Good afternoon. My name is Matt Timmons and I am a pastor here in town. And I would like to talk to you today about the need for repentance.
Now some of you probably do not know what that is. It might be the first time you’ve ever heard the word. Even if you’ve gone to church a lot, you might only be vaguely familiar with the word.
Others of you might be thinking about something completely different than what I’m talking about. When I say the word “repentance” it makes you think about sitting in a box and talking to a priest through a little window.
That’s not what I’m talking about though. What I’m talking about is true repentance—that is, being so sorry for the things you’ve done wrong—for having sinned against God—that you turn away from them to God for forgiveness. That’s what I mean when I talk about repentance.
I think that this is perhaps one of the most important things that I could talk to you about today. Perhaps it is the most important thing you will ever hear. Why do I say that? It is because without true repentance, there is no escaping eternal ruin.
I want you to listen to what Jesus says in the Bible. In the gospel of Luke, Jesus says, “I tell you, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
This passage is kind of funny because Jesus was talking to some really religious guys here. These were the kind of guys who went to church every week and were even leaders in the church. And by all outward appearances, they were very ethical people. They were the kind of people you would probably want as neighbors. But Jesus said to them, “If you do not repudiate the sins in your life and turn to God, you are not going to go to heaven. You are going to go to hell.”
Oddly enough, most people today make that same mistake that those people in Jesus’ day make. Most people think they are going to go to heaven when they die. Surveys say that around 80-90% of people think that way. I would assume that if we took a poll here, that would be true of us here today. But I want you to understand that it takes more than simply dying to get into heaven. The Bible says that to avoid going to hell, you must repent.
If you think about it too, you will understand why this is true. If you understand it correctly, you will see the connection between repentance and love.
A number of years ago I was talking to my daughter after she had disobeyed me. At the time she was quite obstinate, and she was even stubbornly resisting my discipline of her. So I began to talk to her about what she had done. I told her, “It hurts me when you disobey me. It really makes me sad.” At that moment her crusty little heart melted. All of a sudden she burst into tears, and she threw herself into my arms.
That was her three year old way of repenting. But what made her do it? It was her love for me. She couldn’t stand to think that she had hurt me because she loved me.
The same is true in regard to the Lord. God will only embrace and eternally comfort those who love him. And those who love him will find themselves deeply grieved that they have in any way offended him.
So I hope you understand that you cannot get to heaven without repentance. And if you think that you are in a state of salvation, but you have never repented, please recognize that you are deceived. And that needs to be corrected. God tells us here that the repentance-less life is the straight track to hell.
Yet, if you turn to him and express regret over your sins, you can be assured that God will be gracious to you. He is tender to those who look to him in faith, and He stands with his arms outstretched, ready to receive you back. He will not turn you away. Neither will he deal abrasively with you for your sins, should you bring them to him. Rather, if you turn to him with repentance in your heart, he will open wide the gates of heaven to you.
This past week I saw a funny post on Facebook. It said, “Dear Naps, Please forgive me for hating you as a child.”
If there is one thing that we appreciate more and more as we get older it is rest. Our downtime becomes more and more valuable with every passing year because our bodies are aging and feeling the effects of the fall.
The word “rest” is used around 10 times in the passage, and this theme is picked up from our text last week. You remember there he was talking about having a hard heart. And he quoted from Psalm 95 which ended by saying, “They shall not enter my rest.”
The author of Hebrews comes back to that in our text today to develop it a bit more. So this morning I’d like us to consider the rest that God affords. As we listen to what the author here says about rest, I hope that we’ll be all the more encouraged to heed his exhortation to enter into that rest.
Of course, if we are going to talk about this rest, we need to first understand a little bit about it. That’s why we need to start by talking about its perfection.
I. Its perfection
In this passage the author seeks to lift his reader’s eyes up beyond the types and shadows of the OT. He wants them to understand that the Promised Land in the OT never was the culmination of God’s saving purposes. The land never afforded them the rest that God intended.
In the first few verses it talks about how the people of Moses’ time didn’t enter the land of promise. Verse 3 says, “I swore in my wrath, they shall not enter my rest.” They were turned back and sent into the wilderness for 40 years.
But they eventually did make it to the promised land, didn’t they? Joshua led them in and they fought all those battles. But the text says that they never got the rest they were looking for. As a matter of fact, that was the point of David’s Psalm. The author here quotes from Psalm 95, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” David wrote that Psalm. And he lived some 4-500 years after Joshua, and he is saying, “Hey, you still need to enter God’s rest.”
So the author of this epistle is trying to lift their eyes up and help them realize that the OT promised land was not the full realization of God’s promise. There was something more. And that’s where verse 4 comes in.
Verse 4 points us to the perfection of God’s rest. It says, “For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way, “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” Then in the next verse he says, “They shall not enter my rest.” In other words, it is God’s rest. It is the rest that he possesses. It is the rest that he himself enjoys.
So the author is pointing everyone’s attention to the fullest possible rest that can ever be experienced.
I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about what happened there on that 7th day of creation and considered the kind of rest that God enjoyed. You know, it wasn’t like God pulled up a lawn chair and sat back with a lemonade thinking, “Whew. That was a long week. I’m tired. I need a rest.”
