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Hebrews 4

March 4th, 2012 by Vic

March 4, 2001

Hebrews 4

“The Rest of God”


According to the dictionary rest can mean peace, refreshment, sleep, inactivity, vacation, relief, a lodging place, a support, an interval of silence (in music), absence of motion, to lie down, to sit, to lean, to place responsibility on, to depend on, to abide, lie fallow, end the introduction of evidence in a case, to direct the eyes on, to base on, to die, what is left after some is taken, surplus, to go on being (as rest assured), to cause to remain (God rest you).


None of those definitions describe the rest of God.  In this chapter there are 2 words for rest.  The common word for rest is katapausis, which denotes ceasing or putting to rest.  Literally it means down to cease.  It is used more in this chapter more than anywhere else in the NT.  Christian rest is not rest in the sense of inactivity.


The other word that can be translated ‘rest’ is used in 4:9.  It is a unique word that describes God’s rest as sabbatismos.  It seems to be a word that the writer invented to emphasize the conclusion of the main argument.  This is the first time it is used in Greek literature.  It is formed from a Hebrew word with a Greek ending.  The Hebrew word is used in Genesis 2:2-3 where God rested or “sabbatized” from His creation project.


Remember each day of creation had a morning and an evening except the 7th day.  The 7th had no evening which means it has not ended.  God sabbatized and is still sabbatizing.  It is a different kind of rest.  It is a way of life.  It is God’s own rest in Himself and His eternal satisfaction in all His works.  The rest of God has never ceased.

In the gospel of John (5:17), Jesus was talking to the Jews and said, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.”  God is resting and God is working.  The rest of God is not an absence of work.  The work of God involves rest.  God did not quit working during the 7th day.  He completed creation.  Inactivity is not the rest of God.


The Scripture today (4:11) tells us to strive to enter that rest; be diligent to enter that rest.  The rest of God involves activity.  You work at resting.  We kind of do this when we go on vacation.


A key verse is 4:9, “There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God.”  The sun has not set on God’s rest.  God’s Sabbath day has not ended.  There is a rest available for the children of God.  There is a rest available for you and me like the rest of God.  Christians can rest in the rhythms of God’s grace today. You can have rest in the ruckus.  You can have rest in the revolution.  You can have rest in your routines.


This writer is going to remind you that there is a rest available in Jesus.  He was writing to a discouraged, disillusioned, and tired group of Jews.  Their temple had been destroyed.  The Roman government was becoming more and more immoral and corrupt.  But we can be content and satisfied in Jesus.


Hebrews 4 assures us that the promise of God is still valid today and the penalty for unbelief is also still valid.  In chapter 3 Christ was pictured as the captain and champion of our salvation.  He brought us out from the bondage of sin that He might bring us into the rest of faith.  Like Moses in the OT.  He brought God’s children out of slavery and Joshua brought them into the Promised Land.  Don’t turn away from the gift of rest.


4:1  This is the 3rd warning in Hebrews against unbelief.  Here it leads to hardness of heart and turning away from God’s rest.  This is a serious warning.  God’s promise to our fathers still stands.  The fulfillment of that promise is found in Jesus, our champion and high priest of the new covenant.  Our rest in Christ is more than rest from turmoil and security from your enemies.  It is participation in the age to come and the Kingdom that has come.


Don’t think you have fallen short.  It is not too late.  You are not left behind.  The promise stands written.  It has not been revoked.


Unbelief and disobedience caused the punishment of the Jews in the past and the consequences of unbelief and disobedience are as serious now as then.  The promise of rest is unchanged; the danger is that you fail to trust God and can’t receive it.  If you turn away from God you suffer serious consequences.


4:2  We have no excuse.  Good news has been announced to us just as it was announced to them.  The Greek word ‘euangelismenai’ is used in the perfect tense which means that the message is still valid today.  It was a complete message given in the past and still stands valid today.  We, like them have received the good news of God’s plan for man, a promised rest.  The message has been completely delivered to them and to us.  There is no change in the message.  There are no separate dispensations.  There is only one design.  There is only one plan of God.  The warnings and the promises have not changed.  Obedience to God’s plan (Jesus and Joshua are the same word) brings rest.


