The warning passages as presented by the author are five and are found in Hebrews 2: 1-4; 3: 7-4:13; 5: 11-6: 12 and 10:19-39; 12:14-29. This paper will summarize the four warning passages that are presented by the author of the book of Hebrews. The warning passages will thus be identified and thematically summarized. This will then be followed by a personal but persuasive critique of the views presented by the authors of the book “The Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews”.
The Warnings to Hear and Listen
The warning to hear God is contained in Hebrews 2:1-4 and Hebrews 12:14-29 (particularly verse 25-29). These passages tend to encourage and implore readers to persevere and honor God’s word that was fulfilled through His Son, Jesus Christ. Failure to honor the message is consequential: divine judgment will befall man. The author is not only exhorting the reader to hear the message of God but to also believe it especially in Hebrews 2:9 (Bateman 25).
Hebrews 2:1-4 suddenly interrupts the instruction that the author of the book presents about the Son; albeit momentarily. He delays to present the humiliation and later enthronement of Jesus. Instead, the author emphasizes the fact that the message which was delivered by angels about the coming wrath to those who do not believe is true and legally binding and that there is no escape from the final penalty that awaits those who deliberately defy the message. The believer is thus encouraged to hear the message which was first preached by Christ Jesus, the angels and is being preached even today. This message is true and not a fallacy since it was heard and confirmed by those who witnessed Jesus declare the word of the Kingdom of God on the need to hear God’s message and be reconciled to Him through faith in Jesus His Holy Son (Bateman 26). The disciples who later became apostles witnessed and heard Jesus preach this message.
In Hebrews 12:14-29, the author reiterates the need for believers to hear and listen to God’s command for salvation. However, in this passage the author stresses that the salvation that rescues one from death is that which is characterized by endurance. As an athlete in faith, a believer must not lose his/her identity as a legitimate child of God. The author also implores the reader to accept the message that is spoken and embrace it. He warns that those who ignored and refused to listen and believe what the messengers said concerning said the coming Kingdom of God did not escape the wrath of God. Believers are also warned against slipping away from the message that was preached by Jesus, the Son about Himself, and what God spoke to His Son. The climax of the second warning passage in Hebrews 12:14-29 is the impending wrath of God that shall come upon the earth when He shakes its foundation and that of the heavens to demonstrate God’s fury and consequent punishment awaiting those who refuse to hear and listen to God’s word.
Warnings to Trust and Obey
The first warnings are contained in Hebrews 3:7-4:13. The chapter recalls Jewish disobedience and unfaithfulness to God. They constantly failed to honor their covenant with God when they were in the wilderness. Believers are therefore warned not to be rebellious like the Jews in the wilderness. Instead there must be complete obedience and submission to God and His promise that was established through Christ, the Son. The consequences of disobedience to God are presented with particular reference to the Sinai wilderness community. When they failed to trust and obey God, He swore in anger that they will not enter His resting place. This implies that failure to obey God provokes His anger and wrath. Bateman (56) notes that the body of Christ is also warned to be careful of those people in the congregation who may be unfaithful and disobedient to God. Those who disobeyed God by sinning against Him fell and died in the wilderness.
In Hebrews 4:1-13 the author of the book warns believers against failure to secure God’s rest. Those who failed to enter the rest of God, which is eternal life, are those who heard the word of God but failed to obey. This rest is the eternal life and the everlasting glory that awaits those who overcome the world and join in celebrations of victory with the Son. The author thus warns the church that even though one may have heard, listened and believed God’s message, there is still no guarantee for entering God’s rest unless one obeys the word and walks steadily in the paths of God in accordance to His word.
Hebrews 10:19-39 carries further warnings for the believers. In Hebrews 10: 19-25 and 10:32-39, the author warns the believers against giving up their faith in God (The Holy Bible: New International Version). They are instead implored to persevere and maintain their relationship with God. God harshly judges deliberate disobedience. The church is also warned that the day of Lord is coming and thus there is need to encourage one another including the weak in faith to carry on in the walk of faith. The believers that the author in Hebrews is addressing are warned against willful sin. The fact that Christ died is no guarantee for continued and deliberate sin. Those who spurn the Son of God by profaning the blood of the covenant that sanctifies from all un-righteousness shall not escape from the wrath of God. Destruction surely awaits those who having heard the word of God fail to trust and obey the message.
