Before we begin to examine the different theories, some definitions
must be arrived at concerning who is being referred to and exactly
what "falling away" means.
If those that are described as able to fall away are Christians then the
definitions given in the passage should line up with this analogy.
The definitions are:
They were once enlightened. The word "enlightened" is also used
again in chapter 10, verse 32. Although rendered "illuminated" it is
the same Greek term photizo.
Young's Literal translation renders verse
32 as "And call to your remembrance the former days, in which, having
been enlightened, ye did endure much conflict of sufferings, ".
Since it is the same writer utilizing the term in both verses, we can
safely assume that "once enlightened" must be referring to a saved person,
rather than someone that only has a superficial faith.
They have tasted the heavenly gift. What is the heavenly gift? Some
say Christ, others say it is salvation (For by GRACE are you SAVED
through FAITH, and that not of yourselves it is a gift from God). Whatever
position we take, it is dealing with salvation. The word tasted,
some argue, doesn't imply someone that was saved, but merely knew
enough to know what the salvation experience would be like. The
author of Hebrews used this word in chapter 2, verse 9 that Jesus
should taste death for every man. How does this equate with the idea
of only knowing what the experience would be like. Did Jesus only
taste death in that He understood what it would be like? or did He experience
it totally? The term "tasted" tends to equate with a truly
saved person given this consideration.
They were made partakers of the Holy Ghost. Notice that they were
MADE partakers of the Holy Ghost. It doesn't say they they partook of
their own doing. The term "partakers" is also used in chapter 3, verse 1
to address the "holy brethren", "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of
the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession,
Christ Jesus; ". The authors use of "partakers" here is implying
that these are believers that are living in the reality of their salvation.
Also, notice the use of the term in chapter 3, verse 14, "For we
are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end; " (also note the condition placed on being
a partaker of Christ denoted by the conditional word IF). Once again,
the author is telling us that we will be in the actual reality of experiencing
Christ first hand if we continue steadfast to the end. We can assume
that the author is referring to actual believers here rather than false
They have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the
world to come. Once again we have the term "tasted" and it should
contend for the same meaning. These are those that come into the reality
of God's word and what is ahead. Not much of a possibility for a
false professor, but a definite description of a true believer.
All evidence, when taken together can only mean that this passage is referring to true believers.
Now we need to come to a definitive explanation of the term
"parapesontas" which is rendered "fall away" in most Bibles.
The RSV doesn't state "fall away" but translates it as committing apostasy.
Vine's Expository Dictionary states that it signifies "to fall away"
(from adherence to the realities and facts of the faith). This definition
can be interpreted as abandoning faith in which case, apostasy is a
proper rendering in the RSV. The NLT translates it as turning away
from God, while the Living Bible has it as turning against God. The
TEV rendering is "and they abandon their faith" and the CEV refers to
them as "those that turn away".
We must conclude that to "fall way" is referring to abandoning faith in
Christ or becoming apostate. What is apostasy? It is the reverse of becoming
saved! So apostasy is the act of falling from a state of faith
and grace to a position of losing salvation. Few argue that this is
the meaning, they only argue whether it is possible or not.
With these definitions in mind, we can now return to the 7 positions
regarding this passage.
1> It is a hypothetical situation.
It was written to extort the reader to be obedient by revealing the
seriousness of denying our faith in Jesus. Those that accept this
theory accept that these are true believers and that it is impossible
for them to fall away.
In order to accept this as a hypothetical situation, there must be
evidence in the passage or the context that gives us an indication
that it IS a hypothetical situation. Those that profess this opinion
about the passage point to verse 6 and the word "if", implying that
"if" makes the passage hypothetical. If this is the only evidence
of this being a hypothetical situation, we can disregard this position
as being truthful because there is no "if" in the original
Greek. The verse is better rendered "AND they fall away" rather
than "IF they fall away". With no valid reasoning other than the
word "if", we can assume that this is not a true explanation of
2> It is a "scarecrow" tactic.
It was written to scare the believer that he could fall away if he
didn't continue in the faith, thus ensuring that he would remain
faithful. It is admitted that the believer can fall away, but that it
will never happen, making this belief coincide with the theory
that it is a hypothetical situation.
This is what Robert Shank commented on in his book, "Life in
the Son" in which he referred to those that find fanciful interpretations
of passages as being the same as village blacksmiths that
hang out a sign "All kinds of twistings and fancy turnings done
here". If these are true believers and the passage states that they
can fall away, to say that it can not happen is saying that the Bible
is only partially true. It either can happen or not and the Bible
says it can.
If this passage is being presented to "scare" the believer into remaining
in the faith, and the believer knows "once saved, always
saved", then the passage has failed in it's intended application.
