ROBERT GOVETT, M. A.
[This exposition of Hebrews 3: 1 - 4: 11 is taken from Govett On
Hebrews pp. 68-118. The book is presently available from Schoettle Publishing Company,
1, 2. "Wherefore holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Christ* Jesus, Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Who is faithful to Him that appointed Him, as was Moses also, in all his house."
[* If the question were to be decided by the uncials alone, ‘Christ’ should be omitted. But the uncials are divided, as usual. And the cursives are more to be depended on. The foundation-mistake of late criticism, is the setting up of the uncials as decisive. Many of them have been wilfully altered. The writers of them had less veneration for God’s Word, than earlier copyists.]
We are called upon to observe the person and offices of our Lord, and the benefits accruing to us from His work. He is both Apostle and High Priest of our religion: and herein He answers as Apostle, or the Sent One, to Moses; and as High Priest to Aaron. It should be observed, that Moses was by God first called on to take both offices himself. But upon his extreme reluctance showing itself, - a reluctance which displeased the Lord, - the honour was divided between himself and Aaron his brother (Ex. 3., 4.).
"Holy brethren." Christians are holy, as
sanctified within by the work of the Holy Ghost. The holiness now is not
that of the flesh, as under the Law. "Ye
shall be holy men unto Me; neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn of
beasts in the field; ye shall cast it to the dogs" (Ex. 22: 31). They were to wear fringes to
their dress, and a riband of blue, "that ye may remember to do all My
commandments, and be holy unto your God" (Num. 15: 37-41). Christians now are hallowed
by the blood of Christ, and [if obedient] by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit making their
bodies His temples (1 Cor.
3: 17; Heb. 6: 4; Eph. 1: 13). Of old there was also the endowing
of each believer with some spiritual gift - the seal of the Holy Ghost set
evidently on the sons of God. God has regenerated us; and Christ, and His
Spirit, by His indwelling, sanctify. Thus we are ‘holy,’ and thus we are ‘brethren,’ a
far higher standing than
Israelites also were united to each other as ‘brethren,’ descended from one great father, Abraham; but it was a brotherhood after the flesh. These are brethren, as re-born, as sons of God, and members of the Christ, the Son of God.
were "partakers of a heavenly calling."
Moses was sent to call
was made the Apostle of the earthly calling by Jehovah. "Come now, therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that
thou mayest bring forth My
people, the children of
Christ’s call is an heavenly one. It is a call
uttered by an ascended Christ seated in the heavens (1:
1-3; 2: 3). He is calling us out from earth, to heaven and its
glory. The Christian is "blessed with all
spiritual blessings in the heavenly places" (Eph. 1.), and invited to a heavenly kingdom.
There is a peculiarity in the word used here. It might be rendered - ‘super-celestial.’
Moses’ heaven was the inferior one, open to men’s eyes. "Out of heaven He made thee hear His voice." ‘Blue as the body of
heaven in its clearness’ (Ex. 24.). "The Lord shall open to
thee His good treasure the heaven, to give the rain
unto thy land in its season" (Deut. 28:
This change of the calling involved, and involves oft, a loss of the earthly things. Of this the Saviour frequently warns us: His disciples must be ready to surrender all of earth in order to belong to Him (Luke 12., 14.).
Christ Jesus was "the Apostle and High Priest of their confession."
There is a difference between ‘profession’ and ‘confession.’ Profession takes place before those who are of the same mind. That is easy enough. But ‘confession’ supposes testimony rendered before those unfriendly: it is the owning Christ in the presence of His enemies. The Jews confessed Moses as their apostle, and Aaron as their high priest. But to confess Jesus as superior to both, was to subject one’s self to loss. "Thou art His disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples." "And they cast Him out" (John 9: 28, 34). Confession on our part is the answer to the Saviour’s call. The owning of Jesus was no less strange to the heathen. They could not comprehend a religious body that had no visible god, or temple, or sacrifice, or priesthood. They thought them atheists.
must have its root within; but it must not cease there. God asks the
mouth as well as the heart (
We are called on to "consider" Jesus in these His two offices. When Moses was called by Jehovah, he beheld a bush of the desert on fire, yet unconsumed. He turned away from his path and his employment, to consider the strange object. God was there, and spoke to him from the midst of it. But our object is much loftier than his. In Moses’ call, God and man drew near together. But He who now calls to us is God and man in one person. Very peculiar, very wonderful, both in Himself, and in His relations to us, is the object set before us! The Son, Heir of all, Creator of the world, Off-shining of the Father’s glory, Sustainer of all things, is seated at the Father’s right hand, and having appeared as man, and suffered death. Consider these glories of Jesus! Dig where God tells you there is much treasure, and you are on the way to be rich!
Jesus is loftier than any angel, both by His Divine nature, and by His achievements as Son of man. He is High Priest in the heavenly tabernacle, about to come again as King, and to requite each according to his works.
translators, by rendering "who was
faithful" instead of "who is,"
have turned aside the meaning of the passage; especially since they have, in
the next verse, "was counted worthy" instead of "is counted."
They supposed that all trial of our Lord ended with His life. That is not so. Jesus, by His resurrection, has been elevated
to a loftier post by far; but one with which He is entrusted by God as the
Risen Man. On His ascension He entered upon His High-priesthood and
Apostleship. His trials during His life were with the intent "that He might become a merciful and faithful
High Priest" (2: 17). The
Saviour is waiting for His kingdom, and faithful to His present
duties both Godward and manward. For He is the Leader
of God’s family of sons onward to glory. His present position is
like that of Moses in Midian, after that he was
obliged to leave
Hereupon begins the comparison between Him and Moses. As ‘Son of man’ He has been appointed to His present office by God, as was Moses. The margin gives: "Who made Him." If the word be so taken, it refers to the human nature of our Lord. But as the comparison is now being drawn between Moses and Himself, we are tacitly referred to a passage of the Old Testament, which is quite parallel. Samuel on one occasion says: "It is the Lord that advanced Moses and Aaron" (1 Sam. 12: 7); where also the margin gives "made," and the Septuagint so renders it. We may point, in support of the Established Version, to Mark 3: 14. "He appointed [‘made’ - Greek] twelve, that they should be with Him." And again: "God hath made that same Jesus Whom ye crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2: 36).
"Faithful, as Moses also was, ‘in all his house.’ "
Jesus is, and Moses was, faithful to the trusts committed to them by God. The argument now turns on Numbers 12: 7. Jehovah is defending Moses against the attacks of Aaron and Miriam. They thought they were at least his equals; but the Lord abases them before Him. They might be inspired at times, but, "My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all My house." What is meant by "all My house," or "My whole house"? The word "house" has in this connection three significations.
It means, first and generally,
Moses was faithful to God. He sought only to accomplish his Master’s word. He had no by-ends of his own. He never kept back what was unpopular, or added his own thoughts to the message. Let us also be faithful!
The expression is used also of the tabernacle. As the
3. The same expression is applied to the priesthood. Aaron "shall make an atonement for himself and for his house" (Lev. 16: 6, 11, 17; Num. 18: 1, 11, 13).
In all these three departments Moses was ‘faithful.’
3. "For He is counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He hath greater honour than the house, Who hath built it."
