The Letter to the Hebrews: Chapter 4

God gave the Israelites 10 commandments in the Old Testament, and all are repeated in the New Testament except the commandment to keep the Sabbath.  Why is this?  The answer will shock and surprise you.


Well, in this session we’re going to be in Hebrews 4. But we’re not going to start there, we’re going to start somewhere else because I want to build a little, I can’t think of the word right now, but I want to give you some background. Let’s put it that way. I want to give you some background on what this chapter is about. And you remember at the end of our last session, I said that, from the beginning of the Church Age and even still today, you can get yourself into a pretty heated argument if you’re not careful about which day we’re supposed to worship on, the Sabbath of the Old Testament (which is Saturday) or the Sunday of the New Testament. 

And tonight, if I’m able to communicate this to you clearly, you’ll realize that people who argue about that are missing the point altogether. It’s not about Saturday or Sunday. 

And so, that’ll be our objective, to try and convey that thought and clear that up in your mind, so that the next time it comes up you can give a concrete answer from Scripture about this.

Okay, so let’s start by taking a look at Exodus 20, Exodus 20:8. Exodus is all the way to the left except you stop before you get to Genesis, and then you’ll be in Exodus. And its chapter 20, verse 8. This is the chapter in which the Ten Commandments are first spelled out for us, and in verse 8 we’re talking about the Sabbath day. 

Exodus 20:8 it says:

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Okay. So, there’s the commandment to obey the Sabbath, right? Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.  

The Lord was serious about this Sabbath issue, and if you’ll turn a couple of books to the right to Numbers (I think it’s 15) I’ll show you how serious He was. Numbers 15:32, speaking of the time of the wilderness wanderings. 

Numbers 15:32 says:

While the Israelites were in the wilderness, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him.

He had violated the Sabbath Commandment, you see. But they didn’t know what to do. So then, verse 35:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp.” So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the Lord commanded Moses.

Now, from that I think that you can grasp the thought that God was serious about the Sabbath commandment. And, somebody who worked on the Sabbath day was put to death for that. That was a capital offense, the courts would call that today, punishable by death. And justice was swift and immediate in those days. They dragged them outside the camp. Usually when you stoned somebody, you’d dig a hole in the ground, and you’d put them in the hole (the person in the hole) until they were buried up to their waist. That would kind of immobilize them. And then you’d stand back and throw stones at his head until he died. That was the method of execution.  Stoning, it was called. And everybody in the community took part; it wasn’t just one person; it was everybody in the community. 

Okay, now you get to the New Testament and, about how many times did Jesus violate the Sabbath commandment? Every chance He got, is the correct answer. He seemed to go out of His way. And because He had portrayed Himself as a healer, both in the things that He said and in the things that He did; the local authorities took Him to be a physician. And therefore, when He healed somebody on the Sabbath, He was doing work on the Sabbath and that was against the Law. And they never failed to criticize Him for this, and He never failed to take advantage of an opportunity to heal somebody on the Sabbath. He went to the synagogue, there were people there. Sometimes the people were sick and needed healing, sometimes they were crippled and things like this and He always pulled them out and, publicly and in front of everybody, healed them. And they had a fit about this.

In Matthew 12, it says after one incident, the Pharisees went away and tried to think up a way they could put Him to death for this because it was a violation, in their mind, of the Sabbath commandment.

Now, He taught them a number of things on the Sabbath. And He taught them how that, first of all He said, “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath,” you know. over the Sabbath. And then on another occasion He said, “You know, if one of you has an animal that falls into a ditch on the Sabbath, you’re going to pull him out, aren’t you? How much more important is a man than an animal? And if there’s a man who is sick on the Sabbath, how much more important would it be to heal that man than to pull a sheep or a donkey out of a hole?” He said, “You wouldn’t stop and think twice for doing one, and yet you forbid the other?” He said, “It doesn’t make sense!”  

By the way, the Sabbath Law was flexible in the case of illness to the point where it was okay to keep a person from getting worse, but you couldn’t do anything to make him better on the Sabbath. That’s how they finally adjudicated the Law so that you didn’t have to stand there and watch somebody die because it was the Sabbath.  

They took the Sabbath so seriously that in times when they were attacked by enemies, if they were ever attacked on the Sabbath, a Jew was allowed to take one thousand paces on the Sabbath. He could walk one thousand steps, and then he had to stop. And so, Jews down through history have been killed in their tracks because they were counting their steps, they got to one thousand, they stopped. The enemy caught up to them and that was the end of them. 

Even today in Israel, you go into the hotels and you go into the elevator, and on the Sabbath day, you can’t push a button because that’s work. The elevator will stop every other floor. And you get off on the nearest floor to the floor you’re going to, and then you walk from there, either up or down (your choice) but it would never exceed one thousand steps and so you’d be safe in doing this. There are no hot meals on the Sabbath in hotels and restaurants and things like that.  Many places aren’t even open. You can’t get a taxi. The whole place shuts down because, even today, even though they are not fully in covenant with God, they still obey that Sabbath officially and those things are part of the culture over there.

