Can someone who has apostized still come back?

Hebrews 4:4 For it is impossible for those who were once illuminated, have tasted also the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 Have moreover tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6 And are fallen away: to be renewed again to penance, crucifying again to themselves the Son of God, and making him a mockery.

It almost sounds like: “if you’re once baptized and fall away, you go to hell!” :stuck_out_tongue: I know this is not the interpretation of the Church, but Paul’s wording is…meh.

Here’s the DRB’s footnote:

4 “It is impossible”… The meaning is, that it is impossible for such as have fallen after baptism, to be again baptized; and very hard for such as have apostatized from the faith, after having received many graces, to return again to the happy state from which they fell.

another passage:

Hebrews 10:26 For if we sin wilfully after having the knowledge of the truth, there is now left no sacrifice for sins, 27 But a certain dreadful expectation of judgment, and the rage of a fire which shall consume the adversaries. 28 A man making void the law of Moses, dieth without any mercy under two or three witnesses: 29 How much more, do you think he deserveth worse punishments, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath esteemed the blood of the testament unclean, by which he was sanctified, and hath offered an affront to the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him that hath said: Vengeance belongeth to me, and I will repay. And again: The Lord shall judge his people.

It sounds like, if someone who was a Christian deconverts, then later on realizes his error, then he can no longer come back.

This is dreadful indeed!


Can nobody help?

Does it mean, once you fall away, you’re a lost cause?

Yes, (most likely). The only “unforgivable sin” according to Jesus is “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 12:31) I have heard several different definitions of interpretations of what “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” is. Some forms of apostacy might qualify as that, but certainly not all. My understanding is that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit has a demonic element to it–not simply a denial of the faith but something far worse.

Paul writes in Hebrews of those who were illuminated in the truth. Most who leave the Church are not fully illuminated–they don’t really understand the faith, (or some aspects of it), when they leave.

The early Church debated about how to handle those who had denied the faith. Ultimately, it was decided that they could come back. If a person has aposticized and wishes to return to the Church, I believe speaking to a priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a good start. Remember, Jesus gave His apostles the ability to bind and loose sins. (John 20:23) If the person truly repents, they can recieve forgiveness and return to the Church.


During the 4th - 5th centuries in Christendom, there was a group called the Donatists who taught that after a person apostasied they could no longer be received back into the faith. They even claimed that bishops and priests who had fallen away from the faith at times of persecution and had even assisted the persecutors, were no longer fit to even give the sacraments if they returned.

I’m under the impression that the church condemned them as heretical and held that reconciliation could truly be offered for apostates as well as that priests and bishops could administer sacraments.

I think that the verse from Hebrews refers to the fact that a person can’t be baptized again. Baptism wipes away both our sins and the punishments for those sins, while any penance after that only wipes away our sins but leaves us to receive punishments for those sins.

When it says a person cannot be renewed again in penance after being baptized and falling away, I think it means a person cannot receive a remission of all their punishments again in penance, as they did when they were baptized. They can still repent and be forgiven, but they will still receive the punishments due to their sins either in this life, or in purgatory, whereas a person who was baptized would be both cleaned from sin and would not receive any punishments for those sins committed prior to baptism.

God Bless,

Thanks a lot for answering.

Yeh, I’ve noticed the Donatists and Montanists held that strict view.
A priest told me that this passage was refering to those Jewish Christians who started coming back to the bondage of the Law, thus nullifying Christ’s sacrifice.

Also, Shlomey

I’ve heard that it is an example of hyperbole, in the sense that, in GENERAL, those who fully taste of the NT Cov and then abandon it, will not be able to come back, not that it is absolutely impossible. Just that, in most cases, there is little left that can restore them to faith.

There is always the prospect of forgiveness before death. JPII saw the unforgivable sin as FINAL impentinence, the refusal unto death to repent.

It may also have a historical interpretation: At the end of the world, the Gentiles, after having come in their fuller number into the faith, shall cast aside the faith in the great apostasy, and it will be “practically” impossible for them to be restored to faith, and this is why the world ends: no further spiritual good is possible, saving the Jewish conversion, and so God judges the world and ends it.

Does this help, too?

The first part does help, but raises the question when I can actually trust the literal words of the Bible. By statying this or that is hyperbole, this or that is allegorical, it becomes quite easy to be using eisgesis more than exegesis (at least it seems to be that way to me).

Thanks also

If somebody comes back, you know they didn’t completely fall away. That’s pretty simple.

If somebody decides that God can’t forgive them, they’re saying that God is powerless against their sin. And saying that really is a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit

But I think the major point here is that there probably is a point of no return, and that a lot of people won’t recognize it. Once they’ve really really apostatized, they won’t want to come back, so they never will. They won’t realize what they’ve done until after they’re dead.

So the passage is warning people that they can’t just assume they’ll always be able to flee back to the Church. Enough sin, and the desire not to sin will be pretty much killed. Better not to flirt with spiritual death.

You can trust the literal words of the Bible when you read them in the light in which they were produced - the Church.

I’ll refer you to Dei Verbum for a more comprehesive discussion of this.

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