This refers us back to the high honours given to the Son of God in the previous chapters - both those which He possessed as Son by nature, and those since earned by Him as incarnate. It points especially to the Saviour’s session at the Father’s right hand on high, possessed of a name and power beyond any and all. He has received this glory - moral, governmental, physical - as the result of His merit; as the just due of His services to God and to man. He has glorified God; and Jehovah has judged Him worthy of all the glory He has. His glory abides, while that of Moses passed away.
was judged worthy of glory, when God spake face to face with him outside the
camp of idolatrous
4. "For every house is builded by some one; but He Who built all things, is God."
The words here are simple, but they have occasioned much difficulty to commentators.
Is there here (1) single? Or (2) double? Does it apply solely to Christ? Or to Christ after it was first applied to Moses? I am not clear: so I will state both views.
1. As applying to Christ, it would bring into view the difference between "the whole house" in Moses’ day; and "the whole house," as the words apply to Christ.
(1) The house of God, as entrusted to Christ, will then be the universe which He has created, and maintains (Matt. 28: 18). Moses passed from one part of the earthly tabernacle to another; but all was on the earth. Christ, in ascending to appear before God as Mediator and High Priest, went through all lower heavens, to ‘the heaven of heavens’ - "not of this creation." (2) His tabernacle in which He now ministers, is one which "the Lord hath pitched, and not man" (Rev. 4., 7., 12). (3) And the church is also the spiritual house of God, which He has built and arranged (1 Tim. 3: 15). Christ, the Creator of Moses, is Creator of all things. And the Creator is God. And God must be superior to all creatures.
2. If the reference is double, the case will stand thus:- Moses was "the builder" of God’s house of the Old Testament. The word for ‘building’ in the Greek is a wide one. It may take in the construction of the material frame-work which constitutes the ‘house.’ It includes the furnishing of the building with suitable goods and chattels, introducing thereto the inhabitants, and assigning them their proper places.
Moses first led out (1)
consequence of this honour put upon him by Jehovah, Moses was greater than all
Christ as the Builder, the Orderer of all God’s house
of creation is greater far than Moses, whose sphere of partial superiority was
5. "And Moses indeed was faithful in his whole house as a servant, for a testimony of the things which shall presently be spoken of; but Christ as a Son over His house, Whose house are we, if at all events we hold fast the boldness and the boasting of the hope firm to the end."
Again the expression - "in his whole house" - occurs. The house is God’s house, as appears from the passage in Numbers: "My servant Moses is faithful in My whole house." The difference between the house entrusted to Moses, and the far greater one entrusted to Christ, now appears still more fully: as also the different standings of the two superintendents. Moses was the servant; Christ is the Son. Moses, though superior to all under the Law, is called by God a ‘servant’ only, even when He is giving him his highest praise.
Moses was ‘faithful’ in speaking, acting, writing. We may fully rest upon his representation of himself, his people, the tabernacle, the priests. Seven times over in Exodus 11., where Moses’ putting together the parts of the tabernacle is related, it is said: "As the Lord commanded Moses." God, in the New Testament, countersigns what was written, said, and done by Moses as faithfully done. This is remarkable, in connection with the assaults of learned unbelievers in our day, who deny the authority and authenticity of the five books of Moses.
But there is another inferiority to Christ. Moses in his words, ways, and writing was a "witness;" - a witness upon points of which Paul is about to treat. Moses was a faithful witness. We see it clearly, where his testimony detract from his own glory. He bore witness to another prophet greater than himself, a greater and better tabernacle, and gave hints of the setting aside of the old covenant in favour of a new one.
"the things which shall presently be spoken of"
refers to Paul’s present writing, the rest of the Epistle bears witness.
It rests on the testimonies which Moses gave concerning (1) Melchizedek, (2)
Should we not read: "Christ as a Son over His own house"?
for that would set aside the question of His faithfulness to a
superior: and that is the point now before us. "Having
an high priest over ‘the house of God’"
(10: 21; 1 Pet. 2: 5; 4: 17). Of Moses
it was said: "Faithful in all My house." But Christ is over
it (10: 21).
Jesus was herein typed by Joseph, both in his humiliation, and his
exaltation. "Joseph found grace in his [Potiphar’s] sight, and he
served him; and he made him overseer over his house, and all
that he had put into his hand" (Gen.
39: 4). God "hath made me
[says again Joseph] a father to Pharaoh, and lord
of all his house, and a ruler throughout all
"Whose house are we."
Here the sense of "house" is narrowed to signify ‘household.’ God is not now ‘dwelling in temples made with hands;’ for what building on earth could man construct suitable to His grandeur, Who fills heaven and earth? But, meanwhile, God looks at and dwells in the ransomed of Christ, and the Church in His "habitation in spirit" - a house of living stones. It is the new spiritual creation, in which the Most High takes pleasure. Believers constitute God’s people and house, presided over by Christ. But it is under condition that they abide in Him. If at all events we (here Paul includes himself) ‘hold fast’ - what they already possessed as believers.
They were to ‘retain with firmness the boldness of the hope they once felt.’
What is "the hope" in question? It is the hope attached to the heavenly calling - the coming of Christ to reign in His glory, and His faithful brethren’s association with Him in that day. The brilliancy of this hope had faded in their minds by its long delay, and by the pressure of persecution. They forgot, that "if we suffer [with Christ] we shall also reign with Him." The life of Christ is the model after which the Christian’s is framed - ‘First to suffer, then to enter the glory.’
this is the hope, is established by many proofs.
It is the burthen of the previous two chapters of our Epistle, which present
Christ as a second time to be brought into the habitable earth. It is
the kingdom of righteousness which some shall, as His fellows, enjoy with
Christ; in the day when the wickedness of Christ’s foes shall be put down with
strong hand, and the works of God shall be put in subjection to man; it is the
"great salvation," "the rest of God," "the
first resurrection." It is the coming millennial
Hints of that day were given by Moses in the various rests connected with the sevens of the Law. We see it also intimated in Moses’ promise before he ascends the mountain; and after the feast of the seventy elders in the presence of God, when he bids them stay were they were, for he would return to them (Ex. 24: 14). To increase Christian’s faith in this return of our Lord, and to encourage their hope of the kingdom, is one of the main objects of this Epistle.
When first they believed, they held the joyous inward confidence the expectation of Christ’s speedy return and kingdom; and the full heart ran over to others with boasts of the glory then to burst forth, and their own participation in it. ‘Come, join the Lord’s people! He is quickly coming to make us companions in the glory.’ But with the delay of year after year the confidence within decayed, and the testimony without in consequence flagged (Prov. 13: 12).
The Spirit of God, then, charges us to hold firmly within, and to testify boldly to those without, the return and the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is to be retained firmly "to the end" - not ‘till our death;’ but till His re-appearing. The weakening and shaking of this hope produced, as their effects, the hardening, unfaithfulness, and disobedience of the Hebrew Christians, of which Paul [the Writer of the epistle] complains.
7. "Wherefore, as saith the Holy Ghost, ‘To-day, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as at the Provocation, during the day of the Temptation in the wilderness, where your fathers tempted Me, proved Me, and saw My works forty years.’"
argument which follows up to chapter iv. 12 is an exhortation to believers to seek the
millennial rest, and to beware of provoking
God, as did
The Apostle characterizes the passage he is about to give us as decisive, for it is inspired by the Holy Spirit. He speaks in the Psalms, and in all Holy Scripture. So our Lord teaches. "For David himself saith by the Holy Ghost" (Mark 13: 36). "And the Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10: 35).
present dispensation is described as "to-day."
