Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Entering God's Rest

Is the "rest" (Sabbath) that is promised to the Lord's people (Hebrews chapter 3 & 4, etc.) a temporal rest that only few of them actually possess?  Or is it an eternal rest, yea, heaven and immortal glory, and which they all will certainly obtain?  Most Hardshells think that the "rest" promised is not to be equated with being eternally saved.  They equate it with what they call a "time salvation," one that has nothing to do with being eternally saved.  They affirm that only a few of the chosen and called obtain the promised "rest." 

All Arminians affirm that the rest promised is eternal rest, or salvation.  Most Calvinists also teach the same.  Only a few Hyper Calvinists, such as the Hardshells, deny that the promised rest is promised salvation.  Hyper Calvinists and Antinomians do not believe that obedience and growth in holiness is presented as a means for salvation in Scripture.  Perseverence, the Hypers affirm, is not necessary for final or complete salvation.  They think that all obedience is for temporal good only, and not for eternal salvation.  But, this is a false premise, a presupposition that is forced upon Scripture, and not one that is derived from Scripture. 

Thus, there are two things to be proven.  First, that obedience after conversion, or progressive sanctification and increased fruit bearing, is viewed in Scripture as a necessary means or condition for being finally saved, for entering the promised land of rest (Heaven).  Second, that "the rest" or inheritance promised to the faithful are "the new heavens and the new earth," an "eternal inheritance," and that entering Canaan typified this final salvation.  Inheriting Canaan's land corresponds to inheriting the divine salvation promises. 

Obedience is unto Final Salvation

"And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him."  (Heb. 5: 9)

"For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come."  (I Tim. 4: 8)

"For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting."  (Gal. 6: 8)

"...he that endureth to the end shall be saved."  (Matt. 10: 22; 24: 13)

"That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience (perseverence) inherit the promises."  (Heb. 6: 12)

These verses are sufficient to show that obedience and perseverence in the faith are means and conditions for obtaining eternal life.

"Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief."  (Heb. 4: 11)

Because the Hyper Calvinist is prejudiced against the view that anything the Christian does can be a condition for eternal life, he will reject connecting this entering into God's rest with eternal salvation.  If, however, the rest does equate with final salvation, then the Hyperist' prejudice and presupposition is shown to be false. 

Obviously, the Apostle viewed the rest as that which both he and the Christians had not yet entered.  It would not make sense to encourage labor towards entrance if entrance had already been gained.  Paul had earlier said - "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." (vs. 1) This is disconcerting to the Hyper Calvinist.  Though it is not denied that entering God's rest is experienced, in a limited degree, in conversion and initial salvation, yet to affirm that this is the limit of the fulfillment is a mistake.  Obviously Paul did not look at his past conversion as the complete fulfillment of the promise.  Let us compare Heb. 4: 11 with these remarks by Paul:

"Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his deathIf by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead."   (Phil. 3: 8-11)

Here Paul looks toward final salvation.  In some sense, in conversion, Paul had already "won" Christ, but in these verses he speaks of finally or completely winning Christ in the day of resurrection.  Christ is the "prize" for the Christian as he runs his race (lives his Christian life).  So Paul adds - "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (vs. 14)  Paul not only wants to make it to the finish line, but he wants to win the prize.  (See I Cor. 9: 24)  He does not want to be disqualified as others who have entered the Christian race. 

The Greek word for "labour" in Heb. 4: 11 is probably not the best translation.  The Greek word spoudazō means to make haste, to exert one's self, to endeavour or give diligence.  In the exhortation to perseverence and stedfastness, the Apostle includes himself.  "Let us diligently endeavour," he says.  In other words, Paul says - "Let us follow the example of the true believers, as Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Caleb," etc.  Let us "press toward the mark"!  Let us "keep our eye on the prize"!  Let us persevere in faith! 

Rest = Eternal Inheritance

"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."  (Heb. 9: 15)

"For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.  For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a countryBut now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city."  (Heb. 11: 10, 14, 16)

"Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made... For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise."  (Ga. 3: 16, 18)

These verses show that the typology of Canaan, and the "land of promise," points to that "eternal inheritance" promised to all true Israelites.  What is "looked for" is that heavenly land of promise.  They longed for eternal "rest," for an everlasting "inheritance."   

