The Letter to the Hebrews: Chapters 2-3

In this study we continue the author’s claim that Jesus is superior to all the creation. He has already demonstrated the Lord’s superiority to the angels, calling Him the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being.  Now he’ll show Jesus to be superior to Moses, the most revered figure of Judaism.


In our last session it appears that we came down to chapter 2, verse 10 and so that’s where we’ll pick things up tonight.  

And so, you remember that in chapter 2, the writer is talking about the fact that Jesus was being made like His brothers. In other words, He was sitting there on His throne in Glory, and based on a covenant that He and the Father had made, He agreed to become a man, come to Earth, and die for the sins of the people. 

And so, at the very end of our last study, we were talking about the fact that He was demoted, if you will, down from the throne of Majesty, down past all the angels, down all the way, down, down, down, down, down to become a man. And not the king of the world, not some famous man, not some royalty or someone extraordinary, but just an ordinary, humble, normal person; somebody you wouldn’t notice.

According to Isaiah 53, He had no beauty or majesty about Him that would attract us to Him.  He was just an ordinary person from all appearances sake. And so, He became a man to save mankind because that’s what God’s Law requires, you see. And if we didn’t talk about it in this last session, we’ve talked about it before that God’s Law requires that if someone of us loses something, his next of kin was to redeem it for him. And so, Adam lost everything, right? And so, Jesus had to become Adam’s next of kin in order to redeem him under the Law. And so, that’s why He had to become a man. He didn’t become an angel to save angels. He became a man to save mankind.  

And so, we’re talking about now (in chapter 2) about the fact that Jesus was made like us. Now, the interesting thing about that, is that because that happened, because He was made like us, we who believe will one day be made like Him. So, it comes around. And that’s 1 John 3:2.You can look that up if you want.  It says, “What we will be we don’t know but we know this: when He appears, we will be like Him.  

And so, He became like us. Now, we get to become like Him.

All right. So, in verse 10, the writer’s going to go on here saying:

In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. 

And so, here’s a confirmation of these verses. You know, we looked at John 1:12, Romans 8:29, Galatians 4, Ephesians 1 and Ephesians 2, and Revelation 4 (and I’m not going to take you through all those again tonight because they are already on the preceding session) but all of those references confirm the fact that we are in the same family. We are all members of the family of God. And that’s not just a euphemism, that’s not just another name for the Church, that is a real issue and it also is a legal issue. You remember how we talked about the fact that God, because of our faith in the completed work of His Son has legally adopted us into the family so that we can not only become brothers but also co-heirs with Christ in all of His inheritance. And we looked up all of His inheritance and we figured out that’s a lot! He’s got a lot and He has agreed to share some of that with us. Now, the interesting thing is—it was all His! And so, not only did He agree to die for us, but then He also agreed to give up some of His inheritance so that we can have ours! Okay?  

And one of the things you’re going to find when you get to Heaven, one of the things you’re going to discover that is evidence of Him giving up some of His inheritance, is you’re going to discover that He is still in the form of a man. He didn’t just become a man for 32 or 33 years, however you want to count it. He became a man forever, and you’ll still see Him. Now, how do we know that? We go to Revelation 5, and in Revelation 5:6, John says:

Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. 

The Lamb, looking as if it had been slain. What does that mean? That means He’s in the same form as He was when He was crucified—the form of a man. Now you can go beyond that and you can say He still bears the scars of His ordeal. And many people believe that’s true because of that verse, that there is still evidence of what He did for us. He carries this around in His form and He has forever limited Himself to the form of a man. Forever.  

Now He did this, He gave up part of His inheritance, so that we could receive ours. 

So, not only did He save you from your sins—not only did He redeem your life, which would have been all we could ever have hoped for and asked for, right? Not only did He do that, but then he brought us into the family of God. He made us brothers and sisters with the Lord, and He gave us part of God’s estate, God’s inheritance. So that in eternity we will enjoy that we are literally (as I like to say) we are literally members of the royal family of God forever.  

And I think we finished up by saying it doesn’t look that way to us now, because here we are and we’re still our regular old selves, right? We’re still bumbling along as best we can, making more mistakes than not, probably. Taking one step forward and two steps back, and we’re still like that and we will be like that but that is not how God sees us. He sees us as if we already are seated at the throne of majesty with the Lord Jesus. And that was Ephesians 2 that we talked about just at the end of our last session. Because it says in Ephesians 1:2 that God not only raised Jesus up and seated Him at the right hand of the Majesty, but in Ephesians 2:6 and 7 it says, He also raised us up there with Him! 

