WHAT FAITH IS (11:1-3)

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” (11:1-3)

This chapter deals with the primacy and the excellency of faith, and fits perfectly into the flow of the epistle, that the new is better than the old.

First-century Jews saw everything as a matter of works. By the time of Christ, Judaism was no longer the supernatural system God had originally given. It had been twisted into a works system, and in many ways, it became a religious cult built on ethics. As this chapter makes clear, from the time of Adam on, God has honoured faith, not works. The way back to God, as far as man’s part is concerned, is by faith—it has always been by faith and only by faith.

In Old Testament times, believers had to rest on the promises of God regarding the coming Messiah and the future, and they believed it, as incomplete and vague as many of those promises were. The promises were so real to them, they lived by them. Faith gave them present assurance and substance to what was yet future.

True faith is an absolute certainty, often of things that the world considers unreal and impossible. If we follow a God whose audible voice we have never heard and believe in a Christ whose face we have never seen, we are specially blessed (John 20:29). We live in the certainty that whatever discomfort or pain we may have to endure for Christ’s sake on earth, will more than be compensated for by an eternity of unending bliss, of pleasure we cannot now imagine.

Man’s natural response is to trust his physical senses, to put his faith in the things he can see, hear, taste, and feel. But senses may lie, while God cannot lie (Titus 1:2).

Conviction of things not seen implies a response, an outward manifestation of the inward assurance. The natural man cannot comprehend this kind of spiritual faith. Because he has no spiritual senses, he does not believe in God or the realities of God’s realm. Yet there is a sense in which all men live by faith as the capacity for faith is created in us. As examples, we trust the surgeon to operate on us and the restaurant to prepare our food. But spiritual faith is radically different from natural faith in one important way. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). Just as natural trust comes by natural birth, so spiritual trust comes from God.

God did not just create the world, by His word and not out of visible things, but the worlds, which designates the physical universe itself and also its operation, its administration. The understanding of creation comes entirely by faith and for this reason, many unbelievers and most philosophy and science believe in things such as the theory of evolution. “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men” (Col. 2:8). “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him. For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God” (1 Cor. 2:9-10).


“By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous. God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.” (11:4)

The primary meaning of Hebrews 11:4 has to do with Abel’s speaking to later generations of believers and potential believers. He still speaks. Dead men are not silent, but still speak to those who will listen. Abel lived in a far distant age, with far less light from God than we have, and yet, his faith speaks to us. He is the first in a long line of faithful persons who can teach us about the life of faith. The Jews had to be shown that, from the very beginning, faith has been the only thing that God will accept to save fallen man.

Because he believed, he offered a better sacrifice. Because he offered a better sacrifice, he obtained righteousness. Because he obtained righteousness, he is for all the ages a living voice saying, “Righteousness is by faith.”

Cain and Abel would know nothing about the need for worship or sacrifice, much less the way, had they not been told by God—perhaps through their parents. It is especially significant that the first recorded act of worship was sacrifice, a sin offering. The heart of the New Covenant is Jesus’ perfect, once-for-all sacrifice on the cross.

Here is where the life of faith begins, with a sacrifice for sin. It begins with believing God that we are sinners, that we are worthy of death, that we need His forgiveness, and that we accept His revealed plan for our deliverance.

Abel was of God; Cain was of Satan (1 John 3:12). Cain believed in God, else he would not have brought Him a sacrifice. But he did not believe God the way he should and therefore actually became “the father of all false religion.” He did not mind worshiping God, as long as it was on his own terms, in his own way. And God rejected his sacrifice and rejected him. Proverbs 14:12 says: “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” “Woe to them!” Jude says, “For they have gone the way of Cain” (v. 11). Paul says of such people that, “they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:2-3).

In Abel’s sacrifice, the way of the cross was first prefigured. The first sacrifice was Abel’s lamb—one lamb for one person. Later came the Passover—with one lamb for one family. Then came the Day of Atonement—with one lamb for one nation. Finally came Good Friday—one Lamb for the whole world.

The only thing that obtained righteousness for Abel was that, in faith, He did what God told him to do. Abel was sinful, just as Cain was, but he had the kind of faith that allows God to move in on our behalf and make us righteous. Obedience does not bring faith, but faith will always bring obedience and the desire to live righteously.

We cannot claim to have faith in God and then continually disregard His Word. James wrote: “What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? … Faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:14, 17). James however, does not teach salvation by works. The Christian, in fact, is “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

Abel was counted righteous, not because he was righteous, but because he trusted God, and no mentioning was even made that he receive the Holy Spirit, as do believers today.


“By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (11:5-6)

The second hero of faith is Enoch. Whereas Abel exemplifies worshiping by faith—which must always come first—Enoch exemplifies walking by faith. Revelation in Scripture is progressive. Abel received some revelation, and Enoch received more.

God intended works to be a result of salvation, not a way of salvation. Also, we cannot know God by sight. “No man has seen God at any time,” Jesus said (John 1:18). Without faith it is impossible to please Him. The first step of faith is simply to believe that He is. The witness of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers gives infinitely proof of God’s existence.

But it is not enough simply to believe that God exists. We must recognize God as a personal, loving, gracious God to those who seek Him. For three hundred years Enoch had fellowship with the true God, a God whom he knew to be just, merciful, forgiving, caring, and very personal.

We must also believe that He rewards those who seek Him. The reward that God gives for faith is salvation. “Whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). For faith we receive forgiveness, a new heart, eternal life, joy, peace, love, heaven—everything! When we trust in Jesus Christ, we become mutual heirs with Him.

