Godís rest is not something new. It has existed since the beginning of the world. Hebrews 4:4 refers to Genesis 2:2. Immediately after God created the first people, he rested. It was his desire that they should enter his rest at once.
God made a garden (called Eden) for them. He planted every kind of tree there. He provided fruit for their food. He was present with them in that garden, and they would have rest there. He did not intend them to struggle all their lives because of hard work. He intended them to trust him, and if so, he would provide for them.
In the garden, God gave them just one simple law (Genesis 2:16-17). As they obeyed that law, they would show their trust in him.
But the first people, Adam and Eve, did not obey God. Really, they were showing the same wrong attitudes as the people whom David described in Psalm 95:11. Like them, Adam and Eve were not trusting God. The desires of their hearts were wrong. They were doing what they themselves wanted to do. They were acting as if God was not their master.
And the result was the same, too. God declared that Adam and Eve could not again enter his rest. For them, that was the garden where he had lived among them. Special angels (servants of God) called cherubim guarded that place. Men and women had lost their right to know Godís rest. The result was that they would have to work hard for their whole lives. And this judgement was not just against Adam and Eve. It affects every person born since then. You can read about these events in Genesis chapters 2 and 3.
When Moses came, he taught people how to have a relationship with God. But it could not be like the garden called Eden. God would be near them; but he had to live separately from them.
Moses built a special tent for God, called the tabernacle. But only one person, the chief priest, could ever enter its most holy room. Cherubim guarded that place, too (Exodus 37:7-9). But these were not real cherubim. They were only models, because that place was only a copy of Godís real house in heaven (Hebrews 9:23). But the copy was still important, because by it, people could know about the reality.
Moses was Godís servant; he was not Godís Son. Moses taught the people how to have a relationship with God Ė but Moses could not give them that relationship. Only Godís Son could do that. So Moses was constantly teaching people about Christ. Moses taught the people by means of Godís law. And Moses taught the people by his own actions, too.
God continued to live separately from his people until the death of Christ. Then Christ, as chief priest, took his own blood into the most holy place in heaven (Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 9:23-26).
God accepted what his Son had done. And because of this, people can again enter the holy place (Hebrews 10:19-20).
They can again enter Godís rest, as Jesus promised in Matthew 11:28-30. They do not achieve this by their own works. They can only believe and trust Christ, Godís Son. By his death, he has made this possible.
Next part: Why today is important (Hebrews 4:6-7)
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© 2014, Keith Simons.