And all verses (all the verbs, I should say) in that verse, are past tense. In fact, they are past perfect tense. I don’t know if you know enough grammar to understand what that means. Past perfect tense means it’s already completed. It has happened and it is complete.  

So, when he says, “You have been raised up and seated with Him,” that means in God’s view that’s where you are today. You are already there. All we’re waiting for now, is for time to catch up with the reality, right? Because, we’re stuck here in time. God is not stuck in time, so He sees this as already being accomplished and we’re just waiting for time to catch up! And if you’re reading the news lately, time is catching up pretty quickly and we won’t have long to wait before God’s reality will also be our reality and we will be seated there, just as He says. Just as He already sees us. 

Okay. Then it says:

So Jesus is not ashamed to call them 

Speaking of us,

brothers and sisters.

Hebrews 2:12, and this is a quote from Psalm 22:

He says,

“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;

    in the assembly I will sing your praises.”

This is Psalm 22:22.

And again,

“I will put my trust in him.”

And again he says,

“Here am I, and the children God has given me.”

So, these are three quotes from the Old Testament that the writer of Hebrews is making. You understand, he’s writing to Jewish believers and so probably the only Scriptures they’ve ever seen would be the Old Testament. Because Hebrews was probably written fairly early after the cross, maybe within a few years of the cross. And so, this idea of these Jewish Christians (and we’re going to talk more about this tonight), the Scriptures they had were what we would call the Old Testament Scriptures.  And so, making his case to them, he has to use the Old Testament.  

Which, by the way, is the way you make a case to a Jewish person today. If you’re trying to talk to a Jewish person about Jesus, you have to be in the Old Testament doing that because they don’t accept the New Testament. And so you have to talk to them from the Old Testament. So if you’re going to minister or evangelize the Jewish people, you’d better know the Old Testament.  You don’t have to know the whole thing. It helps if you do,  but the 53rd chapter of Isaiah has been responsible for more Jewish converts to Christianity than all the other verses in the Old  Testament combined. So, if you learn that one that would be a good place to start, Isaiah 53.

All right now. Hebrews 2:14 says:

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—

You remember when Satan successfully tempted Adam and Eve and they sinned; they lost their immortality. They became mortals. That means, they became subject to death. 

Remember how God told Eve, “Don’t eat that fruit or else you will die.” And Satan came along and what did he say? He said, “No you won’t. Here, take it.” Eve took it and Boom! She, at that moment, became subject to mortality. Adam followed her. So they became mortals, subject to death.

Now, Jesus had to become a mortal, so that in His death He might destroy that power of death that Satan has over us because all of us are mortal, right? All of us are subject to death.  Physical death I’m talking about here. All of us are subject to that. And so, when Jesus died, He broke that enslavement we have, that subjugation we have to the power of death. 

And verse 15 says:

and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

All of our lives we’ve been worried about that. And before we started worrying about it, our parents worried about it, and especially our moms, right? They always worried we’d go out and kill ourselves somehow by the crazy things we do. [laughing] And that would be a big deal. But here it says that when He died, He freed us from our slavery which is caused by the fear of death. I remember a famous quote by someone once that says, “When you lose the fear of death, you gain the death of fear.” Think about that. When you lose the fear of death, you gain the death of fear; because if you’re not afraid to die, what can you be afraid of? [laughs] Okay? And in verse 16 it says:

For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.

In other words, he is saying again, Jesus didn’t become an angel to save angels; He became a man to save mankind. He came to save Abraham’s descendants. Now remember, the writer is writing to Jewish people who are all Abraham’s descendants. But let’s look in Galatians 3 and we’ll find out who else are Abraham’s descendants. Can you find Galatians 3

Galatians. 3:26 says:

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 

And we’ve been through all that, so you already know that.

Verse 27 says:

for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek,

Which is another way of saying Gentile.

neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed

Or, Abraham’s descendant.

and heirs according to the promise.

Okay so, if you are a believer in Jesus you are considered to be a descendant of Abraham. And so, when this writer said, “It’s not angels He helps, but Abraham’s descendants,” he was speaking specifically to the Jews, the Jewish believers he was writing to, but that also includes us. 