Believing that God exists is the first step toward faith. Believing that he rewards those who trust in Him is the first step of faith. Trusting fully in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is only the beginning of the faithful life in God. To continue pleasing God, we must fellowship with Him, commune with, “walk” with Him—just as Enoch did. Walking with God is pleasing God. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).

Walking with God is a walk in faith and a walk by faith. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith” (Col. 2:6-7). Because of his faith, Enoch was reconciled with God; and because he was reconciled with God, he could walk with God. Because Enoch walked with God, he must have had a nature corresponding to God’s. Walking with God implies moral fitness as well as a judicial dealing with sin. We could not have a new nature unless God took away sin. Because a person walks with God means that his sin has been forgiven and that he has been justified, counted righteous by God. Only when sin has been dealt with can we move into God’s presence and begin walking with Him. Walking with God implies a surrendered will.

The New Testament refers to this sort of living as walking in the Spirit. We are to live continually in the atmosphere of the Spirit’s presence, power, direction, and teaching. The fruit of this walk in the Spirit are: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). If we want to know how to walk, we need simply to look at Jesus. He was continually about His Father’s business, and only His Father’s business. He constantly walked with God.

Jude’s report of Enoch’s preaching contradicts any notion that Enoch lived in an easy time for believing. He was surrounded by false teachers and false teaching.

He pleased God so much that God just reached down and lifted him up to heaven. God just took him up without him even experiencing death.

When we get to heaven, we will walk with Him forever. Christ speaks of our fellowship with Him in heaven as a walk: “They will walk with Me in white; for they are worthy” (Rev. 3:4). Enoch is a beautiful picture of believers who will be taken up directly to heaven when our Lord returns for His bride, the church. Just as Enoch was translated to heaven without seeing death, so also will be those of God’s people who are alive at the rapture. “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).


“By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” (11:7)

If a person trusts in God and is saved, Satan then tries to convince him of one of two extremes—that he must do good works to keep his salvation (legalism) or that, now that he is saved by faith, he can forget about good works (license).

But “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). True faith always has actions to support its claim. If you really believe in God, there will be evidence of it in the way you live, in the things you say, and in the things you do. For all the saints listed in Hebrews 11, their genuine faith was made known in something they did. Faith cannot be seen except in the things that it does. Noah, perhaps more than any other person in history, illustrates the work of faith through obedience.

“Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:9). Noah’s faith was extremely impressive because of his absolute trust in God and because of his unhesitating and persistent obedience for 120 years.

When God told Noah that He was getting ready to destroy the world because of its wickedness and instructed him to build an ark (Gen. 6:13-14), Noah dropped everything and started building. Noah, who had but a fraction of the divine light that we have, did not argue, quibble, make excuses, complain, or procrastinate.

Noah was warned by God about things not yet seen. By faith Noah . . . prepared an ark. He had nothing to go on but God’s word, which for him was more than sufficient.

It is just as important for us “to build the ark” He gives us as it was for Noah to build the one God assigned him. And, like Noah’s, when we build it in faith, according to God’s plan and by His power, it will accomplish what God wants it to accomplish. Noah believed God’s word about the coming judgment, and about the promise to save him and his family. He did not pick and choose what to believe and what to obey.

He was such a man of God that his very life was a rebuke to the wicked people that surrounded him.  By faith Noah. . . condemned the world. “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen.6:5). Against that wicked, cruel, and dark world, Noah’s life and testimony shined in glistening condemnation. He basically rebukes the world just by his living.

Noah’s obedience included to warn the rest of the world of God’s message of coming judgment. He did this throughout the 120 years that he used to build the ark. In 2 Peter 2:5, he is called “a preacher of righteousness.” At the same time God was preparing judgment He was also preparing a way of escape, but they would not take heed. The people had ample warning of judgment, and they also had ample knowledge of the truth.

Perhaps the saddest lesson from Noah’s day is that men have not changed in their attitude toward God since then and will not change until the Lord returns. “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matt. 24:37-39).

In his day a remnant found grace, just as a remnant believes today. In Noah’s day or shortly before it, Enoch was translated, picturing the rapture of believers when the Lord returns, which could be in our day. We can be as sure as they should have been that judgment is coming, because God has promised it just as clearly and men deserve it just as much. Someone has said, “If God doesn’t destroy our world, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.” The next judgment will be different in two ways, however. First, it will not be by flood (Gen. 9:15) but by fire (2 Pet. 3:10). Second, it will be the last. And again, the only security is refuge in God’s ark, Jesus Christ.

Noah was the first person in Scripture to be called righteous. All who believe in God are righteous, as Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us by faith (Rom. 3:22). God looks at believers through the lens of His Son, and He sees us as He sees the Son. Thousands of years before Jesus became incarnate, God looked at Noah and saw the Son, because Noah believed.


There are only two ways to live. One way, by far the most common, is to live by sight, to base everything on what you can see. This is the empirical way. The other way, far less common, is to live by faith, to base your life primarily and ultimately on what you cannot see.

The life of faith has some specific ingredients, which are pointed out in this text as reflected in the life of Abraham. The Jews needed to realize that Abraham was more than the father of their race; he also was the father of everyone who lives by faith in God. It was necessary to show these Jews, from the Old Testament itself, that Abraham was not righteous in himself through his works but was counted righteous by God because of his faith.

When Stephen was preaching to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, he began by showing how Abraham had obediently trusted God by leaving his homeland and believing God’s promises of blessing (Acts 7:2-5). In his powerful argument in Romans for justification by faith, Paul uses Abraham as the central illustration (Rom. 4). Abraham is the classic example of the life of faith.