Present & Future Entering

The promised "rest" is initially enjoyed by all who have been truly saved.  But, initial salvation does not fulfill the length and breath of the promise, but final salvation fulfills it.  Just as we speak of "salvation" being present and future, so we speak of God's "rest" being both present and future.

"For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world."  (Heb. 4: 3)

"For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.  Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief."  (vs. 9-11)

It is based upon these words that credibility is given for seeing conversion as how Christians first enter into God's rest.  Though this is not denied to be taught in Scripture, it does not seem to be what Paul is affirming in these words.  For the words "do enter," A. T. Robertson says, is from the Greek word eiserxometa and is "emphatic futuristic present middle indicative of eiserxomai."  In other words, "We are sure to enter in, we who believe."  Thus, though the KJV seems to point to what is a present reality in translating as "do enter," the Greek shows that Paul is still looking to the future for fulfillment.  All he is affirming is that true believers are the ones who will enter.

Since saved people have "ceased from" their own works for salvation, and have trusted in Christ alone for salvation, Paul's words in verses 9-11 are interpreted to be a reference to conversion and to a present entering into God's rest.  But, if we are honest, we must confess that this is not likely the meaning of the Apostle. 

First, the works that God ceased from doing were good works, whereas the works that are ceased from, if the above interpretation is accepted, are sinful works.  If we cease from our works "as God did from his," then we will be resting from honest toil, not from evil works. 

Second, it does not make sense to interpret "he that is entered into his rest" and "ceased from his own works" as a reference to what has already been experienced and yet interpret "let us be diligent to enter into that rest" as also what has already been experienced.  Why exhort to future entrance if it has already been entered? 

Finally, the entire context of Hebrews 3 & 4 shows that a future and final deliverance is in view.

"For if Jesus (Joshua) had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God."  (vs. 8)

"But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end...For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end...So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief."  (Heb. 3: 6, 14, 19)

"For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul."  (Heb. 10: 36-39)

These verses clearly show that Christians who "draw back," who apostasize, are comparable to the ancient unbelieving Israelites who "fell in the wilderness" and denied final salvation and entrance into the land of promise.  Those who persevere in faith will show that they are the true Israel, God's elect, and those who do not persevere will show that they were liars and hypocrites.  It is not through faith alone that final salvation is obtained, but "through faith and perseverence."

These verses also show that the salvation rest that is under discussion is not enjoyed until "he that shall come will come," or of what pertains to "another day."  The "saving of the soul" that follows a life of faith is final salvation after death, or after the return of Christ.

"Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief." (vs. 6)

God has predestined that some enter.  Though entrance to the promised land was available to every Israelite, only those who believed and persevered actually obtained it.  And, they can only credit the whole reason to the eternal merciful purpose of God who not only gave them opportunity to be saved from Egypt, but also assured their salvation through the wilderness and entrance into the land of rest and promise.


What About Moses?

Some argue that the fact that Moses was not permitted to enter the promised land proves that the typology of Canaan cannot refer to Heaven and salvation. 

First, let us notice that Moses is never categorized as being in character like the unbelieving Israelites who died under the wrath of God in the wilderness.  Moses did not perish in the wilderness but made it to the border of the promised land in full health and died a normal death.  Second, the sin of Moses was not general practicing unbelief, nor a stiffnecked and uncircumcised heart.  Thus, Jason Brown, Hardshell apologist, is wrong when he says:

"Primitive Baptists do not assert that all that fell in the wilderness were necessarily born again, nor do they have to prove that. No one could prove that anyway. All they have to do is point to Moses, who also fell in the wilderness."  (see here)

First, Jason is wrong to affirm that some of those who fell under the wrath of God, in the wilderness, were truly saved people.  He affirms this in spite of all the verses I cited which described them in terms that make it impossible to apply to saved people, to true believers.  They were described as "liars" in their religious profession.  They were stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears.  They were unbelievers, practicing heathens, idolators.  All those cited texts categorize all who "fell in the wilderness," not just some of them.  They are all put into the same group, the group of those who fit the description given of them.

