1 Therefore, since a promise remains of entering his rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.

3 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as he has said: "So I swore in my wrath, 'They shall not enter my rest,' " although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: "And God rested on the seventh day from all His works"; 5 and again in this place: "They shall not enter my rest."

6 Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, 7 again He designates a certain day, saying in David, "Today," after such a long time, as it has been said: "Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts."

8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then he would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a [Sabbath] rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered his rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from his.

11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from his sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

14 Seeing then that 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 cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Version: New King James Version

COMMENTS

General:

  • Chapters 3 and 4 urge us not to harden our hearts:
    • V.1 returns to 3:13: it is from Christian love and genuine concern for our brothers and sisters that we urge one another to persevere to the end.
    • Don't resist his Word! Don't resist his Spirit! Don't resist his will! (That is saying the same thing in three different ways.)
    • We must learn a lesson from history, for we are in one sense no different to the "desert generation" of Moses' time:
      • Their lack of faith/obedience prevented them from receiving their reward. Compare v.2 to v.11.
      • The "gospel" they heard (about God's concern and their rescue from Egypt) did most of them little good.
  • Those who truly believe (obey) enter God's "rest" (v.3):
    • For the Israelites, it was the Promised Land, entry into which is described in the book of Joshua. Thus we come to the fifth and sixth parallels, or points of superiority between the testaments:
      • The first: prophets / a Son.
      • The second: angels / Son of God.
      • The third: High Priest / Christ.
      • The fourth: Moses / Christ.
      • The fifth is Joshua / Christ (v.8). See also Acts 7:45.
      • The sixth concerns Sabbath rest: Promised land / heaven.
    • V.3 takes us back to Psalm 95:11. (Read the Psalm again if you do not remember the point.)
    • For the new covenant people of God, this "rest" is our Christian reward "on the other side." In fact, as is clear from John's gospel, we begin to experience the new age even in this life (e.g. John 5:24). See also Matthew 11:28-30. The text says not we will enter the text, but we are entering that rest.
  • Therefore we must not quit, but continue in our faith -- and help one another to finish the course (v.11). "Fall" in v.11 refers to those whose bodies fell in the desert (3:17). See 1 Corinthians 10:1ff for an excellent synopsis of the desert dangers still facing us today.
  • We must continue to heed the voice (word) of God, which is as applicable ("living") today as ever (vv.12-13). (See last bullet in Advanced.) 
    • The word is compared to a sword several times in the N.T. (Ephesians 6:17; Revelation 1:16; 2:12; 19:15). Though theologically immaterial, the word is only one letter less than the sword.
    • This sword authoritatively slices to the core of our true heart and intention. No excuse stands and all motives are exposed (v.13).
    • First-century Roman medical encyclopedist Aulus Cornelius Celsus wrote of "the need to have everything open and exposed" before the surgeon could begin his work.
  • Connecting back to v.1, and returning to a major theme of Hebrews, we are admonished to hold on, not letting go our faith (v.14ff).
    • Jesus has passed through the heavens and the earth, not emerging unscathed but sinless all the same. He is the one to follow.
    • As our high priest, he relates to the Father and to human beings, mediating between us both.
      • He represents us perfectly because he has experienced life in the flesh.
      • He represents the Father perfectly because of his own divinity.
      • The intention of the passage is not to much to rebuke or challenge us by Jesus' example as to motivate us by his inspiring life. He did it; we can do it!
      • This theme will become even more important in the chapters that follow.
    • As a result, we may confidently ask our King for mercy and divine direction! He will prevent us from apostasy.

Advanced:

  • Notice in vv.3-5 a non-literal interpretation of Genesis 1. The "days" are taken figuratively.
  • God's rest (Genesis 2:3), was rest from his work of creating. Nevertheless, he is "still working" (John 5:17).Re: v.8: In Greek, Joshua and Jesus are the same word, Iesous.
  • Re: v9: Sabattismos means a (Sabbath) rest. The English sabbatical comes from the same root.
  • Though we are already saved, we are not yet saved (v.11). Our salvation is secure, yet we must continue in faith, as Hebrews so often insists. If you haven't heard it already, please listen to my lessons on "Already, but not Yet," which may be found online, in CD 4 of Anchored for Life, and in CD 4 of Thy Kingdom Come! (All are slightly different versions.)
  • About "joints and marrow" (v.12), click here and here. For a longer study (Ferguson), click here.
  • Re: v.15, could Jesus have sinned? Click here.
  • Notice the time frames in Hebrews 3-4:
    • 1400s BC -- God's word speaks to the desert generation.
    • 1000 BC -- Centuries later (Psalm 95), David urges the people of Israel to learn from their own history.
    • 68 AD -- A millennium later, in the second generation of Christianity and as the end of Judaism was drawing near, the Hebrew writer, insisting that God's "voice" is living and active, warns the Christians in the same words used by David.
    • 2000s AD -- In our own time, we use Hebrews 4:12 to encourage others that God's word is always relevant. We are more right than we even realize, and acting with good biblical precedent in doing so! God speaks today.
  • Hebrews 4:16-7:28 makes much use of Psalm 110:4, and is the only N.T. writer to do so.
    • In this section, Psalm 110 is quoted or alluded to 11x.
    • Psalm 110:1 is the only O.T. text showing anyone enthroned in heaven besides God.
      • Jesus is divine!
      • See also Mark 14:62 (16:19); Acts 2:33 (5:31, 7:56; Rom 8:34); Eph 1:20; Col 3:1; Heb 1:3 (also 8:1); Rev 5:1.

Thought questions:

  • Do I allow the word of God to penetrate? Better said, do I realize that it penetrates whether I give it permission or not (nothing is invisible to God)? How does this reality affect my thoughts, words, and actions -- especially what I do when I am alone?
  • When I read the O.T., do I feel the force of its application to those under the new covenant? Do I take seriously such passages as 1 Corinthians 10:11, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, and Romans 15:4?
  • Am I consistently coming before God for mercy and help in all my trials?  Do I approach his throne boldly and with confidence in his grace?

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