“They could not enter in because of unbelief. 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” (Hebrews 3:19-4:1).
Chapters 3 and 4 of Hebrews contain one of the most solemn warnings for which this letter is famous. The writer urges his readers to make sure that they have truly believed the gospel, that they are genuine believers. “Take heed, brethren,” he urges them, “lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12).
It happens all too often that people drift into church membership without any personal experience of the Savior, or are swept into a profession of faith on the wave of some emotional or ecstatic experience without having been genuinely born again. As time passes by, and the fervor dies away, they come to realize that Christ and His word and His work mean little or nothing to them. Because they have never had any personal experience of regeneration, they are not true believers. But instead of being alarmed, owning up, seeking the Savior and personally receiving Him, they allow this sin of unbelief to deceive them into thinking that as long as they keep up external experiences of being decent and religious, their lack of personal experience of Christ and salvation does not matter. Eventually their unbelief so hardens their hearts that no preaching of the gospel could ever awaken them to their peril or lead them to repentance and faith in the Savior. What a tragedy!
By contrast, “We which have believed do enter into rest” (Hebrews 4:3). There is no doubt about it. God says that if a person has once believed—truly and genuinely—that person enters in. This is one of God’s glorious affirmations of unvarying and unbreakable certainties. “We which have believed do enter into rest.” We can be as sure about it as we can about this other promise: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (John 3:36).
With that we come to the all-important question: have we personally believed the gospel? Are we really believers? Or are we merely temporary fellow-travelers among the genuine people of God? Has this put doubts or fear into your mind? There is no need to fear, for we have a high priest, Jesus, now passed through the heavens, but who once lived in our world. He knows the weakness of His people, and bids us come to Him (Hebrews 4:14-16). Do we feel uncertain and insecure? Then let us come boldly.
“But,” you say, “I have sinned today: see all my weakness and my broken resolutions. I want to be a Christian, but I have been a miserable failure. How dare I come to Jesus?” Come boldly in spite of it all. Come and stand at His mercy seat. We richly deserve His judgment, but when you come boldly to Him you will find His mercy for all past mistakes and His grace to bring you through every difficulty and land you safe in your eternal inheritance. Believe Him and rest on Him, learning to never trust your own efforts, and you shall find rest of heart now, and enter that great rest above.
—Condensed from An Unshakeable Kingdom by David Gooding
It is by believing that we enter into rest. It is by obeying God and surrendering to His will that the rest enters into us. —Warren W. Wiersbe