The only way that it could be of use as a "scarecrow" is if one
can actually fall and lose salvation, but the Securist can not admit
this without admitting that OSAS is a fallacy. As with the previous
position , to accept that this is a hypothetical situation and
that "falling away" can not happen, there is no valid reason that
God would include a warning against it in a Book that is to be
considered fully and totally truthful. To say otherwise is to cast
God as being a God of deceitfulness. We should reject this interpretation
of the passage because of these points.
3> They were never saved in the first place.
These were people that came to a full understanding of the Gospel
and what all is entailed in the Christian life, but never accepted
it to the point of having a profession in Christ.
We need not give this position any thought at all since it has been
established that these are true believers being referred to. And to
take it further, since we have established that it is
faith that they have fallen away from, it is impossible for it to
be referring to the unsaved, since they have no faith or salvation
to fall away from. One must first have arrived in order to
leave, so it is only a Christian that can fall away.
4> They are saved but have not lost salvation.
Those that are fallen away have only lost any hope of becoming
repentive again. Their salvation is retained although they
have no chance at regaining any rewards they have lost because
of their falling away.
This argument assumes that we are talking of true believers
and also that it is possible to fall away. The issue now is, did
they lose rewards or salvation? In his book "The Believer's
Conditional Security", Dan Corner takes this position further
by adding fellowship to the list.
Mr. Corner answer this question by referring to verse 9, in
which the the writer says "Though we speak thus, yet in your
case, beloved, we feel sure of better things that belong to
salvation.". This is an important item to note. The writer is
contrasting two different groups of BELIEVERS. One that is
falling away and another that he feels confident about, and his
reference is not to rewards or fellowship, but to salvation. So
we can assume that the writer is referring to those that are falling
from faith and losing salvation.
Mr. Corner goes on to state:
"Heb. 10:26,27 parallel 6:9, in a negative sense, to show
salvation is the subject:
"If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received
the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but
only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire
that will consume the enemies of God" (NIV).
Raging fire that will consume the enemies of God can only be
the language of no salvation, not lack of rewards or fellowship!
This passage also declares that people, not their rewards,
will be consumed by this fire, which is for the enemies of
God." (Taken from, The Believer's Conditional Security, by
Dan Corner, Chapter 14: The Book of Hebrews.)
Taking into account that this passage MUST be referring to
losing salvation, we must disregard this interpretation as it's
5> They are true believers that will be chastised.
Those that hold to this belief claim that "fallen away" refers
to falling into deep sin that requires God to chastise them severely,
perhaps to the point of taking their life so as not to
ruin their profession.
This position leads the Securist into contradiction with his
own belief of imputed righteousness. The Securist argues that
we are covered in the blood of Jesus and that when God
looks down upon us He sees not our sins, but the righteousness
of Christ. In order to make this position of Hebrews
6:4-6 valid, the Securist must now explain how God could
chastise one of His children, even to the point of death, if He
can not see the sin that He must chastise the believer for.
This position is full of contradiction and does not hold up to
the beliefs or doctrine of either the Eternal Securist or the
opposing position to them and therefore can be discarded.
6> They are true believers and lost salvation forever.
These are true believers that have turned away from Christ and
forfeited salvation. They can NEVER regain salvation because of
their denial of Christ.
In the same chapter of his book, "The Believer's Conditional Security",
Dan Corner tries to explain the reasoning behind the impossibility
of those in the Hebrew passage as being unable to regain
salvation. He claims it is very possible that during the time of the
Epistle, those that returned to the Jewish faith were required, before
being accepted back, to renounce Christ publicly, claiming that He
was NOT the Son of God, that His blood was rightly shed as that
of a common malefactor, and that His miracles were performed
through the power of the evil one. If Mr. Corner's explanation is
correct, the Jews were committing the unpardonable sin that Jesus
spoke of in the Gospel of Mark as blaspheming the Holy Spirit. So
this explanation becomes an entirely different situation than falling
away into deep sin.
7> They are true believers and lost salvation.
These are true believers that have turned away, forfeiting salvation,
but can regain salvation after they are brought back to repentance.
This appears to be the most relevant explanation for this day and
For it is impossible...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.
Notice the tense of the words. It is impossible to renew them again
unto repentance (this is present tense); seeing they crucify to
themselves the Son of God afresh...(once again, present tense). One
can see that it IS impossible to renew them to repentance WHILE
they are crucifying the Son of God afresh. If this crucifying were to
STOP, the passage gives NO reason why a renewal to repentance
can not take place.
This is the ONLY passage in Scripture that makes the claim that
one can not regain salvation, but scripture can not conflict with
other scripture. There are TOO many other reference to the ability
to regain salvation once lost that this passage should stand in the
way without a reason that it is not complementary to the balance of
scripture, therefore THIS tends to be the position that seems to be
the most credible.
Next: Sins Forgiven: Past, Present, and Future