It is an especial period, (1) of God’s call for obedience to Christ, and
(2) of His people’s trial on their way to the glory. With
faith in Christ’s blood, as the Lamb of the true Passover, begins our rescue
from Satan, the world, and the curse. Then comes
the passage through the waters of baptism; after which the wilderness
begins. But multitudes of [regenerate]
believers prefer to continue in
"If ye will hear His voice." Jesus is our Moses, the Leader into the glory. "And His rest shall be glory" (Hebrew) (Isa. 11: 10). "Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I say?" "This is My beloved Son; hear Him." Obedience to the Son is obedience to the Father also. That was the word that came forth from God, when the miniature picture of the kingdom of glory was given. "Not every one that saith to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven" (Matt. vii. 21). To-day is the invitation, and trial day; to-morrow the glory.
"Harden not your hearts."
The obedient listen, for it is the Word of God. But those who are rebellious despise the promises, defy the threats, will not obey the commands. They fortify themselves in their resistence to the Most High. How many believers see baptism; yet on various pretexts slight the command, and refuse the confession of Christ which it carries with it!
Do none but ‘professors’ disobey Christ?
"As in the Provocation, during the day of the Temptation in the wilderness."
after they had left the Red Sea, and before they had come to
But it seems in our passage as if the Lord regarded the whole time of the sojourn in the wilderness, as a time of provocation and temptation. The chief crisis of it occurred as recorded in the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of the Book of Numbers, * which we will consider presently.
[* It is remarkable that the reference to chapters 13 and 14. occurs just after the reference in Heb. 2: 2 to Moses as the ‘faithful servant’ in Num. 12.]
"They saw My
works forty years." God’s works of
creation had long been completed, and His rest therein had been broken.
At creation, the angels broke out into praises, and sang hymns of joy. But now God had wrought on behalf of
years the Lord was provoked: in spite of His wonderful works on their behalf,
the people distrusted and disobeyed. God was working His wonders of
creation for six days only. His redemption-wonders were
working forty years; wonders of power against their foes; wonders
of favour toward them, mingled with judgments against the disobedient
amongst them. The wonders of redemption are related far more at large
than those of creation; for they concern us more closely, and are regarded by
our God as more important, and more glorifying to Him. But
Then we have the effect at last of this continued provocation, on the Most High. He was grieved. The misconduct of His own people touched him more closely, than that of the Egyptians. He traces the provocations of the offenders to the source. "They are always erring in heart." For the heart of nature is "enmity against God" (Rom. viii.).
"They knew not God’s ways." A person’s
"ways" mean his conduct, as the
consequence of his character. Here is one who has been very
kind to a poor man in his sickness. From that series of acts I argue to
his abiding disposition. I should say, he is of
a benevolent character. So from observed effects we argue
to the nature of things. Yonder boiler, under the pressure of steam which
could find no escape, blew up. From the fact I argue as to its
character. That is its "way." Beware!
Do so again, and it will burst once more. So
They did not see His meaning in the varied trials of the way. They thought, that if God led them, there ought to be no check or trouble. But that was not His mind. He condescended to explain to them His reasons in these trials. "Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no" (Deut. viii. 2). They promised perfect obedience; but they were ignorant of their pride, perverseness, and enmity against God, and the Most High would exhibit the evil of their heart, in their words and actions. "Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee" (ver. 5). Moses, at the close, takes up the same strain. "Ye have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; the great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles: yet the Lord hath not given you a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day" (Deut. xxix. 2-4; xxxii.)
"So I sware in My wrath, They shall not enter into My rest."
Here is - what many will not believe - God’s "wrath" against His [redeemed] people for continued disobedience. May not even a father be justly angry at a son’s disobedience and provocation? At length came His oath of exclusion.
Let us look at the crisis which drew forth this oath a little more particularly.
people proposed to send twelve spies to view the land, before they entered
it. The proposal sprang in part from unbelief; but Moses and the Lord
sanctioned it. The spies returned after forty days, bearing witness to
the goodness of the land, and bringing also specimens of its grapes,
pomegranates, and figs. ‘Let us go up and possess
the good land,’ said Caleb. But then the faithless spies opposed
him. So gigantic were the
inhabitants, so fortified and great were the cities, they could not take
possession. The whole people took the side of unbelief. They
weighed their own powers against the obstacles to be overcome, and left out the
power of their God. Each one encouraged the other in unbelief, till
they imagined and said, that Jehovah had only led them
[* Here is a hint of "My rest." Here is an intimation of the millennial day, when all the earth shall be full of God’s glory, and the "Son of man" its centre (Ps. 8.)]
Now follows a close application of this history to [regenerate] believers now.
12. "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an ‘evil heart’ of unbelief in departing from the living God."
is this word - "any of you"
- brought to bear upon the believing Hebrews of that day.
"Lest any of you be hardened."
"Any of you should think he has come
too late for it." The Holy Spirit foresaw that the objection
would be made - ‘Apply all such warnings to "professors:"
they do not belong to us! How can believers be accused of unbelief
in heart?’ But how could believers in heart depart from
the living God?’ We see the example. ‘God is
going to give us up to our foes! Let us no longer journey with Him and
Moses, but turn back to
listen to many, we should be ready to suppose that a ‘not’
had by some accident dropped out of the text, and that we should read - ‘Let
those not of you take heed of an evil heart of unbelief.’
‘Lest any of those not of you be hardened by sin.’ Nay, but
it is addressed to the unbelief of [regenerate] believers! In whose heart is
there not some of this old leaven?
‘But why do you compare
Because God does here! Because, even in the regenerate are the remains of old Adam.
If so, this Epistle is a mistake, for it is based upon the opposite principle, - that while believers now are [eternally] saved by grace, yet in regard of REWARD, they shall, like God’s ancient people, be dealt with "according to works." Is the Epistle to the Hebrews from God?
"An evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God."
"The living God" of this passage is the Lord Jesus. He has been declared to be the Creator and Sustainer of all. "His years shall not fail." Peter confessed Christ: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16). And the Son is of His Father’s nature. Thus Jesus in resurrection describes Himself: "I am the First and the Last." "I am He that liveth and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of Hadees and of Death" (Rev. 1: 17, 18). He is the Lord of life: proved to be so in resurrection; introducing others into the kingdom by the first resurrection, through His merits (Rev. 5: 9, 10). The New Testament tells us too, that the Israelites in the desert tempted Christ (1 Cor. 10: 9).
"Were it not better for us to return to
13. "But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘To-day.’ Lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."
The remedy to be opposed to this peril is, constant exhortation of one another. It is to last as long as the danger of falling back lasts; and that is as long as God calls the period in which we live "to-day." "To-day harden not your hearts." You are in constant danger; ply constantly this weapon of exhortation. Beware you do not distrust God, and turn back through fear of the enemies to be encountered; else you will lose the day of especial glory to which you are called. Seek the prize of your calling. "Seek first the kingdom of God, and His [commanded] righteousness." As the way thereto (Matt. 6: 33).
He who hears God’s Word must not harden his heart.
Faith softens the heart: unbelief hardens it. "Faith makes us tremble at His word;" unbelief
makes light of the Lord’s promises and threats. "They despised the
pleasant land, and gave no credence unto His word." When
they were bid to go up, they would not, though God was with them. When they were forbidden, [after their apostasy]
they would go up, though God was against
them. It is well with us when we receive God’s authority manifested
in His Word. But to stand in opposition to any one command of His is
perilous. Sin spreads through
the soul like a cancer. We may turn a deaf ear to God’s threats, but
they will prove true at last. We may comfort ourselves by the
numbers of those who, like ourselves, disobey; but the multitude of the
The word of warning is also mirrored for us in the history before us. Caleb stills the murmurs of the people before Moses, and exhorts them to go up at once, and possess the land. Later on, Caleb and Joshua exhort the people to obey; but the multitude fiercely resist the appeal, and cry out to stone the faithful ones. Then all hope of the people’s recovery is over, when exhortation is refused, and the heart is so heardened as to seek the death of the faithful servants. God’s oath then goes forth against the unbelieving and rebellious; and while they attempt in presumption afterwards to go up, yet they are beaten back before the foe, for the Lord was not with them. How many are now hardening themselves against baptism, ‘the Personal [Millennial] Reign,’ and the reward according to works!
