The author of the book of
Hebrews has a pastor's heart. He is burdened for the
spiritual well-being of his church. He is a true
shepherd of his flock. He admonishes all of his
congregation, "let us fear" with a Godly fear to
enter into God's rest. He is concerned that there
may be members who are drifting from trusting in
God's word and fellowship with other believers. How
tragic when a pastor or members of a congregation
are unconcerned for others who are in danger of
drifting. There should be anxiety and concern when
we see the state of the church today, just as this
author and pastor did. The responsibility for other
Christian's spiritual life is the obligation of
every believer. There are no spiritual lone-rangers.
The writer of Hebrews'
goal is to encourage the Hebrew Christians who are
being persecuted. He reminds them they "have become
sharers of Christ." All true believers in Christ
become sharers of the very life of Christ when they
were regenerated or born again. They "are partakers
of a heavenly calling," and participate in the vital
union with Christ. Therefore, a true partaker will
continue in faith, and will not apostatize to
Judaism. A true believer never ceases to believe in
Christ. It is not something he believed in once, and
does not need to continue to believe. His faith
abides in Christ. The writer does not say we will
become partakers of Christ if we hold fast to our
confession, but he tells us how we can distinguish
the true Christian.
The promise to the
believer of entering rest still holds true because
the fulfillment has not yet arrived. The door is
still open and the writer pleads for his readers not
to turn away. God is true to His Word, and His
promises still stand true to this day. Remember,
with the promise, and the privilege comes a penalty,
Warning not to miss
God's rest (Heb. 4:1-5)
"Therefore, let us fear
if, while a promise remains of entering His rest,
any one of you may seem to have come short of it"
There is no break in the
argument in Psalm 95 that the author began in
chapter three. This a poor chapter division.
Remember chapters and verses were not in the
original manuscripts of the Scriptures. They were
added many centuries later.
God offers a Sabbath rest
that can be entered in some measure in this life.
Faith in the Good News is necessary to enter into
God's rest. Until Christ returns people can enter
into this rest.
The word "fear" (phobethomen)
is a godly fear that recognizes God's awesomeness.
The warning of judgment of the gospel is against
sinners for refusing the remedy provided. This is
not the terror of the ungodly standing before a holy
God, but the godly fear which causes the believer to
see the overwhelming wonder of the glory of Lord
"His rest" (katapausis)
in classical Greek denotes "a causing to cease" or
"putting to rest." It is the act of giving rest
including a state of final rest.
God's promise is still
available for us today in spite of Israel's
failures. It is the rest that believers have that
Christ has provided. It is peace with God in the
free and full justification of believers from all
their sins by the blood of Christ. It is our freedom
from a servile bondage of legalism. It is freedom
from the Mosaic law. It is a freedom of spirit which
believers have in obedience to the gospel.
God's rest designates
when God ceased from His Creation activities (Gen.
2:2). There is Israel's rest in Canaan (Deut. 12:9;
Josh. 21:43-45). The Sabbath rest is a picture of
the believer's rest in Christ through salvation.
Some of the readers were
thinking they had come up short by thinking that
Christ alone apart from the Old Testament rituals
would give them His rest. They were thinking about
returning to Judaism because Christ was
There is the sense in
which the gospel was preached to those who were in
the wilderness through the types demonstrated in the
sacrifices, the tabernacle and prophecies. God
pictures the gospel in those types. From Genesis
3:15 through Malachi there was a constant stream of
presentations of the good news in the coming of
"For indeed we have had
good news preached to us, just as they also; but the
word they heard did not profit them, because it was
not united by faith in those who heard" (Hebrews
Because men fail to put
their trust in Christ does in no way cause the
promise of God to fail or cease. God's word will not
return unto Him void.
Those who mix the
promises of God and faith shall enjoy the rest that
God gives in all of its applications. Those who
refuse to mix the promises of the gospel with faith
shall utterly come short of entering into God's
rest. "The just shall live by faith."
The "good news" here is
probably news about their inheritance and the
possibility of entering into their rest. The
inheritance Moses and the writer of Hebrews meant
all that God wanted to give to His people.
"Constantly fixing the
mind by spiritual meditation on its proper
object--the word of God--will be a principal means
whereby faith mixes it with itself. This faith sets
love at work upon the objects proposed to be
believed" (John Owen).
The promise of physical
rest in Canaan does not apply to Christians; it did
not apply to the Jews in David's day either. However
in its essential character the good news was
proclaimed to both groups. Jesus continually gives
rest. "Come unto Me . . . I will give you rest."
