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THEY COULD NOT ENTER IN BECAUSE OF UNBELIEF

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, February 19, 2012

“To whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:18-19).


The Israelites had been called out of Egypt to go into the promised land of Canaan. Egypt was a type or illustration of sin. Canaan was a type of Heaven. Dr. John Gill (1697-1771) said that Canaan “was a type of heaven, that rest from toil and labour, which remains for the people of God; and into which it is said this generation did not enter” (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the New Testament, volume III, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, p. 391; comment on Hebrews 3:11).

“So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest”
       (Hebrews 3:11).

Matthew Poole (1624-1679) said of this verse, “They shall never enter into my rest. If they enter in, then I am neither true nor God. The rest literally was the land of Canaan, Deuteronomy 12:9; in the truth of that type, heaven...this is a shutting them out of all peace, into eternal sorrow, anguish, distress, and trouble, and every other evil contrary unto this rest” (Matthew Poole, A Commentary on the Whole Bible, volume III, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1990 reprint, p. 821; comment on Hebrews 3:11).

That is what it meant when God said, “I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest” (Hebrews 3:11). The ancient rabbis said, “The generation of the wilderness have no part in the world to come.”

Why were those who wandered in the wilderness prevented from entering the promised land of Canaan? Our text says, “They could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19). Commenting on that verse, Spurgeon said, “Canaan is a type to us of the great and goodly things of the covenant of grace which belong to believers; but if we have no faith, we cannot possess a single covenant blessing...the unbelieving must have their portion in the fiery lake. Oh, that God would deliver them from the dreadful sin of unbelief!” (C. H. Spurgeon, “An Earnest Warning Against Unbelief,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume LVI, Pilgrim Publications, 1979 reprint, p. 470; comment on Hebrews 3:18-19).

“To whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:18-19).

Why should you be concerned about what happened long centuries ago to those unbelieving Israelites in the wilderness? Because,

“All these things happened unto them for ensamples [examples]: and they are written for our admonition [instruction]...” (I Corinthians 10:11).

The account of unbelieving Israel dying in the wilderness, not able to enter the rest of Canaan, was given to us for an example. If you expect to enter salvation and Heaven, you will not do so if you fail to believe in Jesus. Unless you come to Jesus by faith, it will be said of you, “they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19).

Where will you spend eternity?
   This question comes to you and me;
What will your final answer be,
   Where will you spend eternity?
Eternity, eternity,
   Where will you spend eternity?
(“Where Will You Spend Eternity?” by Elisha A. Hoffman, 1839-1929;
     altered by the Pastor).

“Where will I spend eternity?” Sing it!

Eternity, eternity,
   Where will I spend eternity?

“They could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19).

The Israelites could not enter in to Canaan. This pictures those who cannot enter in to Christ because of unbelief. Thus did the unbelief of the Israelites prevent them from entering in to rest in the land of Canaan. We learn three lessons from those unbelieving Israelites that apply to you if you are unsaved – if you have not entered in to Christ because of unbelief.

I. First, they experienced great blessings, but they could not enter in because of unbelief.

They had seen God do great things. These people were in Egypt when God judged Pharaoh. They had seen the waters turn to blood. They had seen the cattle of the Egyptians plagued, and great hailstones which destroyed the harvest. They had been in the light when the Egyptians were in darkness that could be felt. They had seen the plagues of locusts and of lice, and the other judgments brought on Pharaoh and his people. They had all eaten of the paschal lamb and had put blood on their doorposts – and had been spared on the night that God slew the firstborn in every Egyptian home. They had gone out of Egypt, from the land where they were slaves, brought forth to freedom by the hand of God. These very people had been with Moses when Pharaoh chased them and God opened the Red Sea, and they went through safely. They had seen that sea close over the Egyptians, drowning Pharaoh’s army. Their voices had rung out, “I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea” (Exodus 15:1). And yet, “they could not enter in because of unbelief.”

There are some of you here this morning who have seen great blessings sent by God! You know how God saved our church when we were attacked. When the Devil roared against us, you have seen God deliver us. You have seen many people delivered and saved by the Blood of the Son of God. You have been present when God answered our prayers and blest our congregation. Your eyes have seen these things, and you have heard the older members of our church tell of wondrous blessings of God. And yet you yourself cannot enter in because of unbelief! God’s justice demands that you be judged, as were the Israelites, because you have seen such blessings and yet you, yourself cannot enter in because of unbelief!

