Hebrews 4:1-16 The Sabbath Rest For God’s people

First century Roman culture was a culture of despair.  Some historians would refer to it as a culture of suicide.  It was violent, it was bloody, it was dangerous, it was oppressive, it was full of death and disease.  On top of that the religious establishment had created such religious oppression that people lived in bondage.  Most had given up any thought that they could ever stand right before a holy God.  It was into that context that Jesus uttered the words, “Come unto Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  About three decades later, the writer of Hebrews would give a message to people on the threshold of bloody persecution.  The message was not a message of health, wealth and prosperity.  It was a message that in the midst of the pain, you can enter His rest.  So here we are two thousand years later.  I think we all get this.  Sometimes the world can be very, very painful, hurtful, heartbreaking, confusing, devastating.  In the midst of all of that, what Jesus offers us is rest.  That’s what we want to talk right now.  If you have a Bible, turn to Hebrews, Chapter 4.   
One of the terms that we’ve seen a lot in the book of Hebrews is the word therefore.  You know the old adage: Whenever you see the word ‘therefore’ you stop to see what it’s there for.  And it basically reminds us that all of these truths are connected.  You can’t take any one passage in Hebrews and pull it out of its contextfor one truth leads to another truth leads to another truth and it’s all connected together.  It’s good that we keep remembering that.  Chapter 3 was all about the cost of unbelief, which then leads us to Chapter 4 verse 1: 
Therefore (in light of that, the cost of unbelief), then let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, anyone of you may have seemed to have come short of it. (*NASB, Hebrews 4:1)
So what’s the fear?  The fear is that even though there’s still a promise of rest, it wasn’t just about people thousands of years ago entering a land.  It wasn’t just about people in the first century.  It’s every bit as true for us today.  There is a promise of rest.  The word promise is really an important word in the book of Hebrews.  As a matter of fact, no New Testament book uses the term more than the book of Hebrews.  What do you say to a group of people that are on the threshold of bloody persecution?  You remind them, there’s a promise.  There is a promise that, in the midst of the storm, I will give you rest now, and a glorious future to come.  But the concern is that they won’t believe it.  It’s interesting that he says, anyone of you may seem to have come short of it.  This basically confirms what we talked in the last chapter—that when the writer is looking at the first readers, his audience, he’s identifying them primarily as believers but he’s not convinced they’re all believers.  There is no New Testament writer who could know that everyone who will receive this letter is a believer.  So there seem to be some who perhaps don’t believe.  Maybe they’re giving lip service; maybe they’re just going with the flow, but he says, “But it may seems like you’re coming up short.  You don’t really believe it.”  So that’s our audience—primarily believers—but the writer is not convinced that everybody believes, and that’s part of his concern here.  Verse 2: 
For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united (mixed in) by faith in those who heard.   
So the children of Israel heard good news.  We talked about this last time.  The good news was that God will give you the Promised Land—a land flowing with milk and honey.  But the truth was not mixed with faith; therefore it did not profit them.  They did not believe.  The writer is saying, in the same way we have good news.  We, too, have an offer of rest that we can enter into—a promise of rest.  But that promise has to be mixed with faith if we are going to profit from it.  It is a reminder that even though Jesus died for the sins of the world, the message is not universalism.  It’s not, “Everybody’s in!” The truth has to be mixed with faith.  There’s God’s part and there’s our part—that’s always the way it is.  God’s part is He has done the work, and He offers rest.  Our part is we have to believe, mixed with faith, in order for that truth to profit us.  Verse 3:  
 For we who have believed (the writer puts himself in there) enter that rest, just 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.
So what is he talking about there?  He’s saying we who have believed enter into this rest.  When David said to the children of Israel in Psalm 95 that with belief they can enter God’s rest—My rest —God says, there’s a reminder that even though they were in the land, David was concerned that they would not enter into His rest.  In other words, the land wasn’t the point.  The land was a picture; the land was a shadow.  Are we saying today that in order to enter into God’s rest, we have to all fly to Israel and enter the land?  And we all understand, “Of course not!”  So the land was a picture, a metaphor.  David comes along with Psalm 95, They’re in the land—David’s king over the land; he’s reigning over the land—but his concern is they still won’t enter His rest because the rest isn’t just the land; it’s just a picture, a metaphor.  So what is it?  It’s God saying, “My rest,” which goes all the way back to Genesis 2:2 where it says the rest of God started all the way back at the foundation of the world.  In Genesis 2:2, we’re told that “on the seventh day God rested.”  He quotes that in verse 4:
 For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS”; and again in this passage, “THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.” (VS. 4-5) 
