by Mike Ratliff
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.” (Psalms 95:7-11 ESV)
In last night’s post, Belief and Unbelief, we looked at Hebrews 3:7-19, which is the first part of the writer of Hebrews’ exposition of Psalms 95:7-11. This part of Psalms 95, a song of praise, is a call for professors of faith to not harden their hearts like the Israelites in the Exodus, but to believe and obey God and, therefore, enter into His rest. In last night’s post I used Hebrews 3:7-11 to contrast those who have faith from those who do not. Those with the faith that saves, πιστις, believe God and obey Him. These will enter into God’s rest. On the other hand, those in unbelief, απιστιας, do not believe God and, therefore, disobey Him. I used this contrast in an attempt to show how the Emergent form of “Christianity” is not Christianity at all because it is based entirely in απιστιας. This is true because its leaders attack God’s Truth as absolute truth. In fact, they elevate uncertainty about everything as a virtue and attempt to say that certainty about anything is arrogance in action.
In this post, let us finish the writer of Hebrews’ exposition of Psalms 95:7-11. We left off at the end of Hebrews 3. Now we will look at Hebrews 4:1-13.
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. (Hebrews 4:1 ESV)
1φοβηθωμεν ουν μηποτε καταλειπομενης επαγγελιας εισελθειν εις την καταπαυσιν αυτου δοκη τις εξ υμων υστερηκεναι (Hebrews 4:1 WHNU)
We should fear (φοβηθωμεν) then (ουν), lest at any time (μηποτε), being left behind (καταλειπομενης) of the promise (επαγγελιας) to enter (εισελθειν) into (εις) the (την) his rest (καταπαυσιν αυτου) should seem (δοκη) any (τις) of (εξ) you (υμων) to fail (υστερηκεναι). (Hebrews 4:1 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)
Let us not stray from our main topic. We are looking at the nature of biblical faith or belief, and its antithesis, unbelief. The nature of real faith that God sees and justifies is that the one with it sees God’s promise(s) and believes Him. In v1 we have the Greek word for promise, επαγγελιας. This word is primarily a legal term denoting a summons or promise undertaking to do or give something. God’s promises are always made in His Word with the emphasis on them being fulfilled, which is the result of the promise(s). What is the promise being discussed here? It is that those who believe God will enter His rest, καταπαυσιν αυτου. What is God’s rest? We are promised His peace, confidence of salvation, reliance on His strength, and assurance.
What is the writer of Hebrews telling us in v1? What does it mean to, “fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it”? This is talking about what we looked at in last night’s post about the fear of God that all true believers have. This reverential fear leads us to examine ourselves in the light of God’s Word, His doctrines, to look intently at our own spiritual condition (1 Corinthians 10:12; 2 Corinthians 13:5). As we do this and fellowship with other believers, in light of this, we press for commitment from them to do the same (Jude 23).
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.” (Hebrews 4:2-7 ESV)
Doug Pagitt and the other Emergents are Universalists. They hold to a “doctrine” that states it does not matter whether a person is Christian, pagan, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, atheist, agnostic, or whatever, when they stand before God, He will fix all their problems and make them acceptable in His eyes. Therefore, it does not matter how one lives or what one believe or does not believe in this life. What does God say to us in these verses though? Those who have listened to God, and have believed Him will enter into His rest, however, those who have hardened their hearts and have not listened to Him will experience His wrath, which is eternal, and totally outside of His rest.
Here is v3 in Greek:
3εισερχομεθα γαρ εις [την] καταπαυσιν οι πιστευσαντες καθως ειρηκεν ως ωμοσα εν τη οργη μου ει εισελευσονται εις την καταπαυσιν μου καιτοι των εργων απο καταβολης κοσμου γενηθεντων (Hebrews 4:3 WHNU)
For we entering (εισερχομεθα γαρ) into (εις) the (την) rest (καταπαυσιν), the ones (οι) having believed (πιστευσαντες), as (καθως) he has said (ειρηκεν), As (ως) I swore by an oath (ωμοσα) in (εν) my wrath (οργη μου), Shall they (ει) enter (εισελευσονται) into (εις) my rest, no (καταπαυσιν μου); and yet (καιτοι) the (των) works (εργων) from (απο) the founding (καταβολης) of the world (κοσμου) were taking place (γενηθεντων). (Hebrews 4:3 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)
The word used here, that is translated as “wrath” is οργη, which is transliterated as “orgê,” is anger as a state of mind with emphasis on the resulting punishment. What did God say in is wrath about those who did not believe? He swore that they would never enter into His rest. They would be excluded eternally. On the other hand, those who are in belief are promised a spiritual rest that is complete and finished. It is a rest that is based on a finished work that God purposed in eternity past.