But, guess what? Out of the Ten Commandments, nine are explicitly and specifically repeated from the Old Testament into the New. In other words, the Old Testament says you shouldn’t kill anybody; the New Testament says you shouldn’t kill anybody. The Old Testament says you shouldn’t commit adultery, the New Testament says you shouldn’t commit adultery. Okay? Nine out of ten are there. Which is the one that is missing? There is no repetition of the commandment about the Sabbath in the New Testament. So, the other nine, yes. That one, no.  

Now, even the other ones, you know, aren’t repeated exactly. Because, you remember in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, ‘You have read, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’” That’s the commandment not to kill anybody from the Old Testament. He says, “But I tell you that if you’re even angry with a brother you have violated that commandment.”  And He said, “And you have read, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that even if you look upon someone with lust in your heart, you’ve already committed adultery.”   

And so, what He was trying to tell them is, the commandment is not just a behavioral standard. And the commandments were never designed to be just a behavioral standard. And they had misunderstood this throughout the Old Testament, and they had felt these were external, behavioral standards. And a person who went around not killing anybody, felt that he had kept that commandment all of his life, just because he didn’t kill somebody.  

But Jesus said, “No, that’s not the way it works. As soon as you have the thought, as soon as the intention is formed in your mind, as soon as that first angry thought comes into your mind, you are guilty of that commandment. And certainly, you don’t go out and kill the person you’re mad at. But you shouldn’t think any higher of yourself because you don’t do that; of course, you don’t go around killing people. But if you’re even a little bit angry with them, you’ve violated the commandment.  

And then He went on and talked about some of the other things that they thought in those days they were okay about because they didn’t commit the external physical action. But He came back and said, “That’s not the way we’re judged here. The Lord doesn’t judge us simply on our behavior.” 

He judges us on the intention of our heart. And anger, unchecked, manifests itself as murder. It starts with the angry thought and that’s the point at which you are guilty.

So, there’s a principle you can follow here, that says things that were external and physical in the Old Testament, become internal and spiritual in the New. And, that’s how the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New. I’ll just give you a couple of quick examples and then we’ll get into the topic of Hebrews 4

The first one,  I’m just going to give you two of these as an example. The first one is in Genesis 17—and you don’t have to look this up, you can look this up later on your own if you want. In Genesis 17:9-14, Abraham is commanded to institute the covenant of circumcision. He is commanded to have himself and all of the people in his household circumcised. That’s an external, physical sign that he is in a covenant relationship with God. And, from that point forward circumcision in males has been an external, physical sign of a covenant.

But then you get to Romans 2:28 and 29 and Paul wrote, “A Jew is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly and circumcision is not of the flesh. A Jew is a Jew if he’s one inwardly, for circumcision is of the heart.”

In the Old Testament it was an external, physical action, but it only stood for its fulfillment which came in the New Testament, where Paul said, “Circumcision is of the heart.” In other words, you aren’t in covenant with God simply because you carry an outward symbol of such; you are in covenant with God because that’s what’s in your heart.  

Now, interestingly enough, toward the end of the book of Deuteronomy, Moses said the same thing to the Israelites. He said, “You know, you’re going to go into this Promised Land, you’re going to live a few generations there and then you’re going to forget all about God. You’re going to be wealthy and you’re going to have all this stuff. You’re going to be prosperous, your children and going to be happy and healthy and well and all. Everything’s going to be working for you, and you’re going to forget all about God. And because of that you’re going to start doing some things that He really doesn’t like. And when that happens, the Lord is going to begin withdrawing His blessing from you and it will get so bad that you’ll be actually driven off your land and forced to live among the heathen because of your disobedience.”

“But,” He said, “In the latter days, if you turn again to the Lord, then even if you’ve been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. He’ll bring you back to the land that belonged to your fathers and you’ll take possession of it. And then the Lord will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants so that you may love Him with all your heart and with all your soul and live.”

The Bible promises that at the end of the Age, Israel would become a nation again and, after going through some stages, they would eventually wind up receiving the New Covenant.  Because, the circumcision of the heart is the New Covenant. Remember He said in Jeremiah 31, He said, “I’ll write My Laws on your heart. You won’t have to remember them. You won’t have to teach them to anybody because I’ll write them on your heart. And nobody will go around saying, ‘Know the Lord’ because you’ll all know Me.”

And so, this circumcision of the heart came first to the Gentiles because of Jewish rebellion but, at the end, it comes to the Jews as well.

Okay, here’s another one. In Exodus 16: 4 and 5, the Lord told Moses He was going to rain down bread from Heaven and that’s what the Israelites were going to eat while they were in the wilderness, bread from Heaven. It was going to come down every night, six days a week it was going to come down. On the sixth day, a double portion was going to fall so they wouldn’t have to go out and catch any on the seventh day because that was the Sabbath, and He doesn’t want them working on the Sabbath, even for their food. So, on the sixth day, He brings down a double portion of the bread from heaven.

