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The Rest Remaining in Hebrews 4


Hebrews and the Rest that Remains

An Essay by Eugene Prewitt

The Problem

Hebrews four, at least as it reads in the King James Version, combines a number of statements about “rest” in such a way as to confuse me. And I think it is fair to extrapolate that fact to say that it confuses many.

The rest looks, sometimes, future. Other times, it looks to be at present. It looks to be God’s rest of the Sabbath that has been here for millennia. Then it looks like the rest of heaven (which most commentators have concluded it to be.) Some persons use the passage to prove that we should keep the Sabbath. Others use it to prove that born-again persons are spiritually keeping the Sabbath by their restful dependence on the grace of God.

And frankly, it is the devil’s very normal mode of operation to preach error and take for his text a confusing passage. If we feel that we can’t say what the passage really means, we hesitate to say that anyone else is wrong regarding its meaning. And so the Devil is bolder.

It is also normal for me to undervalue what I do know about a passage when struggling to understand a portion that I do not really understand. I will resist that tendency in this essay.

The Context and Message of Hebrews

Hebrews opens with one big idea. God spoke to His people many ways before Jesus came to earth. But at the last, God spoke through Jesus. This is the Jesus that created all things. And this is the Jesus that will inherit all things.

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Heb 1:1-2

The remainder of chapter 1 contrasts Jesus with the angels. He is in every way more exalted. He is the Creator and they the created ones. He sends them to help us and they are sent.

That is how chapter two is introduced. In view of its Source, we ought to give special heed to the truth that angels have communicated.

For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; Heb 2:2-3

And why do men receive such valuable service by the angels? Why do they serve us and not rather we them? Because of our relation to Jesus, the one we have seen that is “appointed heir of all things.” Initially it was a man, Adam, that was set over the works on this planet. And that is the point Hebrews is making. Adam was set over the works of God’s hands.

For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Heb 2:5-7

And this brings us back to the original point. Jesus is destined to inherit all things. But He has not inherited them yet. The things on earth are not “subject to him.”

But now we see not yet all things put under him. Heb 2:8

The next few verses address the important question: How does Christ’s exalted destiny benefit us? And the answer is that Jesus became a man, and so became the “captain” of our race. He tasted death for us so that we might taste the joys of what He deserves. He lives as our Priest to assure that we can inherit with Him the things that he inherits. He lives to comfort us.

For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted. Heb 2:18

Chapter 3 begins by inviting us to “consider” Jesus in these dual roles of priest and apostle (one that has been sent). The Hebrews are invited to compare Christ to Moses. What do they have in common: They were faithful. How do they differ? Christ built the household of which Moses was a member.

And this brings us to our portion of Hebrews. Under what condition are we counted as part of Christ’s household, the one He created and faithfully cares for?

And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. Heb 3:5-6

Endurance Makes the Difference

So being part of Christ’s “house” is not conditioned on an event. Those that are faithfully faithful to death are counted as His seed. (Faithfully faithful – that is, we should be talking and acting as if our faith were invincible, holding our “rejoicing” “firm” despite the changes in our feelings.)

If faithfulness is the condition of being part of Christ’s family, then Satan will aim at interrupting that very thing, faithfulness.

Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, ‘To day if ye will hear his voice, 8  Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: Heb 3:7-8

The passage goes on to quote a large portion of Psalm 95 that will be referred to over and over again in chapters 3 and 4. The idea is that “to day” is the day to be faithful. Today is the day to believe and obey rather than to “harden” the heart.

When the quotation from Psalms 95 closes (with the right parenthesis), the book comes right back to this point: Unbelief leads away from faithfulness and causes us to depart from “the living God.” In view of the significance of holding fast we are to encourage each other every day to be faithful.

