HOW SHALL WE ESCAPE
IF WE NEGLECT SO GREAT A SALVATION?
“Therefore we ought to give much greater attention to the things we have heard, lest at any time we should slip away.” For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward;
How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation ? (Heb. 2:1-3)
“The word spoken by angels” is the Mosaic Law, which was most severe, and included the death penalties for many sins, inescapable and rigidly enforced in most cases. Blasphemy, failing to keep the Sabbath, fornication, adultery, murder, killing a slave, kidnaping, homosexuality, idolatry, sorcery, prostitution, and other sins were punished by the death penalty. God’s laws do not change for under the Christian Gospel, they still carry the death penalty.
The law was not changed by our Lord. The difference is, the Christian law, welcomes those with faith to the grace of the kingdom of God, and allows for sincere repentance and change of life, with the condition sincere faith and not repeating the sin. Repentance and forgiveness are priceless treasures of Orthodox Christians. But all who fail to believe and with firm faith repent will suffer an even worse penalty than physical death, which is the second death, described by the Lord as : “outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, this is eternal death.” This eternal death deprives sufferers from all consolations and is torment beyond imagination. However this is not punishment from God, but it is separation from God according to our free choice while living in the world. Separation from God and his blessings is the worst torment of our souls, and it is we who bring this upon ourselves.
For when we leave this world, without having been set free by our faith by Christ, all our sins and passions will torment us, as we see with the rich man and Lazarus, for he cried in torment for only a single drop of water. God will always love us as ever, for God is love, and that love itself will torment us because we did not return it to Him.. For the good, kind and merciful God, never depriving us of freedom, always allows us our free choice. St. Paul knew this well, that is why he said: “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation.”
God who created heaven and earth speaks to us through divine Paul, firmly reminding us that we must give greater attention to the calling of the Gospel of Christ. We are called to make the main thrust and object of our life be obedience to and love of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, we should never allow this calling to slip away from us. If we love the world instead of God, if we are proud and arrogant, if we do not search for truth, if we just do not care, then we will admit that we deserve what we deserve. That is why St. Paul shouts with a stern voice reminding everyone: “How shall we escape the wrath of God if we neglect so great a salvation,” the great salvation which He offers out of His goodness and love for the human race. To spurn the Lord’s offer of eternal life, leaves us vulnerable to the Devil and the demon domination over us, and opens us to the worst possible evils.
In youth many seek to work or run a business, to marry and raise a family usually just seeking to be happy, and providing for all this is important and necessary. We know from this experience that nothing comes without struggle and effort. Struggle is needed to obtain money for our needs. We think of our later years as we make provisions for retirement. This effort is necessary for the maintenance of our physical life. However, we could suddenly leave this world long before our retirement, causing our wife to become widowed and the children orphans. Life holds no guarantees and is unpredictable, and we do not know the day or hour of our departure and journey to next world.
There is one thing of much greater importance in our lives than struggling for our physical well being, and that is the effort and struggle for the salvation of our immortal souls and the souls of our wives and children, that together all may enter the kingdom of heaven, enjoying the life without pains or sorrows. There is no goal more important than to have our names written in the book of life, and avoid being cast into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth! We must struggle and make every effort to gain eternal life, for our days fly by like smoke in a breeze.
If we are pursuing genuine happiness in this world we will never find it. The world is matter and we are so much more than matter, for Christ lives in us who believe. Happiness in this world is to be found only in Jesus Christ, who came into the world to save us and bring us into the kingdom of heaven. We are created in the image of God and destined to become gods in the Kingdom of heaven. “We have seen the true light; we have received the Holy Spirit, we have found the true faith; worshiping the undivided Trinity, who has saved us.” This is a most sublime and wonderful thing, and we adore and worship True Light, who lightens every man that comes into the world For our sake, He underwent terrible suffering in the flesh, so as to bestow upon us eternal life and glory. For He prayed to the Father: “Father glorify them . . .” He came to us to accomplish the most important event in the world, to give himself as sacrifice, even to death on the Cross. But His death became an decisive and permanent victory over the Devil and death was put to death, followed by His glorious Resurrection on the third day!