The New International Version of the beloved scriptures puts it this way:
Heb 12:14 – 14
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
It is pretty much an inarguable truth, not open to speculation or debate. The entire book of Hebrews was written to encourage Hebrew (Jewish) believers, who were becoming discouraged, as things were not shaping up quite like they thought they would. Their Messiah Jesus was delaying His coming, persecution was ongoing and increasing, and to make matters worse, they had become dull of hearing (Heb 5). In other words, they were on a dangerous downhill slide into sin, and the unnamed writer was wanting to both encourage as well as warn them.
The ENCOURAGEMENT was about the invitation and ability to come boldly (“boldly” being NKJV, again better said in the NIV: with confidence) before the throne of grace, even in time of need (Heb 4:16).
The WARNING was to not be as Esau, selling out their future eternal reward for some kind of temporal relief and/or pleasure in their current state (Heb 12:16).
Added to that is that their/our God wants mankind, and He wants to have all of each man that He has. So in His love and determination, He will correct and discipline, as He has always done to those who are His. Our God understands our potential destiny in Him, and He is determined that we discover it and fulfill it. The only one who can mess up someone’s walk with the Lord, is that very person.
Heb 12:11-16 (NIV)
11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
(if we refuse to be trained by His discipline, it will still be painful, but will remain unfruitful)
12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. (We’re to do that)
13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. (pretty clear. No holiness, no reward of being in His presence)
15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. (there’s a textbook example of failure. Esau)
Unholiness will destroy any person. It simply works that way.
Peter, after writing of the amazing grace prophesied by the Old Testament prophets concerning us (NT saints) then proceeds to tell us how we can cooperate with the plan of grace:
1 Pet 1:13-17 (NIV)
13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.
15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;
16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
17 Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.
The absolute fullness of God’s grace will become evident when our Lord Jesus is revealed in the fullness of His glory, upon His return. Meanwhile, we have sufficient grace to choose holiness, and to walk in holiness, and to flee unholiness. And flee we must.
I firmly believe that the outpouring of satanic influence upon the entire world will increase as the days prior to the Lord’s return shorten. It only makes sense. And these days are times for the saints to learn to hate evil – to identify it early, and to flee temptation. Stronger than us have fallen. Restoration is a great and glorious thing, but I have seen many successfully stand up after falling hard, but with permanent scars on their knees. I have seen others so disheartened, discouraged, hard-hearted, or even mad at God, as to refuse to get back up.
Heb 3:12-19 (NKJ)
12 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;
13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,
15 while it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
16 For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses?
17 Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness?
18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey?
19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
Written to the brethren, we’re warned about a departure from light into darkness. I cannot depart from a place that I have never been. That tells me I have a choice, and that in that choice is the potential to leave, and abandon, my salvation. Verses 14-19 point to such example. 1 Cor. 10:1-11 further confirm this truth. This is the dark purpose for the demonic deception of sin. We need to hate sin. Love the sinner who is sinning. But hate sin. Hate it in others. Hate it in yourself. Flee from it.
Under the misconception of “tolerance” or even “mercy” we can fall into the trap of not hating sin, or evil, enough. That is contrary to the commandments of God.
My prayer is that I/we learn to hate evil, understanding its wicked fruit. Sadly, I admit that sometimes I don’t hate evil quite enough. I may disapprove of it, but I need to hate it with a godly hatred. Our God crafted in us an ability to hate. It has holy purpose. It is for our survival and to assure our effectiveness as representatives of a holy God, and it is to secure our reward.
Prov 8:13 (NKJ)
13 The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate.
Amos 5:15 (NKJ)
15 Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate. It may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
Ps 97:10 (NKJ)
10 You who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the souls of His saints; he delivers them out of the hand of the wicked.