How can we overcome failure and religious hatred? Part 4

“Peter then denied again; and immediately a rooster crowed.” John 18:27

As we focus on John 18:13-27, we are learning how we can overcome failure and religious hatred. So far we have discovered we must…

Realize life is not always fair, but God always is (John 18:13-14).

– Remain close to Christ and other committed disciples (John 18:15-18).

Respond to our enemies by speaking the truth in love to them (John 18:19-24).

Now we go back to stage two (John 18:25-27) to discover our fourth and final principle. Rather than reporting Peter’s three denials together, John tells of Jesus’ hearing before Annas between the  accounts of Peter’s first denial and his last two denials. This serves to magnify both the shame of Peter’s actions 1  and the triumph of Jesus before His enemies.

“Now Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. Therefore they said to him, ‘You are not also one of His disciples, are you?’ He denied it and said, ‘I am not!’ ” (John 18:25). If Annas and Caiaphas occupied separate wings of the same residence, the second and third denials probably took place in the same courtyard. Peter was warming himself by the fire and again someone asked him if he was one of Jesus’ disciples. Again, a negative answer is expected and Peter gives it with the words, “I am not” (ouk eimi) or “Not me!” 3

 “John has constructed a dramatic contrast wherein Jesus stands up to his questioners and denies nothing, while Peter cowers before his questioners and denies everything.” Jesus boldly spoke the truth risking His own life, but Peter speaks lies to preserve his life. Christ is presented by John as a courageous Victor, but Peter is portrayed as a lying coward.

“One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of him whose ear Peter cut off, said, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with Him?’ ” (John 18:26). Peter must have been sweating profusely when one of the servants of the high priest who was a relative of Malchus, “whose ear Peter cut off” in Gethsemane (John 18:10), approached him and asks, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” His question expects an affirmative answer, in contrast to the former two that expected a negative answer. 5

“Peter then denied again; and immediately a rooster crowed.” (John 18:27). For the third time Peter denies any association with Jesus. It was a response Peter would deeply regret. At that moment a rooster began to crow. The shrill sound must have reminded Peter of Jesus’ words spoken to him a few hours earlier (John 13:38).

What had happened to Peter from the time he courageously tried to defend Jesus at his side in the Garden of Gethsemane (John 18:10) and his three denials of knowing Jesus (John 18:17, 25, 27)? In addition to what I said earlier regarding Peter’s self- reliance, his separation from Christ, and his companionship with Jesus’ enemies, I believe Peter struggled with doubt, fear, and pride. 6

Doubt had come into his life that was not there before. He thought when he leaped out at that army in the Garden of Gethsemane (John 18:10), that Jesus would do something. Christ had disappeared before when crowds tried to arrest Him (John 8:59). Or maybe He would bring lightning bolts. Peter was thinking, “I will make the first move and Jesus is going to be right behind me to back me up.” But Jesus said, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” (John 18:11). Peter watched them bind Jesus’ arms behind Him and this army marches Him off like a sheep that is being led to slaughter. Peter did not know what was happening. He had doubts because his plan and God’s plan did not match.

Has that ever happened to you? Your plan and God’s plan don’t match and the doubts come flooding into your soul? It happens to all of us. That is a difficult time. That is a time when we can fall prey to the denial that happened in Peter’s life. 

Peter’s denials also happened because of fear. He had a fear of the unknown in his life. He knew what it was like to be with Jesus. He knew what it was like to follow Jesus. He was confident in Jesus’ presence. But all of a sudden he is separated from Christ. Jesus is in the room with the trial going on and Peter is out in the courtyard and doesn’t know what’s going to happen next. The fear of the unknown can be a terrible thing.  And it caused Peter to deny Christ. 

And the fear of the unknown can cause us to deny Jesus as well. We get into situations where we do not know what is going to take place next. And we are overwhelmed with the fear of the unknown. Does this sound familiar to you? We can easily deny our relationship with Jesus when this happens.