So here’s what he’s saying: On the seventh day of creation, God rested.  Why did God rest?  Was He worn out?  Had he had a really hard week?  God didn’t rest because He was tired; He rested because the work was done.  The text says that when God had completed His work, He rested.  Then He placed Adam and Eve in His rest.  This is essentially what defined paradise.  God had done the work; once it was completed He rested, He didn’t begin another work and rest cycle. He rested from creative work once and for all. Adam and Eve entered into that state of rest.  This is what God has always wanted for people made in His image.  But as you know the story, Adam and Eve sin; chaos enters the world, yet God still promises rest—“to enter into My rest.”  Was it the land? Was it a day? The land was just a metaphor, just a picture.  David comes along hundreds of years later and he still desires for the people by faith to enter God’s rest.  It wasn’t just the land; it wasn’t a day. It was something far more than that.  Now one of the interesting parts of Genesis 2:2: When God rested is not on day 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6—each one of those days ends with, “There was morning and there was evening.”  But on the seventh day, when God rested, you don’t read those words because the rest of God was not a day of the week.  It was not one day of the week.  It was a state.  God had now completed the work; it was a state of rest, and He wanted people made in His image to enter into that rest daily.  So the Jewish promised land is a shadow, the Jewish Sabbath day of the week is a shadow, but God’s rest is something far more than that.  Verse 6:
Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience,”  
So today there remains a rest for us to enter into, but we do so by faith.  We talked about this: Disbelief leads to disobedience!  Whenever I don’t believe God tells the truth, then I do it my way.  Whenever I don’t believe that God’s going to meet some need in my life, I do it my way.  Disbelief always leads to disobedience; that’s the concern of the writer. So verse 7:
He again fixes a certain day
Okay, there it is!  He again fixes a certain day—a day of rest.  What day is that?  Well, it’s today!  Oh, it’s Sunday.  Last time I said, “It’s today,” and they said, “Oh, it’s Saturday.”  This has been a longstanding debate: Is it Saturday or is it Sunday?  Are we still under the Sabbath of the old covenant?  Or is Sunday, the new covenant Sabbath?  Answer:  “Neither…Neither!”  This has nothing to do with whether or not you mow your lawn on Saturday or Sunday; it has nothing to do with whether or not a business is open or closed on a Saturday or Sunday; it has nothing to do with whether you have worked the fields on a Saturday or Sunday; it has nothing to do with whether you took a nature walk or went to church on a certain day!  The Sabbath rest today is today!  Ask me on Tuesday; I’ll say, “It’s today!”  Ask me on Friday, I’ll say, “It’s today!”  It’s not a holy day of the week; that was just a metaphor; it’s just a shadow.  It’s not a holy piece of ground or “the holy land” (Zec 2:12); it was just a metaphor—a shadow.  Ultimately it is a state to enter into the rest of God.  That’s what he’s saying: “What day is it?”  “It’s today!”  Verse 7:   
He again fixes a certain day, (what day?) “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, “TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS.” For if Joshua had given them rest, He (God) would not have spoken of another day after that. (Vs. 7-8) 
So Joshua is the Hebrew version of the name Jesus.  So Jesus is the Greek version.  The Hebrew version of the exact same name is Joshua, and it reminds us that Joshua in the Old Testament was a type or a picture of the Messiah to come, a picture of the Jesus to come.  So what did Joshua do?  Joshua led them into the land of promise.  They claimed the land.  They observed weekly holy days. But God still promised that day of rest was yet to come.  So what he’s saying is, “If entering and possessing the land was the rest, then there would be no reason to say there’s still another day of rest coming, unless the land was merely a metaphor, a picture.  Just like the day of the week is a shadow of the ultimate fulfillment to come.  Verse 9: 
So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.  
Now that phrase Sabbath rest is actually one word in Greek.  It’s not found anywhere else—this is the only place it is found. It doesn’t say that there is a Sabbath day; it says there is a Sabbath rest.  So what is the Sabbath rest that remains for the people of God today?  It’s not a piece of land; it’s not a day of the week; those were just shadows; they were just pictures.  What is it?  Verse 10: 
 For the one who has entered His rest (how did he do that?) has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.  
There it is right there—verse 10!  This is the main theme of the gospel all throughout the New Testament.  Who is it that enters into God’s rest by faith? Not God’s work and rest cycle, but God’s rest.  It’s the one who ceases from his or her works and enters into God’s rest.  On what day? Today. So what is the Sabbath about today?  It’s about not working.  What does that mean?  It has nothing to do whether or not you mow your lawn on a Sunday.  It has nothing to do with whether or not your business is open or closed on a Saturday.  It has nothing to do with whether or not you are working the fields on a Sunday.  It has nothing to do with that.  Sunday is not the new covenant Sabbath.  It has nothing to do with that.  What does it have to do with?  The idea of works is used consistently throughout the New Testament as defining those things we’re doing to somehow try to merit favor with God—efforts of self-righteousness, religious activity, things we’re trying to do to make ourselves good enough for God. The world is full of religion.  Religion taps into our desire to be our own god.  I want to do it myself; I want to make myself righteous; I want to make myself spiritual; I want to measure up on the basis of my own efforts.  But religion is oppressive; religion is damaging; religion is full of hopelessness and despair because every day you are reminded that you’re actually just a loser that will never measure up to the standard before a holy God.   
We know from the book of Hebrews what the work is that God completed—the fulfillment of a promise that at a point in time, the Creator God of the universe took on human flesh.  He blazed a trail of salvation by conquering sin and death once and for all.  As the ultimate High Priest, He offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for sin to make propitiation for sin.  Chapter 1 said to make purification for sin.  He was buried; He rose again; He returned to the Father and what did He do?  We learned this in Chapter 1: He sat down.  The priest was never allowed to sit because their job was never done, because it was only a foreshadowing of the promise of One who would ultimately pay the price for sin.  Jesus uttered on the cross, “It is finished!”  When He rose from the dead, He returned to the Father and the great High Priest sat down!  Mission accomplished; paid in full!  What did He do at the right hand of the Father?  He rested.  He created the rest of God that God has always wanted for people made in His image.  How do we enter into that rest?  By faith!  We cease from our own self-righteous works.  We give up our own attempts to merit favor with God through religious activity, and in brokenness and humility we acknowledge the only hope we have is what Jesus did for us.  We enter into the finished work of Christ.  This is a consistent message throughout the New Testament.  We’re going to throw a couple of verses on the screen just to remind ourselves of this message: 