Again, these Israelites had great things revealed to them. God never spoke to any other people as He spoke to them. God gave them the Ten Commandments, written with His own fingers. He dwelt in the Holy Place in their Tabernacle. The daily sacrifices spoke to them of the Blood atonement of the coming Christ. No other people had such revelations of God! And yet they refused to hear, and they refused to submit. And yet they believed not. “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19).

You too have received a clear revelation. In fact you have heard the Gospel more plainly than they ever did. You have the New Testament, which gives far more revelation than they had. Will it be with you as it was with them? Their carcasses rotted in the wilderness. “They could not enter in because of unbelief.” Will that be true of you as well?

Remember also that God showed great patience toward them, “When your fathers...saw my works forty years” (Hebrews 3:9). What long-suffering patience God showed to them for forty years! What gentleness and patience God showed to them! He gave them decades to repent, forty long years! But yet they could not enter in because of unbelief!

Will it be the same with you who have heard the Gospel for months without entering in to His rest in Christ? What will happen to you when God’s patience wears out? There is a clear warning in the Bible. God says, “My spirit shall not always strive with man” (Genesis 6:3). I am afraid that before long it will be said of you, “they could not enter in because of unbelief.” Yes, the Israelites were greatly blest, but they could not enter in because of unbelief. Will that be true of you as well?

II. Second, the only thing that kept them out was unbelief.

“They could not enter in because of unbelief.” It was not their sins that kept them out. God was ready to pardon them of every sin but unbelief. Jesus said, “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men” (Matthew 12:31). It was not their sins and blasphemies that kept them from entering Christ’s rest. It was their blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, their rejection of His work in their hearts, that kept them from saving faith, “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” The greatest sin will not keep anyone out of Heaven. Unbelief alone will stop you from entering “into his rest.”

Again, it was not difficulties that kept them out. When they came to Canaan there were walled cities and giants to oppose them. Yes, but those things could not stop God from bringing them into the land of promise. God would make the walls of Jericho fall to the ground. God would send hornets in front of them to chase out the giants. All they had to do was go in and take possession of the land. Yet “they could not enter in because of unbelief.” It was unbelief alone that kept them from entering in to rest!

Only believe and you will enter into rest in Christ! Trust in Christ and all impossibilities will disappear, and all difficulties will vanish. Nothing stops you except your unbelief. And if you do not come to Jesus and believe in Him you will never enter in to His rest! Jesus said, “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). That is the soul-damning sin of unbelief! How I pray that the Spirit of God will convict you, “Of sin, because they believe not on me” (John 16:9). If you do not believe on Jesus, you are doomed! It will be said of you, “they could not enter in because of unbelief.” Spurgeon said, “It was not the sons of Anak that kept them out; it was not the waste howling wilderness; it was nothing but their own unbelief” (ibid., p. 480).

III. Third, there were a few that did believe, and did enter in.

But, of those who left Egypt for Canaan, they were few. They were few indeed! Joshua and Caleb are the only two original pilgrims who entered in, though Moses entered later on the Mount of Transfiguration. God said,

“Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers, Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and...Joshua the son of Nun, which standeth before thee, he shall go in thither...” (Deuteronomy 1:35, 36, 38).

Only two of the thousands that left Egypt entered into the Promised Land of Canaan! What does that show? Why it shows that “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14; cf. Matthew 20:16). It shows how “narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14). It has always been only a few. In the time of Noah only “eight souls were saved” (I Peter 3:20). In the time of Elijah God said, “I have left me seven thousand in Israel” out of the countless thousands who were there (I Kings 19:18; Romans 11:4). In the time of Paul there was only “a remnant according to the election of grace” (Romans 11:5). And Jesus said, “Fear not, little flock” (Luke 12:32). Thus we should not be surprised to learn, of the thousands that left Egypt, only Caleb and Joshua entered the Promised Land. “Narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14).

Will you be one of the very few that are saved? Do not assume that you will! In nearly 54 years of ministry I have known hundreds upon hundreds who assumed that they would be saved. Yet most of them “could not enter in because of unbelief.” Some of their carcasses are already rotting in the wilderness!