Now, we know this as manna. But the Lord never calls it this because the word manna means what is this? It was a derogatory term. They didn’t like it and they got tired of  eating it. What is this? It’s like—I don’t know how many of you in school used to get lunches that you couldn’t identify, and so you started calling it mystery meat or something like that, because you didn’t know what it really was. Well, that was their equivalent to mystery meat; manna is a term that’s equivalent to mystery meat—what is this? 

But it was external and physical in the Old Testament. It fell out of the sky during the night. It was laying there on the ground when they got up. They went out and collected it and they brought it in.  

And in the Book of John, the Israelites were saying, after He’d fed the five thousand, “You know, Moses fed us in the desert, too. And we ate the manna in the wilderness.”

And what was Jesus’ response to that? He said, “Wait a minute!” He said, “I am the Bread of Life; I’m the One who came down from Heaven.” And so, the manna was a model. It was an external and physical thing that was meant to be a model of the internal and spiritual bread that we would get from the Lord that brings us life.

Okay. So, there’s two good examples. I could go on, and we could devote the whole night to this; things that were external and physical in the Old Testament that become internal and spiritual in the New Testament. And that’s the way the two books fulfill each other and become one.  

I’m going to show you now, that murder was the same thing. External and physical in the Old Testament. It was a physical act of taking another’s life. In the New Testament it becomes internal and spiritual. It’s a thought or feeling that you have. Same with adultery. Same with theft. Same with coveting. All these other commandments, they all have an internal and spiritual application in the New Testament, and the Sabbath is the most critical one of all, and it’s the one that hardly anybody understands and, if I were a betting person, even here in Las Vegas, I would bet you that, when we get done tonight, most—if not all of you—will have an entirely different perspective on the Sabbath than you had walking in here. And we’ll get it out of the Scriptures.

So, now with that, are we ready to go to Hebrews 4?  And, the correct response is, yes.   

Okay.  Hebrews 4.  

Now, if you remember from chapter 3, the writer of Hebrews has been reminding these Jewish Christians, these people that are the recipients of this book are Jewish people. This is right after the crucifixion. Probably, this book was written somewhere between 35 and 50. They don’t know for sure, but it was one of the earliest books after the cross. 

You know, the first members of the Church were Jewish. On the Day of Pentecost, the three thousand people that came into the Church on that day were all Jewish. Many of them were priests who had served in the temple. A good portion of those had seen the events of the crucifixion, they had seen the earthquake. They had seen the veil tear from top to bottom—a forty-foot-tall, eighteen-inch-thick curtain tore from the top to the bottom—opening the way to the Holy of Holies. They had seen all this and that’s what had brought them to their position of salvation before Jesus.

Now, there was an awful lot—there had been an awful lot of pressure on them to maintain their Jewish religion. The people had said to them, “Look, if you want to believe in Jesus, that’s your business. But don’t stop obeying the Jewish Laws.” And so, there was a lot of pressure on them to go back into Judaism. And this Book of Hebrews was written for that reason. It was to help them, to gird them against these attacks by their former friends and to help them maintain their faith in what the Lord had done for them. And this writer is reminding them that back in the wilderness wanderings, when God took all the Jews out of Egypt—He took them all, they refused to go across the River Jordan and take the Promised Land.  

The book of Deuteronomy opens by saying, “It was a nine-day journey from Mt. Sinai to the Jordan River.” So, they spent several months at Mt. Sinai first and then it was a nine-day journey up to the banks of the Jordan from there. And when they got there, they refused to cross. They were afraid because of the report from the spies. Remember that? And they told them all, there were giants and everything and so they lost heart and they didn’t go, and the Lord said, “Okay. You refuse to go, so now, I’m not going to let you go and you’re going to die here in the wilderness.”  

So, they never got to go into the Promised Land. Now, for forty years He fed them every day with the manna. For forty years they had water from the rock that He had Moses strike, to feed them in the desert. For forty years, He had a cloud over them during the day to keep the sun off them and that cloud turned to fire by night to keep them warm. For forty years this happened.  For forty years He took care of their every need. He just wouldn’t let them go into the Promised Land. And what the writer in Hebrews was saying here is that, the reason for this is, He was angry with them because they rebelled against Him. And He said, “Because of that, you will never enter My rest. ” 

Okay, remember that from chapter 3? So, that’s how chapter 3 ended.  

And then, chapter 4 begins by saying:

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 

So, here’s what he’s saying, and this will become a little bit clearer to you later.

They (the Jews who came out of Egypt) were offered the opportunity to enter His rest. And the way they would enter His rest is to go across the Jordan, wipe out the people that are over there and take that land as their own and make it a place of peace and a place of plenty like He had promised them it would be. That’s what He meant by entering His rest.  