But to the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness. (*NASB, Romans 4:5)  
This is the theme of the New Testament.  This is verse 10.  There is a Sabbath rest.  “Is it a piece of ground?”  “No, it’s not!”  “Is it a day of the week?”  “No, it’s not!”  Those were just shadows or pictures.  But ultimately Sabbath rest is when we rest from our own attempts at self-righteousness and we simply rest in what God has done for us through Jesus.  Sometimes people will say to me, “How come you don’t keep the Sabbath?”  Answer: “I keep it every day.” What a shame just to keep one day of the week. Ask me on Tuesday, I’ll say, “It’s today!”  I rest in the finished work of Jesus on the cross today.  Ask me on Friday, I’ll say, “It’s today!”  I rest in the finished work of Jesus on the cross.  It has nothing to do with mowing your lawn, opening your business, or working in the field.  It has to do with resting in what Jesus has done for us on the cross.  There is a Sabbath rest.  Verse 11: 
Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall through following the same example of disobedience.  
Now clearly rest is not automatic.  It’s not even automatic for believers.  That’s why he says, “…be diligent; work really hard at resting.”  There are those who have never trusted Christ.  They need to believe this is true.  Perhaps they’ve been used and abused and beat up by religion and need to hear, “That’s not what it’s about.”  But it’s also possible for those of us who have trusted Christ to still be miserable because we don’trest in the finished work of Jesus on the cross.  The enemy comes along and he whispers in your ear, “You’re a loser; you’re a failure; you’ll never measure up. Who do you think you are that God just hands out some kind of a salvation as a gift? You’ve got to be kidding me.  God probably is so annoyed that you’re in His presence because you’re a loser.”  How many lies does the enemy whisper in our ears and we’re anxious; we’re fearful; we’re hopeless, and we’re despairing because we are not diligent to rest.   
Can I come to the end of a day where I’ve blown it, biffed it, and disappointed God and myself again and still be at rest?  Answer:  “Yes!” …resting in the finished work of Jesus on the cross.  I need to be diligent to rest because when I rest, when I think that way, when I remember what’s true, that is the most likely scenario where I’m going to be repentant, where I’m going to confess, where I’m going to do it differently tomorrow—because I remember again who I am in Christ!  Verse 12: 
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able  to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. (Vs. 12-13)   
In other words, Him with whom we will be accountable.  So the Bible is not just words on a page. It’s a living, breathing book.  It’s the God-breathed Word of God.  God takes His words with His Spirit and He penetrates and He judges and He sorts out, and He presents us naked. That’s literally what it says—naked before a Holy God—the One to Whom we will give an account.  For some people that is an absolutely terrifying thought.  For some people they will avoid the book because the book terrifies them because it penetrates and it judges; and it discerns and it sorts out; and it presents us naked before a Holy God.  But for those of us who believe, it is where we find the truth. 
It’s where we find grace and mercy.  It’s where we find relief from the bondage of religion and enter into the rest of God.  It’s where we find guidance; it’s where we find life.  When we understand the truth about God’s rest, I am not terrified to be presented naked before a holy God because I know I stand in the rest—the finished work of Jesus on the cross.  It’s the living, active Word of God that gives me life, that gives me hope, that gives me a future, that gives me what I need to rest in my most difficult moments in life.  Verse 14: 
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens (meaning back to the Father to be seated), Jesus the Son of God (that’s His humanity and His deity), let us hold fast our confession (our statement of faith, what we believe).  For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.  Therefore let us draw near with confidence (boldly) to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Vs. 14-16)   
When we go through the most difficult moments of life, we cry out not to a god who is so abstract and disconnected we have no sense that he understands what we are going through.  That’s not who He is.  It’s the One who actually took on human flesh.  As remarkable as that may seem, the God of the universe actually became one of us—and He walked on this earth.  He knows our struggle; He knows our pain; He knows our trials and our temptations; This is the God who loves me; this is the God who saved me; this is the God who’s experienced the struggle and the pain that I’m going through.  I come boldly and confidently into the presence of God, and in my hour of need I find grace and mercy.  I find what I need to get me through another day! 
There is a Sabbath rest.  It’s not a day of the week; it’s not a piece of ground.  It’s a Person.  It’s a Person who did for me what I could not do for myself—and He offers it freely as a gift!  If mixed with faith, I believe and enter into His rest.  
He’s just inviting you, by faith, to enter that rest, to experience the forgiveness of sin, and to experience a relationship with God.  I would invite you this morning, to enter into that rest.  What day is the Sabbath rest? It’s today!  Why would you wait?  Why would you wait until tomorrow?  Why wouldn’t you enter that rest today?  
Our Father, it’s really just so hard to comprehend that the God of the universe actually took on human flesh to make a way of salvation, to conquer sin and death once and for all,  to make payment for sin, and to simply offer it freely as a gift.  Lord, we’ve been reminded that truth has to be mixed with faith.  We have to choose to believe that’s true to enter into Your rest.  Lord, may today be our day of Sabbath rest. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Hebrews 3:1-19 Hold Fast

