Day 277 – The New Rest

Today’s reading: Hebrews 4

In my opinion, Hebrews 4 is one of the most difficult chapters of the Bible to understand. However, if you spend a little time with them you can see that it is also one of the most profound and beautiful as well.

Remember that this was first probably given as a speech most likely to a group of very recent converts (possibly mixed with potential converts) who were trying to understand while the Temple sacrifices were no longer effective.

For the purposes of this exercise, a line by line review is warranted.

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest remains, let us fear lest any of you be judged to have failed to reach it.  For good news came to us just as to them; but the message which they heard did not benefit them, because it did not meet with faith in the hearers.  For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall never enter my rest,” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world.  Hebrews 4:1-3

[The speaker is changing his emphasis from Chapter 3 where he was talking about the Exodus and has moved into the present. In Chapter 3, he described how the Jews of the Exodus failed to stay faithful and were denied entry into the promised land.  Here he is telling the audience he is speaking to – you have heard the Good News of Jesus and a promise for a new rest is at hand.  The author is exhorting them not to repeat the same mistake as the Exodus generation. They met the word of God with unbelief and were denied the Promised Land. However, the converts – the Christians who have believed in Jesus have already entered the NEW REST. Notice, Rest is not now a place or a day but our union with Jesus Christ.  It is a spiritual or eternal rest].

The chapter continues:

For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way, “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.”  And again in this place he said, “They shall never enter my rest.” Hebrews 4:4-5

[The speaker pivots again. Before “rest” was the Promised Land that was lost by the Exodus generation but “rest” is also the Sabbath. The author equates the two.  Both are LESS than the new “rest” in Christ.  The Exodus generation lost the Promised Land, this generation (“in this place”) loses the Sabbath. Remember, the speaker is likely speaking to rabbis about why the Temple sacrifices – which were made on new moons, holidays and the Sabbath are no longer being accepted.]

The chapter continues:

Since therefore it remains for some to enter it [“the rest”], and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he sets a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Hebrews 4:6-7

[THIS IS THE KEY: this is not just a message of punishment; it is a message of hope because true rest is here “Today”. Read carefully what the speaker is saying. “It remains for some to enter…”. In other words, You …  the Jewish converts or potential converts this address is being made to. … can still convert and enter the new covenant. The speaker quotes an Old Testament verse that “Today when you hear his voice do not harden your hearts” – in other words, “Convert – Now”.]

The chapter continues:

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later of another day.  So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God; for whoever enters God’s rest also ceases from his labors as God did from his.  Hebrews 4:8-10

[If the old Sabbath day had been sufficient, God would not have spoken of a new day. There remains a “Sabbath rest” for the people of God.  However, as we have already seen above this rest is not a new day but a new state of being in union with Jesus.  Notice, he does not say there remains a Sabbath “day”, there remains a “rest” which we enter into.  The labors we cease from are not just physical labors but the ritual labors for salvation under the Old Covenant.]

The chapter continues:

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, that no one fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do. Hebrews 4:11-13

[He warns them again – don’t mess it up like the Exodus generation before. The next verse (v. 12) is often misunderstood to be referring to the all of Scripture, particularly the New Testament. However, when this speech was delivered and recorded the New Testament didn’t exist yet. Thus, “the scripture” is only a secondary meaning for the phrase “the word of God” in the verse. Re-read verse 12 and replace “the word of God” w/ “Jesus Christ” who is, of course, the Word made flesh. The author is using a phrase poetically to refer to Jesus. This is confirmed by verse 13 which says, “And before HIM no creature is hidden…]

The chapter continues:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16

[B/c Jesus was both man and God he can sympathize with us. True Rest is in him.]

I hope this helps you to see the beauty of the above verses. “Rest” has 3 aspects – Salvation (being in God’s presence), a place (the Promised Land) and a day (the Sabbath). The Promised Land and the Sabbath are types – foreshadows of the Eternal Rest in Heaven. However, like everything else in the OT, these have been completed – fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. The place and the day are no longer far off. When we enter into communion with Jesus Christ we achieve the rest we seek now, “today”. Indeed, Jesus himself said,

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11: 28-30

Give up your life to Jesus and you will find the rest you seek.


Tomorrow: Hebrews 4

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