I read or hear very little about “those who were once enlightened” (v 4, cf 10:32). When I was studying Hebrews some years ago, the phrase intrigued me, in part because I was still using the King James Version at the time. In a parallel text, the KJV reads “after ye were illuminated.”
I was somewhat familiar with the denominational concept of illumination, or at least what I had read or been taught about it. Such was always taught in the negative, an idea that was to be shunned. Generally, illumination was presented as a direct illumination by the Holy Spirit. This interpretation is to be rejected, but it isn’t enough to simply reject a false idea without teaching a biblical one.
There are a host of ideas as to what constitutes biblical illumination, just like there are sound, biblical alternatives to Calvinism’s false views of sovereignty. But the text is clear, there is some type of illumination that takes place in the life of the Christian! The identification of this enlightenment is the issue.
The most logical and biblical identification of enlightenment or illumination is the point of conversion, when a person is immersed into Christ for the remission of sins and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit.
This was the view of the early church fathers, including Justin Martyr in his Apology (1.61.65). So overwhelming was this view that David Bercot, in his “Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs,” directed those looking for “illumination” to his section on “baptism.”
Consider also that this enlightenment was associated with the reception of the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2 and Acts 10 aside, these gifts were given to baptized believers through the hands of the apostles (Acts 8:14-18; Rom 1:11).
This also would make sense in view of the latter use of the phrase in 10:32, wherein their enlightenment was immediately associated with suffering and persecution. What other event could this be, other than the time of their baptism and conversion?
Those who have not been baptized for remission of sins need to be enlightened, have their eyes opened, to this point of transition from darkness to light.