For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hb 4:12-13
In Hebrews 4:11 we are commanded to strive to enter God’s rest. This exhortation is the final one in a section (chapters 3-4) permeated with warnings about failing to enter God’s final rest due to unbelief or disobedience. Verse 12 begins with the word, For (gar in Greek) indicating that the following phrase is connected to the previous one. In this verse, the word of God, depicted as a sword, is the determiner of who will stand by faith and who will fall away. This living and active sword is effective to pierce beyond what is visible and reveal the motivation of the heart. While a professing Christian can mingle among God’s people and appear to walk by faith outwardly, his heart will be utterly exposed by the word of God when he stands before Him on Judgment Day. Those who fail to enter God’s final rest because of unbelief may try to avoid God’s word during their life, but ultimately when they stand before God to give an account before their holy Judge, they will be naked and exposed. Allowing God’s word to expose our sin now, leading to repentance and faith, is infinitely preferable to standing before God’s great while throne, unclothed in the day of judgment (see Revelation 20:11-15). The picture of being naked and utterly helpless portrays the desperate plight of people confronted by God’s terrible swift sword. Is there any hope to escape from such an instrument of precision? Can we run away from His all-seeing eye? Has God made a way for us to escape? Where may desperate people turn?
The answer is found in verses 14-16 of Hebrews 4, which are among the most comforting verses in all of Scripture. The more desperate we are, the more beautiful we find His provision. Rather than the white throne of wrath, there is a throne of grace for those who trust Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In Him we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, who enables us to hold fast our confession. The author supports the exhortations to persevere in the faith by appealing to Jesus’s high priesthood. This Son of God is also God the Son, fully human and therefore tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin, so he can sympathize and help us when we are tempted. He is not one, however who shares in our defeats, but rather leads us to victory.