Over the first two chapters, the writer of Hebrews has told us some amazing truths—that the God of the universe took on human flesh to conquer sin and death once and for all by offering the ultimate sacrifice of Himself, that sin might be paid for, that He might offer salvation freely as a gift, that one day we might actually rule and reign with Him forever. So here’s the question, “Do you really believe that?”  Because the consequence of unbelief can be devastating! That’s what we want to talk about in chapter 3. If you have a Bible, turn to Hebrews, Chapter 3Hebrews chapter 3, starting in verse 1, the word Therefore goes back to everything that has preceded chapter 3.
Therefore, (in light of everything that we have talked about), holy brethren, (set apart family. The writer is talking about us together as brothers and sisters in Christ) partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, (meaning to anchor down, to really focus on Jesus, the person and work of Christ), the Apostle (This is the only place in the New Testament where Jesus is referred to as the Apostle, rightly the Apostle, the Greek word really means “the sent one,” and He is the ultimate sent one from God, sent to be the Savoir of the world.) and High Priest, (Who we learned offered the ultimate sacrifice for sin, and then sat down, indicative that the payment for sin had finally been made—mission accomplished!)  …the High Priest of our confession. (*NASB, Hebrews 3:1) 
Often when we think of confession, we think about confessing our sins to God or to one another, but the word confession means to agree with, and historically it has often been used just to refer to a statement of faith—a confession of faith. In other words it’s a body of doctrine and we say together, “We believe this.” The writer of Hebrews is saying Jesus is the center; the person and work of Christ is what the Christian church is all about. It’s the center of our hope; it’s the center of our confession of faith.
He (Jesus) was faithful to Him (the Father) who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house. (Vs. 2) 
Now again, the comparison of Jesus to Moses might seem odd to us, just like the comparison of Jesus to the angels seems kind of odd to us. But again, if you study early christian history, what was happening with the first century readers is they were tempted to go back to the old ways, to the old covenant. There were Judaizers that were saying to them, “If God is for you, this persecution wouldn’t be happening, and you need to go back to the old covenant. You need to go back to the temple and the sacrifices and the Sabbath and all the things that God put in place.” After all the old covenant (613 commandments including the ten commandments) was mediated by the angels. So who is Jesus?  What gives Him the authority and the power to do away with the old covenant and usher in something new? Answer: He is superior to the angels. He didn’t do away with the old covenant so much as He fulfilled it and has ushered in something new. So you can also imagine the argument that Moses brought in the old covenant; therefore, who is Jesus? Do we think Jesus is greater than Moses? So that’s the nature of the argument here.  
The idea of Moses was in all His house provokes some discussion around, “What does he mean by house?”  Some think it means the tabernacle, so all the activity in the tabernacle. Others think of it like the household, the people of God. It’s both. I don’t know how you discuss the old covenant without discussing the people and how do you discuss the people without the old covenant, so it’s all of that Moses represented in the Old Testament. Verse 3 
For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house.  
So of course Jesus is superior to Moses. The logic of that is because the builder is greater than the house.  Think of it like this: if you were to go to the Parade of Homes and see a whole bunch of beautiful homes, while you are admiring those homes, ultimately what you are admiring is the builder of these homes. In other words, nobody is going to think the house built itself. What you are ultimately admiring are the builders. Well, in the same way, the house didn’t build itself, so Moses was like a manager in the house, but he wasn’t the builder of the house. Verse 4:  
For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; (Vs. 4-5) 
This text doesn’t say anything negative about Moses, actually just the opposite. Moses is celebrated; he was faithful in his role. The idea here of a servant, typically when you see that word in the New Testament it’s a translation of the Greek word doulos which means servant, slave, bond- slave, or something like that, but that’s not this word. As a matter of fact, this is the only place in the New Testament where this word is used. It’s a term that basically is a reference to someone who is right under the person in authority, in other words right under the owner, someone who is managing everything on behalf of the owner. Maybe in our world today we would say something like, “Oh, that’s his Number 2 person.” So the owner has someone who is running the show for him. That’s this word. It’s celebrating the fact that, “Yes, Moses did a great job. He was faithful as someone who was put in position of managing the house.” It includes the idea …for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later. In other words, the whole point of the house was to bear witness to something that would happen later, that would be talked about by the prophets and ultimately fulfilled. So, Moses was the manager of the old covenant that was foreshadowing and picturing something that was yet to comeVerse 6: 
…but Christ (the Messiah, the anointed one) was faithful as a Son over His house— whose house we are,  
So Moses was a faithful servant but Christ was the builder of the house. He is the owner of the house, and He has ushered in a new house. He says, “This new house of which we are,” clearly stating that the Old Testament under Moses was all foreshadowing and picturing the fulfillment of God’s promise all the way back to Genesis 3:15—the promise made to Abraham, foreshadowed and pictured throughout the Old Testament. Jesus is the fulfillment of the old covenant. He is the builder, the owner of the house, and He has the authority and the power now to usher in something new. That’s why the old must fade away and the new must be celebrated. The end of verse 6 then says,  
…whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.  
Now those are the kind of verses that make a lot of people really uneasy because of the “if” clause. If what? Most of you are aware that down through church history there has always been a debate of whether or not you can lose your salvation—and there are good and godly people that argue on both sides of that discussion. So as soon as some people see the “if” clause, it immediately taps into their own insecurities. “I knew it! I knew it! If I’m not a great Christian all the way to the finish line, I’m out!” And it raises all kinds of discussion. So one of the things we wrestle with is, “Is this statement meant to be descriptive or is it conditional?” What I mean by that is if it’s descriptive, it’s simply saying, “Those who have truly experienced conversion will endure to the end.” Jesus promised, “I will finish what I started.” Or is it conditional, meaning only those who do perform up to a certain level to the end of the story will be saved. It is descriptive because the rest of the New Testament is very clear that God will finish what He started. If you have to perform at a certain level—and who decides all the way to the finish line—then clearly there is a level of works necessary to complete your salvation, and that’s contrary to everything the New Testament teaches. So it’s simply saying, “Those who are truly born again, truly converted, will endure to the end.”  
Whether today you are an unbeliever, whether you are a brand new believer, whether you have been a Christian for thirty years, it’s the same question, “Do you believe God tells the truth?” and, again, the evidence would be in your actions, your attitudes, and in your emotions every single day. Verse 7:  
Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says,  
Two things real quick. One is the writer is identifying Scripture as the very words of God. Even though this psalm he’s about to quote is written by David, it’s ultimately the God-breathed words of God, and that’s what he said. This is what the Holy Spirit says in Psalm 95. The other thing to notice is that it doesn’t say said—past tense—it says says—present tense. The writer is going to argue in chapter 4 that this is a living book. Therefore it’s not just something that was said in the past, but the Holy Spirit continues to say this to us today as His people. Then he goes on to quote Psalm 95:  
One of the key terms is today; that’s going to be repeated again in this chapter and on into chapter 4. Today, we still have today—there’s a sense of urgency. Whatever has happened to you in the past, whatever you’ve done in the past, it’s past! You don’t know if you have a future. What you have is today. So, do you believe God tells the truth today?  
The idea of harden your hearts is consistently presented in the Scripture as the idea of when God reveals Himself in a very clear way, nobody walks away from that experience neutral— in other words unchanged. In that moment either you believe and your faith is increased, or you do not belief and your heart becomes harder and harder. When God clearly makes Himself known and you stubbornly rebel and you say, “I refuse to believe it,” you walk away from that experience with your heart just a little bit harder than it was before.  