The promise of God's rest
in the Old Testament did not find fulfillment in
those who heard the word. Sadly, those who received
the promise of rest in the Old Testament did not mix
faith with the promise. The word that was heard by
the children of Israel was not mixed with faith in
"For we who have believed
enter that rest, just as He has said, 'As I swore in
My wrath, They shall not enter My rest,' although
His works were finished from the foundation of the
world" (Hebrews 4:3).
God has spoken in His
word and that is enough for us. We can take Him at
His word and rely on it.
It is important to stress
that God's provision of providing rest is still in
effect even though Israel did not enter God's rest.
If this passage is referring to salvation then Moses
is in hell. Moses failed to enter rest in the
Promised Land because he failed to trust God at
Meribah. "But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron,
'Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as
holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore
you shall not bring this assembly into the land
which I have given them" (Numbers 20:12). However,
in Matthew 17:1-3 we see Jesus on the mountain side
conversing with Moses and Elijah. Let's be very
clear, Moses was saved even though he did not go
into the land of Canaan.
Unbelief was what
prevented Israel from enjoying rest. That does not
negate God's promise of rest, however. Believers in
Jesus Christ are the ones who have believed and are
entering God's rest. All believers in Christ, both
Jews and non-Jews, are entering it now.
"We who have believed
enter that rest." The word "entering"
(eiserchomaetha) is present indicative and informs
us the action was going on at the present time. It
is a statement of present experience in which
believers presently enjoy God's rest. At the same
time, we look forward to our glorification at the
consummation in the future when Christ returns.
A person enters into that
rest by simple faith in Christ. "For God so loved
the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that
whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have
eternal life" (John 3:16). "He who believes in the
Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the
Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides
on him" (John 3:36). The privilege to enter into
that rest belongs to believers. The finished work of
redemption by Jesus Christ on the cross has to be
appropriated by faith if a person is to receive its
benefits. What will you do with Jesus Christ?
"We who have believed
enter that rest" points back to the moment
when the person believed on Christ and received
eternal life. It is a moment of decision in the past
if we are Christians, but we are not yet entered
God's rest in its fullness. That day will come when
se see Jesus face to face.
Jesus said, "Come to Me,
all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give
you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will
find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My
burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).
The only true rest
for the souls of men is found in Jesus Christ.
Israel failed to enter
into God's rest so the promise was unfilled by
Israel. We know this from Psalm 95:11. Does that
mean God's promise of rest is no longer available?
No, the writer of Hebrews says God's rest has been
available since creation.
"For He has said
somewhere concerning the seventh day: 'And God
rested on the seventh day from all His works'; and
again in this passage, 'They shall not enter My
rest'" (Hebrews 4:4-5).
Here is the evidence for
the statement in verse three (cf. Gen. 2:2; Exo.
20:11; 31:17). God's works were finished from the
foundation of the world.
What is God's rest? It is
the rest that comes with achievement, completion of
a task and satisfaction. God saw what He had done in
the six days of creation and rested. It was a job
well done. The creation of the universe had been
accomplished. It brought great pleasure.
God's rest is still
occurring and exampled by His not resuming creating
on the eighth day. What is this rest? When God
completed creation He rested from His project and
enjoyed His creative work. However, now God wants
His believers to rest in the eternal blessedness and
fulfillment in what He shares with His children.
John Calvin said, "The highest happiness of man is
to be united to his God." The believer in Jesus
Christ enjoys that personal relationship with God.
God's Today (Heb.
"Therefore, since it
remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly
had good news preached to them failed to enter
because of disobedience, He again fixes a certain
day, 'Today,' saying through David after so long a
time just as has been said before, 'Today if you
hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts'" (Hebrews
Joshua and Caleb were the
only two who entered the land of Canaan because they
put their trust in the Lord. God did not break the
promise of His Word (Heb. 4:3, 4, 7). He remains
faithful and true to His Word. He is unchangeable.
That is true in our day as well. God's Word is
faithful today as when He first uttered it (2 Tim.
3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:19-21).
The author's argument is
that God's rest still exists even though the
generation under Moses did not enter into it. The
reason is because God's promises are sure, and one
day they will ultimately be fulfilled. God is not
through with mankind. It does not depend upon one
generation. If one refuses to believe, another will
In verse seven the author
tells us David was the author of the Psalm. Speaking
through David, God repeats His invitation to rest.
