Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,
“As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’”
although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
(Hebrews 4 ESV)
Hebrews was written to the persecuted church. They faced various challenges, such as Roman persecutions and the Judaizers who wanted Christians to remain under the law. The writer of Hebrews extolled the Superiority of Christ - He is better than angels, better than the law, better than anything. Christians at the time of the writing of Hebrews may have fallen into apostasy and given up their faith. The writer wrote to encourage them not to give up.
The Bible tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Hebrews Chapter 4 starts with fear, too:
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. (Hebrews 4:1 ESV)
Why should we fear? We are secure in Christ. Oh, some people can think to themselves, "If I sin again and again, continually falling into the same pattern, will the Lord give up on me?" One of the great truths of the Reformation was the Perseverance of the Saints, along with Justification by Faith Alone, and the Priesthood of the believer. The Reformation was against the false teachings of the Roman Catholic church, which wanted to control the people, to frighten them in order to make them give money and to obey the church leaders.
We don't believe those priests. We don't have to fear that we will lose our salvation.
What, then, should we fear? Why should we fear? Who should fear? In what kind of situation ought a believer to fear?
Let us fear lest we fail to reach His rest.
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:11 ESV)
We ought to fear that some that we love may not be able to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus said that not all of those who will say, "Lord, Lord" are really His.
In the great Exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt, Moses led the people across the Red Sea, to Mt. Sinai, and to Kadesh Barnea. Twelve spies were sent out, and ten of them feared the people of the land, instead of fearing God. They then were forced to wander forty years in the wilderness, and all of the people of that generation (except Joshua and Caleb) died, not permitted to enter the promised land.
This is a picture of our Sanctification. We are stuck in slavery, then "baptized" in the Red Sea as we follow Christ. We spend years of wandering in the wilderness, and the Lord leads us by night and by day. The crossing of the Jordan River into the promised land is a picture of death - the pathway to heaven.
We should fear
- not that God would change His mind
- not that God would give up on us
- not that Jesus will stop interceding for me
- not that He will separate Himself from me
For He promised never to leave us. He knows His sheep, and we hear His voice and follow Him. However, we should fear that some may not be able to enter into this rest. How can I be sure that my beloved spouse will enter? It is not to be taken lightly.
Why should we fear? We have work to do! We are not justified by our works, but by faith in the finished work of Christ. Yet we still have work to do - Work prepared beforehand by our loving Heavenly Father. We need to be diligent, to be careful, to work out our salvation in fear and trembling, knowing that some day we will give an account to God.
Who should fear? I am sure that I am a Christian, so why should I fear?
. . . no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Everything is naked and open before God. He knows my conscience. He knows my thoughts. He alone knows if my faith is real. He is the One to whom we must give an account. We should have holy fear and holy reverence for our Holy God. Yes, we are justified by faith, but we are to be judged according to the works we do. He declares that He knows our works.
Let us hold fast our confession. What is our confession?
- I do not deserve grace.
- I am a sinner.
- I deserve nothing but a lake of fire.
- Jesus is my Saviour.
- My salvation is a free gift to me, but it cost God everything.
We can't take it easy, or take it for granted. Should I ever forget the day that Jesus carried the cross for me? He worked so hard for me. He did it all; He paid the full price. Should I not fear, and work for Him?
I need to fear - that I will not live with the gift of Grace in mind every day.
When should I fear? Today! Today I should fear that I will mess up and disappoint my Master. I should constantly fear that I would sin against God. I do not want to dishonour such a lovely Saviour.
Think of the Prodigal Son, after he's been welcomed back home by his Father. How will he act? What will he do? He will not fear that his dad might not love him - his dad already proved his love, over and over again. He has been forgiven, and brought back into the family. His greatest fear ought to be that he would disappoint his dad.
We are on a long journey, travelling through the wilderness, following the Lord. Let's be like the five wise virgins, prepared and ready when He returns. Let us therefore come BOLDLY to the throne of grace.
When? In time of need - all of the time. There is never a time we don't need the Holy Spirit to guide us. There is never a time we don't need our Father to provide for us. There is never a time we don't need our Saviour to intercede for us. We are needy people. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, fearing to dishonour our Beautiful God.
Lord, help us to have a holy fear, for You are worthy to be praised. You are worthy for us to strive, to do our best, to work hard, to further the Kingdom for Your name's sake. Help us not to take it lightly. Thank You that You love us, pitiful sinners that we are. Help us to know You more, to look to Jesus, to know His love - because only the Love of Christ is able to transform us. Our only hope is in You, Oh God, and we look to You for everything. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.