Notes on Hebrews 4:3-10


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 rest1: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works2. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth 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. For if [Joshua] had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God3. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

  • 1. Ps 95:11
  • 2. Gen 2:2
  • 3. Matt 11:28-29

Contextual Background: The author is here writing to Hebrew Christians who are in a very real danger of turning from their Christian profession back to Judaism. Additionally, the preceding argument from Chapter 3 is that many Israelites died in the wilderness, not seeing the promised land, because they were mere professors of faith, but did not have true saving faith – “we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Heb 3:19). This should cause us to take some time for self reflection – “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” (Heb 3:12). How do we know that we have true saving faith? We are told that “we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end” (Heb 3:14).

Furthermore, the author is continuing his theme of how the New Covenant is superior to the Old. These verses are in the midst of the larger argument begun in chapter 3 in which the writer is providing evidence about how Joshua led his people into a temporary rest, but Christ, has already entered the eternal rest, and will lead his people into it.

 

literally: if they shall enter into my rest…

  • This means “they shall NOT enter into my rest” (Hebrew elliptical oath)
    • Who did God say would not enter his rest in Ps 95:11? According to Heb 3:11, they were those that had “an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God”.

…although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 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.

  • God finished His work of creating on the seventh day and rested (Gen 2:2)
  • This rest was commemorated by Israel in its weekly Sabbath. (Ex 31:17)
  • The author is reminding us that although the seventh day is ‘a’ rest of God mentioned in the Bible, it is not ‘the’ rest of God that was offered to the Hebrew people after the Exodus (and which is the present focus). This Old Covenant rest of God, which the Hebrews rejected through unbelief, was a rest from slavery and war in the land of Canaan
  • This promised land rest was that referred to in chapter 3, and, which is used as a type here of the future eternal rest of God in Heaven – “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God” (verse 9)

they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief…

The word “preached” here means “evangelize.” The same root word is rendered “gospel” in verse 2. This shows us, First, that God has employed only one instrument in the saving of sinners from the beginning, namely, the preaching of the gospel, cf. Galatians 3:8. Second, that the demand of the Gospel from those who hear it is faith, taking God at His word, receiving with childlike simplicity and gladness the good news He has sent us. Third, that “unbelief” shuts out from God’s favor and blessing. …Solemn warning was this for the Hebrews whose faith was waning. (AW Pink)

For if [Joshua] had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God

  • The author of Hebrews always makes contrasts between the old and new covenant (better covenant, better promises, etc). Here he is presenting a better rest than that enjoyed under the Old Covenant
  • When Ps 95 (the chapter the author is here explaining) was written, the Israelites were enjoying rest from their enemies in their own land. The author here reminds his readers that this was only a temporary and typological rest, which only points to the better and eternal rest yet to come
  • [The Jews had] external types to guide them; not so have we, nor have we indeed any need of them, for the naked truth itself is set before our eyes. …Christ [does not] extend his hand to us, that he may conduct us by the circuitous course of types and figures, but that he may withdraw us from the world and raise us up to heaven. Now that the Apostle separates the shadow from the substance, he did so for this reason, — because he had to do with the Jews, who were too much attached to external things. (Calvin)

  • There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God
    • The Jews enjoyed a type of rest in their own land
    • Believers experience, in this life, a rest from slavery to sin.
    • However, there remains a future promise of eternal life in peace and rest

For he that is entered into his rest he also hath ceased from his own works, as God from His

  • “…rest is not enjoyed till work is ceased from. This world is full of toil, travail and trouble, but in the world to come there is full freedom from all these.” (Pink)
  • Many commentators (Pink, Calvin, Gill) take the “he” here to mean Christ. They understand this to mean that Christ has finished his work on the earth (John 19:30) and has entered His rest, just as the Father finished his work on the sixth day of creation and entered His rest. Evidence of this is seen in verse 11, where the emphasis is then shifted from the ‘he’ of verse 10, to ‘us’

Come unto Me, all ye that labor 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.
(Matt 11:28-29)

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