But I believe there is one other cause that contributed the most to Peter’s denials. Jesus exposed this when He spoke to Peter in the Upper Room. It was Peter’s pride. Like all of us, Peter had pride in his life. He vowed to lay down his life for Jesus’ sake (John 13:37). He thought he would never fail his Lord. And because of that he found himself denying Jesus. His greatest weakness is the same weakness a lot of us have. His greatest weakness was the inability to recognize his greatest weakness. If only he could have seen. If only he could have listened when Jesus said, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.” (John 13:38). But he did not hear Jesus. Jesus had warned him but he could not see this weakness in his life.  

So he failed because he couldn’t admit to himself that he might fall. If you and I read the story of Peter and we don’t see ourselves in it we are missing something extremely important. Peter’s story is there to remind us that any of us given the right circumstances can do what Peter did. Peter has followed Jesus for over three years. Christ knew Peter better than Peter knew himself. Jesus pointed out Peter’s pride and told him he would fail Jesus three times. Just being able to admit that weakness in his life could have kept Peter from getting to that point in the courtyard. But like most of us, Peter was not willing to admit this weakness in his life.

This is the key to overcoming failure in our Christian lives: RESOLVE TO ADMIT YOUR WEAKNESSES TO JESUS (John 18:25-27). This can prevent us from getting to that point in our lives where we deny Christ.

If you are reading this and you are thinking, “I could never deny Jesus like Peter did,” you may want to think again. Or if you think that Moses, who the Bible says was the most humble man living in his time (Numbers 12:3), could fall prey to anger (Numbers 20:1-12), and then say to yourself, “It could never happen to me,” you may want to think again. Or to think that King David, a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), could fall prey to adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11:1-17), and then say to yourself, “That could never happen to me.” Is your pride any different than David’s? Or to think of Solomon, who the Bible says is the wisest man who ever lived (I Kings 4:30-31), and then in his later years allowed his many wives to turn his heart away from the Lord to worship their pagan deities (I Kings 11:1-8). For us to think that he could stray from his faith but say to ourselves, “That could never happen to me,” what kind of pride says such things!?!

Are we willing to admit that we have the same kind of tendency to doubt God’s word that Abraham and Sarah had (Genesis 16), or do we say to ourselves, “That could never happen to me?” Or that Noah, who is the example of endurance – 120 years of endurance (Genesis 6:3) – and then after that endurance when he reached the pinnacle of his success found himself drunk and ashamed (Genesis 9:20-21)? What kind of pride does it take for us to say to ourselves, “that will never happen to me – that at the pinnacle of my success I am going to do something foolish? No that won’t happen.”

These stories are in the Bible for a purpose, to remind us that we are human. That we need God in every circumstance of life, every moment of life. The humble thing is to say, “Without God, anger could destroy my life. Lust could destroy my life. I could stray away from Jesus and never see the doors of the church for twenty years. Without Jesus and trust in Him daily, I could doubt God’s word and miss His blessing. Or even at the moment of greatest success, I could find the moment of greatest humiliation.” 7

But when I recognize that these truths are here to remind me that I am human and I need Christ, when I recognize my weakness, guess what happens? I turn to Him at that moment of weakness. Instead of denying Him, I follow Him. Instead of turning from Him, I trust Him. That’s the great thing about these stories. Pride does come before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). And Peter’s denials teach us this. 

But if we do fail, and we will, the Bible offers us hope. Luke tells us that the moment the rooster crowed after Peter’s third denial, “the Lord turned and looked at Peter.” (Luke 22:61). The eyes of Jesus must have penetrated Peter’s soul. For we are told, “Peter went out and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:62).

Do you think Peter breaks down and weeps because Jesus gave him a look of scorn and condemnation? Or did Jesus give him a look of forgiveness? Jesus knew Peter was going to fail (John 13:38). He was praying for Peter and knew Peter would be restored to strengthen others (Luke 22:31-32), so I believe Jesus gave Peter a look of forgiveness. Peter broke down and wept because he knew what it meant to be forgiven. He didn’t live with regret because he knew what it meant to be restored by Jesus Christ.

