“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.” (Heb 3:12-14)
In the New Testament, God’s house, or church, refers to God’s people who call on the name of the Lord. This enormous change occurred when Jesus tore down the thick curtain that separated us from the Most Holy Place and restored our relationship with the heavenly Father. Now, God dwells in those who believe in Jesus and so we become God’s house.
Do Not Harden Your Heart
So, we become God’s house by God’s grace and Jesus’ sacrifice. But, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have to do anything.
Hebrews 3:6 says,
“We are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.” (Heb 3:6)
The author says that there is a condition for us to become God’s house. To remain as his house, we’re to continue to hold firmly to our faith in Jesus. Even though its interpretation may vary depending on different theological standpoints, I think that the author implies here that if we fail to keep our faith in Jesus to the end, our salvation can’t be guaranteed.
Then, the author explains the importance of holding firmly to our faith through the story of exodus.
“So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest’” (Heb 3:7-11).
In Exodus, we read how miraculously God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt through Moses. The most symbolic event was God dividing the Red Sea.
A few days after allowing Moses to take the Israelites out of Egypt, Pharaoh changed his mind and chased the Israelites with his army and chariots.
But, when the Israelites cried out to the Lord between the Sea and the Egyptian army, God commanded Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea and when Moses did so, the water was divided and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground.
That was the real start of the long journey to the promised land. God’s purpose in saving the Israelites from Egypt wasn’t just to free them from their slavery. God had already promised to Abraham that he would give his descendants the land of Canaan, and now God started to work to fulfill the promise.
When God called Moses, he said,
“I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey - the home of the Canaanites….” (Exo 3:8)
So, the exodus was just a starting point. God’s purpose for the Israelites had begun. And, it would be complete when the Israelites actually went into the land and settled in it.
But, as you may know, most of the Israelites who crossed the Red Sea couldn’t reach the promised land, but died in the wilderness. And, Hebrews says that the reason they failed to get into the promised land was because they hardened their hearts toward God.
The start was good, magnificent, and victorious. After crossing the Red Sea, the Israelites sang a song and joyfully praised the Lord, giving him the highest glory.
But, that joy didn’t last long. When the Israelites faced all kinds of difficulties in the wilderness, they started to blame Moses and even tried to kill him and go back to Egypt. When Moses went up to Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments from God, the Israelites made a golden calf and worshiped it.
In the wilderness, when they lacked water, they blamed and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exo 17:7).
After leaving Mount Sinai, God guided the Israelites to a place called Kadesh Barnea. It served as a gate to the land of Canaan, and it only took 11 days to get there, which means that the promised land wasn’t really far from Egypt.
There, God commanded the Israelites to go up and conquer the land. He didn’t command them to send spies first. In fact, the Israelites wouldn’t have had to send spies if they had truly believed that God was with them and that He would give them victory.
But, the Israelites requested Moses to send men ahead to spy out the land and wait until they brought back a report. And, after spying out the land for forty days, the men returned and most of them reported, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are” (Nm 13:31).
Even though two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, gave positive reports, saying, “If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them” (Num 14:8-9), most of the Israelites didn’t listen to them, but tried to kill them by stoning them.
Their refusal to trust God led God to decide to make them wander in the wilderness for forty years. And, most of them, except for Joshua and Caleb, died in the wilderness as a result.
God said to Moses,
“Not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times - not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.” (Nm 14:22-23)
What’s important is that the author of Hebrews applies this story not only to the Israelites in the wilderness, but to every believer.
In fact, many New Testament books identify the exodus story with our salvation in Jesus Christ. In other words, our salvation is a spiritual Exodus. We were slaves of sin and followed the ways of the world, but God delivered us from them with his great love and mercy and saved us through Jesus Christ.
We see this in 1 Co chapter 10 verses 1-12. It’s a bit long, so let’s read it in turn. I’ll go first, you can read the next verse, and we’ll read the last verse together.
(1Co 10:1) For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.
(1Co 10:2) They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
(1Co 10:3) They all ate the same spiritual food
(1Co 10:4) and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.
(1Co 10:5) Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
(1Co 10:6) Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.
(1Co 10:7) Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.”
(1Co 10:8) We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did - and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died.
(1Co 10:9) We should not test Christ, as some of them did - and were killed by snakes.
(1Co 10:10) And do not grumble, as some of them did - and were killed by the destroying angel.
(1Co 10:11) These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.
(1Co 10:12) So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!
Here, Paul compares our Christian life to the Israelites’ life in the wilderness. Paul says that the Israelites’ failures are written in the Bible as examples and warning for us. It means that we can also be like the Israelites who failed to get into the promised land but died in the wilderness, if we fail to keep our faith to the end.
Again, God’s purpose in saving us wasn’t only to set us free from sin and death but to lead us to the promised land—the kingdom of God. That’s our final destination we should seek, and our salvation will be complete when we actually enter the kingdom in the end. Until that day comes, we should continue to keep our faith, being careful that we don’t fall or harden our hearts.
We are like pilgrims on the way to the kingdom of God. The Israelites started well, but most of them ended up dying in the wilderness because they stopped there and failed to move forward by believing God’s promise.
So, whatever good experiences we’ve had as Christians in the past and no matter how we first started to believe in Jesus, those are not enough. They can’t really guarantee our future salvation. What’s more important is to continue to make every effort to keep our faith until we see Jesus face to face in the kingdom of God.
Hold Your Original Conviction To The End
The author of Hebrews also said,
“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.” (Heb 3:12, 14)
So, the most important time for Christians is always now. As we also talked about in the book of Romans, our past salvation doesn’t guarantee our future salvation.
What we did and what we believed as Christians in the past are important but not enough because whatever we believed in the past, if we don’t keep our faith now, we’re drifting away from Jesus.
And, the future also can’t be our primary interest since we don’t actually know what will happen even tonight. Sometimes, I meet people who say, ‘I will go to church and I will believe in Jesus when I have enough money and time to do so. I’m so busy right now.’ Even though I understand what they’re saying, I can’t call it true faith. That kind of faith also can’t guarantee our future salvation.
So, what’s always important in Christian faith is not to remember what we did in the past or to decide to believe in Jesus in the future, but to accept Jesus and believe in him right now. ‘Now’ is the only time for us to do something to change. We can’t change our past or future. But now, we can decide whether or not to believe in Jesus and obey him.
In Hebrews chapter 3, the word ‘today’ appears several times.
“As the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Heb 3:7-8).
“Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Heb 3:13).
We should keep in mind that only today is the day of salvation. What we should be interested in is always today. No matter how you started your faith, if you feel like you are far away from Jesus, today is the day to decide to receive him in your heart again.
That’s how we remain as God’s house that Jesus owns. Jesus is faithfully building us up as God’s holy house. And, we should respond by trying to hold our original conviction to the very end until we actually enter the promised kingdom of God.