I talked to a brother today who fell away some time ago but came back several years later. He is having difficulty with Hebrews 6:4-6, for he thinks it says that once someone has fallen away, they have had their shot. He thinks that even though he is "back," he will probably not be forgiven in the end. He cites the Israelites and Esau as examples of that. I know that is a difficult passage, and early church writers differ on its interpretation. What do you think about this passage? -- Mike Williams

The Bible seems to distinguish between those who have "wandered away" (James 5:19) and those who have "fallen away" (Hebrews 6:4). For those in the first category there is hope; for those in the second, none. Incidentally, when Jesus predicts that his apostles will, on the night of his arrest "all fall away," this is a different verb to that normally used for falling or falling away. The NIV has mistranslated the sentence. (To illustrate, the verb in connection with these predictions is consistently translated "be offended" in the KJV. It also means "to stumble.") Hence we must distinguish between stumbling and falling.

How are those disciples who have fallen away and been restored to interpret Hebrews 6? -- Leticia (Los Angeles)

Again, in light of Hebrews 6, perhaps it would be clearer to state that if they have been brought back, they had not actually crossed the point of no return (Hebrews 6:4, Proverbs 29:1).

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