27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
The only option left for God after people willfully reject His revelation for believers is to discipline them.
27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment [not eternal],
God will execute an indefinite judgment on believers who distort the finished work of Christ as the exclusive sacrifice for sin. The word “expectation” means that anyone who gives credence to any other sacrifice violates fellowship with God. To be open to receive any other truth disposes of what God has said.
The “judgment” here is the Judgment Seat of Christ, not hell. The Judgment Seat is strictly for believers, not unbelievers (2 Co 5:10). The Great White Throne judgment is for non-believers (Re 20:11–15).
and fiery indignation
This phrase may allude to Isaiah 26:11, where fire will consume the wicked. The fire here is not the fire of hell but of a judgment that God executes on the people of Israel who violate principles of Scripture. Fire in the Old Testament refers to God’s anger towards His own people (Isa 9:18–19; 10:17; 33:14).
The metaphor of fire here is not hell. Nothing in the context indicates that the author has shifted to the doctrine of salvation. The fire here is God’s judgment of believers under discipline (Is 9:18–19; 10:17). This discipline will be spelled out in Hebrews 12:5–11.
Fire in the Old Testament carries several different ideas. It is used of fire that took the life of Nadab and Abihu (Lev 10:1–3). It is also used of the physical death of leaders who challenged Moses’ leadership (Nu 16:8–10, 35). Here the reference is to Isaiah 26:11, where hell is not in view. It is fire against covenant people. The metaphor of fire in the Old Testament is usually related to judgment of God’s people that resulted in physical death.
which will devour the adversaries.
The “adversaries” are those who reject God’s word. This may allude to Isaiah 26:11, which is physical destruction coming to the land of Israel. Christians will also “suffer loss” because of their sin (1 Co 3:15).
The terms “fiery” and “devour” show the severity of the willful sin of the previous verse.
Christians will experience loss of reward for staying out of fellowship with God.
The judgment on the believer was sealed forever when he accepted Christ’s judgment for his sin on the cross. Christians will never face eternal judgment (Jn 5:24). However, this does not imply that they will never face discipline from God for sins they commit as believers (1 Co 11:27–30). They have eternal forgiveness but may face temporal discipline. In the Old Testament it was capital punishment of physical death, and in the New Testament it may be the “sin unto death.”
In the Old Testament the discipline was temporal in nature; people lost their physical lives by capital punishment. As well, the discipline of the believer in the New Testament is temporal, not eternal hell. The sin was one of abandoning confession of faith (He 10:23). We must interpret Hebrews 10:27 in the context of Isaiah 24–27, which is eschatological judgment. Hell is not the point in these passages.
There is nothing in this passage about hell. The Reformed position is that the people addressed here are mere professors of the faith and not genuine believers. The Arminian argument is that a genuine believer can lose his or her salvation in hell. Both positions are incorrect.
Those warned in this verse must be identified from the argument of the entire book of Hebrews—genuine believers who were contemplating going back to the Mosaic Covenant. The nature of their sin was to minimize the finished work of Christ on the cross. God’s action on this sin was divine discipline (He 12:6f). The issue was that “holy brethren” (genuine believers, He 3:1) address a doctrinal error (He 3:1). These Christians were “sanctified” (positional sanctification) or justified (He 2:11). They were not to waver in their faith (He 10:23). There is no indication the readers of Hebrews were to examine their faith as to whether they were genuine Christians. All of the book of Hebrews is an exhortation to true believers. Their real need was to endure (He 10:36). The context of Hebrews 10:32–39 shows that the subject relates to genuine Christians. They were sanctified through the offering of the body of Christ on the cross (He 10:10, 14).
The degree of our fear of judgment rests on the nature of the One who judges. His temporal judgment cannot be trifled with.