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Apostasy
Conditional Promises
No Turning Back
Examples of Apostasy
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Sealed by the Spirit
Apostasy in Hebrews
Apostasy in 2 Peter
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Apostasy
& the Book of Hebrews
Copyright © Tim Warner - 04/2004



The book of Hebrews is without question the most important regarding the question of apostasy. The warning in Heb. 6 is repeated several times in several ways in this book. Therefore, rather than merely looking at one isolated passage, it is wise to view them as a group. It might be relatively easy to get around one isolated passage in the quest to maintain OSAS. But taken together, these passages are unanswerable.

Before we begin, let's restate the PFRS position on the security of the believer.

1. Salvation is accomplished by God's grace alone. God draws all men, and grants all the ability and the free choice to respond to the Gospel in faith. But, the choice is ours alone. God does not make it for us.
2. Works do not merit salvation in any way, or contribute to our salvation. Salvation is entirely of God.
3. Since "believing" is a prerequisite on our part, continuing to believe is how we persevere (not by works).
4. Since we can submit to the Gospel, or resist God's grace and drawing, we can also submit or resist in our Christian walk. We remain "in Christ" as long as we are walking by faith in Christ and the Gospel.
5. A true believer who has repented, received God's grace by faith, CAN later become entangled in sin. If he persistently resists the correction and drawing to repentance by the Spirit, he can "harden his heart." Through a process of hardening the heart, a once faithful believer can eventually succumb to UNBELIEF. This is the conscious rejection of Christ and the Gospel apostasy. It results in "departing from God" and the forfeiture of one's eternal inheritance.
6. The apostate can never be restored. He is essentally in the same condition as the "reprobate" in Romans 1. God has given up on him.
7. While there is only one way for a believer to "depart from God" unbelief, there are two roads to unbelief mentioned in Scripture.
a. resisting God's correction and conviction of sin leads to a hardened heart, then unbelief.
b. deception regarding the Gospel. That is, being seduced away from the true Gospel to a false Gospel. This necessarily leads to UNBELIEF in the true saving Gospel of Christ.


Hebrews 2
Heb 2:1-4
1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.
2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward,
3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,
4 God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?
(NKJ)

Observations:
1. The "things we have heard" (v. 1) refers to the word of Christ the Gospel. God has "in these last days spoken to us by His Son"(1:2).
2. In verses 2-3, Paul draws a comparison between the situation under the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant. He repeats this kind of comparison many times in the book. In ch. 1, he compared the revelation of the Old Covenant, given through "prophets" with the revelation given through Christ. The obvious point is that Christ's revelation is superior. Consequently, there is a greater responsibility on the part of the one partaking in the covenant through Christ than through Moses and the prophets. The comparison between vss. 2 & 3 implies that since the penalty for neglecting the Law of Moses by Jews under the Law was severe, it is much more severe for neglecting the word of Christ. 
3. Paul's warning is NOT that his readers should attain to something they do not yet have. Rather, it is that they not neglect what they already have, and consequently "drift away" from their secure position.
4. "How shall we escape" implies the potential for severe judgment, most likely the most severe form of judgment eternal damnation. Since Paul was contrasting the condition of Israel under the former dispensation, the penalty prescribed by the Law should be considered here. The central passage is Deut 29, which describes all the "cursing" imposed on the Jews for forsaking or neglecting the covenant. The ultimate penalty for neglecting the New Covenant is worse.
5. Note the use of the first person plural. "How shall WE escape if we neglect..." Paul included himself (potentially) in the warning. Therefore, the severe penalty applies to Paul as well IF he would "neglect so great salvation."

Conclusions:
1. The penalty threatened is not explicetly stated, though it is implied that it is worse than that under the Law. This passage alone does not explicetly indicate a believer can be lost, only that he might be punished more severely than the Law prescribes.
2. Paul's exhortation is to remain in their secure place, as opposed to "drifting away." If the audience is assumed to be true believers, the warning is that they not abandon the Gospel that saved them through neglect. If the audience is presumed to be merely Jews who might be considering Christ, the warning might imply that they not squander their opportunity to accept Christ through neglect.


