Open as PDF
The Epistle to the Hebrews is a masterpiece on the divine life. Holiness, like a scarlet vein, pervades if from beginning to endâ€”uniting it into one harmonious whole.
In the first and second chapters the Apostle argues the ability of â€śHim that sanctifiethâ€ť from His supreme divinity and sympathetic humanity.
In the third chapter Moses and Christ are compared, showing the typical relation of the two, and the superiority of the latter; then, describing the Hebrew Christians as standing in the antitype wilderness with Jesus, their great leader in their midst, the Apostle, as a subordinate, sounds out the Gospel trumpet commanding the people to go forward and possess the goodly land; â€śAs the Holy Ghost saith, today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts (i.e., do not disobey the order) as in the provocation in the wilderness.â€ť â€śFor some, when they had heard did provoke: howbeit, not all that came out of Egypt by Moses, but with whom was He grieved forty years?â€ť â€śAnd to whom sware He that they should not enter into His rest, but to them that believed not?â€ť (Hebrews 3:7-18)
Continuing the figure of the wilderness and Canaan in the fourth chapter, the Apostle solemnly warns his brethren, saying:
Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it; for unto us was the Gospel preached as will as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them that heard it. (Hebrews 4:1-2)
We cannot take the space to notice this chapter in detail; but observe that we are herein informed of a rest that is promised to us. It does not refer to literal Canaan because the promise here referred to came by David about four hundred years after Israel had already dwelt in that land and was a repetition of the promise to Abraham. It was limited to a particular day; doubtless what is usually called in prophecy â€śthat day,â€ť â€śthe last days,â€ť etc., meaning the Holy Spirit dispensation; for this is pre-eminently the day in which â€śwe hear His voice â€ś as the Spirit now strives with all flesh, â€śconvincing all men of sin, of righteousness and of judgment,â€ť and calling the church unto holiness. This rest does not refer particularly to the future state but it is the rest of faith. â€śFor we which have believed, do enter into restâ€ť (Hebrews 4:3). The deep and tranquil repose of the soul when submerged in the ocean of divine love frequently finds utterance in the above language before knowing that it is biblical. As the Jewish Sabbath was typical of rest in the land of Canaan, (Hebrews 4:4-5) so the Christian Sabbath is typical of the spiritual Canaan or glorious rest of the soul.
â€śThere remaineth therefore (because of the holy Sabbath of the soul) the keeping of a Sabbath to the people of Godâ€ť (Hebrews 4: 9). I have followed the marginal reading because it is the precise rendering of the Greek. The word rest elsewhere is from â€śkatapausin,â€ť but in this verse it is â€śsabbatismosâ€ťâ€”Sabbath.
â€śFor he that has entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works as God did from Hisâ€ť (Hebrews 4:10). From this language it might be inferred that the rest is to be entered at the close of life; but there is not the least incongruity here to those who, with Paul, â€śhave believedâ€ť and thereby entered into the rest of perfect love. Mark, it is particularly said, that they have ceased from their own works; that is; they are dead to, and entirely free from the law of works. God only working in them and love itself fulfills all its holy law. This interpretation harmonizes with verse 3 where it is located in the present tense and entered by faith and is confirmed by the exhortation that immediately follows. â€śLet us labor, therefore, to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbeliefâ€ť (Hebrews 4:11).
The word, â€śspoudazo,â€ť here rendered â€ślabor,â€ť occurs thirty times in the New Testament. It is never rendered â€ślaborâ€ť save in the above instance. It is translated diligent, diligence, and diligently, thirteen times. In Mark 6:25 and Luke 1:39, it is rendered â€śhaste;â€ť and in Luke 7:4, â€śinstantly.â€ť From these facts it may be seen that the rest offered to those Christians was to be entered instantly and without delay.
