Epistle to the Hebrews (4:1-11)   Leave a comment

Epistle to the Hebrews

God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God.For only we who believe can enter his rest. As for the others, God said,”In my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest,” even though this rest has been ready since he made the world. We know it is ready because of the place in the Scriptures where it mentions the seventh day: “On the seventh day God rested from all his work.But in the other passage God said, “They will never enter my place of rest.”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. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted: “Today when you hear his voice,don’t harden your hearts.”Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come. So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God.For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall. ” Hebrews 4:1-11

We already reached chapter 4 and the author has not ceased to argue about many doctrines. Now he’s arguing about something in particular, God’s rest. The author is now shifting to something else.  Most probably the Christians were discouraged and needed to hear about this superior rest reserved for Christians. The author is talking about a rest that all Christians should experience. He makes an allusion to a rest in Genesis, where God ceased to work/create and blessed/praised/contemplated the work of His hands after creation. Another allusion is also made to the rest of Canaan where the Israelites were to establish themselves after 40 years of trials. Still another allusion is made to the sabbath rest where one rests from his labors.  These rests presuppose that there were work/trials before and a time has come for cessation of work and trials. Now the author is talking about a divine rest that is awaiting us. It’s more than Canaan and more than the sabbath. We are pilgrims on earth awaiting to reach our heavenly resting place. Was it not the Lord who promised to us :

 Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.And you know the way to where I am going.”

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again.” John 14

Is the author talking about our heavenly rest i.e. where we will go after our last breath? Or is the author talking about a rest which we can experience right now on earth? In my opinion, the author is talking about both. We can experience this rest in Christ right now in this troubled world. The ultimate enjoyment of this rest will occur when we will leave this earth. As the book of Revelation puts it:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Rev 21

The author also emphasises that this rest (whether it is the new heaven or this rest in Christ) is only reserved for believers. He argues that some can fail to experience it if they cease to believe.

For those who do not believe, we read still read in Revelation 21:

All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.  “But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars—their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

“We ought to tremble with fear”, the author warns. Why? Because the Israelites  who also heard the good news about a place of rest(in this case Canaan) did not care about this promise. This good news did not have a positive impact on their way of living. Many of them did not share the faith of those who believed that they will enter Canaan. In our case Christians, it’s the same scenario. We heard a similar good news, called gospel in our era and we need to be careful of failing to persevere/continue to have faith.

Peter in his letter said:

And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” 2 Peter 1

I want you to remember what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles.Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.” 2 Peter 3

For a while, Hebrews 4 appeared to me to be written by Peter. Peter wanted to encourage Christians to make every effort to respond to God’s promise. We share God’s divine nature through Christ. Be careful of those who say that the promise of Jesus’ return is false. Be careful of those who say that there will be no heaven/rest. God has prepared a place of rest for us since the beginning of creation. He wants to have fellowship with us and He is inviting us to enter His place of rest(now). Not only that, He also manifested Himself as the One who gives rest in the person of Jesus Christ.

This rest for Christians ultimately culminates to God the Son who manifested Himself in flesh, Jesus. He said :

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Mat 11:28

If Jesus gave us rest, peace, joy and love right here on earth in our troubles, I guess we have already tasted a bit of the heavenly rest. Let us do our best to enter this rest and not have an unbelieving and disobeying heart like the Israelites. God did not rest because He was tired but because He wanted to stop and look at the beautiful things He created. Let us do the same. Let us contemplate the Lord’s work, let us contemplate His majesty. Our body will stop to be tired when we’ll die but our soul can find rest TODAY.

As David said:

A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.” Psalm 84

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.My salvation and my honor depend on God;he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:5-8

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Posted June 30, 2012 by Cedric in Theology

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