Caleb and Joshua did not “enter into his rest” because they were better than those who fell in that wilderness. Oh, no! They entered in because they had faith, which is “the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Caleb and Joshua entered in because they believed. The rest could not enter in, God said, because, “ye did not believe the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 1:32).

“To whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:18-19).

Think again of Caleb who, along with Joshua, was one of the two that entered in. Caleb had “brethren” who did not believe. They said, “We be not able to go up against the people” of Canaan (Numbers 13:31). But Caleb did not follow them in their unbelief. Later Caleb said,

“My brethren that went up with me [to Canaan] made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the Lord my God” (Joshua 14:8).

Caleb did not let his brethren stop him from entering in! What a lesson for you! Do not let unbelieving parents or relatives stop you from entering in! Do not let them make your heart “melt” with doubts and fears! Christ said, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). And do not let unbelievers who attend the church stop you from entering in!

Joshua was the other one, with Caleb, who entered in. While he was still very young he ministered with Moses. When the other Israelites made a golden calf and danced around it, Joshua reported their sin to Moses (Exodus 32:17). While the others worshipped in their tents, this young man “departed not out of the tabernacle” (Exodus 33:11). He stayed there alone with God. Notice that Joshua stood with Moses against the sins of the people. Notice that Joshua stayed close to God in the Tabernacle. That’s the kind of young person who will have faith to “enter into his rest” (Hebrews 3:18). Those young people who take sides with the leadership of the church against carnal “church kids” will enter in. Those who seek God when they are alone will enter in. But carnal, thoughtless young people will not enter in! “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” Let every young man and woman, who wants to “enter in” with Caleb and Joshua, say in their hearts,

Though none go with me, still I will follow,
   Though none go with me, still I will follow.
Though none go with me, still I will follow,
   No turning back, no turning back!

That song is attributed to a young man in India who became a Christian. The tune is a melody from India (source: John R. Rice, D.D., Soul-Stirring Songs and Hymns, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1972, number 316). “The lyrics are based on the last words of a man in Assam, north-east India, who along with his family was converted to Christianity in the middle of the 19th century through the efforts of a Welsh missionary. Called to [give up] his faith by the village chief, the convert declared, ‘I have decided to follow Jesus.’ In response to threats [on] his family, he continued, ‘Though none go with me, still I will follow.’ His wife was killed, and he was executed while singing, ‘The cross before me, the world behind me.’ This display of faith...led to the conversion of the chief and others in the village” (Source: Wikipedia). Sing it!

The cross before me, the world behind me,
   The cross before me, the world behind me,
The cross before me, the world behind me –
   No turning back, no turning back!

“They could not enter in because of unbelief.” Will you enter in? Will you trust Jesus enough to come to Him? His Blood will cleanse your sin and you will enter in and be saved! Will you enter in to Christ by simple faith? Sing it again!

Though none go with me, still I will follow,
   Though none go with me, still I will follow.
Though none go with me, still I will follow,
   No turning back, no turning back!

The cross before me, the world behind me,
   The cross before me, the world behind me,
The cross before me, the world behind me –
   No turning back, no turning back!

(END OF SERMON)
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at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

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write to him at P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. Or phone him at (818)352-0452.

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Hebrews 3:8-19.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Alas, Alas, How Blind I’ve Been” (by Nathan Strong, 1748-1816).


THE OUTLINE OF

THEY COULD NOT ENTER IN BECAUSE OF UNBELIEF

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“To whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:18-19).

(Hebrews 3:11; I Corinthians 10:11)

I. First, they experienced great blessings, but they could not enter in
because of unbelief, Exodus 15:1; Hebrews 3:9; Genesis 6:3.

II. Second, the only thing that kept them out was unbelief, Matthew 12:31;
John 8:24; 16:9.

III. Third, there were a few that did believe, and did enter in,
Deuteronomy 1:35, 36, 38; Matthew 22:14; 20:16; 7:14; I Peter 3:20;
I Kings 19:18; Romans 11:4, 5; Luke 12:32; Ephesians 2:8-9;
Deuteronomy 1:32; Numbers 13:31; Joshua 14:8; Matthew 10:37;
Exodus 32:17; 33:11.