The New Testament makes it clear that Abraham was the first true man of faith. Since his time, everyone who trusts in God, Jew or Gentile, is spiritually a child of Abraham. “Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7; cf. v. 29).

“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (11:8)

It was not Abraham’s plan to leave Ur and then Haran, and eventually settle in the land of Canaan. In fact, when he left Ur he had no idea where he was going. But when he was called, he immediately responded.

Abraham was a sinful heathen who grew up in an unbelieving and idolatrous society. He was raised in a home that was pagan (Josh.24:2). But when God spoke to him, he listened; when God promised, he trusted; when God commanded, he obeyed. Isaiah refers to Abraham as “the rock from which you were hewn” and “the quarry from which your were dug” (Isa. 51:1-2), reminding his fellow Jews that God sovereignly condescended to call Abraham out of paganism and idolatry in order to bless him and the world through him.

When any person comes to Jesus Christ, God demands of him a pilgrimage from the system of the world and his old pattern of living into a new kind of life, just as Abraham’s faith separated him from paganism and unbelief and started him toward a new land and a new kind of life. Salvation brings separation from the world. The Lord works in the heart the total willingness to leave behind everything that is not pleasing to Him. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2; cf. 2 Cor. 6:14; Gal. 1:4). Worldliness is not so much what we do as what we want to do. It is not determined so much by what our actions are as by where our heart is.

“By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (11:9-10)

Abraham was immediately willing to give up his homeland and everything he knew. But faith also has a time for waiting and for being patient. Dwelling in tents was not considered permanent residences. Near as it was, the land was still only a promise. He lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land and he had to be patient. It was promised but never possessed and he never owned more than a small plot in which to bury Sarah (Gen. 23:9-20). He never saw God’s promise fulfilled but he patiently waited.

The secret of Abraham’s patience was his hope in the ultimate fulfilment of the promise of God. His ultimate Promised Land was heaven, just as ours is. He was patient because his eyes were on the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. As important as the earthly land was to him and to God’s promise, he looked up toward the heavenly land, which he knew he would inherit without fail. Only the heavenly minded will have the patience to continue faithful in God’s work when it becomes hard, unappreciated, and seemingly unending. That is why Paul tells us to set our minds “on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2).

“By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised; therefore, also, there was born of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.” (11:11-12)

Faith sees the invisible, hears the inaudible, touches the intangible, and accomplishes the impossible. Faith was active in the miracle of Isaac’s birth. From the human standpoint, it was impossible for Abraham and Sarah to have a child. Not only had Sarah always been barren (Gen. 16:1), but by the time she was 90 years of age she was far beyond the proper time of life for child-bearing. Yet at that age she conceived and gave birth to the promised son (Gen. 21:2).

The Genesis account gives no indication that Sarah ever showed much faith in God. Both Abraham and Sarah, on different occasions, had laughed at God’s promise of a son in their old age (Gen. 17:17; 18:12), but Sarah had even taken matters into her own hands by persuading Abraham to have a son by her maid, Hagar (16:1-4). She did not trust God’s promise and her impatience was costly as seen in the account of Ishmael.

If we study Hebrews 11:11 carefully, I believe we discover that the faith mentioned here does not apply to Sarah but rather for her. The faith was Abraham’s, not Sarah’s. Through Abraham’s faith God miraculously fulfilled His promise.

Abraham had children upon children, the whole of the people of Israel. Every Jew that ever has been and ever will be born is a result of Abraham’s faith.

“All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.” (11:13-16)

Not Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob, ever possessed the Promised Land. In fact it was almost 500 years after Jacob died that Israel first began to possess Canaan. All these died in faith, without receiving the promises. God had given them no word as to when or how the promises would be fulfilled. He only gave the promises, and that was enough.

They walked on it and pastured their flocks on it and raised their children on it, but they were not impatient to possess it. It was enough to possess it from a distance, because their primary concern was for a better country, that is a heavenly one. In the meantime they were quite happy to be strangers and exiles on the earth. It is people of such faith that God blesses. He is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them, called heaven.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead; from which he also received him back as a type.” (11:17-19)

If Noah illustrates the duration of faith, Abraham shows the depth of faith. The proof of Abraham’s faith was his willingness to give back to God everything he had, including sacrificing the son of promise, Isaac. Abraham knew that the covenant, which could only be fulfilled through Isaac, was unconditional. He knew, therefore, that God would do whatever was necessary, including raising Isaac from the dead, to keep His covenant. He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead. Somehow, he knew that he would have his son back, even if it would have been through resurrection. As it turned out, because he did not actually die, Isaac became only a type of the resurrection.





The writer of Hebrews has been urging the Jews to completely abandon the Old Covenant and to commit themselves entirely to Jesus Christ in the New Covenant. But, as the writer says very clearly here, the substance, even of the Old Covenant was faith, as far as man’s part was concerned.

Probably the most outstanding example from the Old Testament, of trusting God is Abraham, who lived thousands of years before Christ came to earth. He, in fact, is called “the father of all who believe” (Rom. 4:11; cf. Gal. 3:7). The father of the Jews is also the father of the faithful. In Romans 4 we see that he was saved by faith even before the Old (Mosaic) Covenant was given, and before he was circumcised, which was the mark of the covenant God made with Abraham.

The Lord promised Abraham that He would give the land of Canaan to him and his descendants and that through Abraham all the families of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:1-3). God’s integrity and faithfulness are the real theme of Hebrews 6:13-20.

This passage in Hebrews gives us four reasons for trusting God: His Person, His purpose, His pledge, and His Priest.