God did not withdraw His promise, therefore it is
still in force today. The good news was that God's
rest was still available in David's time. There is
no indication in the Scriptures that God has
withdrawn that offer. It was good then, and it still
People enter into God's
rest by recognizing that Christ's work of redemption
from sin has been completed. The invitation is for
you to believe "Today." The word "today" places the
emphasis on the timeliness, importance and newness.
"Today" is the day of opportunity to enter into
Sabbath Rest (Heb.
"For if Joshua had given
them rest, He would not have spoken of another day
after that. So there remains a Sabbath rest for the
people of God" (Hebrews 4:8-9).
There is no true rest for
the souls of men but in the good news of Jesus
This promise was
fulfilled literally when Joshua entered the land of
Canaan. However, Joshua did not provide Israel with
rest in the fullest sense of Psalm 95:11, even
though they went in to the Promised Land. It was a
limited, temporal, physical rest (Josh. 21:44; 22:4;
23:1). Centuries later God spoke of this rest
through David. The rest God offers is an eternal
spiritual rest which is far greater than living in
the land of Canaan. It is an eternal rest that is
offered through the Good News of Jesus Christ.
We can enter into the
"Sabbath rest" now. God's rest for believers still
remains. The word "rest" in verse nine, "Sabbath
rest" (sabbatismos) occurs only here in the New
Testament. It is different word for "rest"
(katapausin) in the discussion thus far (3:11, 18;
4:1, 3, 5, 10, 11) and (katepausen) in 4:8, 10
meaning a cessation from activity, therefore rest.
The Sabbath rest is not Canaan rest. It is God's
exclusive, personal rest in which He invites the
believer to share. It is not the rest of creation.
God invites us to share in His presence and
blessedness. This Sabbath rest is the rest every
believer enters into when he like God faithfully
finishes his work here on the earth. That work
involves walking by faith. We will receive that rest
when we receive our inheritance from Jesus at His
seat of judgment (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom 14:10).
"For the one who has
entered His rest has himself also rested from his
works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be
diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will
fall, through following the same example of
disobedience" (Hebrews 4:10-11).
In verse ten the writer
uses katapausis again for "rest." The
believer who enters into God's rest has ceased from
his works as God did.
Jesus our High Priest has
entered heaven as the forerunner of our salvation. A
"Sabbath rest" waits for the people of God. F. F.
Bruce suggests: "It may be, then, that in
resurrection they, 'in company with us,' are to
attain this perfection and enter into God's rest,"
but there is no express statement to that effect.
"It is, indeed, perfectly conceivable that in this
view the Old Testament believers entered into the
rest of God as soon as Christ had accomplished His
redemptive work, while believers of the New
Testament age enter it at death. One way or the
other, this blissful rest in unbroken fellowship
with God is the goal to which his people are urge to
press forward; this is the final perfection which
has been prepared for them by the sacrifice of their
heavenly high priest" (Commentary on the Epistle
to the Hebrews, pp. 78-79).
Since Christ is said to
enter into His rest, from what labor did rest? John
Owen says, "The 'works' from which Christ 'ceased'
include all that He did and suffered from His
incarnation to His resurrection, as the Mediator of
the new covenant. Christ's rest consists in an
entire cessation from all these works, and an entire
satisfaction in them and their results. His entrance
into this rest was upon His resurrection . . ."
There are three
prominent interpretations on Hebrews 4:10.
(1) The believer who has
experienced spiritual rest in salvation, and has
ceased from his own works. Some make application by
interpreting it as a deeper experience in which the
believer rests his soul more fully in the Lord and
ceases from his own efforts at greater
sanctification. Works are considered bad. The
problem with this interpretation is God ceased from
His good works of creation, and the Christian ceases
from his bad works. That is really not a good use of
the author of Hebrews analogy. God never does bad
(2) The believer receives
his final rest at death. The apostle John heard a
voice from heaven, saying, "Write, 'Blessed are the
dead who die in the Lord from now on!'" 'Yes,' says
the Spirit, 'so that they may rest from their
labors, for their deeds follow with
them'(Revelation 14:13). The believer's works are
regarded as his Christian ministry on the earth and
are good just as God's were good at creation.
