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Book of Hebrews: Chapter 4 (Part 1)

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Verse 1 notes

There is no break in thought from chapter 3 and chapter 4. The thought in chapter 3 was the Israelites not entering rest in Canaan land because of their rebellion. And in chapter 4 the thought of entering rest continues. No one can any longer enter Canaan as a place of rest, but the place of rest considered in chapter 4 is Heaven.
Let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. So it was possible for these Jewish Christians to miss the promise rest. Well, how would that have been possible?

Verse 2 notes

The author compares the Israelites good news, a land of rest and plenty, to the Good News of Christians, the saving news of Christ. At the end of verse 2 the authors says, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. The Israelites were not united in faith. So this puts a thought in the Jewish Christian's minds: "How should I respond to faith?"

Verse 3 notes

For we who have believed enter rest… This means that Christians are in the process of entering that rest. We have not gained it yet. This also implies that Heaven is reserved for a certain people. Who are those people that Heaven is reserved for? The author tells us, we who have believed. Just like in verse 1, the author tells these same Christians that some Israelites failed to enter rest in Canaan which means that Canaan was rest for certain people: those who were obedient to God. We learn from Numbers that those who were age 20 and over who grumbled against God did not enter Canaan. So it is with these Christians and us, if we turn from the Law of Christ, we will not enter the rest of Heaven. If the Hebrews returned to Judaism, they would not enter Heaven.

The point here is that the Israelites didn’t have faith so they were left out of Canaan. If the recipients of this letter did not have faith in Christianity for whatever reason and returned to Judaism, they have lost faith in God.

The latter of verse 3 says, Although his works were finished from the foundation of the world and this means that God's rest has been ready ever since His works were finished from the time of creation.

Verse 4-7 notes

Three Old Testament passages are quoted. In verses 4-7 the first quote in verse 4 comes from Genesis 2:2. The 2nd and 3rd are from Psalm 95 and are restatements of what has been said before but a further thought is added.

The Holy Spirit spoke this through David centuries after the wilderness wanderings. Based on the fact that it is restated here and based on what verses 1 and 6 says, this can only mean that God's rest was still available in the time of David. And if it was available then, the author reasons, it must be available for God's people today.

Verse 8 notes

Last week when we studied chapter 3, we talked about the contrast between Christ and Moses. Here we are switching gears. The contrast is now between Christ and Joshua. And just a quick note, the name Joshua and Jesus are different forms of the same name, and the names facilitate the contrast. Moses led the people out of Egypt, but he could not lead them into Canaan. Joshua led the people in Canaan, but the rest he secured was earthly and temporary. Jesus, our commander and pioneer, is able to lead us to lasting rest.

Verse 9 notes

The conclusion is reached.

The Sabbath rest here is a special word for God's special rest. It can possibly be translated as "Sabbath keeping." It is figurative in nature because this whole section is speaking of a rest that must be entered.

Verse 10 notes

In Genesis 2:2, as mentioned earlier in this chapter, says that God rested from His work of creating the world. Revelation 14:13 reads, And I heard a voice from heaven saying, Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Blessed indeed, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them. This means that however we live our lives will determine our resting place. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. Two verses later the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 6:9, And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. No one will escape the judgment.

If we do fail in something we can repent as long as it is called today. Perhaps some people do not believe in God because He has not appeared yet. One of my instructors at the Bible school I attended debated a well-known atheist by the name of Dan Barker. Dan Barker was once a faithful Baptist but after his mother fell ill and died, he stopped believing in God. He could not understand why God would allow this to happen. This is common among many today. I have heard and read that circumstances like these are why some fall from grace.

These Jewish Christians who desired to return to Judaism and Christians now must remember a passage in the Bible about God. 2 Peter 3:9 says, The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. This means that the reason God has not yet destroyed the earth is because He is giving us a chance to repent and become faithful Christians. He doesn’t want anyone to go to Hell. We know this is true because of what John 3:16-17 says: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. But He will punish us if we do not repent.

