... What are we to do with these scary verses today? Are they merely hypothetical? They certainly don’t seem so, and the example of Esau relates to someone who was fully a son and yet lost his sonship (12:16-17). Are they about individuals who only appeared to be Christians but who really weren’t? Some point out the word “tasted” in Hebrews 6:5 and suggest that the people in question had only dabbled with Christ, not really committed to him.
But the description of their long walk with Christ doesn’t fit this theory. The author points out that they have long served the Lord, even to the point of great sacrifice (6:9-12; 10:32-35). Besides, if “tasting” in Hebrews only means to dabble, then what are we to do of the fact that Jesus “tasted” death in 2:9? Did he not really die, only considering it?
The verses cause problems for just about every theological tradition. For those who believe once you are saved you are always saved, they are problematic because they indicate a person can lose one’s salvation. For those who believe you can lose your salvation they are problematic because they seem to say that once you are gone, you cannot come back. Scot McKnight has suggested that the author of Hebrews only has one kind of sin in mind, namely, that of apostasy, when someone turns his or her back on Christ definitively with a high hand.
To be sure, Hebrews is not talking about some, “one sin you’re out” kind of deal. The author is talking about a persistent turning away from Christ over a long period of time. Indeed, I have a colleague who suggests this audience was so much closer to Christ than us that none of us could ever commit an apostasy as serious as what it would have meant for this congregation to turn away from Christ. For McKnight, this apostasy would be on the level of “a deliberate and public act of deconfessing Jesus Christ, a rejection of God’s Spirit, and a refusal to submit to God and His will for persons” (54).
Perhaps at this point we should turn to the whole council of God and engage in theology. Theology is where we take the individual passages of Scripture, each produced in a unique context, and begin to work through a more bird’s eye view of things, using the help that the Spirit has given Christians throughout the centuries to work through issues like this one.
For example, pretty much all Christian traditions believe that it is the power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to repent in the first place. What this fact suggests is that anyone who can truly repent is not beyond hope. This observation alone settles definitively the person with an overly sensitive conscience who is worried about committing the unpardonable sin of Mark 3:29. If a person can find a place of repentance, a person can be saved.
Of course we should not confuse a place of repentance with merely saying words like, “Lord, please forgive me for my sins” or “I’m sorry for my sins.” Repentance is a true change of heart, a “godly sorrow” (2 Cor. 7:10) that does not merely say the right words but means them. Like Esau pictured in Hebrews 12, we should not assume that we can wait until our death bed to ask God’s forgiveness for a life of rebellion. We may know we need to repent but not find the heart to do so.
It is at this point that we can begin to go theologically crazy. If I am truly right with God at point A, leave God at point B, but then come back to God at point C, does that mean I didn’t truly leave at point B? Hebrews in itself seems to say there cannot be a point C if there is a point B, at least as far as the audience of Hebrews is concerned. McKnight has tried to make sense of Hebrews here by concluding that only apostasy can get you to point B.
Yet, in a sense, after God “justifies” us and makes us right with him, is not the only sin that really counts sin against Christ? “Everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). If we think this way for a moment, it is not so much adultery any longer that is technically sin for a Christian but the sin against Christ that someone commits if he or she has an affair. In that sense, is not continued, high handed sin a road of apostasy? Are we not disgracing Christ and exposing him to public disgrace with every intentional act of rebellion we commit?
What we know is that those who have gone this far will not want to return, because they will not have the Holy Spirit leading them to repentance. Meanwhile, anyone who comes to Christ in true repentance can be forgiven. We have only then to figure out the puzzling question of the person at point B, who seems to have fallen away but we know eventually returns.
Perhaps our problem here is our linear thinking. There is a famous thought experiment in modern physics called Schrodinger’s cat. It is about a cat in a box that may or may not be dead, based upon a poison gas that may or may not have been let off in the box. Is the cat dead or alive in between time A and time B? In a sense, it is both. Yet you can open the box and immediately see one or the other.
Perhaps, in the same way, it is pointless to ask what the eternal state of the person who falls and then repents actually is when they are “backslidden,” as some used to call such a period. If the person never repents, then the cat was dead. If a person eventually repents, the cat was alive. We don’t have to understand how it all works. “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know” (John 9:20-21).
 An interesting article on this question is by Scot McKnight, “The Warning Passages of Hebrews: A Formal Analysis and Theological Conclusions,” Trinity Journal 13 (1992): 21-59. A broader consideration of this passage is Hebert Bateman IV, Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic and Professional, 2007).
 McKnight, “Warning Passages,” 54-55.
 Dr. Stephen Lennox at Indiana Wesleyan University, who also believes that the audience was Jewish and thus in the unique position of Jews who had accept and then were in danger of rejecting Jesus as Messiah.