Hebrews 4:3

Sunday, 23 September 2018

For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said:
“So I swore in My wrath,
They shall not enter My rest,’”
although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
Hebrews 4:3

Again as with the previous verse, the word “for” is used to build one thought upon another. Verse 4:1 said, “Therefore.” That called for the reader to consider the lesson to the people about not entering God’s rest because of unbelief, as stated in Chapter 3. He then said, “For,” to say that the same good news of God’s rest which was conveyed in the past was again conveyed to the recipients of the epistle, showing that it was still attainable. However, those in the past did not profit from the message because of unbelief. With this understood, he now again says, “For.”

Each preposition is chosen to build a case concerning God’s rest and how to enter it. Understanding this, he says, “For we who have believed do enter that rest.” The thought looks backward and forward. “Believed” is contrasted to the unbelief of verse 4:2, while “enter that rest” looks forward to what he will say about the unbelievers as this verse continues.

The statement made by the author shows the certainty of the matter. The words “having believed” are from an aorist participle in the Greek. The action of entering the rest is accomplished in the belief. In other words, it points to the moment when the person put his faith in the finished work of Jesus. It was offered, it was accepted, and the rest was entered. There is nothing conditional about the matter. We are not in the process of entering, nor are we on the way to doing so. Rather, as Vincent’s Word studies says, it “is a fact which characterizes us as believers.” God’s rest has been attained through belief.

The importance of this statement cannot be overstated. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Jesus is the place where God’s rest is found. He is the place of rest which the Sabbath only anticipated in type and picture. When the Sabbath was given in Exodus 20, it said –

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:8-11

The Sabbath was given because it was based on the seventh-day rest of God. The author will refer to that seventh day in verse 4:4. The Sabbath was only a type of the Christ to come. He who is the means of access into that seventh-day rest. When a person believes in Christ, they enter into the true Sabbath rest of God. The substance (Christ) replaces the mere shadow (Sabbath observance). This is what Paul refers to in Colossians 2:16, 17 –

“So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”

We are no longer bound to the shadow because we have entered into the substance; we are in God’s true rest. To support this, he then returns again to Scripture with the words, “as He has said.” In this, he will repeat the verse from Psalm 95:11 which he cited in verse 3:11 –

“So I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest,’”

He has logically built his case. There was 1) a promise of Israel entering God’s rest under the Old Covenant. However, because of unbelief, 2) entry into that rest was denied. And yet, 3) the psalmist says, “Today,” when calling for hearing God’s voice. He is renewing the promise of entry into that rest. Now, 4) the author speaks of belief in Christ (verse 3:1) as allowing entrance into that same rest, which is 5) guaranteed the moment belief in His finished work is exercised.

The entire thought is given, and will continue to be explained, for the same reason as the rest of the book of Hebrews. It is a call to come to Christ through the New Covenant, and to not rely on the Old for one’s relationship with God. The author is showing the “better than” of Christ over Moses, and the superiority of the New over the Old. Finishing up the verse, he now says, “although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.” This will continue to be explained in the coming verse. But for now, the question is, “What works?”

There are works which are said to have been finished “from the foundation of the world.” There is the promise of a future access into God’s rest for the people of God. He cannot merely be speaking of the rest which is spoken of in Genesis 2:2 (which will be cited next in verse 4:4), because that was before the time of Moses. Further, the words used for “rest” in the Hebrew of Genesis 2 and Psalm 95 are not the same. In Genesis 2, it is shabath – the state of rest. In Psalm 95, it is menukhah – the place of rest.

It also cannot be the rest which came for those who entered Canaan with Joshua (coming in verse 4:8), because the psalmist speaks of another day (Today) after the time of Joshua. And so the rest which is being spoken of is the rest found in Christ who is referred to in 1 Peter 1:17-21 as having been foreordained “before the foundation of the world” to die as a “lamb without blemish and without spot.” And who is then referred to again in Revelation 13:8 as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

The answer to “the works” of this verse is, “The works of Jesus Christ who was ordained from the foundation of the world to die and thus allow God’s people into His promised rest.” Though they occurred in the stream of time, God’s works in Christ were finished from the foundation of the world. When God spoke the created order into existence, it was with the intent of allowing those works of Christ, which were already accomplished in God’s mind, to be performed by Him in the stream of time. This is why Jesus said in John 6:29, This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

Our work is to believe in Him as the Christ and as the One to complete the works ordained for Him before the foundation of the world. In this, we enter God’s rest. The Sabbath, which is based on creation (and which was later said to be based on redemption in Deuteronomy 5:12-15), was simply a type of the rest which is found in Christ. The creation itself is merely the vehicle by which Christ could accomplish His work. Hence, the seventh-day rest after creation, which is referred to in Genesis 2:2, is a state of rest which exists in anticipation of what Christ would do by leading us into our place of rest. One thing leads to another, and all things find their fulfillment in Christ.

Life application: In Christ, we have entered God’s rest. Be at peace. The works are finished.

Lord God, thank You for the rest we have found in Christ Jesus. By faith in Him, we now possess that which was completed from the foundation of the world – a perfect, absolute, and guaranteed rest. Thank You for Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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