Verses 11-13 notes

"Let us strive"-Strive means to exert oneself vigorously; try hard; to make strenuous efforts towards a goal; to contend in opposition. Contending in opposition is what we do as Christians every day of our lives. It isn’t going to be easy is the message in verse 11. This is why it says to "strive." We have to work. Perhaps this is why some people do not want to become Christians or remain Christians. There are some things that are more difficult to abstain from than other things. We have different demons to battle. One person might struggle with alcohol or drugs. Another person may struggle with pornography. Another person may struggle with Gossip. A lot of people struggle with sex. The Bible talks a lot about sex. It seems that it is spoken about more in a condemned manner than a permissive one. God knew what He was doing when He continuously addressed this issue. The same sexual sins that happened before Christ was born are still happening today. Some oppose marriage because they do not want to be sexual with just one person for the rest of their lives. They don’t put it this way, but pretty much, these people would rather play the whore forever or vice settling down.

There are movies, television shows, songs, and most recently, the Grammys with that mass gay marriage ceremony; that publicizes and glorify sexual sins. Perhaps this is why sexual sins are constantly condemned throughout the Bible. Some people struggle with fornication and so they divorce themselves from the idea of marriage. Having to wake up on Sunday mornings to attend worship services is reason why Christians fall away. To a lot of people Sunday is part of the weekend. It is not part of the weekend; it is the first day of the week. I said all of this to say, yes, Christians must make strenuous efforts to remain faithful so that we do not fall by the same disobedience as the Israelites did. We are constantly bombarded with sin every day. We still must strive to remain faithful lest we fall from grace. For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)

In 1 Corinthians 9:27, the Apostle Paul compares Christians and the goal of Heaven to that of a race. He said, I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. In other words, it's not enough to just know the Bible; we must live it. Practice what we preach.

Verse 12 notes

The word of God is not dead. Stephen in Acts 7:38 referred to the lively oracles that had been given to Israel in the wilderness. Peter said in 1 Peter 1:23 that the word of God lives and abides forever. It is sharper than any two-edged sword. These types of swords inflict double the pain. When it is thrust into a person, it inflicts pain and when it is removed, it inflicts pain. The Word of God is described as being sharper than this kind of sword.

In Revelation 1:10-20, the Apostle John witnessed Christ as having a "sharp two-edged sword" protruding from His mouth. This is the way he introduced Himself in Revelation 2:12. This was the Word of God in His mouth.

The word pierces. We are going to examine four real life Bible examples of how the Word can show man's true intents:
1.) In Acts 2 Peter gives his speech about the OT mentions of the Messiah and how the Messiah came and how He was crucified by the very men who were listening to the sermon. After they heard that they were the ones who crucified the Christ, vs 37 says that these men were "cut to the heart." The Word pierced the hearts of these men. The word lays bare soul and spirit as well as joints and marrow. The Word works on mans internal. When the Word of God is presented to an individual, how will he/she respond to it? Will it be rejected or will it be obeyed? The Word discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart. Romans 1:16 is a passage that is recited often among preachers: For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, the righteous shall live by faith.

2.) In Acts 8:26, the Ethiopian eunuch was reading a passage in Isaiah and Phillip explained to him what it meant and preached to him the Gospel. The Ethiopian's response was, Here is water. What prevents me from being baptized? And so he was baptized.

3.) (Acts 24:24ff) Felix's response to the Gospel when Paul preached was, Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.

4.) King Agrippa's response to the Gospel: In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian. Or You almost persuaded me to be a Christian. (Read Acts 26:24-29)

Above are four real life instances of different attitudes toward the Word. In the instance of the men on the day of Pentecost and the Ethiopian eunuch, they were persuaded by the Gospel and accepted it. Felix heard the Gospel but told Paul to go away and that he would send for me when it was convenient for him. King Agrippa heard the Gospel and believed it, yet was not persuaded enough to become a Christian. The Gospel revealed the hearts of these men.

A physical two-edged sword isn’t powerful or sharp enough to bare the soul of a man, but the Gospel is. A sword can kill, but that's it. The Word of God which is more powerful than any two-edged sword can bare the soul of a man and condemn a man to Hell or reward him to Heaven.

Verse 13 notes

God is omniscient; He is all-knowing. No creature is hidden from Him. There are billions of humans on earth, yet God sees all of us; no one can hide from Him. God is all-knowing and is everywhere at the same time. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and the wicked. What goes on behind closed doors isn’t seen by everyone, but is never hidden from God.

Let's consider the end of verse 13 (Read)
Everyone-- faithful Christians, Christians who have fallen away, agnostics and atheists will all have to stand before God and give account for all good works and all evil doings.

References used: Bibles: KJV, ESV, ASV; Everyone's Guide to Hebrews, Neil R. Lightfood

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