HEBREWS THREE AND FOUR
ENTERING THE SABBATH REST
LOOKING AT HEBREWS THREE AND FOUR
One doesn’t have to travel far on the cyberspace Adventist Highways before one encounters the following argument:
The 4th commandment Sabbath was only a shadow of the rest in Christ. Hebrews tells us we no longer keep the 7th day, if we do we are dealing in shadows, now we rest everyday. TODAY enter into the rest of Christ. The Jewish Sabbath was a rest of works by law, the New Testament Sabbath rest is simply resting everyday from the works of the law. It is the Salvation Rest that we enter into “TODAY”.
But Hebrews does not say that! It does not say “Today come out of the shadow of the old Sabbath and enter into the rest of the continual Sabbath experience.”
Yes, we are to find rest in Christ, but nowhere does it say obedience to God’s holy law is now unnecessary.
TODAY, HARDEN NOT YOUR HEART IN REBELLION
The phrase that jumps out from this reading is:
TODAY IF YOU WILL HEAR MY VOICE DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEART IN REBELLION
Three times the author repeats this phrase: (3:8. 3:15, 4:7) What are we to do today? We are to hear God’s voice and not harden our hearts in rebellion!
Another verse says the same thing only with different words.
Vs. 3:13 “Exhort one another daily, while it is called TODAY lest anyone be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
TODAY HARDEN NOT YOUR HEARTS THROUGH THE DECEITFULNESS OF SIN! It is the law that points out the deceitfulness of sin, so we need not be deceived by it. Why would we want to abolish the law? Sin is defined by the law — the law points out the deceitfulness of sin, the Holy Spirit leads us to confess that sin, the blood of Christ cleanses us from that sin, what do we say then, do we continue in that sin? NO God forbid, why would we go back and harden our hearts in the deceitfulness of sin?
Do we find rest by setting aside the law? No, the Bible say in Psalms 119.165:
“Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” It also says in Isaiah 57.20-21 “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”
As long as we are in opposition to God’s law, there is no way we can find rest in Christ. For the rebellious heart is constantly chafing and bucking under the restraining purity of Christ, and finds itself most uncomfortable in His presence. It is only as we place ourselves in harmony with the law, recognizing our need for cleansing and our dependance upon Christ, that we are in harmony with Christ. To walk with Christ is to walk in the ways of the His law, for the two cannot be separated.
How do we harden our hearts? Hearts are hardened when the light of God’s Word shines upon it, and the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin. But then, instead of turning to Christ, in repentance, seeking forgiveness and cleansing, we reject the promptings of the Holy Spirit and tell ourselves that what we are doing isn’t really important for our salvation, we harden our hearts in rebellion. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to sanctify us and write God’s law upon our hearts. He calls to us and if we respond He leads us into the paths of righteousness, but if we refuse we push Him back and harden our hearts in rebellion. Every time we do this our hearts get a little harder and the Holy Spirit’s voice becomes weaker, until we shut Him out. This is the only sin that can not be forgiven! The heart is harden by the sin against the Holy Spirit. The sin of continual rejection of truth as it applies to our lives; the continual resistance to allowing the Holy Spirit to write God’s law upon our hearts. This leads to the fearsome hardening of the heart that can cost us our salvation.
A precious message has come to us. We have the full blaze of glorious light from God’s Word. God sent us a prophet with the harbor map, to guide us into the promised land. The invitation has been given, “While it is called to-day, harden not your hearts.” Will the people whom God has blessed with great light, permit themselves to be led astray by the flattering lies of the enemy of their souls? Shall they listen to those who say it is alright to disobey the commands of God if it is more convenient to themselves to do so? Will they give up their eternal life and sell their birthright for a more convenient lifestyle? Shall we not arouse, and shake off the dangerous lethargy of the world, which is lulling us to sleep in the cradle of carnal security? Will we be intimidated with the jeers of those who trample upon God’s commandments and ridicule us as being hopelessly in bondage by living the life God wants us to live? Will we believe the lie that Satan first told the angel’s in heaven? Will we forfeit the favor of God rather than to endure the reproaches of your neighbors who laugh at our singular faith? God’s Spirit will not always plead with us. Today, harden not your hearts, Today is the day of salvation. Today and everyday surrender your life to Christ in humility and loving obedience. Don’t be deceived by the deceitfulness of sin.