Hebrews 3
This chapter begins by clearly identifying the audience Paul was addressing "holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling." This statement could hardly apply to unbelieving Jews. He goes on to once again compare Christ to Moses, Old Covenant to New Covenant. Moses was faithful in his household. "But Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end." (v. 6). Like 2:3, we have another conditional statement. Being Christ's household ultimately depends on whether one perseveres in hope to the end.

Paul continues by reminding them of the Israelites in the wilderness at Kadesh Barnea. Here, for the first time, the penalty Paul was warning them about is strongly implied "so I swore in my wrath that they shall not enter my rest." In this illustration, the penalty was that the entire generation of Jews died in the wilderness, never being able to see or inherit the "promised land."

Heb 3:12-14
12 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;
13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,
(NKJ)

Observations:
1. Again Paul refers to his audience as "brethren," as in verse 1 "holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling." 
2. The warning here is that some of them (the holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling) might have in them a heart that departs from God through unbelief. Notice, as in ch. 2, the warning is against LEAVING the secure position. In this case it is to "depart from God."
3. The means whereby this is possible is "unbelief." It is significant that in the example of the Jews at Kadesh Barnea, the reason they could not enter the promised land was their "unbelief." Having believed God, and followed Moses through the wilderness, they later abandoned their faith and refused to go into the land, not believing that God would win their battles for them as He promised.
4. In verse 13, Paul begins to give the means of assuring their security. "Exhort one another daily while it is called 'today'." The word "today" harkens back to verse 7. There Paul quoted Psalm 95:7-11. David warned Israel against departing from God in that passage, appealing to Kadesh Barnea. The exhortation, in light of the disaster at Kadesh Barnea, was, "Today if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation." In verse 13, when Paul says, "exhort one another while it is called 'today'," he was saying that there is a period of time (today) if one whose heart may be succumbing to unbelief, where restoration is still possible. It is still "today," before he departs from God through unbelief. 
5. The second part of verse 13 tells us how the process of "departing from God" through unbelief takes place. It is through the process of "heardening the heart." And that comes via "the deceitfulness of sin." So, it seems that the "deceitfulness of sin" can lead to one hardening their heart. This is a voluntary act. Remember, the Psalm Paul quoted said, "today if you will hear His voice, do not hearden your heart." Heardening one's heart is therefore a choice one can make when they "hear His voice." And since Paul was speaking of the "deceitfullness of sin," it seems that the warning implies that a believer can be tempted to sin and harden his heart when he hears "His voice." The hardened heart in turn is the breeding ground for "unbelief," which leads to one "departing from God."
6. Verse 14 is another conditional statement, like verse 6. Perseverance is a requirement if one is to be a partaker with Christ. In the following verses Paul again refers to Kadesh Barnea. The conclusion is that "they could not enter in because of unbelief" (v. 19). The warning for the "holy brethren" is the same.

Conclusions:
1. There is no longer any question that Paul was addressing the warnings in this book to believing Jews.
2. What it means to "drift away" (ch. 2) is more clearly defined as "departing from the living God."
3. What it means to "neglect so great salvation" (ch. 2) is also more clearly defined as nurturing an "evil heart of unbelief," through a process of "hardening" the heart when one hears "His voice."
4. Twice in this chapter Paul states that perseverance is absolutely a requirement if one expects to share in Christ. And twice he tells them how, by maintining their current "hope" steadfast to the end. Obviously, this was the opposite of succumbing to "unbelief." Therefore, it seems that he equated "hope" with "faith." This, and similar statements, strongly imply that the exhortation is to REMAIN in their current secure state, not to seek to attain something they did not already possess. Therefore, we can rule out the idea that Paul was exhorting unbelieving Jews, who might be considering Christ, to go on to salvation.
5. It is significant that while Paul used the first person pronouns (including himself) when articulating the means of perseverance (WE are made partakers... etc), he did NOT include himself in this warning "take heed lest there be in any of YOU..." It seems to me that in chapter 2, Paul included himself in a general or generic sense, because the truth of what he was saying applies to ALL believers equally. "How shall WE escape if WE neglect so great salvation?" However, when he began to get specific, he implied that the danger of a slide into apostasy was potentially for "some of you." That is, some of the "holy brethren" might be in danger, because they were tempted to harden their hearts when they hear His voice. Yet, he made it clear that it was "still today" and those brethren who might be in danger could still be rescued from the "slipery slope" IF they are "exhorted daily."