‘So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.’) Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; Heb 3:11-14

So Psalms 95 is brought into the narrative to encourage life-long faithfulness. What exactly does the passage say? This is the last half of the Psalm, the part used repeatedly in Hebrews:

For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest. Ps 95:7-11

The idea is very much like that of Hebrews 3. We are his flock, but on condition. We won’t be made to lie down beside green pastures any more than the ten spies were if we grieve the Lord the way they did. “Today” is the day to believe, to obey. And what is this word “rest” that concludes Psalm 95?

Rest in Scripture

Psalm 95 is rehearsing a story that is found in Numbers 14. Where Psalm 95 says “they should not enter my rest” the story in Numbers says “they shall not see the land that I swear unto their fathers.” “Doubtless ye shall not come into the land.” “And ye shall know my breach of promise.” Numbers 14:23, 30, 34.

Such oaths are found elsewhere. “And the LORD heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and sware, saying, ‘Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers.’” Deuteronomy 1:34-35.

Was Canaan the promised rest? Joshua and Caleb and the second generation entered the land. And there they had a type of rest. They had rest from war[1], the gift of safety. Without such rest the promised land could hardly be a possession that fulfilled the promises.

… ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the LORD your God giveth you to inherit, and … he giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety; Deuteronomy 12:10

… the LORD thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it. Deuteronomy 25:19

… And the land had rest from war. Joshua 14:15

If this kind of rest was the ultimate fulfillment of the promise (Genesis 12 and 15) then Joshua did, indeed, give the people this kind of rest. But, in fact, that kind of rest was only an early installment of the rest that the “fathers” were looking for. Abraham and Isaac and Jacob had the new earth in mind when they were thinking about the “promises.” They were looking “afar off” into the future for the fulfillment of God’s covenant.

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God…. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. . . Now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. Hebrews 11:8-16

The condition, that we have already observed, of being counted as part of the family that inherits this eternal rest, is holding fast to faith. How long must someone hold on? Until death. And so it is, in scripture, that death is pictured as the first installment of that eternal rest. Westerners have adopted this idea into their phrase “rest in peace.”

And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them. Revelation 14:13

And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. Revelation 6:11

Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Acts 2:26

This places the timing of the conscious portion of our “rest” at the very end of time, at the resurrection of the just. That is when the unconscious portion of our rest ends. And for those that are troubled here on this earth, being relieved by Christ’s coming is a very sensible rest.  That is the rest we anticipate.

And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels. 2 Thessalonians 1:7

As Canaan is to heaven, so is respite to the same. The refreshing seasons here are foretastes of the future. According to Baxter in The Saints Everlasting Rest it is our troubles that make us sensible of how precious our eternal rest will be. Rest from persecution was a welcome change to the early church. Acts 9:31. And a temporary rest from wearing labor was treasured by the apostles.

And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. Mark 6:31

These external periods of restfulness have their spiritual parallel. When we feel secure and right with God, when we are conscious of the grace that surrounds us, we have an internal rest that coexists well even with intense work, even with external troubles.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. Matthew 11:28-29

Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. Jeremiah 6:16

God’s Rest

God is not inactive. Neither does Deity die. Nor is our Lord perplexed by the multitude of cares. So the rest we have described so far hardly applies to Him. Nevertheless, the Bible speaks of God’s rest. God rests securely “in His love.” He is confident regarding his people when they have no such confidence regarding their own future.

The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

And the Bible story very early notes God’s rest. After six days spent creating the world God rested. From other Bible information we might even gather that this rest was far more significant than it appears. If men were the last of the created intelligences and earth the last of the created habitats, then God rested from a much larger work than the creation of the planet. He rested, rather, from having finished the making of “all the hosts” of the heavenly bodies.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. Genesis 2:1-3.

God wasn’t tired. His rest must be some parallel to what we call a refreshing experience. The Greeks had an active verb that means “to cause to rest.” It is translated as “refreshed” in the New Testament. Faithful brethren refresh us (1 Cor 16:18; 2 Cor 7:13; Philemon 1:7, 20).

And the Hebrews had a word for active refreshing “rest” – Sabbath, the original rest of God.

