Our Rest (4:1-11)
1-2 God sent Jesus Christ into the world to lead us into his rest, that is, heaven. For all who believe in Christ, the promise of entering his rest still stands. Yet it is possible for us to “fall short of it” through unbelief; that is, it’s possible for us, through unbelief, to forfeit the promise and not get to enter God’s rest. It is not enough to have heard the GOSPEL preached to us; we must combine it with FAITH (verse 2). Those ancient Jews had heard the message of God, but they did not accept the message with faith. Therefore, the message they heard was of no value to them.
The writer of Hebrews says: Therefore … let us be careful lest any of us be found to have fallen short—that is, lest any of us fail to enter God’s rest. Some Christians believe that we don’t ever need to worry about failing to enter God’s rest, or about losing our salvation. But the writer of Hebrews says we must be careful that it doesn’t happen! It’s not Christ whom we have to be concerned about; He will never fail us. It is we who can fail Christ through unbelief; that’s what we must be careful about. We must fear unbelief (see 1 Corinthians 10:12).
3 Those who persist in faith until the end will enter God’s rest. It is not our rest; it is God’s rest. To show that God called it “my rest,” the writer here quotes again from Psalm 95:11 (Hebrews 3:11). But the question arises: What is God’s rest? Because, in a sense, God has been “resting” since the creation of the world.
4-5 God created the world in six days, and on the seventh day He rested (Genesis 2:2). His “rest” has continued ever since that time. We have been invited to share in that rest. But if we are not careful, we can forfeit our place through unbelief.
6 God’s rest is still open for men and women. True believers are still entering His rest. Only those who disbelieve and disobey God are prevented from entering.
The writer here says that the ancient Jews did not go in (into God’s rest) because of their disobedience. But in Hebrews 3:19, the writer says that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. We must understand here that unbelief itself is really a kind of disobedience (see Romans 14:23 and comment). Therefore, in these two verses the writer is saying the same thing.
Indeed, unbelief is the most basic form of disobedience: it is a refusal to believe. Unbelief is not only disobedience in itself, but it also leads to all other kinds of disobedience. Because of unbelief, man loses the power to overcome sin. Because ofunbelief, man is separated from God. That is why unbelief prevents man from entering God’s rest (see Hebrews 3:19 and comment).
7 But God says to all men and women: “It is not too late to repent; there is still time.” Today God is giving us the opportunity to enter His rest. Today we can hear His voice; and we must hear it. I tell you… now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). While it is still “today,” let us not lose the chance to enter God’s rest, to receive salvation. Let us not harden our hearts (Psalm 95:7-8; Hebrews 3:13,15).
8 After those disobedient Jews died in the desert, a leader named Joshua led the next generation of Jews into Israel, the land which God had promised to give to Abraham’s descendants (Joshua 1:1-2). Or we can say that Joshua led them into “God’s rest.” And just as Joshua led that generation of Jews into God’s rest, so Jesus leads us into God’s rest.5 But the “rest” offered by Joshua to those ancient Jews was completely different from the rest Jesus offers to us today. The rest offered by Joshua was not permanent; because any rest in this world can never be permanent. Furthermore, many years after Joshua’s time, the Psalm writer DAVID wrote about a “rest” of God that was still to come in the future. Besides the rest offered by Joshua, there is still to come another kind of rest, which Jesus will give to those who believe in Him. And the rest given by Jesus is permanent; it will never end.
9-10 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God. We, through faith, are the people of God. Here God’s rest is called a Sabbath-rest, because after creating the world in six days God rested on the seventh—or Sabbath6—day. Just as God rested after creating the world, so we too shall be able to rest after our work on earth is finished.7 We will have a share in God’s rest. Indeed, we can understand that “God’s rest” is the kingdom of heaven itself. Our true rest is waiting for us in heaven.
11 The writer here repeats the thought of Hebrews 3:12.
Jesus the Great High Priest (4:12-16)
12 The writer has already reminded us that we need to hear God’s word (verse 7). But it is not enough to hear God’s word; we must obey it (see Matthew 7:24-27). For the word of God is living and active. Through the prophet Isaiah, God said concerning His word: “It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). God’s word is like a double-edged sword. To the believer it brings salvation (Romans 1:16). To the unbeliever it brings judgment (John 3:18). God’s word is also sharp. Like a sword, it penetrates to a man’s inner mind and con-science.8 It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. God’s word is Christ’s word. But more than that, God’s word is Christ Himself (John 1:14). That word which brings judgment and salvation and which judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart—that word is Christ Himself (see 1 Corinthians 4:5).
13 Jesus sees into our hearts. Nothing is hid from Jesus and God. We can hide our thoughts and desires from our neighbor, or from our spouse. We can even hide our inner thoughts and desires from ourselves; that is, we can deceive ourselves. But we cannot hide anything from God, nor can we deceive Him. Every man will one day have to give a complete account of himself to God; on that day, everything will be uncovered and laid bare.
Today the word of Jesus speaks to us: “Come, follow me” (Mark 1:17). What answer will we give?
14 Jesus is our great high priest. In Hebrews 2:17, the writer has called Jesus a merciful and faithful high priest. Jesus has already gone through the heavens—that is, He has ascended to heaven. And now He is seated at the right hand of God. He has gone before us to prepare a place for us (John 14:2). In order that we might not lose that place, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
15 Jesus knows that we are weak. He knows how great our temptations are, because He Himself has been tempted in every way, just as we are. Therefore, He is able to sympathize with us and to help us (Hebrews 2:18). We can talk to Him as a friend. He completely understands our situation.
Jesus has been tempted … just as we are. Jesus was made like his brothers in every way (Hebrews 2:17). However, He never sinned. And it was because He never sinned that He became a perfect high priest, through whom we can obtain salvation (Hebrews 5:8-9).
16 Because we have such a merciful and perfect high priest, we can now approach the throne of GRACE. That is, we can come directly into the presence of God Himself. And we can come with confidence. We can come with confidence, because weknowthat we shall obtain mercy and grace. Even now, Christ is at God’s right hand interceding on our behalf (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:2526). Therefore, when trials and temptations come upon us, let us not run and hide from God; rather, let us go at once to Jesus, and He will help us in our time of need.