Hebrews 4:1 Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.
There is something called His rest or God’s rest in the Bible. That’s why Hebrews 4:1 says that we can still enter His rest today. How do we enter?
Hebrews 4:2-3 For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they [Israel] heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, “As I swore in My wrath, They (Israel) shall not enter My rest,”
All who look to Jesus, and place their faith in Jesus, are entering God’s rest. It’s clear this is not the seventh day Sabbath rest of the Jews commanded in Exodus 16 and after, for Jews entered the Sabbath day by ceasing from labor, not by believing. Here God’s rest is a different rest, that we can enter by believing.
But wait! Didn’t God rest thousands of years ago in Genesis 2? How can it be possible for us to enter something that is long gone? The author deals with this objection by bringing it up:
Hebrews 4:3-5 Although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; and again in this passage, “They (Israel) shall not enter My rest.”
So God’s rest or My rest is the first seventh day He blessed and sanctified. The author of Hebrews observes that God’s work has been finished ever since, but His rest still stand for us to enter. This is a fitting explanation for why God did not demarcate the seventh day with an ‘evening and morning’ so that His rest was open from the time of Adam to everyone to enter daily. His rest was available for the ancient Israelites; otherwise there would be no point in saying, “They will not enter my rest.” God’s seventh day rest was available to them, but they refused to enter, yet they observed the seventh day Sabbath (they would have been stoned had they not-Numbers 15:32-36).
Hebrews 4:6 Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience
God’s rest is still available to us, too: “it remains open for some to enter it.” The offer is still open, and it is made even more clear and compelling through Jesus Christ. The Israelites at the time of Moses, “those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience.” Their disobedience was evidence of their lack of faith. They did not believe that God would give them what he had promised.
Hebrews 4:7 He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, “Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.
Many years after Moses, God again spoke about His rest, urging people to not harden their hearts and thereby fail to enter His rest. Hear him today, David urged. The offer was still good. People could enter God’s rest today (not weekly), if they listened with faith and willingness. But didn’t the people enter God’s rest when they entered the Promised Land? No.
Hebrews 4:8 For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that.
If Joshua had given them God’s rest, God would not through David speak later about another day.
Hebrews 4:9-11 So there remains a Sabbath rest (Sabbathismos) for the people of God. 10 For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. 11 Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.
The author then concludes: “So then, a sabbath like rest still remains for the people of God.” Is he bringing up a new subject? No — he is still on the same subject, using different words to develop it further. He is saying, since people did not enter God’s original seventh day rest in Moses’ day, nor in Joshua’s day, and yet we are still exhorted in the Psalms via David about God’s rest, the conclusion is that this rest still remains for the people of God today. It is still available.
Why does he call this a sabbath rest? He is not slipping in a command for the seventh-day Sabbath. That would be totally out of context. His exhortation throughout this book is telling Jewish people to look to Jesus. He is not urging them to do a better job of keeping Jewish customs. The ancient Israelites, even though they had the Sabbath, did not enter God’s rest. God’s rest is entered by faith — by believing the gospel (verses 3-4). The author is not interested in a day of the week — he is concerned about how people respond to Jesus. A person who keeps the weekly Sabbath or any day but rejects Christ has not entered God’s rest. We enter God’s rest only by believing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
God rested from his creative work, but what kind of work do we rest from? What do we quit doing when we come to have faith in Christ? The work of trying to earn our salvation, the work of trying to qualify for the kingdom, the work of trying to be accepted by God. When we look to Jesus for our salvation, we quit looking to ourselves.
Hence, the Adventist and Sabbath keeping assumption that God’s rest = Jewish Sabbath rest is erroneous. There is no command in Genesis to observe a day for man because the rest of Genesis 2 is God’s rest, not man’s. Genesis 1&2 commands marriage for mankind (Gen 2:24). Even commands the married couple to ‘be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28). Not only that, God even commands the first parents to ‘not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ (Gen 2:27). But never does God command man to observe the seventh day nor condemns man for not observing a day (He condemned Cain on his offering even though there was no explicit instruction). Besides, the word Sabbath is no where associated in Genesis with God’s rest for a very good reason. The first time God ever commanded Israel to take a weekly Sabbath day was in Exodus 16.
“This is what the Lord has said: ‘Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest. For the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day” Exodus 16:29:30
Jesus addressing the Jews who put the Sabbath law above man, said “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Man was not made for the Sabbath or to serve its requirements. It was other way around. The weekly Sabbath ritual was made and commanded for the Jews in Exodus 16, not any time before. When God made man in Genesis, He did not make man to serve a Sabbath. Man was to experience God’s fellowship daily (Hebrews 4), and not just one-day in seven. Paul shows that the Jewish weekly Sabbath day came to be for man as a ‘shadow’ of God’s rest. We are no longer under the ‘shadow’, as God commands the church that Sabbath observance or not is no longer a matter of judgment since Jesus has come and He is the ‘reality’, our Sabbath rest (Col. 2:16).
Galatians 4:10-11, “You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you“
Questions and Answers
Doesn’t Sabbath was “made” for man (Mark 2:27) takes us to Genesis?
There is nothing in the statement that Sabbath was made for man that would suggest when it was given to man. In this verse, Jesus did not use the word for create — he used egeneto, which is usually translated “came to be.” Literally, the greek should read, ‘the sabbath for the man came to be, and not the man for the sabbath’. Sabbath came to be in Exodus for Israel. Not at the creation because, this word (came to be) does not point to the creation account nor can any stress be put on the English word “made,” since it is not in the Greek. Even if the word MADE is implied, there is no evidence of a weekly Sabbath for man in Genesis. The festivals, lamb sacrifices, Sabbath, all were made ‘for’ human benefit, and the rite of circumcision was instituted ‘for’ human benefit and these laws do not imply that they were made before sin.
Doesn’t Hebrews 4 says we are to rest ‘as God rested’?
Yes, God ceased only once, and He did not cease every seventh day. Similarly, Hebrews 4 shows that we enter His ceasing today, not every seventh day.