Peter hit bottom, but the Lord’s hand was under him to eventually bring him back up. No matter how many flaws you have nor how many times you have failed, the Lord’s hand is there to help you up and start over. The Bible says, “The Lord upholds all who fall and… gives a fresh start to those ready to quit.” Psalm 145:14 [NKJV/MSG].

Colossians 2:13 [NIV] says, “When you were dead in your sins… God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.” Even the sins we have not committed yet, Jesus saw them in advance at the cross and died for them, and forgave them ahead of time.

God uses our failures to equip us to strengthen others in their spiritual journeys. Someone once said, “You will fail in the area of your greatest strength.” Why is that? Because the area of our greatest strength is often the area of our greatest pride. But failure is not the end of discipleship. Failure is just a detour or a pause in the journey.

Pastor Chuck Swindoll quoted A. W. Tozer, “It is doubtful that God can use anyone greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” 8   There will be times in your discipleship journey when it looks like everything is finished, but in reality that will be the beginning. Imagine how Peter felt after he denied Jesus three times and heard the rooster crow? And yet that is just the beginning for Peter. Now God can really begin to use him to strengthen others.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am so thankful that failure is not final for those of us who believe in You. You can use our failures to magnify Your restoring love and grace, and bring encouragement to others who fail. Help us learn from Peter’s denials of You. Any of us are capable of doing what Peter did, especially if we refuse to face our own weaknesses and transfer our trust onto You to overcome them. Thank You, my Lord and my God, for including the failures of others in the Bible to remind us that we too are prone to wander and that we need You every moment of our lives. Thank You that when we do fail, You do not give us a look of scorn or condemnation, but a look of love and forgiveness. May this image of Your grace motivate us to stay close to You every second of our lives. In Your gracious and mighty name we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1.Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 552.

2.  J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 325.

3. Ibid., pg. 326.

4. R. E. Brown, The Gospel According to John: Introduction, Translation and Notes. Anchor Bible series. 2 vols. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1966-71, Vol 2, pg. 842.

5. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 331. 

6. Tom Holladay’s sermon on Wednesday, July 17, 1996, entitled, “Jesus on Trial.”

7. Ibid.

8. Pastor Chuck Swindoll’s September 15, 2015 post of A.W. Tozer on twitter.

What happens to a Christian who rejects Christ’s sacrifice?

Some people believe that a Christian who rejects Christ’s sacrifice or falls away from the Lord, loses his salvation or was never saved in the first place. Is this true? A common Bible passage they refer to is in Hebrews 10:26-31. Let’s take a look at this.

The author of the book of Hebrews is writing to Christians who are being pressured to return to Judaism and give up on their Christian faith. These Christians were in danger of returning to animal sacrifices for the forgiveness of their sins instead of holding fast to the all sufficient sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Heb. 2:1-18; 3:12; 7:11-28; 10:1-18).

After focusing on the sufficient sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross to perfect them and give them total acceptance before God (10:1-18), the writer of Hebrews admonishes his readers to boldly “draw near” to God in a “new and living way” without unbelief or consciousness of sin or guilt (10:19-22). They are to persevere in the faith (10:23) and Christian fellowship till Christ’s return (10:24-25), when the promise of the eternal inheritance will be awarded to those who persevere (cf. Heb. 9:15; 10:35-37).

The warning in Hebrews 10:26-31 applies to genuine Christians as do all the other warnings in the book of Hebrews. If one honestly looks at all the times “we” is used in this book (2:1, 3; 3:6; 4:3, 13; 7:26; 10:10, 19, 39; 12:1, 25; 13:6; et al), he would conclude that the author of Hebrews is including himself and is therefore addressing Christians. Let’s look at verse 26: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins. ” The author’s use of “we” (hēmōn) in verse 26, also means he does not exclude himself from potential apostasy. The word “For” (gar) connects this section with the previous one (10:19-25) which is explicitly addressed to Christians. They are to hold fast to their Christian confession and not forsake assembling together (10:24-25). So this connective gar introduces the danger of “willfully” (10:26) not holding fast to their Christian confession and forsaking their assembling together. This danger in Hebrews 10:26-31 is the reason why they should not apostatize i.e. reject Christ’s sacrifice (10:1-18) and forsake assembling together (10:24-25).  