Now, I’ve got to, in case some of you have heard that it wasn’t fair that they wiped out all those people in order to steal their land from them, you’ve got to go back to Genesis 17 and remember that God gave them, the Amorites, four hundred years to repent of their sin. 

Now He told Abraham, “I already know they are not going to do it, but we’re going to give them those four hundred years anyway. That’s why you can’t have this land today. But when the four hundred years are up, and they still haven’t repented, then your descendants are going to be My agents of judgment against them. And you’re going to wipe them out for their rebellion against Me and I will give them this land.” 

So that’s how the whole thing went. It wasn’t that He just arbitrarily decided to go in and wipe out a bunch of people so that He could make room for them, it was that they refused His offer of peace—although He gave them four hundred years to accept it. He can only wait so long, you know. 

So, the peace, the rest that they were going to enter, is to conquer the land and go in and settle in it and have the abundance that He promised them there, and all those nice things. And at the end of the book of Joshua it said, “The land rested.” But because the people didn’t complete the job, they never really got everything that was promised to them. But the first generation, the generation that came out of Egypt, refused to even go in. They said, “We can’t fight these guys,  They’re too big. There’s too many of them, and we’re not going to do it.”  

So, they turned and went back. So, they didn’t get to enter His rest. And it says—that’s why in Hebrews 3:10 it says:

That is why I was angry with that generation;

    I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray,

    and they have not known my ways.’

So I declared on oath in my anger,

    ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ”

Now, this doesn’t mean that He disowned them; it doesn’t mean that He abandoned them,  because He took care of their every need for forty years, didn’t He? He took care of their food, He took care of their water; we already talked about this. He kept the enemies away from them. He kept the cloud over them by day, so they’d be cool. He kept the fire over them by night, so they’d be warm, and for forty years He took care of all of their needs. So, He didn’t abandon them, He didn’t reject them. What they missed out on is the life that He had promised them.  Remember in Egypt, He talked about this land flowing with milk and honey. That’s what they missed out on.

Now, this writer in chapter 4 is going to compare that situation to us. How there are many Christians today who are saved, and they have the promise of eternal life, but they do not live in peace. They do not have that rest that He promises us. And we’re going to find out why tonight.  

And, by the way, I’m talking about ninety-or-so percent of all the Christians there are, do not experience—they do not experience the promises that God made to them. And so, we’re going to find out why tonight and then you’re going to see whether there’s something you need to do about that, okay? Because this is not one of those studies that’s for everybody else; this is a study for us as well.

All right. So, back to Hebrews 4:1, He said the promise of entering His rest still stands.  Because, as we’re going to see in a little while, He’s going to say if Joshua had given them that rest then we wouldn’t be talking about this. But the fact that we are talking about it means that they didn’t achieve it back then. And I’m trying to do this without giving away too much of the story. So, let’s just go on.  

Verse 2:

For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed.

And so he’s saying, and this might be a new thought to you, that the Gospel was preached to those people when they came out of Egypt. And you have to read the New Testament to understand this. Paul, for instance, said that the Jews in the wilderness all drank of the water from the rock. “And,” he says, “the rock was Christ.”

We know from the New Testament that the angel of the Lord who is the pillar of smoke above them, the cloud that kept the heat off in the day, and the fire that kept them warm at night, we know that that was the angel of the Lord; we know that was Jesus. We know that the promise to enter the Promised Land was a promise to rest in our salvation. We know these things from reading the New Testament. These Hebrews who are reading this in 35 A.D. didn’t have any of that insight yet. This is where it came from. 

The fact that we know it today is because whoever wrote this book wrote it to those people and we were able to see this. So, they heard the Gospel just like we’ve heard the Gospel. Their problem was, they didn’t combine it with faith.  

You can hear the Gospel story all day long, but until you begin to have faith that it’s true and it’s true for you, it won’t do you any good, will it? There are people walking around this Earth today who have heard the Gospel story countless times and it hasn’t done them a bit of good because they never believed that it would happen for them. They did not combine it with faith. They chose not to accept it. They have answers like, “Prove it.” Or, ‘seeing is believing’ or things like that. 

Now, we’re going to learn more about what kind of condition that is in a little bit. 

Verse 3:

Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,

“So I declared on oath in my anger,

    ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”

And so, you’re saying, “Well, how can He say we that believed enter that rest when the verse He is quoting says ‘they shall never enter My rest?’” 

The idea was that those who did not believe did not enter the rest. Therefore, those who do believe do enter the rest. You see? You have to kind of follow this guy,, whoever this guy was.  He was an extremely intelligent, intellectual, knowledgeable man and so his writings are somewhat complicated sometimes and you have to kind of jump up or else it will go over your head.

And so, what he’s saying is, “If it’s true that those who did not combine the message with faith do not enter the rest, then those who do combine the message with faith do enter the rest.” You see, if one is true then the opposite is also true. Okay. 