Critique of the Views on the Warning Passages and Personal View
On the warning to hear, the author encourages believers to persevere. This sounds contradictory to the expectation that after one has become a believer there is peace and rest from the burden that one bore before believing in Christ. In Matthew 11:28, the author quotes Jesus calling people who are heavily laden so that he may give them rest. This implies that faith in Jesus which makes one a believer should mark an end to the troubles of the former life of a believer. Further, the manner in which the author of Hebrews presents his warnings raises a concern. The warning requires the believers to hear, listen and believe the word of God. This should not be the case of believers to whom this message is addressed. They are called believers first because they heard the word of God and believed. There is thus a weighty concern on the nature of the audience that the author is targeting. My perspective is that the audience is already believers and thus just needed teachings on how to relate to God and not the foundational teachings on the need to hear the word of God and believe. In fact the author even proceeds to present the impending punishment that is awaiting those fail to listen and believe. To such, he declares that there is no escape from the impending wrath of God.
In Hebrews 2, the author reminds the believers to pay attention to what they initially heard. The submissions made here allude to the warning of impending punishment and wrath of God that awaits those who fail to uphold the initial teachings. This sounds misplaced since the author does not at any point express concerns over backsliding of the audience. This message is very relevant to the audience that is backslidden or is wavering from the message that was preached to them. But since the authors do not reveal the spiritual position of the audience within the context of the wring, one finds a loophole in the message that is being sent to the audience. Instead, the believers needed exhortations on the hope of glory that awaits saints in heaven after the life on earth.
On the warning to trust and obey contained in Hebrews 3:7-4:13 and 10: 19-39, the authors pass the warning to the believers to obey God and trust Him and His word lest they miss out on the day of great rest (The Holy Bible: New International Version). This message or warning raises concerns as to whether salvation is a procedural process that takes place in phases. My own perspective is that salvation is a onetime act that occurs to a person when he or she realizes the need to be reconciled to God through faith in Christ Jesus.
The manner in which the authors present the warnings and the messages in the passages tend to show that salvation is a process. In this context, the death of Christ on the cross is either considered as futile and that salvation is not yet revealed until the last day when Christ shall come to judge the world. Secondly, it may be wrongfully assumed that the death of Christ; the Son of God on the cross of Calvary and His resurrection brought salvation to the entire world and that what remains is just keeping the laws as we wait for the day of Lord to join Him in the rest. This is not the correct interpretation since salvation is a onetime event that only occurs when one embraces the reveled grace of God unto salvation through Christ Jesus the Son.
The message that is contained in the passages in 2:11, 16; 3:1, 12, 10:10:19; 13:22 raises concern as to whether the audience are genuine followers of Christ or not. Personally I consider them true believers. This standpoint further makes one to question the stance of the author with regard to sanctification. In the passages the author warns the believers to sanctify themselves and walk in holiness. On another side, it appears as though the audience is “those who are being sanctified or have been made holy” (Bateman 61).
Finally, I consider the believers justified and sanctified and as such the warning against rejecting the Son of God and the warning on the imminent punishment is not very accurately directed to the right audience. This warning is rather relevant to non-believers who openly reject the message of the cross and refuse to accept Jesus as the savior. The justified and sanctified believers are already delivered and saved from the impending wrath and fierce penalty of God that awaits those who have not obeyed the word. Such are the people who shall not enter God’s rest and in my perception are the non-believers.
The four warning passages in Hebrews have thematic overlaps. The warnings to hear and listen are contained in Hebrews 2: 1-4 and 12:14-29 while the warning to obey and trust God is conspicuously evident in Hebrews 3:7-4:13 and 10-19-39. However, the warning messages and the manner in which they are relayed raise concerns as to whether the audience is believers. Since they are already believers, the context and content of these messages and warnings seem to be misplaced and not very relevant to this audience since they are already justified and set apart for God and are thus not disobedient nor defiant to the message of God.