I don’t understand the whole "hardening your heart" idea in the Bible. For example in Hebrews 6:4-7, is the situation that the person can try to repent and cannot be restored or is it because their heart is hardened so they won’t repent or turn to God? The Bible says that He will always forgive us when we turn to Him, so is it that when He takes His Holy spirit from us, it’s because He knows that we won’t turn to Him anyways?


From the way you word this question, I get the impression you have a pretty good handle on the question already.  I have learned a general principle in my Bible study.  When I find two Bible teachings/statements which appear at first glance to be in contradiction, this is my experience.  First of all, the contradiction is always only apparent–not real.  Second, when I come to an understanding how both teachings work together, then I gain a new and deeper insight into God.

This applies in the present question.  God is loving and he is just.  Because of his love for us, God gave us "free will."  With that free will comes both the opportunity to do right and to do evil.  Through the blood of Jesus, God’s love for us and God’s justice can be satisfied at the same time (Romans 3:21-26).  Like you say, if anyone repents, God is waiting and ready to offer forgiveness.  However, the Bible teaches in many places, but especially in Hebrews, that one can get into a position that it is literally too late.  Our decision to turn our back on God–to thumb our noses at his love for us, can cause us to be in such a bad spiritual situation that it becomes literally impossible for us to repent.  This state is described in more than one place in the Bible as God hardening our heart.  One example is in Hebrews 12:14-17.  The Hebrew writer tell us that Essau found himself, because of his bitterness, in a place from which it was impossible for him to repent, even if he wanted to.    For a person who has become a Christian and willfully returns to a full blown life of sin, eventually, "no sacrifice for sin is left." (Hebrews 10:26-31).  As you seem to imply in your question, when one falls away in this biblical sense, the Holy Spirit will abandon such a person, removing their "deposit" of salvation.  The way Peter puts it, those who turn their back after being saved are worse off than they were at first.  They are like a dog returning to its vomit (2 Peter 2:20-22).  For such a person, it is impossible for them to be renewed to repentance (Hebrews 6:4-7). 

This teaching certainly does not contradict the Bible concept already mentioned earlier, which is that if anyone repents and turns to God, he will respond to that repentance by being willing to forgive our sins.  It is just that for some people, their heart can become so hardened that God judges them while still in the body.  God "hardens their heart" so that they can no longer repent.

John Oakes, PhD

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