Good News of Hebrews 4…

June 4, 2015 at 11:28 AM 4 comments

we-who-believe-have-entered-into-gods-restOne thing I failed to mention in my previous article has to do with Hebrews 4:2 and the fact that the writer to the Hebrews states quite clearly, “For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard,” (emphasis added).

What does the writer mean when he says “good news”? He can’t be talking about the gospel message since he clearly identifies his readers as believers. If he was actually talking about the gospel message, then he would not be so firm in his conviction that his readers are “saved.” He assumes they are “saved,” that they are believers who have salvation.

Since this is the case, what is he talking about? The fact that he says he and his readers had the same “good news” preached to them as those of the Old Testament tells us that he cannot mean the gospel message. Can anyone show me in Scripture where the people of Israel in the Old Testament, under Moses had the gospel message preached to them as the people did during and after Christ’s physical sojourn on earth?

We need to remember, that the revealing or unfolding plan of redemption has been revealed incrementally down through the ages to humanity since the Creation. God played many things close to His proverbial chest. He did not reveal His entire plan all at once and that is abundantly clear from Scripture. The more God revealed, the more Satan knew. The more Satan knew, the more he would try to impede. God never gave Satan that opportunity.

The people of the Old Testament and specifically under Moses were given the opportunity to enter into God’s “rest” that He had created for Israel. It involved crossing the Jordan and entering into the Promised Land. At the same time, once they arrived in the Land, their rest did not begin. It would not actually start until every enemy was vanquished. This never happened. Even if the first generation entering the Land had been thoroughly successful in conquering all foes, each successive generation would have had to do the same thing because invariably new foes would have arisen. Satan would not allow things to be peaceful for Israel.

It seems then that the writer of Hebrews repeatedly refers to this “rest” that those in the Old Testament heard about but never gained. The truth of God’s “rest” did not profit them because they did not combine it with faith. Instead, they chose – deliberately or otherwise – to disbelieve God. There it is, the reason for their failure. Unbelief.

Had the Israelites believed God every step of the way (which is seen in the actions that flow from that belief, just as unbelief also has actions associated with it), they would have entered the Land (the first time), conquered every foe, obeyed God at every turn and then eventually rested from everything. They would then have enjoyed the full benefits of the Land with no enemies. This was the plan but the people chose not to believe God. They chose unbelief instead and because of it, we see the cycle that became part of Israel’s history, especially during the time of the judges (400 years). They were in unbelief where God was concerned, so God chastised them, and the Israelites eventually were forced out of their Land. The next generation would cry out to God, He would hear, raise up a leader who would obey Him and lead the Israelites back to the Land and/or vanquish their foes. They would have some measure of rest but not fully, not entirely. Eventually, this cycle would repeat itself.

The writer to the Hebrews is referring to this “rest” as it applies to believers of all ages, those who lived before, during, and after Jesus’ physical life on earth. It all comes down to faith in God, believing in Him and His truth…or not.

Today’s Christian has the opportunity to live in such a way that our full rest is guaranteed. While we are alive now, we work. That is our job. Daily, we should take up a position of believing God, which will result in obeying Him in all ways. Oh, we could simply do things that appear to be good, but God knows our hearts, doesn’t He? He knows if we are doing something based on a firm belief in Him or simply because we want to look good to others. God wants our heartfelt obedience. It must stem from a full belief in Him, nothing wavering.

A person who is a true Christian must learn how to do this, just as a toddler learns how to walk, then run. We have the ability to believe God within us if we are authentic Christians. We also have the ability to choose unbelief in God as well. This is the constant struggle that every Christian faces every day of our lives.

I believe this is why Paul speaks so much about running the race to the end. I also believe that this is the underlying concept in what Paul calls working out our salvation.

“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” (Philippians 2:12).

We are called to “work out” our salvation in daily live. We do so with “fear and trembling” because we are never far from departing from God through unbelief and it is something we must always guard against. It will be with us until we die and Jesus removes our sin nature.

So then, let’s look at a few ways in which, as Christians, we actually work out our salvation, not by obeying rules and dos and don’ts, but by working to ensure that we believe God moment by moment. Once we are perfectly aligned with Him through our active belief in Him, we will walk in His truth as He is the Truth. In other words, Christianity is no longer a list of dos that I need to do and a list of don’ts that I need to avoid. The focus is on our believing in God’s faithfulness, all the time, every day. From such a vantage point, the things that we should do as well as the things we should not do take care of themselves.

Had Moses believed God at the second instance of water from the rock (Numbers 20), the correct actions would have flowed from his belief in God. Because he failed to believe God, his unbelief gave rise to sin and sin resulted in death.