So what’s he talking about here? He’s going back to when the nation of Israel left Egypt, God manifested Himself through the plagues. They leave Egypt. God manifests Himself through the parting of the Red Sea, through the destroying of the army of the Egyptians. God led them as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. God provided water. God provided food. God provided protection. God’s presence was so evident in so many tangible ways. When they got to the threshold of the Land of Promise, a land that God said, “I will give you, and it’s a land flowing with milk and honey,” Moses sent twelve spies in to check out the land.  They come back, and two of them— Joshua and Caleb—report, “It’s a land flowing with milk and honey. Let’s take it.” But ten of them said, “Yes, it is a land flowing with milk and honey, but there are giants in the land. We can’t win. Let’s not go in.” And the ten convinced the majority, and together they said, “Were not going in!” God, then, responding to their disbelief said, “I will give you the land. It will be everything that you long for,” but essentially what they said is, “God, You can’t be trusted. We don’t think You are faithful. We don’t think You are telling the truth.” And so God said, “Because of that, for forty years you will wander in the wilderness until that generation of unbelievers dies, and then maybe the next generation will trust Me.” Within that generation there would have been well over a million people, and out of that million people, two entered the Land of Promise. The consequence for disbelief was catastrophic. One can only imagine what would life have been had they just believed God tells the truth.  Had they just trusted God, after so many demonstrations of God’s faithfulness, they could have experienced a land flowing with milk and honey, but they wouldn’t.  
Now, again, people then start to question, “Well, were these people believers or unbelievers? Are they in or are they out?” That’s how we always want to reduce these stories, and the answer is, “There is no way to answer that question.” The Old Testament text doesn’t address that; that’s not the point of the story. Some would say, “Well, because the Promise Land is a picture of salvation and they didn’t get in, clearly then they are out.” So don’t forget Moses didn’t get to go in. Is Moses out? So it’s just not that clear; it’s not the point of the story. The point of the story is they had this opportunity to rest in the land flowing with milk and honey if they would have just trusted God and believed He tells the truth. But because of their unbelief they did not enter. Now unbelief doesn’t mean just a struggle along the way. All of us from time to time struggle along the way. Unbelief is a much stronger term. It’s an act of rebellion. It’s basically this idea of saying, “I will not believe. No matter how God demonstrates Himself to be faithful, I won’t believe. I’m going to do it my way. I don’t think God can be trusted.” It’s a very defiant rebellious act of the will, and the consequences were catastrophic.  
The idea of rest is interesting because Psalm 95—if you go back and read it at your leisure—is a wonderful psalm that was read every Sabbath at the synagogue.  So these people would have been highly familiar with this psalm. The whole idea of rest that they were seeking through the weekly Sabbath, was actually there to be found in Christ, in this new covenant, if they would just believe that. Verse 12:  
Take care (that’s a command; anchor down), brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.  
The Greek word translated falls away is the word from which we get our English word apostasy. The Greek just simply means to kind of distance yourself away from God. Jesus used the exact same word when He talked about the sower and the soils. When He talked about sowing the seed on the rocky ground, at first it looks like something is growing but there are no roots and it just fades away. This letter is starting to tell us that they are believers, but the writer also has a concern that mixed in with the believers are those that may not truly believe. That’s clearly a concern he has. That’s a concern of almost all the New Testament Epistles. No one could write a letter to a church somewhere and be one hundred percent sure that everyone in that church is truly a believer. So you always have these hints within every letter that there may be some among us that don’t really believe, just like Jesus talked about with the sower and the seeds. So that’s the concern, that there are some that really don’t believe it’s true. How do we help with this? Verse 13: 
But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  
So how do we do that? We do it together. This will be an emphasis in the book of Hebrews—that as these people are headed into persecution, and there is a fear that they might go back to their old ways, they need to consistently come together to encourage one another, to strengthen one another, to take this journey together. We are called to come together to encourage one another, to celebrate one another, to strengthen one another, to hold one another up, to understand that we are in this together and together we get to the finish line, not just weekly, but day after day. To reaffirm what we believe to be true, because life can get really hard and really confusing at times. Again the emphasis is on “Today”! I don’t know about tomorrow; I don’t know about ten years ago. I don’t know what you did; I don’t know what was done to you. It’s past history; we can’t go back and change it. I don’t know that you have a future. What I do know is you have today so there’s this emphasis with a sense of urgency, “What do you believe to be true today, because today matters.!”  
The idea of the deceitfulness of sin is to understand every time I give into temptation and engage in some sin, ultimately what I’m saying to God is, “God, You cannot be trusted with this area of my life. I know what You’ve said. I know what Your track record is, but I just don’t think You are going to be faithful. I don’t think You tell the truth. Therefore, in this particular area of life, I’m going to be my own God and I’m going to run the show. That’s the deceitfulness of sin. It’s always rooted back to unbelief. “God, You can’t be trusted, so I’m taking charge.” That’s the basic idea; that’s why unbelief can be so destructive. Verse 14:  
For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end,  
This again is descriptive. Those who have truly believed will endure all the way to the end, but there may be those among them that don’t truly believe. Verse 15: 
…while it is said, 
Now, he wraps it up with a series of questions.  
For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief. (Vs. 16-19) 
It was those that didn’t believe that provoked Him. It was those that had so much evidence of God’s faithfulness and God’s presence that were determined not to trust Him and went their own way and engaged in all kinds of idolatrous sin again and again and again. Now be careful how you read some of this, less you misunderstand. You think, “Well, what is the deal with God getting so angry?”  Think of it this way. Let’s imagine you have lived your life with the highest integrity and character. Again and again you have been faithful to someone. Again and again you have been good and kind and compassionate to someone. You’ve demonstrated your character and heart to someone again and again and again. And all they keep doing is saying to you, “I can’t trust you…I can’t’ trust you; I just think you’re a big liar.” You tell me, how would you respond to that? Would you, with an indifferent heart say, “Oh, that’s okay.”? No, you would get angry. You would get angry because your track record of goodness and faithfulness and truth is clear so, “Why do you keep saying that to me?”  
And that’s what God is saying—what He wants is to bless His people. What He wants is for His people to trust Him and enter into the Land of Promise. What He wants for them is a land flowing with milk and honey. What He wanted for them is so different from what they experienced. And again and again and again He made His power and presence known to them. “Just trust Me. I’ll get you in the land. I’ll take the land. It’s yours!” But with a rebellious heart again and again they said, “No, we don’t want to trust You; we don’t want to do it Your way.” As a matter of fact, often they said, “We want to go back to Egypt; we think that was better.” But one can only imagine what could have been if they had just trusted!
So now we are back to our question, “Do you really believe God tells the truth?” It is entirely possible to genuinely be a born-again Christian and live a miserable life all the way to the finish line because you never really believed that God would be your refuge, that God would be your rest, that Christ would be enough.  
Do you or do you not believe God tells the truth, and is that evident in your actions, in your attitudes, in your emotions, through the best and the worst moments of your life? Our prayer is that we would all chose, in an act of our will, to believe that God tells the truth, so in the most difficult moments of life we will truly say, “I do believe Christ is enough!”
Our Father, we just ask that You would give us the courage, the faith to believe that You do tell the truth, that we can really believe what You say, that we will experience Your refuge, we will experience Your rest, and that even in the most difficult moments of life we will say with integrity, “It is well with my soul,” because we believe, we believe Christ is enough! Lord, may that be true of us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Christ is Enough – Hebrews 1:1-14


