Hebrews; Chapter 4
LABORING TO ENTER INTO HIS REST!
Hebrews 4:1-3) [GNB] Now, God has offered us the promise that we may receive that rest he spoke about. Let us take care, then, that none of you will be found to have failed to receive that promised rest.
[GW] God’s promise that we may enter his place of rest still stands. We are afraid that some of you think you won’t enter his place of rest.
[CEV] The promise to enter the place of rest is still good, and we must take care that none of you miss out.
[MSG] For as long, then, as that promise of resting in him pulls us on to God’s goal for us, we need to be careful that we’re not disqualified.
2) For we have heard the Good News, just as they did. They heard the message, but it did them no good, because when they heard it, they did not accept it with faith.
3) We who believe, then, do receive that rest which God promised. It is just as he said, “I was angry and made a solemn promise: ‘They will never enter the land where I would have given them rest!’” He said this even though his work had been finished from the time he created the world.
NOTE: There is a promise “left us” (vs. 1) that speaks of us entering into God’s rest, and we who believe that promise can even now walk in that rest.
QUESTION: What is this rest? Is it referring to our future home in Heaven, as many commentators suggest? Or, is it referring to some rest we believers can enjoy in the here and now?
ANSWER: Both! There is a rest we can now enjoy as believers, and there is a rest that we’ll enjoy in Heaven. What a rest that will be!
Hebrews 4:4-5) [GNB] For somewhere in the Scriptures this is said about the seventh day: “God rested on the seventh day from all his work.”
5) This same matter is spoken of again: “They will never enter that land where I would have given them rest.”
Psalm 95:11) [GNB] I was angry and made a solemn promise: ‘You will never enter the land where I would have given you rest.’”
NOTE: The author is re-establishing the above points lest his readers forget the context.
Hebrews 4:6-9) [GNB] Those who first heard the Good News did not receive that rest, because they did not believe. There are, then, others who are allowed to receive it.
7) This is shown by the fact that God sets another day, which is called “Today.” Many years later he spoke of it through David in the scripture already quoted: “If you hear God’s voice today, do not be stubborn.”
8) If Joshua had given the people the rest that God had promised, God would not have spoken later about another day.
9) As it is, however, there still remains for God’s people a rest like God’s resting on the seventh day.
NOTE: God had His Sabbath rest, and the Israelites were promised their Sabbath rest in the Promised Land, but while following Moses in the wilderness they failed to enter because of unbelief. They did enter the Promised Land forty years later under the leadership of Joshua, but even after that a Sabbath rest is still promised in Psalm 95. That’s the rest that the author of Hebrews concerns himself with.
QUESTION: Why didn’t the Israelite adults who were delivered from bondage in Egypt enter the Promised Land?
QUESTION: The original “rest” was God resting on the seventh day. The rest offered to the Israelites in the wilderness was the Promised Land. What rest is David speaking about?
Hebrews 4:10) [GNB] For those who receive that rest which God promised will rest from their own work, just as God rested from his.
NOTE: God rested “from all his work” on the first Sabbath Day/Sabbath rest. The Israelites rested from all their labor to enter the Promised Land once they had finally entered. The “rest” spoken of in this Chapter is a rest where God’s people cease from their works.
Regarding “ceased from his own works,”
“a. He who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works: Entering this rest means no longer needing to work. The idea isn’t that there is no longer any place for doing good works. The idea is that there is no longer any place for works as a basis for our own righteousness.
b. Ceased from his works as God did from His: This cessation from works as a basis for righteousness fulfills our ‘Sabbath rest.’ God rested from His works on the original Sabbath of Genesis 2:2 because the work was finished. We cease from self-justifying works because the work is finished by Jesus on the cross” [Guzik].
NOTE: Most commentators believe that the “rest” spoken of in this Chapter is Heaven, and at most, some will suggest we might enjoy a “kind of foretaste in Christ” in this life. I mostly disagree with the majority and take my stand with Guzik. I’m convinced that the context reasons that we must “rest” in God now to enjoy confidence in His presence. We’ll discuss that part of this study next week when we wrap up our discussion on these two Chapters.
Hebrews 4:11) [GNB] Let us, then, do our best to receive that rest, so that no one of us will fail as they did because of their lack of faith.
[KJV] Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
[GW] So we must make every effort to enter that place of rest. Then no one will be lost by following the example of those who refused to obey.
In regards to “labour” in the KJV,
“Give diligence, not hasten, which is the primary meaning” [Vincent].
NOTE: The Greek word translated “labour” in this passage is spoudazo (spoo-dad’-zo). This verb is used 11 times in the New Testament. In the KJV it’s rendered “endeavor” 3 times; “do diligence” 2 times; “be diligent” 2 times; “give diligence” 1 time; “be forward” 1 time; “labour” 1 time; and “study” 1 time.
Other translations render it:
“let us be eager [or, diligent]” [ALT]; “give diligence” [ASV]; “have a strong desire” [BBE]; “do our best” [CEV] [GNB]; “make every effort” [GW]; “exert ourselves” [LITV]; and “keep at it” [MSG].
NOTE: We are to make every effort to rest in God.
ANOTHER NOTE: It’s difficult to think that the author of this Epistle is telling believers to make every effort to enter Heaven when those believers are already in route to Heaven. Salvation doesn’t require effort from us anymore than it requires our works. Salvation is a work of God; period! We accept it by faith. However, entering into God’s rest on this side of Heaven does take some effort. All that is within us gravitates to works, which keep us from His rest.
On this subject Gill comments,
The “Gospel rest is here meant, that rest which believers now enter into, and is at this present time for them, Heb 4:3 and though true believers are entered into it, yet their rest, peace, and joy in Christ, is not full; they enter by degrees into it, and by believing enjoy more of it: and this is to be laboured for by prayer, hearing the word, and attendance on ordinances; and this requires strength, diligence, and industry; and supposes difficulties and discouragements, through the corruptions of the heart, and the temptations of Satan; and this is designed to quicken and awaken a godly jealousy in God’s people, over themselves” [Gill].
NOTE: If this verse it speaking about Heaven then the author of this Epistle isn’t sure he’ll make it. He writes, “Let us labor,” “so that none of us will disobey and miss going there, as they did” [CEV]. I’m confident that I’m going to Heaven, but not so certain that I will cease trusting in my own works in this life.
ANOTHER NOTE: Also, remember that the example the author is using regarding this rest that we’re to enter has to do with this world, not the next. The unbelieving Israelites died in the wilderness, but that simply kept them out of the Promised Land of Canaan. If they renewed their confidence in God over the next 40 years they would still have gone to Paradise to await the crucifixion, so that they could go to Heaven. Remember, Moses didn’t make it to the Promised Land. Do you think he missed out on Heaven?
STILL ANOTHER NOTE: You and I, who are believers, will go to Heaven and enjoy eternal rest, but that doesn’t mean that we’ll walk in perfect rest in this life.
Walk of Grace Chapel, Council Bluffs Church