What does it mean to enter in God’s rest as it states in Hebrew 4?
@Abby Like the ancient Israelites were given the promise of a ‘rest’ in the Promised Land if they obeyed God, we have been given the promise of ‘rest’ in Christ - eternal life. The author of Hebrews is exhorting us to strive after that rest - to remain in Christ, unlike the Israelites who disbelieved God’s promises and therefore did not enter into the rest of the Promised Land, but died in the wilderness.
I believe Hebrews 3 is critical to understanding that the issue was unbelief that led to disobedience. At the root of all disobedience and sin is unbelief. So this is really an exhortation to put our trust in God and to believe, which will reveal itself in our obedience to Him.
Remember that Joshua and Caleb were the only of the 12 spies who were sent in to Canaan who truly believed God was able to keep His promises. It is that belief - true faith - which God seeks. That we trust Him in spite of the challenges and frustrations that we face. God does not ask us to be perfect, but to trust wholly in Him - that He exists and rewards those who diligently seek Him.
Hebrews 3:12-19 - See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. As has just been said:
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion.”
Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
Concerning this verse, John Owen writes that the circumstances surrounding our entry into God’s rest are similar to those of the first generation that left Egypt. Just like the Hebrews, we will encounter difficulties such as fear, exhaustion, human enemies, demonic opposition, and various other kinds of persecution that test our faith. Diligent faith and obedience are necessary in order to withstand such difficulties and enter God’s rest.
One final question remains: Does Hebrews 4:11, in commanding us to strive to enter God’s rest, contradict Hebrews 4:3, which says that “we who have believed enter that rest”? The answer is no. First of all, the rest we have now in Christ is only the firstfruits of the rest to come. The fullness of God’s rest includes, but will be greater than, the rest we experience now on earth. Secondly, the grammar of 4:3 shows that it does not contradict 4:11. The present tense verb in 4:3 can also be translated, “We who have believed are entering God’s rest.” The Christian life is a journey; our initial confession of faith sets us on our way toward God’s rest but only genuine faith guarantees entry. Trials necessitate that we strive in faith (4:11) so that the authenticity of our faith may be proven.
Hope that is helpful - Christ grant you wisdom
I heard a sermon this morning on this subject. The pastor interpreted it as saying we must take Sunday’s off to meet as a church (I recognize I do not do his sermon justice in this very brief discription). He did caution against legalism and thinking that if we just attend church all is good. I think I understand what he was saying but it seems to me that this interpretation may be too narrow. He did say that if you are having a hard time being with other christians in this church experience he wonders how you will do in heaven. Your thoughts on this.
@Abby That is a misinterpretation of the passage. The ‘rest’ being described is not about attending Church. It is about our eternal rest with Christ. The only passage I know of in Hebrews that directly addresses gathering as believers is in Hebrews 10 and it does not specify a certain day.
Hebrews 10:24-25 - And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
I also disagree that how much we enjoy Church on earth reflects how much we will enjoy Heaven. Sometimes Church is boring, sometimes people at Church are hard to get along with, sometimes we are struggling in our own lives - all of these things can make Church not a great emotional experience. Life on this earth is difficult. Heaven will be free of all of those hindrances.
We go to Church not because it is easy to get along with other Christians - sometimes it’s not easy - but because we want to honor Christ by loving His Body, the Church, and we want to grow in our own walk with Jesus.
Thank you Sean. I walked away from the sermon with an uneasy feeling. I am so grateful for this forum.
@Abby May the Lord Jesus lead you into all truth and give you discernment / guidance. I expect your Pastor intended well, but his words came across to me as being a bit manipulative - trying to increase Church attendance rather than accurately teach the Word. I sincerely hope that was not his intention. Always feel free to share your questions here on Connect and be open to the possibility of finding a new Church home if the Word is not being taught well where you are at… Christ be with you.
What does rest on the Sabbath mean? Is this just a reason to do no work? Is there a connection to our modern day Sunday worship? When God rested on the seventh day was he tired?
@Abby Good questions. My understanding is that God certainly did not rest because He was tired, but because He was finished with His work of creation / as an example for us. The Sabbath day was a sign of the covenant between God and ancient Israel - they rested as a way of trusting God to provide for them and honoring the covenant. It is clear from Scripture that Christians are not required to rest on any specific day because our rest is in Christ Himself. Moreover, Jesus makes it clear that the purpose of the Sabbath was to help people find their rest in God. The Sabbath was not an arbitrary rule - it was originally given for the good of the people of Israel. And now we find our Sabbath rest in Christ and ultimately in eternal life with Him.
Colossians 2:16-17 - Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
Mark 2:27 - Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
This article from the ‘Gospel Coalition’ shares some good thoughts:
Believers are not obligated to observe the Sabbath. The Sabbath was the sign of the Mosaic covenant. The Mosaic covenant and the Sabbath as the covenant sign are no longer applicable now that the new covenant of Jesus Christ has come. Believers are called upon to honor and respect those who think the Sabbath is still mandatory for believers. But if one argues that the Sabbath is required for salvation, such a teaching is contrary to the gospel and should be resisted forcefully. In any case, Paul makes it clear in both Romans 14:5 and Colossians 2:16–17 that the Sabbath has passed away now that Christ has come. It is wise naturally for believers to rest, and hence one principle that could be derived from the Sabbath is that believers should regularly rest. But the New Testament does not specify when that rest should take place, nor does it set forth a period of time when that rest should occur. We must remember that the early Christians were required to work on Sundays. They worshiped the Lord on the Lord’s Day, the day of Jesus’ resurrection, but the early Christians did not believe the Lord’s Day fulfilled or replaced the Sabbath. The Sabbath pointed toward eschatological rest in Christ, which believers enjoy in part now and will enjoy fully on the Last Day.