Now, verse 17 says:

For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way,

In other words, He had to become all human. This is the nature of Jesus that many people have such a problem with: He was all God, but He was also all human.

For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Now, you see that the neat thing is here, you’ve got a God who knows how it feels. Okay? He’s not somebody who is so far removed from you that He can’t have any empathy for you. He’s not so far above you that He can’t understand what you’re going through. He’s not somebody who is unable to relate to your situation because He has no perception of it. He was made just like you. And He suffered just like you do when He was tempted. And because of that, He’s able to help those who are being tempted.

So, if you’re suffering any temptation, and if you’re being oppressed by that, or if you’re being harmed in some way by that, or if you are in fear of that, you have this to count on: He has been there. And He has felt what you are feeling. And when you go to Him for help, He knows what you need. 

Understand that? He knows what you need. And, I’ll tell you something else: if you succumb to the temptation, He knows what you went through and He knows how difficult it is. You see, He knows that the reason that He did not succumb to the temptation is because He doesn’t have a sin nature. But He also knows that you’ve got one; you’ve got this built-in flaw, you see, that makes it impossible for you to always resist. And that’s why He says, “When you’re faithful to confess, He is just and faithful to forgive and will purify you from all unrighteousness.” 

Because of the fact that He’s been where you are, He’s a merciful God. He understands. He has empathy. He knows what it’s like. Is that clear to everybody?

Lots of times people sin and then they run away from God because they’re ashamed and they’re embarrassed, and they just don’t want to have to admit this. And some might think they are afraid that God won’t understand how they could do that after all He’s done for them. But this says, He understands. And He understands enough so that He can be merciful. And He can put Himself in your shoes, and He can see how sometimes we can fail. And when that happens, He comes to where we are, He picks us up, cleans us off, He forgives us and then it’s like it never happened. You understand? It’s like it never happened. The only person who remembers all your sins is you, okay? The Lord, He’s forgotten all about that all long ago. The minute you confess He forgets. So, if you’re carrying it around, it’s not because of Him, okay? It’s just you.

Now that’s the end of chapter 2! Now we’re ready to start in on chapter 3.

And it’s good we had that back-up even if we had gone through it before because the first word of chapter 3 is “therefore.” [laughing]  Which means, ‘What’s that there for?’ It says,“Go back to chapter 2 and read it and then you’ll see!” We’ve already done that!


Now listen to this sentence:

holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. 

Now, this tells you that he is speaking to believers. He called them, holy brothers. You can’t be a brother in God’s family unless you are a believer, right? And he says, “who share in the heavenly calling,” so that means they’ve been called this, and he says, “Fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle.” Now people don’t usually call Jesus an apostle but that’s just because we have these twelve guys that we think of as the apostles.The word apostle simply means one who is sent. Jesus was sent, right? And in the Jewish understanding of that, that would just tell them, Jesus is the One God has sent.

In John 6:28 and 29 the people asked the Lord, “What is the work that God requires of us?”  And in verse 29, Jesus said, “The work of God is this: believe on the one He has sent.”

Okay. He could have said, “Believe in the apostle.” Same idea. He said, “Believe in the one He has sent.” 

By the way, that’s all He said. That’s the only work that God required of us is that we believe in the One He has sent. 

Verse 2:

He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. 

 Of men in history, there is no one in the Jewish mind greater than Moses, because of the Exodus. He is the greatest one of all.  Verse 3:

Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. 

You know, the first thing you say when you see a beautiful house is, “Wow. I wonder who built that?”

For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. 

And so, Moses was the great prophet. He was the one who told everyone what was going to happen in the future. 

And verse 6:

But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house.

And then it tells you:

And we are his house, 

And so here he is saying that Jesus is greater than Moses because Moses was part of the house, but Jesus is over the house. Now, verse 6 is—yes, there is a continuation here of the verse 6 which says:

And we are his house, 

And then in the English translation it says:

if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

Now, in the English language that if is a conditional thing that means you get all this, providing that you remain faithful. But in the Greek, the translations are a little different, and the word doesn’t mean quite the same thing, but it’s the one that the translator, at least in the translation I’m reading, chose.If you have a different translation, it might say something different. But the Greek word there is also translated since. Literally, it means, if indeed or, seeing that. And so, if you were to read that saying, “And we are his house since we hold on to our courage and the hope in which we boast,” then that would be an accurate rendering of that passage. Because, we all know by now that once we are part of God’s family—that’s it; that’s it forever. We’re part of God’s family. He doesn’t kick anybody out of the family. He only brings people into the family, and once He brings them in, they’re in for good. And so, the idea here is that “we hold on” or, “since we hold on to the courage in which we boast.”