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:8-11 ESV)
I want to look at two words from this passage, “strive” and “disobedience,” both from v11. The word translated here as “strive” is σπουδασωμεν. It could be translated, as “we should hurry.” The KJV translates it as “let us labor.” I like this one; “We should be diligent,” which is a straight translation from the Greek. This Christian walk is not one of saying a prayer, joining a church, becoming part of some organization, et cetera. No, it is a day-by-day commitment to walk in obedience to God in all parts of our lives. Never forget, that true faith produces this sort of obedience. The word “disobedience” here is the Greek word απειθειας. It means “disobedience” and corresponds with the verb unbelief, which opposes the gracious word and purpose of God. I cannot think of a better description of the Emergents. They are sons of απειθειας. They oppose the Word of God as God’s absolute truth throughout their teachings. They reject it, yet we are commanded throughout it to hold it, study it, and obey it. Why?
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13 ESV)
12ζων γαρ ο λογος του θεου και ενεργης και τομωτερος υπερ πασαν μαχαιραν διστομον και διικνουμενος αχρι μερισμου ψυχης και πνευματος αρμων τε και μυελων και κριτικος ενθυμησεων και εννοιων καρδιας 13και ουκ εστιν κτισις αφανης ενωπιον αυτου παντα δε γυμνα και τετραχηλισμενα τοις οφθαλμοις αυτου προς ον ημιν ο λογος (Hebrews 4:12-13 WHNU)
Living (ζων) for (γαρ) the (ο) word (λογος) of the (του) God (θεου) and (και) active (ενεργης) and (και) sharper (τομωτερος) over (υπερ) all (πασαν) sword (μαχαιραν) double-edged (διστομον) and (και) piercing through (διικνουμενος) until (αχρι) division (μερισμου) of soul (ψυχης) and (και) spirit (πνευματος), joints (αρμων) both (τε) and (και) marrow (μυελων), and (και) judge (κριτικος) of reflections (ενθυμησεων) and (και) insights (εννοιων) heart (καρδιας); and (και) not (ουκ) is (εστιν) creation (κτισις) disappeared (αφανης) before (ενωπιον) him (αυτου), all (παντα) but (δε) naked (γυμνα) and (και) neck having been stuck out(τετραχηλισμενα) in the (τοις) eyes (οφθαλμοις) of him (αυτου), to (προς) whom (ον) to us (ημιν) the (ο) word (λογος). (Hebrews 4:12-13 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)
This is one of many well-known passages from the Bible. I have heard it quoted hundreds of times in sermons and read it in dozens of books, but what does it really mean? All who have heard God’s truth, His Word, are accountable to those commands because they are based in His Truth. While the Word of God, ο λογος, is comforting and nourishing to believers, it is a tool of judgment and execution for those who have not committed themselves to Jesus Christ. In John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress as Christian and Hopeful near the Celestial City they encounter some shepherds who allow them rest in comfort while teaching them some deep things of God. Christians asks if it is far to the city. One of the shepherds responds, “Too far for any, but those that shall get thither indeed.” Christian asks if the way is safe or dangerous. The Shepherd responds, “Safe for those for whom it is to be safe, but Transgressors shall fall therein.” This is the accountability all have to the Word of God. The Emergents treat the Bible as optional. They are focused on the present and ignore the eternal. They will be judged by the doctrines and commands they are ignoring. Their claim to be Christians increases their accountability.
All will give an account to the Lord. Those who are true believers will be welcomed into eternal rest in Him. However, all others will not, those in unbelief; for they will be cast into eternal torment in the Lake of Fire. The myth that Universalists have come up with and comfort themselves with, is a well crafted lie from our enemy. It ignores what God’s Word clearly says. These people are in unbelief. They have hardened their hearts against God’s truth and so are under His wrath. Let us examine ourselves daily my brethren and also encourage one another to remain faithful.
Soli Deo Gloria!