Final apostasy, the rejection of Christ that one never turns away from, is the chief sin that we are warned against in Hebrews 10—indeed, in the entire book of Hebrews. The focus on this sin is confirmed in today’s passage, which warns us that the punishment for those who trample “underfoot the Son of God” will be far worse than the punishment given in the Mosaic law for lesser sins. With respect to the Son of God, John Calvin comments, “the Apostle speaks not of particular sins, but of the entire denial of Christ.” This is because “the Law did not punish all kinds of transgressions with death, but apostasy, that is, when any one wholly renounced religion; for the Apostle referred to a passage in Deuteronomy 17:2–7 where we find that if any one violated God’s covenant by worshipping foreign gods, he was to be brought outside of the gate and stoned to death.” The punishment mentioned in Hebrews 10:28–29 is given in the law for apostasy, so apostasy from the new covenant is the chief transgression in view.
However, this does not mean we can take sins other than final apostasy lightly. It is possible to repeat what we may call lesser sins and so harden our hearts that we eventually commit final apostasy. A pattern of impenitent sin can finally lead us to reject Christ. We see this pattern in Scripture with individuals such as Pharaoh, who hardened his heart again and again, refusing to let Israel go, and finally led the armies of Egypt after them to destruction in the Red Sea (Ex. 14). Judas regularly stole from the disciples’ moneybag, and eventually he betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (John 12:1–8; see Matt. 26:14–16). Many of us have also seen this pattern in our own experience. How many professing Christians engage in adulterous relationships for some time and then finally leave the church and the faith when they come under biblical discipline?
Our goal, then, must be to avoid final apostasy and the patterns of ongoing sin that lead to it. We play an important role in our perseverance. Of course, it is ultimately God who keeps us in the faith, who wills and works in us so that we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12–13). And it is only those who work out their salvation who are truly saved and will avoid falling into the hands of the living God in judgment (Heb. 10:30–31). From that judgment there is no escape, so let us turn from sin and look to Christ in faith this day and always.