Hebrews 6
Heb 6:4-12
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit,
5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,
6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
7 For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God;
8 but if it bears thorns and briars, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.
9 But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner.
10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end,
12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
(NKJ)

Observations:
1. What is "impossible" is NOT that a believer can fall away, but that restoration is impossible IF one falls away.
2. The term, "once enlightened," most likely refers to a believer, especially since Paul used the same Greek word as a synonym for salvation in Heb. 10:32.
3. To have "tasted" of the good word of God, and powers of the age to come, and the heavenly gift, implies participation. The word "tasted" does not merely imply sampling. Otherwise, Christ merely sampled death for every man (Heb. 2:9). See also 1 Pet. 2:3.
4. To be a "partaker of the Holy Spirit" can only apply to true believers. The Greek word means to be a partner with.
5. Those, having been in this state, if they fall away, cannot be renewed to repentance. Notice that the word "renew" (anakainizein) "again" (palin) indicates a repeated act. That is, one cannot enter the state of true repentance a second time (or repeatedly). This is proof that the persons spoken of ONCE had repented. But having fallen away, it is impossible to return to their former repentance.
6. The reason Paul gives for this impossibility is that such a condition would "crucify afresh" the Son of God. That is, a second time. The implication is that the atonement is a one time deal for the individual. There is no second atonement for the apostate. Christ will not come back to die again for him. The apostate, in this state, brings shame upon Christ.
7. Paul used a parable of a plant producing fruit. No doubt this refers back to the "True Vine" parable in John 15. The thorn bearing plants are obviously representing those who "fall away" in the previous verses. Their end is to be burned. Interrestingly, the Greek word for "rejected" in verse 8 is the same word translated "reprobate" in Rom. 1:28, 2 Cor. 13:5,6,7, 2 Tim. 3:8, Titus 1:16, In each case, it refers to the worst kind of depravity. For example, in 2 Tim. 3:8 Paul spoke of apostates as "reprobate concerning the Faith."
8. In verse 9, Paul expressed personal confidence in his readers. He did NOT state that the warnings do not apply to them, nor that they were not in danger. Rather, Paul trusted that his readers would heed the warnings and flee the danger. This is not uncommon for Paul, to warn, and then express personal confidence that his readers will overcome. A good example is Phil 1:6. "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:" Paul was not stating an absolute certainty. Rather, he was expressing that he had personal confidence that all the Philippians would persevere in sanctification.
9. Verse 10 clearly indicates that his audience was believers, who had demonstrated their faith through good works.
10. Verse 11 Paul indicates his DESIRE that all of them PERSEVERE in their faith to the end. This would be totally redundant IF all were guarenteed perseverance.
11. "That you not become sluggish" is just another way of saying what Paul said in ch. 2, that they could "drift away" if they "neglect so great salvation." This also refers back to the end of chapter 5, when Paul said that they should have been teachers by now, but had lagged behind in their maturity, still needing to be taught the basic principles of the Faith. No doubt, Paul held the Jewish believers up to a higher standard than the Gentiles, who had no background in the Word of God. He was ashamed that they had not progressed in their maturity. This is why some of them stood in danger of apostasy.
12. Paul's ultimate desire was that they all "imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." The word "patience" means endurance or perseverance. Both FAITH and PERSEVERANCE in that faith are necessary if one expects to inherit the promises. Again, such a statement is totally redundant IF all were guarenteed an inheritance. 

Conclusions:
1. The intended audience were definately believers. The list of qualifications could mean nothing short of this.
2. The danger of "falling away" is real. 
3. The opportunity for restoration of the apostate is nill.
4. The repeated action of the verbs in verse 6 proves that they had been formerly saved.
5. Paul's expressed confidence of "better things" for his readers does not nullify the warning. It merely indicates that Paul had personal confidence that his readers would heed the warnings and not neglect so great salvation.


Hebrews 10 
There is more to the Heb. 10 passage than just verses 26-30. I have highlighted the parts that I think are significant to the question of OSAS in bold. The use of present tense verbs and participles, highlighted in blue, indicating their current condition, and other verbs and participles in the perfect tense, highlited in green, indicating a past completed action with continuing results, and imperitave statements in red, point to the fact that his audience were already believers. On this basis Paul exhorts them to persevere to the end. 

