returning to Judaism to avoid persecution (vv. 32-39).


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2022.


  1. Maxwell Ojay

    Oh hallelujah glory to God!

    I have received much clarity on the book of Hebrews

  2. Tope Omoniyi

    Thank you, Pastor, for this comprehensive explanation.

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