That’s not right. God doesn’t grow weary or need physical rest like we do. God’s rest was of a different sort.
At the end of the creation week it says, “And God looked at all he had made and saw that it was very good.” There is a sense in which God was fully satisfied with all that had been made. The idea that leads into the seventh day was that God was perfectly content and overjoyed with his new world.
That is at the heart of God’s rest. And that is the kind of rest that is afforded to us in God’s promise of salvation. Our life of sin is one of complete restlessness. As Augustine once said, “Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in thee.” When we enter God’s rest, we enter into the world where there is no sin or sadness. There is only joy and you are perfectly satisfied.
So that is the point the author is trying to make. God has a rest in store for us. And it is a rest that is associated with the full realization of God’s saving plan. It is a rest that is analogous to God’s rest and the rest that characterizes the pre-fall world.
So you see, his point is that there is a rest that is yet to be obtained. And that brings us to our second point. Now that we understand something of the promise, we can talk about its possession.
II. Its possession
The author seeks to impress upon that this rest can only be ours through faith in the gospel. You might even say that this is his main purpose because it is stated so many times throughout this passage.
We can begin by looking at verse two. It says, “For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.”
That is repeated in verse 6 where it says that they failed to enter because of disobedience. Some of you will have the word disobedience translated as “unbelief.” The two translations are pretty much concurrent. Disobedience is just active unbelief.
This is, of course, talking about the good news that Joshua and Caleb preached to the people after having gone in and spied out the land. You remember that 10 men were sent to check out the Promised Land. When they came back, two of them had faith and gave a good report. They said, “Let’s go get it!” But everyone believed the 8 men who said that they were grasshoppers in comparison and they were sure to be destroyed.
The idea of Israel’s lack of faith is repeated again with the quotation of Psalm 95 in verse 7. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” A hard heart is simply the opposite of a soft, and believing heart. It’s just as we said last week, a hard heart is a heart that refuses to believe.
The point that the author is making though is that Israel’s great sin was unbelief. The reason they never entered the promised rest was because they never believed the gospel.
Then verse three states it positively. It says, “We who have believed enter that rest.”
So how do you obtain this rest? How do you come to possess it? It is simply by trusting the good news of the gospel.
And the opening and closing of the passage give you two marks of true faith. Real faith in God’s promise will be characterized by godly fear and striving to enter this rest. In other words, you faith will seek to ensure that this faith is a sound and steadfast faith.
So you see, the whole of this passage is seeking to emphasize how you can gain possession of this rest. And it all comes down to this one thing: believe God’s promise; believe in Jesus Christ and it is yours.
The best illustration I can give is of some of our children in our congregation. Your child will sometimes curl up in your arms and fall asleep. Why is that? It is because that child has faith in you, doesn’t he? He trusts that you will take care of him and has no doubt that in your arms there is perfect rest.
That is the argument that is being made here. He’s trying to impress upon his audience that Jesus Christ, by virtue of his dying on behalf of sinners, is the one who provides perfect rest.
But as you hear his call to possess this rest, do not miss out on the pattern of rest that he outlines.
III. Its pattern
Look at verse 9. It says, “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” You need to take note of this verse. Because the word rest in this verse is unique. It is different from all the other times rest is used in this passage. The word that is used most frequently is katapausis. But the word used here is the word sabbatismos. You’ll readily notice that it is a form of the word “Sabbath.” And this is a special form of that word. It literally means, “A Sabbath keeping.”
So, if you were to translate it literally, it would say, “There remains a Sabbath keeping for the people of God.” In other words, it is referencing the 4th commandment. The rest that we enter into by faith is shown by our continuing to uphold the 4th commandment.
And that fits with the rest of verse 10 too. For whoever entered God’s rest also rests from his works, as God did from his.
Now, a lot of people take this to be “resting from our sinful works.” But the rest from works is parallel to God’s works that he rested from. And God didn’t rest from sinful works. He rested from his good works of creation. That’s essentially what we are to do each Lord’s Day. Today we are to rest from our regular employments and such that we are doing for the glory of God so that we can worship and remember our God.
Understand why this fits into his argument. He’s appealing to these Jews, who would have been very much concerned with the keeping of the Sabbath. He’s saying, “Far from dispelling it, the rest that Christ affords gives us all the more reason to keep the Lord ’s Day holy.” We get to show the rest we have in the future right now by the way we rest on Sunday.
And really, when you look at Sunday like this, it keeps it from having that feeling of drudgery. You can really get down on Sunday and think it is a bunch of do’s and don’ts if you think of it just in terms of “sabath laws.” But remembering that this day is a foretaste of the rest to come gives it a whole new perspective and allows it to be something that is enjoyable.
The last thing I want to mention is simply the promise of this rest.
IV. Its promise
If you don’t catch anything today, catch this: God still offers the promise of rest. And That is reinforced with the quote of Psalm 95, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” This urges you to embrace God’s promise. You can’t miss the word “Today.” That impresses you with the urgency of embracing the promise. But it reminds you that the promise is available to you. God’s offer to you today is that you come to Christ and take part in the rest that he affords.