Joshua and Caleb heard the promise of God and regarded it as certain.  They had a confident expectation for the future because they recognized the reliability of God.  They combined hearing with faith and received the promise.


Some people say that if a promise of God is not accepted, He burns up that page in His book and the next time God offers a smaller promise.  Some say that God has a first, second, and third alternate plan for your life.  That is contrary to the truth of this gospel.  God’s method has always been to offer more and better blessings on the same conditions rather than take some off the table and offer less.  Jesus said if Sodom and Gomorrah had seen what the Jews saw they would have repented.  Jesus is revealing more of God’s plan than Sodom and Gomorrah had seen.  He is giving more evidence.  But the children of Israel wandering in the desert chose not to combine hearing with faith. They did not trust God so they never enjoyed the rest they could have had.  Hearing combined with belief in God is necessary to receive the promises of God.  Faith gives access to the rest of God.


4:3  If you believe God’s Word, you can enter that rest now.  Jesus invited the weary to come to Him and rest.  Take on His yoke (work) and find rest (Matt 11:29).  Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Jesus” (John 6:29).  In Christ Jesus there is rest today.  Faith is the condition for entering rest.  Faith brings into the present the reality of that which is future or unseen.  So those who believe can say they have entered God’s rest already.



4:4-6  On the 7th day of Creation God rested.  The Sabbath rest was not completed at creation because long after the foundations of the earth were laid, God told Moses that His children should enter His rest.


The people rebelled against Moses.  Moses could not give them rest.  Sin and unbelief precipitated an oath from God.  The rest of God is incompatible with disobedience.  Receiving the promise of God requires trust and obedience in God.  Some will enter rest but not the disobedient and unbelieving.


4:7-8  Then 400 years after Moses, God renewed the promise in the Psalms through David.  Another day is referred to.  If Joshua had achieved the promised rest, there would have been no need to renew the promise in Psalm 95.  So the promise of rest was not fulfilled when the children of Israel entered the Promised Land.  David’s promise looked forward to another day in Jesus who would be greater than Joshua.  Joshua gave the people a rest of conquest and victory, but he could not give them the complete promised rest.  Canaan is only a type or symbol of that rest which God has prepared for His people.


When we enter God’s rest we cease from our own works so God may work in and through us.  The vineyards are already established.  The fields are already tilled.  The wells are already dug.  Many have gone before us and we are beneficiaries of their labors.


Just as Joshua was to possess the land we are to possess our possessions and don’t let them possess us.  If we remain faithful, our children will be blessed.  Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.  The call is urgent.  The time is limited.  This may be your last today to receive God’s rest in your heart.


4:9  Verse 9 marks the conclusion of the main argument.  “There remains a sabbatismos Sabbath for the people of God.”  Sabbath denotes a festivity or celebration filled with joy.  It is a new kind of rest, of full reliance on God.  It is a constant resting in the merits of the shed blood of Christ that cleanses us from all sin.  It is a rest from sin.  It is the rest of a parent’s hug.


4:10  Celebrating God’s Sabbath in Jesus includes rejoicing.  This rest is not the cessation of labor, but the cessation of weariness and pain that accompany human labor.  It is peace in the pressure; not denial of the pressure.  It is rest from the guilt of sin.  It is rest from the power of sin.  It is rest from the nature of sin.  We do not get tired doing God’s work.


The rest of God is not the absence of activity.  When God rested in Genesis, His activity changed.  So for us a rest comes with a change in activity.  Rest comes when it is no longer me living, but Christ in me.  My rest and joy comes when I am part of divine appointments.  I rejoice when I see God working though me to bless others.


The Canaan rest represents a physical place of abundance.  Our world today tells us if we can have enough things then we will have rest.  If we could just have a nice little plot of ground with the landscaping already done and the bills all paid, then I could rest.  If I could just reach that particular goal then I can rest.  That is like Canaan land.  But the rest of God does not come with physical abundance.  The rest of God does not come when I reach a personal goal.  We won’t find rest in the things of this world.  We will not find rest in a place.  We will not find rest in a secure career.  Today God’s rest is still available.  But the only place you will have rest is in Jesus.  Rest is found in a relationship with Jesus, the Son of God.


