Entering God’s Rest
Hebrews 4 continues the warning to the informed, but unresponsive Jews from chapter 3. These Jews not only knew the basic truths of the gospel but had even renounced Judaism. Still they did not trust in Christ. The warning, of course, applies to anyone who is hesitating in committing himself fully to Jesus Christ, and can be summarized: “Do not harden your hearts like Israel did in the wilderness.” The Israelites had left Egypt, but they often longed to go back. They refused to trust the Lord completely and oppressive and disappointing as it was, the olf life still had an appeal. They halted at the crucial point of decision. Consequently, they were not allowed to enter the Promised Land and into God’s rest. So it is with many who are drawn to Jesus Christ. Unbelief forfeits rest – that is the writer’s thought.
I. The Meaning of Rest
a. Both the English and Greek word for “rest” holds the basic idea of ceasing from work or from any kind of action.
i. You stop doing what you are doing.
ii. Action, labor, or exertion is over.
iii. Applied to God’s rest, it means no more self-effort as fast as salvation is concerned.
iv. It means the end of trying to please God by our feeble, fleshly works.
v. God’s perfect rest is a rest in free grace.
b. Rest also means freedom from whatever worries or disturbs you.
i. Some people cannot rest mentally and emotionally because they always feel easily annoyed.
ii. Every little nuisance upsets them and they always feel hassled.
iii. Rest does not mean freedom from all nuisances and hassles; it means freedom from being so easily bothered by them.
iv. It means to be inwardly quiet, composed, and peaceful.
v. To enter God’s rest means to be at peace with God, to possess the perfect peace He gives.
vi. It means to be free from guilt and even unnecessary feelings of guilt.
vii. It means to be free from worry about sin, because sin is forgiven.
c. Rest can mean to lie down, be settled, fixed, secure.
i. There is no more shifting about in frustration from one thing to another, no more running in circles.
ii. In God’s rest we are forever established in Christ.
iii. We are freed from running from philosophy to philosophy, from religion to religion, from life-style to life-style. We are freed from being tossed about by every doctrinal wind, every idea or fad, that blows our way.
iv. In Christ we are established, rooted, grounded, and un-moveable.
v. That is the Christians’ rest.
d. Rest involves remaining confident, keeping trust.
e. Rest also means to lean on.
i. To enter into God’s rest means that for the remainder of our lives and for all eternity we can lean on God.
ii. We can be sure that he will never fail to support us.
f. The rest we here of here in Hebrews 4, includes all of these meanings.
i. It is full, blessed, sweet, satisfying, and peaceful.
ii. It is what God offers every person in Christ.
* God’s rest, His salvation, is based on three things, which we refer to as the elements of rest.
II. The Elements of Rest
a. Personal Faith (vv. 2-3)
i. The first requirement for salvation is faith.
1. Hearing the gospel is essential, but it is not enough
2. The ancient Israelites heard God’s good news of rest, but it did them no good since they did not accept it.
3. It does us no good to hear if we do not believe
4. Hearing the good news of the rest of God is of no benefit, no profit, to any person at any time unless the hearing is united by faith.
ii. It is tragic that hell is going to be populated with people who thought they were doing the right thing, but their knowledge and work were not united with faith.
iii. If you run a red light and a policeman pulls you over and starts to give you a ticket, you do not show him your copy of the state driving laws as your defense.
1. You don’t try to prove your innocence by telling him that you have read the whole book.
2. That won’t make you innocent, that would make you all the more responsible for living up to the laws and more guilty for breaking them.
iv. Being a true Jew under the Old Covenant was not a matter of having the law but of obeying it.
v. Being a Christian under the New Covenant is not a matter of knowing the gospel, but of trusting in it.
1. Having a Bible, reading it, knowing it, taking it to church every Sunday, and even teaching from it does not make us Christians.
2. Only trusting in the One whom it testifies makes us Christians.
b. Our Rest is God’s Rest (v. 4)
i. The rest that is promised here, is God’s rest.
ii. God’s own rest from His work of creation, and the rest that He gives us in Christ, are not the rest brought on by weariness or the rest of inactivity, but are the rest of finished work.
iii. His works were finished from the foundation of the world.
iv. When God had finished the creation, He said (paraphrasing Gen. 2), “It’s done, I’ve made a wonderful world for man and woman. I’ve given them everything earthy they need, including each other, for a complete and beautiful and satisfying life. Even more importantly, they have perfect, unbroken, unmarred fellowship with Me. I can now rest; and they can rest in Me.”
v. But unfortunately the sin of Adam and Eve, put a barrier between us and that rest.
1. The only way for us to remove that barrier, is by having faith in Christ Jesus and believing.
c. Divine Decree (vv. 5-6)
i. This second element of rest is God’s sovereign decree.
ii. Without God’s decree, man’s faith would be futile and worthless.
iii. We are saved by two things:
1. God’s will, expressed in His sending His Son to save us
2. Our will, expressed in our trust in His Son to save us.
iv. We can be saved because God had planned to save us before the world was created.
v. Only disobedience keeps us out.
d. Immediate Action (v. 7)
i. The opportunity for God’s rest remains, but it will not remain indefinitely.
ii. For each individual it will end before or with death; and for all mankind it will end in the Last Day.
iii. The age of grace is not forever.
iv. This is God’s today, right now – the only day, the only opportunity, we can be sure of.
III. The Nature of Rest (vv. 8-10)
a. It is Spiritual
i. The rest spoken of here is not the physical rest of Canaan.
1. That was only a picture.
2. God’s true rest comes not through Moses, Joshua, or David.
3. It comes through Jesus Christ alone.
ii. God’s rest is not essentially physical at all.
1. Certainly, resting in God and trusting in His promises can relieve us of nervousness, tension, and other physical problems.
2. But these are by-products of His rest.
iii. The rest that God promises is spiritual.
1. His basic promise is to give us spiritual rest, spiritual blessing.
2. Some of God’s most faithful believers are the busiest, the harder working, and sometimes even the most afflicted people imaginable.
3. Yet they are in God’s rest.
b. It is for Israel
i. The term people of God specifically refer to Israel.
ii. Salvation is first of all for Israel and then the Gentiles.
iii. There is a rest remaining for the people of God, and in the Old Testament Israel is designated the people of God.
iv. His spiritual rest is promised first to Israel, and He will not be through with her until she comes into His rest.
c. It is Future
i. In the apostle John’s vision on Patmos as recorded in (Rev. 14:13) he said, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on! Yes, says the Spirit that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”
ii. I believe the writer of Hebrews is anticipating the last days, when we cease from all effort and all work and enter into the presence of Jesus Christ.
iii. It is the rest that God promised us all when He finished His creation.
The need for God’s rest is urgent. A person should diligently, with intense purpose and concern, secure it. It is not that he can work his way to salvation, but that he should diligently seek to enter God’s rest by faith.
In light of such certain and perfect judgment and of such beautiful and wonderful rest, why will any person harden his heart to God?