This past week, my daughter went with a couple of our church’s families out into the wilderness of Hocking Hills. They spent a couple days out there doing some hiking and spending some time together. It sounded like they had a lot of fun. When she got back she told us about how great a time she had.
Since we have never been to Hocking Hills, she, of course, told us a bit about it. One of the things she talked about were warning signs that were posted around that park, telling people to be careful. Someone told me that there are typically 3-4 deaths that occur there each year because people are not careful and they end up falling from the cliffs.
Well, as we read our passage this morning, we should really think that our faith is a lot like that. As we walk through the wilderness of this world, we need to remember that God calls us to walk the straight and narrow path of faith in Christ. And we need to recognize that our walk with Christ needs to be taken seriously.
Our passage is kind of like one of those signs at Hocking Hills. It is posted here as a warning, it is here to alert us to how important it is that we do not harden our hearts. That theme cannot be missed because it is repeated at least twice in our passage. So I want to consider with you this morning this whole hardness of heart thing. I want us to understand what it is and how we can prevent it.
Of course, if we are going to take heed to the warning against having a hard heart, we have to understand its nature, don’t we? If we do not know what it is, it might be a little hard to avoid it. So let’s think about this for a second. Let’s ask ourselves, “What is a hard heart?”
I. What is it?
Well, the first thing that can be said is that it is a spiritual thing.
A. It’s a spiritual thing
We are not talking about your physical heart. We are talking about your spiritual heart. We are talking about your soul’s sensitivity to God.
When you harden your heart you are refusing to listen to God. What happens is that we cause our soul to become less sensitive to God. Our spiritual ears, so to speak, become more and more deadened to the voice of God.
Think of clay when it hardens. When clay hardens it becomes very hard to mold and shape. Eventually you cannot sculpt it at all. But the point is that it becomes more and more resistant to the careful touch of the potter or sculptor.
That’s what happens with a hardened heart. Someone who hardens their heart is spiritually resistant to the tender voice of God.
But you’ll notice that it’s not just a spiritual thing, it is a voluntary thing.
B. It is voluntary thing
This is brought out repeatedly in our passage. Again and again it says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
You’ll notice that the burden is on you. It is on the individual to whom God speaks. You are the one who is completely responsible here.
We’ve all heard about Pharaoh and how “God hardened his heart.” But let’s remember that Pharaoh hardened his own heart many times before. And it wasn’t like God was keeping from Pharaoh from anything he didn’t already want when he hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Pharaoh wanted his heart to be hard, so God let it happen.
And we need to understand that we can do the same thing. We can voluntarily harden our hearts by shutting our ears and resisting his call. We can be just like the little child who plugs his ears and says, “I can’t hear you! Naanananana!”
But notice that this is a deadly thing too.
C. It’s a deadly thing
If we are going to define a hardened heart, we cannot skip over this. Our passage goes to great lengths to emphasize this. We read it in verses 7-11 and in verses 16-19. Both of these sections deal with the people of the wilderness wandering. They were examples of people who hardened their hearts. And what happened to them? Both of these passages say that they all died. But more than that, they died not having the opportunity to enter into the promised land—the land of rest.
Now the land of Israel was a picture of what heaven. They were supposed to enter the promised land and have an eternal Sabbath, where they experienced nothing but rest. But that didn’t happen. Their hardness of heart—i.e. their refusal to believe and obey caused God to get angry. It provoked him, and so he killed them all off.
The writer of the book of Hebrews appeals to this to remind us of how important it is that we not harden our hearts. If we refuse to listen to the Lord and we plug our ears, then we will be just like them and we will not entering into the promised rest either.
So you see how serious this is. And you can understand why the author goes to great lengths to warn us against this.
But now that we know what it is, we can begin to think about how we prevent it.
II. How do you prevent it?
The great thing about this passage is that it helps us understand how we can prevent ourselves from developing a hard heart. And there are three things that it says we can do. The first thing we must do tis examine our hearts.
A. By examining your heart 
Look at verse 12. I want you to focus again on those first two words, “Take care” or “Take heed.”
In the original language this is one word. It is the Greek word blepo, which means “to look” or “to see.” It is kind of like saying, “Keep your eyes open, guys” or “Be on the lookout.” You might say, “Take care to keep your eyes peeled for an evil, unbelieving heart.”
This is the first key to preventing yourself from falling into apostasy. You are to be keeping a watchful eye up on your soul. You are to put yourself under the magnifying lens (so to speak) and examine yourself; to make sure your heart is not an evil and unbelieving heart. It’s because that kind of heart will lead you to fall away from the Living God.
Personal examination is the first line of defense when it comes to preventing apostasy. That’s because only you can really say, “Am I really being humble here? Am I submitting to God and receiving the truth that he has given? Or am I just stubbornly rejecting what is undeniably true?”
Over the last several weeks I’ve had a number of encounters with the various cults coming to my door. And one of the things that I’ve been having to say to them is explain the nature of true humility. Humility is being willing to admit you are wrong. Frequently people are not willing to do that, even when they are presented with the truth in a clear and undeniable way.