And then he goes on in the end of verse 3 and says:

And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.”

God rested from His work. 

What was the work He was involved with up until that seventh day? He was involved in the creation. And after six days He had completed that work, and on the seventh day He rested from it and He has never taken up the work of creation again. It never tells you in the Bible what happened on the eighth day, does it? Because there was no eighth day—there were six days of creation and then there was a day of rest, and that day of rest has lasted from then until now.  He has never since taken up the work of creation.  

And verse 5:

And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”

In other words, He rested from His work, but they aren’t allowed to rest from theirs, because they did not accept the message in faith.  

Now verse 6:

Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience,

I think we talked a little bit last time about this but, the fact that in this passage the writer is using a word that’s also translated unbelief as disobedience. So, he’s giving the word both meanings. In some places it’s disobedience. In some places its unbelief. And the point he’s trying to make is, from God’s point of view, if you don’t believe it’s not because you can’t, because there’s incredible evidence to support believing in God. And so therefore, if you don’t believe in God it’s not because you can’t, it’s because you have refused to.  

This is why in Romans 1 Paul says, “Men are without excuse.” There’s too much evidence to support the claim that God exists. You cannot not see it, unless you decide not to see it. And that means you have refused to see it. So, there’s no one in the world who cannot believe; there are only those who will not believe, do you understand that? And that’s why he can make such a narrow statement as saying, “You either believe in Me or else, you can suffer for eternity.” And so many people think, “That is so mean of God to do that!”  But it’s not, it’s Him saying, “My presence is so obvious that if you claim you don’t believe Me it’s because you have rejected Me.  You have refused to believe Me. And so, therefore you’re not in a situation of unbelief. You’re in a situation of disobedience.” And what happens to people who are disobedient? They get punished. And so, the fact that He uses a word in verse 6 there that is translated “disobedience” but also means “unbelief” is trying to make that point to us. 

And in verse 7 he says:

God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted:

Today, if you hear his voice,

    do not harden your hearts.”

Now, he’s quoting from Psalm 95, and I think it’s verse 11 there—no, it’s verses 7 and 8. Psalm 95:7 and 8 which David wrote a long time after the Jews came out of the wilderness, right? And so, what the writer to Hebrews is saying is, because there were so many people who didn’t hear it when He first said it, He’s now saying it again. And so, now there’s another time that He calls, “today” when He gives the message again. And He says, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” 

Then verse 8 says:

For if Joshua had given them rest,

Remember Joshua was the one who finally brought them into the Promised Land.

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.

So, if this promise of entering His rest was fulfilled by the Israelites coming into the land, then David wouldn’t have written a Psalm about it later, and we wouldn’t be hearing about it here in the New Testament. Because, if all it meant was that Joshua brought them into the land and defeated their enemies and they had peace, if that’s all it meant, then that would have ended it.  It would have been over. But it’s not, because it didn’t just mean Joshua bringing them into the Promised Land and giving them the land, it didn’t just mean that. There was much more that this rest means. 

So, verse 9 says:

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 

Anyone who enters God’s rest, also rests from his own work, just as God did from His. 

When God finished the creation, He rested because the work of creation was done and there was never again any time set aside for Him to go back and continue the creation; the work of creation. Because it was done. He never again took it up.

And so, verse 11 says:

Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example

And here it is again:

of disobedience.

All right. Things that are external and physical in the Old Testament become internal and spiritual in the New.  

What was the New Testament equivalent to the creation in the Old Testament? The creation was an external and physical event, right? He made something out of nothing. It’s there, physical, tangible. We can see it still today. When He finished, He rested. What would be the internal, spiritual equivalent to that?

Exactly. It’s your salvation. How do I know? 2 Corinthians 5:17. What does it say?  

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:

And then what does it say? 

The old has gone, the new is here!

Now, those words are in what is called the past perfect tense. That means it happened in the past and it’s complete; there’s nothing left to do. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. He is a new creation. The old has gone. The new has come. 

What did God do when the work of creation was finished? He rested.  

What are we to do when our work of creation is finished? We rest. 

And it says in Hebrews 4:10:

for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works,

So, if you are a new creation, you got that way by being saved. God now sees you as a new creation. He no longer sees the old you. And I don’t know how you feel about that but I’m really grateful! He no longer sees the old you, He sees only the new you. And let’s go to 2 Corinthians because I want to show you the—2 Corinthians 5—I want to show you the effect of all that. There are several places we can do this. We’ve been through this in the past little while and so we don’t have to labor on it too much, but I just want you to see it. All right, 2 Corinthians 5:17 we just said:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

That’s the past perfect. The old you has gone, the new you has come. You’re already here.  