Summary of Rest in the Scripture

Outside of the book of Hebrews we find that God offers several varieties of rest to men. Abraham was promised a prosperous inheritance from the Euphrates to the Nile. He had in mind a city with foundations that would be built by God and just such a city will eventually land there. Those who are faithful to death will have part in that eternal rest.

But in the meantime, they may experience rest here. The Sabbath is the closest to what is coming and is, in fact, a remnant of the rest given in Eden.

And God may grant men other periods of refreshing rest from their labor. He may at times give them rest from oppression. At the end of their lives they rest in the grave, free both from temptation and affliction.

But the greatest rest is that one called “peace” in the promise “My peace I give unto you. In the world ye shall have tribulation, be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” It begins here in a place where it does not match our circumstances. It continues over yonder where it matches all things well. It is the rest of grace, the “answer of a good conscience toward God.” It is the rest found in the “old” and “good” paths, for those that will walk in them.

Rest in Hebrews

The idea of rest in the book of Hebrews is a microcosm of what is found in the rest of scripture. The discussion is built around Psalm 95 and so had particular reference to the rest that was promised to Abraham and that was lost by the contemporaries of Joshua.

In Hebrews 3:15-18, the psalm is reviewed with the addition of the fact that Moses brought them out of Egypt but was unable to bring “them that sinned” (v. 17) and them that “believed not” (v. 18) into the promised land. In the psalm itself, it is those that always “err” in their “heart” and who have not “known [God’s] ways.”

Taking Hebrews and Psalms together you can gather that to know God is to trust him and that obedience is a function of the heart. And finally, that knowing God insufficiently to believe and obey is to be excluded from the promised rest.

So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Hebrews 3:19

If Abraham’s descendants failed to realize the promised rest, then there is reason to fear that we might not fare better. That is the thought of the next two verses.

Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. Hebrews 4:1-2

If the unbelievers will not enter the rest, then it remains that believers will enter it. And what do we know about the rest? It is, God says in Psalm 95, “my rest.” We have already observed that God’s rest from creating the universe began when this earth was finished. So for us the “rest” has an ancient origin and a current enjoyment. This is the message of the next verse.

For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. Hebrews 4:3.

The Sabbath rest is used to prove this point, that “all” God’s works were finished creation week. And this rest of God is, emphatically, the rest referred to in Psalm 95 when God says “my rest.” He rested in a perfect and complete creation. So the next two verses communicate.

For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Hebrews 4:4-5.

Now while we have the Sabbath, we do not have a perfect and complete creation. The fulfillment of Abraham’s promises waits for the creation of a “new heaven and a new earth” more than a thousand years from now. So the enjoyment of Sabbath is a foretaste of God’s rest, of what is coming. Not until heaven will the Sabbath be the very thing itself.

The descendants of Abraham received the promises first. That is, they heard them first. Now the message has gone to all the world and that is a good reason for us to profit from their failures. By unbelief they judged themselves unworthy of “eternal life.”

Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief[2]: Hebrews 4:6.

Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. Acts 13:46.

Now this is where we need to use our memory. We noted in chapter 3, when Psalm 95 was first introduced, that the condition of being counted as part of Christ’s family is life-long endurance. And that is the reason that God designates a specific day for being faithful. Which day? “Today.” As long as we serve God today, and for today, every day, our hearts will never be hardened.

Again, he [“designates” YLT] a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. Hebrews 4:7

If Joshua’s conquest of Canaan had been the promised rest then God wouldn’t have warned us against missing that rest. The rest that was established at Creation still exists for God’s people. We are still to rest refreshingly in the creative power and accomplishments of the Creator. This restful dependence on the grace of Christ is so much like the Sabbath that it is called, in Hebrews 4, sabbatismos. In many versions it is called “a Sabbath keeping” while in the KJV (Hebrews 4:9) it is called “a rest.”