Now the reason I think that the writer uses this particular terminology is that he was talking to people who were being very, severely tested about this faith of theirs—very severely tested.  Because they grew up, you see, under the Old Covenant. 

Many of the early Church Jewish believers were actually Pharisees who had been officials in the Old Covenant religion during the time that Jesus was being brought to trial and executed. Some were eyewitnesses to the temple veil being torn, the earthquakes, and other things that happened, and they knew; this is what brought them into belief as they saw these things. But they were being severely tempted and persecuted by the Jews who hadn’t joined them in this belief, to come back into the Jewish faith, into the Old Covenant faith. 

And that’s the whole issue behind the book of Hebrews, by the way. That’s the whole deal. It’s all about resisting the temptation to go back into the Old Covenant worship. And we’re going to see the beginning of that tonight and we’re going to build up over the next couple of times to the famous chapter 6 of Hebrews, and we’ll look and see what that really means (it’s probably different from what you think it means). But this whole idea behind this story and behind this book is, resisting the temptation to go back under the Law.  

Now let’s just take a minute. I want to put you in their place. They grew up with this from the day they were born. There is no way I can overemphasize the degree to which the Old Covenant was a part of a Jewish person’s daily life. You know, starting right from the time of infancy. There’s a Psalm, a verse in one of the Psalms that says, “Your words are as sweet as honey in my mouth.” You know, they actually took that literally. 

When the baby was teething, the mother would take strips of discarded scrolls. And in those days, they were written on leather. They would take these strips and they would coat them with honey and the baby would chew on those as a way to bring the teeth through the gum. And so, they had these literal applications of these things that we don’t even begin to understand.

In the first five books of the Bible, which they call the Torah, there are 613 commandments. You know about ten of them; some of us can’t even name all ten [laughing] but there are 613. 

Every one of them was a daily challenge. From morning, the minute they woke up until the last minute before they went to sleep, they were subject to one of those laws and one of them was a part of their life. The way they prepared their food, the way they made their clothing, the way they went about their work, the things they did. You know, there was, back then, there was no television. Nobody had an iPod. There were no books. There was no entertainment at all, other than discussion of the Scriptures. That’s how they passed the time, from the time they were little kids all the way to the time that they were at death’s door, it was the Scriptures. 

By the time a boy was twelve years old, he had to know the first five books of the Bible by heart.  He had to have memorized the first five books of the Bible and had to be able to recite chapter and verse in response to questions from his elders. If he was going to go on into what’s called today Hebrew school (yeshivah) which is the equivalent to the secondary education, he would have to memorize all the Psalms. It was not uncommon for these boys to know by heart every single word of what we call the Old Testament and to be able to answer any question anytime, anywhere, with chapter and verse. It was their life. It was everything to them. Their traditions, their customs—everything—were all tied up in this book.

And then one day, this man comes from Galilee and changed all that! Now, He did it because of what He said; He said, “I didn’t come to abolish the Law. I came to keep it. You guys can’t do this, so I came to do it for you.” And by doing that, He has freed them from it, you see, because He is the fulfillment of the Law. And so, He has freed them from that. 

But what that would have meant to them is, one day they were living a life of total immersion in the Scripture, total focus and concentration on keeping those 613 laws, and the next day they were told none of that matters anymore. And just on faith they were being told to stop the life that they and their people had lived for several thousand years and to start living differently.  

Now, how would you like that? 

The fact is, that that life didn’t accomplish for them what it should have accomplished in their minds. But it wasn’t until we got to Paul in Romans, where we find out that it was never intended to. Those 613 laws were not meant to be kept as a means of salvation, those 613 laws were meant to demonstrate the impossibility of keeping them as a means of salvation. 

But, like many of us, they had themselves fooled where religion is concerned, and they had themselves fooled into thinking that that was how you were supposed to do it. And, of course, that’s the reason that Jesus came because He recognized—and of course, God knew this all the way from before the time began—that they would turn this book of theirs into a task list and that they would develop the belief that, by keeping those laws they were saving themselves from eternal destruction.

