Hebrews 4:3 – 7
The inspired writer of this book has always had a trail of thought: he began in his presentation to discuss the REST of God as it relates to his audience who were predominantly Jews. They were divided as per their relationship to the finished work of Jesus at Calvary. So this letter was written to address these three separate groups of the Jewish kingdom. The first group were classified as those who had responded positively to the Gospel of Grace; the second group of people had heard the message of the Gospel but were yet to commit positively to the message; and there was a third group who had neither heard or responded to the message of the gospel.
In other to understand this book, one would have to know and associate some of the statements made to one of the three groups otherwise, one would erroneously mix everything up and end up being confused on the whole book which means giving the totality of the book another meaning. In this section of the book, the writer was referring to the second group of people who had heard the Gospel but were yet to respond to the message presented by their obedience. They faced a danger (John 3:16b) of knowing the message but because they didn’t assent due to their disobedience to the message, they were not different from the third group who had not heard the message not to talk of responding to it. The Bible says that Abraham believed God and it was accredited to him as righteousness (God saved him out of paganism and idolatry).
His trail of thought going back to the third chapter was the REST (Salvation) of God. He presented that the only criterion for entering into His rest is the Gospel; he also presented that there ought to be a message proclaimed by the one sent and the message must be heard, digested and positively responded to by the people who will hear. This has always been God’s way of Salvation (Romans 10: 9–10). God had always preached this same Gospel to the various generations that had ever existed.
He (the writer) also presented that UNBELIEF was the reason why their fathers of old didn’t enter into the REST (Promised Land) of God. UNBELIEF therefore, according to the writer is DISOBEDIENCE to the message that was preached/proclaimed. In other words, UNBELIEF is associated with DISOBEDIENCE/ STUBBORNESS. It gives a picture of someone who hears a particular message but refuses to assent to the message heard. On the other side of the divide, the one who assents to the message is said to OBEY or be in OBEDIENCE.
Again, according to the writer, OBEDIENCE is also associated with the word FAITH and FAITH simply is defined as BELIEF, having God as its sole object. So for the ones who believed, the Word proclaimed profited them because they believed and to the ones who have not responded in BELIEF, the Word was said to have not profited them although they heard the message.
It is UNBELIEF that excludes anyone from entering into God’s REST. To the one who has responded positively to the message of the Gospel ONLY, such a person would fall into the first group presented by the writer; they are said to have FAITH in God which automatically changes their status from being UNBELIEVERS to BELIEVERS. So they are said to have ENTERED into His REST and not “Going to ENTER”. FAITH IN GOD ONLY through the message of the GOSPEL alone is the indispensable qualification for entering into HIS REST.
The opposite of BELIEF is UNBELIEF and since FAITH is BELIEF, one would then stress that the opposite of FAITH is not DOUBT but UNBELIEF.
The fact that the first group had entered into His rest didn’t mean that they were not faced with their challenges as you would see explained in our future articles but the fundamental issue here is Salvation. He is trying to get the attention of the second group so that they can commit to the message heard before other issues could be addressed.
Contrary to various schools of thought, FAITH is not the energy exerted by an individual when that individual wants God to fulfill their various desires – that is classified as WORKS; and it is not what the writer of this great book has presented rather he has presented BELIEF in that which was proclaimed by the preacher/teacher. So from this book, we can deduce that the message was presented, some have believed, some were on the verge whilst some have not.
This is the reason the writer pauses and stresses that the day anyone hears the Gospel preached to them, they must respond by not hardening their hearts because not responding means they still are and would remain UNBELIEVERS, not learning from what happened to their fathers and the episode of the Promised Land.
Looking at the many scriptures, Canaan was the promise of REST to that generation of Israel; on the seventh day, we read that God rested from His work, not because He was tired but that He had finished the Work or the process of Salvation; everything that needed to be done was done. The promise of REST still remains today because God keeps renewing the promise of entering into His REST and the date has always been set and fixed as TODAY.
When anyone responds to the message of the Gospel today, the person enters into the REST of God; the same is at REST as he/she awaits the future REST that awaits them at the return of Christ. We read in the Book that, if any man (human being) is in Christ, the same has become a NEW creature and the old has passed away.
It is not your active participation in Church that makes you a BELIEVER, but that you have believed in the message of the Gospel. It’s that simple!
“For a Christian to be a Christian, he must first be a sinner. Being a sinner is a prerequisite for being a church member. The Christian church is one of the few organizations in the world that requires a public acknowledgement of sin as a condition for membership. There are only two ways that God’s justice can be satisfied with respect to your sin. Either you satisfy it or Christ satisfies it. You can satisfy it by being banished from God’s presence forever. Or you can accept the satisfaction that Jesus Christ has made. Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God” – R. C Sproul.