“For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply you.” And thus, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise.” (6:13-15)

By the very nature of His person, God cannot lie and if He makes a promise, He keeps it. Since, therefore, God has promised that all who come to Him through His Son will be saved, it is impossible for anyone who trusts in Christ not to be saved or to lose salvation once it is attained.

A legitimate question, then, is, Has God kept this promise to Abraham? Millions of the physical descendants of Abraham are still in the world today. Not only that, but many more millions around the world are Abraham’s spiritual descendants. God has indeed kept His promise to Abraham.


“Saying, “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply you.” (6:14)

Abraham had not asked God to send him to Canaan or to bless the world through him. It was God’s purpose and plan. The Abrahamic covenant, with its promise, was unconditional. Although Abraham was obedient and had faith, God had a predetermined purpose for Abraham.

From his descendants was to come the nation of Israel, God’s earthly, historical channel of revelation and redemption. The Old and New Covenants, the law, the prophecies, the priestly sacrifices—all came through Israel. The Messiah Himself was a Jew, the truest Jew of all. God’s plan of redemption was to be carried out through these specially chosen people. “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22).

To Israel, this message: “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers” (Deut. 7:7-8).

The point of this for Hebrews 6:13-20 is that God’s promise did not depend on anyone’s faithfulness but His own. Abraham, his descendants, and all the world through them would be blessed.


The chosen nation of Israel was supposed to proclaim the true God, reveal the Messiah, be God’s Priest nation, preserve and transmit Scripture, show the blessedness of serving God and show His faithfulness. Over and over they failed God, but He never failed them.

God is still not through using her for this purpose. Speaking of the last times, Paul writes, “And thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,. . . so these also now have been disobedient, in order that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy” (Rom. 11:26, 31). Those who claim that all the unfulfilled promises to Israel are fulfilled in the church impugn God’s Word and His faithfulness. She has been, still is, and will yet be a living illustration of His faithfulness.

God cannot not stop using her without violating His unconditional promise to Abraham, which would be impossible because it was contrary to His nature. God’s promise to those who believe in Christ is, in fact, an extension of His promise to Abraham. “They are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; . . . That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants” (Rom. 9:6, 8).


“Since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, … For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath.” (6:13b, 16-17)

God, of course, did not need to make an oath. His word is every bit as good without an oath—as ours ought to be (Matt. 5:33-37). But to accommodate to the weak faith of men, God swore His promise on Himself.

“In order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us.” (6:18)

The two unchangeable things are God’s promise and His pledge, His promise and His oath. The hope set before us is Jesus Himself, and the gospel He has brought. Paul speaks of his Savior as “Christ Jesus, who is our hope” (1 Tim. 1:1). In Colossians he speaks of the gospel as our hope (1:5).


“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (6:19-20)

As our High Priest, Jesus serves as the anchor of our souls, the One who will forever keep us from drifting away from God. Jesus’ entering within the veil signifies His entering the Holy of Holies, where the sacrifice of atonement was made. Under the Old Covenant it was made yearly by the high priest. Under the New is has been made once for all time by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.


“And for this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” (9:15)

Christ, because of His sacrificial death, had become the mediator of a new and better covenant. By God’s standard of righteousness and justice, the soul that sins must die (Ezek. 18:4). He became the bridge between God and men.

Old Testament believers were saved on the same basis as believers today are saved—by the finished work of Christ. Part of Christ’s work as mediator of the New Covenant was the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant. Christ’s atoning death was retroactive. Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) also pictured symbolically what Christ’s atonement actually did. It, too, was retroactive. When the high priest sprinkled the blood on the mercy seat, the unintentional sins of the people were covered for the previous year.

By their obedient faith in God they were “credited,” so to speak, with what Jesus Christ, their promised Messiah, would one day do on their behalf and on the behalf of all sinners who have ever lived and who will ever live. In a deeper sense, the sacrifice had already been made in God’s mind long before it was made in human history, because Christ’s “works were finished from the foundation of the world” (Heb. 4:3; cf. 1 Pet. 1:19-20; Rev. 13:8). From the human perspective, however, the Old Testament saints could only look forward to salvation.

The eternal inheritance that the Old Testament saints could not receive without Christ’s death was salvation, the total forgiveness that alone could bring total access to God. They could not be faulted, of course, for having a limited understanding of the Messiah, for God had only given limited revelation.



“For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.” (9:16-17)

A testament, by its very nature, requires the death of the testator. The basic meaning of covenant corresponds closely to that of our present-day will. Its benefits and provisions are only promises until the person dies. God gave a legacy, an eternal inheritance, to Israel in the form of a covenant, a will.


“Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.” And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood. And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (9:18-22)

Blood is a symbol of death, and therefore follows closely the idea of a testator’s having to die in order for a will to become effective. Even before the old priestly sacrifices were begun, the covenant itself was inaugurated, or ratified, with blood. Among other things, the great amount of blood that was spilled in the time of Moses was a continual reminder of the penalty of sin, namely death.

Jesus said, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28). He was to ratify the New Covenant through His own blood, just as the Old Covenant was ratified by Moses with the blood of animals. It is however important to note that it was not Jesus’ physical blood that saves us, but His dying on our behalf, which is symbolized by the shedding of His physical blood. If we could be saved by blood without death, the animals would have been bled, not killed, and it would have been the same with Jesus. Since the penalty for sin is death, nothing but death, symbolized by shedding of blood, can atone for sin.

“Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.” (9:23)

The copies of the things in the heavens were the things of the old economy. They were but sketches, or outlines, of the realities of heaven. It was necessary for these copies to have sacrifices. It was therefore necessary for the better covenant, the better economy, to have better sacrifices.

“For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” (9:24-26)

As previously mentioned in our study, Christ did not go into an earthly Holy of Holies, but He went into the presence of God—the heavenly, real Holy of Holies. He did it for us.

If Jesus’ sacrifice had not been once and for all, He would have had to suffer continuously from the foundation of the world, since the time Adam first sinned. But His one sacrifice of Himself was made at the consummation of the ages at Calvary. He put away sin. He did not simply cover sin, as the old sacrifices had done.


“And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.” (9:27-28)

All men have to die, and our death is by divine appointment and after death comes judgment. God’s judgment demands that men pay or have a substitute pay for their sins. Jesus Christ was also divinely appointed to die once, but He will never face judgment. He took our sins upon Himself, He took our judgment upon Himself. God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor.5:21). He died the one death that judgment demanded.

If the former high priests did anything wrong, or failed to follow God’s precise instructions on the Day of Atonement, they would die. If the people were so eager to see the former high priests reappear from the earthly Holy of Holies, how much more should Christians look eagerly for their great High Priest to reappear from the heavenly Holy of Holies? This will occur at the Second Coming (Rev. 19:11-16).

When He comes back, our salvation will be full. When He appears a second time to those who expect Him, it will not be to deal with sin. It will be without reference to sin.


When a person knows the truth of the gospel, he either goes on to believe or he falls back into apostasy. Hebrews 10:19-25 is speaking to the one who makes a positive response to the claims of Jesus Christ and therefore mentions the word “brethren” right at the beginning of the passage. A positive response results in salvation.

“Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God” (10:19-21)

In Christ’s shed blood, His perfect sacrifice, we have confidence to enter the holy place, into God’s very presence. The blood of Jesus Christ counts for everything, and the person who trusts in His atoning work can come with complete boldness before God, claiming all the blessings and promises in His Son. Through His shed blood, satisfied God’s justice in our behalf, so that we can now claim God’s mercy and grace.

He has torn the veil of the Holy of Holies in two. The old way could not even bring man into God’s symbolic, ceremonial presence, much less into His real presence. When Jesus’ flesh was torn, so was the veil that kept men from God. Jesus’ death conquered death and gives everlasting life. When the physical veil of the earthly Temple was torn in two during Jesus’ crucifixion, the spiritual veil, so to speak, of His flesh was also torn.

He is now our great priest over the house of God. He does not merely provide the way to God; He also takes us with Him to God and ministers for us in heaven.

“Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (10:22)

Coming to God with full assurance requires a sincere heart and commitment that is genuine. “‘Judah did not return to Me with all her heart, but rather in deception,’ declares the LORD” (Jer. 3:10). But a day was to come when His people would change. “I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart” (Jer. 24:7). From the earliest days of the Old Covenant, God had demanded a sincere heart. “You will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul” (Deut. 4:29).

Faith in Jesus Christ must include our own decision, but it must proceed from God’s decision. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). Salvation is a gift of God, and part of that gift is saving faith itself. God plants in the heart the desire and the ability to believe, and the ability to receive the gift of salvation.

When we come to God in faith, our hearts should not only be sincere but also sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. This figure is taken from the sacrificial ceremonies of the Old Covenant. The priests were continually washing themselves and the sacred vessels in the basins of clear water, and blood was continually being sprinkled as a sign of cleansing. But all the cleansing, whether with water or blood, was external.

Only Jesus can cleanse a man’s heart. By His Spirit He cleanses the innermost thoughts and desires. God is satisfied with the sprinkling of the blood of Christ, and sin is removed, and our consciences are free. We are changed on the inside as we are washed by the Word and born again.

The other part of the cleansing does not refer to baptism, but has to do with our living, with how the Holy Spirit changes our lives. He begins to change us on the inside

Faith cannot begin until a person realizes his need for salvation. The first feeling of need may only be for a purpose in life or a sense of need for forgiveness and removal of guilt, for inner peace. People came to Jesus for many reasons, some of them rather superficial. Felt need is essential, but inadequate on its own.

A person does need the gospel truth (1 Cor. 15:1-5) that he is lost in sin and needs the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He must know the gospel. The idea of “blind faith” sounds spiritual, but it is not biblical.

The climax of faith is commitment. A believer must totally commit his life to the Lord Jesus Christ. Only then is faith, saving faith.


This part deals with those who had heard the gospel, had come face-to-face with the claims of Christ, had been associated to some extent with His church, but had gone away. They had made a superficial commitment of faith in Him and had identified themselves visibly with the true church. But their enthusiasm was cooling and the cost of being a Christian was becoming too high. They were in danger of becoming apostate.

This passage contains by far the most serious and sobering warning in Hebrews as it deals with apostasy. Apostasy is the sin of rejecting the gospel, for which there is no forgiveness. “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us.” (1 John 2:19)

Apostasy is not a sin of ignorance, but of rejecting known truth. Judas Iscariot is, of course, the classic apostate. He had the perfect evidence, the perfect light, the perfect example. For some three years he lived with Truth incarnate and Life incarnate, yet he turned his back on the One who is truth and life.

Paul speaks of a large falling away when he cautions the Thessalonians not to be misled about the coming of the Lord, “for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first” (2 Thess. 2:3). He said said that apostasy is going to be a characteristic of the last days. “The Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron” (1 Tim. 4:1-2). In the end times, the times in which I believe we are now living, apostasy will only become worse and worse.

