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Second Warning (Part 2)

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The Book of HEBREWS

The Admonition from Israel’s Failure

To drive his home his point of the need of fidelity on the part of his readers, the writer now refers to the nation of Israel and the consequences of their infidelity. He points out - from the classic failure of Israel at Kadesh Barnea[1] - that the tragic loss and defeat that took place at that time could be repeated in the lives of his readers.

Be Faithful (3:7-15)

Here the writer quotes from Psalm 95:7-11.[2] He then applies this to his Christian readership.[3] Each Christian brother should be most careful to guard against an evil heart of unbelief[4] - the kind of heart which turns away from the Living God.[5] One preventative against such a tendency would be a spirit of mutual concern and admonition among the Christian brotherhood.[6] He then relates this warning to [his previous mention of] being partners of the Messiah.[7] That is - like the privilege of serving in the priestly house[8] - the privilege of sharing in the rule of Christ is contingent on continuing fidelity.[9]

Failure of the Wilderness Wanderers (3:16-19)

The writer then expounds on the passage he quoted. Though not all who came out of Egypt rebelled,[10]most of them sinned and disobeyed.[11] Their disobedience in refusing to enter the Promised Land caused God to swear that they would never enter into His rest.[12] The writer wished his readers to take it to heart that unbelief – lack of confidence in God – was the reason God’s people did not enter the land.

The Promise of Rest (4:1-11)

It follows from the tragic example of Israel that Christians should also take warning. This is true because the promise of entering His rest still stands.[13] The writer’s concept of rest must NOT be separated from its Old Testament roots. Rest in the Old Testament was connected with Israel’s possession [inheritance] in the land of promise.[14] That Christians are potential heirs [of Messiah’s kingdom] the writer had already affirmed.[15]  Here he reminds his readers that they have had “good news”[16] [about a future rest for God’s people] proclaimed to them. But it is crucial that they continue to TRUST GOD for the fulfillment of His promises.[17] The writer compares this to Israel – whose exclusion from the promise land was definitive  - even though such a rest had been established as far back as Creation.[18] BUT the failure of the Israelites does not nullify the truth that SOME will enter into that rest [successful completion of their work for God].[19] Certainly the readers should NOT suppose that the promise of rest was realized in Joshua’s day.[20] Our rest [Messianic partnership] does indeed lie ahead.[21] BUT this will ONLY be realized if his readers [and us today] get to the END of their task.[22] Only then would they be able to rest from their works in the joyful possession of their inheritance in the Messianic kingdom. They should therefore take care not to follow Israel’s example of disobedience.[23] To say it clearly, failure to persevere in our faith will result in our failure to inherit the kingdom [become partners with Christ in His kingdom].[24]


[1] Numbers 13-14.

[2] The choice of Psalm 95 is particularly appropriate because the context is concerned with priestly activity and worship. In fact, the previous verse [not quoted] is: “Come let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before YAHWEH our Maker, for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care”. Ideally, this represents the author’s perspective with regard to his readers. [The Bible Knowledge Commentary]

[3] Heb. 3:12. Note the word brethren.  These were NOT mere professors of the faith but “holy brethren who share in the heavenly calling” [3:1].

[4] Which God’s flock in the wilderness displayed.

[5] Heb. 3:12.

[6] Heb. 3:13. Quoted from The Bible Knowledge Commentary. The phrase “while it is called ‘today’’ simply means “while you still have opportunity”. Of course, this exhortation is completely relevant to any assembly today in which the hardening aspects of sin can be detected.

[7] Heb. 3:14. This is the Greek word  μέτοχοι  metochoi = partners which is also used in Heb. 1:9 and 3:1. This refers to the supreme privilege of being among the “many sons” who God is bringing to the glory of shared dominion over the created order which Christ, the Messiah, is destined to rule (Heb. 2:10).

[8] Heb. 3:6.

[9] Heb. 3:14-15. But also see Rev. 2:26-27.

[10] Of course, Joshua and Caleb were notable exceptions [Cf. Numbers 14:30].

[11] 3:17-18.

[12] 3:18. This meant, of course, that the sinful generation in the desert was permanently excluded from taking possession of their inheritance in Canaan. Exclusion from Canaan was a consequence of their lack of faith in the power of God to bring them into it in victory over their enemies – a failure that, in principle, might be repeated by the readers of Hebrews if they forgot Messiah’s ultimate triumph over His enemies and theirs (1:13-14).

[13] 4:1. The remainder of this verse should probably be translated “let us be careful that none of you suppose that he has missed it.” [Perhaps some believed that the Second Advent had already occurred (like in Thessalonica – 2 Thess. 2:1-2).] The writer was concerned that none of his readers would think that they had missed their “inheritance-rest” (see Heb. 10:36-37).

[14] See Deut. 3:18-20; 12:9-11; 25:19, Joshua 1:12-15, 11:23. In  Hebrews 3-4 the Greek word κατάπαυσις  katapausis is used 8 times. It is the same word which is used [in the Septuagint] in the passages above.

[15] Heb. 1:14 (see also Heb. 6:12,17, 9:15). This inheritance cannot be divorced from Messiah’s kingdom and His “partners’” share in that (Cf. Heb. 12:28).

[16] Heb. 4:2. The Greek word εὐαγγελίζω  euangelizo = to proclaim good news does NOT always refer to the plan of salvation. It is occasionally used in a non-technical sense [e.g. Luke 1:19, 1 Thess. 3:6].

[17] Heb. 4:3. “The writer’s concern was NOT about their original faith in the past, but their perseverance in it (Cf. Heb. 3:6, 14). Faith remains the prerequisite for entrance into rest, since it was to those who failed to exercise faith that God declared by oath they would not enter into His rest.” [The Bible Knowledge Commentary]

[18] Heb. 4:4-5. In other words, just as God had rested when He finished His creative activity, so any of God’s people who finish the work set before them can rest (Cf. Heb. 4:10). When, as with the nation in the wilderness, a task is left unfinished, of such it must be said “they shall NEVER enter into My rest”.

[19] Heb. 4:6. In fact, God renewed such an offer as late as the time of David (Heb. 4:7).

[20] Heb. 4:8. Otherwise, God would not have spoken about another day [opportunity] in a later passage. Furthermore, the conquest in Joshua’s day did not lead to a permanent possession of the land.

[21] Heb. 4:9.

[22] As, of course, God did from His (Heb. 4:10). Thus the readers need to model their lives after Jesus Christ [the Messiah] Who was “faithful to the One Who appointed Him” (Heb. 3:2) and be careful to “hold firmly to the end the confidence we had at first” (Heb. 3:14; Cf. 3:6).

[23] Heb. 4:11.

[24] Heb. 4:11b. UNLIKE the assurance that all Christians have that they possess eternal life and will raised up to enjoy it in the presence of God John 6:39-40], the share of the companions of Messiah in His dominion over creation is attained by doing His will to the end (Rev. 2:26-27). See also 2 Tim. 2:12 and Rom. 8:17.

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