Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,
“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’”
although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5 And again in this passage he said,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. 3 Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. 4 And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.
5 So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,
“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”;
6 as he says also in another place,
“You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.”
7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.
Last time we read about the Israelites and their fear of following and trusting God to lead them in to the Promised Land. It was because of their distrust that God said in 3:11 “They shall not enter my rest.” We were given a warning by the writer or Hebrews in 3:12 to take care lest there be in us an unbelieving heart that will lead us to fall away from God (just like the Israelites). Just like them, we have been given a message of salvation for the future and we have a choice to make: trust that God will do what He says or trust in fear and be given over to that fear.
(read 4:1-2) So because we know that God’s promise of rest or entering our ‘Promised Land’ still stands, we need to keep stock of ourselves and our fellow believers in case it seems like we haven’t entered His rest. The writer says we should ‘fear’ that. What does it mean to ‘enter His rest’?
Rest – there are 3 types (past, present, and future) and 2 kinds (physical and spiritual). Verse 3 shows us the present rest. It was present for the Israelites who were standing there on the edge of the promise land, ready to go in, and it is present right now for us who have believed in Christ’s message of salvation. Looking at the quoted text from Psalm 95 it is God speaking about when he was angry with the Israelites and told Moses that they would never enter his ‘present tense rest’, even though His works had been finished since the foundation of the world. Next in verse 4 we see the past tense rest. This is God’s rest from accomplishing all His creation on the 7th day. Verse 5 goes back to the Psalm and shows us that the present and the past are together for God.
Remember that God is outside of His creation – He created it. So time does not restrain Him because time is part of His creation. God’s rest is current, past, and future. Just like He says to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus: I AM. There is, was, and will be no time when God does not or has not existed. But we are in His creation and subject to time which means that there is still a future rest for us, and there are some in the congregation that have yet to reach the ‘present rest’ we have in Christ. Here in verses 6-7 we see the ‘future rest’ which remains for some to enter. The writer also explains that because salvation was announced and people disobeyed and couldn’t enter, God sets a new time for us to be able to enter – today – as it says in Psalm 95.
“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:8-9
**Let’s look back on the Israelites at the edge of the Promised Land in Numbers 13-14**
God asks Moses to send 12 spies, one tribal leader from each of Israel’s 12 tribes, into the land they are about to inherit. The spies come back 40 days later. The 12 give their reports of the land and are in agreement that the land truly is flowing with milk and honey, but 10 of them report that the people are too strong and numerous to overtake. They are afraid that they will not be able to conquer the people in the Promised Land and so they convince the rest of all Israel to be afraid as well. God rebukes them for not making the decision to follow Him and trust Him to lead them into the promised land and for each of the 40 days the spies were gone He makes them spend a year roaming around in the desert, with a promise that they will NOT enter His rest for them – the promised land. The entire generation of grumblers, except for the 2 men who stood for God, would die in the desert over those next 40 years because of their decision to not trust God. For the 2 who did want to follow God, Joshua and Caleb, they were rewarded with entering the Promised Land 40 years later and conquering the people, just as God had said would happen. Joshua becomes the leader of that generation and through him they conquer the people in the land and settle into it, into their ‘rest’.
We can see from the Israelite’s experience that there is a physical kind of rest that comes from obeying God like they experienced by following Joshua, but there is also a spiritual rest that comes from accepting God’s word and obeying Him yourself (like Joshua & Caleb). This is God’s rest. It’s a peace that passes understanding because you have given your trust to God.
Going back to 4:1, why should we be fearful for those of us that seem like we have not entered into that spiritual rest? What does spiritual rest even look like? Look again at verse 2, “For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.” There are those like Joshua who entered a physical rest but also a spiritual one because he obeyed God directly, and then there are those who are not joined by faith with the ones obeying God, so they never enter that spiritual rest (or God’s rest), but only the physical. It’s like ‘rest by association’, but not ‘personal rest’ in Christ.