You remember a couple of times ago when we said that God raised us up with Christ and seated us in the heavenlies? That has been done. That’s Ephesians 2, I think.  It has been done. You have been raised up with Christ. You have been seated in the heavenlies. You’re already there, in His mind. He looks over there and He sees you there now. The only one who doesn’t see you there is you.  

Well, He’s the one who counts, right? It’s how He sees you that matters.  

Look down at verse 21 now, 2 Corinthians 5:21. Speaking of Jesus He says:

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

This is what the new creation is. Our new creation is created; we are created to be as righteous as God is. And so, in His eyes, we are as righteous as He is. That’s the new Creation. We’re now, in His eyes—when He looks at us, He sees the perfect us. He doesn’t see the flawed us anymore. That’s gone; He sees the perfect us now.  

And what enables Him to see that? The fact that you believe in Jesus. His blood was shed, and when it was shed all your sins were washed away, past, present, and future—every one of your life was washed away at that point. The Lord no longer sees them. They’re gone. And so, He sees you now—the perfect you—as if you had never sinned. And all you and I are waiting for, my friends, is for time to catch up with His perception, okay? That’s all we’re waiting for. He looks ahead and sees it. It’s already done in His mind because He can already see it there. We can’t look ahead so we can’t see it yet. So, we’re just waiting for time to catch up with His perception of us so we can be in fact, what He sees us as already being.  Does that—is this coming through? Are you seeing this okay?  

This is a tough one. A lot of people can’t grasp that. But you’ve got to understand that God is not locked into the here and now like we are. One of the benefits of your accepting Christ as your savior and letting His blood wash you clean is it allows God to always look at you in the future tense, as you will be. But, in His view, you’re already there.  

And so, how much more of the work of salvation is there to do? None. It’s all done.  

And so, what do you do when the work’s done? You rest. That’s the point. And that’s why there is no New Testament equivalent to the Sabbath. Because, this Sabbath is a day that began when your salvation was finished. And it never ends. Just like His rest began on the day that creation was finished, and it has never ended. You see the parallel there?  

So, you are now a new creation in Christ. The work of your salvation is complete, and your job now is to enter His rest. The work is done, now, you rest. You never again are to take up the work of salvation. Never, because it’s finished; there’s nothing left to do. 

And guess what? If you try to do something, He sees that as you not accepting what He did as sufficient. And that’s called not entering His rest; that’s called living a defeated life. Working and working and trying to become good enough. Trying to become the kind of person you know that He wants you to be. Trying this, and trying that. Working, working, working. Never done, no rest.  

You know, in the Old Testament, the priest did the work in the temple. You’ve read the book, and you know about the furniture in the temple. And you know how there was an altar, and you know how there was a menorah. And you know how there was an ark and the incense altar, and then there’s this table on which they put these loaves of bread, and everything? But you know what there was none of in the temple?  

There were no chairs. Because the work of the priest was never finished. He never could rest; he was always working. That was the Old Covenant.  

Jesus came, and—look at Hebrews 10:14. We’ll start at Hebrews 10:12. This is looking ahead but the answers are always at the end of the books so that’s okay, we can look ahead and find the answers. And what does it say? Starting in verse 11 it says:

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 

That’s the normal priest. Now look at what our Priest does:

But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,  

The work was done, so He sat down. 

Verse 13:

and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool.

Now here’s the verse we’re heading for. 14 says:

For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

He has made perfect forever. There’s that past perfect tense again. By one sacrifice, He has made you perfect forever. You can’t become imperfect again. This is a forever thing. This is done, and when the work is done we rest. Okay?

Now, the hard part for us is, we didn’t do the work. He did the work. And it doesn’t feel right for some people to rest when the other person has done the work. But, put yourself back in an Earthly situation. You and somebody else are hired to do a job. He gets there early and does the whole job before you get there. When you get there, the job is done.

Do you do it over again? No. Or do you keep doing it? No. It’s done, there’s nothing left for you to do. You rest.  

It’s this way:  He did the work for you—partly because you couldn’t do it for yourself, but when it was finished, He sat down, and He rested. Last word from the cross: “It is finished.” 

“I’m done.”  He could have said it, “I’m done.” When the work is done, we rest. 

Let’s look at Colossians 3—I’m sorry, I gave you the wrong chapter. It’s in two. Chapter 2:16.  I’ll tell you what, let’s back up to 2:13, and we’ll get into it that way. 

In Colossians 2:13 it says:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,

Now, how many is all? Every one, okay.  

having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness,

That’s the Law. He took our violations of the Law and He cancelled them:

 which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 

In other words, when He went to the cross, He went with all the violations of the Law you ever had or ever would commit. He nailed them up to the cross when He went there, and when He died His blood wiped them all clean. That’s what Paul is saying here.  

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, 

That’s Satan, by the way.

he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.  

So, you’re clean, you’re free, you’re done—you cannot be charged again. The law of double jeopardy protects you. Your sins are forgiven. He paid the penalty for every one of them. 