The reason assigned corroborates this view; â€śLet us labor (make haste) to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.â€ť The idea of endeavoring to enter heaven soon in order to avoid falling is foreign to the Bible. Christ prayed that His disciples should not be taken out of the world; but that the Father should sanctify and keep them from the evil thereof. In all the epistles, the grace of holiness or perfection is urged as a refuge for the soul; as that which â€śsettles, stablishes,â€ť and that â€śwherein we stand.â€ť The Apostle proceeds to show how this rest must be entered:
For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight. (Hebrews 4:12-13)
The rest set before these disciples, as the counterpart of Canaan , is not entered by natural death, but by the powerful operation of truth, which is the sword of the Spirit. The experience of inward crucifixion, the destruction of self, â€śour old man,â€ť which brings perfect rest to the soul, could scarcely be better described.
It is in this ordeal that we learn the mighty efficiency, the all searching and executing power of the divine word through the Omnipotent Spirit. Truly it is sharper and penetrates deeper into a man than any two-edged sword. â€śIt enters into the soul and Spirit, into all our sensations, passions, appetites.â€ť Nay, it discerns all our thoughts, and sits in judgment upon our most secrete intentions, motives, and sentiments; neither is there any creatureâ€”not an idol of the heart, not one Canaaniteâ€”â€śthat is not manifest in His sightâ€ť and put to death by His sentence.
I wish to notice one more feature of this rest, it is invariably called â€śHis rest.â€ť Amazing truth. O Bliss sublime! God invites poor tempest tossed souls to settle down into the sweet and absolute tranquility of His own rest.
How preeminently divine is this higher life; if it be denominated purity, it is â€śeven as He is pureâ€ťâ€”if righteousnessâ€”it is â€śeven as He is righteous;â€ť if perfection, it is â€śeven as our Father which is in heaven is perfect.â€ť If it be called â€śperfect love,â€ť it is â€śthat ye love one another, as I have loved you;â€ť if holiness, it is â€śpartaking of His holiness.â€ť If it be termed â€śwalking in the light,â€ť it is â€śas God is in the light;â€ť or if it be joy, Christ says it is â€śmy joy fulfilled in themselves;â€ť if faith, it is â€śthe faith of the Son of God,â€ť and as a life it is â€śGod living in us.â€ť If this blessed state be represented by sanctification, it is â€śChrist Jesus who of God is made unto us sanctification.â€ť And if it be called a rest, it is Godâ€™s own rest. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord, oh my soul! I stand all bewildered at the prodigies of divine wisdom, love and grace.
Oh! Wondrous love! Oh! Grace sublime!
Teach us to enter in,
Where all who truly seek, may find
A rest from every sin.
The Apostle, having shown his Hebrew brethren the â€śpromise that is left us of entering into His restâ€ť that it is entered in this life by faith in the preached Gospel, concludes the chapter with the following invitation: â€śLet us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace (i.e., the mercy seat in the holiest of all) that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in the time of need;â€ť that is, the grace that meets our every need and â€śendureth all things.â€ť This identifies the rest with an additional and higher degree of grace to be received from the Lord, hence a second grace.
In chapter 5, verse 9, Christ is presented as a perfect Savior, hence, the â€śauthor of eternal salvation,â€ť able to save absolutely and keep constantly.
Before following this treatise on uttermost salvation further, let us clearly ascertain the character to whom it is addressed. They are frequently called brethren and even â€śholy brethrenâ€ť (Hebrews 3:1). Every child of God possesses the elements of holiness. God spake to them as unto children and scourged them as His own sons (Hebrews 12:5-6). They had come unto the â€śchurch of the firstborn, which are written in heaven . . . and to Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant, and to the blood of sprinklingâ€ť (Hebrews 12:23-24).
This is a very clear delineation of their religious status: they were not simply Paulâ€™s Jewish brethren, as has been claimed, but they had actually come to â€śJesus, the mediator of the New Covenant,â€ť with the blood of Christ they had had their â€śhearts sprinkled from an evil conscience,â€ť and their names duly entered in the divine family record above. Having received the grace of pardonâ€”the first principles of the doctrine of Christâ€”they are at once placed under marching orders to â€śgo on to perfectionâ€ť (Hebrews 6:1).
