In chapter three of Hebrews the pastor is exhorting the congregation to stand firm and to grow in the gospel. In chapter four he shifts and discusses the promise of rest to the people of God . Throughout scripture we read of “rest” and is closely associated with the rest that God took on the Sabbath after creation was complete. The rest spoken of in Hebrews four is that of rest after this life is over. In other words it is about the promise of being with Christ in Heaven when this earthly journey over. The chapter quotes from Psalm 95 which describes rest as being something more than physical, but spiritual in nature. The pastor also quotes from Genesis 2:2 to draw the comparison between physical and spiritual rest.
In this concept of “rest” the pastor is alluding to the Israelite wilderness experience that was previously brought up in chapter three. He exhorts his listeners to have faith in the faith they have received, and in that faith in Christ they will find rest. Since they have initially believed they are in the process of receiving “rest”, and the pastor is demonstrating that “rest” is always available to the people of God. This is illustrated by Gareth Cockerill who writes, “In the process of this argument the pastor has clarified the nature of ‘rest’ as ultimate entrance into God’s own place of ‘rest’ and participation in the great eternal Sabbath celebration .” Faithful followers of Christ enter this rest by obedience to Christ. One must not simply hear the message of the gospel, but they have to respond with faith. When one has faith in Christ they understand that they must also be obedient to him. This manifests itself in spiritual fruit that will be evident in the life of the believer. It is not enough to say that you go to church, or to say that you are a Christian. Too many in our world do that, but they do not have the regenerated heart that only Christ can give. To unbelievers rest may be something as simple as a day off from work, but to the believer it is much more and it is a message that may seem strange to those without a church background. Rest is found only in Christ. Through faith in Christ we begin the path toward eternal rest.
1. Guthrie, George H. The Hebrews NIV Application Commentary. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 149.
2. Cockerill, Gareth L. The Epistle to the Hebrews. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2012), 197.