16 For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? 17 Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief (Hebrews 3:16–19, NKJV).
Read today’s passage again, carefully. The writer has urged Christians to “hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.” Israel’s sins and failure to enter the rest of the promised land warns us (Heb. 3:6-15). Now, he summarizes for emphasis; Christians can fall and fail to enter God’s rest like Israel. (1) Israel rebelled after hearing God’s word (v. 16). We must hear God’s word, but that alone does not bring our souls into God’s rest. (2) God’s people do not escape wrath and punishment when they sin and rebel against God (v. 17). Israel’s sin stirred God’s wrath against them, and they died in the wilderness. Even so, Christians who “depart from the living God” will face His wrath (Heb. 3:12-13). (3) Without obedience, God’s people do not enter God’s rest (v. 18). Disobedient, rebellious Israel stands as a stark warning that Christians cannot live in disobedience without forfeiting eternal rest (Heb. 2:1-3; Matt. 10:28). (4) Unbelief is identified by disobedience (v. 19). Far from separating unbelief and disobedience, the Holy Spirit joined the two here. Unbelief produced Israel’s disobedience and God’s punishment (the forfeiture of Canaan’s rest). Even so, belief produces obedience leading to God’s eternal rest in heaven. Let us learn and live the lesson of Israel in the wilderness, lest we fall short of God’s rest like they did (Heb. 4:1, 11).
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; (Romans 1:28, NKJV)
By definition, a debased mind is “unapproved” and, by implication, “worthless.” It does not stand the test and, therefore, is not approved. The Greeks used the word translated “debased” to metals and coins that failed the assayer’s test. So, it was cast aside, rejected, “reprobate” (KJV, ASV). The debased mind does not appear suddenly. The Holy Spirit explained that it develops when people no longer approve of holding on to their knowledge of God. Romans 1 catalogs the process and effects of divesting oneself of the knowledge of God (1:19-25). Foolishly refusing to hold God in one’s knowledge results in all manner of immoral conduct (1:26-27, 28-32). What we retain in our minds shapes our lives. We invariably spiral downward when we are comfortable with not retaining God in our thoughts. The gospel of Christ has the power to save us from the sin that is formed in and results from debased minds (Rom. 1:16-17). The gospel renews our minds when we believe, repent, and obey the Lord Jesus (Eph. 4:17-24; Rom. 12:1-2). Otherwise, our sin put us under God’s wrath and righteous judgment of death (Rom. 1:18, 32). Retain God in your knowledge and follow His will.
10 Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him. (Psalm 2:10–12, NKJV)
The psalmist counsels the kings and rulers of the earth to be wise, accept instruction, serve the Lord God with reverent joy, and worship the Son. This course of conduct stands in sharp relief to their futile fight against God and His Christ (Psa. 2:1-3). Wisdom, instruction, reverent service, and joyful worship are necessary traits of trusting Christ (v. 12). King Solomon observed, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10). Reverent humility accepts God’s instruction, but pride promotes ignorance. Honoring Christ the King with obedient service is the essence of trusting Him. He sees and blesses such trust in Him. By contrast, obstinate opposition to Christ kindles His righteous wrath (v. 12). The rulers and judges of the earth continue to reap what they sow, and so do we (Gal. 6:7-8). Worship the Son and be blessed or fight against Him, stir up His anger, and be punished.
4 He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. 5 Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: 6 “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.” (Psalm 2:4–6, NKJV)
God’s purposes are not overthrown by the plots and schemes of humans (Psa. 2:1-3). God replies with scornful derision in verse 4 to those who would fight against His Anointed (Christ) and their rule. God responds with wrath and fury (v. 5). He is Lord (Heb., Adonay) over earth’s kings and rulers, and He counters their opposition to His will with an unequivocal declaration in verse 6: He would succeed. 1) “Yet” – They would fail in their resistance to God and His Christ. This verse lands a death blow to the premillennial doctrine that God withdrew His kingdom plans because the Jews rejected Jesus. 2) “I have set My King” – God installed the King of His choosing. God’s Anointed was chosen for His righteousness and crowned king by Almighty God (Jer. 23:5-7; Heb. 1:8-9). After His resurrection, Jesus Christ ascended to His throne at God’s right hand (Psa. 110:1; Dan. 7:13-14; Eph. 1:20-23; Acts 2:32-36). Jesus is king now. 3) “On My holy hill of Zion” – Christ rules over God’s kingdom. Zion is God’s “dwelling place” and “resting place” (Psa. 132:13-14). King David seized the stronghold of Zion (1 Chron. 11:4-7). Now Jesus Christ (the son of David) is enthroned on Mount Zion, the “heavenly Jerusalem” to which we have come and over which Christ reigns (Micah 4:1-4; Heb. 12:22-23). Christ rules “in the midst of His enemies” (Psa. 110:2). Heaven and earth are under His authority (Matt. 28:18).
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. (Romans 1:18–19, NKJV)
God’s word has been revealed from heaven (Rev. 1:1-2). It reveals our need for salvation because we have all sinned against God, and our sin brings eternal death (Rom. 3:23; 6:23; 1:16-17). God’s wrath is also revealed from heaven. The target of God’s just anger and punishment is “all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (v. 18). Ungodliness is impiety and irreverence toward God. Unrighteousness describes conduct that is unjust and not upright toward others (1 Jno. 5:17). Ungodly and unrighteous conduct display a character of faithlessness. They hold down (suppress) the advance and blessings of divine truth in our lives. God’s wrath against sinners is justifiable because He had given a knowledge of Himself to mankind (v. 19-20). Yet, people refused to acknowledge God and honor Him with godly and righteous gratitude (Rom. 1:21). When we reject faith in God we hinder truth and put ourselves under divine wrath. We are without excuse, because God has made Himself known to us through His creation (Rom. 1:20). And, God has revealed His will to us by the word of His Son, Jesus Christ (Jno. 1:1-3, 14; Heb. 1:1-2). The gospel of Christ will free you from sin and death. It is your escape from God’s wrath when you obey it in faith (Acts 10:34-35; 2 Thess. 1:8-9).
