As a Hebrew, a member of the Jewish race, who could be greater than Moses? He was the man who singlehandedly led over a million Jews out of Egypt; who Himself entered the presence of God for forty days on the Mount, after which, he received the two stone tablets written on by the finger of God; who dwelt in the tent whereby he saw God face to face as a man talks to a friend.
Nevertheless, that is what the author of Hebrews must now prove; that the man Moses was a mere shadow of the Messiah, Christ Jesus. And he does so in a powerful way in this third chapter of Hebrews.
He begins this section by calling us “holy brothers who share in the heavenly calling” (Hebrews 3:1). Since Jesus died for us and rose again, he sanctified us so that we share in the heavenly calling. It is heavenly because it has its origin in heaven (our citizenship is in heaven). It is critical for believers to realize that heaven is not only their destiny but their place of origin as well. This is made clear when Jesus told Nicodemus not that he must be born again, but born from above (John 3:3). In saying this, he is alluding to the fact that believers have received a calling which is from above.
The designation of Jesus as both the “apostle and high priest we confess” may be a reference to both Moses and Aaron. Apostle is a “sent one” and typifies Moses as the one God sent to deliver the people. It is in the Gospel of John, especially that Jesus is seen in his role as the apostle. In Jesus, all apostleship has its meaning and designation. The designation “high priest” is undoubtedly a reference to Aaron, whom the writer will shortly speak about in great length shortly (Hebrews 5). He calls them to consider Jesus carefully in these dual roles
Perhaps the Hebrews were now convinced Jesus was greater than the angels based on what the writer had said in the first two chapters. But surely, the writer was not asserting that He was greater than Moses. Who could be greater than Moses, the one who founded our nation and gave us the Law? They could not conceive of anyone greater than Moses. The author must now convince them that the One he speaks of is greater than Moses in every way.
He starts by first recognizing the similarities between Moses and Jesus. These Hebrews might have been affected by the Dead Sea Sect, which believed that the Messiah would be sort of a second Moses. Both (Moses and Jesus) were faithful to God in the place they were appointed. Moses was faithful in God’s house (God called him his faithful servant in Numbers 12). In the same way, Jesus was also faithful to Him, who called him (He only spoke the words that he heard from his Father).
But that is where the similarities end. Jesus is worthy of more honor because Moses was faithful in the house while Jesus created the house! Moses was the perfect servant in the house, but this One is the Son to whom the house belongs. Moses was faithful to God in the shadow of things to come, while Jesus was the Son of the house of whom all the Mosaic economy pointed. While there are certainly similarities, the differences are greater.
The writer now moves from the similarities and differences between Moses and Jesus to the second great warning found in the letter. Reminding the readers that they are the house over which the Son presides, he warns them that they can only remain his house, “if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope” (3:6). Why does he now speak to them in this way? It is because these believers were in danger of doing the same thing their fathers did in the wilderness. God delivered a people out of Egypt and promised to bring them into the land. But before they could enter the land, they first entered that great and terrible wilderness where God began to test them. Sadly, they failed the test so that the entire generation eventually died in the wilderness.
The writer now warns these Hebrews that, if they continue in their unbelief, they are in the same plight as their fathers in the wilderness. Like them, they had been brought out of bondage. God had promised to bring them into the promised land, but they were now living in the wilderness. And like Israel in the wilderness, they were in danger of unbelief; that sin which caused God to judge that whole generation of Israelites who left Egypt.
In order to stress the importance of this, he quotes from Psalm 95 upon which the entire argument is based. He will use that Psalm extensively in the next chapter to prove that God is offering us a better rest than Israel.That Psalm sums up what was wrong with Israel in the wilderness; they possessed an “evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” The author is warning them against the particular sin of apostasy. If they stayed on their present course, they would find themselves in danger like the Israelites of old.
Notice what the writer says; “We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end, the confidence we had at first.” This is the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. If we are true believers, we must persevere in faith to the end.
How does this apply to our continuing in the grace of God? Notice his specific words: “if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope” (3:14). What was the first confidence by which we began the Christian life? It was our faith and confidence in his grace; that is how we began the Christian life. We saw ourselves as sinners and readily admitted it and believed that He died for us so we might receive grace.The moment we did, we were immediately made partakers of Christ and brought into fellowship with Him.
This is how we began our Christian life, is it not? Now it is how we must keep it until the end. That is what Israel did not do. They started with confidence in their great Jehovah, but quickly lost it, and ended up dying in the wilderness.
In verses 16-19, the writer reiterates that it was God’s own people who had been redeemed that rebelled against him and were subsequently destroyed. This makes clear that it is the sin of apostasy in view. Jude perhaps states it best: “Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe” (Jude 5). They could not enter because of unbelief but died in the wilderness. And so will we if we do not hold the confidence of our hope firm until the end.