Study Guide

Hebrews Justice and Judgment

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Justice and Judgment

To which of the angels has [God] ever said, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet"? (Hebrews 1:13, NRSV)

But to which of the angels said [God] at any time, Sit on my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool? (Hebrews 1:13, KJV)

Whoa. Cross God and things are not looking good. Those bad guys are about to be turned into ottomans for Jesus to rest his feet on. Divine judgment is rough business.

If the message declared through angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty, how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? (Hebrews 2:2-3, NRSV)

If the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation? (Hebrews 2:2-3, KJV)

It's pretty simple. If you believe that all the stories about God's justice and righteousness are true, then you know you've got a harsh sentence coming if you turn your back on him.

The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account. (Hebrews 4:12-13, NRSV)

The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. (Hebrews 4:12-13, KJV)

God's like Santa. He's sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake, and he can definitely tell if you've been bad or good. Of course, Santa doesn't get to carry around a super sharp sword for piercing souls. Those reindeer will have to do.

It is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt. (Hebrews 6:4-6, NRSV)

It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. (Hebrews 6:4-6, KJV)

God has a firm "no take backs" policy. If you put your faith in Jesus and then you change your mind, don't think he'll be waiting for you to call again. This verse seems to fly in the face of other New Testament stories—like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)—which tell about how happy God is to welcome his little wandering sheep back into the fold.

Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and on the verge of being cursed; its end is to be burned over. Even though we speak in this way, beloved, we are confident of better things in your case, things that belong to salvation. For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. (Hebrews 6:7-10, NRSV)

The earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. But beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. (Hebrews 6:7-10, KJV)

Good little children go to Heaven and bad little children go to…the other place. Even though the author's getting pretty heavy with the fire and brimstone talk here, he's confident that his readers won't suffer the same fate as the thorny field. Right? …Right?

It is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28, NRSV)

It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. (Hebrews 9:27-28, KJV)

It's Judgment Day. Translation: according to the author, Jesus is coming back. Since he already freed the world from sin, that's crossed off his to-do list. All that's left is to give giant high-fives to all his followers. The author doesn't go into details here about what will happen to non-believers, but we're guessing it's not good.

[God] also adds, "I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more." Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. (Hebrews 10:17-18, NRSV)

[God also adds,] And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. (Hebrews 10:17-18, KJV)

Okay, so God's not all gloom and doom. Even though he totally could have judged the heck out of humanity, after he sent Jesus, he went right into forgive-and-forget mode.

If we willfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy "on the testimony of two or three witnesses." How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by those who have spurned the Son of God, profaned the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know the one who said, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge his people." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31, NRSV)

If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31, KJV)

God's pretty judgmental. According to the author, he's given us a chance to get in good with Jesus, but if we don't take it, things won't be pretty.

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled. See to it that no one becomes like Esau, an immoral and godless person, who sold his birthright for a single meal. You know that later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, even though he sought the blessing with tears. (Hebrews 12:15-17, NRSV)

Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears. (Hebrews 12:15-17, KJV)

No second chances.

Again, the author explains the dire consequences of backing out on God. Esau was Isaac's firstborn son, but he traded all his firstborn son perks for one lousy meal (Genesis 25:29-34). He must have been hungry. The message is simple: you have to play the long game with God or he won't be so forgiving.

Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. (Hebrews 13:4, NRSV)

Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. (Hebrews 13:4, KJV)

You knew this was coming. God's pretty harsh when it comes to extracurricular sexy times.

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