This morning’s passage, Hebrews 10:26-39 is both one of the most frightening passages of Scripture and one of the most comforting.
I guess that means that the writer of Hebrews has done a good job of portraying the gospel, that is, who God is and what He has done, because there are two extreme responses to God that are possible: absolute terror or absolute comfort and joy.
First, let me tell you the scariest story ever told. It goes something like this:
Once upon a time there was a God, who was the most perfect Person and knew everything and could do everything, was the One who is all-loving and all-holy, the One who is the King of all and is so glorious that no man can look at Him and live. One day this God created the worlds. He saved His greatest and most glorious creation for last, and the only one He would ever make in His own image. He made man and lovingly planted Him in His Garden to keep it. He gave man all that he needed, but man wanted more and rejected God’s commandment and decided to obey himself instead.
So God kicked man out of His Garden and fulfilled His promise that on the day he disobeyed he would die. But this loving God always preserved a way for man to come back to Him to live with Him again, and so He made His covenants with Adam and Noah, and with Abraham, Moses, and David.
When the time was right, God demonstrated His loving power and glory to the greatest degree when He sent His only Son to become a man and be tempted and suffer for man, and to obey His commandments for man. And He died for man, but He also rose from the dead for man and ascended to the right hand of the Father, where His sacrifice was offered and accepted to take away the sins of the world and death.
Some of those who had sinned, however, refused to accept the gift of life that God so lovingly offered. Some had professed to accept it, and had experienced an earthly blessing from God, but they went back to their former sinful and selfish ways and rejected God all over again by what they said, what they thought, and what they did.
And this is where the scary part comes in. Because such people, made in the image of God, rejected God by rejecting His Word of Truth and disobeying it and rejected God by rejecting His gift of His Son, they will now come before God and see Him as He truly is. They will now find out that He is perfectly just, which means that He must faithfully fulfill His promise to punish every sin and disobedience against Him. Since there is no other way to fulfill this justice, those who have rejected God’s sacrifice must now receive the just judgment against their disobedience, despising of God, and breaking of His holy Law and Person.
They will now find out that God is all-holy and that He is a consuming, purging fire, and so they will see the glory of the Lord, but only in His terrifying wrath. For “vengeance is Mine,” says the Lord, “I will repay,” and “I will judge My people.” Truly, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, who is a consuming fire!
This is a real story that will have a real, ghastly ending for all those who reject God. What horrifies me most is that some, even some I personally know, who claim to be Christians will see God not in His mercy but in His judgment. There are too many who call themselves Christians who are playing with everlasting fire as if it were no more than a match. I am terrified on behalf of the lukewarm Christians I know, who might wake up one day to find that God has spit them out of His mouth as He did with the church at Laodicea. And I’m terrified on behalf of those I know who say they are Christians and that they love God but they absolutely refuse to turn from their sins. They have been warned, they have heard who God is and what sin is, they have heard about the need for repentance and the offer of forgiveness, and still they absolutely refuse to turn from what God has said “No” to and refuse to do what He says “Yes” to.
I understand how St. Paul could say “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren.”
But there’s another story I have to tell, and this one has the happiest of endings. It starts out exactly the same as the other until the very end. At the end of this story, as with the other one, people will find out who God really is. They will still have to come to terms with the fact that God is a blindingly bright, terrifying fire. But they will be enabled to pass through that fire and be completely purged of their sins. Those who have faith in Jesus Christ, not just in their words but also in their behavior and choices and lives, will be permitted to see the Living Fire, through Jesus Christ, their High Priest.
These will receive the promise of God of everlasting life, of a life without tears or fears, of a life forever in God’s presence, of a life of eternal comfort and joy.
There are only 2 possible endings to the story of your life. Whatever you may think you know, there is the possibility that you may shrink back and renege on your promises to God and turn from Him one day, never to return. You may not intend it at the beginning, but the life of the greatest apostate began with his first day of saying “No” to God.
Therefore, not only because of the real possibility of Story #1 but also because of the promise of Story #2, we should find every way possible to encourage one another so that we do not grow tired or fearful and turn away but are instead encouraged to endure and persevere to the end. This is the ministry of our High Priest, and He’s shared it with you and me. He’s asked us to do all that we can so that we don’t forsake the public worship, to do all we can to encourage good works, and to do all we can to strengthen our brothers and sisters so that they are not of those who draw back to perdition but those who believe to the saving of the soul.
Prayer: Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me, and know my anxieties, and see if there is any wicked way in me. And lead me in the way everlasting. Amen. (Psalm 139:23-24).
Resolution and Point for Meditation: I resolve to honestly assess my life before God today. If I am walking with Him, I further resolve to find one person whom I can encourage in their walk today. I will make it a point not to simply go and encourage someone who is already walking faithfully and needs a little encouragement but to go out and seek those who are choosing to walk away from God for good. If I am not walking with God, I resolve to do whatever it takes to turn back to Him today, knowing that this may be the last day of my life.
© 2013 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day