In verse 11, he urges their full salvation again in these words:
But we earnestly desire each one of you to show the same diligence, for the full completion of the hope. (Emphatic Diaglott)
Diligence in order to full assurance of our hope. (McKnight)
These versions all make â€śfull assuranceâ€ť or â€ścompletion of hopeâ€ť an object of diligent pursuit.
In the verses following, the Apostle endeavors to lay a foundation for their faith to grasp this sublime state. He bases it upon the covenant that God made with Abraham and admonishes them not to be â€śslothful, but followers of them who, through faith and patience inherit the promisesâ€ť (Hebrews 6:12). That is, do not rest in the wilderness, or mixed state of mere justification, glorious as it is; but follow the example of those who have pressed forward into the promised inheritance of sanctification. And, to impress their minds with the absolute certainty of its attainability, he reminds them how God, being â€świlling more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oathâ€ť (Hebrews 6:17). How graciously God has anticipated the weakness of fallen humanity: He compensates the deadness of our faith by making the infallible certitude of His promise more conspicuous by the confirmation of His oath.
The Apostle proceeds to identify this promised inheritance with the â€śhope that we have, as an anchor to the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil.â€ť Now, that within the veil is the â€śholiest of all,â€ť meaning the state of perfect holiness.
It being said that Christ entered within the veil, and also that He â€śentered into heaven itself now to appear in the presence of God for us;â€ť therefore, some think that â€śthat within the veilâ€ť can only be enjoyed after we go to heaven. At first sight this appears plausible; but it is not so explained by the word. Perfection, and not heaven, is the attainment insisted upon in this epistle, as the great blessing of Christâ€™s priestly offering.
If, therefore, perfection were by Levitical priesthood . . . what further need was there that another priest should arise after the order of Malchisedec. (Hebrews 7:11)
For the law made nothing perfect but the bringing in of a better hope did: by the which we draw nigh unto God. (Hebrews 7:19)
Paul said our â€śhope entereth into that within the veilâ€ť and here he says it makes us â€śperfect;â€ť hence, that within the veil is the state of Christian perfection.
Reasoning still upon the virtues of Christâ€™s â€śunchangeable priesthood,â€ť he says, doubtless in allusion to the same absolute grace hitherto called â€śHis rest,â€ť â€śthat within the veilâ€ť and â€śperfection.â€ť â€śWherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25). This is the great truth the writer is laboring to impress upon the minds of the Hebrews and bring within the compass of their faith. â€śAble to save them to the uttermost.â€ť What is this but full salvation; salvation to the very uttermost extent that the leprosy of sin and depravity have spread in the soul; salvation from all the moral effects of the fall and restoration to all the holy image of God.
In chapters 9 and 10, the writer illustrates the degrees into this moral perfection by the successive entrances into the tabernacle.
The first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread, which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the holiest of all, which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaronâ€™s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant: and over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat, of which we cannot now speak particularly. Now, when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which eh offered for himself, and for the errors of the people. (Hebrews 9:2-7)
Now this tabernacle service, we are informed, â€śwas a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect as pertaining to the conscienceâ€ť (Hebrews 9:9). A figure of what? The answer has already been given in chapters 5, 6, 7, and 8. Christ is set forth as our â€śhigh priestâ€ť and the offering of Himself for our perfect salvation is compared with the offerings of the Levitical high priest, which could not make the comers thereto perfect. Does this not plainly teach that the blood that was sprinkled upon the mercy seat in the holiest by the high priest is typical of the blood of Christ, which makes us perfectly holy? But if you will open your testament at the passage last quoted, you will find the figure of the tabernacle applied.
Christ being come a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God, purge your consciences from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:11-14)
Let it be remembered, then, that the offerings of the high priest, who alone was permitted to enter the â€śholiest of all,â€ť were for legal sanctificationâ€”or a ceremonial purificationâ€”and typified the high priestly offerings of Christ, which actually purges from the consciousness of sin and dead works. Therefore, to enter the holiest by the blood of Christ is to be cleansed from all sin, or entirely sanctified.
