The “How To” of Entering God’s Promised Sabbath Rest (a.k.a. Heaven)
After God created all things in the physical universe, He rested from all His works (Gen 2:1–4). On the seventh day, God rested because His works were completed (Heb 4:3, 10). Known unto God are all His works from the foundation of the world (Acts 15:18).
By God’s design, His sovereign will was to incorporate His chosen people into His Sabbath rest. This was depicted in Moses’ generation, who were told to enter the Promised Land of Canaan. The exodus generation, however rebelled against Yahweh at Kadesh-Barnea (c. 1446 B.C.) They failed to enter the blessing of the land because of unbelief.
The Word of God had been preached to them, by the faithful servant of God, Moses. Having heard the Word, the Israelites grumbled and murmured against Yahweh and His plan to give them rest like He has enjoyed from the seventh day. Their unbelief played out practically by their disobedience. They did not act on God’s command for them to enter and take the land (Num 14).
Unbelief and disobedience warrants God’s anger and wrath (Rom 1:18–32). Adam disobeyed God’s Word of instruction. In contrast, Abraham acted on God’s Word, albeit, imperfectly. His faith was commended by God, however (Gen 15:6; Rom 4:3; Gal 3:6). Joshua eventually entered the Promised Land with Caleb and the children of the disobedient generation. Joshua’s conquest of Canaan did represent a type of rest, but even David quoted the earlier text to compel his generation to enter God’s Sabbath rest (Ps 95:7–11). This was four hundred years after Joshua’s conquest (c. 1000 B.C.). Even after the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus, the writer of Hebrews was quoting these Old Testament passages with the intention of spurring on His own generation to be diligent to enter the Promised Land for rest (mid-60s A.D.).
So, for 1500 years the call of God to enter His Sabbath rest remained. The promise is still here, today, some 4000 years later. For when the modern-day reader of Hebrews applies Hebrews 3–4 to himself, he is inspired to also enter God’s Sabbath rest. In fact, he is told to fear God in this matter (Heb 4:1). To heed God’s Word is to revere God.
It is the obedience of faith that reflects the Christian’s appropriation of God’s Word preached to him. We are doers of His Word, not hearers only (Jas 1:22). People hear and many are called into the kingdom of Christ, but few are chosen to be transferred from the domain of darkness and into the kingdom of God’s Son (Mt 20:16; 22:14; Col 1:13).
Believing the Word of God preached and heard is a grace granted by God according to His sovereign will. It is the love of Christ that compels the elect redeemed to respond to the Gospel call. Our trust is placed in the person and work of Jesus Christ, who is the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham (2 Cor 1:20).
It is every person’s duty, today, to consider the consequences of unbelief and disobedience in rebellion against Yahweh and His Christ. The unbelieving generation that died in the wilderness, wandering for forty years post-exodus, serves as a type for those in Christ’s church who truly do not believe the truth of the Gospel. We, of course, are concerned for those outside the visible church, but the writer of Hebrews has unbelieving “Christian church members” in view.
This is why the Gospel preacher must be faithful to preach the Gospel with the same impetus to “be diligent to enter His rest.” We call all men everywhere to repent of their sins and idolatry unto Christ and His finished work from which He sat down at the right hand of majesty on the glorious throne of God (Ps 110:1).
Having sent the Holy Spirit to compel people to come into the wedding feast of God’s Son to His bride (Mt 22; Lk 14), God is both warning against unbelief and promising His own Sabbath rest to those who hear and believe. The “Today” generation is you, my dear reader. Will you harden your heart as they did in Moses’ exodus generation? Or, will you come to Christ and live?
Today, a Sabbath rest remains for some to enter. This place of rest is the unshakable kingdom, the better country, the heavenly Zion, that is, the New Jerusalem. It is the reality of the new heavens and the new earth where righteousness dwells (Is 65–66; 2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21–22). It is being prepared for believers from every generation and from all people groups. The one who is preparing this is Jesus Christ, who has also promised to return for His bride, His church, the Israel of God at His second coming.
At stake, therefore, is heaven and hell, which are two distinct eternal homes (Eccl 12:5). It is not in the natural man to heed the Word of God; but today if you hear His voice, may His grace be conjoined to that Word to give you life in Christ. It is God’s will to call His elect to come to Christ; and it is His loving irresistible grace that causes His chosen ones to be born again of God in the Spirit’s work of the new birth.
Your imperative is to be diligent to enter and it is God’s indicative to bring many sons to glory (Heb 2:10). Apart from Him, you can do nothing (Jn 15:5), but when He calls for you to come into the wedding feast, the marriage supper of the Lamb, it is assured by Scripture that each one will join the great company. We have this blessed assurance that we are believers who do not shrink back from Him who will not let us go.
Spokane Valley, Washington
September 5, 2023