(Read vs. 8-10) These verses are not only speaking of our final and future rest, but also an internal rest in understanding that God has prepared our works and situations for His glory. We can rest knowing that He is in control – that He is finished – that He is sovereign. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. We are exhorted to strive toward that future rest, which can also be a present rest by knowing and studying the scriptures. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. By His word we will be convicted and made aware of our condition before God. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. We will give an account, either as those who have received Christ and His rest, or those who were not joined in faith with believers but only associated and enjoyed acceptance. **Can you see a difference in those who have entered God’s rest vs. those who haven’t? Knowing all of this, how can we be confident that we have entered that rest?
The writer of Hebrews used the lack of confidence of the people of God while traveling to the promise land as an illustration of what causes people to drift in their faith and to never enter rest. He wanted believers to know that they don’t have to drift; they can be confident in who Jesus is and in His role before the Father on their behalf. When we are confident in our relationship it send a message to the world that we truly believe Christ is who He says He is and that He can do what He says.” – Explore the Bible, fall 2014, Leader Edition, Hebrews
Whether we have or have not entered His rest, we attend our churches and join in fellowship for a reason – we have confessed that Christ is Lord and we believe that God raised Him from the dead. 14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. What does it mean that Jesus is our Great High Priest? What confidence can that bring to us to bring us more fully into God’s rest? Let’s look at chapter 5 for some of the requirements of a High Priest, and how Jesus fulfills those.
- (read 5:1-3) The High Priest must act on behalf of men, making atonement for their sins by offering the sacrifices of animals to cover over the people’s sins. The animal blood takes the place of the people’s blood in death. Leviticus 17:11 says that the life is in the blood. The sacrifice represents a replacement – blood for blood, life for life. The problem is that an animal is not equal to a human. Jesus takes this a step further by literally acting on behalf of his people, taking the sin upon himself as the sacrifice – human blood for human blood, human life for human life.
- (read 5:4-6) The High Priest must be called by God to do the job. The Levites were called as a tribe (beginning with Aaron, Moses’ brother). Jesus was called by God through the scriptures as prophetic writings of the coming Messiah. Psalm 2:7 says of Jesus, “You are my son, today I have begotten you”. Psalm 110:4 says, “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek”. Jesus is called by God and called a priest forever, not just while on the earth. He will forever make atonement for those who will accept Him on their behalf.
- (read 5:7) The High Priest must make intercession for the people by prayer and supplication. Supplication simply means asking or begging out of humility. A priest would take the prayers of the people before God, asking for forgiveness. Jesus did this during his ministry on earth, constantly asking for forgiveness and not only that, but because He is a priest forever, he is even making intercession before the Father as we speak. He is always interceding for us.
(Read vs. 8-10) Even though Jesus is God, and Son of God, He came to earth to be made a man, to suffer and experience all that we go through. He did this to show His obedience to the Father, which made Him perfect in every way. Perfect as God and perfect as man – making Him the only source of salvation because He is the only one who can take our place in death, and permanently satisfy the debt for sin. It’s His life for ours. It’s perfect and sinless for filth. If He is your Lord and you confess that, then He stands before God on your behalf right now, and on judgment day. God doesn’t see you and all your sin, but He sees Jesus – perfect, clean, and righteous.
Use these questions to think more deeply about what we’ve learned in Hebrews 4-5:10 and how you could apply that to your life.
1. How does knowing that Jesus is the believer’s Great High Priest impact your prayer life?
2. How do members of your family, or your friends, witness you living out your faith in Christ?
Attributes of Jesus from Hebrews:
Use these as a help during prayer or when you need to be reminded of Who you serve, Who saved you, and Who loves you.
- Jesus IS God
- He is higher in authority than angels.
- His message was true and attested to us by God.
- He is the ‘Son of Man’ – through Mary
- He is the ‘Son of God’ – through the Holy Spirit
- He currently reigns as King
- He is sinless
- He is faithful to God
- He is our representative
- He is our High Priest
Warnings from Hebrews:
- We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. (Heb 2:1)
- Make sure your heart is trusting in God over fear so you don’t fall away from Him. (Heb. 3:12)