14. "For we became the fellows of the Christ, if we hold firm to the end the beginning of [our] confidence."
The force of this verse is entirely taken away through the change in rendering one Greek word. Had the translators kept to the same expression as in chapter 1, verse 9, the beautiful revelation here given would have flashed upon the souls of many. "Thy throne O God, is for ever and ever; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore, O God, Thy God hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows." It is then as if the writer had said: ‘Who are those, the companions of the Anointed One, who come with the King when He descends to take His sceptre? - as described in Psa. 45. It is ourselves! Under condition of our not giving up this assurance of the coming and kingdom of Christ.’ This again is knitted on to the coming of Christ to take the kingdom, in Rev. 19: 11-16: "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns; and He had a name written, that no man knew, but He Himself. And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS." Who are the armies of heaven* that follow Him? Ourselves, if we hold fast our hope and our obedience: for not all who call on Him as Lord come thus; but they who are with Him are called and chosen (picked men), and faithful (Rev. 17: 14).
[* That is, the angels at His command and those who were rapt to heaven before the Great Tribulation: Luke 21: 34-46; Rev. 3: 10.]
Here we see the foundation-principle of the Epistle. It is not a call to unbelievers, to break away from their present life and standing: it is an address to those who have to hold fast what they have. Then, dear reader, are you relaxing your energies, and giving up what you used in your days of zeal and love to do? It is a bad sign. What! Have you found, that the hope set before you is not of so much value as you thought? Or is it worthy of your highest energies? Paul though so; he strove with all his nerve after this prize of God’s proposing. He thought no surrender, no, not of life itself under a violent death, too great, if he might but attain thereto! Jesus thought it of such value, that, for the sake of this joy, He was content to despise the shame of the cross, and to battle through the tide of woe.
We are invited to be associates of the Christ in the day of God’s
rest, and in the kingdom of His glory. Such a prize will not be presented
The "for," with which the present verse begins, attaches to the warning. ‘Beware of turning away’ - for great is the glory, or great our loss in that day. As Christ, God’s Anointed, has partaken with us of flesh and blood, so shall we partake of His kingdom, and rule over the renewed earth as the Son of man, if we cleave fast to His promises and commands.’
"If we hold firm to the end the beginning of our confidence."
The confidence of the Hebrew believers of Jesus’ speedy return and kingdom was at first very strong. They sold houses and lands, convinced that they should not long need them, and because they learned that riches were an obstacle in the way to the kingdom. Our Lord had indeed sought to teach them, that His return would not be immediate (Luke 19: 11-27). As the time could not be predicted, their hope fixed on a day near at hand. But with passing years their confidence dwindled. Persecution pressed them sore. ‘Where was Christ? When would He come?’ They were at length in danger of giving up the hope, and turning back to the world and Moses. But, if they did so, they could not come in glory as companions of the King of kings. Thus the question was: ‘Would they cleave fast to Christ’s promises of His return and Kingdom, or depart from the hopes given by the living God?’
Soon the hope faltered in apostolic days. "If we suffer [ifs cluster around the entrance on millennial joy] we shall also reign with Him." "If we [not ‘professors’] deny Him, He also will deny us." "Their word will eat as a canker, of whom are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the [first] resurrection is past already: and they are overthrowing the faith of some" (2 Tim. 2: 12, 17, 18). And then follows a verse which tells us that we must be ‘fellows of the Christ’ in ‘love of righteousness and hatred of iniquity,’ if we would partake His throne and kingdom. On those grounds Christ Himself is set as King of kings. His fellows of the kingdom must partake of His grace, before they enter into His joy.
The confidence with which the hope of Christ’s advent is first received must be retained. "Look to yourselves, that ye lose not the things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward" (2 John 8). Neglect is enough to lose reward. The seeking it demands prayer, seeking, resolution. The Saviour’s parable of the Sower (with others) instructs us in this matter.
Of the four classes of hearers of the kingdom, only one enters!
Some, after having begun with zeal their attempt to enter, fall off through persecution; some, through the lusts of other things, entering in. "They on the rock are they, who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away" (Luke 8: 13). ‘Now does not that prove that the perseverance of believers to the end is a dream?’ No! It is not spoken of eternal life or salvation, but of "the word of the kingdom," and of the loss of millennial glory (Matt. 13: 19; Mark 4: 17, 19).
The sixth verse of our chapter spoke of retaining firm "the boldness and boasting of the hope." The expression there related chiefly to the testimony of oursiders; here, it relates chiefly to the inward firmness of soul on this especial article of faith.
15. "While it is said - ‘To-day, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.’ "
The exhortations here given refer to a certain period, after which there will be an entire change of dispensation; and then these calls will cease to apply. As long as God speaks of present time as ‘to-day,’ so long the warnings and the hopes are in full force. But, when ‘to-morrow’ comes, it is the day when the trial of God’s present people is over, and the great Tempter is imprisoned and unable to deceive. The ‘day’ of the wilderness was of ‘forty years’’ duration. The ‘to-day’ under Christ, the Greater Leader, is proportionally longer. But it rests with God the Father to decree the times and seasons. He has purposely kept them in His own power (Acts i. 7) - He Who first defined the days of creation.
16. "For who when they heard, provoked? Were they not all
those who came out of
Revised Version has adopted the true view of the sixteenth
it is to be read as a question, like the two verses which follow. Read in
the Established Version, the argument is enfeebled. But one sees how the translation arose.
It was adopted because it seemed to the translators, that, if so read, the
close of the verse would not be true. ‘Not all
were shut out of the land.’ Yes, all but the two faithful spies:
these did not provoke God, and therefore enter in. The right rendering of
the second question relieves the matter of all difficulty, and makes the appeal
exceedingly forceful. "Were not all [who
provoked] persons who came out of
resumes the citation of the psalm - up to the word "provocation" - that he may insist on the close
application of the passage to the hearers and readers of the Epistle. For he saw the objection which would be made by many, so as to
divert the force of the appeal. ‘This ninety-fifth psalm does
not apply to us: it refers to
They provoked - "when they had heard." "If ye will hear His voice." Now sins of ignorance are bad, when they arise out of our not being aware of what God has said, though it is written in His Word. But this was disobedience against light and knowledge. It was the hardening of the heart, after hearing the command of the Most High.
So now many of God’s own ransomed ones, the men who trust in Christ so far as to obtain [eternal] salvation, are provoking God. Multitudes see the command of baptism, but will not observe it. Multitudes, after faith in baptism, turn to pursue the world’s riches and honours, and are taught to do so by their religious instructors. So that, while many refuse to admit the application of this and kindred passages to real believers, - when they are off their guard, and treating of other questions, they describe the state of believers in our day in the most disparaging terms, and confess all that is demanded here. Indeed, some would deny the faith and consequent salvation of many assemblies of believers; so low have they sunk in their approximation to the world.
displeasure which God felt against the sinful of
Their unbelief rising to its height in disobedience, drew down the punishment of God. Beware of like conduct, that you may escape the like end. For we are of the same nature as they; and God is still the same. He has erected this lighthouse on the rock on which they suffered shipwreck; that we may escape. And while to most Christians this danger is not presented, to you, reader, it is.
