HEBREWS CHAPTER 4

A) [Hebrews 3:16-4:11]: 

(Heb 3:16 NASB) "For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses?

(Heb 3:17 NASB) And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?

(Heb 3:18 NASB) And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient?

(Heb 3:19 NASB) So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief. 

(Heb 4:1 NASB) Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.

(Heb 4:2 NASB) For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.

(Heb 4:3 NASB) For we who have believed enter that rest, just 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.

(Heb 4:4 NASB) For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: "AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS";

(Heb 4:5 NASB) and again in this passage, "THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST."      

(Heb 4:6 NASB) Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience,

(Heb 4:7 NASB) He again fixes a certain day, "Today," saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, "TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS."

(Heb 4:8 NASB) For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that.

(Heb 4:9 NASB) So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.

(Heb 4:10 NASB) For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.

(Heb 4:11 NASB) Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience."

The word gospel does not refer in scripture to inheriting the promised land by ancient Israel nor to the reception of rewards in the presence of eternity.

The previous section in Hebrews chapter 3 views ancient Israelite believers and unbelievers being exhorted not to turn away from God, being encouraged by one another to hold firmly until the end so as to share in blessings of the kingdom with Christ.

Then chapter 4 continues the context. Verse 2 says, 'For we also have had the gospel preached to us just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.

Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, 'So I declared on oath in My anger, they shall never enter My rest.' "

Those of ancient Israel who did not believe in the gospel not only were excluded from entering the kingdom, but also were excluded from entering the promised land in their temporal lifetimes.

The opportunity for the latter - a reward - not being available because they had not received the former by faith. So they died in the desert - the unbelievers. And only the believers were to enter the promised land to begin their lives as the children of Israel in the promised land. The issue is that the Hebrew congregation of believers is being pointed to Ancient Israelites not believing the promise of God of entering the Promised Land - which encompasses first exercising faith in the gospel and then faith + enduring faithful works so as not only to enter God's eternal rest of eternal life in the kingdom but also to receive the blessings a faithful enduring believer will receive as well.

9  "So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God,"

Heb 4:9 begins with the inferential "ara"= "so," "as a result." What follows is the logical consequence of what precedes. The term "Sabbath-rest" (sabbatismos) is not attested before this passage and looks like the author's own coinage. He did not have a word for the kind of rest he had in mind; so he made one up. There were various kinds of "rest." There was, for example, the kind Israel was to get in its own land when it had rest from wars (Deut 25:19). When the psalmist wrote Psalm 95, he knew firsthand what this kind of rest in Palestine meant, and he still looked for "rest." So this is not what the author of Hebrews had in mind.

Israel had been in its own land for centuries. There had been quite long periods of peace and independence. Yet the promise of rest still remained unfulfilled.

Jesus spoke of quite another kind of rest - rest for the souls of men (Matt 11:28-30). This is nearer to what the author means. We might also notice an idea of the rabbis. The Mishnah explains the use of Psalm 92 (a psalm headed "A Psalm: A Song for the Sabbath") in these terms: "A Psalm, a song for the time that is to come, for the day that shall be all Sabbath and rest in the life everlasting" (Tamid 7:4). This is the kind of rest the author refers to, though his idea is not the rabbinic one. He links rest with the original Sabbath, with what God did when he finished Creation and what Christians are called into. This, then, is a highly original view, not simply an old idea refurbished. The author sees the rest as for "the people of God" - an expression found elsewhere in the NT only in 11:25 (though 1 Peter 2:10 is similar, and expressions like "my people" occur several times). In the OT "the people of God" is the nation of Israel, but in the NT it signifies believers. The rest the author writes about is for such people. Others cannot enter into it. This is not so much on account of a law or rule denying them entrance as that they shut themselves out by disobedience, i.e., unbelief in the gospel.

1) [(Heb 3:16-4-11) Bible Knowledge Commentary On Heb 3:16-4-11]:

(Heb 3:16 NASB) "For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses?

(Heb 3:17 NASB) And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?

(Heb 3:18 NASB) And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient?

(Heb 3:19 NASB) So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief."

