America, as a nation, has rebelled several times.
In 1776, we fought England, choosing not to be governed by a monarch but elected officials.
This began one of the greatest experiments of government and people, illustrating how a Representative Republic can be a shining beacon of freedom to the world.
The next great rebellion came in the form of the Civil War. The “War Between the States” as it’s been called, began as the “War of Rebellion” and resulted in the loss of over 620,000 American lives. A subtle rift between the North and the South still exists today.
In chapter three of Hebrews an illustration of rebellion against God by the children of Israel is used.
This was not the first instance of this type of action and would not be the last. However, the second word used as a proof text for the concept of apostasy among Christians can be found here.
In chapter three, verse twelve it says, Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God.
The phrase “turning you away” is the single Greek word apostenai.
From the Greek we see the English word apostasy. A contemporary definition of this word is “a formal disaffiliation or abandonment of a belief or religion.” Yet, does this definition apply here?
From verse twelve it would seem to indicate that apostasy is a possibility for those who have accepted Christ. There is a definite warning to the Christians to reject evil and unbelief in their lives lest they turn away from God.
Even though it appears plausible from this verse, using it as a proof text would be short-sighted. Context is everything!
Many a politician has been ruined by some clever editing of their statements by the media or their opponents.
The point is, don’t listen to sermons pulled from one verse in the Bible and left out of context. Entire religions have been formed by the poor interpretation of God’s word. Again, context is everything.
So let’s place verse twelve in context with the preceding eleven verses. In this chapter, verse one begins with the author addressing the readers as those belonging to God and being bound for heaven. That seems to already negate the concept of these Christians not going to heaven.
Also in this chapter, the author shows Christ as greater than Moses, and to do this he uses using the rebellion of the children of Israel to solidify his point.
But their rebellion hardly indicates a permanent turning away from God.
Yes, it is clear the original generation of Israelites wandering the wilderness were not able to enter the promised land because of their rebellion, yet this does not make them any less God’s people or somehow relegated to hell. Moses also rebelled as he struck the rock instead of speaking to it, but he can be seen later with Christ at the transfiguration.
It’s true God’s people rebelled, again and again, yet they were still God’s people. Even though God punished them, He still loved them and had a plan for them. So, verse twelve is a warning.
Your eternity may be spent with the Lord while your life is lived outside the Promised Land.
Chapter three of Hebrews does not support the concept of apostasy among Christians. It shows that God will punish His people in order to draw them back to the better life He has for them.