The Challenge to “Enter into His Rest” (Hebrews 4:1–16)

This passage is worthy of careful consideration lest we fail to grasp what “rest” means. In chapter 3, it spoke of failure to enter into Canaan. In this chapter, there are actually five uses of the word “rest”:

1. It is used of God’s rest after creation, 4:4, 10.
2. It is used of the Canaan rest that Israel rejected, 4:3b (also in 3:11).
3. It is used of the believer’s salvation rest in Christ, 4:3a, 10.
4. It is used of the rest of victory in the Christian life, 4:11. This rest has implications for eternal inheritance.
5. Finally, it is used of the eternal rest of God, 4:9 (cf. Rev. 14:13), in which our success or failure to live the faith-rest life will be reflected.

Several Exhortations from this Passage:
1. We should fear, 4:1–3, 10. Israel believed the “good news” (Gospel) of the Passover, but then rejected the “good news” about the promised land. Like them, we who have believed have entered into the first rest (salvation, Matt. 11:28) in which all depends on the faithfulness of God. But entrance into the second rest (victorious life, Matt. 11:29–30) depends upon the faith and faithfulness of the believer. In the first rest, God does all the work. In the second rest, the work is a partnership (remember “partakers of Christ,” Heb. 3:14) involving our works.
2. We should be diligent, 4:11–13. In order to enter into the second rest, the faith-rest life (remember, “The just shall live by faith,” 10:38, and “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” 11:6), we must labor—be diligent. This “diligence” is related to knowledge and the application of the Word of God. This same word is translated, “study” in 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV). In other words, we must mix the Word of God with faith (4:2). God’s Word is both “Living and powerful” to meet our every need, but it is also “piercing” and “a discerner” of our inner “thoughts and intents” (motives).
3. We should hold fast, 4:14–15. These Hebrew believers, facing fierce persecution, were tempted to go back to the rituals and shadows of Judaism, thereby “they crucify again [afresh] the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame” (Heb. 6:6). This is the “departing” and the “draws back” mentioned in 3:12 and 10:38. Our bold confidence and confession is that Jesus Christ is our “High Priest,” after “the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 5:5–6, 10; 6:20; 7:17, 21). Just as Melchizedek brought bread and wine to Abraham (Gen. 14:18–20), a reminder to him that God was his source of security and reward (Gen. 15:1), so Jesus Christ instituted for the Lord’s table—a reminder that we are to live in the power of the New Covenant of grace.

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