Part 1 - Creation: The Foundation of the Gospel
The Creation of the World
A foundation for the Gospel
There is a close connection between the creation of the physical world, the creation of Israel, and the creation of the Church. God's work in the creation of the world models God's work in the creation of Israel. These in turn model God's ultimate creation and work, a people with whom He will spend eternity. The emphasis in the gospel is that this creation is entirely the work of Christ. Humanity has no part in it. It is God alone who reaches down to a lost and fallen race and saves through grace. His only requirement of mankind in this is faith - a trust in who God is and what He has done.
The way God emphasizes that the work is sufficient, or complete, is with the idea of rest. Accompanying each of these three works is an emphasis on rest. God created the world and then rested. He created Israel and then rested. He created the church and now rests in that work of creation. As the first two works are models of the third, the first two rests are models of the rest God has in His finished work of redemption.
A New Testament Example
The writer to the Hebrews speaks of these three works of God and these three rests as though they were one. This discourse starts in chapter three of Hebrews where Jesus is shown to be much greater than Moses "inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house" (Heb. 3:3). The difference in honor between Jesus and Moses is the difference between the Creator and the creation.
Hebrews 3:5-6 says, "And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end." Moses was a servant in the house (Israel) while Jesus is a Son over His house, the church. The difference is that between a servant and a privileged member of the family that owns the house. The point is that it is Jesus who has built the house, that is the church. He is the Creator. He is not just a servant as Moses was.
The phrase "who house we are" refers to the writer and the other Jews who had faith in Christ. They are of Christ's house if they "hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end." The writer is talking about having faith in the good news of the gospel. This faith is a "confidence" in the work of Christ. It is a "rejoicing" in the good news of redemption. There is an emphasis on "holding fast" to faith as a requirement to be a part of Christ's church. This is repeated in Hebrews 3:14, "For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end."
The opposite of this faith is unbelief. This is to put no confidence in, to put no value on, to not reverence the work that God did. Even though that work is complete, it will not benefit those who do not have faith. Thus, the writer to the Hebrews quotes part of Psalm 95: "Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: 'Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness, Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, "They always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways." So I swore in My wrath, "They shall not enter My rest" ' " (Heb. 3:7-11). In the redemption from Egypt, as God was creating the nation of Israel, the children of Israel "saw My works forty years." But those who did not believe in His works perished in the wilderness; they did not enter into the land of promise.
And so the writer says, "For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it" (Heb. 4:2). He is talking about the gospel, and the faith required of those who would benefit from it.
Types of Redemption
It is here that God's work of creation, His work in creating Israel, and His work in creating the Church are referred to as though they were one. Hebrews 4:3-10 records, "For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: 'So I swore in My wrath, "They shall not enter My rest," ' although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: 'And God rested on the seventh day from all His works'; and again in this place: 'They shall not enter My rest.' Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, 'Today,' after such a long time, as it has been said: 'Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.' For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His."
Each of God's three works point to a rest in Christ:
- The work of creation, a rest in Christ
"For we who have believed (the gospel) do enter that rest, as He has said: 'So I swore in My wrath, "They shall not enter My rest," ' although the works were finished from the foundation of the world." A rest in Christ is possible to enter into because the creation work is finished. This is verse three. The next verse confirms that this is referring to creation because then "God rested on the seventh day from all His works."
- The work of Israel's redemption, a rest in Christ
This is shown in verses five through eight. It is actually an account of not entering the rest because of unbelief. Nevertheless, the example is the work of God in delivering Israel out of Egypt. They "saw My works forty years." While the unbelieving perished in the wilderness, a new generation did enter the land. Among the few that did believe was Joshua, and he was the one who led them to take the land. These God gave a rest to, as shown in Joshua 21:43-45, "So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. The Lord gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass."
Aside from the unbelieving who perished and became an example to us, even the ones who did enter the land did not enter the rest to which God is ultimately pointing. For the writer says, "For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God (Heb. 4:8-9). This episode of deliverance was intended by God to be a model of the redemptive work of Christ. So verse six says, "therefore it remains that some must enter it." The emphasis is on a rest available now as verse seven shows, "Today, if you will hear His voice."
- The redemptive work of Christ, a rest in Christ
Hebrews 4:10 says, "For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His." Here it is referring to a rest available in Christ because the redemptive work of Christ is finished. That this passage is alluding to the gospel is shown in verse two: "For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them ..." Also the next verse: "For we who have believed do enter that rest." This section on believing and entering into the rest is expounding on the statement made in Hebrews 3:6, "but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end." The only way to benefit from the work of Christ, to be part of His new creation, is to "hold fast" to a faith in Him.
Having emphasized the finished work of Christ, the rest available in Him, and the necessity of faith, the writer to the Hebrews finishes this passage with a final exhortation to "hold fast" to faith in Christ. He says, "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession" (Heb. 4:14).
The Models Tied Together
Chapters three and four of Hebrews tie together the creation account, the redemption of Israel, and the redemption of mankind. All are used in a way that points to Christ. All point out that God has completed a work. All point that God is resting in His completed work. All are used by the writer to show that by faith one can enter into a rest in Christ.
The first model, the work of creation and the Sabbath rest, while
directly pointing to the redemption of Israel, also points to
mankind's redemption through Christ and the believer's rest. The writer to
the Hebrews states: "For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has
said: 'So I swore in My wrath, "They shall not enter My rest," ' although
the works were finished from the foundation of the world" (Heb. 4:3). This
is a remarkable verse in that it interchangeably uses these models showing
that they are all pointing to the rest by faith that mankind is to have in
the finished work of Jesus Christ. See figure 1b