And then this Man comes along; a Man that looks just like an ordinary man, doesn’t seem to have come from anywhere special. He’s not their leader. He’s not their high priest, He’s not their king; He has no official capacity whatsoever. He comes out of a backwater town that makes Him a hick in the eyes of most of them, and He talks to them about the fact that these things are not doing them any good. And He said, “But I will take care of this for you. I will die for you and that will cover all the infractions, all the violations of the Law that you ever have or ever will commit.  And I will do that for you. But you have to have faith that that’s true. Because, if you keep living the way you are living and you keep your focus on those laws, then you’re going to be in effect telling Me that My death didn’t do you any good.”

Now can you imagine how that must have affected them? Their whole being, their whole identity—not only nationally but personally was built around keeping this law. And now they are being told not only do they not have to do it anymore, but they can’t do it anymore if they expect to have any kind of life with their Creator. 

In fact, in this book, you’re going to see the keeping of the Law described as sin, which is what is the opposite of what they thought it was going to be. And so, this is the kind of mindset that this writer was dealing with here. These people knew whether or not they were keeping the Law.  They knew that because they were doing it. It was their own experience, and it was the experience of the people around them. They knew that, but they did not know that Jesus died for them in the same sense. They couldn’t prove that that was true. They had to accept that on faith. So, what they had to do is give up something that they knew and replace it with something that they could only believe.  

You try that some time. You put yourself in that situation, and you’ll have a different view, you’ll have a different perception of what this was like for them.

And so, this writer is saying, “You have to hold on to this. You have to have the courage to keep the hope of this alive in your heart. Because, if you allow yourself to slip back into the old way, you’re telling God that His death was not sufficient for you, and that you will be responsible for your salvation—which is a hopelessly impossible task.” This is the job of this writer is to persuade them of this. It’s sometimes hard for us to understand because most of us have never been in that kind of a situation.

Okay. Now in verse 7 the writer is going to spend some time quoting this Psalm 95 here.  

He says:

So, as the Holy Spirit says:

“Today, if you hear his voice,

    do not harden your hearts

as you did in the rebellion,

    during the time of testing in the wilderness,

where your ancestors tested and tried me,

    though for forty years they saw what I did.

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.’ ”

For the next chapter and a half here we’re going to be talking about this rest, entering God’s rest. Now I want you to keep in mind here, that these people are believers. And when God says, “They’ll never enter My rest,” He is not talking about taking their salvation away from them.  Salvation is supposed to bring you rest; and the point will become absolutely clear to you, that all of the business about the Sabbath and about resting on the seventh day and all that was meant to prepare us for the reality of resting in our salvation. That’s what it’s supposed to mean.  But, if we won’t do that, if we insist upon doing things instead of resting on what He has done, then we’ll never feel the rest that He intended for us. And that’s going to be the focus here. He says, “You have, basically you have two choices, you can count the work that I did at the cross as complete, you can accept and receive it and you can rest in that, knowing that the work of your salvation is finished. Or, you can try and add to it with your own effort, and if you do that, you’ll never know any peace about it because you’ll never be certain whether it’s been sufficient or not. And it will enslave you, just like it had enslaved the Jewish people.” And so, when He’s talking about entering His rest here, He’s talking about entering a state of peace where you know the work of your salvation is finished.  

And before he gets done, he’s going to compare this to the work of creation. And he’s going to say, “You know, God worked for six days. On the seventh day He rested because the work of creation was finished.” And, you understand, the Bible never talks about what He did on the eighth day. Have you ever noticed that? Because there was no eighth day. There were six days of work; there was a day of rest that has never ended. God has never again taken up the work of creation. He is still resting from that work, six thousand years later.  

And this writer is going to make the point to us that our salvation is the same way. When He went to the Cross and died for you and you accepted that, the work of your salvation was finished, and you are supposed to rest from that. You are never supposed to take up that work again. And the minute you do, you’re telling God that He didn’t get the job done. That’s how serious He is about that.

Now, he’s going to equate that (and I know I’m kind of giving you an overview here, because we’re not going to get through all of this tonight), he’s going to equate that to the death penalty for breaking the Sabbath. And he’s going to say, “Remember back in Numbers where they caught that person picking up sticks on the Sabbath? And Moses went to the Lord and said, ‘What do we do here?’ and the Lord said, ‘Kill him.’ He’s going to tell you that working for your salvation can bring you the death penalty, just as well. Because it’s a sign that you did not accept the Lord’s work. Which means, you’re not saved. Which means, you’re going to die.”