Faith led them out of
Chap. 4: 1 "Let us fear, therefore, lest a promise being left [us], of entering into His rest, any of you should think that he has come too late for it."
previous chapter has set before us
It is on this point that the succeeding argument turns. The writer shows, that the rest spoken of in the psalm has never yet been accomplished. The call to have part in the millennial day of joy and privileges is still in force, with the consequent perils and besetments of those travelling to it.
I have translated the close of the first verse now before us differently from the Established Version. If we retain the usual rendering, the sense would be:- ‘Fear, lest you should be left upon earth as an unwatchful servant, after your watchful brethren have been removed by the first rapture.’
But that does not suit either (1) the words of the verse; or (2) the scope of the passage. The Greek word ‘to come short’ is in the perfect: it should in that case have been in the present. (3) The Apostle is warning us against, not a seeming and partial loss, but an entire forfeiture of the prize, under the oath of God. (4) After such a fear, as that translation supposes, the course of the Apostle’s argument would have been entirely altered.
Translate the verse as I have done,* and if falls perfectly into the following line of argument, and is just such an objection as was likely to occur both to Jew and Gentile.
[* The authors who defend this translation are given by Alford. Alford admits that it may be so rendered.]
"Let us fear." How should there be
room for fear, if we are, as believers, certain of the rest? God is
not to be mocked. We believers have to do with a real peril, as
[* The Epistle to the Philippians regards ‘salvation’ as yet future, to be attained only ‘in the day of Christ.’]
"Any of you should think he has come too late for it."
Here the writer changes the pronoun. Before, it was, ‘Let us fear.’ He says here, ‘Any of you:’ for the mistake he now names did not apply to himself. He was sure, that God’s rest had not begun; but that the call was still made to believers, bidding them seek to enter into the coming glory.
The Greek word means to ‘come short’ either in relation of (1) place or of (2) time. A man might lose his train, either by being a mile off the station when the train left; or by falling asleep in the waiting-room, and only being roused after the train had started. Here the coming short refers to time. Some would think, that the rest here spoken of was long ago past, and, if so, they would take no pains to seek an entrance into it. So great is the boon here set before us, that the Holy Spirit always urges the use of all diligence in attaining it. And Satan, on the other hand, seeks to induce a belief of its being a small affair, an illusion, or long ago past. ‘The first resurrection is past already,’ was one of his ancient deceits (2 Tim. 2.). Another idea, equally effectual to quench the true view, is, that the rest is a spiritual attainment, possessed now by all God’s rightly-instructed people.
"Lord, I believe a rest remains.
To all Thy people known,"
as Charles Wesley sings. But our passage is speaking of a future rest of reward. Four times it is spoken of as unfulfilled. (1) "A promise being left." (2) "It remaineth that some must enter therein" (ver. 6). (3) "There remaineth therefore a rest" (ver. 9). (4) "Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest" (ver. 11).
2. "For unto us is the good news proclaimed as it was unto them; but the word of the report did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it."
translators did not understand this passage: hence their renderings have only
darkened a place already obscure through much condensation. In the
Established Version it would seem, as if the Gospel of Jesus’ death,
resurrection, and forgiveness through Him, had been preached to
[* Better to have said: ‘two aspects of the one gospel – (1) the good news of eternal life by God’s grace; and, (2) the good news concerning the “prize” and “crown” to be won by all “considered worthy” to enter the Millennial “age” to come: Luke 20: 35 cf. Matt. 5: 20’.]
But the Gospel which our Lord proclaimed to
is another name for the doctrine of the millennium; a doctrine remaining to be
taught to those who have already received the good news of present forgiveness
through Jesus risen. These glad tidings were
"But the word of the report did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it."
"The word of the report" refers to the report
Through their unbelief - as God says: "How long will this people provoke Me? and how long will it be ere they believe Me, for all the signs which I have showed unto them?" (Num. xiv. 11).
3. "For we believers *are entering into the rest, as [God] said, ‘So I sware in My wrath, They shall not enter into My rest: ‘although the works from the foundation of the world had [already] been completed. For He spake in a certain place concerning the seventh day thus: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all His works.’ And in this place [He says] a second time, ‘They shall not enter into My rest,’ "
[* I do not think that any stress is to be laid on the participles being in the aorist. They might have been in the present. The aorist denotes that they had now for some time been believers.]
The "for" with which the verse commences is connected with the word ‘faith’ in verse 2. ‘The Israelites lost the rest, as deviod of faith. But we, as men of faith, are entering into it.’
Established Version gives "do enter," as though the rest were something of
habitual and present attainment by believers generally. Thus it confounds the sense, and the course
of the Apostle’s argument; who is proving the futurity
and the external character of the rest to them who believe.
The present here is prospective. It is illustrated for us, as previous
points have been, by the history of the wilderness. Up to the time when
the tribes, through unbelief, were rejected by the oath of God, they were
continually on the move toward the promised land.
So believers in the millennial glory are moving onward to God’s rest in that
day. For they, unlike
should read: ‘We believers are entering into the
rest’ - the same rest as that which
"Although the works from the foundation of the world* had [already] taken place."
[* This is the order of the Greek; and it makes the sense more distinct.]
The Apostle is now teaching us concerning the meaning of the phrase, "God’s rest." The expression is used in Genesis 2: 2 of God’s repose from creation-works on the seventh day. He notices, then, that of course that could not be the one into which we are invited, and toward which we are moving. Both the work and the rest of that day ended ages ago: sin had not entered, and man had no part with God in that enjoyment of His finished works. He sware, that unbelievers should have no part in His rest. But how could they? The rest of the first Creation-Sabbath was long, long past. ‘Why, then, did Paul cite the passage?’ Because God’s creation-rest on the seventh day is typical of His redemption-rest on the seventh millennium yet to come. Hence Paul quotes anew the passage from the psalm, and observes that the expression occurs a second time. "They shall not enter into My rest." The words are quoted to bring into notice, by way of contrast, the futurity of God’s rest there spoken of. "If they shall enter." Here is a "second time" a similar expression.
God’s creation-work was speedily marred by Satan and by man. Could the Most High rest in a world of sin and death? Impossible! He began, therefore, a new work of redemption, that the world and man might finally be set on a foundation of eternal repose; while unbelievers are eternally cast where no rest is to be had (Rev. 14: 9-11). The psalm notices new "works" of God, to be succeeded, like those of creation, by a new "rest." "They saw My works forty years." "They shall not enter into My rest." These new works of God are still proceeding; as our call to worship and to conflict, in the midst of an evil world, shows. Still the tidings of salvation go forth, and still some are being brought over to Christ. Since, then, both God and His people are at work, God’s rest is not yet come.
redeeming works were shown to
From these six thousand years of redemption-work God shall rest on the seventh thousand. As surely as a day’s rest followed on God’s six days’ work of creation, so surely shall the rest of a day follow on God’s six days’ redemption-work. Only "Beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years" (2 Pet. iii. 8). It is this which explains to us how God could be true, in saying to Adam: "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." He did not die in the day of twenty-four hours: but he did die in the day of a thousand years. And none of the antediluvian patriarchs lived a thousand years.
this coming repose Moses is a constant witness. (1) As soon as Noah,
coming out of the ark on the new world, had offered his sacrifice, we read:
"And Jehovah smelled a savour of rest"
(Gen. 8: 21). He owned, in that
sacrifice, the ground on which another and a better earth shall rest eternally*
on a better sacrifice, the sacrifice of Christ. (2) As soon as He had
redeemed His earthly people out of
[*i.e., after this earth is replaced]
[** ‘Seven’ in Hebrew signifies ‘fulness.’ ‘The dispensation of the fulness of time’ is the seventh millennium yet to come (Eph. 1.).]
the Law, the Sabbath was the chief positive command, as in
deeply this counsel of God was inwrought into the Law will be seen, on study of
the subject of the Sabbath and its rest. It signified
The great festival of earth, of which the Feasts of the Law were memorials, is to be the fulfilment of the Feast of Tabernacles - the festival of the seventh month (Lev. 23.), after the works of the harvest and the vintage were over.