Now look at verse 16:

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come;

The Sabbath commandment was a shadow of something that was coming,  

 the reality, however, is found in Christ. 

Now, go back a little more to the left to Romans 14. And look at verse 5. It says:

One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 

One man looks at one day as being more sacred than another. Somebody else looks at every day as if they’re all alike. What he’s saying is, neither one is right; neither one is wrong. Each one needs to be convinced in his own mind. If you believe one day is more important than another day, then act on that belief. But don’t condemn somebody else if they don’t agree.  Because the other person has the right to disagree with you about that day. You understand that? He says, “So don’t let anybody condemn you about these things.”

Now, how could he say that? That’s one of the Ten Commandments. He can say it because of Hebrews 4 which tells us that, in the New Testament the Sabbath is internal and spiritual. It is the day of rest that begins when we accept the Lord Jesus as our Savior, and never ends for the rest of our life. That is our Sabbath rest. Just like the Lord’s Sabbath rest has lasted for six thousand years now where creation is concerned, our Sabbath rest begins on the day we become saved and it never ends. Never again are we to take up the work of salvation.  

Now, it gets a little interesting in this next verse, verse 12. A lot of people take this verse and just lift it off this page and make a general application of it, and that’s okay. But I want you to understand what this verse was meant for. 

Hebrews 4:12 says:

 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Now, do you know what that means? That means, it doesn’t matter what you say you believe.  The Lord looks into your heart and He knows what you believe. He doesn’t have to ask and it’s not a question for Him. He knows it. He knows whether you’ve entered your Sabbath rest and laid down the work of salvation or whether you haven’t. He knows that.  

And you may tell people that you are doing certain things for one reason, when in fact, you’re doing them for another, and you may be fooling everybody around you but you’re not fooling Him. Because He doesn’t listen to what you say. He knows what’s in your heart. That’s what that verse means.  

You cannot see for yourself what Jesus has done for you. You can only see for yourself what you are doing for you. And like most humans you are more impressed with work. And so, if you try to mix faith and work, eventually work will overcome and faith will grow weaker and work will grow stronger. Now, that won’t cause you to lose your salvation, but it will keep you from His rest. And you will live like the Israelites in the desert where there is no victory, where there is no rest, where there is no peace.  

The only way you can achieve rest, the only way you can have peace, is to lay down your work and trust in the Lord and believe that He did it all. This is why you have to accept the doctrine of eternal security because, if Jesus only did part of the job then you’re not secure; but if he did the whole job, you are.  

And so, this is why this doctrine is essential to your faith. Because, by believing that you are saved forever, you are trusting Him, and you are demonstrating that you are resting.  

But if you are always fearful of losing your salvation by something that you do or something that you fail to do then you are not trusting Him, you’re trusting you. And you are not reliable, folks.  Sorry if I—if I’m the first one telling you this [laughs] but you are not reliable. And the reason that verse 13 is in chapter 4 here is to warn us that we’re not going to fool the One who matters here. He knows if you have faith or not. He knows if you trust Him or if you don’t. He knows if you believe Him or not.

There are some who never did give anything more than lip service to the idea of saved by grace through faith. And they have always believed that they have to merit salvation and that they were the only one who could get this for themselves. They’re the ones who are equivalent to the Sabbath-breaker in Numbers 15. They’re the ones working when they should be resting. And the penalty for that is death.  

Now, in the Old Testament, in Numbers 15, it was external and physical. It was physical death.  Guess what it is in the New Testament? It is spiritual death. It’s the second death. It’s the death from which you never recover. 

So, those who believe—you know, there is one (at least one) I’ll just think of one here for a minute. There is one prominent religious body who interpret Ephesians 2:8 and 9 (by grace are we saved through faith, not by works) they interpret that to mean that, after you have done everything you can do to save yourself, if it’s determined that you’ve made a reasonable effort, God will make up the difference. That’s their interpretation of this. Now who, then, is responsible for their salvation? They are. Because they’re on a lifelong quest to make sure that God doesn’t have to make up too much of a difference. They’re like the Sabbath-breaker, working when they should be resting. The penalty is death. Do you understand that? That’s how serious this issue is. That’s how serious this is. You cannot—no matter what you do—you can not meet the qualifications for your own salvation. You cannot. No one ever has. No one ever will. You cannot do it. If you could, Jesus would have been justified in staying in Heaven and saying, “Hey, those guys could do this, they’re just not working hard enough; I’m not going down there and going through all that when they could do it themselves. How will they ever learn? I’ll just be enabling them to continue in their halfhearted efforts. I’m not going down there.” He would have been justified in saying that.  

But no, He said, “If I don’t go down there, they will never make it. They can’t do this on their own. So, I’ll go, and I will do all of it. And all that’ll be left for them is to accept it. And then we’ll know that it’s done—done right and done for good.”

Okay, let’s read on here. We’re going to make the end of this chapter. 