Second, Jason is wrong to affirm that Moses, likewise, "fell in the wilderness."  The Scriptures never place Moses into that category.  When the NT writers speak of "falling after the same example of unbelief" as those unbelieving Israelites whose carcasses "fell in the wilderness," no reference is to Moses.  In fact, the testimony is rather that "Moses was faithful in all his house."  (Num. 12: 7; Heb. 3: 2)  Moses is thus distinguished from those Israelites who fell under the wrath of God and died in the wilderness, for they are called "unbelievers" and unfaithful

Moses was a true believer, like Caleb and Joshua.  Though Jason wants to put Moses into the same category as those who "fell in the wilderness," he is not in that category.  Moses did not die under the wrath of God.  Further, I do not think that Pisgah, on the border or Canaan, could be included in that territory referenced by that "wilderness" wherein God destroyed the unbelievers.  Notice this from the words of Moses:

"And when we departed from Horeb, we went through all that great and terrible wilderness, which ye saw by the way of the mountain of the Amorites, as the LORD our God commanded us; and we came to Kadeshbarnea."  (Deut. 1: 19)

There are four wildernesses (deserts) mentioned in Israel’s journey that are of importance:  1) Etham (Sinai) 2) Sin 3) Paran 4) Zin. First, the Israelites went through the Arabian desert wilderness (Sinai Peninsula), the wilderness of Paran, then through the wilderness of Zin.   Mt. Sinai is in the Arabian wilderness.  The sins of the Israelites at the time of the giving of the law are listed by Paul in I Cor. 10.  Many "carcasses" "fell in the wilderness" at this time.  Moses, Caleb, Joshua, and others, of the faithful, did not die under the wrath of God.  Yes, some true believers, like Aaron, were no doubt complicit in the idolatry (though perhaps not in the other sins mentioned), yet the Lord did not view their sin as being of the same kind or degree as those who were in fact destroyed.  They were not of the class who "fell in the wilderness."  Many unbelievers died at other times other than in the mass destruction at Sinai.  Some made it through one wilderness only to be be destroyed under the wrath of God in another. 

"7And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 8Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. 9And Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him. 10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? 11And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. 12And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. 13This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the Lord, and he was sanctified in them."  (Num. 20: 7-13)

"They angered him also at the waters of strife, so that it went ill with Moses for their sakes: Because they provoked his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips."  (Psa. 106: 32, 33)

Whatever may be the precise nature of the sin of Moses, it certainly included an instance of unbelief, the very sin that kept those who fell in the wilderness from entering Canaan.  Yet, clearly the nature of the unbelief of Moses was not of the same kind or degree as those who fell in the wilderness under the wrath of God.  Even the most faithful and believing have times of doubt and unbelief.  But, their unbelief is far different from the unbelief of the unregenerate.  It seems that this judgment was harsh, compared with God's judgment upon the unbelievers. 

Moses represents an exception to the universal case, unless we assume there were other faithful Israelites who, making it to the border of Canaan, nevertheless died in sight of it.  It seems clear that Aaron did not enter, and no doubt for his complicity in the offense of Moses.  Miriam also died before entering the land of promise.  Further, as one one expect, the exception is significant and calls for special consideration.  Why is Moses an exception?  Why, among all the faithful, the ones who did not die under God's wrath in the wilderness, did Moses not enter bodily into the promised land?  Surely there is a divine reason, and our duty is to learn what God desires to show us in the case of Moses.

For Your Sakes

"Also the Lord was angry with me for your sakes, saying, Thou also shalt not go in thither."  (Deut. 1: 37)

"But the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the Lord said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter."  (Deut. 3: 26)

"Furthermore the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, and sware that I should not go over Jordan, and that I should not go in unto that good land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance."  (4: 21)

"They angered him also at the waters of strife, so that it went ill with Moses for their sakes..."  (Psa. 106: 32)

The severity of the penalty exacted upon Moses does not appear to be so harsh if one considers how Moses acted as a kind of scapegoat for the general unbelief of the nation.  It is as if God was holding him responsible for the unbelief of the people.  And, if this is so, then it seems quite proper to forbid Moses to enter the land that only believers may enter.  Moses, after all, was a type of Christ and acted as Mediator more than once in saving the people.  Notice this testimony:

"Therefore he said that he would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them. Yea, they despised the pleasant land, they believed not his word: But murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord."  (Psa. 106: 23-25)

"Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin--; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written."  Exo. 32: 32)

The latter words of Moses are similar to those of Paul, the latter mimicking the spirit of Moses, when he said:

"For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh."  (Rom. 9: 3)

Both Moses and Paul are praying that they be excluded if it saves others.  And, it seems, in the case of Moses, that God did in fact make Moses to be a sacrifice and substitute to bear the sin of the unbelieving Israelites, thus giving justification to the severity of punishment decreed for Moses.  Moses, in this respects, is a type of Christ. 