8  For if [Joshua] had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day [“today”]. There remaineth therefore a rest [that will fulfill the promise that was not fulfilled in Canaan] to the people of God [who are the believing persons, like Joshua and Caleb]. Hebrews 4:8-9.

Unlike Joshua, Jesus has gone before us into heaven and is set down on the right hand of God. When on earth, Jesus was our example of a believing and obedient soul that refused to speak his own words or to do his own works. He refreshingly rested from these in true dependence on the Creative power of his Father. Whether it is he, as our example, or we as his followers, that is designated by “he” in verse 10, I do not know.

For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works[3], as God did from his. Hebrews 4:10

Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. John 14:10

But as the footnote indicates, there is quite a connection between Sabbath keeping and the rest of grace. Those that repudiate their own words and ways to honor the Sabbath are learning by blessed experience what it is to depend moment-by-moment on the life-giving power that animated the man Jesus.

We are to cease from sin. 1 Peter 4:1-2. Through obeying the law we are to be freed from the Law, and that is part and parcel with “no longer” doing our own works. It is Jesus that is to live in and through us. Galatians 2:19-20.

And so it is true in more ways than one that a Sabbath-keep remains for the people of God. It remains that we shall keep the Sabbath in the New Earth where we will rest every day in the completed creation of God.

And it remains that we are to keep the Sabbath here that was given us (with marriage) in Eden and preserved to us after the fall.

And it remains that we are to believe and obey today and so to rest in the security of salvation by faith.

It is the last of these three that seems to fit the next verse best. It sounds very much like the rest Jesus promised in Matthew 11 to those that are “weary” and “heavy laden” and who are willing to yoke up with Christ.

Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. Hebrews 4:11

 Our “labor” is to believe in the most practical way. But belief is a very internal motive. We may not even judge well whether or not we believe. And this emergency is met with the wonderful discerning power of the living Word of God.  It can point out for us our fatal unbelief. God sees our unbelief already. It is via the Word that He reveals it to us.

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. Hebrews 4:12-13.

Summary of Rest in Hebrews

The rest of God, set aside for our benefit in the Sabbath, to be experienced best in the New Earth, is the consoling gift of a grace-controlled life today. It comes to the believing soul and never to any other class. We ought to be conscious of the danger of missing it and encourage each other to faithfulness. Ultimately the best of the rest comes only to those that are faithful to death. And so “today” is the day to avoid hardening our hearts.

Moral Metaphors and the Sabbath in Hebrews

Some have, when noting that the Sabbath is commemorative of the rest that will characterize the new earth, concluded that the Seventh-day Sabbath is part of the ceremonial sabbaths. The effect of this conclusion is that the very passage that says that a Sabbath-keeping remains to the people of God is used to prove that Sabbath-keeping is not obligatory.

I admit that the Sabbath in Hebrews 4 is made into a metaphor of sanctified living. But am I thus admitting that the Sabbath is not part of the moral law?

Commands make ideal metaphors. Adultery represents illegal spiritual union of church and state. Marriage represents the bond between Christ and the church that is broken by that spiritual “adultery.”

Theft represents a lack of evangelism in Jeremiah 23 as does debt in Romans 1. In a reverse metaphor, we are to “covet earnestly the best gifts.” Men’s bellies are their gods in Romans 16:17-18. And in Hebrews 4 the Sabbath well represents the work of sanctification, of resting from our works while depending on the powerful grace of God.

But does the metaphor of Christ and the church make the seventh commandment into a ceremonial law? Hardly. Husbands and wives have a moral obligation to each other and to any children they may have. That obligation is no empty form. When it is ignored human woe escalates.

And just so with the fourth commandment in Hebrews 4. How ironic it is that the command that begins “remember…to keep holy” is relegated to ceremonial laws on just such reasoning as this: Christ is our “rest” and therefore we no longer obey Him? The Sabbath-keeping illustrates our relation to Him and so we are under no requirements to keep it any longer?