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” (10:26)

Here is possibly the clearest and most concise scriptural definition of apostasy—receiving knowledge of the truth, that is, the gospel, but wilfully remaining in sin. An apostate is well acquainted with the gospel and knows more than enough to be saved. They are bred almost without exception within the church, in the very midst of God’s people. The process of falling away may be gradual, but at some point, a conscious decision is made to leave the way of God, and reject the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The reference here to sinning wilfully is not to sins of ignorance or weakness, but to those that are planned out, determined, done with forethought. A true believer may sometimes lapse into sin and stray from intimacy with the Lord and with His people, but he will eventually come back. He will be under conviction and be robbed of joy and peace and of many other blessings.

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:12-13). If a true believer falls short in his faithfulness to the Lord, the Lord still will not fail in His faithfulness to the believer, for He has promised never to let us go.

Hard times are not for the self-willed unbeliever who is simply using the church for business, or social, or other personal reasons—or who may have been raised in the church and has simply never gotten out of the habit of attending. Persecution, sometimes as mild as criticism, is usually enough to break that habit.

Holding on to the old religion, or simply the old lifestyle, can eventually bring a person to apostatize. Many of the unbelieving Jews addressed in the book of Hebrews were very much in this danger.


The apostate no longer has a sacrifice that can atone for his sins and he is therefore, beyond salvation. It leaves only sin, the penalty for which is eternal death.

“But a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.” (10:27)

Since apostasy is the worst sin, it will have the worst judgment. Judgment is certain and terrifying. The fury of a fire from Him is consuming. In explaining the parable of the tares, Jesus said to His disciples: “The tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. Therefore just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 13:38-42)


“Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The LORD will judge His people.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (10:28-31)

Jesus made it clear that judgment, like guilt, is in proportion to sin. “That slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few” (Luke 12:47-48).

The person who sinned under the Old Covenant was guilty and deserving of punishment. Every Jew knew the severity of breaking Mosaic law. If such disobedience was affirmed by the proper witnesses, the penalty was death. But the worst offender in that age cannot compare with the person who has heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and yet rejects Him. Such persons will find themselves in the Judas section of hell, enduring much severer punishment.

Apostasy involves total rejection of the godhead—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is not possible to reject one without also rejecting the other. Therefore, to trample under foot the Son of God is the same as to trample under foot the Father.

The man who has been led by the Spirit of grace in the pre-salvation work of redemption and has been energized by Him toward repentance (John 16:8-11), thus also insults the Spirit by turning from Christ.





Jesus is the perfect and only Savior. “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).


“But we do see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” (2:9)

Jews could not comprehend the idea that God would become man, die and been made “for a little while lower than the angels.” He accomplished what no angel ever could have accomplished. The cross was a serious stumbling block to them. Christ was born to die to remove the curse so that man could regain dominion. It was God’s ultimate plan for His Son and His ultimate gift for mankind.

There were actually five accomplishments in this one act.


He died that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. Christ humbled Himself, came to earth, and died in our place. To become lower than the angels is supreme humility and it done on our behalf. Apart from His dying, we have no escape from death.

All the punishment for all the sin of all time—that was the depth of His death. He was guilty of no sin, yet He suffered for all sin. It was grace—free, loving kindness. “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

The result of Christ’s humiliation was His exaltation. After He accomplished the work of His substitutionary death, He was crowned with glory and honor, exalted to the right hand of the Father.


“For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.” (2:10)

Jesus had to become a man and He had to suffer and die in order to be the perfect provider of salvation. The Greek word for author literally means a “pioneer” or “leader.” He is always before us, as perfect Leader and perfect Example.

He lived for us the pattern of perfect obedience. “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:8-9). All we have to do is put our hand in His hand and He will lead us from one side of death to the other.


“For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, “I will proclaim Thy name to My brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will sing Thy praise.” (2:11-12)

He makes us holy. In thought and practice we are far from holy, but in the new nature we are perfectly holy before the Father. The righteousness of Christ has been applied and imputed in our behalf. “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10).

The Sanctifier and the sanctified now have one Father, and the Sanctifier is not ashamed to call the sanctified His brothers. His holiness is now our holiness. Now that we are Christ’s brothers and God’s children, we should live like it. Yet how strange and sad that, though God is never ashamed to call us His, we are so often ashamed to call Him ours.

And again, “I will put My trust in Him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children whom God has given Me.” (2:13)

Jesus is our Brother because of common righteousness and common faith in the Father. We are called to follow the path that Jesus walked.


“Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” (2:14)

Jesus willingly took hold of something which did not naturally belong to Him, namely flesh and blood, that we might take hold of the divine nature that did not belong to us (cf. 2 Pet. 1:4).

Satan’s power over us had to be broken. His power and weapon over us is sin and death, because once we are dead, the opportunity for salvation is gone forever. The only way to destroy Satan was to rob him of his weapon, death—physical death, spiritual death and eternal death.

The way to eternal life is through resurrection, but the way to resurrection is through death. So Jesus had to experience death before He could be resurrected and thereby give us life. “Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19). Jesus shattered Satan’s dominion.

“And might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” (2:15)

The thing that terrifies people more than anything else is death. Death no longer holds any fear, for it simply releases us into the presence of our Lord.


“For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” (2:16-18)

Jesus took on Himself the form of Abraham’s descendants and became a Jew. Jesus also came to help the reconciled when they are tempted. He wanted to feel everything we feel so that He could be a merciful and understanding, as well as a faithful, high priest. He came not only to save us but to sympathize with us.

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). He was hungry, He was thirsty, He slept, He was taught, He grew, He loved, He wept, He read the Scriptures, He prayed and above all, He was also tempted, but He never sinned.



