Summary: Our rest based in the finished work of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Let us hold fast our profession and come boldly to the throne of grace.
ENTERING REST AND FINDING GRACE
“Let us therefore fear” links this passage with the previous chapter. It has to do with the promise of “entering into His rest”, “lest any of you should seem to come short of it” (Hebrews 4:1). The promise of entering the promised land was “gospel” (i.e. good news) to the children of Israel - but was also a type of the promise to us Christians: but they (the exodus generation) did not mix the message with faith, and so failed to enter (Hebrews 4:2).
However, “we which have believed do enter into rest” (Hebrews 4:3a). This is a present participle: we “do” enter. Not just when we die, or when the Lord returns, or whenever: but in this present life, the moment we believe, and onward from there.
The writer continues the argument from Psalm 95:7-11, changing ‘they shall not enter into my rest’ (Psalm 95:11; cf. Hebrews 3:11) to “if they shall enter into my rest” Hebrews 4:3b; Hebrews 4:5), indicating that there is still an opening in the “rest” currently on offer (Hebrews 4:6a).
An argument concerning the nature of the “rest” on offer is presented with the comparison with the “rest” of God: “although the works were finished from the foundation of the world” (Hebrews 4:3c). “And God did rest the seventh day from all His works” (Hebrews 4:4; cf. Genesis 2:2-3). This is the kind of “rest” into which we enter: one which is based upon a ‘finished work’ - in our case, the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ, who made one full final perfect sacrifice for sins, once and for all and for ever, by His own blood (Hebrews 9:24-26), and cried ‘Finished!’ from the Cross of Calvary (John 19:30).
Now, those to whom the promise of rest was first proclaimed (the exodus generation) entered not in because of unbelief (Hebrews 4:6b; cf. Hebrews 3:19). So, generations later, the Lord “limited another Day, saying in David ‘Today’, after so long a time; as it is said, ‘Today if you (all) will hear His voice, harden not your hearts’” (Hebrews 4:7; cf. Psalm 95:7-8). The argument here is that if Joshua had given them (those who fell in the wilderness) rest, then the Lord would not have spoken of another Day (Hebrews 4:8) -so, “There remains therefore a rest to the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9).
“For he that is entered into his rest” - not will enter at the end of life, but “is” entered here and now - “he also has ceased from his own works, as God did from His” (Hebrews 4:10). In other words, we are no longer trusting to our own works for salvation but are resting entirely in the finished work of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved’ (Acts 16:31).
Now comes the paradox: “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest” (Hebrews 4:11a). Mr. Spurgeon ventures here, ‘labour in your faith not to trust in your faith, but to trust only in Jesus!’ For, as the verse goes on, “lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Hebrews 4:11b).
Now, so far in the epistle to the Hebrews, the author has made extensive use of the Scriptures. So, after this latest warning against falling into unbelief, he reminds the Hebrew Christians that “the word of God” is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12a). It is for “Today”, whenever “Today” may be (cf. Hebrews 3:7; Hebrews 3:15; Hebrews 4:7).
The word of God shall not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11). Like a sharp sword (Ephesians 6:17), it pierces and divides, discerning the thoughts and intentions of our innermost being (Hebrews 4:12b). We know hereby that the God “with whom we have to do” (to whom we must give account) knows all things (Hebrews 4:13).
We were previously called to ‘consider Jesus’ as ‘the high priest of our profession’ (Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 4:14a). The token of His finished work is that He is “passed into the heavens” (Hebrews 4:14b), and is there seated, His work completed, at the right hand of God (Hebrews 12:2). There He ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25).
A man like ourselves, Jesus is a merciful and faithful high priest capable of facing (Hebrews 2:17-18) - and overcoming (Hebrews 4:15) - temptation. Yet though a man, Jesus is also the Son of God (Hebrews 4:14c; Hebrews 5:5). So, “let us hold fast our profession” (Hebrews 4:14d), and “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).