God wants us – not simply to be saved by the skin of our teeth – but to be zealous for Him. The problem with someone barely hanging onto his salvation may mean he was never saved in the first place.
There is some contention as to whether the Israelites in the Exodus, who wandered in the wilderness for forty years, were ultimately saved or not. In other words, upon their deliverance from Egypt, did that fact cause God to make a place for them in heaven after they died? Or, because of their disbelief in what God had promised, did that first generation not only die in the wilderness, but also go to hell?
Good arguments can be made for both endings for this chosen group. Certainly, the potential for these Israelites not coming into God’s presence after their death should make us today at least pause and think. After all, God gave those who were exiled in Egypt the prophet Moses who pointed the way to a great deliverance far beyond the physical. However, they were steeped in unbelief. Despite that, did Yahweh have mercy upon them even though He caused them all to perish outside His Holy Land?
The writer of Hebrews appears to be in the camp that says they didn’t receive the ultimate salvation. They had hardened their hearts – never a good sign. We see in Hebrews 3:11-12 the warning:
“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.
If one has an evil, unbelieving heart, and if he falls away, i.e. departs from faith, will he enter the abode, i.e. the habitation or dwelling place, of God? It doesn’t appear that way.
With that in mind, the text cautions those considered to be believers – after all, this letter is written to Jews who have professed Jesus Christ as Savior – to consider whether or not they are in the faith. Hebrews 4:1 says:
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.
The rest is that promised place in God’s presence. The writer warns his readers to fear, i.e. to be terrified of falling short, of making it into that place. What causes such a drastic possibility? Hebrews 4:6 tells us:
Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience…
It is disobedience in belief after having received the Good News that causes problems. This brings to mind the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13. Surely the one who hears the Word with it being snatched away by the devil isn’t saved. It appears that the person who has no root, who experiences the trials and tribulations of life and departs from belief, will likewise not see the Kingdom of Heaven. How about the one in whom the Word is choked, and he is unfruitful? Perhaps this person is similar to the one Hebrews describes. He has received the Good News. How much choking have those thorns done? Is it to the extent that any possible light within him is darkened through disobedience? There’s certainly a situation where this person is saved but is simply unfruitful, i.e. he’s able to reach heaven by a thin thread. What’s the dividing line?
Speaking of thorns, this is a prickly and uncomfortable question in my mind. But, the reality is that no one needs to be balanced on this precipice if we take to heart what Hebrews 4:11 urges:
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
If we diligently, eagerly, apply ourselves to seeking God through His Son, no one has to worry. Why? Well, the Lord knows every intention of our heart. It is revealed just as Hebrews 4:12 declares:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
This is the ultimate test of belief and salvation. In our heart, where do we stand? If we are for God in our believing loyalty, why should we have any concern at all about our future and eternity with Him?
However, if someone is on the fence, neither hot nor cold, God says get off and make a choice; otherwise, He will spit you out of my mouth (Revelation 3:16). That’s not a safe place to be.
And so, what should we do? Hebrews 4:14 makes it clear:
… let us hold fast our confession.