The bad land produces “thorns and thistles”, a reminder of the consequences of the FALL OF MAN. The Lord told Adam that because of his disobedience the earth is cursed and “thorn and thistles it shall bring for you” (Gen. 3:18), the words are identical in the LXX and Hebrews 6:8. These apostates, who are the bad land which is “near to being cursed” is applied, still bear the effects of the Fall. They were not at some time reformed, but then became a bad land again, but rather this analogy leads us to say that the land was from the beginning bad. This is similar to the Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23). There were four kinds of land and only one kind of seed:
- Some seed fell along the path and were devoured by the birds (Matt. 13:4, 19).
- Some seed fell on rocky ground, did not have much soil, immediately sprang up and later withered away (Matt. 13:5-6, 18-19).
- Some seed fell among thorns and were choked as soon as they grew up (Matt. 13:7, 20).
- Some seed fell on the good soil and produced grain (Matt. 13:8, 21).
They all received the same seed, but the ground was different and therefore their response was different. We should obviously not see this as “there are some good people who will accept the Gospel, while bad people will not.” This parable is not a treatment on the human condition and we should not force it to be. It is rather a treatment on how the Gospel proclamation works among those who in some way receive it. Only the good soil produced fruit, all the others fell away. Why? Because their ground was not good. In Luke 8:13, it is even said of the seeds which fell on the rock that they “believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away”. A temporary faith is nowhere said to be true faith because true faith worked in the heart by God is everlasting. There seems to be no problem with the idea that some unbelievers were at some time, temporary believers. They gave assent to the truths of God’s Word and the Gospel, but they had no root, and therefore fell away.
We turn again to the Hebrews passage and say that the issue is with the land and not the rain. From the beginning it was not a land which was appropriate for fruit, but one which was fitted for destruction. The bad land, in contrast with the good land, which both received and drunk the same rain, is “near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.” As we said above this refers to the land of Israel as well as to the apostates. The Lord worked in His vineyard, but it did not produce fruit and therefore now that all His work is done, He will send to destroy His vineyard as in Isaiah 5. The true believer and the apostates both participated in the five things described in vv. 4-5, but these blessings lead to true fruit only in the good land, i.e., the true believer and not in the false professor, which increases their liability to judgment. Concerning this analogy Dr. Gr...