It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened … and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. Hebrews 6:4-6
Sometimes we are surprised, even shocked, when we hear of Christians walking away from their faith but as this passage shows, it does happen. We wonder about their salvation. Is faithfulness a requirement of salvation? Are we adding to what Jesus has done for us by requiring a person’s ongoing faithfulness?
The description of these people is quite detailed: they were ”enlightened,” “have tasted the heavenly gift,” “have shared in the Holy Spirit,” “have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age”. These weren’t casual believers but rather those who knew the truth well over a period of time. Yet they have chosen to walk away.
If these people persist in their unbelief their heart will become hard towards God and in the end, they will be unable to repent (verse 6). It will become too difficult for them to change their mind and serve God again.
In verse 8 there is a comparison between these people and land: “But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.” In that day, land was sometimes burned in order for it to be more productive in the future. So burning could be taken to mean disciplined, rather than eternally cut off from God.
There is an incident in Numbers 14:40-45 where the Israelites confessed their sin of unbelief. Though they didn’t die, they were denied access to the Promised Land.
So whether or not these once “enlightened” people lose their eternal salvation is unclear but there is certainly a severe loss of blessings and rewards.