“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”(Hebrews 10:31)
What a Bible passage! There is nothing comforting about this statement. The word for “fearful” is always used in a negative way. Likewise, the word for “fall into” is used negatively. It is not like falling into the arms of someone who loves you.
Three verses before this the same word is used. There the holy writer speaks of “a certain fearful [terrifying] expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.”
“It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Such words should make us tremble from the top of our heads to the bottom of our feet. Indeed, at the second coming of Christ the vast majority of people of this Earth will be terror-stricken. Millions and millions will “…say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!” (Luke 23:30) In panic “they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, from the dread of the Lord and the glory of His majesty, when He arises to terrify the earth” (Isaiah 2:19). For them, falling into the hands of the living God will be a terrifying thing.
“For them,” I say, but what about you? Are you terror-stricken at the thought of falling into the hands of the living God? Well, as long as I put it that way, the answer should be “Yes.”
However, then we hear Jesus’ words about the hand of God. “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:28,29). Suddenly, the hand of God no longer appears to be a frightening thing.
So, what makes it different? Why is it a comforting thing in this passage and a terrifying thing in the other passage?
The difference is found in a stable in the little hamlet of Bethlehem. There in a feeding trough we see two tiny hands sticking up into the air. We want to come, walk up, and put our big fingers into those tiny hands…to feel the warm grasp of this little baby.
The difference is to be found out in a field when parents were bringing their little ones to Jesus. “And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them” (Mark 10:16). Such hands of blessing we would want upon us. “When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them”(Luke 4:40).
The hands of our Lord are healing hands. Everywhere we look we see the hands of our God as hands of love.
Then came that day when Jesus’ enemies drove nails through those loving hands, fastening them to the cross. There He suffered. There He died. For us He suffered. For us He died.
Three days later “when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” (John 20:19-20). They heard Him say, “Peace be with you.” Then they looked and saw His nail-scarred hands and they were glad.
Their final sight of the hands of the Lord was near the village of Bethany. “And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven”(Luke 24:50-51).
The image that Jesus left on the minds of the disciples was that of His hands raised up in blessing.
What loving hands…hands that would even bear the cruel nails of crucifixion, so that we would never have to fear those “hands of the living God.”
Yet does not the Scripture passage say, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God”? Yes it does, and yes it is. But we have learned what the difference is. The difference is Jesus. Without Jesus, a man will be terrified by the hands of God, because His hands will be seen as hands of wrath—hands ready to throw them into the everlasting fire of hell.
But with Jesus we are safe. With Jesus we see the hands of God as hands of comfort and blessing and healing and salvation.
The divinely inspired writer of our text is giving warning to all who are willing to cast aside Christ in favor of lives of sin…people who cling to their sin and refuse His forgiveness. This is all that he can say to them, for it is all that remains. Reject Christ, and there is only the terrifying anticipation of judgment.
But for us who have experienced how the hand of the Lord heals from sin and death, there
is no terror. Redeemed, restored, forgiven, we are safe and secure in His hands. Jesus is the difference.