(3) The verse refers to
Christ who has finished His earthly work and has
entered the rest of heaven. Christ is our example to
follow as He is the believer's forerunner, opening
the way for us to follow into heaven. Christ has
been in view from 3:1 and in 4:14 He is the High
Priest who has entered heaven. The true believer may
have spiritual rest in this life as he looks forward
to the eternal rest in heaven. God gives His rest to
For the Christian this
rest is an inheritance that God desires to bestow on
us when we see Him. It is an eschatological rest,
not present rest. We will enter into our "Sabbath
rest" that follows our labor in this life time. This
passage is not speaking of living a peaceful life
here and now. We are in the middle of a spiritual
warfare. It is not the time of peace; that comes
The "Sabbath rest" is to
partake of the unending rest God gives to believer
in Jesus Christ. It is reserved for the people of
God, true believers in Christ. To enter into that
rest is to cease from one's labors, just as God did
after creation. This does not imply that the
Christian in heaven will spend an eternity of
idleness. The rest is a rest from trials,
persecutions, temptations and labors of this earthly
The apostle John in his
vision of those who have come out of the great
tribulation and now stand before the throne of
God praising Him and serving Him in ceaseless wonder
for all eternity. "After these things I looked, and
behold, a great multitude which no one could count,
from every nation and all tribes and peoples and
tongues, standing before the throne and before the
Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were
in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice,
saying, 'Salvation to our God who sits on the
throne, and to the Lamb.' And all the angels were
standing around the throne and around the elders and
the four living creatures; and they fell on their
faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying,
'Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and
thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to
our God forever and ever. Amen.' Then one of the
elders answered, saying to me, 'These who are
clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where
have they come from?' I said to him, 'My lord, you
know.' And he said to me, 'These are the ones who
come out of the great tribulation, and they have
washed their robes and made them white in the blood
of the Lamb'" (Revelation 7:9-14).
It is the responsibility
of the believer to make it his earnest effort to
reach eternal rest at home in heaven.
The idea of rest in view
in both chapters.
The basic to the whole
argument is God's rest.
1. God's creation
2. Canaan rest
3. Salvation rest
(4:1, 3, 8-9)
4. Heaven rest
"Therefore let us be
diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will
fall, through following the same example of
disobedience" (Hebrews 4:11).
The writer of Hebrews is
encouraging his readers to make sure they are right
with God. The ultimate rest is with Christ in
heaven. The author wants these believers to be
faithful to Christ until they finish this earthly
life. To revert back to Judaism would be in effect
renouncing the Lord God because Jesus said, â€œI am
the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes
to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6).
John Owen suggested that
this rest which believers enter into by Jesus Christ
consists of five things:
1. "In peace with God, in
the free and full justification of believers from
all their sins by the blood of Christ."
2. "In our freedom from a
servile bondage-frame of spirit in the worship of
3. "In our
deliverance from the yoke and bondage of Mosaical
4. "In that gospel
worship . . . the rest of liberty and freedom of
spirit which believers have in obedience unto the
5. "In its being
God's rest, and by entering into it believers enter
into the rest of God."
The writer admonishes
these believers to strive to enter the rest, "be
diligent" to make haste, be in earnest, concentrate
your whole being on entering that rest God offers
freely by His grace. Exercise a godly zeal to reach
the goal. Be serious, in dead earnest to enter your
Israel set the bad
example by not entering into the promised land
because of "disobedience" to the good news of God's
promise. Unbelief leads to willful "disobedience" (apeitheias).
"Whatever we consider in sin, God principally
considers the root and spring of it in unbelief. . .
. No, unbeliever shall ever enter into the rest of
God" wrote John Owen.
God's offer must be
accepted today; we do not know what follows
tomorrow. There is no assurance that we will have
another offer. God's "today" still exists. Today is
the day of salvation.
PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS
1. God is still true to
His promises. His Word abides forever. We enter into
God's rest because His promise still stands.
2. God fulfills His
promises only in those who accept His Word in faith.
The message of the Bible must be mixed with faith.
No one can enter into God's eternal rest unless he
puts His faith in Jesus Christ.
3. We who have believed
enter into God's perfect rest. God's promise has
become a reality according to His eternal purpose
for the believer.
4. Who enters into God's
rest? Only those who place their faith in Jesus
Christ. The threat remains true as well for everyone
who does not accept God's Word in faith. "He who
believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who
does not obey the Son will not see life, but the
wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36). The
threatening of the gospel are against sinners for
refusing the remedy God has provided for them. "The
failing of men through their unbelief does not
cause the promise of God to fail or cease. . . . Men
by their unbelief . . . cannot rob God of His
faithfulness," said John Owen.
Title: Hebrews 4:1-13
Enter into God's Rest