You get the analogy?  

Now, this is just the overview. We’ll get into the details and I’ll prove this to you. And you’ll understand, when we get done here, that we’re a lot like these Jewish believers. We want to help, we want to do the work, we want to feel the sense of accomplishment, that when we’re saved, we can say, “Yeah! I did that!”

But the problem is, God doesn’t want that. He doesn’t want us to work. Because, when we get there, He wants us to say, “You did that!” He doesn’t want us to say, “I did that!” at all!  Remember Ephesians 2:8 and 9:

By grace you are saved through faith.  Not by works, lest anyone should boast.

He doesn’t want any bragging going on up there about who should save whom. He wants all the credit for that, and He wants it so bad that if you try to take credit for it, it will be a sign that you didn’t accept what He did. It’s that serious in your life.

Okay. We’re going to go back down and look at the details of this. And so, what he’s going to do now, he’s going to compare the wilderness wandering in Israel’s experience to the resting into a victorious life in the christian’s experience. Those are the comparisons. So, let’s see how this works.  

Let’s read this Psalm 95 again:

“Today, if you hear his voice,

     do not harden your hearts

as you did in the rebellion,

    during the time of testing in the wilderness,

He’s talking about the wilderness wandering.

where your ancestors tested and tried me,

    though for forty years they saw what I did.

 That is why I was angry with that generation;

Because, what did He do for forty years? He did everything for them! Do you know how—I don’t know how many of you have lived for forty years in a desert, but do you know that their shoes didn’t even wear out? I mean, they’re scraping along in that sand every day for forty years; your shoes wouldn’t last that long by any means. They were only wearing the skins of porpoises for shoes. And for forty years they never wore out. Now, porpoises live in the water, they’re not meant to swim through sand. 

Their clothing never wore out for forty years. For forty years they never grew a crop, not a kernel of crop! He fed them every day, three times a day for forty years. When they needed water, He had Moses strike a rock and enough water came out of there to feed all of them and all of their cattle and all of their herds. Forty years worth, and yet they still didn’t have enough faith to go across the Jordan and claim the land He gave them.

That’s why He was mad at them. Because, after seeing all the miraculous things He did—now, we haven’t talked about parting the Red Sea and destroying the most powerful country on the face of the earth and all those other things that He did. We haven’t even talked about that. They all were eyewitnesses of that. And when they got to the shores of the Jordan to the not-so-famous East Bank of the Jordan River—you know, people laugh and say, “The Jordan is the only river in the world with only one bank.” [laughing] You never hear of the East Bank, you only hear of the West Bank, right?  

But, when they got to the East Bank of the river they wouldn’t go across and they turned back because, after seeing all of that, they still didn’t trust Him to do what He said He would do, which is defeat their enemies. And because of that, they lived their lives in utter defeat in the desert.  

Now, He still watched over them. He still fed them. He still took care of their every need. So, they were still His, you understand. But they didn’t get to experience the victory that He had in store for them. They are like the believer who accepts the Lord’s death as payment for their sins but refuses to fight the enemies of their own making. And because of that, nine out of ten Christians live hopelessly worthless and defeated lives, just like those people in the desert. We still belong to the Lord. We still are saved. All that’s still fine. But we never get to taste the victory.  

So, down to verse 12:

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.

Now, throughout this next little while, he’s going to take two words that are, disobedient and unbelieving, and you’re going to see them used several times. But I want you to know that the same word means both, and it’s only the translator’s preference as to which word was used here. Personally, I believe the word should all be “disobedient” because what He is saying here in this Psalm is, “I gave you so much evidence, there is no way you could not believe! And so, therefore, you’re disobedient.” And He says the same thing to the Church. He says, “There is so much evidence in the world of My existence, there’s no way you could not believe Me!  Therefore, you’re being disobedient when you deny Me.”

Now, you can have sympathy for someone who is unbelieving. But how much sympathy do you have for somebody who is disobedient in the face of mountains of evidence? Do you see the different story? That’s why there is such a serious judgment in store for those who refuse to believe. Because there’s no excuse for unbelief; there’s none. There’s too much evidence supporting God’s existence.There’s no excuse for not believing. And so, the word is really, disobedient. Some people refuse to believe in spite of overwhelming evidence, don’t they? But there isn’t anybody, friends, there isn’t anybody who can’t believe. There are just people who won’t. That’s His opinion about this. That’s how He feels about it. He’s gone to such lengths that that’s the way He feels about it.  