Heb 10:19-39
19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,
20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,
21 and having a High Priest over the house of God,
22 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.
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,
25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
28 Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
29 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?
30 For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine; I will repay," says the Lord. And again, "The Lord will judge His people."
31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
32 But recall the former days in which, after [aorist tense] you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings:
33 partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated;
34 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.
35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.
36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:
37 "For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry.
38 Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, my soul has no pleasure in him."
39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.
(NKJ)

Observations:
1. Verses 19-22 lay the foundation, indicating that Paul's readers were already true believers, "having" (present participle) boldness to enter into the presence of God, and "having" (perfect participle ie., "having had") our conscience "sprinkled" (a Hebrew idiom for purified), and our bodies [having been] washed with pure water (baptism). This was the condition of Paul's readers. And with all this in mind,...
2. Paul instructs them to PERSEVERE in their profession of Faith, the major theme of the whole book. As in chapter 3, he continues to equate "faith" with "hope." This is common in Paul when he addresses a Jewish audience (cf. Acts 23:6, 24:15, 26:6,7, 28:20, also see Rom. 4:18, 8:24-25).
3. Verse 25 instructs them not to forsake meeting together. Apparently there was a problem with some of the Jewish converts not gathering together, particularly with the Gentile believers. The recipients of this Epistle probably were Jewish brethren scattered among the Gentile cities, as in 1 Pet. 1:1 & Jas. 1:1. The statement "exhorting one another" is exactly as in 3:13 as the remedy for those in danger of apostasy.
4. The "willful sin" in verse 26 is not any sin, but the sin of apostasy, against which he was warning them in this entire chapter, and entire book. Note his use of the first person plural "WE." The warning applies to all believers including Paul.
5. Those who apostasize from the Faith, that is those who do not heed the imperative statement in verse 23, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering," ... "there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins." Note the words "no longer" imply that the sacrifice had formerly covered their sins, but no more.
6. The condition of the apostate is the same as the unbeliever, looking forward to the "fiery indignation" waiting to "devour the adversaries."
7. In verses 29-29, Paul does what he has repeatedly done in this book, compare the severity of punishment of apostates from the Law to the much more severe punishment for apostasy from Christ and the New Covenant.
8. In verse 29 Paul articulates exactly what "apostasy" means. The apostate is guilty of the following, having "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." Note that he WAS FORMERLY sanctified by the blood of the covenant. But now awaits the "fiery indignation." This is THE characteristic of an apostate, a loathing of the Gospel, and willful hatred for of the Spirit of grace. The apostate, from the moment of his apostasy, has become an enemy of the Gospel, and this hatred for Christ will be apparent.
9. In verse 32 he calls them to remember their first works as believers, as evidence of the fruit of the Gospel in their lives. He was most likely referring to his stay in Ceasarea for 2 years awaiting trial prior to being sent to Rome on appeal. That is where the Jewish brethren ministered to his needs under the threat of persecution themselves. Note the word "illuminated," clearly in referrence to their initial salvation and acceptance of the Gospel, is the same Greek word translated "enlightened" in Heb. 6:4, also referring to their initial salvation. 
10. In verse 35, again we have the imperative statement to persevere, as in vs. 23.
11. Verse 36 clearly indicates that MORE is needed if they expect to inherit the promises, that is, "endurance" or "perseverance" is required.
12. In vs. 38, Paul cites Hab. 2:4, where the prophet warned of the impending judgment from the Babylonians. "The just shall live by faith" referred to the remnant who would escape the judgment, while the rest of the nation wallowed in their apostasy, and would be harshly judged.
13. "If any man draw back" refers to the apostasy he has been warning about throughout the entire book. To "draw back" is to "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." It is to "cast away your confidence" v. 23, and not to "hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering."
14. Some contend that verse 39 proves OSAS. But that hardly does the context justice! Why would Paul spend so much ink warning them, only to negate everything he has written by a statement affirming that there is no danger for believers? Rather, Paul, as in Heb. 6:9, expresses CONFIDENCE that all of his readers will persevere, because of their heeding the warnings in this Epistle. The "we" MIGHT refer to to Paul and those accompanying him. Or it may refer to both Paul and the readers of the Epistle. Either way, it does not in any way negate all of the warnings, only express Paul's personal confidence.