The Law, then, has much instruction to give us on the subject of this future blessed Sabbath, which Law could not really bring in.
1. First, it teaches us often concerning the TIME of rest. It is to be the seventh day. The Lord’s rest on that day hath consecrated it; and, in its appointed time, blessing will flow out of it. "The Sabbath of rest, the holy convocation" of God’s approved ones, from the patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian dispensations, shall in due season be held under God’s better Apostle and High Priest (Rev. 7.).
2. 1. It teaches concerning the PLACE of rest. It shall be this earth, of which Abraham was made the heir (Rom. 4: 13). There, where God’s rest was broken by sin, shall the Most High prevail to bring in true repose, and shall rejoice in His works. The promises to Abraham, David, and the prophets, can only be fulfilled by resurrection. "The habitable earth in its future state" (Psa. 8.) is to be filled with the glory of Jehovah.
But there will be one portion of earth in which that rest and glory will be
most visible. The
And the centre of that blessing and rest shall be:-
It teaches us also concerning the MEANS of the coming rest. (1) The
first and chief cause of all is Jehovah’s self, the Giver of all
good. "My Presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest" (Ex. 33: 14). (2) Sacrifices and priests were
the means whereby the Holy God could dwell amongst the sinful. Thus, the
"odour of rest" which
God smelt in the sacrifice of Noah was intensified and established in the
sacrifices of the Law. "Command the children
[* The translators have put, a "sweet savour," instead of, "a savour of rest."]
(4) The King of God’s appointing was to be "a man of rest." "Behold, a Son shall be born to thee [says God to David] who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about; for his name shall be Solomon [‘peaceable’], and I will give peace and quietness to Israel in his days" (1 Chron. 22: 9).
5. "And in this place a second time: ‘If they shall enter into My rest.’ "
An examination of the ninety-fifth psalm, whence this passage is cited, will throw further light upon the argument. It seems to be addressed to all the world. There is a call to worship God, as Creator of the earth and man (ver. 5, 6). God is showing Himself to be King (ver. 3). This, as we have learned, applies to Christ, Who is more than once in this Epistle described as Creator (3: 4).
comes the appeal to the listeners to ‘obey His voice.’ As the Redeemer.
"We are the people of His pasture, and the sheep
of His hand." He is "our God" (ver. 7).
These expressions include both of Christ’s flocks. Of
God shall assuredly rest from His work of salvation, and from His war against earth in the last days. The only question is: Who shall rest with Him? For multitudes of believers shall be saved eternally in the new heaven and earth, who will fail of reward in the transition-period of the thousand years. For they do not work and rest with God, nor can God feel complacency in them.
6. "Since therefore it remaineth that some should enter therein, and those to whom the good news were first proclaimed entered not in because of disobedience, He a second time defineth a day - saying by David - ‘To-day’ - after so long a time, as has been before said - ‘To-day, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts,’ "
rest of God, offered to
The principle here is the same as in the parables of the Great Supper, and the Wedding Garment. "Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage" (Matt. 22: 8, 9). The first invited were rejected through their disobedience; those who enter shall enter as the obedient men of faith.
God has now announced another day of invitation "into the kingdom of the Christ and God." "His rest shall be glory" (Isa. 11: 10). God will see to it that His Son shall have companions in His millennial kingdom. He defines this period of the call as, "To-day". To impress the present force of the invitation, the time is named "TO-DAY." And to attract to it the more attention, and to show its present force, the word ‘TO-DAY’ is repeated, after some words of introduction have been thrown in.
is the writer, so long after Moses and Joshua. David, though seated in
the land of promise, and on the throne of Jehovah’s kingdom over
"He defineth a day." The "day" of the wilderness was "forty years." This new day has been greatly prolonged since David’s time; yet it shall have an end. It is the day of God’s testing His people, whether they will believe His testimony to the coming glory, and obey Him, as the way to enter it. ‘Hear His voice, and you shall enter.’ ‘Harden your heart, and you shall be shut out.’
A period is now near, when the day of grace and invitation shall close. It is called "the end of the age." It is to be a day of visitation of vengeance, and of judgment, cutting off the foes of God and His Christ (Rom. 9: 28). If the day of patience in the wilderness ended so sadly, this of the world’s sorer trial will end worse still.
It is still "to-day." It is God’s part to define the "times and seasons," and to close them when He wills. Be it ours to labour on for God, looking for His glory as our reward. The six thousand years of redemption-work are still running on. ‘Tis the day of good news, of mercy still, and the throne of grace. For the believer the world is still the desert; and the fight with the spiritual rulers of the darkness of this world (Eph. 6.) still goes on.’
days, and Solomon’s, though they brought the glory of the kingdom, and rest
from foes in the land of promise, were still not "the rest of God."
God could not rest even in David; much less in Solomon, who turned to
idolatry. Nor did
8. "For if Joshua had given them rest, He [God] would not have spoken of another day after these things."
words set aside an objection of great plausibility against the argument.
For it might be said by
this is partly true. Joshua’s partial clearing of the land by the sword,
and setting the children of
"If Joshua had given then rest, he would not have spoken of another day after these things."
Joshua’s was an attempt, under God’s hand, to see if there could be rest for (1) the fallen flesh under its best form, (2) in the old and blighted creation. But it could not be. "The Lord gave them rest round about according to all that He sware unto their fathers" (Josh. xxi. 44). But while they rejoiced in the gifts of Jehovah, they did not rejoice and rest in Jehovah. Much less could Jehovah rest in them. And here is the turning-point of the matter, for the coming rest is God’s rest.
[argues Paul], as you pleaded, both God’s call and His rest
are long past, there would be no new day of invitation to the rest, or of warning
against loss of it, as now.’ But God is still "inviting us to His own kingdom and glory"
(1 Thess. 2: 12).
"Seek first the
"He would not have spoken of another day." That is, of another day of good news; of the listening to God’s invitation and obeying it - in order that you may enter the joy of God’s rest. The days, both of redemption-labour, and of redemption-rest are "limited". The eternal day comes after the seventh-day rest of the millennial glory.
9. "There remaineth therefore the keeping of a sabbath-day’s rest for the people of God."
we have reached the close of the argument which began with the first verse of
this chapter. The objection was - that both the time of God’s call, and of His rest, had long ago been completed. It
was admitted by Paul that this was true of the works of creation. But the
ninety-fifth psalm had spoken of a future
rest of God, and had called all who heard the invitation to seek that coming
day of glory. To this it has been objected, that the rest of God had been
enjoyed by the tribes of
The Apostle here changes the word for "rest." He now uses the uncommon word "sabbatism." Why? On purpose to knit his present argument with what is testified of God’s creation-rest in Genesis 2., and with the feasts of the Law.