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36, ESV)
Yesterday we learned from this verse that whosoever believes in the Son “has eternal life” precisely because one obeys the Son. One who “does not obey the Son” is under God’s wrath instead of life. There is one more thing worth our consideration here. Many who believe one is saved “by faith alone” also believe in the impossibility of apostasy (“once saved, always saved”). However, if it is true that once the believer has eternal life he will always have life and never lose it – even if he becomes disobedient – then it necessarily follows the disobedient unbeliever can never escape the wrath of God that “remains on him.” To believe “once saved, always saved,” one must (according to this view of John 3:36) also believe “once lost, always lost.” (We are aware Calvinistic theology accepts these conclusions.) However, the gospel does not. It is for all (Mk. 16:15). God desires the salvation of every sinner (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Freewill enables us to choose to hear, believe, and obey the gospel to be saved (Acts 2:21-22, 37-41; 17:30). It also allows us to choose to sin and fall from grace (Gal. 5:4; 2 Pet. 2:20-22). Security in Christ is sure when we obey in faith: “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:10-11).
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (John 3:36, NKJV)
It is unfortunate the King James translators in 1611 used “believeth not” in the second part of this sentence. The New King James version followed suit, using the more modern, “does not believe.” But, the word in the Greek manuscript is apeitheō, which means “disobey” (BDAG), as in Romans 2:8 where the KJV and NKJV translate it, “do not obey” the truth. When the word is thus translated, John 3:36 takes on a whole new meaning: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36, ESV, see also, NASB). Obedience is necessary to have everlasting life. Since the one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who does not obey the Son “shall not see life,” we properly conclude that believing in the Son takes more than faith alone. Surely this why Jesus said, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Lk. 6:46) Believers obey Jesus. Those who reject Him are “disobedient (apeitheō) to the word” (1 Pet. 2:7, 8). Demons believe, but faith alone will not give them eternal life (Jas. 2:19-20). Those who believe in the Son have everlasting life precisely because they trust and obey Him. The disobedient shall not have life, but punishment (Matt. 25:46). Have the faith to obey Jesus, and you will see everlasting life.
1 The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. 2 Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. 4 Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. (Psalm 19:1–4, NKJV)
“A study entitled ‘A Limited Habitable Zone for Complex Life’ and published in The Astrophysical Journal drastically cuts the number of planets that could potentially host intelligent life” (“Extraterrestrial life could be scarcer than first thought, study says,” foxnews.com). After this more than 3-year-long study of 1,327 stars close to the earth, “no ‘glaringly obvious’ evidence of extraterrestrial life” was found (“No signs of alien life in closest 1,300 stars, study says: ‘We are left with zero candidates,’” foxnews.com). It is truly ironic that while humans search the distant stars for evidence of and messages from other life forms, they refuse to listen to the clear message the heavens communicate of God’s glory, power, knowledge, and wisdom. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). When people refuse the evidence of God’s power and deity in the material world, they are left searching aimlessly for the very answers they refuse to see. And, by refusing His gospel of salvation, they remain under God’s wrath against their sins (Rom. 1:16-19, 22-25).
“For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Romans 13:4, NKJV)
Today marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Allied invasion of Europe on the beaches of Normandy, France. Their goal was to liberate a continent captured in the grip of Nazism. Their success continues to be felt to this present hour. As we honor the sacrifices of that day and the freedom it signaled for millions of souls, we ought to remember it is God who ordains civil authorities. The governments of men are intended by Him to execute justice, and to apply punishment (wrath) to evildoers. Therefore, we are to submit to governing authorities out of our respect for God (Rom. 13:1-3). They are God’s servants for us to administer what is good. But, what happens when governments before evil and oppressive? Since God rules the nations, He raises them up and He brings them down when their rulers and their citizens refuse righteousness (Prov. 14:34; Dan. 4:28-35). We must keep on doing good and not take personal vengeance against evil. Instead, we are to give place to the wrath of God: “for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:17-19). He did. And, He continues to do so. Let the righteous be patient, and “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:20-21).
8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. 11 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:8–11, NKJV)
Paul returns to soberness as he exhorts Christians (sons of light, sons of the day) to live so as to seize and preserve the salvation to which we have been appointed. It is necessary to protect ourselves from sin with faith, love and hope as we live for Him who died for us. Wrath is appointed for those who indulge themselves in the darkness of sin, choosing to reject the richness of God’s salvation for the futility of the flesh. Christians prepare for Christ’s return by living soberly. We are strengthened and comforted by the assurance of the eternal salvation to be obtained when Christ returns (2 Thess. 2:14; Heb. 10:39; 1 Pet. 1:6-9). You will never find comfort in the darkness of sin. Come out of your sin and live for Jesus. When He returns, Christians will live together with Him forevermore. If you are a faithful Christian, whether you are alive or dead on that day will make no difference. The difference will be whether you lived soberly in the light of truth and obtain salvation, or in the darkness of sin and obtain wrath.