That’s the real amazing thing about a lot of people. The problem isn’t typically ignorance. The problem is the heart and one’s wiliness to accept the truth. A lot of people don’t lack knowledge. Usually they have perfect comprehension of it. They are intimately acquainted with the truth and could pass a test if they were quizzed on it. Their problem is the heart. They do not want to accept that truth.
That’s what’s going on here. That’s the problem these Hebrew Christians had, just like their forefathers in the faith, is that they are in danger of unbelief. It’s not that they don’t know the truth. It has been clearly set before them. The problem is that they don’t want to accept it.
That’s why you really have to pull back and examine yourself. You have to look at your heart and make sure that you are not rejecting it in your pig headed arrogance.
But not only must you examine your heart, but you must also exhort your brethren.
B. By exhorting your brethren 
Look at verse 13. It says, “Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
What does this say we are to do? It says we are to “exhort one another.” How am I kept from being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin? It’s through each one of you calling me to put my faith in Christ. And how are you kept from becoming a crusty, hard hearted apostate? It is through your mutual encouragements of each other.
Think about clay, for instance. If you have ever worked with clay, you know that it can start to dry out if you leave it out. I’m told that, if that happens, all you have to do is add water. You are supposed to take a broomstick and push it down into the clay to make a cup like hole. Then fill it with water and leave it sit there overnight. The clay is supposed to absorb the water and, in so doing, become soft again.
That’s essentially what this is talking about here. Each of you need to be the springs of God’s word. You need to sprinkle God’s word on each other by exhorting one another daily. You are the means He uses to soften everyone else’s hearts and keep them from becoming hardened like that clay.
You need to do that too because if you don’t the deceitfulness of sin will have its way. I like that phrase “the deceitfulness of sin.” Think of it as trickery. Sin is always trying to trick you. Just like Snow White was tricked into eating that apple which ended up putting here into a deep sleep. Sin is trying to trick you and make you fall into a deep spiritual sleep so that you are not willing or able to listen to listen to God.
The worst part about it is that deceitfulness of sin is right inside your own chest! That’s why you need you need to be exhorting one another. Your exhortations and encouragements keep that heart in check
But there is one more thing. You not only need to examine your heart and exhort your brethren. You also need to hold to Christ.
C. By holding to Christ 
Look at verse 14. It says, “For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
Now, this is sometimes misconstrued to say that a person can lose their salvation. But that’s not what this is saying. It is saying that one of tell tale signs of a true Christian is that they hold fast their confidence and persevere in it all the way to the end. Someone who isn’t a true Christian won’t do that, will they? Of course not.
Really, this is making the distinction between those who profess Christ and those who possess Christ. Someone who possesses Christ in the heart will persevere to the end. Someone who merely professes Christ (and does not possess him) will end up falling away at some point.
But the point of this verse is this: We need to possess Christ. We need to hold to him and embrace him with greater vigor today than we did yesterday.
It says that we are a Christian if we hold our original confidence firm to the end. What I want you to do is zero in on that word “hold firm” (hold steadfast). The word is interesting. It has the idea of painstaking effort. As a matter of fact, the same word is used in the book of Acts (27:40) when describing the ship Paul was on in the storm. You remember that they dumped all their cargo and let loose all the anchors. Then they hoisted the sails and “made for the beach.” There was the bearing down on their course. They put in that direction with gusto.
That’s the idea here. We are to hold fast our confidence with gusto. We are to bear down and push in that direction with all the force that we can muster.
And this is the real mark of a true Christian. We hold to Christ alone and nothing else.
We are to cling to him and let nothing separate us from him, because he is the only thing that allows us eternal life.
These are the means God uses to keep us from falling away.
In 1944 the United States was involved with World War II. The US armies were charged with the duty of holding the line just outside of Belgium. Because the war had taken its toll, the US army along that front was depleted and spread thin.
Seeing their chance the German powers concentrated their forces on that point and charged forward into it. The American forces, as lean as they were, fought with great valor and valiantly withstood much of what was thrown at them.
It was to these soldiers that the 3rd army, under the leadership of General George S. Patton, came to the rescue. Patton and his men barreled through weather and opposition on their cavalry of tanks. The arrival of this company brought relief to those haggard soldiers, and basically broke the back of the Germans’ last offensive.
The Bible describes the Christian life as a war. We combat our flesh in order to subdue it unto righteousness. Romans 8 says that we struggle against the powers, principalities, and rulers of the air. As Christians, we are in the trenches of a heavy battle, a constant conflict.
And constant conflict can take its toll. As with any soldier in the midst of combat, we can become wearied by our warfare. We can be tempted to give up. We may want to surrender so we will not have to fight any longer. On the other hand we may know that surrender is not an option. Perhaps we just need some encouragement to keep fighting. Maybe just a glimpse of the end.
Here in our passage we have just such a glimpse. To strengthens his wearied warriors God gives the vision of King Jesus’ victorious arrival. In this vision see that we do have a Patton. Our Mighty Messiah will arrive to claim his victory once and for all.