The coming day of sabbath-keeping is a special form of rest, of which God hath from the first given the type. Thus Moses is again constituted a witness to us, in this Epistle.
1. A sabbath day of "holy convocation." The ransomed of the Lord shall assemble, His approved ones of past generations. They shall come together to keep the feast of resurrection. There shall no "servile work" then be done by these anointed priests and kings. The Christ, the Creator, the better Joshua, the Redeemer, shall institute the feast, shall bless and hallow it: it shall be a time of rest after toil; when disturbers shall be imprisoned, and earth and heaven rest.
2. It shall be "the seventh day," the "great day" of God’s appointing; and upon the same scale of length as the six previous redemption-days.
3. It shall be the day of God’s complacency in His works, both of creation and of redemption. For after the work was complete we read: "And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1: 31). "In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed" (Ex. 31: 17).
Therefore God shall, before the coming day of His rest, remove those works in which He cannot feel pleasure. Therefore, O people of God, provoke Him not now, in this day of trial in the wilderness. For if He be grieved and angry with you, you will not then rest with Him. "The righteous, by faith, shall [then] live; but if he draw back, My soul hath no pleasure in him" (Heb. 10: 38). Paul himself therefore feared, lest he should, in reference to that reward, prove rejected (1 Cor. 9: 27). "Wherefore we are ambitious, that whether present or absent, we may be well-pleasing to Him" (Greek) (2 Cor. 5: 9; Heb. 11: 5, 6).
God, and they who attain the
kingdom, "shall rest together, after
working together." (1) Under the Law,
rest was to be furnished for Jehovah and man. He was bound
over to work and to rest with his God. (2) Under the Gospel, the Lord has
bestowed on us a better rest of soul in justification, than
[* Though our translators have trodden down this important distinction.]
It is a rest "for the people of God."
These are three kinds.
1. The approved of the Patriarchs: the men of faith commended in chapter 11.
2. The approved under the Law; who suffered for righteousness’ sake.
The servants of Christ under the Gospel. For it is one God,
Who, in regard of the coming reward, will act on the principle of "recompence to each according to works." "Ye shall see Abraham, and
Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the
10. "For he that entered into his rest, himself also ceased from his works, as did God from those peculiar to him."
There are several difficulties in this verse. I will therefore consider - (1) Its sense; (2) the connection; (3) the application.
1. First, then, the sense of the passage. Whose is the rest in question? We should naturally say "the rest of God," (1) as following after the word "Sabbath-rest;" (2) and the fourth verse of this chapter has cited from Genesis the Lord’s rest from the works of creation; as (3) also because the words "of God" have closed the previous verse. But if we so decide, whose are the works spoken of? God’s works? Hardly so. For the last clause of this verse contrasts the works of God with those here spoken of. ‘His works,’ then will mean, the works of the man who enters God’s Sabbath-rest.
2. Next, the connection. This tenth verse is giving the justification of the particular expression, ‘Sabbatism,’ employed in the preceding verse. It is designed to instruct us in the nature of the coming day. It was not in vain, that God rested on the seventh day from His works of creation. He who shall enjoy the coming day of rest, will repose with God. That day will be quite a contrast to "to-day." Now it is the time of labour and of war. That will be the day of repose, of peace, of recompence, of joy.
3. The application. Here rises a serious difficulty. We should have expected: "For those who shall enter into that rest shall cease from their works." Here we have: ‘He that is entered.’ I believe, then, that the words apply directly and primarily to Christ. Of us it is said: "We are entering the rest." ‘But He has entered.’ The reference is to His session on high on the Father’s throne, after His work of atonement is complete (1: 3, 13; 8: 2). Thus the Joshua of the New Testament, Who gives rest, stands in contrast with the Joshua of the Old Covenant, who could not give rest. And this idea is strongly confirmed by verse 14 of this chapter. "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest Who has passed through the heavens, Jesus [Joshua], the Son of God, let us hold fast the confession." Thus, too, our Joshua stands in contrast with Moses, the Apostle of the earthly calling, who was himself shut out of God’s rest.
Also, thus taken, the sentiment links itself on to the previous announcements - that Jesus is the Creator of all. It was fitting then, that He should enter on the rest which attaches to His work of justification and atonement already complete. The Creator rested the seventh day, and charged His earthly people, under penalty of death, to rest likewise on that day. But the Redeemer rose on the eighth day, His work of justification completed; and now He has, for Christians, set aside the Mosaic rest in creation and its seventh day. They are to rest on the eighth day, in the better work of the Son of God accomplished for them. And they are to be looking on to their own [better] resurrection.
course of the argument here is like the previous one. (1) Man shall one
day rule over all. (2) This is not yet fulfilled. (3) But the
work is begun in Christ. Thus we have in this chapter; (1)
Believers are called to God’s rest. (2) It is not come yet. (3) But
it is begun in Christ. The Father rests in the finished work of
His Son on our behalf; as He has proved, by setting the Saviour at His own
right hand. We, then, are to rest in the commencing victory achieved by
our Leader in His character as High Priest. Thus expounded, we obtain a
natural and easy transition to the next division of the Epistle. Herein
believers stand opposed to the vain labours of
[* Though our translators have trodden down this important distinction.]
To-day, believers, is a day of working. Jesus, "as a man taking a far journey, has left His house and given authority to His servants, and to each his work" (Mark 13: 34; 1 Cor. 15: 58; Phil. 2: 30). The idle servants are to be shut out from reward in that day (Matt. 25: 30).
the history of the Exodus still lends us light here.
If we apply to ourselves, and to the future, the principle of this verse, then we may say: ‘The enterers into God’s rest of the day to come, shall cease from his labours. But the people of God are still labouring, fighting, and under trial from God and men. Therefore the promised rest of God is not yet come.’
11. "Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any fall, in the same example of diosobedience."
We are not invited to the rest of verse 10, for that is already being enjoyed through our High Priest’s atonement. But while resting in part [in the finished work of Christ for our eternal salvation], we are also called to work and to fight.
The Lord’s Day, or the first of the new week,* is the testimony to us of the portion of redemption accomplished. The Son of God has wrought His work, and brought in a new rest. We no longer keep the Sabbath or seventh-day rest of the Law in the old creation, but the day of Jesus’ passage out from the old creation into the new, in His rising from among the dead.
[* Eight, in Bible numerics, represents 'a new beginning'; it is also the number for 'resurrection'.]
We trust to rest one day as God did, and with God. We shall be like unto God: not through disobedience, as the devil proposed, but through the Spirit’s renewing us unto the likeness of God.
Only those who have accepted the first repose, - that of the soul in the work of Christ, - can start for the prize of our calling. Before we attain the rest of the glory outside us, we must have the rest of conscience within us, which springs out of Christ’s accomplished work. "His rest shall be glory" (Isa. 11: 10).
Lest we should imagine, that all we have to do is to rest ourselves in Christ’s finished work for us, believers are here summoned to strive after the future rest, of which the Apostle has been speaking. "Let us labour." Paul includes himself. And to this end he did labour (Col. 1: 29) more abundantly than any.
The word translated "labour," is ofter [more frequently] rendered, "Be diligent." It contains two main ideas: one negative, and one positive. (1) Abstinence from what would hinder. (2) Effort toward the end in view. For a prize is set before us, which those who work not will lose. Hope is to spur us toward the goal. For how valuable must be that prize to which God and Christ call us! Fear is to restrain us, from those things which would shut us out.