Christians can spend their entire lives doing, thinking, acting, and speaking in such a way that they think they are doing things correctly. Others may look at them and also believe they are “deeply” righteous individuals. The problem? We cannot see their hearts or motivation. They may have simply trained themselves to follow a list of dos and don’ts that others interpret as commitment to God and obedience to Him. The reality is that when these Christians are alone, by themselves, they may all too clearly realize that they are miserable and they are so because they are still caught up in following a list of dos and don’ts.

Our one job as Christians is to exercise ongoing, continual, consistent belief in God, not just for salvation, but for our daily lives after we receive salvation. The line seems fine, doesn’t it? Yet, God says without faith, it is impossible to please God. So for the Christian who has patterned his/her life after a list of dos and don’ts, they aren’t necessarily pleasing God even though they are doing the things they believe bring Him glory. It’s not from the heart though. It’s all from the head.

Yet, if we strongly believe God that He will provide, that He will make our paths straight, that He will strengthen us to fulfill the Great Commission, then we will find ourselves living the life He wants in spite of the fact that our focus is not on a list of dos and don’ts.

Living a life based on constant belief in God means going from strength to strength (Psalm 85:7). Understanding this can create a very stark comprehension of how Christians are to live. The focus, instead of being on what we are to do or not do, is on believing God. Since this is the starting point, I firmly believe that we will live a life that stems from that believing. This is not to say that we do not need to learn what God’s Word says. Clearly, we do need to study to know whether or not we are believing God at every turn and whether or not our life measures up to His standard.

If we do not know what His Word actually teaches (about how we are to live as Christians), we cannot very well believe Him, can we?

For instance, I have noticed more and more people “forsaking the gathering together” with other believers (cf. Hebrews 10:25) these days. We are to continue to gather with other believers for encouragement in many things, through teaching, through singing, and through fellowship. Yet, it seems as though a growing number of believers are not doing this. I’m not talking about those who cannot find a Bible-believing church and would desperately love to be part of one. I’m talking about believers who simply come to a point of almost bragging that they are not “part of organized religion” and don’t attend any church. These people have essentially come to believe that their way is better than God’s. Through the writer to the Hebrews, we are told to not forsake gathering together with other believers. Yet, too many believe this doesn’t apply to them. They have, in effect, an evil, unbelieving heart and because of that, they have departed from God’s specifically chosen path.

Would you agree that these folks are deliberately sinning through unbelief, therefore they are not walking with God? It’s more than simply backsliding (and we’ll talk about that next). It’s a deliberate departure from the clear teaching of Scripture. Again, I am not talking about those Christians who cannot find a Bible-believing church near them. I’m talking about those who have deliberately decided to believe that they do not have to meet with other believers, in spite of the fact that God’s Word tells us differently.

Christian, we need to believe God at every turn, whether it is convenient or not. To do otherwise is what God calls unbelieving. There are only those two options.

Entry filed under: christianity, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: .

Is Salvation a Sure Thing or Dependent Upon Us? Part 9 Yes, Christians CAN Fall Away from God…

4 Comments

  • 1. Sherry  |  June 4, 2015 at 3:51 PM

    FTA: What does the writer mean when he says “good news”? He can’t be talking about the gospel message since he clearly identifies his readers as believers…Since this is the case, what is he talking about? The fact that he says he and his readers had the same “good news” preached to them as those of the Old Testament tells us that he cannot mean the gospel message. Can anyone show me in Scripture where the people of Israel in the Old Testament, under Moses had the gospel message preached to them as the people did during and after Christ’s physical sojourn on earth?

    Okay, upon reading a few commentaries on this verse, it IS clearly meaning the Gospel message. “They” are, as you point out, the OT unbelieving Israelites. Their whole religious system pointed to their coming Messiah. And the Gospel message has been preached since Genesis 3:15. “They” are not part of Paul’s readers (believers).

    Certainly I am misunderstanding you. :l

    • 2. modres  |  June 4, 2015 at 4:15 PM

      I’ll try to reply to this soon. Sherry. Heading out the door. I will say that there is big disagreement over what this means a D their are several views on meaning here.
      Look up Thomas Constable Noted on Hebrews. They’re online as PDFs.

    • 3. modres  |  June 4, 2015 at 4:18 PM

      The good news taken in it’s context refers to the “rest” that only believers can enter into. The whole of the writer’s premise in Hebrews 3 and following sits on his meaning for “rest.”

    • 4. modres  |  June 5, 2015 at 7:11 AM

      Okay, let me try to explain this better than I did in the article 🙂

      Yes, the “Good News” DOES reference or include salvation, but I also believe in Hebrews, it goes well beyond that to include the rewards and benefits for service to our Lord we accomplished in this life. Whereas Romans focuses on God’s plan, His power, His sovereignty of choice, and the security of the Elect. Hebrews focuses on God’s demands on those He has made partakers of His grace (Robert Govett). Both epistles share total TRUTH. Both epistles are fully complementary, and both epistles are two sides of the same coin.