But how do you know Christ will be victorious? The battle hasn’t even started! We can know because this passage communicates details that show he cannot be beaten. We can know by virtue of Christ’s names, His glory, and his power.
I. His descriptive names
In this passage we find that Jesus goes by four names. And you need to remember that in the Bible names are descriptive of things. Jesus is being described by these names. The first name we come across is in verse 11. He is called “Faithful and True”
In other words, Jesus is the one who is worthy of all of our confidence. Remember God’s promise. From the very beginning of Scripture God promised his people deliverance. He would crush the head of the serpent. Throughout the Bible we read how God has, time and again, delivered them. They were rescued from Egypt. They were delivered from foreign powers. We are rescued from death in the death and resurrection of Jesus. And we have here the assurance that He will be true to his promise to the very end.
He is not going to fail us. He cannot fail us. In the last and final battle we will be delivered because He is Faithful and True.
In verse 12 we find another name. Well, we don’t find the name actually. It says that he has a name that “nobody knows but him.”
I just got done saying that names in the Bible reveal something about a person. How is this descriptive of Jesus? How can we know, if they don’t tell us? That’s exactly the point. What is being revealed is that God is beyond our finite capacity. Ed Vallowe, a Bible commentator, says this with regard to this verse: “Since God is divine it would seem only natural that some aspects of his nature are incomprehensible to our finite minds.”
In a way this is saying that there is no one greater than Jesus. An admiral in the Navy has access to all the files and information of those under him. He can go and find out anyone’s name and background at will. But a low ranking sailor cannot do the same to the admiral. The admiral has all authority and power.
Jesus is that one with all authority and power because he has access to information that is not available to others. He is assured the victory.
In verse 13 we see that Jesus is also called “The Word of God.” You may remember that John uses this description of Jesus in the beginning of his gospel. “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made through him, and without him nothing has been made.” It’s a description of Christ’s divinity. It is no ordinary man who rides upon this horse. It is God who comes riding into battle. Who then can stand?
Lastly, verse 16 gives us the summation. His name is “King of kings, and Lord of Lords.” In other words, all must surrender to him. Even the most powerful authorities on earth are subject to him.
So we are not presented with one who simply has a fighting chance. In the names of Jesus we are presented with one who cannot be stopped.
And that is good news to us, because it often seems like it will never end. When we are caught in those times of weariness we don’t see the end of the line.
Perhaps its just that we are struggling with temptation. For the Christian temptation can be a double edged sword. For we not only struggle not to sin, but we also struggle when we fall into temptation.
Think about how the devil turns on us. First he fires his flaming arrows of temptation at our weakest points. Sometimes we fall right into the sin, but sometimes we try to resist. We wrestle with all our might, even to the point of agonizing. But still, God allows us to fall into that sin.
But that’s where Satan really digs his claws into us. Almost kicking us while we are down. After we have committed the sin, he turns on us and starts pressing lies upon us. He makes us question God’s love for us. He says, “What kind of Christian are you? How can God ever forgive you, if you keep acting like this? You knew that was wrong.”
So Satan can dog us almost continually. And this is why you need to know that Christ will deliver. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, a finish line to your fight. One day you will lay down the gloves.
God seeks to strengthen his soldiers for battle by showing us Christ’s names, he also strengthens us by showing us Christ’s…
II. His majestic glory
The passage describes the physical person of Jesus. And the imagery presents you with one who is a victor.
You read in verse 1 that he rides a white horse. He doesn’t ride a donkey. There was a time when he came riding into Jerusalem on a colt, lowly and humble. But here he is on a horse, a mighty creature.
Verse 12 says He has eyes that are like blazing fire. He is one who is ready to consume because of his indignation.
And in the same verse it says he wears on his head, not one crown, but many crowns. Verse 13 says he wears a robed sopped with blood. That’s an allusion to Isaiah 63. Listen to these verses,
Isa 63:1-3 Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, he who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? "It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save." (2) Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress? (3) "I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel.
This is a king who has slaughtered his enemies. And here he comes again to do the same. He is not satisfied, but filled with vengeance.
But he is described as one who is not alone. Behind him come the armies of heaven, and they are all riding on horses. Whether these are angels or the saints, or both, we don’t know for sure. But we do know that that they are a great and mighty multitude. Its not just one army, it is a plurality of armies. And they are all riding on horses. In a war, very few would be mounted on horses. A cavalry would make up only a small portion of an army. But here all God’s host come riding upon horses.
This is a picture of a glorious king. A warrior who cannot be moved. One to whom the weary can look.
During the Civil War there was a General nick-named “Stonewall” Jackson. Jackson came to have this name during a battle in 1861. The confederate forces were hard pressed. Brigadier General Barnard B. Bee, CSA, was desperately trying to rally his troops to withstand the Federal attack. As he was trying to do so he looked across the battle field and saw his West point friend Jackson steadfastly holding ground against their enemy. Bee shouted to his troops, "Look, men, there is Jackson standing like a stone wall! Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer!"
The men rallied around Jackson and by doing so they were able to stay off their opponents.