We are to work now for the Lord. Now we have to do the will of God: then to receive the promise (10: 36). "The God of peace make you perfect in every good work to do His will" (13: 21). Now is the time to trade with our talents, that we may give a good account to the Master at His coming (Matt. 25: 16). If any believe there is no prize to be won, he will make no effort toward it. Hence the Apostle’s earnestness of exhortation. The present rest given us by the work of Christ achieved on our behalf, only sets us at the starting-post. The race has only then begun.
Seek not then, believer, your rest here and now, else you will lose the one to come (Luke 6: 20-26).
"Lest any fall." Our translators’ usual
supplement, ‘man,’ tends to darken
the exhortation. It is a word to believers. Here we have
come back to the former word for rest, and to the history of
Two senses may be given to this clause. (1) ‘Lest any fall into the same example of disobedience.’ But that is not the usual sense of the Greek expression. And besides, it omits the statement of the consequence of disobedience.
I prefer therefore the other - "Lest any fall;"
that is, "lose the rest," giving it the
sense of Numbers. "Your carcases shall fall
in this wilderness" (Num. 14: 29, 32,
33). Cited also by the Apostle in chap. 3: 17. It is also thus put in 1 Cor. 10: 5, where the
same history of
It is an additional word, "lest any." The exhortation is meant to touch each [regenerate] believer. This Epistle seven times uses the word "any one;" for it deals less with the privileges of Christ’s mystic body, than with the result expected by God as the answer to His great mercies.
"In the same example of disobedience."
The state of things in Paul’s day among the believing Hebrews answered greatly
to the crisis at Kadesh-Barnea. The Hebrew
Christians were rejected by their nation, put out of the synagogues; and they
themselves were discouraged, because the way through the wilderness was long;
because the new Moses, who had gone up to God, still delayed to come
down. The difficulties of the desert oppressed them; they were ready to
turn back to
2. Ours, too, is still ‘the evil day.’ War against Satan is still going on. But faith in Christ’s return waxes feebler; and in consequence the world, when it smiles, looks brighter than the clouded views of His coming kingdom. Many are unwilling to come out of the world, and to leave it by Christ’s appointed way of immersion. Many believers are in full persuit of the world’s fame, riches, and honours. Even millenarian Christians will not accept the true views of the intent of God, in setting the prize before us. They hold and teach that it is a gift: that all believers, no matter how immersed in dispensational and other offences, will yet attain the hope of their calling; in opposition to this and other clear passages. All then that can be done is, to testify and exhort, and look for the remnant who will hear and be faithful to the call.
12. "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even so as to divide between soul and spirit, both joints and marrow, and is a judge of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest before Him; but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him, to Whom is our account."
The Apostle now takes up the subject of the Word of God, a matter which was lying all along at the root of the present argument. The whole turned on the question: ‘Whether the ninety-fifth psalm applies to us, or no?’ The Apostle has been reasoning with those who thought, or even said: ‘The rest of God about which you talk, has passed away ages ago; it is a mere dead letter!’ How many are saying this now!
But, in so saying, they are denying it its true character, as "the Word of God." Hence many now say: ‘Scripture is not the Word of God, though there are words of God in it.’ Against such error the Most High witnesses. The Scripture is the Word of God.
1. "The Word of God is living." Man’s word conveys only his intelligence, authority, and duration. But God’s Word is like Himself, "living." It is nowhere ‘a dead letter.’ Man may despise it; but the inspired uphold it as God’s living Word. Even of the Law it is written: "Who received living oracles to give to us" (Acts 7: 38). To the Son of God it was ever the voice of the Father, even to be upheld, incapable of being broken in its least part.
It is "powerful." It is not only
living, but mighty. It commands and forbids, with all authority.
The sentence passed on
3. "Sharper than any two-edged sword." Perhaps there is a reference to the angel of the Lord who stood before Joshua with a drawn sword in his hand, as the Captain of the Lord’s host. Man’s sword can cut through flesh and bone, and let out the life-blood, so as to sever between body and soul. But this is of keener edge by far - in accusing and convicting of sin; in distinguishing between true and false.
4. It can sever between soul and spirit; those parts of man which God’s hand has so clearly intertwined, that, when the soul leaves the body, the spirit goes with it; or, if the spirit return to the body, the soul comes with it. ²
For Scripture distinguishes man into three parts; "spirit, soul, and body" (1 Thess. 5: 23).
The soul is the seat of the instincts and passions, which we possess in common with animals. The spirit is the deeper and more immaterial portion, with which we serve God. Scripture can discriminate what is of the flesh, and what is of the spirit. It can not only hit the joints of the bones, but pierce into the interior, in which lies the marrow. ‘The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit.’ If the sword of the flesh can effect so much, much more the sword of the Spirit!
5. "It judges thoughts and intents of the heart."
It not only commands the actions of the man, but it also reaches inward to the springs of conduct, seated in the affections and the will.
This has been shown in the argument above displayed. The psalm twice speaks of the "heart." (1) It forbids that hardening of it which man cannot see. (2) It condemns the heart as erring, before the consequences of that error appear in the conduct. It condemns those who do not regard God’s ways, as well as words. Man judges the Word of God now: but the Word of God will by and bye judge him. It will stand good at last, both in its promises and in its threatenings; however much man, in his ignorance, may despise or deny.
‘The Word of God,’ and ‘the Son of God,’ or ‘God the Word,’ are closely united together. The Apostle passes almost insensibly from describing the Word of God, to speak of God Himself. He speaks of it as having eyes, and beholding all things; and then to Him is our account to be given. If the word of Adam, the first man, so prevailed at first, as to impose upon every creature its name; much more shall the Son of God pronounce all, at last, either ‘blessed’ or ‘cursed.’ And His sentence will bind eternally. Clothing conceals our limbs from our fellows: but to God we are naked. Darkness conceals us from man: but to the Lord darkness is as light. And, as God, He will judge the thoughts, words, and actions of all; as now His Word pronounces them to be good or evil. The closing words declare, that believers also shall be judged. Against this many are rising up, as if the privileges of grace set aside judgment. They will one day find their mistake. The servants of the Great King will one day have to give in their account (Luke xix.; Matt. xxv.). And not all of Christ’s servants will be welcomed as "good and faithful." Let us not then seek to twist or to evade the Word of God, but to submit to it. However plausible the evasion, its futility will one day appear. Reader, do not follow the current of your day, in despising the Word of God. Man may now judge God; but the day is coming in which God will judge man, and then ‘He will be justified in His sayings, and be clear from man’s imputations.’ But alas for the man who rebukes God, and has to answer it to Him!
[1. Better to say: ‘All will be fixed; the eternally lost in the ‘lake of fire’; the saved in the new world after the millennium is over.
The author is here distinguishing between the unregenerate and the regenerate; not between disobedient and the obedient believers. The former [disobedient believers] will lose the kingdom; the latter [obedient believers] will be ‘accounted worthy’ to enter it; the former [disobedient believers] will rise at the last resurrection; the latter [obedient believers] at the "first" resurrection.
2. "When the soul leaves the body, the spirit goes with it."
This is a misleading statement, if we understand the word "spirit" as that which comes from God and animates [gives life to] the body. It would be better to say: ‘When the spirit and soul leave the body, physical death occurs; the soul goes [descends] to Hades; but the spirit [ascends] to God.’ It is vitally important to distinguish between "spirit" and "soul;" both do not go to the same place at the time of physical death.]