Question for Dr. Saleska
With the exception of Moses, should we assume that all of those people who did not enter the Promised Land also did not go to heaven? Is that what Hebrews 3 & 4 is saying? If we wouldn’t necessarily say this, should we assume that all those who perished in Korah’s rebellion, for example, are not in heaven?
Response from Dr. Saleska
The operative word in answer to your question(s) are “faith” and “unbelief” (hardening of the heart). As you read through the explanation of the Old Testament events referred to by the writer of Hebrews, those two words are clearly at the forefront. Hebrews 3:8 says, “Harden not your hearts (unbelief), as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness…v.11 so I swear in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest. v.12 Take heed, therefore, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. v. 14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence (belief or faith) steadfast unto the end.”
Now then, the answer to your question about whether or not any people aside from Moses are in heaven comes in v. 16, “For SOME when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit NOT ALL that came out of Egypt by Moses.” Additionally v.19 says “So we see that they (some of them) could not enter in because of unbelief.” Unbelief prevented them from entering the temporal “rest” as well as eternal “rest.” And, of course, faith brought temporal and eternal “rest” to some of them.
The same is true today. Unbelief prevents people from experiencing temporal “rest” (forgiveness of sins which brings “rest,” peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, etc.) now as well as eternal “rest” in heaven. The same idea is presented in Hebrews 4:1-11. By the way, you might want to include Joshua and Caleb, together with Moses, among those who believed; and as I indicated, v.16 makes it clear that there were others.
The above also applies to Korah’s rebellion. There is one passage in Numbers 26:11 that is often overlooked but needs to be considered here. “Notwithstanding the children of Korah died not.” Beyond what the passage says, I wouldn’t want to speculate about their eternal fate. About Korah (Core) himself, Jude 11 says: “…and perished in the gainsaying of Core.” In context, “perished” almost surely means eternal punishment also.
As Christians we understand both God’s justice and his mercy as these are presented in Scripture. We stand with the publican in the temple knowing that we “deserve nothing but God’s wrath and displeasure, temporal death and eternal damnation.” At the same time we are confident that he hears our prayer: “God be merciful to me a sinner.” We are confident that he hears us because of what Christ has done for us. We cling in “faith” to Him, and that brings us “rest” in the here and now, eternal “rest” in heaven with him.