We have presented before us one who is like that. The majestic glory of Christ shows him to be a stonewall. If we are going to remain steadfast in the fight, we must gather ourselves around him. Of course I am speaking metaphorically. We rally ourselves around him by setting our thoughts on Him. We look to the future and this presentation of Jesus Christ, and we set our hope in him.
The certainty of Jesus’ victory is revealed in his descriptive names and his majestic glory. And it is also revealed in…
III. His remarkable power
His power is remarkable because he is able to strike down the nations with his sword. No one else is involved in this battle. The host of heaven, riding on the horses, do not do lift a finger. He alone subdues his enemies.
And it is even more remarkable when we realize that his sword is his word. That’s what it means when it says that a sword comes out of his mouth. It is symbolic of his voice.
If I might quote from Ed Vallowe again. He reminds us of what happened on the night that Jesus was betrayed. Vallowe says, “When Judas led the soldiers to arrest Jesus, Jesus simply spoke—and his enemies fell to the ground. The power of the Word is irresistible. His Word is like a sword that cuts, smites, slays, and destroys.”
In J.R. Tolkein’s book “The Lord of the Rings” describes this event quite graphically. Those of you who have read the book or seen the movie will know exactly what I mean. Toward the end of the book the enemy forces organize a great war. All sorts of beasts and gargoyles march out en mass against the city. Like an army of ants smothering a mound of sugar the creatures converge on the city. They have one goal in mind: destroy the city and every person living within it.
As they wage that war and the guardians of righteousness begin to deteriorate. Wearied and overwhelmed by the immensity of their opposition, their defenses collapse. Their enemies move in to squelch them once and for all, and it looks as if all hope is lost.
But in that darkest moment, out of the far reaches of the horizon Gandalf comes galloping on his horse towards the city. Dressed in pure white and riding on a white horse, this man single handedly annihilates the hostile throng. The scene is virtually fanciful in its unfolding. This one man conquers the masses with a single, magical wave of his staff.
It is a depiction of Christ’s arrival. On the day of the final battle Christ shall come riding on his horse. In a single moment He shall vanquish all his enemies. Not a single opponent will be able to withstand the power of his voice.
Christ’s fury is so fierce that it is compared with that of a winepress. I read to you already from Isaiah 63, but remember what a wine press was. When the grapes were harvested, they would be placed in a large vat. Then the servants would remove their shoes and stop upon the grapes to retrieve the juices.
God will do the same to his enemies. He will not relent nor have any mercy. He will relieve his people by utterly ravaging his enemies.
Right now I am reading a book about Mt Vesuvius, the volcano that erupted in 79 AD. In that book it describes how molten lava builds up in chambers beneath the earth’s crust. The pressure continues to mount over time until it cannot be contained any longer. When the pressure was released a furry of ash, molten lava and debris were cast into the atmosphere. Grey ash rushed through the atmosphere at hundreds of miles per hour and suffocated the town of Pompeii, virtually freezing the town in its tracks.
While this world continues unwittingly along (like those unwitting people living around that volcano), Jesus Christ’s anger is building. One day the Lord Jesus will return. Like Vesuvius he will unleash his anger. Those who are his enemies will be destroyed, and we who are his people shall be relieved. No more will the devil’s temptations afflict us, and no more will man oppose us.
Yet until that day we are to continue in the battle. We are to persevere in the good fight of faith. Yet while we fight, we must not take our eyes of the coming day. For the end is a source of strength to us. Christ, our mighty Messiah, is our promise of victory. And the promise of final victory is the hope of the church militant.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall: who’s the fairest of them all.” This little ditty we know from the classic tale of Snow White. But it could easily be the theme of the book of Hebrews.
The author of this book has been seeking to convince his Jewish audience that Jesus is the fairest of all. He is the culmination of their religion and the greatest revelation God could ever give.
So far we’ve seen how he is greater than angels and prophets. The first two chapters have impressed from every angle possible that no angel could be fairer. Here in chapter three the author turns to address how Jesus is fairer than Moses.
Just think of some of the things that his resume would have boasted. He was chosen by God to be the lead the people out of Egypt. He is the one to whom God gave the law. This law was so closely identified with him that it was called the “Law of Moses.” Along with that he authored the first five books of the Bible and a number of Psalms. Most importantly, it is said of Moses that he was the meekest man who ever lived and he was the only one who is ever said to have spoken with God “face to face.”
Certainly, there are other items to note of his life. But just this simple list is enough to show that he is the heavyweight champion of OT saints. Even guys like Abraham and King David begin don’t even begin to compare with the greatness of Moses.
So, there is no wonder then that the author of this epistle puts Jesus and Moses side by side. These verses that we just read would have been perhaps the clinching argument for some of his readers. They no doubt would have to concede that Jesus was most certainly to be the heart of a Jew’s faith.
Even today, when we study what is said here, we see how Jesus rises above Moses; for he sits at the core of our calling, our confession, our communion and our continuance.
Look at the way this chapter opens. In verse 1 he addresses his audience. He calls them, “holy brothers” and “partakers of a heavenly calling.” And in doing so he reminds them of their calling as a people. And, implicitly, he reminds them how Jesus is at the heart of that calling.