“For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” (2:1)

To reject Jesus, is to reject God. On the basis of who Christ is, we must give careful attention to what we have heard about Him in chapter 1. Most people do not deliberately, in a moment, turn their backs on God or curse Him. They just slowly, almost imperceptibly slip past the harbor of salvation into eternal hell.

By the time the letter to the Hebrews was written, countless Jews had heard the gospel and were even intrigued by it but were unwilling to change.


“For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard.” (2:2-3)

Angels were instrumental in bringing the Ten Commandments, as is clear from Psalm 68:17: “The chariots of God are myriads, thousands upon thousands; the Lord is among them as at Sinai, in holiness.” At Sinai, where Moses was given the law, the Lord was accompanied by a host of angels, as seen in Deuteronomy 33:2. If a person broke any of these laws, he was stoned as we see from the examples in Leviticus 24:14-16 and Numbers 15:30-36. In Jude 5 we read, “Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.”

The principle is this: the more you know, the greater the punishment for not abiding by what you know. We see this in Matthew 11:20-24, where Jesus warned Capernaum, Bethsaida and Chorazin, that even the judgement of Sodom and Gomorrah would be more tolerable than theirs, because they had the light of the Old Testament, aw well as the very light of God’s Messiah Himself.

Jesus said, “And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more” (Luke 12:47). “Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy. . . . How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:28-29).


“How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.” (2:3-4)

The gospel was confirmed by God Himself bearing witness. Jesus also said, “Though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father” (John 10:38). When He claimed to be God and then did things that only God could do, He confirmed His divinity and, consequently, the truth of His message. On the Day of Pentecost Peter reminded his hearers that “Jesus the Nazarene [was] a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs” (Acts 2:22).

After Christ, God bore His apostles witness by giving them the ability to do the same things that Jesus had done—signs, wonders, and miracles. God also gave the apostles special gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were additional confirmation by God of their message and ministry and were miraculous gifts, not promised to believers in general, as the ones in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12-14.

These special works, therefore, belonged exclusively to the apostolic age and they are not for today. Even in New Testament times these confirmations were given solely for the benefit of unbelievers. “So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to unbelievers” (1 Cor. 14:22).


God alone will be Sovereign of the world to come, another indication of His superiority to angels. In addition, this passage deals with man’s destiny. These verses teach us what man’s intended destiny is, how and why it was lost, and how it can be recovered in the exalted Savior.


“For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking.” (2:5)

In Hebrews 1:14 we saw that in the world to come, angels will not be rulers but servants to the heirs of salvation. The word “world” in this passage is the great millennial Kingdom. The present world is ruled by fallen angels, of which Satan is chief and prince (John 12:31; 14:30). We also know from Ephesians that this world is under tremendous demonic influence. Demons are fallen angels and they are called rulers, powers, world forces of darkness, and spiritual forces of wickedness (Eph. 6:12). But, even the holy angels now have a kind of sovereignty and there is a continuous battle going on between the two groups.

Man is lower than the angels only for a little while. He will one day again be above them and will, in fact, even judge the angels who have fallen (1 Cor. 6:3).

But one has testified somewhere, saying, “What is man, that Thou rememberest him? Or the son of man, that Thou art concerned about him? Thou hast made him for a little while lower than the angels; Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, and hast appointed him over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet.” (2:6-8)

The quotes from Psalm 8 refers to mankind, not to the Messiah. It reflects God’s planned destiny for mankind in general. God made man to be king. Such is man’s destiny. No doubt both David and the writer of Hebrews were thinking of Genesis 1:26-31.

“Son of man” is often used in the Old Testament to mean mankind. Several times, for example, Ezekiel is called “the son of man.” God has an involved, active concern for humanity. Man is lower than angels only in that he is physical and they are spiritual, as angels are heavenly creatures, while man is earth-bound. Angels have continual access to the throne of God. Angels are spirit beings; man is made out of the dust of the earth.

But the present chain of command is temporary. In the coming new earth, things will be much different. Redeemed men not only will inherit a perfect kingdom but an eternal kingdom, in which they, not angels, will rule. Revelation 3:21 says believers will sit with Christ on His throne and rule with Him. Ephesians 1:20 says He will reign over principalities and powers, that is, angels. Man will be crowned in Christ.

The king’s throne was always elevated, and everyone who came into his presence bowed down before him and sometimes even kissed his feet. When man is one day given the right to rule the earth, all God’s creation will be put under man’s feet.


“But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.” (2:8b)

Man’s revealed destiny was restricted by Adam’s and Eve’s sin. Because all mankind fell in Adam, because he lost his kingdom and his crown, we do not now see the earth subject to man. Man fell to the bottom, and the earth, under the evil one, now rules man. “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). Virtually everything God had given for man’s good and blessing became his enemy, and man has been fighting a losing battle ever since.

Even nature groans but God did not intend it to be this way and it will continue this way only for a little while, in God’s timetable. When the new kingdom begins, “the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Rom. 8:21-22).

A day is coming when, in the wonderful plan of God, the dominion that man lost will be given to him again. God’s redeemed ones, His children, will never again be subject to death. They will be like the angels (Luke 20:36). In the kingdom they will, in fact, reign over the angels.


“But we do see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” (Heb. 2:9)

The ultimate curse of man’s lost destiny is death. “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Man’s revealed destiny, restricted by sin, has however been recovered by Christ. To accomplish this great work on our behalf, Jesus had to become a man. He Himself had to be made for a little while lower than the angels. The cross conquered the curse. The kingdom will be restored, and man will be given the crown again.

