What Does Hebrews 3:18 Mean?

And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient?

Hebrews 3:18(NASB)

Verse Thoughts

There is an oft-repeated adage that 'the old is in the new revealed, and the new is in the old concealed. But, although there is an element of truth in this statement, it is not entirely correct.

Although a believer can often see Old Testament types, metaphors, promises, and prophecies being fulfilled in the Bible and opened to their understanding.. as we grow in the Christian faith... the mysteries of which Paul spoke so often, and upon which the New Testament is anchored, are nowhere to be found in the pages of Old Testament Scripture. 

Mysteries that were hidden to the prophets of old include the mystery of 'Christ in You, the hope of glory'. It encompasses the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit in all believers; the one Body of believers made up of Jews and Gentiles; the rapture of the Church and the mystery of the gospel, to name but a few. These are 'mysteries that were kept secret since the world began'.

For this reason, it was very important that Jewish Christians, in the early Church, came to a correct understanding, that the Old Order under Moses had been fulfilled in Christ, and that a New Order had been implemented at Pentecost. Hebrews is a book that not only opens God's progressive plan of redemption for Christians today, but was originally written to help Jewish Christians, in the early Church, understand that a change in dispensations took place with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was to confirm that God's old order had been replaced with His new order.

As well as teaching that a New and better Covenant had been cut at Calvary.. that the old Levitical Law; the Aaronic priesthood; the earthly Temple and the Sacrifices had been superseded by a new, eternal heavenly order, the book of Hebrews is also designed to teach us important lessons on living godly lives, by referring back to the mistakes of the old order. It is designed to help prevent post-Cross Christians from falling into the same disobedience and unbelief.

The mistakes made by Israel in the wilderness and their slide into rebellion, unbelief and disobedience, during those 40 years of wandering, present some of the most serious warnings to the Body of Christ in Scripture... for despite being saved by grace through faith when they made their exodus from Egypt, Israel lived in defeat for the rest of their lives, and failed to access God's precious promises of rest.

It was because of their murmurings, complaints, grumblings, and defiance of God that the entire nation fell into apostasy, and all but two of God's faithful servants were buried in the desert. Not one gained the rest that they were promised. They were eternally saved but totally defeated for the rest of their earthly life. Israel had been redeemed from the slave-marked of sin, but failed to enter God's promised rest.

The question of their failure is clearly laid out in the book of Hebrews.. "And to whom did God swear that they would not enter His rest ----' was the rhetorical question asked in this verse. Who was it that God vowed would not enter a state of rest with Him?  Well, the answer was immediately supplied, "was it not to those who were disobedient?

Israel's miraculous redemption was immediately followed by Israel's shocking disobedience and is recorded in the Scripture for our learning. Their rebellion and unbelief was so grievous to the Lord that He swore in His wrath, they would NOT enter His rest. For those with eyes to see - i.e. those saved by grace through faith, this truth is a sober warning to live righteously in the sight of God, and not to fall into the same sin of unbelief.

This is a serious warning to the Church, in this present dispensation We are cautioned not to fall into unbelief. This is also an advanced notice for future believers, who will be living during the 70th week of Daniel - the Great Tribulation period. It is a clarion call to ALL God's people, in every dispensation, to be obedient.... to be faithful; to trust God's word; to adhere to His call on each of our lives and to live each day as unto the Lord.

The entire nation of Israel fell into deliberate disobedience, apostasy and unbelief, despite the amazing miracles they had all witnessed in their lives. As members of the Church, the admonition in this verse is not to fall into the same sin - not to be deliberatly disobedient and wander into, apostasy and unbelief.

Blatant disobedience of God's word translates into 'UNBELIEF', for without faith, neither lost sinner nor saved saint can please God. How sad that the redeemed people of Israel were eternally saved, but disobedience and unbelief left them living defeated lives. Instead of enjoying God's promised rest, they died defeated men and women - saved, yet excluded from His rest - redeemed from the slave-market of sin, yet failing to fulfil God's will for their life.

As Church-age believers we have already received our promised rest, by faith in CHRIST. It is already ours as a gift of God's grace. We are empowered, every day, by His sufficiency. We have the indwelling Holy Spirit who enables us to live victorious lives from the moment of our salvation.

By faith, we have already been given ALL we need for life and godliness - all we need to live victorious lives, as we rest in Him and He in us. But like the redeemed Israelites who wasted their lives in defeat, Christians can also remain defeated in the wilderness of life. Like this generation of Israelites, we too can miss out on living a victorious and productive life OR we can end up with a wasted life of worry and unbelief that discredits the Lord.

Let us determine to access all that is ours in Christ and may we remember Paul's warning to the Corinthians - that redeemed saints who live in unbelief become carnal in their outlook - saved... yet as though by fire. Saved 'through the skin of their teeth', but suffering loss of heavenly reward. Eternally saved by grace through faith in Christ and yet living a defeated life in the wilderness of our own fleshly wanderings.

May we take to heart this warning in Hebrews and seek to live a God-honouring life.. or we may find that we forfeit His perfect peace in our heart, His rest for our soul, treasure in heaven and any reward that could have been ours - for a defeated Christian life is the ultimate tragedy of disobedience, apostasy, and unbelief.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You that in Christ I have received my promised rest through faith in Christ - and have all I need to live a victorious, God-honouring life. Keep me ever looking to Jesus, and prevent me from falling into the sin of disobedience and unbelief, like the Israelites in the wilderness, who were redeemed from the slave-market in Egypt, yet wasted their life through deliberate unbelief. Help me to live by faith and not by sight, or feelings and may I live and work to Your praise and glory - this I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.

Choose a Verse from Hebrews 3