Nothing in the transition from the encouragement section (10:19-25) to the warning section (10:26-31) suggests a change in audience. Both sections are to genuine Christians. Notice the phrase “the knowledge of the truth” (tēn epignōsin tēn alētheias) in verse 26 does not mean mere information here in light of the context, but a genuine and personal knowledge which only a believer in Jesus can possess. The only other usages of this phrase in the New Testament refer to believers (cf. I Tim. 2:4; 2 Tim. 2:25; 3:7; Titus 1:1). Also, the phrase in Hebrews 10:30, “His people” (ton laon autou) alludes to the fact that those who are to be judged are God’s people. They have been redeemed by Him.

To substantiate the genuineness of their Christian faith further, the author of Hebrews has already described his readers as having been “enlightened” by the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 6:4a; cf. 10:32), which leads to “tasting” or receiving the gift of eternal life (Hebrews 6:4b; cf. John 4:10; Rom. 6:23; cf. Heb. 2:9), which makes possible partnership (Hebrews 6:4c; cf. 1:9; 3:1, 14) with the Holy Spirit, under Whom they feed on the Word and taste God’s power (Hebrews 6:5). Only a believer can “fall away” from the Lord. One cannot fall away from the Lord unless he HAS the Lord. These Christians were in danger of returning to animal sacrifices for the forgiveness of their sins instead of holding fast to the all sufficient sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Heb. 2:1-18; 3:12; 7:11-28; 10:1-18).

Since these are genuine Christians, we know that they have everlasting life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). Jesus promises that those who hear and believe His promise of everlasting life “shall not come into judgment” for their sins (John 5:24), including the sin of apostasy or turning away from Christ’s sacrifice. Christ guarantees that those who believe in Him will “never be cast out” of God’s family (John 6:37) nor will they ever die spiritually (John 11:25-26). No one and nothing can separate them from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39). Believers in Jesus are sealed by the Holy Spirit after hearing and believing the gospel, so that they will be safely and securely delivered to heaven in the future (Ephesians 1:13-14). God’s Word does not contradict itself. So it is important to interpret Hebrews 10:26-31 in a way that harmonizes with the clear teaching of salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ alone (John 3:15-16; Romans 4:5; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9; Galatians 2:16; I John 5:1, 13).

In the background of this willful sin of apostasy (10:26), is the “presumptuous” sin in which no sacrifice was provided for (Numbers 15:29-31). So when a believer apostatizes, there is no place to turn to, to secure sacrificial protection against God’s temporal wrath and retribution. To turn one’s back on the only sacrifice that God accepts, is to fall under God’s temporal judgment. An apostate changes sides so to speak, and puts himself on the side of God’s enemies (James 4:4), and can therefore experience God’s fiery wrath (cf. Hebrews 6:4-8).

When Hebrews 10:27 says, “but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries,” it means that whereas no sacrifice for sins remains, there does remain a certain fearful expectation of judgment from God. Since fear is punishment (cf. I John 4:18), the fearful expectation is itself a part of God’s judgment on the Christian who departs from the Christian faith.

A more severe punishment is also in the mind of the author of Hebrews. “Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (Hebrews 10:28). A quick, sure death accompanied a severe infraction of the Old Covenant (e.g. blasphemy, Lev. 24:11-16; murder, Lev. 24:17; Numbers 35:30; false prophecy, Deut. 18:20; etc.). But especially in mind here is idolatry and the rejection of the decision of a priest or judge (cf. Deut. 17:2-13), since Hebrews 10:28 alludes to Deuteronomy 17:6.