Verse 14:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 

He’s telling them, “Don’t give up on this. Don’t slack off. Hang on to this.”

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 

Here’s what that means. 

He doesn’t have a sin nature; we do. He was able to resist the temptation that we can’t resist.  Because our sin nature will always cause us to fail. We can build up a little string of successes, but sooner or later it will cause us to fail. And let me tell you this: the longer the string of successes, the more spectacular will be the failure. Because eventually, it has to be proven.  But our High Priest is not somebody in some far-off place that can’t relate to us, that doesn’t know what we go through, that doesn’t know what our problems are—no, He’s been here. He has assumed our lives. He’s lived among us and He’s been subjected to the very same things that we’re subjected to; He knows what we are going through. He understands us. He has empathy for us. And I believe the reason He was saying this is to convince us not to be afraid to confess.  

You know, when I was a little kid, I made a bunch of mistakes and I’d go and admit them to my dad and, at first, he was pretty forgiving. But sooner or later, he’d start saying, “Look, how many times am I going to have to forgive you for this? Isn’t it time you shaped up a little bit here and started doing this?” And then he got a little more upset with me and a little more frustrated and pretty soon, I stopped going and confessing to him because I didn’t want him to be mean to me.  Now, he’d been a little kid like me, but apparently, he’d forgotten all that. 

But the Lord is not like that; He understands. You don’t have to be afraid to confess. And what happens when we do confess? Look at 1 John 1:9. I know you know this one by heart. 

1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

John was writing to believers here. And he said to them, “If you’ll just confess your sin, He is faithful and just.”

Now, what does ‘just’ have to do with this? Just means, He knows that the penalty has already been paid.  And He knows that you, therefore, have to be forgiven. Because there is no penalty due, it was already paid. And a just person would have to recognize this and let you go. And that’s exactly what He does. 

He looks at the book, He sees the sin you’ve just confessed, He sees that the account was paid, and He says, “Well, there’s no balance due here. You’re free to go! And, by the way, here.” And He purifies us. Wipes us clean again. And now, we’re as righteous as He is again.  

This is what this writer in Hebrews is trying to say in his way.  He’s saying in verse 16:

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,

Some people feel that the Greek translation says, “Let us then continually approach the throne of grace with confidence, 

so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

 And believe me, this passage is not talking about when we need help in resisting. This passage is talking about when we need help in being forgiven. Because, it says we can receive mercy and find grace. You don’t need mercy and grace if you haven’t done anything. The time you need mercy and grace is after you’re guilty, right? Because, we don’t confess things we haven’t done, we confess things we have done. And we throw ourselves on His mercy. And we ask for His grace and unmerited favor; forgiveness we don’t deserve.

And so, this is not—there are plenty of places in the Bible, by the way, that says when you feel the temptation, get closer to God. James 4 is one of them where it says:

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  

And that’s preventative action. That’s good. But that’s not what this verse is talking about. This verse is talking about, it’s too late now. You’ve already done it. Now you need forgiveness. 

And he’s saying, “You can go to Him with confidence because He knows what you’re going through. He understands how difficult it is and He can have empathy for you. You don’t have to worry. You don’t have to run and hide.”

I was talking with a young lady who was going through a particularly difficult time and it’s weighing on her so hard she can’t sleep. And I said to her, “You know what? There have been times in my life when I’ve been unable to sleep too and somebody gave me this little method and it worked really well for me. On those nights when I’m lying there awake and my mind is just going crazy, I start thanking God for all the blessings I’ve received. And I start just thinking of anything I can think of and thank Him for it. Even if I don’t really believe it was His doing, I still thank Him for it. And I keep thanking Him and I keep thanking Him and pretty soon, stuff starts to come to my mind—stuff that I hadn’t even remembered! And I start thanking Him for those things. And pretty soon I’m not even thinking about the thing that was keeping me awake anymore. And nine times out of ten, before I get done, I’m asleep!”

She says, “Well, I’m not talking to God much right now. I’m sort of upset.”

And I said, “You know—go yell at Him. Go have a—have a fight with Him. Go tell Him, ‘Why did You do this? Why did You let this happen?’  Stomp your feet and jump around and yell and scream and be animated about it. He’s a great listener, and He will listen. And when you get done, you’ll feel a lot better.”

You know, Psalm 13 is all about that. David was yelling at God. “Why did You let this happen to me!  How long am I going to have to go through this kind of stuff?”

Read it someday. It’s a great Psalm because we’ve all been there. And yet he had the guts to say it and then write it down [laughing] 

But this writer is saying, “Look. Your High Priest is not a stranger. He’s a friend. He’s your brother, after all. And He’s lived your life. He’s walked in your shoes. He knows what it’s like.  You don’t have to be afraid to go to Him because, of all the people in the world, He might be the only one who really understands. And you’ll feel so much better when you’ve cast your cares upon Him.”

So, verse 16:

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

 Let’s have a closing prayer.