I. Jesus is at the heart of our calling [1a]
Think about the word “holy” and how that was a word that was etched deeply in their minds. The idea of holiness is one of the grand themes of the Old Testament. God’s people were called to be a “holy nation.” That is to say, they were called to be separate from sin. They were called to be holy because God had set them apart from the rest of the world. And everywhere you read how they were called to “Be holy even as I the Lord your God am holy.”
But if there is one thing that the OT revealed, it was that Israel was anything but holy. If you read the OT carefully, what you’ll find is that this whole holy thing was quite elusive. They were always called to be holy, but never did they ever realize it or evidence true holiness.
That’s because holiness doesn’t come naturally to sinful people. The law that Moses gave told them to be holy, but it never made them holy. Holiness is something that can only be created within us by God once he deals with the inward foulness of our sinful nature. And that is what we gain through Jesus Christ. Christ is at the heart of our calling because it is only through him that our sin can be eradicated. There is nothing in the Law of Moses or any other part of the Old Testament that could afford this. It was every commanding it, but never enabling it.
So our calling to be holy requires Christ. But it’s not just our holiness calling, it’s also our heavenly calling.
It says here that we are people who share in a “heavenly calling.” Now, this too is something that puts Christ at the center. Remember that we are called to a future kingdom, a kingdom that could never be erected here in this world.
When God called Abraham he made him a promise. God said he would give him a land. But when Abraham died, what did he have? All he had was a gravesite. That’s it. When Moses led the people, what did he lead them too? It was to the Promised Land. He was to lead them to a land that was flowing with milk and honey. But, for one, Moses himself never got into that land. You remember that he only got to look at it from afar. What’s more, the people never ultimately inherited the land. Even at the zenith of power under Solomon, they never realized the full scope of God’s promise.
Part of that is because it was never ultimately about a sliver of desert country in the Middle East that we call Israel. The promise made to Abraham and Moses has to be seen in light of Genesis 3 and the promise to crush the head of the Serpent. The promises to Abraham and Moses are salvific. They pointed further to the final salvation God would bring us in glory. We’ll even read later in Hebrews that Abraham didn’t ultimately have his eyes set on that land we call Israel. He longed for a “better country, a heavenly one.”
And that is what Christ gives us. We are partakers of a “heavenly calling.” We are looking for the fusion of heaven and earth, when paradise is restored. We are looking well beyond the land that Moses was trying to give us to the kingdom of glory. And only the saving power of Christ can grant it to us. Only the Messiah can guarantee those promises.
That’s why he lies at the heart of our calling. And that is part of the reason why Jesus is greater. But Jesus is greater than Moses, not only because he is at the heart of our calling, but because he is at the heart of our confession too.
II. Jesus is at the heart of our confession [1b-2]
Look again at the first two verses. Look at how it zeros us in on Jesus. “Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God's house.”
Who is it that we confess? It’s not Moses. It’s Jesus.
To be sure, Moses is a great man in the life of Israel. And here in these two verses there are a number of things that are said that are true of both Jesus and Moses. Both are apostles, both were high priests, and both were faithful.
The word apostle just means “sent one.” And that is true of both guys. Jesus was an apostle because he sent by the Father. This is something that John testifies to a number of times in his gospel. And Moses was an apostle too, in that he was sent by God to the Israelites to be their deliverer and leader.
Both Jesus and Moses were high priests too. We don’t typically think of Moses as a high priest. We usually associate Aaron with that office. But even though Moses didn’t bear the title and wear all the clothes of a high priest, he certainly acted in that capacity to a great degree. Who is it that we see interceding on the behalf of the Israelites all the time? It was Moses. Moses was the one who held his hand aloft and prayed while Joshua fought the Amalekites, wasn’t he? And think about the golden calf incident. It was Moses who interceded on their behalf and kept God from wiping them off the face of the planet. Moses certainly acted in a high priestly capacity during his life.
And along with being an apostle and priest, both of these guys were faithful in all God’s house. The idea of a house here is just a figurative way of talking about God’s people. In the OT the people of God were sometimes called “the house of Israel.” And the church is God’s house too, because he lives in us. But the point here is that Jesus is faithful to serve and lead God’s people just as Moses was faithful to serve and lead God’s people in his day.
But there is one thing—at least one major thing—that separates Moses and Jesus. It is this: Jesus is the one we confess; he’s the one at the heart of our faith.
Even though Moses did a lot of good things—even though he acted as an apostle and a high priest and was faithful, he was never “confessed” or made the central focus of anyone’s faith.
The word confession here means “to make a formal, public declaration.” It is to make a statement of faith, so to speak. As the book of Romans says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Each week, we “confess our faith” using the Heidelberg Catechism. What are we doing there? We are declaring what we believe, are we not?
And I think that the author here in these first two verses is reminding us that Moses, even though he was among a stalwart among the OT patriarchs, was never the center of anyone’s faith. When Israel confessed their faith, they raised their pinky fingers to heaven and said, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
They did not say, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your Moses is one…” The people did not profess Moses as the center of their belief system. Moses is inferior to Jesus in that manner. Even though he was a great man, he was still just a man. The people of Israel could follow Moses. They could hearken to his words. They could even come and speak to him. But they did not believe in him, trust in him or confess him to be their God and Savior. He was merely a type and a shadow of the one to come.
