THE TWO LANDS OF CANAANHebrews 4:1-13 Feb 9, 2005
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ wrote these words to Jewish Christians in Hebrews 4:1-11: “Therefore, since the promise of entering His rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us (Christians), just as they(Israel); but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.. Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,
‘So I declared on oath in My anger, they shall not enter My rest'(Psalm 95:11).
“And yet His work has been finished since the creation of he world. For somewhere He has spoken about the seventh day in these words: `And on the seventh day God rested from all His work'(Gen.2:2). And again in the passage above he says, `They shall not enter my rest.' It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later He spoke through David, as was said before:
‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.'
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains then, a rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.”
----NIV Children's Edition. The words in parenthesis are my words for clarification.
Paul gave this warning to Christians in verse 1, “Therefore since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.” He gave the same warning in Heb. 3:12, “Beware brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart in departing from the living God.” God's rest in this passage is heaven which the faithful will enter at the resurrection, after they have completed their work on earth, even as God entered into His rest after completing His works of creation. This passage makes a comparison, by analogy, between Israelites who lived during the 40 years of the wilderness wanderings and Jewish Christians who lived in the first century A. D. The Pulpit Commentary makes this comment on this passage, “It is possible that the writer of the Epistle intended a reference
to the corresponding 40 years, from the manifestation of Christ to the destruction of Jerusalem, which were drawing near to a close at the time Paul wrote these words.” Jesus began preaching in 30 A.D., and the Israelites irritated God by rejecting Jesus as the Messiah during the three and a half years of His ministry and by rejecting the gospel of Christ for the following 37 years of church history. God has not sent them a prophet for over 2,000 years. It was 40 years from the time Jesus started to preach till Jerusalem was destroyed, as Jesus predicted. There is indeed a similarity between those 40 years in the wilderness wanderings and those 40 years from Christ to 70 A.D., when the Jews lost their temple forever. As the Hebrew people rejected Moses in the wilderness, many Hebrew Christians were dangerously close to rejecting Christ in the early years of Christianity. This is what the above Bible passage is all about.
None the less, we cannot be certain that Paul had in mind that 40 year period from Christ to 70 A..D., but Paul most certainly did have in mind the similarity between the Hebrews in the wilderness wanderings and the Hebrew Christians who lived under the Christian religion. The Pulpit Commentary makes this comment on Hebrews 4:1: “The new thought in this verse is that the true rest of God(heaven), which was only typified by the rest of Canaan remains still for the attainment of Christians.” This means that the true rest for the Jews never was the land of Canaan which the Hebrews entered in olden times. God's true rest is heaven. Paul affirms this fact by saying that 500 years after Israel entered the land of Canaan, David offered Israel God's true rest in heaven by saying, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion”(Psalm 95:7,8: Hebrews 3:7-15). By that statement, David offered Israel rest in the upper heavenly Canaan. The first land of Canaan was only a symbol, a type or shadow of heaven. There were two lands of Canaan, two lands of rest. The earthly Canaan was a rest to Israel from the hard bondage in Egypt, along with the great earthly blessings God bestowed upon them. God always had a heavenly rest for Israel who were on their way to the heavenly Canaan, but it was conditioned on their faithful obedience to the law of Moses. For all disciples of Jesus who sincerely believe in the doctrine, “Once saved; always saved, ” it would be wise to carefully study Paul's teachings in Hebrews, chapters 3 and 4.
In. like manner, there were two lands of rest, two lands of Canaan for the Hebrew Christians in the first century.. Paul's message to the Hebrew Christians, and Gentile Christians as well is that they were in the earthly Canaan of the Christian religion, which is the church Jesus purchased with His own blood, His earthly kingdom which has been on this earth for 2,000 years. Paul's admonition to the Hebrew Christians was,
“Don't make the same mistake your forefathers made who rebelled against God in the wilderness and fail entrance into the heavenly Canaan. The first Hebrew generation rebelled against God and were never allowed to enter the land of Canaan. They remained in the wilderness for the rest of their lives. In like manner Paul is saying to Jewish Christians, “You are in the Christian land of Canaan, the church, but to be a Christian is no absolute guarantee that you will enter the upper Canaan in heaven. Jesus taught that heaven is for only Christians who are faithful to death, for those who overcome evil during their earthly journey.