Please keep in mind that Solomon died while steeped in idolatry (I Kings 11:1-43) and yet he was a believer in the coming Messiah. God declared that Solomon would be His son and He, God, will be Solomon’s Father (I Chronicles 28:6). Hence, Solomon is a believer in the coming Messiah because he is a child of God (cf. John 1:12). Also, God used Solomon to author three books of the Bible: Proverbs (Solomon was the principal author), Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes. The Bible says that the human authors of the Bible were “holy men of God” who “spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). Even though Solomon was an idolater, the Bible says he was a “holy” man of God. How can this be? He is “holy” in God’s eyes because he has been set apart from his sin and shame by virtue of his faith in the coming Messiah who would die for all of his sins – including the sin of idolatry (cf. Isaiah 53; Colossians 2:13-14).

But a worse punishment awaits a New Covenant believer who apostatizes. By using the form of a question, the writer raises the level of fear with the uncertainty involved in Hebrews 10:29: “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?” This more severe punishment is not spelled out. But it is conceivable that there are worse punishments than a sure, quick death in the Old Testament.

For example, King Saul suffered a worse punishment than death as he went though prolonged manic-depression and paranoia. He also was consumed by fear and hatred (I Samuel 13:8-28:25), yet he was genuinely saved since Samuel said he would be with him after death in Paradise (I Samuel 28:19; cf. Luke 16:22; 23:43). That Saul was a genuine believer is also substantiated by the following:

We must first understand that “by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). Under the law of the Old Testament, good works have nothing to do with salvation from hell. Salvation is always (in Old and New Testaments) based on the sufficient sacrifice of Christ’s death on the Cross and is by grace through faith alone in Christ alone (cf. Gen. 3:15; 4:3-5; 15:6; John 3:14-18; Rom. 3:21-5:1; Gal. 2:16; Ephes. 2:8-9; Heb. 9:11-10:18; 11:4).  

After the prophet Samuel anointed Saul to be king over Israel, he informs Saul about various signs that will take place after he leaves Samuel’s presence (I Sam. 10:1-4). Samuel tells Saul that when he comes to the hill of God where the Philistine garrison is, he “will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, timbrels, pipes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person.” (I Sam. 10:5b-6). 

The events that Samuel predicted came to pass as he said (I Sam. 10:9-11). A summary statement of these events is given in verse 9: “As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day.” (I Sam. 10:9). Verses 6 and 9 clearly refer to Saul’s conversion because how else can a person be “changed into a different person” and God change their hearts? 

It is also significant that during this encounter a group of prophets were prophesying (I Sam. 10:5, 10). It is likely that they were prophesying about the coming Messiah of Israel. After all, the apostle Peter said, “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43). When Saul joined in with the prophesying of the prophets, he did so as a result of believing what they were saying about the coming Messiah. The Holy Spirit’s saving work in Saul’s life is manifested by Saul joining their prophetic testimony. Even if Saul had not prophesied, he would still be a new man with a new heart because salvation is always based upon faith alone in Jesus the Messiah. 

This Messianic hope was also understood by Moses as revealed by the writer of Hebrews “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasure of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ [literally, “the Christ” or the Messiah] greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he looked to the reward” (Heb. 11:24-26). So Moses believed in Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, but he also pursued Christ for eternal rewards just as Saul should have pursued them. But Saul did not pursue Christ as he should have, and therefore, he would forfeit eternal rewards that could have been his. 

Consider King David. He should have been killed for his sins of adultery and murder (cf. Deut. 22:22; Exodus 21:12-14), but instead he went through the prolonged agony of God’s discipline for almost a year (Psalm 32:3-5; 51:8). That included physical weakening and inward grief. His vitality was dried up and he was weighed down with guilt.

This more severe judgment may also have come upon the Corinthian believers who were “weak” and “sick” and eventually died because of their mistreatment of one another at the Lord’s Supper (I Cor. 11:29-32; cf. 10:1-13). The wrath of God is not limited to unbelievers, as believers can also experience God’s present-day wrath in which He gives the disobedient believer over to the consequences of his sin resulting in self-destruction (Romans 1:18-32; 5:9-10; 13:4-5). Believers can be saved from God’s present-day wrath through the life of Christ living through them (Romans 6-8). One might also think of prolonged illness, insanity, loss of loved ones or other things in regard to a more severe punishment than physical death.