So, in verse 12:

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, disobedient heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 

He’s telling them, “Help each other. Help each other experience the freedom from this enslavement of the Law. Reassure each other, encourage each other. Help each other, because you’re all going through something very, very different from anything you’ve ever experienced.”

If you’ve been a slave all your life, freedom is a scary thing. Some people who have served long terms in prison, and when they get out, they can’t live in society. There’s too much freedom.  They actually do things to put themselves back in where they can be safe, secure again, where they don’t have to think anymore.

Verse 14:

We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.

He’s saying, “You believed all this on the day you were saved. You were so excited about this on the day that you were saved. And because of that, God saved you and He put His Spirit in your heart and He made a place for you in Heaven that’s yours no matter what. Now, just hold onto that in the face of all this stuff you see, in the face of all these trials and tribulations; all this temptation, all this oppression, all this back-biting and backstabbing you’re seeing from these former friends of yours. Hold on to that in the face of all those things, and stick with it! As long as it’s ‘Today.’”

Because the point he’s going to make here is, ‘today’ doesn’t last forever!  

There have been three periods called ‘today.’ He’s going to say this in a little while, so I’ll wait till he does. But ‘today’ doesn’t last forever! And between you and me here today, ‘Today’ is about to end. [laughs]

Verse 15:

As has just been said:

“Today, if you hear his voice,

    do not harden your hearts

    as you did in the rebellion.”

Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 

I mean, he freed all of them, right? A million-and-a-half people, by some estimations. He freed them all.

By the way, do you realize what a miracle that was? A million-and-a-half people—not one was too sick to go. Have you ever lived in a city of about a million-and-a-half people and do you believe there was a single day when nobody was sick? I mean, we don’t read about that, but He had to have healed all the ones who were sick. I mean, these people were slaves, living in deprived situations, they were given a double-dose of work every day and their rations were not sufficient to live by. There had to be some people who were too—at least too tired to go. But there were a lot more who were too sick to go…and bingo! They are all well! Well enough to go on a forty-year hike! [laughing]

Verse 17:

And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness?

The sin, by the way, was disobedience; unbelief.  

And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

Now, you and I know how many of that generation entered the Promised Land. There were two.  Out of that million-and-a-half, there were two. And so, most of them did not. 

And so, when you see the statistics today that 90% of Christians are living secular lives, that’s not unusual. That’s not unique to our time. That’s always been true. There have only been a very small portion of believers who went beyond the salvation to accept the challenge and achieve victory. Most of them just stopped, right there. Part of it because they were never taught to go any further. Some is because they didn’t know they could go any further. But the fact of the matter remains, that most of them never go beyond. They think salvation is the end of the journey when it’s actually the beginning. 

And so, that’s why this book is not about salvation. This book is about what happens after that.  This book is about the victory that is available, the victory that’s out there for each of us, where I can tell you just like Joshua told his people, “You will emerge victorious over any enemy you choose to fight.” That’s what Joshua told the Israelites. You will achieve victory over any enemy you choose to fight. In other words, the only way you won’t get victory, is if you refuse to fight.  

It also says that in a christian life there’ll be two things: battles and victories. One follows the other, one-hundred percent of the time. Battles and victories. The only defeated christian is the Christian who refused to go into battle. That was not what God wanted.

Now, unfortunately, chapter four started with the same word, “therefore.” So, we’ve got to keep going a little bit.  

So, chapter 4:

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. 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. 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.’”

The Gospel doesn’t do you any good unless you believe it. Do you understand that’s what he’s saying? And he’s saying, belief is a choice. You can choose to believe it; you can choose to reject it. Nobody is held from believing it. Nobody is restrained from believing it. Belief is a choice. It’s a choice that God has given us, and we are free to make the choice of accepting or rejecting it. But if we reject it, we have to know that that is something we chose to do. It’s not something that we were unable to do, it’s not something that we were prevented from doing. It’s something we chose to do.  

The nature of God requires everyone of us has to have had an opportunity to make that choice in our life. Some of us got more than one opportunity. But everybody has to have at least one bonafide presentation of the Gospel that can lead him to an informed decision. Or else God is not just. He cannot let anyone die without having had the opportunity of making that choice, or else He’s not just. You understand that? Everybody has to have had that choice. Everybody!  And, you know what that includes? That includes the pygmies in Africa that everybody talks about.