Today and everyday, make Christ Lord of your life. Today, and everyday follow Paul’s example when he said, “I die daily. Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; (1 Cor. 15.32- 34) If the invitation to surrender our lives to Christ is refused, if we persist in disobedience, we shall have no second probation. “Choose you this day whom ye will serve,”– God or the things of this world.. A person can’t serve Christ and continue to serve their sin. Now, while it is called to- day, if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, lest it be the last invitation of mercy.
To insist that sanctification is not a part of salvation is insisting that the work of the Holy Spirit is not important. To tell people that justification is all that is needed for salvation, and a sanctified life is just a nice, but not required by-product, is courting the unpardonable sin. No wonder the devil is so busy trying to convince the Christian world that sanctification is not necessary for salvation. If he can keep us lulled to sleep in the cradle of carnal security long enough, he can rob us of eternal life.
TODAY HARDEN NOT YOUR HEARTS THROUGH THE DECEITFULNESS OF SIN!
Hebrews 3.13 “But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 10:25 repeats the message that we are to exhort one another. Especially as we see the day approaching. For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins. But a certain fearful expectation of judgment.
MIXING THE GOSPEL WITH FAITH AND OBEDIENCE
Why did Israel not enter the rest?
Was it because Christ had not yet come and died for them? Was it because Israel was being “kept under law” and type had not yet met antitype, therefore they could not enjoy the rest now offered to Christians? No, it was none of the above.
Hebrews 3:18 They would not OBEY so they could not enter because they did not have FAITH. 4:2 THE GOSPEL was preached to them as well as to us, but the word which they heard did not profit them because it was not MIXED WITH FAITH 4:6 They did not enter because of DISOBEDIENCE
We see here the importance of hearing the gospel, having it mixed with faith and obeying. This reminds us of the story Jesus told of the wise and foolish builders.
Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-26 “Not everyone that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of My Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness . Therefore whosoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And everyone that hears these sayings of Mine, and does them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”
The reason why people don’t have more spiritual power is that they profess the truth, but do not practice it. Is this faith and belief in God? There are three steps in this mixing process. We must hear (or read) God’s message, it must be accepted by faith into the life, and worked out in the way we live. Then our characters are built solidly on Jesus Christ the sure foundation.
The foolish builder built upon the sand, and through his carelessness, or prejudice, or through the deceptions of the natural heart, he fails to take God’s word seriously, and thinks all is well when it is not, and how terrible are the consequences!
Now who had the real “rest”. The one who built a quick house, and enjoyed apparent ease from the stress of labour, or the one who labored diligently to build his house firmly upon the rock? What is the rest that God promises? Is it the rest that we find in total commitment, or is it a rest from commitment?
The call to us:
Hebrews 4:11-13 “Let us be diligent to enter that rest lest anyone fall in the same way, by DISOBEDIENCE.” “For the word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the soul and spirit. It is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Nothing is hidden from His sight, all things are open to the eyes of Him to Whom we must give account.”
The word of God is not something that will lull us to sleep! As we read, the Holy Spirit convicts often piercing even to the soul and spirit. “Today if you will hear my voice do not harden your heart in rebellion.”
We even have the investigative judgment here. Nothing is hidden from God’s sight, we will be required to give to Him an account of ourselves. Some maintain that the book of Hebrews does not teach the investigative judgment, but in these verses it speaks of an accounting, and the rest of the book tells us how the sanctuary truths prepare us to stand in that judgment.
In chapter 10 we again see the exhortation and the warning of a judgment. Verse 30 it says “The Lord will judge His people.”
So back to Hebrews three and four:
Do not harden your hearts like in the rebellion in the day of trial in the wilderness. . . For they, having heard, rebelled. Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? To whom He swore that they would not enter His rest, to those who did not obey?
WHY WAS ISRAEL NOT ALLOWED TO ENTER?
What actually was it that brought upon Israel the decree that they would not enter the land of promise? It was rebellion! They were on the borders of Canaan, eagerly anticipating a rest from their wilderness wanderings. But they had no faith. There are giants in the land! We are totally unable to overcome them they cried, and lifted up stones to throw at Moses, Joshua and Calab.
