28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
The apostle now, in verses 28 and 29, moved from a lesser to greater argument. Verse 28 shows how God judged Israel during the exodus by alluding to Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15. If God judged people under the Mosaic covenant, how much more greatly people will be judged under the New Covenant. It deserves greater judgment because of its greater revelation.
28 Anyone who has rejected [despised] Moses’ law
To discard Moses is to reject the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch. It is to rebel against what God has said. The word “rejected” means rendered inoperative. A person who renders God’s Word ineffective has committed a serious offense (Deut 17:2–7, LXX). This is the rejection of the law as a whole.
dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
This is the lesser argument; the greater argument is in the next verse. This is part of the greater-than argument of the entire book of Hebrews. Since violation of the Mosaic law was a desecration, it is a much greater defilement to despise the New Covenant. Both have their respective discipline.
“Dies without mercy” is not the eternal, second death of the lost. God cannot give “mercy” without people believing in Christ’s death for their sin. Note the reference to Hebrews 10:29 on this. If an Israelite rejected the Mosaic law in view of two or three witnesses, Scripture demanded that he was to be put to physical death.
The thrust of this verse is that the Mosaic law demanded the physical death of those who violate Scripture. The cause ranged from picking up sticks on the Sabbath day to idolatry and murder. The issue in the Pentateuch was not salvation but despising God’s Word.
Christians will lose reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ for tampering with truth.
The argument of Hebrews 10:28 refers to the practice in the Old Testament whereby people were put to death for idolatry and murder. By analogy, the New Covenant believer who violates the doctrine of the sacrificial death of Christ subjects himself to severe discipline from God. Premature death of the believer may be an option (Acts 5:1–11; 1 Co 11:28–31; 1 Jn 5:16). It could also mean that the believer will lose his rewards in heaven.
The following context indicates that those who minimize the death of Christ will be disciplined and some rewarded in “the Day of the Lord” (He 10:35–36). Those who “endure” will receive rewards. Christians need to have confidence when He comes (1 Jn 2:28). Those whose work does not honor the Lord will be burned, but the work that honors Him will be rewarded (1 Co 3:13–15). The “loss” is loss of reward. Loss of reward has eternal implications.
The coming “Day of the Lord” is God’s wrath executed during the Great Tribulation. It is also the time when believers will appear at the Judgment Seat of Christ in heaven (2 Co 5:9–10; Ro 14:10–12). This a time of examination for appropriate rewards.
If a non-Christian rejects Christ’s sacrifice as the only way, then from God’s standard there is no other way of salvation. The believer who minimizes the finality of the death of Christ will face the same analogy as the Old Testament believer—temporal discipline. This may be premature physical death (Ac 5:1–11; 1 Co 11:28–31; 1 Jn 5:16). They will have to answer for this sin at the Judgment Seat of Christ for Christians (2 Co 5:9–10; Ro 14:10–12). This is what the “Day” of Hebrews 10:25 was all about. This judgment has to do with reward, not punishment. These Christians will jeopardize their eternal rewards.
It is clear that the book of Hebrews was written to believers (He 3:1, 6, 12, 14; 5:12; 6:4, 5, 10; 10:10, 14, 29). These verses cannot possibly apply to unbelievers. Every warning in Hebrews was written to Christians. The problem was that Jewish Christians were about to return to Judaism.