The reasons for such a punishment are found in Hebrews 10:29: “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?” He has “trampled the Son of God underfoot.” His apostasy is an unruly trampling on the dignity and claims of Christ (cf. Heb. 6:6). He regards the sanctifying blood of the New Covenant, which “sanctified” him, as impure or unholy. Notice the apostate has been “sanctified,” which in the author’s mind is the same as justification – it is a completed action (cf. Hebrews 2:11; 10:10, 14).

The phrase “by which he was sanctified” (en hō hēgiasthē)  contains a masculine or less likely neuter relative pronoun (hō) which cannot refer back to the word “covenant” (diathēkēs) because that word is feminine and a relative pronoun must agree with its antecedent in gender and number (see Dana and Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, 1955, pp. 125-126; and see Goetchius, The Language of the New Testament, 1965, p. 336, #308). Neither can this pronoun refer back to the “Son of God” because the logical sequence of words clearly refers the subject back to the one who has “counted the blood of the covenant a common thing.” Also in the book of Hebrews Christ is the Sanctifier, not the Sanctified (Heb. 2:11; 10, 14). So the most likely antecedent is the “blood” (haima), since it agrees with the pronoun in number (singular) and gender (neuter). The “by” (en) indicates that it is by means of the blood that the apostate is sanctified. Hence, it is the apostate who is sanctified by the blood of Christ. The apostate also outraged  or “insulted the Spirit of grace” by rejecting Christ’s sacrifice for all his sins.  

In Hebrews 10:30, the author quotes from Deuteronomy 32:35-36. “For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ ” Deuteronomy 32:35-43 refers to God’s severe chastisement of “His people,” not His “professing” or “ungenuine” people, and to their restoration. The author’s selection of Deuteronomy 32 is most appropriate. The description of His wrath against His unfaithful people sounds much worse than execution by stoning (Deut. 32:19-27; cf. Lamentations 4:6, 9). Deuteronomy 32:38-33 describes Israel’s lack of wisdom and the bitter effects of their idolatrous practices. Notice Deut. 32:31, “For their rock [pagan gods] is not like our Rock [Israel’s God], even our enemies themselves being judges.” Israel acknowledges the difference between their idolatrous gods and the true God they had turned from. Deuteronomy 32:34-39 then speaks of God’s judgment upon His people, after which He will restore them. Verse 40-43 in Deuteronomy 32 speak of God’s judgment upon His enemies. After judging His people (Deut. 32:35-36a), He will have compassion on them and ask them about the pagan gods they had turned to (Deut. 32:36b-37). This assumes that they survive the judgment.

Therefore, in Hebrews 10:30, the writer of Hebrews is referring to God’s temporal judgment on those who abandon their Christian confession of Him (i.e. apostate Christians). He then concludes that it is terrible to come under God’s temporal judgment. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). If any of His Christian readers were tempted to abandon their Christian faith and some were, these words of temporal judgment would have been sobering. No doubt they would be more inhibited to think about doing such a heinous thing!

Conclusion: Rather than teach that a Christian who turns away from the sufficient sacrifice of Jesus Christ and goes back to his old religion loses his salvation or was never saved in the first place, Hebrews 10:26-31 affirms that a person who believes in Jesus Christ for everlasting life is secure forever, but it also warns of the dangers of departing from our Savior.

Will King David be in Heaven?

“So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the Lord, because he did not keep the word of the Lord, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance. But he did not inquire of the Lord; therefore He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.” 1 Chronicles 10:13-14

The writer of Chronicles records detailed genealogies from Adam to the family of King Saul in the first ten chapters of I Chronicles to encourage his original readers to remain faithful to God following their Babylonian captivity. Instead of being like King Saul whose family dynasty experienced a tragic end due to his disobedience and unfaithfulness to God (10:13-14a), the Chronicler wants his readership to be the opposite of King Saul. He is admonishing his readers to be “committed” to the Lord and “keep the word of the Lord” more like King “David, the son of Jesse” (10:14b-29:30).