Finally, let me summarize what we have learned from Hebrews 4. As we have pursued the analogy between Hebrew members of the Old Covenant church in the wilderness and Hebrew members of the New Covenant church, one important truth we have learned. is that what the land of Canaan was to Israel, the Church of Christ is to Christians. Israel left Egypt, the land of bondage, and camped all the way to earthly Canaan, which was to them the land of promise and rest. The second generation of Israelites entered the land of Canaan under he leadership of Joshua. For 1500 years Canaan was their land of rest on earth until they died. In addition, eternal life in the upper land of Canaan, the heavenly land of rest, was the promise of God to the Hebrew people who were faithful to the law of Moses till they died. All Hebrew people who were faithful to the law of Moses, and died in faith, went to paradise to await the resurrection of their bodies. At the second coming of Christ, they will be immortalized, and Jesus will take them to heaven.
Eternal life was the hope of Hebrew people as long as the religion of Moses was valid, but that religion ended when Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the whole world. The Christian religion teaches that the law of Moses is no longer valid. It lasted only till Jesus the Messiah died on the cross, and God replaced it with the Christian religion. That God would give Israel a new covenant was predicted by the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah 31:31-34 says, “Behold the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah–not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord.” A study of history proves beyond all reasonable doubt that Jeremiah's prophecy was fulfilled in the coming of Christ and the religion which God established for both Jews and Gentiles. I realize that many good people will disagree with what I have said in this message, and I understand. I have presented the viewpoint of the Christian
religion, and it my sincere hope that what I have said will help others better
understand the religion of Christ.
As Israel left the land of bondage, in like manner Christians have left the bondage of a God-rejecting world, called out of moral and religious darkness into God's marvelous light. By obeying he gospel of Christ, and becoming new men and women in Christ Jesus, they entered the kingdom of Christ on earth, also called the Church of Christ and the Church of God. To Christians the church is a land of rest and peace., as well as a land of promise through Abraham. Jesus said, “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” The church, God's called out people, is our land of rest on earth, our earthly Canaan. Brigham Young, who succeeded Joseph Smith as leader of the Mormon church, led his followers from the Mid-west to the valley of the great Salt Lake. . On arriving he said, “This is Canaan.” He meant that to him and his followers, Utah was to be the promised land of Canaan, the land of rest, for the Mormon church. However, no earthly state or nation is the land of Canaan for Christians. The church is the land of Canaan for the New covenant people of God. One of the Christian hymns is entitled, “Camping In Canaan's Land.” The first verse says:
“I have left the land of bondage with it earthly treasures,
I've journeyed to a place where there is love on every hand;
I've exchanged a land of heartaches for a land of pleasure,
I'm camping, I'm camping in Canaan's happy land.
Every day I'm camping in the land of Canaan,
And with rapture I survey its wond-drous beauties grand;
Glory , halllelujah, find the land of promise,
I'm camping, I'm camping t'ward Canaan's happy land.”
This hymn speaks of both Canaan lands in Christian religion. One is the church and the other is heaven. The fourth line says, “I'm camping in Canaan's happy land.” We are in Canaan now, the Church is our Canaan. And we enjoy forgiveness, righteousness, rest of soul and peace with God. But the closing words say, “I'm camping t'ward Canaan's happy land.” That is the upper Canaan, the heavenly Canaan, God's true rest. Thus we are camping in Canaan on our way to the upper Canaan, God true land of rest. This what I meant by an analogy between ancient Israel and New Covenant Christians.