Online Bible Commentary
Because of Their Unbelief
Hebrews 3:14 We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. 15 As has just been said: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion." 16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. (NIV)
In this passage, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews continues with his warning against unbelief. This is the writer’s second warning to the Hebrews in this letter. In all five warnings were issued, and they all were specific warnings directed at specific goings on with the people. Although to us the letter is anonymous, the writer was very familiar with this group of Hebrews, as they were with him. In my opinion, this letter was written by Paul, his last letter, to the Hebrew Christians at the church in Jerusalem late 67 A.D. to early 68 A.D.
Verses twelve through fifteen, in the literal Greek translation, form one long sentence, with verses separated by semicolons. Verse twelve warns the believers not to fall into disbelief. Verse thirteen then encourages believers to encourage one another to help keep this from happening.
The literal Greek translation for verse fourteen is: “partakers for we have become of Christ, if truly the beginning of the assurance until end firm we hold fast;”. The meaning is that we will not fall into disbelief because when we persevere to the end we will share in the glory of Christ in Heaven. Even though this verse appears to be conditional because of the presence of the word “if”, it actually means that the action is as good as done. This verse represents a figure of speech called the heterosis of tenses. It is a prophetic utterance that, although it seems to be in the future, is actually in the past. The action is already seen as being accomplished through Divine purpose, displaying the absolute certainty that we cannot lose our salvation.
Verse fifteen continues with this long sentence, and its literal translation from the Greek is thus: “in the to be said, Today if the voice of Him you hear, no do harden the hearts of you, as in the provocation.” This verse is a figure of speech called an ellipsis of repetition. It is a quote from Psalm 95:7-8, and a repeat of verses 7-8 in this chapter of Hebrews. It is repeated here for emphasis. The writer is re-emphasizing to the Hebrews not to harden their hearts and provoke God like their ancestors did during their forty years of wandering in the desert after the exodus from Egypt (v. 16). They heard the command of the Lord, but they did not obey because of unbelief, a lack of trust (Dt. 1:26).
The unbelief of their ancestors provoked God and incurred His wrath (v. 17). An entire generation, some 600,000 Hebrews, were made to wander in the desert for forty years until all had died. Only Caleb and Joshua were spared from that unbelieving generation, because they were the only two who held steadfast to their belief in the God of the Bible.
God swore that they would “never enter His rest” because of their disobedience (v. 18). So the Hebrews were not allowed to enter His rest, the Promised Land, because of their “unbelief” (v. 19). Note the writer’s use of the three words “sinned” (v. 17), “disobeyed” (v. 18), and “unbelief” (v. 19). They are all connected, forming the reason that one is not allowed to enter God’s rest, whether it be the Promised Land, or Heaven.
The sin was the result of unbelief. Disobedience was the action of unbelief. Unbelief is the cause that we cannot enter God’s rest. Unbelief is a lack of trust in God. It is not trusting in the promises of the Bible. It is trusting in one’s self, others, or other gods and not in the God of the Bible. It is the unforgiveable sin. All other sins of disobedience can be forgiven by God. But unbelief cannot. It, and it alone, will keep us out of Heaven.