What does it mean to enter into God’s rest? This is the overarching theme we will take a look at today as we study Hebrews chapter 4 verse by verse.
What Is the Main Theme of Hebrews Chapter 4?
The main theme of Hebrews chapter 4 is that there is rest for God’s people. However, this rest requires perseverance to enter into it. Here is a breakdown of each section in this chapter.
- 4:1-2 – Don’t Miss God’s Rest
- 4:3-10 – Rest Remains – Joshua vs. Jesus
- 4:11-13 – God’s Word Reveals Our True Condition
- 4:14-16 – We Have Help to Persevere
The Promise of Rest Remains
This passage of scripture can be difficult to understand. There are different thoughts from scholars regarding the flow of the concepts and arguments.
Here are some types of rest that the Bible mentions.
- God’s rest – Genesis 2:2 says that God rested after six days of creation. This was not a rest needed because of weariness, but rather contentment and pleasure in His creation.
- Sabbath rest – God commanded the Isrealites to work for 6 days a week and rest on the 7th. This was to be a holy day dedicated to the Lord. This was to be a perpetual practice for God’s people under the Old Covenant.
- Cannan rest – the land of Cannan was meant to be a place of rest for God’s people. A land of abundance and refuge from their enemies. It was also illustrated our promised eternal inheritance in heaven.
- Faith rest – this is the rest that believers receive when they place faith in Christ. There is a peace and rest we experience in knowing that the penalty of sin has been taken away and that we have been restored to a right relationship with God. Through our union with Christ, He invites us to come to Him and find rest for our souls.
- Millennial Rest – This is a time when Christ will rule on the earth for 1000 years. Israel will live at rest while Christ rules as King of kings.
- Eternal rest – our eternal rest is when we receive our eternal inheritance. God will set up a new heaven and new earth and we will spend eternity with Him. Free from the power, penalty, and presence of sin.
I personally have read multiple commentaries on this. Some believe this passage in Hebrews 4:1-13 is referring to our faith-rest, others believe it is referring to our eternal rest.
Either way, the main theme of this section is that there is rest that remains for God’s people and we need perseverance to enter it.
Therefore, we must fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. NASB
This chapter opens up with a warning. Hebrews 3 tells us that the Israelites failed to enter the rest which was promised to them, the land of Canaan, because of unbelief.
Unbelief: – G570: apistia – faithlessness, disobedience
Faith and perseverance are what usher us into God’s rest. Unbelief causes us to fall short.
For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also did; but the word they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united with those who listened with faith.
Just as we have had the good news of the gospel preached to us, the children of Israel had good news declared to them. They were told that God had given them the land of Canaan and they were to go and possess it.
Hearing good news is not enough, we must hear with faith.
For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, “As I swore in My anger, they certainly shall not enter My rest,” although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; 5 and again in this passage, “They certainly shall not enter My rest.” – Hebrews 4:3-5
The flow of thought begins to get a bit confusing here.
First, it says that we who have believed enter His rest. As we saw in the previous section, faith is what invites us into this rest.
The next section begins with “as I swore in My anger…”, this verse is contrasting what was just said. Faith invites, unbelief excludes.
Also, in verse 3 the author is quoting from Psalm 95:11. This rest is God’s rest. It’s patterned after the rest God Himself entered after six days of creation.
We also learn from the creation account in Genesis 1-2 that humanity began in God’s rest. Adam and Eve were the final piece of God’s creation. God created man, then He rested. His original design was for us to enjoy and experience His rest in the garden.
Again, because of disobedience, that rest was forfeited.
6 Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who previously had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 He again sets 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.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. 9 Consequently, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Hebrews 4:6-10
There was never a complete fulfillment of rest for God’s people in the past. Those who had previously heard failed to enter because of unbelief.
Some of the Israelites did enter Canaan under the leadership of Joshua, but they did not experience the fullness of the rest God wanted for them because of disobedience and unbelief.
That is why this rest is spoken of again during the time of David. The promise of rest still remains.
Hebrews 4:12-13 For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him to whom we must answer.
Here we see an amazing description of the powerful working of the Word of God. Let’s do a few word studies:
- Living – G2198 – Zao – (verb): to live, breathe, be among the living (not lifeless, not dead)
- Active – G1756 – energes – (adj): active, operative:—effectual, powerful.
- Sharper – g5114 – tomos – (adj): keen
- Penetrating – G1338 – diikneomai – (verb): to go through, penetrate, pierce
- Able to judge – fit for judging
I’m so thankful for the Word of God! There is nothing remains hidden from its sight.
It convicts and judges our thoughts, motives, and ambitions. It reveals unbelief.
I love the example in Acts 2. It was the Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit had just fallen. Men were speaking in multiple languages, but everyone heard each other speaking in their own native tongue.
Then, Peter rose from among the crowd, raised his voice, and declared the gospel to all in attendance.
Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “ Brethren, what shall we do?”…So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. – Acts 2:37, 41
What a great example of how the Word of God detects and unveils the true condition of our hearts.
These moments can sometimes be uncomfortable. The revelation of our heart’s condition is not always pretty.
Piercing can be painful. But it’s a pain that leads to life! And God is so gentle in the ways that He convicts us. It’s always done in kindness and love.
Let’s also remember that conviction is not condemnation! Condemnation points towards death. Conviction points towards life.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let’s hold firmly to our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let’s approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of our need.
In this verse, the author seems to refer back to what he previously said in chapter 3.
Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession: Jesus – Hebrews 3:1
Since we have confessed that Jesus is our faithful High Priest, we must hold firmly to that confession.
There is no struggle or trial that we must walk through in this life that Jesus has not also experienced.
He is acquainted with our sorrows and griefs. He knows the depths of our hurt and pain.
He put on humanity to become our High Priest. He overcame the trials of this life and now sits and the right hand of the Father and He invites us to come. Come and receive the strength and grace we need to endure.
We don’t have to wallow in unbelief or disobedience because He provides the sustenance we need to hold fast to Him.
There is an eternal rest waiting for us when we receive the fullness of our eternal inheritance, but there is also a rest that He offers us now. It’s a rest that we find at the throne of grace. A rest we have access to through our High Priest in the Spirit. A rest that we have been invited to boldly enter into whenever we need grace and mercy. It’s a rest we find through our union with Him.
The throne of grace is our source of comfort, peace, joy, and strength. It is there where we find all the resources we need to persevere in faith.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:2
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