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misused Bible passage

21-09-2013 - Posted by Andre Piet

images13 One of the most notorious and most frightening passages in the Bible, for many, is the following selection from Hebrews 6.

4 For it is impossible for those once enlightened, besides tasting the celestial gratuity and becoming partakers of holy spirit, 5 and tasting the ideal declaration of God, besides the powerful deeds of the impending eon, 6 and falling aside, to be renewing them again to repentance while crucifying for themselves the Son of God again and holding Him up to infamy. 7 For land (…8) bringing forth thorns and star thistles, it is disqualified and near a curse, whose consummation is burning.

This section has, again and again, been used in sermons in which hell-and-damnation were preached. That is nothing short of tragic, because in this way, this passage is being misused and torn from its proper context. What, then, is this selection all about? The Hebrew letter is addressed to Hebrews, to Jews who were associated with the city of Jerusalem. They were, by now, the second generation of Jews professing Jesus as the Messiah. This initially large community of believers were in danger of returning, en masse, to Judaism. Partly because of the disillusionment due to the failure of the coming-again of the Messiah, partly because of persecution. Earlier, many of them had become believers as a result of impressive miracles, but what remained by now was disappointment and great pressure to swear off faith in Jesus, as being the Messiah. The writer of the Hebrew letter says that if they would do that, they would crucify again for themselves the Son of God. Once, they had been cleansed (read: baptized) and had moved away from Judaism which had relinquished her Messiah to be crucified. The people had committed this murder in ignorance, but by returning to Judaism, these Jews would deliberately identify themselves with this crime. The message concerning the Messiah, they knew. But how could they be brought to repentance, again, if they turned away from it. In addition, the author foresees an upcoming drama (“near a curse”). And indeed, a short time later, in 70 AD, it took place. The temple was demolished by the Romans, leaving no stone on a stone, and the city of Jerusalem went up in flames (“whose consummation is burning”). Only those who, in faith, left the city (“let us go out to Him outside the camp”; 13:13) did escape. Without this historical context, it is impossible to understand this letter to the Hebrews. The reason for writing was extremely serious, but it is not about “hell and damnation” for which it is often grossly misused. The curse and the burning spoken about, here, refers specifically to one of the darkest chapters in the history of the Jewish people. The Hebrew letter is not addressed to (ecclesias of) individuals, but is a national message; aptly summarized in Heb.10:30: “The Lord will judge his people.”