Do we say the same thing? Our sins are like giants, we can’t overcome them? The modern theologians (like the 10 unfaithful spies) keep telling us we cannot overcome. Then the people throw stones at the ones who say, “With God we can overcome!” It was true that Israel couldn’t fight those giants in their own strength, as they soon found out, for when God told them to return to the wilderness, they suddenly changed their minds and decided they would try and conquer Canaan without God. They suffered sore defeat. Yet had they believed in the first place, God would have been with them, and they could have overcome the giants and entered into Canaan! They could have entered that rest, back then!
And God said, “Because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten time, and have not listened to my voice, they will certainly not see the land which I promised to their fathers.” Numbers 14: 22
This was not the end of the trouble. The princes of Israel turned against Moses, saying, “Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness, that you should keep acting like a prince over us?” (Numbers 16:13) God executed swift judgment on the rebels but the people lashed out at Moses again saying, “You have killed the people of the Lord!” (Numbers 16:31)
This was the sealing of rebellion in many of their lives. They had mistrusted God, they had rebelled, they refused to hear correction, they refused to respond to the pleading of the Holy Spirit and lastly they attributed God’s work of punishing the rebels to Satan and accused Moses and Aaron of killing the true men of God.
Thus it is in our day. The teachers of smooth, pleasing words are seen as the people of the Lord, while the ones sounding warnings and calls to repentance and obedience to God’s laws are looked upon as the evil ones. Just notice the general response by those who tell us God’s law is no longer binding, when someone refers them to the writings of Ellen White. One anti-law, anti- EGW contributor on one of the forums has as his signature “the false prophet must be stoned.” How reminiscent of the rebellion in the wilderness when the people rose up to stone Moses.
Therefore the call goes out: TODAY IF YOU WILL HEAR MY VOICE DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEART IN REBELLION, as in the day of trial in the wilderness.
The rest we have in Christ comes only when we give up our selfish wills and yield ourselves to Christ. The Israelites didn’t enter that rest because, even though they were part of the “Christian” community, they were constantly bucking against God and His will for them.
Yet that rest was available to them, just as much as it is available to us today. This “rest” comes when the life is submitted to God.
When God offered “rest” to the children of Israel, He offered His holy Sabbath with it. And if BOTH WERE OFFERED TO ISRAEL AT THE SAME TIME, then one can’t be a shadow of the other. It is no different today, Christ is still offering His rest, as well as His Sabbath! One is not a shadow of the other.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Jer. 6.16-17 Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken.
The Sabbath is an illustration of this rest. It is a time when we put aside our own pursuits, daily jobs, business, etc. and rest in Christ.
If the Christian community, on reading Hebrews three and four, would have been thinking of the Sabbath as bondage, something to get rid of, they would of lost the whole point of the discussion.
That rest comes from FAITH and obedience to God. Yet it also points foreward to a time when faith becomes sight and the fullness of this rest will be realized when we reach that place where God will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Rev. 21:4
TODAY HARDEN NOT YOUR HEARTS THROUGH THE DECEITFULNESS OF SIN!
If we harden our hearts with the deceitfulness of sin (breaking God’s commandments) we will not enter into God’s rest.
The 7th day Sabbath in Hebrews is used as a sign, an example of resting in God. The Sabbath has always been a sign not only of creation but also that God is the One who sanctifies us.
Now notice the parallels in Hebrew with these verses from Ezekiel:
Ezekiel 20.12 Moreover I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them. 20.20-21 Hallow my Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that you may know that I am the LORD your God. Notwithstanding the children of Isreal rebelled against me: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, .. they polluted my Sabbaths: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the wilderness.
Here rebellion against God’s holy sabbath day is specifically mentioned as one of the reasons Israel failed to enter Canaan. Ezekiel points out they polluted God’s Sabbaths. It would seem that the Israelites should have been keeping the Sabbath in the wilderness. Outwardly I think they must have kept it as the rules for Sabbath keeping were pretty strict. What is this saying? The message, I believe is clear. The Sabbath and sanctification go together.
Even though the Israelites were sitting in their tents on Sabbath, God still says– “they polluted my sabbaths for their hearts went after idols”. (20:16) Their hearts were not “resting in Christ”. (Remember Hebrews says the gospel WAS preached to them as well, but they did not mix it with faith. It’s always been the “heart” that God wants, Jer. 24.7 And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.
Hebrews Verse 4:8 The next generation entered Canaan, but Joshua did not succeed in bringing them rest either. Interestingly Joshua came pretty close to bring them REST. Joshua 1.13 Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, The LORD your God has given you rest, and has given you this land.
