Proof which Perseveres
Messiah was faithful as a Son over His house, whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.
You and I are part of the house in which the Messiah is faithful if we hold fast our confidence until the end. Now, what does the if in this statement imply? Does this mean we can lose our salvation? The question of eternal security often comes up, and generally people’s concerns move into this line of thinking: “If I sin this many times, will I lose my salvation? Or is there a specific sin that I could do which will cause the loss?”
While this is a subject of study all its own, there are just a few points that will be considered here.
First, the Scriptures do not teach that if you commit a specific sin or commit it a certain number of times after being sealed by the Spirit, you could lose your salvation. You could be physically judged, like Ananias and Saphira; you could be kicked out of your community (1 Cor 5:5); and you could lose many rewards (1 Cor 3:15), but there is no indication that you could lose your salvation. Paul writes that neither death nor life nor angels, nor anything could separate us from the love of God (Rom 8:29-30), and Yeshua is clear that He gives His sheep eternal life, and nothing can snatch them out of His hands (Jn 10:27-30).
Second, the warnings we find in Scripture are not so much about having salvation and losing it but rather it is about how we think we have salvation when we do not. And in Scripture, we are warned about two different extremes that could mislead us.
The first extreme is the idea that if we pray a prayer one time, a “prayer of salvation”, we then have the liberty to live our lives in the manner we want. While Paul does say to “call upon the name of the Lord and you will be saved” it is not as though the words themselves are magical— instead, the act of calling upon the Lord is the confession that comes from the contrite and repentant heart. The danger comes when people prayed a prayer many years before, and even though their lives bore no fruit, they think they are in a relationship with God. James warns, “What use is it…if someone says he has faith, but has no works? Can that [kind of] faith saved him?” (James 2:14). Instead, Yeshua tells us how we know if we are believers: “You will know them by their fruits” (Matt 7:20).
The second extreme is just focusing on works alone, thinking that this is enough for a salvific relationship with God. Yeshua said “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you’” (Matt 7:22).
So, we want a balance of both. We are saved by God’s grace alone, through the trust and faith we have placed in the Messiah Yeshua. However, according to the author of Hebrews, the way we know if our faith is real and of substance is by persevering in the faith.
This is why the author of Hebrews says that we are of the Messiah’s house if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end. It is not that you have salvation, and you may lose it if you don’t hold fast. Rather, a better way to read it is that the future condition (holding firm until the end) will be the evidence of a present reality — that we are saved. One’s holding fast to the faith is the proof that one is in relationship with God. As Yeshua said, “If you continue My word, then you are My disciples” (Jn 8:31).
Now, the verb κατέχω (17x) means “hold fast” or “stay close to.” So, our charge is to stay close to our confession of the Messiah, to keep our eyes on Him, and to continue pursuing Him.
Does this imply that if somebody walked away from the Lord they cannot be restored? No. We see people who walk away, whose faith is later restored. Just as the author of Hebrews says to hold firm until the end, we cannot make judgements about people’s salvific state because we don’t know what will happen in the future, nor what will happen moments before they leave this earth. However, for us the warning is to focus on the Messiah as our model of faithfulness and obedience and walk in His footsteps.