The “impossibility” addressed in Hebrews chapter 6 verses 4-6 is a subject of serious disagreement. The entire passage says, “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance…” What does it mean when it says that it’s impossible to restore them again to repentance? If I keep with the idea of “repentance from dead works” as mentioned in an earlier verse, it might become a little clearer. I see it that way. It’s referring to the insistence of some people to make “works” an integral part of their acceptance by God. This fosters a permanent immaturity. There is no rest for them. Their sin nature leads them to failure often, and guilt and regrets dominate. Then they pick themselves up and try again, and again, and again! There is nothing more discouraging than serving a god of another chance, especially when my second, third, fourth, and all my chances, end in failure. We can only experience rest when we trust in what Christ has accomplished for us.

Keeping this in line with the example taken from Numbers regarding the failure of the Israelites to enter into God’s promised rest in the Promised Land, we get the idea that the decision to maintain a focus on my behavior and deeds completely precludes any experience of God’s rest. Jesus said “It is finished” on the cross and to insist on adding my own efforts to His finished work destroys His finished work. Guzik gets that. He writes, “The idea is not that ‘if you fall away, you can’t ever come back to Jesus.’ Instead, the idea is ‘if you turn your back on Jesus, don’t expect to find salvation anywhere else, especially in the practice of religion apart from the fullness of Jesus.’”[1] You see, outside of the finished work of Jesus, there is no rest, only self-effort, sacrifice, daily stress, and eventual failure! It’s totally impossible to experience God’s rest and God’s peace as long as we add anything to the complete sufficiency of Christ’s work on our behalf.

Pentecost explains why the children of Israel were forbidden to enter the land even after repenting. He writes, “Thus God made it impossible for those who had rebelled—even though they repented—to proceed into the land to enjoy its blessings. Their loss of privilege, in other words, was irreversible.”[2] Taking the land on their own was another display that they did not need God. They trusted in their own strength this time even in rebellion against Moses and God’s pronouncement that they cannot enter God’s rest in the Promised Land. They rejected the sufficiency of God’s promise and the veracity of His word and stepped up on their own to make it happen. It failed of course! It always fails! When Jesus said “It is finished,” He meant it.

[1] David Guzik, Hebrews, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible (Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik, 2013), Heb 6:4–6.

[2] J. Dwight Pentecost and Ken Durham, Faith That Endures : A Practical Commentary on the Book of Hebrews, Rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2000), 106