4:11  We are warned again.  Lack of faith; lack of trust in God prevents rest.  This verse can also be translated, “Beware lest you think that you have come too late to enter into the rest of God.”  “Beware lest you get the idea that you have arrived too late in history to enjoy the rest of God.”  The good ole’ days of religion are not past.  The greatest days of the church were not last Sunday.  The faithfulness of God was no better years ago than it is today.  Only our disobedience keeps us from receiving everything we need for life and godliness.  Let us be diligent and obey.  The rest we have available today is not our final rest, but only the beginnings that will be merged into our rest in glory.


How does a child of God find this divine rest?  How does the child of God keep from drifting away from this great salvation?  Develop a relationship with your heavenly Father.  Pay close attention to the word of God.  Meditate on the word of God. Identify God’s will and plan for your life and do it.  Practice obedience so you will not sin.  Grow from faith to faith.


4:12-13  The rest of God is based on the faithfulness of God.  He keeps His promises.  His word is living today.  It did not die after it was spoken.  His word is not a sound.  It is a power.  It is still active.  It is not just something to be studied, but something to be done.  His word is sharper than a 2 edged sword.  It can be a lethal weapon.  It has penetrating power.  It can reach your inner thoughts.  It can reach your inner motives.  It can reach your inner principles.  It penetrates the whole nature and being of man.  God does not see you with your clothes on.  In fact God does not see you with your skin on.  God does not see you with your titles, your jobs, your toys, your homes, your hairdresser, your gold medals, your friends.  We can fool man with our outward trappings and disguises, but we have no defenses or rationalizations before God.


The word for ‘laid open’ is a word for keeping the head up as when the priest pulls back the animals head before cutting its throat, as when a prisoner is led away with a knife under his chin so he has to keep his head up and be recognized by the spectators.  The word of God that has been proclaimed to you says we will all be compelled to look at God face to face. Our eyes will meet God’s eyes.  We can’t keep our head down to avoid His eyes.


4:14  We have a great high priest who brings the word of God to man and the praise and petitions of man to God.  He is great because He has been through the veil between heaven and earth.  He has access to God and is sympathetic to man.  He is our High Priest.


4:15  He is Jesus, the Son of Man.  He was tempted as we are and far beyond what we are.  God does not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able.  God made us so that we have a limit.  When we suffer too much pain we pass out.  We reach a limit.  But Jesus had no limit and was tempted far beyond what we will ever know.  No man has been tempted like He was.  And Jesus did not sin.


To the Jews, God was holy and separate.  He is different from us and does not share our feelings.  God is beyond all feelings.  Because if God had feelings then we could influence Him and if we could influence God then we must be more powerful than God.  This is a childish logic.  Our kids like to make us mad because they feel like they are controlling us.  Some marriages suffer because of this childish logic.  We think influencing the emotions of another is a way of controlling them.


Jesus became man and dwelled among us.  He came to feel what we feel.  Not so we could control God, but so we could know that God understands.


4:16  Therefore let us continually keep drawing near, let us keep on coming boldly to the throne of grace.  God does understand.  God cares for you.


Think about what this meant to the Jew.  For centuries they thought that God was untouchable and now they discover a God who knows and cares.  In His mercy He forgives my sins.  By His grace He lets me enter His Sabbath rest.  If we will habitually draw near with boldness, we will receive mercy and grace in the time of need, just at the right time.  His mercy and grace is well-timed.


Good news has been proclaimed to you.  God has a special rest available for each of us.


Seek Him with all your heart and you will find rest in your soul.  Turn briefly to Matthew 11:28-30.  There is a burden, a yoke and a rest.  We can lay our burden down and take on a yoke that gives us rest.  Rest involves release from the burden and taking on the yoke.  This is Jesus talking here.  The burden is our nature of sin.  It is the sinful nature of pride and self-love.  As long as you try to be your own little god you will never find rest.  The burden of protecting your self-image is a heavy burden to bear.  The burden of pretense and hypocrisy can be laid aside.  Why not lay your burden down.  The yoke represents submission to God’s will and ways.  It requires instant obedience.  The meek man carries no greater burden than the desire to obey God with all his heart.  He rests under the appraisal of God’s hand.  Jesus invites us to “Come!”  Leave your heavy burdens.  Find rest.

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