One of the things we are reminded daily is there is a lot of pain and heartache and suffering in the world. Maybe it’s a disease that just won’t go away. Maybe it’s a broken relationship. Maybe it’s a financial crisis. I don’t know what it is for you…but you know…you know what it is. So here’s my question. “Do you believe, no matter what it is you’re going through, that Christ is enough?”  Now, we all know what the right answer is. That’s not what I’m asking. In your heart of hearts, “Do you really believe Jesus is enough for whatever it is you’re going through?” 

Well that’s the question we’re going to wrestle with in the study of the entire book of Hebrews: “Is Christ enough?” So if you have a Bible, turn with us to the book of Hebrews. 

The book of Hebrews is unique in the sense that it’s the only New Testament book where we do not know who the author is. I’m sure the first readers knew; it wasn’t anonymous to them but we, today, don’t know. Some people think Paul, although that’s less and less convincing today.

Scholars are pretty confident this was written at the latter part of the 60’s so this would have been under the persecution of Nero. The persecution at this point is getting pretty intense. In AD70, the fall of Jerusalem, everything comes crashing down; things are really getting intense and moving to really an all-out slaughter. It appears that those that were believers, many of them were considering maybe going back to their old ways.  As the persecution got more and more intense, they’re thinking about turning back out of their fear, perhaps out of their uncertainty, and maybe there were those that never really turned to Christianity from Judaismthat were seeking to convince others to join them.  And so the heartbeat of the book of Hebrews is in the midst of the trials and the persecution, asking, “Where are you going to turn?” “Who are you going to turn to?” “What are you going to turn back to?” Moses? Angels? The First Covenant? In the most difficult moments of life, why would you do that?” “Why would you not trust that Christ is enough?” That’s kind of the heartbeat of the book of Hebrews.

So, chapter 1, verse 1: (Verses 1 through 4 are one long run-on sentence in Greek, so clearly meant to be taken in kind of one breath, one running opening.) The subject is God. What has God done? Verse 1:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, (*NASB, Hebrews 1:1)

The subject is God. What do we know about God? We know that God is a God who speaks. He is not a God who has remained silent. In the Old Testament, in the old covenant God spoke through the prophets. Prophets here are not limited to major and minor prophets in the Old Testament but prophets meaning the main characters of the Old Testament. So God spoke through the main players. He spoke through the Old Testament Scriptures. Many portions means many ages over a considerable amount of time; many ways—through the Scriptures, through dreams, through visions, through a number of different ways God communicated in the old covenant. Verse 2:

…in these last days has spoken to us in His Son… 

So, last days is a reference to Old Testament prophecies that then defines the time from the time of Christ until the return of Christ. So sometimes I hear people today say, “I think we might be living in the last days,” to which I always reply, “I know we are. It started with Christ and it will go until the return of Christ.” Biblically speaking, that defines the period known as the last days. And last days did not begin after 1914, 1798 or 1844 as SDA’s & JW’s teach. 

Now part of that was carrying the idea that in the old covenant God was communicating, making promises of a Messiah, of a Savior that would come. So everything in the old covenant—the Old Testament—is looking forward to the fulfillment of that promise. It’s one ongoing story. Jesus is the fulfillment of those promises.Jesus isn’t just one more communication in the line of prophets. Jesus isn’t one more word from God; He is the final word from God. So the idea is all throughout the old covenant they were looking forward. But now the promise has been fulfilled; the Savior has come, so we stand in the finished work, the completion of what Jesus has done on the cross. So Jesus ushered in this New Covenant and the only thing that remains is the return of Christ. So these are the last days, living in the fulfillment of the promise and the responsibility of the Church is to accomplish her mission-spread the gospel of His finished work. So ….in these last days God has spoken to us in His Son—the final word! 