When some of us read that God wants us to be more like King David, we may ask, “Why would God want us to be more like a man who committed adultery and murder (cf. 2 Samuel 11:1-27)!?! The Chronicler presents David as a strong model of a king by recording the crowning of David as king which reveals God’s choice of David (I Chron. 11:1-3); David’s capture of Jerusalem (I Chron. 11:4-9) and his desire to build a temple there (even though his son, Solomon, would eventually do that – I Chron. 17:1-27) which shows his heart for God (I Chron. 13:1-14; 15:1-17:27; 22:1-29:30); David’s mighty men which revealed the impact of David’s character on others and the power he had (I Chron. 11:10-12:40; 14:8-17; 18:1-21:30); and the gathering of the multitudes behind his leadership which showed his influence on the nation (I Chron. 14:1-7, 17; 16:36; 18:14-17; 29:30).

Some Christians would go so far as to say that King David will not be in heaven because he committed adultery and murdered Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah. They think that such sins are unforgiveable. But what does the Bible say about this?

Even though David had committed adultery and murder, the Bible refers to David as an example of those who are justified (declared totally righteous before God) by faith alone in Christ alone apart from any works. 5But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:7 ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin’ ” (Romans 4:5-8; cf. Psalms 32:1-2). Paul quotes David (Romans 4:7-8) who wrote in Psalm 32:1-2 of the blessedness of forgiveness as he looked ahead to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which would pay the penalty for the sin of the world (John 1:29), including David’s adultery and murder (cf. Psalm 16:8-11; Acts 2:24-36; Colossians 2:13-14). 

Paul is saying that the righteousness of Jesus Christ was credited to David and all who believed in His coming death and resurrection in the Old Testament (Romans 4:5-8; cf. Genesis 15:6; Isaiah 61:10; John 8:56; Hebrews 11:26). So when a person in the Old Testament or in the New Testament believes in the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, he or she is covered with the righteousness of Jesus Christ so that God no longer sees their sin, He sees the perfect righteousness of His Son ( Genesis 15:6; Romans 3:21-4:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Henry Ironside shares a helpful illustration about what it means to be justified before God. One morning on his way to a sheep ranch, he noticed a very peculiar sight. He saw an old ewe loping across the road followed by the strangest looking lamb he had ever seen. It seemed to have six legs, and the last two were hanging helplessly as though paralyzed. When one of the sheep ranchers caught the lamb and brought it over to Ironside, the rancher explained that the lamb did not really belong to that ewe. She had a lamb that was bitten by a rattlesnake and died. This lamb that Ironside saw was an orphan and needed a mother’s care. But at first the ewe refused to have anything to do with it. She sniffed at it when it was brought to her, then pushed it away, saying as plainly as a sheep could say it, “That is not my lamb!” So the ranchers skinned the lamb that had died and covered the living lamb with the dead lamb’s skin. When the covered lamb was brought again to the ewe, she smelled it once more and accepted the lamb as her own as if to say, “That is Mine!”

Like that orphan lamb, all people are born as outcasts, separated from God because of their sin. But God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God (John 1:29), died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:1-8), so that when we believe or trust in Him alone, we are clothed with His righteousness (Romans 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21).  God can accept us into His family now because He sees the righteousness of His Son instead of our sin. He can say, “That is Mine!” 

Knowing that King David was justified and forgiven because of his faith in the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, not only assures us that he will be in heaven, but it can also assure us that we will be in heaven if we have believed in Jesus for everlasting life no matter what we have done in this life before or after our faith in Christ (cf. John 6:35, 37-40; 10:28-29; 2 Timothy 2:13). 

