“Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.” (Hebrews 4:1, ESV)
When we see the word therefore in the Scripture, we always need to ask the question, “What is therefore, there for?” I know the English is not perfect, but the question is pertinent. We will find the answer in the previous thoughts as written.
At the end of Chapter 3 we read, “And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:18–19, KJV 1900) As I previously discussed, the author used the generation that came out of Egypt that did not enter the Promised Land as an example that the recipients of the letter were not to follow. The Jews who did not enter had a problem of unbelief.
In Hebrews 3:18, the word the KJV translated as “believed not” is apeitheo. On the other hand, the ESV translates this word as “disobedient.” According to Strong’s the word refers to one who does not allow himself to be persuaded. Perhaps the translators could have said it this way. “And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that”(were stiff-necked)?
When I was in manufacturing management, I remember trying to instruct some employees in certain job functions. No matter how hard I tried, they just refused to listen and by not following the instructions produced a lot of defective product. They were stiff-necked. The result of this was a loss of revenue for the company, damaged relationships with the customer and, in the extreme case employee termination.
Similarly, those who did not enter the Promised Land were stiff necked. Their failure to obey the Lord was a result of unbelief. While they knew that God had promised to give them the land, and seeing the power of God in mighty ways, they refused to be persuaded to enter the land. Thus, they missed entering God’s rest.
In Hebrews 4:1, the writer of Hebrews therefore pleads with the recipients of the letter, to not be like their ancestors who resisted the persuasion of God’s word. The recipients of the letter, knowing the truth of God’s promise of salvation must respond by faith in Christ, while there is still time. He states that “the promise of entering his rest still stands.” God is patient concerning His promises and desires all people to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). However, while the Lord is patient, there is a time when it will be too late to respond. He does not want them to delay and miss the opportunity.
This same plea is for us today. Many today are stiff-necked regarding the truth of God’s word. Salvation is available, but they refuse to respond to the truth. There is a time when they will not be able to respond any longer. We need to urge them to respond while there is time, while they understand. Pray for opportunity to witness and pray for those who seem to constantly refuse to believe. God can soften the hardest of hearts so they will hearken to the message that we preach.