Conclusions:
1. There can be absolutely no question that the warnings against apostasy were directed at true believers, who HAD BEEN "illuminated," who had been "sprinkled" by the blood, who had been baptized, and who had been "sanctified by the blood of the covenant."
2. The penalty for apostasy is the same "fiery indignation" that will devour the adversaries.
3. As in ch. 6, there is no repentance from apostasy.
4. Endurance in the Faith is an absolute necessity for those expecting to inherit the promises. And because Paul uses imperative statements regarding endurance, it is within the power of each individual to obey or reject this command.
5. Apostasy is most certainly possible for the true believer, as many other passages outside of Hebrews also prove.


Hebrews 12
It is very significant that Hebrew 11 intervenes between chapter 10, which discusses apostasy and the need to persevere to the end, and chapter 12 which does the same thing. The "Faith chapter" sandwiched between these recounts many of the Old Testament heros whose "FAITH" endured to the end. This "cloud of witnesses" (12:1) were cheering on Paul's readers in their own "race" to the finish line.

Heb 12:1-29
1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.
4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.
5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives."
7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?
8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.
9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?
10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.
11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees,
13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.
14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:
15 looking diligently lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;
16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.
17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.
18 For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest,
19 and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore.
20 (For they could not endure what was commanded: "And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow."
21 And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, "I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.")
22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels,
23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect,
24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.
25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall WE not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven,
26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, "Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven."
27 Now this, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.
29 For our God is a consuming fire.
(NKJ)

Observations:
1. The "race" we entered when we believed must be finished.
2. We can rely on Christ, the "author and finisher" of our Faith, for strength. He provides everything necessary. But, ultimately, we must finish and NOT turn back.
3. The "chastening of the Lord" implies that the suffering the Jewish believers were undergoing was in part a purifying process leading to their sanctification.
4. There are two possible reactions of believers to the "chastening of the Lord."
a. In verses 12-14, the result for thiose who submit to this "chastening," is the "peaceable fruit of righteousness," and the lame being "turned back into the way" (KJV). That is, the chastening produces the desired results, holiness.
b. A "root of bitterness" can spring up, and "defile." This definatley refers back to Deut 29, the chapter that describes all the "curses" of the Law for those who abandon it. "Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood; And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven." (Deut 29:18-20). Again, Paul seeks to use the OT penalty for apostasy from Moses as his example, yet stress that the penalty is far worse for those who apostasize from Christ.
5. Note that in verse 16 Paul likens apostasy to Esau, who "sold his birthright." Esau sold his birthright and inheritance for something that gratified his flesh for a moment. Paul warns that among his readers there might be some who would sell their birthright for "fornication." Notice he calls this person a "fornicator." In the Jewish context, this clearly refers to apostasy from God. The entire book of Hosea deals with this kind of "fornication." James, also writing to a Christian Jewish audience, refers to spiritual "adultery"  (Jas. 4:1ff). 
6. Paul draws the analogy from Esau, who could not undo what he had done. Likewise, there is no repentance from apostasy, as per Heb. 6 & 10.
7. In vss. 18-24, he seeks to draw another comparison between the giving of the Law, which was awesome, with the New Covenant, which is the better covenant. Consequently, as he has repeatedly done in this Epistle, he indicates that the penalty for apostasy from the New Covenant has much more severe consequences.
8. See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall WE not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven." This again refers back to his statements in chapter 3, quoting David, "Today if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts as in the provication." And again, the penalty is more severe for turning a deaf ear to His voice, than it was under the Law. As in chapter 2, Paul includes himself in the warning. In chapter 2 he said, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" And here he says, "much more shall WE not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven." And Paul goes on to tell what it is that they would escape from: the "great shaking" that is coming, when only that which can stand will survive, when Christ's Kingdom comes to earth.

Conclusion:
The whole book of Hebrews is about "endurance" and "perseverance" for those who have believed. The constant referrence to the Jews under the Law, the superiority of the New Covenant to the Old, and Christ to Moses, all serve to highlight the most awesome responsibility of believers to persevere, and the much more severe penalty for apostasy. The heros of Faith are held up as the examples of perseverance in the Faith. The prize held up for believers who endure is the coming Kingdom. The penalty for those who do not persevere in their faith is the "fiery indignation" that will "devour the adversaries."

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