Besides, the case of Moses still upholds the proposition that says "no unbelievers allowed entry."  Moses was forbidden entry for "unbelief."  Those who fell in the wilderness could not enter for unbelief.  Thus, the lesson still remains.  Unbelievers will not enter God's rest nor receive his inheritance.

Moses, like Aaron, Miriam, and others, made it "to" the promised land.  He made it through and out of the wilderness.  Though he was not permitted to enter and dwell there, he was nevertheless able to enjoy it before he died, for he saw it and rejoiced in it.  He entered it in his heart, soul, and mind, though not in body.  Besides, when Moses appeared with Christ on the Mt. of Transfiguration, he was in the promised land.

Nature of types and Antitypes

Not all is correlation or significant between types and antitypes.  Men can make too much out of the parabolic use of types.  What is typical versus what is A-typical (or unique) about the case example of Moses' not entering the promised land?  Does his singular example show that not all those who died in the wilderness were reprobate and died in their sins?  No.  Does his singular exception undermine the general rule?  No. 

Some not only affirm that Canaan's land cannot be a type of Heaven and eternal rest because Moses did not enter, but also because the Israelites had to fight and war after entering Canaan.  But, this is carrying the analogy too far.  It also shows that "entering" into God's rest and enjoying it is not to be equated with initial entering of the promised land.  Rest would not be fully enjoyed till every enemy had been conquered and the Israelites dwelled in safety, "every man under his own vine and fig tree."  (See I Kings 4: 25; Mic. 4: 4; Zech. 3: 10)

It is not inconsistent with sovereign grace theology to teach that the Christian serves Christ with an eye on obtaining eternal life and salvation thereby.  It is no more false than teaching that faith and repentance are for salvation.  Perseverence is as much a gift of God as is faith. 

The NT writers did not see any contradiction in affirming, on the one hand, that salvation was all of the Lord, by his grace alone, and affirming, on the other hand, that the sinner and the Christian must be actively involved in their salvation.  Calling upon Christians to "work out your own salvation" (Phil. 2: 12) was not inconsistent with salvation being the work of God, in the mind of the Apostles.  Even the Lord, though affirming that faith was the sovereign gift of God (John 6: 65), nevertheless exhorts - "have faith in God" (or "have the faith of God").  (Mark 11: 22)  This is an exhortation and implies that the ones addressed have some decisive role in whether they have, or have not, faith.

The story of the Exodus is a picture of Christian conversion and of salvation and redemption from the slavery of sin.  The wilderness wandering is a picture of the life of the professing Christian.  The Israelites who were declared to be "unbelievers" are a picture of hypocritical Christians, or false professors.  The Israelites who persevered, and who did not "draw back," are a picture of true believers.   Canaan's land is a picture of the eternal rest that God will give to his people in the new heavens and the new earth. 

The unbelieving Israelites, though actually saved from the land of Egypt by the Red Sea miracle, were nevertheless not saved from the trials of the various deserts.  The desert wilderness was the means God employed to manifest who was truly an "Israelite indeed" and who was only one externally and in pretense.  It was the trials of life that showed that the shallow ground hearer did not have saving faith.

The Arminian thus errs in thinking that the deliverance from Egypt pictures genuine Christians who have been genuinely converted or initially saved.  It does show, however, that even the unregenerate enjoy temporal good as a result of God's salvation.  This is the whole point of Peter in that much disputed passage in II Peter 2: 20-22.  In that passage Peter refers to those professing Christians who are evidently shallow ground hearers.  He says that they had experienced some earthly good, initially, from professing faith in Christ.  Like the swine, they have been externally washed.  And, through the influence of the word of God, had for a time "escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."  Who does not know many who have professed the name of Christ and have therein become more moral and upright?  Yet, though temporarily enjoying moral improvement, nevertheless revert back, so that "the latter end is worse."

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