Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
This passage was brought up to me by three different people within the last two weeks. One person was wondering if the Isrealites never died, never entered the Promised Land or never entered Heaven. The second, assuming "my rest" means heaven, brought it up as an argument against my "Once Saved, Always Saved" stance. The third had no idea how this qualifies as a "warning against disbelief," as the NIV subtitle implies.
First of all, this word "rest," comes from the greek word, Katapausis, which means a resting place. It's most often used to describe the heavenly blessedness in which God dwells, and of which he has promised to make persevering believers in Christ partakers after the toils and trials of life on earth are ended. In other words, it's refering to Heaven. So yes, I do believe this is telling us that a great number of the Isrealites who were led out of Egypt will not be with us in Heaven.
The obvious direct implication of this passage is telling us not to rebel against God. But for me, an indirect application, (and the point that I'm focussing on for this post,) is the condition of our human nature.
The Human Nature has never ceased to amaze me. As we look back, we see God actually walking and talking with Adam and Eve. Yet they were deceived and despite God's physical presence, they dis-obeyed. The Israelites saw prophesied plagues come to fruition. They had the Red Sea parted for them. Miracle after miracle and they still rebelled against God. Even the 12 Apostles , who walked and talked with God himself, couldn't get over themselves long enough to truly follow God.
I personally can attest to hundreds of wonderful things God has done for me, yet I still find myself rebelling against God. I can't explain why I rebel, but I do. This human nature of rebellion is one of the main reasons why I believe that we absolutely cannot "earn" our salvation. No matter what we do, we can never hold up to God's standards. We will always rebel against him. We are saved by grace and faith, but it has to be a Spirit led faith. I don't believe we are capable of keeping our faith in God on our own.