Now, if the sanctum sanctorum were exclusively in heaven, then we must enter there before we can have the final application of Christâ€™s blood to cleanse us from all sin; but if some sin can be removed after death, why not all? If probation is not limited to this life, where will we fix its bounds?
But let us read a verse farther:
And for this cause He is the mediator of the New Testament that, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first Testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:15)
First, we are told that the high priests were typical of Christ and that the blood they sprinkled upon the mercy seat pre-figured the blood of Christ that purges and makes perfect the comers thereunto; and then the same offering of the Lamb is declared to be for our â€średemptionâ€ť that we â€śmight receive the promise of eternal inheritance.â€ť So the holiest of all is the same thing as the inheritance and both signify the purging of the worshippers, so that they â€śhave no more consciousness of sin;â€ť which implies a consciousness of â€śbeing made free from sin.â€ť
Immediately connected with the fact that the tabernacle was a figure of Christâ€™s salvation, Paul says,
The Holy Ghost, thus signifies that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing. (Hebrews 9:8)
The first tabernacle evidently signifies the literal, which was a figure of the churchâ€”â€śthe greater and more perfect tabernacleâ€ťâ€”that succeeded it.
The way into the holiest signifies that which it typified, for that which is here affirmed would not be true of the literal. Now, if we apply this most sacred part of the tabernacle to heaven, then it follows that, while the legal dispensation yet remained, heaven was inaccessible, and the Old Testament saints are all lost. It makes it no better to say they entered an intermediate state, for if there be such a stateâ€”and the Bible seems to teach itâ€”then it is the receptacle of all who die now, as well as in the past dispensations; and the way into the holiest, if it were heaven, is not yet manifest. But the above text affirms that the inner tabernacle represented the exclusive privilegeâ€”the particular heritageâ€”of the saints of the present dispensation. What is this, if not the full possession of the divine Spirit, the true tabernacle of God with man, that was to be in the last days and which Christ announced to the church as near at hand before He ascended?
Twice the Apostle uses interchangeably the figures of Canaan and the holiest to set forth the full benefit of Christâ€™s high priestly offering (Hebrews 6:12-19 and 9:9-15). The successive passages of the Red Sea and Jordan correspond with the entrance of the first and second veils. Both declare in language infallible and by inspired application, the two divine works and distinct degrees of grace.
Here is truth like a majestic tower; invincible as the throne of God; truth piled upon truth. â€śThe holiest of all,â€ť â€śperfection,â€ť divine rest for human souls, sanctification and purging from the consciousness of sin all through the blood of Christ, all converging unto one glorious experience; accessible by faint to all Christians â€śtoday if ye will hear his voice.â€ť This truth may be further confirmed by the following coinciding testimony: Paul tells us that the inheritance announced in the will of God was veiled in mystery until the present dispensation (Ephesians 1:9-11). Again, he says, â€śthe riches of the glory of this mystery . . . is Christ in youâ€ť (Colossians 1:26-27). This mystery, we have also seen, is called the â€śway into the holiest.â€ť Now Peter testifies that the great mystery which the prophets and even angels could not comprehend, but which is â€śnow reported unto you by them that have preached the Gospel, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, is the great salvation of the Lordâ€ťâ€”the glory that was to follow the suffering of Christ (1 Peter 1:10-12).
Does not this identify the inheritance of the saints in light, the glory that Christ gave to the church, the holy of holies, â€śthe indwelling of the fullness of Christ and salvation to the uttermost?â€ť The same thing being affirmed of each is collateral proof that they all mean one and the same thing.
Saved to the uttermost; cheerfully sing
Loud hallelujahs to Jesus, my King;
Ransomed and pardoned, redeemed by His blood,
Cleansed from unrighteousness, glory to God.