Somehow, in some way that we don’t understand (and it’s not necessary for us to understand) they have to have the opportunity to make that choice, or else God is not just. He’s not treated them justly. He cannot hold them responsible for not believing if He hasn’t told them what to believe; He cannot do that. It’s against His nature to do that. Just because we don’t understand how it happens, does not mean it can’t, or didn’t happen. 

If God is going to hold us accountable for the belief, then He has to give us the option of believing. One follows the other. You understand it don’t you?  

You would not stand still for somebody telling you, “You didn’t believe this, therefore, you’re going to die!” And you can come back with, “Wait a minute! Nobody ever told me.”
And the other person says, “Well, too bad!”
You wouldn’t stand for that, you would shout, “Foul!” to the high heavens over that. You’d say, “That’s not fair!” And you’d be right.  

Some of you might say, “That’s a travesty of justice!” and you would be right. And God is not either one of those things. If He’s going to hold you accountable for your belief, if your eternal destiny depends on that one issue, then a just God has to have given you the option of deciding.  

You see, I think all those people, when they line up at the end of the age and they’re marched off to Hell, every one of them is going to admit that it’s their own fault. None of them will be able to claim, “God did this to me.” None of them will be able to shout, “Foul!”

This will be a good place for us to finish up tonight. But I want to finish up with this verse in Philippians 2. Go back a couple of books to the left. Philippians 2, and I’ll show you something you might not have seen before, I don’t know. Can you find Philippians? It’s right before Colossians, right after Ephesians and we’re going to look in chapter 2 and we’re going to end up here because this will be a good one to stop with.  

Philippians 2:5 says:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

And here’s His attitude:

Who, being in very nature] God,

    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

So, here’s somebody who is already God and He’s agreed to take this huge demotion from the throne of majesty all the way down to the humblest of men. But, did He ever go around shouting how He was really God and He was only doing this for you? No. He did admit to being God when He was asked. But He didn’t “Lord it” over anybody. He didn’t really say, “Hey! I don’t deserve to be here. I’m just as good as God. In fact, I am God.”

He didn’t say that. He didn’t consider that to be important. He didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped.

You know who does? All the people who aren’t God. [laughing] They all want to be equal to God, right? And the worst one is the anti-Christ, right? He wants to let everybody know he is God.  

But instead, what did He do? In verse 7 it says:

rather, he made himself nothing

    by taking the very nature of a servant,

    being made in human likeness.

We talked about this before. 

 And verse 8:

And being found in appearance as a man,

    he humbled himself

    by becoming obedient to death—

        even death on a cross!

All right, so that’s what He did. 

Now verse 9:

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

    and gave him the name that is above every name,

We talked about this last time. Now verse 10:

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

    to the glory of God the Father.

Paul had to actually invent a new term for this when he was doing this because the Greek word for heaven is Ouranos, but Paul added a prefix to it. The prefix is epi which means above.  

So, what is he saying? 

He’s saying actually everyone, from above the heavens where God’s throne is, down to the earth where we are, and down under the earth where Satan’s throne is. So everybody in between, from above God’s throne to beneath Satan’s’ throne. And every tongue (that means every person, every language) would have to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  

Now, you notice what it doesn’t say. It doesn’t say that every tongue will confess that Jesus is their Savior. They will have to confess that He is Lord. What that means is, they will have to admit that He is the Lord and He does have the right to do these things.  

You know, I can hear people saying, “I guess at some level I always knew, but I just didn’t want to believe that. I couldn’t bring myself to submit like that. I wish I had. Now it’s too late.” 

They’re not going to be able to blame Him. They are not going to be able to blame you. They’ve got only themselves to blame.

And so, that’s the point we’re trying to make here, that no one, no one will be able to say at the end of the age, “I never knew that I had to believe that. I never knew that that was required of me.  You can’t do this to me because I was not there the day they had that meeting! You’ve got to exempt me.” Nobody will ever be able to do that.

Okay, now as you can see, we’re just getting started here in this Book of Hebrews. Next time when we get together, we’ll deal with this issue of the Sabbath. And you’ll understand—and I hope you’ll tell everybody you know—you’ll understand that the people who argue whether Saturday or Sunday is the right day, have missed the point altogether.  

Let’s have a closing prayer.