What does Hebrews 10:28 mean?
ESV: Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.
NIV: Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
NASB: Anyone who has ignored the Law of Moses is put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
CSB: Anyone who disregarded the law of Moses died without mercy, based on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
NLT: For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
KJV: He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
Verse Commentary:
In the Old Testament, God made certain provisions for sin. However, these temporary means of atonement assumed that the person who sinned did so in a moment of passion, or ignorance, or simple error. The reference here to those who "set aside the law of Moses" means those who willingly, purposefully, spitefully rejected God's laws (Numbers 15:27–31). In those cases, the old covenant made no provision for atonement. In simple terms, the Law of Moses treated intentional defiance of God as an unforgivable sin.

That level of sin, under the old covenant, carried the death penalty. As such, the Law of Moses required several independent witnesses in order for the charge to be valid. This letter to Jewish Christians has, to this point, placed great emphasis on how the new covenant is greater to the old covenant. In the next verses, the writer will extend this idea to the consequences of rejection. If rejecting the old covenant meant death, how severe are the consequences for those who reject the new covenant?
Verse Context:
Hebrews 10:26–39 contains the letter's most dire warning against apostasy. This passage should be understood in the same context as earlier references to Israel's punishment in the wilderness (Hebrews 3:12–19) and the dangers of a shallow faith (Hebrews 6:1–8). The concern here is not a loss of salvation, but of God's punishment on those who willingly rebel against His will. Since the new covenant is superior to the old covenant, we can expect those who ''profane'' the new covenant to suffer greater consequences for disobedience. This is followed by a word of encouragement and reassurance to those who have already survived hardship and persecution.
Chapter Summary:
God's own words, found in the Old Testament Scriptures, declare His intention to replace the old covenant with a new covenant. Jesus fulfills all of these prophecies, and all of the symbolism found in the system of priests, the tabernacle, and animal sacrifices. Knowing that Jesus Christ is, undoubtedly, God's remedy for our sin, we should be encouraged in holding on to our faith in the face of persecution. However, that same confidence means dire spiritual consequences for those who know Christ's salvation, but choose to act in defiance of His will.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 10 completes the long, detailed explanation of why the new covenant is superior to the old covenant. Starting in chapter 7, the writer gave various arguments and Scriptures to support this idea. The theme of these points is that God had always intended to send Jesus, as the real fulfillment of the old covenant's symbolism. The second half of this chapter transitions into more practical ideas, including an extremely dire warning about the dangers of apostasy.
Book Summary:
The book of Hebrews is meant to challenge, encourage, and empower Christian believers. According to this letter, Jesus Christ is superior to all other prophets and all other claims to truth. Since God has given us Christ, we ought to listen to what He says and not move backwards. The consequences of ignoring God are dire. Hebrews is important for drawing on many portions of the Old Testament in making a case that Christ is the ultimate and perfect expression of God's plan for mankind. This book presents some tough ideas about the Christian faith, a fact the author makes specific note of.
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