Adventists have long taught that the Sabbath is a sign of sanctification. We have recognized the illustrative value of the Sabbath since before we were organized as a religious body.

Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them. Eze 20:12

Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you. Exodus 31:13

The passage indicates that the moral value of the sign is that in promotes a knowledge of the Lord as the sanctifying Agent. He that set aside a day as holy and blessed it, can do as much for a man. As God’s creative power gave existence to the Sabbath, so His creative power works in us both to will and to do his good pleasure. And as he was refreshed on the Sabbath at the experience of a job well completed, so we can be refreshed any day of the week at the thought that Jesus spoke meaningfully when he said “It is finished.”

It would be too bad if some believers in the present truth began to shy away from the metaphoric value of the Sabbath over fear that it would belittle the importance of keeping the command. On the contrary, let us exalt the Sabbath as the sign of sanctification. And as Isaiah 58:13-14 suggests, let us look for the blessing that comes to the obedient.

Jesus as our High Priest

This passage (Heb 3-4) is buttressed at both ends with direct references to Jesus as our High Priest (Heb 2:17-3:1; Heb 4:14-16). The high priest is the one person that, on earth, entered into the Most Holy Place. And in heaven Jesus certainly enters there, as Hebrews testifies.

What is in the Most Holy Place? In Revelation, where Jesus shows up dressed as High Priest, we twice see in the heavenly sanctuary evidence that the Ten Commandments (“the testament” or “testimony” in the “ark of the testament”) are there.

And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. Rev 1:13

And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: Revelation 11:19

And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened: Revelation 15:5

It would be too ironic if the passage that exalted Christ as High Priest were used to undermine the authority of the Law that resides in the Most Holy Place of the sanctuary.

Conclusions Regarding Hebrews 3-4 and the Sabbath

Hebrews 3-4 is about Christ as our High Priest. It is about enduring to the end. It is about the heart-hardening nature of unbelief. It is about the restful nature of obedient faith.

Its backdrop is the off-repeated (in scripture) story of the Exodus. Men on that trip failed to please God because of their unbelief. Yet they had plenty of evidence on which to base their faith in the love and power of God. They had reason to belief. God said, regarding their situation:

The LORD your God which goeth before you, he shall fight for you, according to all that he did for you in Egypt before your eyes; And in the wilderness, where thou hast seen how that the LORD thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came into this place. Yet in this thing ye did not believe the LORD your God, Deuteronomy 1:30-32

And when, despite the evidence, they believed not, “the LORD heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and sware, saying, Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers.” v. 33-34.

But there were exceptions. And they help us know how we can avoid the mistakes of their peers.

Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him will I give the land that he hath trodden upon, and to his children, because he hath wholly followed the LORD. v. 36

“Wholly” following the Lord is the same thing as believing him (See also Numbers 32:11). It is the same idea found in Jeremiah 6. There some persons try to help God’s people. Their method is to preach “peace, peace.” But though the people feel better, they are not much helped. They have not learned to be ashamed of their wickedness. And so they will fail of entering the rest.

Nevertheless, the rest is offered to them.

They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the LORD. Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. Jeremiah 6:14-16

And as in Jeremiah, so in Hebrews, it is in the “old ways” of obedient believing, that men find “rest” for their “souls.”

The rest is for those that hold fast to their faith. And it is ironic that the passage of Hebrews 3-4 would be used by some to say “turn away from the good old paths” when the passage is written to keep us in the same. We are to “hold fast our profession” in view of the fact that Jesus is the High Priest.

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. Hebrews 4:14

Yes, to believe and to obey are synonyms in this passage. Hebrews 3:12-13; 3:17-19.