Yet, in his farewell address (Joshua 23) he warns the Israelites that their rest was totally dependent upon “cleaving to the Lord” and living according to His will. Thus the sad history shows, that even though temporary rest was experienced for short periods of time, and by individual men and women of faith, the true rest for the nation eluded them because of unbelieve and rebellion.
The appeal is made through KING DAVID,
“Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” Ps. 95:7-11 (like those in the wilderness who did not enter God’s rest)
If God’s rest would only become available when the seventh day Sabbath and the Israelite worship system would “fade away” and become “obsolete”, why would God appeal to the Israelites through their king to have this rest experience back THEN, many years BEFORE Christ’s incarnation? People throughout the Old Testament believed and experienced that “rest”.
“Israel did not enter BECAUSE OF DISOBEDIENCE ..again “TODAY after such a long time, it has been said: Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” Hebrews 4:6, 7
We hear much about “resting” in Christ. Let’s see what David says:
“Trust in the LORD, and do good; then you will dwell in the land. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light. Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: don’t be restless in desiring in any wise to do evil. For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.”
Yes, we need to place our restless hearts into the control of our Creator and Lord. Only He can give us rest. But this rest comes from being in harmony with Christ, not only forgiven but walking with Him in agreement, operating under the same law. Not in some external works program to earn merits, but in faith, trust, love and obedience.
The modern interpretation that Hebrews 3 and 4, “Today, harden not your heart” means “Today, rest in Christ, stop trying to identify and fight against sin, the Sabbath is no longer important,” is strange reasoning indeed. For the whole chapter is actually dealing with “Today, harden not your heart, because of the deceitfulness of sin… don’t be like the Israelites who did not enter into the rest because of disobedience.”
They heard the gospel but BECAUSE THEY DID NOT MIX IT WITH OBEDIENCE AND FAITH; therefore, because of their unbelief, their unfaith, they hardened their hearts. The deceitfulness of sin deceived them. They thought they could handle sin on their own, they thought they could interpret and identify sin on their own, and ended up calling evil, good, and good, evil with no power to withstand the evil.
Yes, Today — today is the day to surrender our lives to the Lord. The Sabbath, far from being done away with in these verses, is upheld as the sign of the rest of obedience in Christ our Creator. Finding the true rest with Christ upon the Sabbath is a sign that we have mixed faith with obedience. That obedience and faith carries all through the week, but on the 7th we cease from our weekly work and rest in Him in a special way. Our work is set aside and we focus on the work of Christ as our Creator, Savior, and Lord.
The Sabbath is not a shadow like the sacrificial system was a shadow. The Sabbath is a memorial of creation, it is an experience of resting in Christ, and it is a foretaste of spending eternity in close fellowship with our Lord and Savior. The seventh day Sabbath is not “works” it is the very essence of “rest”. A putting aside of our own business and pleasure, putting aside the things pertaining to self and delighting ourselves in the Lord.
Therefore a Sabbath Rest Remains for the people of God. (Hebs. 4:9)
The Sabbath continues. The verb “remains” is “(apoleipetai) which literally means “has been left.” The Greek word translated “rest” in every other passage throughout Hebrews 3 and 4 is “katapausis.” The word for “rest” in Hebrews 4:9 is (sabbatismos). The term (sabbatismos) is seen in the writings of Plutarch, Justin, Epiphanius, and others, and each time the term denotes the observance of the Sabbath. Therefore the text is saying, that Sabbath obsevance remains for the people of God. Later the author tells us what has been abolished BUT FIRST he confirms the SABBATH REST remains behind for the people of God.
Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy,…for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is and rested the seventh day, and made it holy. (Ex. 20:8,11)
The Sabbath was created for mankind! Mark 2:27
The time is fast approaching when the prophecies will be fulfilled. The world and the professedly Protestant churches are in this our day taking sides with the power they once identified as antichrist; signing joint declarations towards unity, as well as getting deeper and deeper involved with politics. To us who have the light of the commandments of God comes the message,
“Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. . . . For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works (Heb. 4:1-2,4)
The great issue that is coming will be concerning the seventh-day Sabbath. This day God would have us remember. “I am the Lord your God,” he declared; “walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; and hallow my Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God.” (Eze. 20:19-20)