Summary: God’s rest is based on three things: 1) Personal faith (Hebrews 4:2–3), 2) Sovereign decree (Hebrews 4:5–6), and 3) Immediate action (Hebrews 4:7).
One of the most difficult times to be working is when many other people have the day off. For people in the general or emergency services, there are social or critical services that people avail themselves of, even on holidays. Although it can often mean earning a higher wage, it also can have a toil on family and personal life, for these people are often just continuing their regular work. Some are so consumed with earning extra money or general workaholics that any time away from work is stressful for them. As destructive as neglecting physical rest can be, neglecting spiritual rest has an even greater result.
Hebrews 4 continues the warning to informed but unresponsive Jews that began in 3:7. 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 old 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.
Yet, even within the Christian sphere, many people are looking for “rest”, not in the knowledge of Christ and the assurances of His Word. To be sure, even the Christian life, apart from submission and obedience to Him, will be filled with dissatisfaction and inward turmoil. And no amount of material success, physical comfort, psychological counseling, or religious duty will provide the peace and rest He has promised. It can only be appropriated by faith in the promises of God, regardless of adversity and the circumstances around us.(J. Dwight Pentecost. Faith That Endures: A Practical Commentary on the Book of Hebrews. 2000. Published by Kregel Publications, a division of Kregel, Inc., P.O. Box 2607, Grand Rapids, MI 49501)
First, God’s rest, His salvation, is based on:
1) Personal Faith (Hebrews 4:2–3)
Hebrews 4:2-3 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, "As I swore in my wrath, 'They shall not enter my rest,'" although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. (ESV)
The conjunction for links the concept of the promise, given to the Israelites but still valid today (v. 1), with that of the good news/gospel preached to the nation Israel in the desert and to us (William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker. Exposition of Hebrew. Baker NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY. BAKERBOOKS. 1984)
The good news/gospel is the central story about Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection and the subsequent blessings which are offered through those events. That message: “came to us just as to them.” Be it either before or after Christ was on earth, the general offer from God was the same, i.e., if his people would be faithful, they would be with him forever in his eternal rest. (JIM GIRDWOOD & PETER VERKRUYSE. HEBREWS: THE COLLEGE PRESS NIV COMMENTARY. COLLEGE PRESS PUBLISHING COMPANY. Joplin, Missouri. 1997)
From the human side, the first requirement for salvation is faith. Hearing the gospel is essential, but it is not enough. The ancient Israelites heard God’s good news of rest, but it did them no good since they did not accept it. They did not trust in the God who gave them the good news. Hearing the good news must be united by faith. The practical implication is clear: it is not the hearing of the gospel by itself that brings salvation, but its appropriation by faith; and if a genuine faith, it will be a persistent faith (F. F. Bruce. Hebrews: The New International Commentary Series, p. 73).
Israel’s problem was that they did not combine the message with faith. It was not united by faith. The verb συγκεράννυμι (synkerannymi, “to unite/combine, blend”) …The family of words indicates a very thorough mixing. The point of the statement in Hebrews is that there must be more than casual response to God’s message. Faith must be closely bonded with the message in thorough, minute detail. There is no place here to pick and choose which part of the Bible we want and which we will discard. For the gospel to have value, it must have faith mixed all through it. It must be trusted in all its parts (JIM GIRDWOOD & PETER VERKRUYSE. HEBREWS: THE COLLEGE PRESS NIV COMMENTARY. COLLEGE PRESS PUBLISHING COMPANY. Joplin, Missouri. 1997).