Now the writer goes through a series of affirmations related to who Jesus is. All of it has to do with this idea that Jesus is superior to everyone else (prophets) and everything else (revelation). It all comes back to this idea of: where else would you turn, for every direction you turn is going to be inferior to the exalted Christ. So, again, frame this discussion around whatever it is you’re going through, whatever it is you’re facing, wrestling with the question, “Is this Jesus enough to get you through whatever it is?” verse 2:

…in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, 

Now the language in these verses can get a little confusing. Appointed or you see in verse 4He has become much better, so it almost sounds like Jesus wasn’t before and now has somehow risen, like he wasn’t God but now is fully God, and that would be a complete misunderstanding of the text. Think of it this way: Jesus is the eternal God—fully God from all eternity—Father, Son, Holy Spirit. That’s not in question but there was a moment in time where the eternal God of the universe—God the Son—did actually take on human flesh and become the God-man in order to fulfill the promise to be the Savior of the world. He completed the mission and returned to the Father in an exalted position not as just God, but this new God-man, because He had completed the assignment. So the focus of the writer of Hebrews is not on the nature or person of the Son but rather as the God-man—the mission, what we call the work of Christ. We refer tothe person and work of Christ, that the eternal God did become flesh, did do the work, accomplished the work, and there is an exalted reward because the work is completed. So that’s what these terms are referring to.

The idea of being an heir—talked about in Ephesians chapter one in glorious terms—simply means that He both has authority over and possesses all things—all things—all people, all powers in the universe! He has authority and power over everything. He was: 

…appointed heir of all things through whom also He made the world,

…identifying Jesus, the one God,who became flesh, is the creator of the universe. So when you read Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God,” Elohim, that is what we refer to as the pre-incarnate Christ—that is Jesus before He became the God-man. God the Son is the creator of the universe. The idea that something came from nothing is foolishness and there are more and more scientists, secular and Christian alike, who are getting on board with this idea that there is no way something came from nothing. There had to be a beginning point, which means there had to be some sort of a cause. As Christians, we just go back to the first verse of the Bible—“God…In the beginning God,” but specifically the Son was the creator of the universe. This is affirmed in the Gospel of John, chapter one. This is affirmed in Colossians, chapter one. Verse 3:

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature,

Now that’s a little bit more difficult to explain but basically the radiance of the full glory of God emanates out of Jesus. He wasn’t lesser God; He’s the full radiance of God. Think of it this way: In the Old Testament Moses said to God, “I want to see Your glory.” God said to Moses, “Moses, if you saw My glory, it would kill you. So here’s what we’re going to do. We are going to put you in the cleft of the rock.” God said, “I’m going to put My hand over the cleft and I’m going to go past, and right at the end I’m going to give you a glimpse, literally of my hindquarters. and that’s all you can take and survive,” and Moses glowed for days!

So the radiance of God that Moses just got a glimpse of is the radiance of Christ—fully God— radiant in every way, the exact representation! Colossians says that Jesus is the visible manifestation of the invisible God. The word representation is a Greek word that meant like a stamp or a dye. It would have been very familiar to them, for example of a dye that stamped out coins—one after another—that perfectly replicated the image on the dye. Jesus is the perfect representation, the visible manifestation of the invisible God,

 …and upholds all things by the word of His power.  

Colossians 1 would say not only the creator of the universe but the sustainer of the universe—not just holding it up, but actively sustaining the universe. Scientists today can identify things in our universe that are true—things that they even go so far as to say are laws but what they often can’t explain is: “Why is that true?” “We discover this is true; we just can’t explain why it’s true.” We would say it’s because Jesus not only is the creator but he is the sustainer. He holds it all together. 

When he had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Vs. 3b) 

This same Son, who is the creator, who is the sustainer, who is the full radiance of God, is the One who took on human flesh in order to make purification for sin, to fulfill the promise of a Messiah —in order that we might know forgiveness of sin. So it raises this question: Is there connectivity to all of this?  Who has authority to forgive sin? Who has authority to say you are purified from your sins? No church, no priest, no pastor, no denomination, no religion. I can’t go out tomorrow and say, “I’m going to die for the sins of the world,” because I myself am a sinner; I can’t even cover my own sins; I have no power and authority to declare that somehow my death has purified the sins of the world. What would have to be true to have the authority to purify sin? Seems to me you’d have to have the authority, power, possession, and ownership over everything. You’d have to be the creator. You’d have to be the sustainer. You’d have to be the full radiance of God. Only God has the authority to say that covered the sins of the world!  It’s true; it is mysterious and sometimes confusing to figure out how exactly that death two thousand years ago covers my sin. I understand that. But who’s in charge? The One who created, the One who possesses, the One who sustains, the One who is fully God in every way. Only God could offer that because of who He is as God. 

The idea of sitting down at the right hand of God is very significant. In the old covenant, the priests daily had responsibilities in the tabernacle and the temple to offer sacrifice and do their required work, but the priests were not allowed to ever sit down on the job. The reason for that is it carried the message that the work is never completed and so they always had to remain standing, always at work, because the work was never done. Hebrews will talk a fair amount about that but all of that was foreshadowing a promise that one day the Messiah would come and He would make sacrifice for sin once and for all.  

When John the Baptist identified Jesus he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” So when Jesus purified for sin through His death on the cross, He Himself said it while He hung on the cross, “Tetelestai;” it is finished meaning paid in full. The result of that is He sat down at the right hand of the Father, communicating the work is finished once for all— completed!  Now He sits. This is a very powerful statement—that Jesus has accomplished the mission, and completed the atonement! By the way, the Adventist Jesus is depicted as standing in the heavenly sanctuary since His ascension, however the Biblical Jesus is presented as having sat down, having completed the atonement. Verse 4:

…having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.