3:16-19. Having alluded again to the passage he wished to expound, the author then began doing so. The questions in verse 16 seem more naturally read as statements: "For some, when they had heard, did provoke; howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses." The writer is aware of the notable exceptions of Joshua and Caleb, who did not take part in the general failure. But then he asked, With whom was God angry for 40 years? The answer is that He was angry with those in the wilderness congregation who sinned and who died in that wilderness. Their disobedience in refusing to enter the Promised Land caused God to swear that they would never enter His rest. This meant of course that the sinful generation in the desert was permanently excluded from taking possession of their inheritance in Canaan. Naturally it had nothing to do with the question of their going to hell, so it would be wrong to allege that the entire Exodus generation was unregenerate. But exclusion from Canaan was a consequence of their lack of faith in the power of God to bring them into it in victory over their enemies, a failure that in principle might be repeated by the readers of Hebrews if they forgot Messiah's ultimate triumph over His enemies and theirs (cf. 1:13-14). The writer wished his readers to take it to heart that unbelief, lack of confidence in God, was the reason God's people did not enter the land.

(Heb 4:1 NASB) "Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.

"4:1. It follows from the tragic example of Israel that Christians should also take warning. This is true because the promise of entering His rest still stands. The niv rendering of the last half of the verse is, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. This is possible, but the word "found" cloaks a difficulty in the underlying text, involving a word which usually means "to seem" or "to suppose." Some modern writers (Montefiore, Héring) prefer the meaning, "let us be careful that none of you suppose that he has missed it." Since the following context seems dedicated to demonstrating that God's rest is still open, this understanding is probably preferable.

The writer's concept of "rest" must not be separated from its Old Testament roots. The Septuagint includes notable passages where the word for rest (katapausis), in connection with Israel's possession of the land, is clearly paralleled with the word for inheritance (klēronomia). Moses showed clearly (Deut. 3:18-20; 12:9-11) that for Israel their rest was their inheritance. In the same way it is natural to suppose that the term "rest" for the writer of Hebrews was a functional equivalent for a Christian's inheritance. That Christians are "heirs" he has already affirmed (Heb. 1:14) and will shortly do so again (6:12, 17; cf. 9:15). How exactly he understood their relationship to this inheritance will unfold as his argument proceeds. But the inheritance itself can hardly be divorced from his presentation of Messiah's kingdom and His "partners'" share in that. If this needed explicit confirmation, it could be found in 12:28.

If, as just suggested, the writer was concerned that none of his readers would think they had missed their "inheritance-rest," it is quite conceivable that he was confronting the problem of the delay in the Second Advent, which Paul himself had also already encountered at Thessalonica. The writer of Hebrews' later call to patience that the readers may "receive what He has promised" is followed by the assurance that "in just a very little while, 'He who is coming will come and will not delay'" (10:36-37). If this was God's concern, it was urgent to show that this promised "rest" is still available.

(Heb 4:2 NASB) "For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard."

"4:2. Here the writer said that the gospel was preached to us (lit., "we were evangelized" or "we were given good news"). But this good news does not always refer to the plan of salvation from sin. In some circles the word "gospel" has acquired a sense too technical and narrow to do justice to the writer's ideas here. What was preached to the Israelites of old was, quite clearly, God's offer of rest. This, of course, was "good news" for them just as it is for people now, but it is not exactly what is meant today by "gospel." The Greek verb used, euangelizomai, was fully capable of having a nontechnical sense in the New Testament (cf. its use in Luke 1:19; 1 Thes. 3:6), but naturally the writer here did not sharply distinguish the "good news" about rest, which his readers had heard, from the "good news" to which the term "gospel" is more usually applied (cf. 1 Cor. 15:1-4). But as the whole context shows, his concern was with the good news about a future rest for God's people (cf. Heb. 4:10), not with the fundamental facts Paul spoke of in 1 Corinthians 15.

As was already pointed out in reference to the Israelites, the message they heard (about rest) was of no value to them, because of their lack of faith (cf. Heb. 3:19). That is to say, through unbelief they failed to take advantage of God's offer of rest. So it follows that for the readers to profit from this invitation to rest, they had to exercise faith."

(Heb 4:3 NASB) "For we who have believed enter that rest, just 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." 

"4:3. This is precisely what he then affirmed. The words hoi pisteusantes should be rendered "we who believe" rather than we who have believed. The writer's concern was not about their original faith in the past, but their perseverance in it (cf. 3:6, 14). Faith remains the prerequisite for entrance into rest, since it was to those who failed to exercise faith that God declared by oath they would not enter into His rest. This exclusion was definitive despite the fact that this rest had been established as far back as Creation itself."

(Heb 4:4 NASB) "For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: "AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS"; 

(Heb 4:5 NASB) and again in this passage, "THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST."

"4:4-5. With considerable enrichment of thought, the author then linked God's Sabbath-rest at the time of Creation with the rest that the Israelites missed in the desert. God rested when He finished His creative activity and this kind of experience has, ever since, lain open to people who also finish the work that is set before them (cf. v. 10). When, as with the nation in the wilderness, a task is left unfinished, of such it must be said, They shall never enter My rest.

(Heb 4: NASB) "Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience,

(Heb 4:7 NASB) He again fixes a certain day, "Today," saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, "TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS." 

"4:6-7. But the failure of the Israelites did not nullify the truth that some will enter that rest, and accordingly God renewed the offer (in Ps. 95) as late as the time of David. At that time God again set a certain day, calling it Today, thus presenting this opportunity to all readers of the psalm for whom the "Today" becomes their own "Today." Already the writer had applied that "Today" to his readers (cf. Heb. 3:14-15)."

(Heb 4:8 NASB) "For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. 

(Heb 4:9 NASB) "So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God."

(Heb 4:10 NASB) For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. [Gen 2:2]."

"4:8-10. But the readers were not to suppose that the promise of rest was realized in Joshua's day. Here the author showed himself perfectly aware that the Old Testament might have been quoted to show that the rest had already been entered via the conquest of the land in Joshua's time (cf. Josh. 22:4; 23:1). Probably it had been so quoted to his audience. But the writer's rebuttal was simple and sufficient: if this had been so, God would not have spoken later about another day. The psalm which forms his text disproves the notion that the rest had already been entered and was no longer open.

Behind this argument lies the undeniable fact that the conquest in Joshua's day did not lead to a permanent possession of the land. Such permanent possession of their promised inheritance had become for Judaism an expectation which would only be realized in Messiah's kingdom. This at least was true in normative Judaism, whatever might have been true in some sectarian thought. It may be suspected that here the author confronted some form of "realized eschatology" which  denied the futurity of such a hope. (Cf. the similar view of believers' resurrection which Paul resisted, 2 Tim. 2:17-18.) If so, the Hebrews author regarded Psalm 95 as silencing such a distorted perspective. The rest—the messianic partnership—did indeed lie ahead: There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God. 

[BKC note: the phrase rendered "the people of God" refers to God's chosen people Israel, as well as the elect of the Church Age, and the elect of all the dispensations since Creation began. Those people of God who are part of the Body of Christ the Church depending upon context are especially in view in Hebrews chapters 3-4. So all believers are to receive their particularly designated "Sabbath-rest" in accordance with the Sovereign decrees of God.

a) [Compare 1 Peter 2:9-10 which has in view the believers of the Church Age who are declared God's chosen people in a different sense from Israel]:

(1 Pet 2:9 NASB) "But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 

(1 Pet 2:10 NASB) for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY."

1 cont.) [(Heb 3:16-4:11) Bible Knowledge Commentary On Heb 3:16-4-11, cont.]:

(Heb 4:8 NASB) "For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. 

(Heb 4:9 NASB) "So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God."

(Heb 4:10 NASB) For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. [Gen 2:2]."

"4:8-10. [cont.]

"But it must now be said clearly that entering into God's rest means resting from one's own work just as God did from His. The statement is both a reassurance and an admonition. On the one hand it follows up the writer's conclusion (Heb. 4:9) that there is such a rest to be entered. But on the other, it reminds the readers that this is only done by their getting to the end of their task just as did God in His creative activity. In the phrase "rests from His own work," the author employed a kind of word play since the verb for "rest" also signifies "cease" which, against the backdrop of God's own work, clearly suggests successful completion. This thrust is what the writer has had in mind from the beginning of the section. The readers need to model their lives after Jesus Christ who "was faithful to the One who appointed Him" (3:2) and must be careful to "hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first" (3:14; cf. 3:6). Only thus would they be able to rest from their works in the joyful possession of their inheritance in the messianic kingdom.

(Heb 4:11 NASB) "Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience."

"4:11. It follows logically from this that the readers should, along with the author (note, Let us), make every effort to enter that rest. Unlike the assurance which all Christians have that they possess eternal life and will be raised up to enjoy it in the presence of God (cf. John 6:39-40), the share of the companions of Messiah in His dominion over creation is attained by doing His will to the end (Rev. 2:26-27). The readers must therefore be warned by Israel's failure in the desert and take care that they not follow Israel's example of disobedience."