Don’t Look Back


Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

In Hebrews 10, the writer (most likely Paul) tells the Jewish Christians that if they turn back from following Christ they will be destroyed. Instead of offering a lame explanation to prove this passage doesn’t contradict the New Testament teaching that believers can’t lose their salvation, we should understand where the original audience was in history. If we do that, we find no explanation is necessary.

The writer was not warning individuals about going to hell, but Jewish Christians of missing the conquest as a corporate identity. If they, like their ancestors in the wilderness, let fear conquer their faith and refuse to enter the new heavenly Land, they will die. Hebrews corresponds to Deuteronomy (second law), the law repeated before conquest.

The apostles knew that a corporate resurrection was just around the corner in AD64 to 70, the consummation of forty years of testing the church. These Hebrews had followed Christ as Moses into the wilderness. Did they have enough faith to follow Him now as Joshua? This was the great apostasy predicted in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25)

Revelation also uses the wilderness analogy. It refers to Moses’ preaching in Deuteronomy – very subtly. Blink and you’ll miss it.

Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them. The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the Land. And a third of the Land was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up. (Revelation 8:5-7)

Revelation shoots Old Testament allusions at us like machine gun fire, so hold on to your hats.

As in Ezekiel, the judgments were “witnessed” in abstract and would now be carried out. The son of man scattered burning coals from the Altar over the city (Ezekiel 10:2). In the greater feast pattern of the Revelation, Sabbath, the day of the Lord, introduced the ascended Christ. At Passover, the people of God were sanctified (separated) as seven churches. Christ ascended as Firstfruits and opened the scroll. This scattering of coals from the altar beneath the throne wasPentecost. The tongues of fire were the presence of God.

With the coming of Pentecost, the Covenant curses again began to fall upon Israel. Jerusalem would be judged in thirds, and the remaining third, safe in the robe of the Son of Man, would also pass through the fire (Ezekiel 5:2, 12).

Falling hail and fire (lightning) signified an idolatrous city being judged: Jerusalem had become Egypt (Exodus 9:22-24), and Persia under the Amalekite Haman (Ezekiel 38:22); it had also apostatised from the Jerusalem of believing Melchizedek to the idolatrous Jerusalem of Adoni-zedek (Joshua 10:11). Through disobedience, she had turned the “firmament” blessings from above (rain) into curses (hail).

The fire and hail was mixed with blood—the blood of Stephen, the first New Covenant martyr. It was tipped across the Land to bring up the partial judgments of the Trumpets. In the same way, the blood of the final massacre of the saints would later be poured onto the Land from Atonement bowls to bring total destruction.

The trees and grass allude to the garden of Eden. The trees here were the cedar “pillars” (rulers) of the Temple. As Zechariah predicted, the doors would be opened to let in the fire (Zechariah 11:1-2). The total destruction of the grass indicates that Jerusalem was being judged as Sodom and Gomorrah, whose arable “garden of Eden” plains were covered with salt and sulphur. She was Lot’s wife, and would be a perpetual testimony to the new Jerusalem:

“And the next generation, your children who rise up after you, and the foreigner who comes from a far land, will say, when they see the afflictions of that land and the sicknesses with which the Lord has made it sick—the whole land burned out with brimstone and salt, nothing sown and nothing growing, where no plant can sprout, an overthrow like that of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in his anger and wrath—all the nations will say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land? What caused the heat of this great anger?’ Then people will say, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers…” (Deuteronomy 29:22-25)

Judaism, like Lot’s wife, was made forever barren – sterile as salt. Her surviving offspring became uncircumcised extensions of Canaanite idolatry (Ammon and Moab). The New Israel, like Sarah, was made forever fruitful according to the promise.

Hebrews warned the Jewish Christians who were tempted to look back. This puts Jesus’ warning about losing your life in its primary context:1

“Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed [AD70]. In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. “Remember Lot’s wife. “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. “I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left.” (Luke 17:30-34)


1  Thus AD70 is the interpretation. Its truth for us is application.

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