Now I’ll talk about verse four in just a minute but I want us to go back and process a little bit of what we just heard. So God has spoken the final message, the final word in His Son. Who is this Jesus? He is the owner, possessor, and has authority over everything.  He is the creator of the universe. He spoke the universe into place. He is the sustainer of the universe. He radiates with the full glory of God and He was the One who made payment for sin, to offer salvation to those who by faith receive it. If all of that is true, help me understand, “What is it you’re going through today that is too big for this Jesus?” Every other direction you turn, everything else you turn to will be inferior, will be less than. Why is this Christ not enough? Why is it that we can’t trust Him in the most difficult moments of life? 

Starting in verse four he kind of turns this conversation to Jesus being superior to the angels. That seems like kind of an odd conversation to us. But angels will appear again chapter 2 and thereafter. So what is behind that? Basically from this point to the end of the chapter, he’s going to make his point—his case from the Old Testament—that that’s clearly the case. 

If you think about Hebrews and its emphasis on the Old Testament and the old covenant and Jesus being superior, and the first covenant is obsolete which will come later, you think about how this book just opened up, and why this was inspired to be written. What was happening is there were those Judaizers that were seeking to lure these believers back to Judaism, back to the old covenant, back to their old ways. There may have been some of them that were just thinking about returning to their old practices on their own because of the persecution, and it was safe or maybe even reasoning that if God was in this, this wouldn’t be happening.  So maybe we are off track; maybe we need to go back to the old way, the old covenant law, law of Moses, to old covenant practices, Sabbaths, dietary laws, circumcision etc. There seems to be a lot in Hebrews that indicates that’s a big concern. 

We know that when Moses received the commandments (ten commandments included) on Mount Sinai—essentially the old covenant—that the angels were there. 

He said, “The LORD came from Sinai, And dawned on them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran, And He came from the midst of ten thousand holy angels; At His right hand there was flashing lightning for them (Deut. 33:2)

“Wherefore then serves the Law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by ANGELS in the hand of a mediator” (Gal 3:19)

They were messengers or help mediate that message to Moses. So imagine that you are a Judaizer and you are trying to convince these believers to go back to the old covenant. Part of the argument was that Jesus was just a man. He was just another one of God’s prophets but He certainly doesn’t have the authority to overthrow the message of the angels given by Moses. He certainly doesn’t have the authority to usher in a new covenant as if somehow He’s taking over. He’s certainly not higher than the angels. You can imagine that line of thinking as a justification for holding on to the old covenant, Moses’ law. 

So now think about what the writer is saying about who Jesus is—that Jesus wasn’t just another prophet. He wasn’t just another word from God. He is the final word, and then the list of things we just talked about. The last part of the chapter goes back to a number of Old Testament passages to make his case—that Jesus is superior to the angels or their message. It’s almost as if he’s saying, “If you’re going to talk about the Old Testament, let’s talk about the Old Testament because it’s pretty clear that the Son is over the angels.” And we’ll see more of this. So verse 5:

For to which of the angels did He ever say,


That’s from Psalm 2 and of course the obvious answer is, “Never!” God identified Jesus as His Son, not the angels. This verse is quoted at Jesus’ baptism. It’s quoted at Jesus’ transfiguration. Paul quotes it in a sermon in the book of Acts. So it’s a much quoted verse when God the Father identified Jesus as His Son.

And again,


This is taken from 2 Samuel, chapter 7, verse 14. This is David talking about Solomon as the future King of Israel but it is a foreshadowing of God the Father identifying one in David’s line, His Son, who will be the ultimate king, the fulfillment of the prophecy, and obviously he’s never said that of the angels. Verse 6: 

And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says,


So there’s nowhere that the Son is to worship the angels but the Old Testament clearly says the angels should gather and worship the Son. Verse 7:


And of the angels He says,


This is a quote from Psalm 104. There are a couple of different ways this verse is interpreted. I think best understood the psalmist is saying and the writer of Hebrews is now affirming that God uses the wind and the lightning as messengers. So the angels are messengers of God like the wind and the lightning. Angels are magnificent beings. They are created by God. They are powerful beings. They have a significant role in God’s economy. So the writer is saying angels are utterly magnificent but they’re just messengers whom God uses to accomplish His mission. Verses 8 and 9:

But of the Son He says,





Jesus, the eternal Son of God, is not just another messenger, he’s not just another prophet. He is God and the Old Testament clearly identifies Him as such and finally verses 10-12:









Again just affirming that Jesus as the creator, one day heaven and earth will pass away; He’ll roll it up like a garment and discard it and usher in the new heaven and the new earth. Angels don’t do that; God does that! Finally verse 13:

But to which of the angels has He ever said,


Verse 14:

Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?

So again there is this affirmation: angels are magnificent beings! They are created by God. They are extremely powerful but they are messengers, servants of God that are sent out by God in order to minister to the saints. They are not over the eternal uncreated, self existing Son of God.

So who is this Jesus that has ushered in the new covenant? For these first century believers He is the owner, possessor and authority over everything. He is the creator of the universe, the Genesis 1:1 God.  He is the sustainer of the universe. He is the eminence of God, radiates the fullness of the glory of God, is the exact representation of God. He is the one authorized to become the purifier of sinners, that we might experience God’s salvation, sitting majestically over the angels as the eternal God.  

So now we’re back to our question today. If that’s true, you remind me, what is the problem you’re facing this day that is just too big for this Jesus? Where are you going to turn? Wherever you turn, it’s going to be inferior! Who are you going to turn to? Whoever you turn to is going to be inferior! Why would we not believe in the worst moments of life, no matter what, this Jesus is going to be enough?

Our Father we just pray that You would open up our hearts and our minds to come to believe with all of our hearts, not just with our heads, but with our hearts that no matter what it is we’re facing in this life, Jesus is enough and we can trust Him.  Lord, may that be so! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Adapted: https://www.lincolnberean.org/sermon/christ-is-enough-hebrews/the-final-word