The moment that we put our faith in Jesus Christ, we die with Him on the cross. We do not inherit our dominion yet, but the crown is restored. We are crucified and buried with Him, and He raises us up to a new life.

Our bodies will die, but even they will one day be resurrected in a new and eternal form. We will be immediately liberated to go into the presence of Jesus. Or, if He comes again before that happens to us, He will take us with Him into the kingdom. Obviously, if we are going to reign on earth as kings, there will have to be a kingdom, as we read in Revelation 20.


Hebrews 4 continues the warning that unbelief forfeits rest.


God’s perfect rest is a rest in free grace. It means to be free from guilt and freedom from worry about sin, because sin is forgiven. God’s rest is the end of legalistic works and the experience of peace in the total forgiveness of God.

In God’s rest we are forever established in Christ. We are freed from running from philosophy to philosophy, from religion to religion, from lifestyle to lifestyle. We are freed from being tossed about by every doctrinal wind, every idea or fad, that blows our way.

We have absolute trust and confidence in God’s power and care. In the new relationship with God, we can depend on Him for everything and in everything—for support, for health, for strength, for all we need.


“Therefore, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it.” (4:1)

To be lost and face eternal separation from God is cause for the most extreme fear. Few, however, who are lost feel such fear.

As long as a promise remains, there is opportunity to be saved and to enter God’s rest. Some followers of amillennialism argue that, because of what the Jews did in the Old Testament in unbelief, and even more importantly because of what they did to Jesus Christ, as a nation and as a distinct people Israel forfeited every promise of God. But God’s promise to Israel still stands.

As long as a person can hear God’s call, he has time to be saved. God’s rest is still available, but only God knows how long that is for each person.



“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. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, “As I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest,” although His works were finished from the foundation of the world.” (4:2-3)

The ancient Israelites heard God’s good news of rest, but it did them no good since they did not accept it. Jews prided themselves on the fact that they had God’s law and God’s ordinances and God’s rituals. They were especially proud to be descendants of Abraham. But Jesus warned that true children of Abraham believe and act as Abraham did (John 8:39). Knowing the law is an advantage only if we obey it. “For indeed circumcision is of value, if you practice the Law,” Paul says, “but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision” (Rom. 2:25).

Hearing the good news of the rest of God is of no benefit, no profit, to any person at any time unless the hearing is united by faith. Being a true Christian under the New Covenant is not a matter of knowing the gospel but of trusting in it. The gospel is good news only for those who accept it with all their hearts.

God’s “works were finished from the foundation of the world.” When He finished the creation, He basically said, “It’s done. I’ve given them everything earthly they need, including each other, for a complete and beautiful and satisfying life. Even more importantly, they have perfect, unbroken, unmarred fellowship with Me. I can now rest; and they can rest in Me.”

“For He has thus said somewhere concerning the seventh day, “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works.” (4:4)

Sabbath rest was instituted as a symbol of the true rest to come in Christ. “Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day-things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col. 2:16-17).

Adam and Eve were completely righteous when they were created. They basically had all they needed but only needed His fellowship, because they were made for Him. This was their “rest” in God. God completed His perfect work and He rested. They were His perfect work and they rested in Him.

But sadly, they trusted Satan rather than God and when they lost their trust in God, they lost His rest. God therefore sent His Son to remove the barrier which separated man from God, and to provide again for man’s rest in His Creator.


“And again in this passage, “They shall not enter My rest.” Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience.” (4:5-6)

When man lost God’s rest, God immediately began a recovery process. There has always been a remnant of believers, even among mostly disbelieving Israel. “In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice” (Rom. 11:5). By sovereign decree He designed a rest for mankind and some, therefore, are going to enter it.

That is predestination, or election. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him,” and, “No one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father” (John 6:44, 65). Personal faith is necessary before God can apply His redemption to us. Yet our personal faith is effective because the Father has first drawn us to the Son. Because God wants us to be saved, we can be saved. Only disobedience keeps us out.


“He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” (4:7)

God fixes a certain day, “Today.” For each individual it will end before or with death; and for all mankind it will end in the Last Day. The age of grace is not forever. This is why Paul said, “Now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation’ ” (2 Cor. 6:2).


“For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.” (4:8-10)


The rest spoken of here is not the physical rest of Canaan. God’s true rest comes not through a Moses or a Joshua or a David. It comes through Jesus Christ. Whatever physical or earthly benefits the Lord may give us, His basic promise is to give us spiritual rest and spiritual blessing. Many cults promise their followers happiness, wealth, and health in this life. The Bible does not.


The term people of God may refer generally to anyone who knows God; but here it specifically refers to Israel. His spiritual rest is promised first to Israel, and He will not be through with her until she comes into His rest.


“For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.” (4:10)

This verse probably anticipates that final day when we cease from all effort and all work and enter into the presence of Jesus Christ.


“Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (4:11-13)

In the immediate context this verse means that the readers who are hesitating in trusting Christ, who are even considering falling back into Judaism, had better be urgent and diligent in seeking to enter God’s rest, because the Word of God is alive. It can pierce right down into the innermost part of the heart to see if belief is real or not.

The Word of God is not only saving and comforting, it is also a tool of judgment and execution. On judgement day, only the thoughts and intentions of the heart will count. The sword of His Word will make no mistakes in judgment or execution. All disguises will be ripped off, all hypocrisy will be revealed and only the real person will be seen. When an unbeliever comes under the scrutiny of God’s Word, he will be unavoidably face-to-face with the perfect truth about God and about himself.