     Those who are unwilling to give the Lord faithful, earnest, loving service will not find spiritual rest in this life nor in the life to come. “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. . . . Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fail after the same example of unbelief.” The rest here spoken of is the rest of grace, obtained by following the prescription. “Labor diligently.”  {PUR, November 7, 1901 par. 6}

One quarter of the Bibles references to “unbelief” are in Hebrews 3-4. Another quarter are in Romans 11. Our unbelief hinders the “mighty works” of God. Matthew 13:58. Yet unbelief only has that power when it is unconfessed. When we pray “I believe, help my unbelief” that prayer is answered. Matthew 17; Mark 9.

And in Hebrews 3-4, unbelief hardened the heart. Belief refreshes the soul.

And for those that know by experience, that it what the Sabbath does. It is the rest of the Lord, given to us in Eden. And it well illustrates the 24-7 rest that comes from yoking up with Christ. That is how Paul uses it in Hebrews, as an excellent illustration.

Those that rest the most in the power of grace during the six work days most appreciate the special time set apart for resting on the Sabbath.

Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16

— The End


Richard Baxter on Hebrews 4:10

“The Saints Everlasting Rest” by Richard Baxter is about the Hebrews 4 passage and is entirely predicated on the idea that the rest is that of heaven. He mentions the Sabbath and Canaan as illustrations of the heavenly rest.

Adam Clark on Hebrews 4:10

For he that is entered into his rest The man who has believed in Christ Jesus has entered into his rest; the state of happiness which he has provided, and which is the forerunner of eternal glory.

Hath ceased from his own works–No longer depends on the observance of Mosaic rites and ceremonies for his justification and final happiness. He rests from all these works of the law as fully as God has rested from his works of creation.

Those who restrain the word rest to the signification of eternal glory, say, that ceasing from our own works relates to the sufferings, tribulations, afflictions, as in #Re 14:13. I understand it as including both.

In speaking of the Sabbath, as typifying a state of blessedness in the other world, the apostle follows the opinions of the Jews of his own and after times. The phrase shabbath illaah, veshabbath tethaah, the sabbath above, and the sabbath below, is common among the Jewish writers; and they think that where the plural number is used, as in #Le 19:30: Ye shall keep my Sabbaths, that the lower and higher sabbaths are intended, and that the one is prefigured by the other. See many examples in Schoettgen.


We need not be left a prey to Satan’s power. . . . The children of God should not permit Satan to place himself between them and their God. If you permit him to do this, he will tell you that your troubles are the most grievous, the sorest troubles that any mortal ever bore. He will place his magnifying glasses before your eyes, and present everything to you in an exaggerated form to overwhelm you with discouragement…. Take the Word of God as the man of your counsel, and humble your doubting soul before God, and with contrition of heart say, “Here I lay my burden down. I cannot bear it. It is too heavy for me. I lay it down at the feet of my compassionate Redeemer.” . . .  {OHC 319.3}

[1] It was this kind of “rest” that was prophesied to characterize the reign of Solomon. He was to be a “man of rest” and God promised to “give him rest from all his enemies round about” and to “give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days.” 1 Chronicles 22:9


[2] Jude 1:5  I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.

[3] Is 58:13  If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: 14  Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

(2) Comments

  1. Happy Sabbath Elder,
    It seems to me the rest referred to in Hebrews 3 &4 is a rest that the people of the Exodus could have entered into but did not because they lacked faith (unbelief).

    This rest apparently is a product or the final result of believing the gospel. (4:1,2).

    God seems to emphasize that this is no ordinary rest but one uniquely His. One He experienced at the conclusion of creation. Now the purpose of creation was to create a man that bore His image. All the rest before were a means to this end. Having accomplished this purpose He rested.

    We share in His rest therefore by first laboring with Him to accomplish the goal of the gospel: to create a people that bear His image. This was His hope for Israel. They failed due to unbelief. But God promised immediately after this in Numbers 14: 21 that one day this goal will be accomplished. The promise is repeated in Isaiah 6:3, and Hab 2:14.

    The rest remains for our church to enter into. The fulfilment is prophesied in Revelation18: 1, Isaiah 60. When God and His church have accomplished this goal then both may rest from their labors.

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