The book of Hebrews was written for Jewish Christians. It was written to show them that Jesus’s new covenant ministry (saved by trusting in Jesus) is superior to the old covenant (relying on sacrifices and rituals).
As the author talks about how everything has changed because of Jesus, the book lists certain things as much better or superior in the new covenant:
Jesus himself (Hebrews 3:1-6). New Covenant (Hebrews 8:6). New covenant law (Hebrews 7:12) Jesus’ sacrifice (Hebrews 9:23). Heavenly Temple (Hebrews 9:11). God’s promises (Hebrews 8:6). Resurrection (Hebrew 11:35). Blood atonement (Hebrews 12:24).
And then he gets on to another topic: a Sabbath. He says it this way:
“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest (Greek: Sabbatismos) for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9, New American Standard Bible).
After saying the Sabbath ‘remains’, he goes on to explain that the idea of the Sabbath (Sabbathismos) rest is now much bigger than just taking some time off each week. Now this verse doesn’t do away with the need to set aside exclusive time for worship, rest and fellowship (Hebrews 10:25).
With that in mind, here’s five things Christians need to remember about this Sabbath. These points will also show that this Sabbath is not a physical day of rest.
1. We enter this Sabbath by believing
“For only we who believe can enter his rest” (Hebrews 4:3, NLT).
2. Having a day off doesn’t mean you’ve entered God’s rest
You can keep a physical day of rest and still not enter this Sabbath. Israel who were keeping the seventh-day Sabbath rest didn’t enter this Sabbath rest:
“Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come” (Hebrews 4:8).
3. We need to rest from trying to earn salvation
You can enter this Sabbath rest when you stop trying to earn salvation by your own works. Works here does not refer to good works that a Christian does by faith, but the effort of trying to win God over by being ‘good enough’ – something nobody gets right.
“For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors (own works of salvation), just as God did after creating the world” (Hebrews 4:10).
4. Rest begins today, not Sunday or Saturday
“So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today” (Hebrews 4:6, 7).
The reality is, the Sabbath is about God’s promised rest. Something we enter into fully when we get to Heaven, but we start experiencing it today.
5. This Sabbath is associated with the gospel
“So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God” (Hebrews 4:6).
What is the gospel or good news if not salvation by trusting and believing in Jesus alone? Paul wrote:
“We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us” (Romans 3:22-25).
We are declared righteous in the presence of God simply as a gift of God’s grace we receive by faith in Jesus’ finished work of salvation.
Did you know that when you gave your heart to Jesus, you entered this Sabbath rest?
“For only we who believe [in Jesus] can enter his rest” (Hebrews 4:3, NLT)
This Sabbath rest is a spiritual rest of grace, acceptance, and forgiveness we experience in Christ. It is also a rest from guilt, sin, and its penalty.
Jesus promises this Sabbath rest today for anyone who comes to Him:
“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Make sure you enter God’s Sabbath rest
Some do not enter this rest for at least three reasons.
- First, they do not know about the gospel, the spiritual Sabbath rest and what Jesus has accomplished for them.
- Second, they do not enter this rest because they do not believe completely in Christ’s finished work and His power to save them.
- Third, they do not “make every effort to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:11, NIV) in response to the good news, allowing Satan to challenge their trust in Jesus’ finished work and what God says about them.
What does God say about those who belong to Him? He says:
You are: Reconciled (Rom. 5:10). Dead to sin (Rom. 6:11). Freed from sin (Rom. 6:18). Released from law’s condemnation (Rom. 7:6). Conqueror through Him (Rom. 8:37). Sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13). Saved through faith (Eph. 2:8). The dwelling of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:22). Chosen in Christ (Eph. 1:4). Qualified to share in the inheritance (Col. 1:12). Transferred to His kingdom (CoI. 1:13). Chosen to be like Christ (Rom. 8:29).
You have: the living presence of Christ in you (Phil. 2:13). A Helper to encourage you (Rom. 8:26).
You: serve in the newness of the Spirit, not in the oldness of the letter (Rom. 7:6). Received a spiritual gift (1 Cor. 12).