Lesson #14 IC3c: Warning Against Not Entering God’s Rest part 1

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Lot Fleeing

Lot Fleeing

11/6/19
Tom Lowe

Lesson #14 IC3c: Warning Against Not Entering God’s Rest (HEBREWS 4:3-13)

Scripture: Hebrews 4:3-4:13 (NIV)
3. 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.’ ” And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world.
4. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works” (see Gen. 2:2).
5. And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”
6. Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience,
7. God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (see Psalm 95:7,8).
8. For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.
9. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God;
10. for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works or labor, just as God did from his.
11. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.
12. For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
13. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.


Introduction:

Hebrews chapters 3 and 4 remind us of a people who would not “go on” to maturity. They settled for less than God had for them. As a result, they were condemned to ceaseless wandering in the wilderness, until they were overtaken at last by death. They were a people who had trusted God to bring them out of Egypt, but simply refused to trust Him to bring them into Canaan. As a result they lost, not their salvation, but their joy, the peace, and the rest God intended for them in the Promised Land.

What determines whether someone who hears the gospel actually enters God’s rest? We do not have to ponder this question because He gives us the answer in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
How did the prophet of Israel . . .
How did the writer of Hebrews . . .

Reason from the Old Testament that someone other than Israel had to enter God’s rest? (Heb. 4:3-9) The disobedience of Israel during their wanderings in the wilderness and their refusal to enter Canaan soon after they arrived at the border of Canaan resulted in God barring them from entering the land He promised them. God sent them on a 40-year trek through the wilderness until a new generation that were willing to believe God had grown up.

How does the idea of God’s Sabbath rest from Creation give meaning to the rest belonging to the people of God? (see Heb. 4:4, 9) God was not tired from the work of Creation. He rested as an example for the people of God and He made resting from work on the Sabbath one of the 10 Commandments.

Faith believes what God says and acts in line with His Word. Faith allows the believer to enter the rest into which God has called all His people. It acknowledges the completed work of salvation, while faithfully obeying every instruction from God.

Israel’s failure to enter Canaan becomes a solemn warning, in case professing Christians fail to enter the rest that God has promised. This rest is not entrance to Canaan, as it is in Hebrews 3:18 “And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed?”, but that historical event is a type of the rest to be enjoyed by Christians. Some commentators view rest as a future heavenly rest, while others feel that the term describes the present experience of the believer who has fully surrendered to the lordship of Christ and is totally controlled by the Holy Spirit.

Do you think the rest that exists for the people of God spoken of in Hebrews 3-4 is primarily a reference to the eternal state of redeemed humanity or primarily a reference to the quality of life “the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Jesus Christ” intends for Christians in this life? Why?

Remember, these people being addressed are informed but unresponsive. These Jews not only know the basic truths of the gospel but had even renounced Judaism. The warning applies to anyone who is hesitating in committing himself fully to Jesus Christ and can be summarized.

“Do not harden your hearts.”
“Don’t become insensitive to God’s Word.”

Obviously, rest is the blessing that is missed if we refuse to go foreword, and if we harden our hearts against His Word.


Commentary

3. Now we who have believed enter that rest {t-1], just as God has said, “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ” And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world.

In verses 3-5 the psalmist argues that this “rest” { was not merely the land of Canaan. He prefaces his quotation of Psalm 95:11 “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” with a reminder that those who believe and obey can and do enter God’s rest. And after that, He suggests that “rest” must refer to something connected with God’s work at “the foundation of the world.”

“Now we who have believed enter that rest” {t-1] just as God has said,
Those who exercise faith in the message of God will enter into their spiritual rest. This is the corollary of Psalm 95:11 which states the opposite side; that the unbeliever will not enter into the rest which God provides. Since the Israelites were already established in Canaan when David wrote psalm 95:11, its warning about missing out on God’s rest must refer to something beyond that material possession.

The answer to fear and failure is faith.

“So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest {t-8].’ ”
The “rest” promised in the psalm is a share in the Sabbath of God’s own rest, following His work in Creation (see below on 4:9-11). In Hebrews, God’s rest is equivalent to the ‘heavenly country’ (11:16), the ‘heavenly Jerusalem’ (12:22), the ‘kingdom that can’t be shaken’ (12:28), and other such descriptions of the Christian’s inheritance. From one point of view, that rest already exists for us in the heavenlies and can be ‘entered’ now, by faith (12:22). It has been in existence since the creation of the world. From another point of view, we are on a pilgrimage to ‘the city that is to come’ (13:14), and we wait to be ushered into ‘the world to come’ (2:5).

“And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world.” The spiritual rest which God gives is not something incomplete or unfinished. It is a rest which is based on a finished work which God proposed in eternity past, just like the rest which God took after He finished creation. (v. 4)
We don’t have to work to enter in, but a work was done.

4. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works” (see Gen. 2:2).
5. And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”

Where was it that God spoke about the seventh day?” In Genesis 2:2 He said, “and God rested on the seventh day from all His works.” In Genesis 2:2 “rest” refers to God’s own eternal life. And so the deeper or spiritual sense of Psalm 95:11 must be the same. God created the universe in a six-day period of time. On the seventh day God rested. It was the rest of completion. So, the Sabbath day commemorates God’s work of creation.

God’s Sabbath rest was broken by sin. Jesus declared this clearly when the Jews accused Him of breaking the Sabbath, He replied, “ . . . "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:17). The context was the healing at the pool of Bethesda.


6. Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience,

“Although there was a Sabbath day established in the first creation week, here―thousands of years later―God says, “Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest,” as though it were a future event. Therefore, this doesn’t speak of creation but of Canaan.

“Rest” Canaan rest was first offered to Israel at Kadesh-Barnea. Later, Joshua made the offer upon Moses’ death when he assumed command of Israel, The Lord continued to offer it in David’s time, and the opportunity to enter God’s rest remains open for believers today. “a promise remains” in v. 1. It is not yet too late. He is still patiently inviting his people to enter His rest (Rom. 10:21).

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