The following portion of Scripture has been, without any equivocation, one of the most hotly disputed passages in the Bible as a whole with regard to the assurance of eternal life, versus temporary life based on one’s performance as a professed believer in Jesus Christ.
“For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame. 7 For ground that drinks the rain which often falls upon it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; 8 but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned. 9But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. 10 For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. 13 For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, 14 saying, “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply you.” 15 And thus, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. 16 For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. 17 In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, 18 in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, 20 where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:4-20).
In direct conjunction with our analysis of John 10:22-30 concerning the promise of eternal life to born again believers promised by Jesus in that passage, we are going to look at other related passages that have to do with that eternal life, and in some, including this one in Hebrews 6:4-20, there is a legitimate question raised as to whether or not the promise of eternal life can be abrogated by a true, born again believer so that they actually lose their salvation that they once possessed through the grace and mercy of God. Therefore, the first passage we are going to look at in this analysis will be here in Hebrews 6:4-20.
In a great many instances with regard to the analysis of eternal or temporary life, only Hebrews 6:4-8 is looked at, but we are going to look at this whole section in order to grasp the complete message that is being given regarding the promise of eternal or temporary life. However, we are going to do it sections, and our first section is going to be Hebrews 6:4-6: “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.”
In verses 4-5, we have three verbs used to describe someone who has had an encounter with Jesus Christ: “enlightened,” “tasted,” and “have been made.” In chronological order, these verbs in the Greek text are: φωτισθέντας (photisthentes – “enlightened”), γευσαμένους (geusamenous –“tasted”), and γενηθέντας (genethentas – “have been made”). Each one of these verbs is what is called an aorist participle, with φωτισθέντας (photisthentes – “enlightened”) and γενηθέντας (genethentas – “have been made”) being aorist passive participles, and γευσαμένους (geusamenous – “tasted”) being an aorist active participle (this verb comes from the Greek root verb γεύομαι (geuomai), which means “to taste or partake of something,” and it is also called a deponent verb, which means it is active in meaning, although its form is middle or passive.
Thus, the passive voice in Greek indicates that someone else or something else is producing the action that is in turn affecting the subject of the verb, while the active voice indicates the subject of the verb is actually producing the action of the verb. In addition, the aorist tense indicates simply that some action has occurred, without saying anything about the duration of the action, unless it is accompanied by an adjectival or adverbial modifier with reference to time. In this case, there is no adjectival or adverbial modifier attached to these participles indicating any specific length of time, but simply that at some point they “were enlightened , were made partakers of the Holy Spirit,” and they themselves “tasted of the heavenly gift, the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come.” What is interesting, however, is that Hebrews 6:4 in the Greek begins with the phrase, Ἀδύνατον γὰρ (adunaton gar), which means, “for it is impossible,” and the participles then follow. Thus, with this type of syntactical construction in the Greek, what we have is what is referred to as concessive participles, which indicate a concession to the modifying particle of the sentence or phrase, and in this instance in Hebrews 6:4, that phrase is Ἀδύνατον γὰρ (adunaton gar), meaning, “for it is impossible,” and Ἀδύνατον (adunaton) is an adjective.
In the NAS, which is what I am using, the phrase, “for it is impossible,” doesn’t appear until verse 6 in conjunction with the concessive statement that they “have fallen away,” and therefore, “it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.” The verb “have fallen away” is also an aorist participle, παραπεσόντας (parapesontas), and it is in the active voice, implying that this was an action produced by the subjects, versus an action being done to them from an outside source. The verb “to renew” is a present, active infinitive –ἀνακαινίζειν (anakainezein) – and in the Greek, the present tense indicates a continuous or ongoing action, and the word here for “repentance” in the Greek is μετάνοιαν (metanoian), which indicates “an change of mind, turning about, and going in a different direction.”
However, there is another word used to translate “repent” in English, and it is μεταμέλομαι (metamelomai), meaning “a deep regret about some action that one wishes could be undone.” The difference between these two words is that the former is talking about a heart and life change that accompanies a genuine rebirth experience, whereas the latter is talking about someone regretting the consequences of his or her sinful actions, but may not necessarily have a truly life-changing μετάνοια (metanoia) with regard to turning from that sin and pursuing Christ. Now please understand, that as a true, born again believer, we too can at times simply experience μεταμέλομαι (metamelomai), versus μετάνοια (metanoia) over certain sins in our lives. But, as a true, born again child of God, God will do a work of “discipline” in our lives whereby we “might share His holiness” and see the “fruit of His righteousness” sprouting in our lives:
“For they (“they” being our “fathers” – my note) disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness”