“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” Hebrews 10:31
Like all verses in the Bible it is important to understand the context and not assume a context. The immediate context is the quotes from Deuteronomy, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay” and “The Lord will judge His people” but the broader context of chapters nine and ten is a comparison between the temple sacrifices and Christ’s sacrifice of Himself.
We are discovering that many people groups have stories of a great flood and the survival of just a few ancestors in a vessel of some sort. We also have in many people groups the practice of offering blood sacrifices to appease their god. It would seem that both these have their origin in Noah and the ark. When Noah emerged from the ark he offered blood sacrifices (Genesis 8:20-21).
The law given through Moses also required sacrifices but the writer of Hebrews affirms that such sacrifices did nothing to turn away God’s wrath for sin. They were but shadows (Hebrews 8:5; 10:1). If I promised a new car to my son and only gave him a photograph of that car he would be disappointed. The photograph is useless for the function of a car. It may be cheap but it won’t take him anywhere. Likewise, shadows have no substance. They promise but do not deliver. Jesus Christ is the only sacrifice for sin and all others are mere shadows or representations to point to Him. Anyone holding onto the shadow is the subject of verse 31 quoted above.
Jesus Christ offered Himself “once to bear the sins of many” (9:28; 10:10, 12, 13) so any continuance in offering the shadow is to say that Christ’s death is insufficient or inadequate. It would also deny all the attestations of God that He is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” In essence they are trampling the Son of God underfoot, counting the blood of the covenant a common thing and insulting the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:29). Not surprisingly, they have a fearful expectation.
We may also fall into this trap if we are not careful. It is possible that we may be offering sacrifices of service or money with a wrong motive. We read, “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God … for by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (10:12, 14). When we offer service or money from the motive that seeks removal of guilt or to gain God’s favour we deny the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice. By doing so we call God a liar and no believer would want to do that.
Rather, we are not among those who are in fear of meeting our God, we are “those who eagerly wait for Him” for His second appearing “apart from sin, for salvation” (9:28).