Hebrews 4:1-7 ESV
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,
“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’”
although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
Cautions and Warnings
This passage here in Hebrews 4 is a continuation of the conversation in Hebrews 3, with a clear message which talks about the Israelite’s rebellion against the Lord in the wilderness. The people were idolaters. They indulged in sexual immorality. They put Christ to the test. And they grumbled against the Lord and against his servant Moses (see 1 Co 10:1-22).
And these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did, and that we might not live frivolously for sensual pleasures and think that life is just one big party for us. For, God judged them for their evil deeds, for their rebellion against him, and for their refusal to obey his commands. Most of them were put to death for their disobedience.
For, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?” (1 Co 10:21-22)
So, we are being cautioned here against doing the things that most of the Israelites did when they wandered in the wilderness for forty years. And we are being urged to listen to the voice of the Lord, and to not ignore his teachings, and his counsel, and his warnings, which are for our good. We should not harden our hearts and refuse to obey him.
The Holy Spirit says, “Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” (Heb 3:10-11)
So, we are to take care lest there be in any of us an evil, unbelieving heart, leading us to fall away from the living God. But we are to exhort one another every day so that none of us are hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. This is what we, as believers in Jesus Christ, are to be doing with one another daily. We should not just be playing games and telling jokes, like many do.
For, our faith in Jesus Christ is not a one-time event that takes place in our lives and then we are “in” and we can never get out. The Scriptures are very clear on this subject. Daily by the Spirit we are to be putting to death the deeds of the flesh and we are to be walking according to the Spirit and no longer according to (in agreement with) our sinful flesh.
Sin should no longer have dominion over our lives, for Jesus died to deliver us from the control of sin and of Satan over our lives. We should no longer be living as slaves of (addicted to) sin, but we are to be servants (slaves) of God and of his righteousness. We are not to make sin our practice, but righteousness is to be what we practice.
And we have to walk in that same faith until the very end of time, till the end of our lives on this earth, if we want to have the hope of salvation from sin and eternal life with God (entering his rest). For, we are saved (past), we are being saved (present), and we will be saved (future) when Jesus returns and our salvation is complete, provided we continued in that faith.
And faith in Jesus Christ is not an experience or an intellectual assent or emotional decision with regard to Jesus Christ and who he is and what he did for us in dying on the cross for our sins. Faith, which comes from God, and which is divine persuasion, submits to God and to his purposes for our lives, and it walks in obedience to his commands.
Examples Given Us
So, going back to the beginning of Hebrews 4, this is why it says that while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of us should seem to have failed to reach it. And that is because faith is present tense, it is ongoing, it has to continue to the end, and it must submit to Christ as Lord, and walk in obedience to his commands, and forsake sinful practices.
For, let’s look at the example given us here of the Israelites. They had the good news as we do, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. And how was this revealed? It was revealed through their actions. They did not obey the Lord, but they continued in their sinful practices. So, they died in their sins.
So, when this passage of Scripture speaks of “works” in a negative sense, it is not teaching that works are not involved in our salvation at all or that they are to be abandoned. We do not earn points with God by our own fleshly works, but Jesus saved us to do the works of God which he prepared in advance that we should walk in them (Eph 2:10; Tit 2:14).
If we read Hebrews 3 and 4 and 1 Corinthians 10 and the rest of the New Testament, it is quite obvious that we must forsake our sins and follow our Lord in obedience, and that we must submit to him as Lord if we are to be saved from our sins and to have eternal life with God. And our eternal life with God is entering into God’s rest.
But what this passage makes clear is that entering into God’s rest is contingent on our obedience, for the Israelites of old failed to enter because of disobedience, and their disobedience was described as living in sinful ways and refusing to obey the Lord and his commands. And the New Testament teaches us the same thing.
If we walk according to the flesh, and not according to the Spirit, and if we make sin our practice, and righteousness is not what we practice, and if we live in sinful addiction, and we don’t walk in obedience to our Lord, then we don’t have eternal life with God no matter what we have confessed with our lips or think we have believed in our hearts.
So, today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts to the truth and think this doesn’t apply to you. It does. Don’t put your faith in a false gospel which is largely based on Scriptures taught outside their context, especially if that gospel is telling you that you don’t have to forsake your sins or obey the Lord or submit to him as Lord (owner-master).
If you want to enter into God’s rest, believe what the Scriptures teach. Read them verse by verse, in context, prayerfully, with a heart open to hear what the Spirit is teaching, and don’t close yourself off to the truth because you like the lie better, because the lie permits you to continue in your sin. Obey the Lord, do what he says, and you have the hope of his eternal rest.
Songwriter: Andrew Lloyd-Webber
Who takes away the sins of the world
Qui tollis peccata mundi
Give them rest, grant them rest
Dona eis requiem, dona eis requiem
Lamb of God
Who takes away the sins of the world
Qui tollis peccata mundi
Grant them eternal rest
Dona eis requiem
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