The warnings passages in Hebrews present difficulties for interpretation and theological integration.
David DeSilva notes that when reading these texts, interpreters need to do so from within the same theological framework as the author.
The debate often hinges, however, on the attempt to determine whether or not this group of people has experienced “salvation.” Are they “saved” individuals who then “lose” their salvation, or are they merely semiconverts who fall away, so that the doctrine of “eternal security” is not impugned by this passage? This debate demonstrates the ways in which the ideology of interpreters may override the ideology of the author of the text, constructing a foreign framework that inevitably distorts the author’s meaning. The author of Hebrews does not operate with the theology of Ephesians, where “being saved” is spoken of as a past fact, much less with a complex theology of the stages of salvation constructed from a harmonization of Romans and John (p. 220, emphasis mine).
DeSilva notes that “salvation” remains an eschatological reality for the author of Hebrews. He’s thinking far more from the “not yet” of salvation, and not much at all from its character as “already.”
Are the people described in 6:4-5 “saved” individuals in the estimation of the author of Hebrews? They cannot be, since “salvation” is, for this author, the deliverance and reward that awaits the faithful at the return of Christ. Those who have trusted God’s promise and Jesus’ mediation are “those who are about to inherit salvation,” a deliverance (“salvation”) that comes at Christ’s second coming (9:28), a deliverance (“salvation”) thus comparable to that enjoyed by Noah (11:7). Noah was not saved when he began to build the ark; he was saved when he finished, stocked, and boarded the ark (and, even more especially, when he found himself still alive after the flood). The deliverance offered by the Son is indeed “eternal” (5:9), but this “eternal salvation” is what the obedient believers look forward to inheriting and enjoying, specifically on the day when the Son comes to judge the world and reward his junior sisters and brothers who have maintained their trust in and loyalty toward him in a hostile world. “Eternal salvation” only becomes the “eternal security” of those who have been saved after one has decided that the formulations of Ephesians are more important to one’s ideology than Hebrews” (p. 221, emphasis mine).
Not that they’re “unsaved,” but for DeSilva, the recipients of this letter are all in the group “not yet saved.” They have received gospel promises and have, to this point, held fast to them, walking in persevering obedience. They must continue in faithfulness to the end to become those who are fully and finally saved.
Does DeSilva effectively take the pressure off of having to answer the question about the status (“saved” or “unsaved”) of this letter’s recipients? Or, has he simply moved the goalposts?