How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard?
Good question, a question that for centuries has bound many Christians in fear, but may be applied to some extent to those who reject that Gospel today. Read in context, it may safely be asserted that the writer's admonition was primarily meant to warn his original and ( finitely ) intended audience. As we read farther ( context ), we may see, and hopefully realize that he is issuing this rhetorical warning to his first-century readers because their history told them that those who rejected the Gospel, both before His Advent, and then after His Parousia, had perished, and were about to lose their status both as a nation and a people.
One might ask another question here, as well, something like, 'will those who reject this salvation in the 21st century suffer the same consequences as they did in the 1st?' That too, could be a good question and worthy of some consideration, but when you really think about it, what did they need to escape? Do we need escape from the same sort of judgment today? One could almost say that we do! We still have a rebellious and wicked nature, do we not? No one could truly deny, I think, that even the best of us is plagued by wrongful desires, thoughts, even secret sins, throughout our lives, even as Christians. That is surely something to escape, correct? Persecution, while not as bad for believers in and followers of Christ in this country as in certain other countries, is escalating at an almost alarming rate! Surely this would be something from which we should make a great escape, right!?
You could speculate on these things till you were blue in the face, but you would most likely be even further from biblical truth then when you started! The escape to which the writer referred was from the just judgment that their fathers had received for their transgression of and disobedience to the Law which had been given them as part and parcel with the Gospel ( Hebrews 4:2 ). The judgment which they should escape, as we see from the wording at the beginning of the letter, was the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, in those 'last days'. By not rejecting this great Salvation and by believing His words, many Christians and Jews did escape this adverse judgment by following Jesus' command to 'flee to the mountains'. There are certain believers today who have erroneously followed this command, believing that these words were meant for them. Though they believe that they too, must receive this salvation or bear the same judgment, through the death, burial and resurrection of the Son of God, wherein we have become children of God rather then children of the devil, we no longer, after the cross, must fear the death of Adam, or the consequences of his sin!
Don't get me wrong; I am NOT saying that there are no more consequences for transgression of and disobedience to the Law of God, which many have aptly termed, 'The Law of Love'. There are most surely consequences for the transgression of this Law; we see this every day, and all around the world, specifically in all the wars that beset us and plague the life out of us. There are naturally occurring consequences too, that happen to each and every one of us, even Christians, every day, because we fail, in some point or another to fully uphold this Law!
As we saw in the previous article, the one to which this is a companion, this great salvation which the writer to the Hebrews urged his brethren not to neglect was the salvation that Jesus had previously accomplished on the cross, and was about to seal in a few years! This salvation which we have inherited, and which they in fact had partaken in, had been accomplished about a generation previous to this warning, but would be fully revealed to them in the destruction of the seat of devil-worship, the temple in Jerusalem!
Now we come to the area of consideration which has caused some to throw upon me the name of 'universalist'! Since the reversal of the curse, the destruction of 'him who had the power of death', and the casting into the lake of fire of the devil and hell ( or Hades-Greek mythology ); can we anymore say that men are born in sin, as they were before the Revelation of Jesus the Christ? Can we truly say that anyone who has not yet accepted the Gospel and is living in rebellion to His Creator is without hope? Are they in danger of the same just judgment that those who rejected Him in the first century received? That may be questionable, and indeed it it a plaguing question for those who trust in inherited ( fulfilled ) salvation! Here's a question for both those who believe, and for those who disbelieve; 'does one who inherits have anything to do with what he inherits?' Yes, in a sense, he does, because an heir often must fulfill certain obligations in order to inherit, though not always, but even though, the one who grants the inheritance, may, at his will, grant the inheritance without condition. This sometimes, maybe more often than not ( except in the movies ) happens! Is this what our Father in 'Heaven' has done? Some say 'yay' ( even 'YAY'! ), and some would voice a resounding 'NAY'! So which is it? I personally do not believe, according to my ( imperfect ) reading of Scripture, that one who, for his whole lifetime disdains both God and His 'Law of Love', unless he repents at some time before his biological death ( 'can one truly love after biological death?' ), will inherit this salvation, or eternal life, but what do I know?!
In conclusion then, as we have inherited this salvation, let us reveal, both to those who believe they are still waiting for it, and to those who are truly seeking it, though they know it not, that their warfare is over, they must not fear physical death, for once they have entered into this Salvation, they will never die! Indeed, the Father of mercy ( and of ALL ) will enter in and make His dwelling with them; they need NEVER fear anything! Glorious Truth!
As in the companion to this article, 'The Salvation of God's People' has been accomplished; the remaining question is, 'who ARE God's people?' The Scriptures have said that we are ALL His offspring! Now that, according to most Christians, and arguably according to Scripture, does NOT mean that they are children of the Most High, and especially the people of God, but can we seriously make a difference between many of those today, who either claim the Name or not, and those children of Israel that we read about in Scripture? In the greatest sense; they have an advantage over those children; they, as we did, have but to realize, to enter into that Salvation, and to enjoy the Presence of God forever!
Realizing ( every day ) our perfection.
in the midst of my ( own ) imperfection,
Charles Haddon Shank