But the Bible also tells us that even though King David was an adulterer and a murderer, God still assessed his life “as a man after My own heart” because he did the will of God (Acts 13:22). God did not let David’s moral failure blemish his entire life. For example, God showed patience toward evil King Abijam because of David’s godly life. We read, “4 for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, by setting up his son after him and by establishing Jerusalem; 5 because David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” (I Kings 15:4-5). God can say this about David because even though he did fail miserably, he confessed that sin and continued to do God’s will. He trusted and obeyed the Lord as he faced the severe consequences of his own sin. David was not defined by his failure. He was defined by God’s Word.

From God’s assessment of David we learn that if we do not give up, we cannot fail in God’s sight! David continued to trust and obey the Lord the remainder of his life after his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah. Was it easy? Not at all. But David did not give up on God. He was not perfect, but he was honest with God as seen in his writings in the Psalms. David is very honest about his sin (cf. Psalms 32; 51) and his feelings of abandonment (Psalm 6; 13; 22), anger (Psalms 4; 13; 38), anxiety (Psalm 37; 119), awe (Psalm 8), betrayal (Psalm 10), despair (Psalm 3; 9), dismay (Psalm 30), distress (Psalm 6), exaltation (Psalm 18), fear (Psalm 3; 55), guilt (Psalm 32), hate (Psalm 31),  heaviness (Psalm 32), hopelessness (Psalm 12),  joy (Psalm 4), peace (Psalm 37), sadness (Psalm 6), and thanksgiving (Psalm 26; 100). And as a result, God could say that David was a man after his own heart. 

From this study of Saul, David, and Solomon, we see three types of believers:

King Saul represents an immature or carnal believer (I Sam. 10:9; 28:19; cf. I Corinthians 1:10-16:17; James 1:21-5:20) whose persistent disobedience invites God’s severe discipline now (Hebrews 12:5-11) and the loss of eternal rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Corinthians 3:15; Revelation 2:25-27). Since Saul committed suicide he will forfeit rewards that require faithfulness to God to the end of one’s life (cf. Matthew 19:27-29; Romans 8:17b; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21b; Ephesians 5:3-5; Colossians 3:23-24; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27), but it is possible that he will receive some rewards that cannot be lost once earned (Matthew 6:19-21). 

King Solomon represents a believer (I Chronicles 28:6; 2 Peter 1:21) who starts out well but finishes poorly (I Kings 11), and will experience God’s discipline on earth and forfeit rewards that require faithfulness to God until the end of one’s life on earth (cf. Matthew 19:27-29; Romans 8:17b; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21b; Ephesians 5:3-5; Colossians 3:23-24; 2 Timothy 2:12; James 1:12; Revelation 2:25-27). It’s likely, however, that Solomon will have some rewards that cannot be lost once they are earned (cf. Matthew 6:19-21). 

King David represents a believer (Psalm 32; Romans 4:5-8) who imperfectly (2 Samuel 11) perseveres in a life of faithfulness to God to the end of his life, and therefore will be richly rewarded in heaven (cf. Matthew 19:27-29; Romans 8:17b; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21b; Ephesians 5:3-5; Colossians 3:23-24; 2 Timothy 2:12; James 1:12; Revelation 2:25-27).

There is no guarantee that a believer will persevere in good works till the end of his life on earth. Otherwise, why would God warn believers of the consequences of failure (I Chron. 10:13-14; cf. John 15:6; I Cor. 10:1-12; Hebrews 4:11-13; 6:4-8; 10:26-39; 12:5-11) and the loss of rewards in the future (Matt. 10:32-42; 22:1-14; 25:24-30; I Cor. 3:14-15; 9:24-27; 2 Tim. 2:12; I John 2:28) if all “true” believers finished well for God? It makes no sense to conclude this. 

The truth is God is good to those who refuse to give up (Lamentations 3:25-26; Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:5-13; 18:1-8). He will richly reward believers who remain faithful to Him till the end of their lives (Matthew 25:20-23; 2 Timothy 2:12; Hebrews 3:6, 12-14; 4:1-13; James 1:12; I Peter 1:3-12; 2 Peter 1:5-11; Revelation 2:10-11, 25-27; 3:5, 11-12, 21-22).