      It seems to me that just as Paul expresses so often in his epistles that we are to press on to the high calling in Christ, or finishing the race, regarding rewards and benefits, the writer to the Hebrews seems to be doing the same thing, though he uses separate imagery, based on the believing or unbelieving acts of Israel.

      I’m still very much digging into this and trying to summarize things in my own mind. The writer to the Hebrews uses the same type of verbiage as Paul in encouraging believers to not have unbelieving hearts. In essence, I believe one of the main propositions of Romans is that while we DESERVE eternal death, faith in Christ FREES us from that sentence. Paul goes into extreme detail explaining how and why this is so. Those who trust in Christ receive salvation, which we know is eternal.

      The main proposition in Hebrews is that all Christians will stand before Jesus and our lives will be examined; thoughts, words, and deeds. If we HAVE salvation, what is the real point in going “beyond” it by endeavoring to do the things that please Him? Of course, it ALL stems from whether or not we BELIEVE God or choose to harbor UNBELIEF where He is concerned and this CAN and DOES happen with actual Christians. As I explained in my posts, it happened with Moses (Numbers 20), King David, Peter, and many other individuals who loved God, and lived to serve Him.

      Christians today need to be prompted (even PRODDED) to BELIEVE God at every turn so that from that vantage point, we DO the good works of Him who SAVED and SAVES us (ongoing). It is my opinion at this point that the writer to the Hebrews provided examples of what happens when BELIEVERS come to junctures in their lives when they – for a moment, a day, or longer – become UNBELIEVERS toward God. This is NOT referring to salvation. It is referring to other aspects of our relationship with God.

      Do we really BELIEVE that He will provide all things for us? When faced with trials and persecutions, do we stop BELIEVING in His ability to care for us? Do we side with the world on numerous issues like homosexuality or other areas? God says one thing, but today, the world is saying another. Do we continue to BELIEVE what God has to say or do we cave into the world, thereby showing God we do not BELIEVE Him?

      Christians can and do this in our daily lives. We’ve normally called this living a “carnal” life, or “backsliding.” We need to call it what it is; departing from the faith, not in a loss of salvation, but simply by our UNBELIEF in something God has said or has done. We “depart” from God every time we choose to listen to UNBELIEF. Doing that will bring us to ruin every time, again, NOT in the loss of our salvation, but in the loss of rewards, benefits, and glory given to the Father. This is what we will be judged on.

      I believe this is what the Prodigal Son did. He NEVER stopped being a son, did he? He just got to a point where he no longer ACTED like one based on his FALSE belief that his father didn’t love him and didn’t care for him. Because of the son’s UNBELIEF in his father, he demanded his money and literally departed from his father. The father though, NEVER gave up on his son. He looked for him on the horizon DAILY. While the son considered that he was no longer a son to his father, that is NOT what his father thought and the father proved it when the son DID return.

      I also find it fascinating that the father ALLOWED his son to LEAVE (DEPART) but he did not PARTICIPATE or FOLLOW the son. God will allow us to “depart” from some truth, which will invariably lead us directly to SIN. God will not participate with us and in that way, we have separated (departed) ourselves from God. The son willfully departed because of his UNBELIEF. That was the beginning of his sin, just as it is ours.

      Christians have a tremendous responsibility to BELIEVE God at every turn. This will often put us in direct opposition to the world. Those Christians who persevere in truth will be rewarded for it. Those who depart from God are doing things that will bring judgment on those actions through a loss of rewards and benefits. God wants us to enjoy the FULLNESS of eternity that STARTS with gaining salvation. The Bible promises that He will COMPLETE His job by fulfilling His promises regarding our salvation. However, it is our JOB to persevere, to commit ourselves to Him daily, to always believe Him in spite of the pressure from Satan or the world. He will give us the strength to accomplish these things, but ONLY if we BELIEVE Him and ASK Him. He will NOT do what He says we must do. He will HELP, but He will NOT do it for us.

      By the way, if you take the time to read many commentaries on Hebrews 4, you will find just as many interpretations of this passage regarding the “good news.” Yes, it INCLUDES the salvation message, but most people simply take “salvation” to mean “heaven.” I believe it means MORE than that. I believe it includes our potential participation in the Millennial Kingdom and beyond.

      In other words, the more faithful and responsible we are in this life (not to GAIN salvation), to live according to His Word and will for us, the greater glory He receives and the greater reward and responsibility He is willing to grant us.

      I hope I am making sense here, Sherry. If not, feel free to tell me.


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 6,213 other followers

Donate to Study-Grow-Know 501 (3)(c) Non-Profit)

Study-Grow-Know Archives

Blog Stats

  • 723,878 hits

%d bloggers like this: