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Teaching

Let us Strive to Enter that Rest (Hebrews 4)

Hebrews 4

1Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 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. 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 passage he said,

       “They shall not enter my rest.”

Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,

       “Today, if you hear his voice,

       do not harden your hearts.”

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

14 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. 15 For we do not have 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. 16 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.

 

 

1. Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.

– As we begin, we notice the word therefore is rather significant because it looks backward to the quotation of Psalm 95 in Hebrews 3:7-11:

 

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

       “Today, if you hear his voice,

      do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,

on the day of testing in the wilderness,

      where your fathers put me to the test

and saw my works for forty years.

10     Therefore I was provoked with that generation,

       and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;

they have not known my ways.’

11     As I swore in my wrath,

‘They shall not enter my rest.’ ”

 

– The author applies what happened to believers in the OT and applies it to NT believer.

– He then points forward to what we’re examining today.

-The message of Heb 4:1 can be summarized in three words:  fear, promise, failure.

 

a. Fear

– The author is a pastor who strives for the spiritual well-being of his people.

– He does not want to see a single member of the church fall into unbelief.

– But the pastor or elder is not the only one in the church to care for the members of the congregation.

– Hebrews exhorts all members to be equally concerned.

– He writes, “Let us fear.”

– All are responsible for the welfare of the church.

– To be concerned about one’s own salvation is commendable

– To pray for one’s fellow man is praiseworthy.

– But to strive for the salvation of everyone within the church is exemplary.

– We must take careful note of members who may be drifting from the truth in doctrine or conduct.

– We are on the constant lookout for spiritual stragglers.

 

b. Promise

– God’s promises remain the same for all times and for every generation because God is true to his Word.

– God’s promise is still valid today and did not come to an end with the Israelites in the desert.

– Because the promise of God still stands, we must care about the growth and development of our fellow believers.

 

c. Failure

– The promise of God is firm and spans the centuries.

– It was true for Abraham.

– It was true for the Israelites in the desert.

– It was true for David in Psalm 95.

– It is true for us today.

– This does not mean that God’s promise of blessing is granted when faith is lacking.

– When man fails to believe God’s Word, God turns the promise into a threat and a curse as he did during Israel’s journey in the wilderness.

– What does Hebrews imply when we’re told that we have the promise of entering God’s rest?

– The promise must speak beyond how it was first used by Joshua to refer to the land.

– When David spoke of rest, he lived safely in his palace at Jerusalem.

– The term rest must speak of spiritual rest.

– Using a sports analogy, Hebrews warns that some may have failed to reach a goal.

– It’s like being falling behind in a race, quitting, and never getting to the finish line.

– In this case the goal is spiritual rest.

– A failure to claim the promise of God’s rest must not be found in the church.

– Notice how direct he is:  “…let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it….”

– The entire congregation must be vigilant about losing interest in spiritual matters.

– No one may let his guard down.

– No one may be lost.

– Again and again, care for one another’s spiritual rest is the obligation of every believer.

 

2. 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.

 

– The same promise has been given to us as to the Israelites who fell in the desert.

– We must heed this warning.

– The Word of God, although a continuous revelation from the first book in the Bible to the last, is the same.

– The Word is good news for the Israelite and for the Christian.

– Notice he says that the “…good news came to us….”

– This Word has been preached to us for a considerable time so that we are fully evangelized.

– The Israelites traveling from Egypt to Canaan also had the Word preached to them over an extended period.

– However, the gospel news that the desert travelers heard did not do them any good, because they failed to pay attention.

– Those who heard the Word did not combine it with faith.

– That was their downfall.

– No one among the Israelites could complete the desert journey and enter the Land of Promise except those who had faith in God.

– And no one shall enter God’s eternal rest unless his faith is anchored in Jesus, the Son of God.

 

3. 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.

 

– After comparing the Israelites to Christians of his day he confidently states, “For we who have believed enter that rest.”

– He does not use the future tense (“we will enter”).

– He says, “We who have believed enter.”

– God’s promise has become reality according to his divine plan and purpose.

– At this very moment, even though not yet fully realized, we are entering that rest.

– As long as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus we enjoy the rest God has promised.

– Eventually, we shall be with him eternally.

– But what is God’s rest?

– He seems to have expected this question.

– He quotes Gen 2:2: “although his works were finished from the foundation of the world.

– After the world was created, God initiated a new period—a period of rest.

– God rested from his work of creation at the conclusion of the sixth day.

– After each of the six days of creation the concluding words are “there was evening, and there was morning.”

– But for the seventh day there is no evening and morning mention.

– With the seventh day, then, the period of God’s rest began.

 

4. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5. And again in this passage he said,

                  “They shall not enter my rest.”

 

– God rested on the seventh day from all his works.

– Think of Jesus’ words when the Jews persecuted him for healing an invalid on the Sabbath: “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (John 5:17).

– Rest for God does not mean idleness.

– Rather it is a cessation from the work of creation.

– God continues to enjoy this rest now that the work of his creation is completed.

– Combining Genesis 2:2 and Psalm 95 then, the author concludes that only those who believe enter God’s rest.

– This rest has become a reality for the believer.

– Unbelievers have no access to the rest God provides.

– If a person spurns God’s Word, they have forfeited the privilege of entering his rest.

– Hebrews repeatedly draws attention to the solemn oath God swore: “They shall not enter my rest” (Heb. 3:11, 18; 4:3, 5).

– This recurring warning must not be taken lightly.

– Nobody should be so arrogant as to think, “It will never happen to me.”

– Beloved, this is why we need one another!

– This is why the author tells us to be alert for one another.

– If the Israelites had listened to the word of God, they would have been the recipients of all the blessings God had promised.

– But one generation after the death of Joshua and the elders who outlived him, the people turned their backs on the God of their fathers (Josh. 2:10), and the promise of God turned into a threat and a curse.

– History documents apostasy of people who thought they had nothing to fear.

– This is why the author of Hebrews repeats the verse they shall not enter my rest.

 

6. Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7. again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,

                  “Today, if you hear his voice,

                  do not harden your hearts.”

 

– We know that Joshua and Caleb entered the land of Canaan.

– They put their trust in God.

– They received the Promise, because God does not break his Word.

– We are likewise exhorted to enter God’s rest.

– God is true to his Word and does fulfill his promise.

– Note that some enter God’s rest but others are denied this rest.

– This is not a matter of injustice or favoritism.

– Those “…who formerly received the good news…” did not enter the rest.

– Why?

– Because of disobedience.

– They did not believe God’s Promise.

– They heard the gospel but they chose to disobey.

– Their unbelief turned into disobedience and they opposed God and his Word.

– His promise was ignored by the Israelites but God does not give up.

– God repeats the promise.

Verse 7 reads “..again he appoints a certain day, “Today,””

– The word Today emphasizes the relevance and timeliness for all of us.

– God set a certain day and even spoke through David.

– He spanned the centuries from Sinai to David’s rule.

– He even makes His promise available today.

– Today is the time for embracing God’s offer of salvation.

– God has said.  God has promised.

– No matter how many centuries elapse, God’s Word spans the ages.

– His message is just as clear and sure today as when it was first spoken.

 

8. For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.

 

– This ties the history of Deuteronomy and Judges to the present.

– There was a literal fulfillment of the land promise in Joshua 22:4.

– But if everything signified spiritually by that promise had been fulfilled, then God would not have spoken of another day as he does in Psalm 95 centuries later.

– There is a spiritual rest much greater than living safely in Canaan.

– There is a spiritual rest brought by the gospel.

– It is a rest from sin and evil.

 

9. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10. for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

 

– For the believer the Sabbath is not merely a day of rest from work.

– It is a spiritual rest—an end of sinning.

– The rest promised is being in the sacred presence of God with his people in worship and praise.

– The day of rest is an emblem of eternal rest.

– During our life on earth, we celebrate the Sabbath and realize only partially what Sabbath-rest entails.

– In the life to come, we shall fully experience God’s rest, for then we will have entered a rest that is eternal.

Revelation 14:13 – And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

– Who will enter that rest?

– All those who have faith in Jesus Christ and are one with him.

– In Christ we have perfect peace and rest.

 

11. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

 

– Let us exert ourselves to enter God’s rest.

– Let us not take that rest for granted.

– Earnestly strive to believe in Christ and be sanctified by Him.

– Let us work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

– – The whole of Hebrews exhorts us to hold on to our confession.

Hebrews 12:4 even tells us that we ought to strive even if our very lives are threatened.

– We can’t be casual about this.

– We can never take this for granted.

– Why?

– The reason the author cites is:  “So that no one may fall…”

– The people in the desert did not believe and died as a result of God’s curse.

– This was emblematic of their spiritual destruction.

– We need to watch out for one another.

– Nobody can be neglected.

– We cannot permit anyone to shrink back.

– Unbelief leads to willful disobedience.

– Disobedience eventually leads to an unrepentant heart.

– The consequence of shrinking back is eternal condemnation.

– Therefore, says the author, “…let us strive to enter that rest…”

– Notice how Hebrews 4:12-13 then follows.

– The authority and power of God’s Word searches every man out.

– We may lie to others.

– We may lie to ourselves.

– But the Word lays everything bare.

 

12. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

 

– We’re reminded that God’s Word is not to be trifled with.

– We face none other than God Himself.

– The Word is not a collection of ancient writings from the ancient past.

– It is living and active today and demands a response.

– It does not tolerate indifference and disobedience.

– The Word is effective and powerful and changes human hearts.

– God’s Word brought forth the entire creation.

– God’s Word recreates men dead in their sins and trespasses.

– Some Israelites disregarded this Word in their day and perished.

– Today, the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but is the power of God for us who are being saved. (1 Cor 1:18).

– The two-edged sword was the sharpest weapon in any arsenal.

– Likewise the Word is a weapon and is seen coming out of Christ’s mouth in Rev 1:16.

– God’s judgment is righteous, stern, and awful.

– Those that refuse to listen to His Word face judgment and death.

– But those who lay hold of Christ enter God’s rest and have life eternal.

– Let nobody take it for granted.

– Let no one willfully oppose it.

– The Word cuts and divides just as a scalpel uncovers the most delicate nerves of the body.

– Who is able to divide soul and spirit or joints and marrow?

– What judge can know the thoughts and attitudes of the heart?

– What man cannot divide, God’s word separates and discerns.

– All the recesses of body and soul, including thoughts and attitudes, face the sharp edge of God’s dividing sword.

– Our thoughts may be hidden from our neighbor but God’s Word uncovers all.

– It is impossible to hide sinful motives in the dark corners of our hearts.

– God sees everything; even darkness is as light to him (Ps. 139:12).

– Before we open our mouths to speak, God already knows.

– If we remain silent, he discerns.

– No creature is hidden from God’s sight.

– Man can hide secret sins from other men, but before God, sinful man is uncovered and laid bare.

– God’s all-seeing eye rests upon everything.

– We must all “give account”.

– The books must be audited.

– All the bills, payments, and receipts handed over to be checked.

– Man must give an account of himself before God, the auditor.

– The books of man’s conscience are open before God’s eyes.

– Nothing escapes him.

– In the last day sinners may call to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!” (Rev. 6:16).

– In the final judgment, everyone must give an account of himself.

– Only those who are in Christ Jesus will hear the liberating word acquitted.

 

– Beloved, as I prepared this sermon I was concerned.

– It is January 1st and is the time of resolutions after all.

– These words may frighten.

– A godly fear is the appropriate response.

– But I am concerned about a fear that that might lead to self-effort.

– This is not a “pick yourself up and try harder” message.

– I’m not your spiritual drill instructor telling you to get yourself in shape.

– I’m not trying to get you to simply improve your spiritual exercise plan.

– I’m not trying to get you to volunteer for more things in the Church.

– Beloved, I must insist that you consider the object of your faith.

– Does the terror of a Holy God fill your thoughts?

– Are you in need?

– Consider the Savior!

 

14 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. 15 For we do not have 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. 16 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.

 

– Draw near to Christ!

– Fly to Him.

– Yes, you are a sinner.

– Yes, you often shrink back in unbelief.

– But fly to Christ!

– He is a great high priest.

– Even now He is in the heavens praying for His own.

– Lay hold of the promise.

– Everyone who believes upon Jesus Christ shall be saved!

– TODAY is the time of need.

– TODAY you may find grace and help.

– TODAY is the day of promise.

– Lay hold of Christ!

– Draw near the throne of grace where grace and mercy abound!

– But it’s not just about you, is it?

– Look behind us.

– Is there anyone falling behind?

– Is there anyone shrinking back from Christ?

– We need to circle around and pick them up.

– We will pray with them!

– We will encourage them!

– We will hold up the weary arms!

– We will carry each other to the finish line!

– We will not accept that any fail to enter that rest.

– Beloved, we are in this together.

– We will not accept unbelief.

– We will not accept that any should refuse to lay hold of the promise.

– We will not be satisfied if only some of us make it to that rest.

– TODAY, let us turn from our sin.

– TODAY, look up ahead at the goal.

– Christ has been crucified for our sins.

– Christ has risen again for our justification.

– TODAY, Christ is making us holy.

– He’s a good Savior.

– He’s a perfect Savior.

– Let us all press on to the end!

– Let us pray.

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