That’s the point that is being driven home in these first two lines. Jesus is a “confessable one.” He is to be at the heart of our faith because, as God, he is a greater Apostle and a greater High Priest.
But Jesus is not just at the heart of our calling and confession. He’s also at the heart of our communion. And this is another reason why Jesus is greater than Moses.
III. Jesus is at the heart of our communion [3-6a]
In verses 3-6 the author points out that the people of God owe their existence as a body, as a communion, not to Moses, but to Jesus. The communion we enjoy as God’s people is not (nor was it ever previously) dependent upon a man. It was always and forever will be based on the supreme power and Providence of Christ.
He gets at this in two ways. The first way is noted in verse 3 where it talks about Jesus being due more glory even as the builder of the house is to receive more honor than the house itself.
Now understand the parallel that he is making here. Jesus is to builder of the house as Moses is to the house itself. Again, the house is an image and metaphor for the people of God.
What is Jesus? He is the builder of the house. He is the one who makes our fellowship together possible. When God came to Abraham, he said, “I will make you a great nation. I will make you to be as numerous as the sand on the seashore.” So God was promising to build the house of Israel. And the author here is saying that it was Jesus who was doing this all along.
Moses, on the other hand, was just a part of the house. Even though he played a major role in the nation of Israel, when it all is said and done, he was just another Israelite.
It is kind of like our president. The president of the United States might have a prominent role in the life of our country, but he is still considered an American citizen. It’s the same with Moses. He was a great leader, but he was still just a Jew and a member of the house of Israel.
And you then ask, who is greater, the one who is building Israel or the one who is a part of Israel? Well, the answer is obvious.
The author then makes virtually the same point in the verses 5-6. He says that Jesus has one up on Moses because Moses is merely a servant while Jesus is a son. Now, when it comes to a house, what is a son? He’s the heir. He’s the owner. In ancient times you could have different levels of slaves. You could be a lowly slave or you could be a high ranked slave. But you were still a servant! You never ascended to the point of heir and owner.
So you see how Christ is central to our communion. Christ upholds the church as the builder of God’s people. He may even be said to be our owner as he is our Lord.
Moses can’t even begin to compare with that.
But there is one more thing said here that is very important to notice. It’s found in the last part of verse 6. We’ve talked about how Jesus is central to our calling. We’ve seen how he is at the heart of our confession. We’ve also just noted how he is fundamental aspect of our communion. But in the last part of verse 6 the author reminds us that Jesus is the vital part of our continuance.
IV. Jesus is at the heart of our continuance
It says, “And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”
You see the main word here is the word “if.” It is a conditional statement. It is the hinge upon which this sentence turns. We are this house only if we hold fast. If we do not hold fast, then we are not part of this house. And then what? Well, we lose everything! We are damned.
This is really brought out in the words that the authors use here. The language he uses in this verse is really good. You’ll notice that he says that they need to hold fast to their “confidence.” The word confidence actually refers to one’s “freedom of speech.” We as Americans are pretty high on freedom of speech. We love it that we have rights to say certain things anytime we want.
Well this confidence is referring to our freedom of speech before God. It has to do with our access to God. We have access to speak to God directly. Why is that? It is because Christ has given us that.
This kinda parallels Moses again. You may remember that Moses was one who was distinct in that he got to speak to God “face to face.” God even said, “When I speak to a prophet I reveal myself in visions, but when I speak to Moses I speak to him face to face.” In other words, Moses had incredible access to God. But no one else in Israel had that kind of access. Everyone else was blocked off by curtains and walls because God was in the holy of Holies. And Moses could not give them that direct access he had.
Well, Christ gives us that same sort of access. We have “freedom of speech” before God because Christ has torn the veil and granted us the ability to come to God freely.
And if we don’t hold on to Christ, we lose this privilege.
The passage also says we are to hold fast “our boasting in our hope.”
Our hope, of course, is that future day when Christ will come again. It is the hope of the resurrection and the life to come. Some of you will have something a little different than mine. Where mine says boasting you may have the word rejoicing. The Greek word can really mean both. It has the idea of reveling in something or glorying in it.
You know the football players, whenever they make the big catch or score the big touchdown, they do their silly dances in the end zone. They parade about in an exuberate fashion. Some call it pride, and they say, “Hey, that guy is just boasting.” Others call it rejoicing; they are just celebrating the big play.
So, if you think about it that way, you might be able to see how the term then can be taken to be rejoicing or boasting. The word here is describing the attitude of sheer delight that is ours as a result of the hope that death will not be the end to our lives.
But again, this hope, this confidence, our continuance in the house is all dependent upon one thing: Our faith in Christ. Drop that one thing and there is nothing to look forward to in the life to come.
So this last line serves as a good warning. Jesus is at the heart of our continuance. If we want to continue in God’s house and enjoy eternal life and eternal access to his presence, then we must never let go of Christ.
For, as we have seen here, He is the heart and soul of our faith.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.