I’m struggling to understand the application of Hebrews 12:17 (and Genesis 25) about Esau’s repentance being no longer acceptable to God even though he sought it diligently with tears. It seems harsh that God would not forgive him even though he begged God and sought repentance. This makes me afraid that if I mess up and diligently seek repentance, God might still say “no, I’m done with you. You are cooked” How do we apply this passage for our times. Any insight is appreciated. Thanks a lot.
The message of Hebrews 12:17 seems to be that a person can reach a point where “repentance” is too late. If I understand Philippians 2:10 correctly, when Jesus comes back and when we come before the final judgment throne, everyone will confess that Jesus is Lord, but for those who did not confess this during their lifetime, such last minute “repentance” will do them no good. Their fate will be sealed. The context of Hebrews 12:17 (and, arguably, of Hebrews as a whole) is that for those who are saved and turn back, they can lose their salvation and the loss of this salvation is irretrievable. This is implied by Hebrews 6:4 which tells us that those who fall away in the sense described in Hebrews 6, it will not be possible for them to come back to a saving repentance. Hebrews 10:26-31 explains this, as we learn that for those who willfully and continually sin after being saved can have “no sacrifice for sins.” They have trampled the blood of Christ underfoot and insulted the Spirit. In 2 Peter 2:22 we learn that those who fall away are worse off than they were before they were saved. This seems to be similar to the point regarding Esau in Hebrews 12:17. Hebrews 12:15 mentions falling short of the grace of God. From there, the Hebrew writer goes right into the example of Esau. “Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit his blessing he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears. Besides, it is not clear that Esau repented of his sin. His was a worldly guilt, not a godly one as far as I can tell (2 Cor 7:10)
The same applies to us. If, after receiving the heavenly gift of salvation and the Holy Spirit, we throw it away over a “bitter root” or some other kind of sin, it will be too late for us. We will not receive the blessing after it is removed from us when we fall away. Like the Hebrew writer already said, “It is impossible… to be renewed to repentance” as we have crucified Jesus all over again. (paraphrasing Hebrews 6:4-6). Therefore, you should avoid continual and willful sin (Heb 10:26).
Is it harsh when God warns us ahead of time against falling away that he then follows through on what he warned us about? I will let you decide, but God is using what happened to Esau as an example to warn us concerning our decisions. We CAN lose our salvation. When we do, we cannot be renewed. Is that harsh? No, it is just.
What about you? Should you live in constant fear of losing your salvation? NO!!!!! The whole point of Hebrews is so that you can have fair warning and can stay a mile (or a kilometer) away from falling away. If you heed the warnings and the encouragements in Hebrews you will never be in any danger at all of losing your salvation. The purpose of Hebrews is to warn those who may stray from their faith and obedience, but even more so, the purpose of the book is to give assurance of our salvation to the great majority who will listen to what is said in Hebrews. For an example of assurance in Hebrews (which, apparently, you need!), I suggest you look at Hebrews 6:9-20. God swears that we have a place behind the veil–that our salvation is a done deal. “I will surely bless you.” “God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the hears of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath.”