Sunday, 30 September 2018
For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Hebrews 4:10
The words of this verse are set against the words of verse 4:9. There it said, “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.” It was established in that commentary that the “people of God,” in the appropriate context, is specifically speaking of the Jewish people. There remains a “Sabbatism” for them.
To ensure that this is understood, the author now says, “For he who has entered His rest.” The verb translated as “entered” is in the aorist tense. Therefore, it “marks the completeness of the appropriation – once and for all” (Vincent’s Word Studies). This is then tied into verse 4:3 where it said, “we who have believed.” It is in the same tense. Those who have believed then enters God’s (His) rest. If someone enters His rest (as it is clearly stated in verse 4:3 that “we who have believed do enter that rest”), as those who have believed in Jesus have, then he “has himself also ceased from his works.”
The translation here is lacking. It should say, “has himself also rested from his works.” The entire passage has been speaking about the state of rest. It is true that resting implies ceasing from labor, but ceasing from labor may not necessarily mean resting. A person may be doing one thing and then pick up and do another. But when one rests, they stop doing all things. Thus, maintaining the consistency of translation here explains the state of having entered the “Sabbatism” of the previous verse.
When a person believes in Christ Jesus, they enter into God’s rest. In entering God’s rest, they rest from their own works. Well, what works are being referred to? Commentaries generally assume that it is speaking of the toils and labors leading to the aches and pains of this life. This fails to explain the true meaning of a Sabbath observance by Israel. The purpose of the Sabbath was to be a sign to them (Exodus 31:17) that they were, in fact, God’s people. He did the work in redeeming them, and He did the work in sanctifying them. They rested from their weekly labors as a sign of this. They “did” Sabbath, because they “could” Sabbath. The unending labor could be ceased because God still provided for them, even on the Sabbath (hence, a double portion of manna was given on the sixth day, etc).
Before explaining what “works” are being referred to, it should be noted that John Gill states that “he” at the beginning of the verse is speaking not of “whoever,” but of Jesus. “For He (Jesus) who has entered His (God’s) rest.” That is possible based on the context. If that is so, it is speaking of the labor of works under the law, completing God’s works which were “finished from the foundation of the world” (see verse 4:3). As noted then, Christ simply completed what was ordained from the foundation of the world. Bringing to man the ability to enter God’s rest through His completed work.
Understanding this, we can assume that “he” in this verse is either “Jesus” or “whoever.” Though important in proper analysis, it is not important in application. The reason is that even if Jesus is being referred to and not “whoever,” it doesn’t change the outcome. If it is Jesus, He has rested from His works designated by God. If it is us, we have rested because of Jesus’ works. Again, verse 4:3 says that “we who have believed (meaning in Jesus’ completed works) do enter that rest.”
We are, from the moment of belief, positionally “in Christ.” Thus, the “works” being referred to are works of pleasing God in order to be saved, and which allow man to enter into God’s promised rest. In other words, the works are either Christ’s works or “faith in Christ’s works.” As you can see, the outcome is the same. We have no works pleasing to God apart from Christ, but we are fully pleasing to God, and accepted by Him, through Christ’s works. We are “in Christ,” and have rested from our works, because He has rested from His.
This is then further explained by the final words of the verse, “as God did from His.” God created in six days, and He rested on the seventh. As the scholar Bengel says, “Labour precedes rest; … The work and rest of GOD are that archetype to which we ought to be conformed.” This is true with whatever labor and rest are being spoken of. It is true of God’s creation leading to rest, it is true of Israel’s Sabbath where they worked and then rested, and it is true with us who put our trust in Christ who has labored, and who then rested.
There is the type and then there is the Archetype. As always, pictures in the Old are merely given to point to the realities of Christ in the New. God rested after His labors, Christ rested after His, and we rest after ours (of which Christ accomplished for us). Hence, “we who have believed do enter that rest.” It is done!
The contrast of this verse is what is certain. The “people of God” of verse 4:9 is speaking of Israel collectively. They have not yet entered into God’s rest. That will only occur when they, as a people, trust in the work of the Lord Jesus. Individually, they can enter God’s rest even now, but as a people, that time is yet ahead.
Life application: Yes, it is actually important who “he” is being referred to in this verse. For the sake of giving an answer, I would say that it is “whoever.” This is based on the contents of verse 3 which are followed by the words of Psalm 95. Those same words are reexplained here in verse 10, and which were preceded by another quote from Psalm 95. However, if John Gill is correct, and it is speaking of Jesus, the outcome of the thought does not change. The person who trusts in Jesus’ completed work enters God’s rest, just as Jesus did after the completion of His work.
Lord God, Your word is big, it is often complicated, and it can overwhelm us when we try to understand its complexities. And yet, the overall message is simple, concise, and unchanging – You sent Jesus to do what we cannot do. When we trust in His completed work, we are saved, we remain saved, and we are given the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of that salvation. Help us not to muddy the waters which show that we are saved by grace through faith, and there is nothing we need to do to add to that. Amen.