Hebrews 4:1-13 - Outline of Hebrews (MENU page)
4:1 Let us therefore fear,
lest, a promise being left [us] of entering into his rest,
{one} of you should seem {ie., should be accounted} to come short of it.
Therefore- ie., having the example of Israel's loss due to unbelief (3:19)...
let us fear- Fear is a good thing if it makes us wary of danger.
McGee suggests we should fear "rattlesnakes... and ignorance of the Word of God," and the possibility of exclusion from God's rest.
There are three ''Rest's of God'' in ch. 4:
-- Rest from Creation, v. 4
-- Rest in Canaan, v. 5,6
-- Rest in Christ, v. 9-11
4:2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them:
but the word preached
{GK, the word of hearing} did not profit them,
not being mixed with faith in them that heard [it].

{or, 'because they were not united, by faith, to them that heard.'}
unto us- ie., the early Hebrew Christians.
unto them- the unbelieving Israelites in the wilderness
(and also unbelievers contemporary to the readers).
the word...not mixed with faith...- cp. Rom 10:9-11,14-18; Heb 11:6
4:3 For we which have believed do enter into {that} rest, as he said,
As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest:
{Psa 95:11}
although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
Psalm 95 continues to be central to the argument of ch. 4 (as in ch. 3).
Rest is for believers.
Unbelievers are excluded, but not because God's work is incomplete.
God's work was "finished" long before man came on the scene.
ie., His work of salvation in Christ: Eph 1:4; 1Pet 1:20; Rev 13:8
4:4 For he spake in a certain place of the seventh [day] on this wise,
And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.
{Gen 2:2}
What does it mean that God rested?
He rested, on the first Sabbath day, not due to tiredness, but because His work of creation was complete. Isa 40:28; Gen 2:2
4:5 And in this [place] again, If they shall enter into my rest. {Psa 95:11}
they- God purposed that people would benefit from His finished work. Examples:
  • As creatures, men are part of God's creation rest.
    (The present unrest, in the creation, is an effect of sin.)
  • For Israel, God promised rest in the land of Canaan.
    Although some missed the opportunity because of their unbelief, others entered.
4:6 Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein,
and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief
{lit., disobedience, cp.3:18}:
it remains- God's rest and purpose have not been derailed by unbelieving men. Rom 3:3,4
some must enter- God's purposes cannot be thwarted.
It is necessary, because God has promised, that some men will be included in His rest.
Who, then, is elligible to enter?
Was His offer of rest limited to Israel in the wilderness in Moses' day?
4:7 Again, he limiteth {ie., marks out, defines} a certain day, saying in David, {Psa 95:7,8}
To day, after so long a time; as it is said,
To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
No, it was not for Moses day only.
In the Psalms, God spoke through David, who lived hundreds of years later, repeating His invitation.
Today- it is for our time also. 2Cor 6:2
hear- GK=akouo, to hear with understanding, perception
(cp. English 'acumen'- quickness of perception, keenness of insight). cp. 1Thes 2:13
4:8 For if Jesus {ie., Joshua} had given them rest,
then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.
Joshua- There is one GK word used for Jesus and for Joshua in the NT.
Joshua, the son of Nun, succeeded Moses as Israel's leader.
Joshua brought Israel into the promised land, where they found rest (although due to unbelief, their possession of the land was incomplete). Josh 22:4
But God had another rest in mind, since His words through David were subsequent to Joshua's time.
4:9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.
rest- GK=sabbatismos, lit., a sabbath keeping.
remains- There is a type of rest, promised to God's people,
which is distinct from the rests of Creation & Canaan.
Yet, like God's first sabbath rest, it is based on His completed work.
4:10 For he that is entered into his {ie., God's} rest,
he also hath ceased from his own works, as God [did] from his.
rest- GK=katapausis, a cessation of work. (all occurences of 'rest' in ch. 3 & 4, except 4:9).
The English "pause" comes from the root word.
ceased- GK=katapauo, to cease (same root)
from his own works-
God rested because He finished His works (plural)-
-- of Creation.
-- of Redemption in Christ.
Man rests when he enters "into His rest" (ie., into God's finished work).
  • Peace with God is received "not by works of righteousness which we have done..." but through the finished work of Christ. Titus 3:5-7; Eph 2:8-10
  • Victory over sin is experienced, not by my moral strength of character, but through Christ's death, by which sin has lost its power over me. Rom 6:1-10; Gal 2:20
  • Godly life & service is the fruit, not of my abilities, but of Him who began and will complete His work in me. Joh 15:5; Php 1:6; 2:13
Christ invites us to come to Him for this rest. Mat 11:28-29
His rest is complete submission to the Father. Note that in contrast to the Pharisee's sabbath rest, Christ's rest is not a rest from work, but in work:
"not the rest of inactivity but of the harmonious working of all faculties and affections- of will, heart, imagination and conscience- because each has found in God the ideal sphere for its satisfaction and development."
[J.Patrick, "Hastings Biblical Dictionary", as quoted by W.E.Vine]
is entered (present tense)... hath ceased (past tense)-
cp. v.3 'do enter'... 'have believed'
This rest is meant to be present reality for 'we who have believed.' cp. 1The 1:6,7
(It is also our confidence for our eternal future. cp. Rev 14:13)
When faith puts all its weight upon the Lord, rest is obtained.
4:11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest,
lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
labor- GK=spoudazo, be diligent.
Rest is entered by faith, not by our own efforts. But we, like Israel in the wilderness, are in danger of being excluded through unbelief. Peter uses this word to remind believers to test themselves against scripture. 2Pet 1:10-15; 3:14-18; Heb 12:12-16
4:12 For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and
sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder
of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow,
and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
the word of God- is ascribed personal characteristics in v.12,13.
Therefore, some see this as a reference to God the Son (the living Word, cp. 1:2) as opposed to the Bible (the written Word). However, in the arguments of this epistle, scripture is set forth as the direct utterance of God (who speaks authoritatively and powerfully to each issue in a manner that is both timeless and timely).
Since God actively speaks to men's hearts through the scriptures, the written Word is inseparable from the living Word.
quick- ie., living. 1Pet 1:23
powerful- GK=energes, energizing. Jer 23:29
sharp... two-edged... piercing...- When handled rightly,
the Word will cut to the heart of both the preacher & the congregation. Isa 49:2; 1Cor 2:4,5; 1Thes 2:13
a discerner- GK=kritikos, a critic, a judge. Many men are critics of the Bible.
But the Bible critiques all men & determines their true condition.
of the heart- "Men are not kept from faith in God by intellectual problems
of the head, but by sin problems of the heart." [McGee]
Because men "err in heart" (3:10) and "harden their hearts" (eg. 3:8), this is the site of surgery performed by God's Word.
thoughts & intents- The heart of man cannot discern its own motivations.
But God's Word reveals our true inner condition.
Jer 17:9,10; Mat 15:19
dividing [between] soul & spirit, and [between] joints & marrow-
The soul is -the mind of man | The spirit is -the mind of God
-the power of flesh | -the power of God
(See Rom 8:5-14) |
The joints are-articulate,| The marrow is-hidden
-mechanical | -vital, central to life
God's Word reveals the root of our religion and rest, as either 'of man' or 'of God.'
2Tim 3:2,5; Joh 4:23,24
4:13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight:
Psa 33:13-15; 90:8; 139:11,12
but all things [are] naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
Prov 15:11; Psa 139:23,24
Can I hide my secret sins, or the motives of my heart from Him? No.
Then, I must confess them to Him, and seek rest in Him, from my sin. Psa 51:1-12

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