So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his (Heb 4:9-10).
We are in the second major division of the book of Hebrews comprised of chapters 3 and 4, wherein the author continues his lengthy and varied warning exhortation concerning apostasy. In chapter 3 we saw the positive examples in the faithfulness of Moses and Jesus as well as the negative example of the Israelites who fell into the sin of unbelief in the wilderness. The author’s aim is to arouse godly fear (4:2) so that we would be moved to examine ourselves and persevere in the faith. In chapter 4, while continuing the same thoughts, he turns in emphasis to ‘the rest,’ from which the wilderness generation was excluded, which is now extended to God’s people, today. Whereas the tone and tenor of chapter 3 was that of stern warning, in chapter 4, he now introduces a promise that stirs hope among his readers. While condemnation comes to those who fall away into faithlessness; nevertheless, God extends a hopeful promise of entering His rest to those who obey the Gospel. This promise serves as an encouragement for us to endure to the end, and thus has the same aim as the warning of chapter 3.
Those who enter God’s rest, do so as they cease trusting in their own works (4:10) and ironically strive to enter God’s rest (4:11), which He has already entered after He created the universe (4:4). The Sabbath rest that the believer can enjoy is one that is both, accomplished on our behalf by the work of Christ (Romans 5:1-2, Matthew 11:28-30), while at the same time future, concurrent with the return of Christ (Revelation 14:13, 21:1-4). If indeed this rest is a present promise that we have in Christ, even amid adversity, then why does unrest characterize the lives of many Christians? How about your life? What does your rest or unrest reveal about your spiritual condition?
Most commentators miss or ignore the mention of a “Sabbath” in verse 9, but this is significant, particularly to the Jewish audience receiving this letter. It is also important for us to consider, as this is one of the only mentions of the Sabbath in the New Testament outside of the Gospels/Acts. We will give due consideration to God’s original intention in giving us the Sabbath commandment, and discuss how it is fulfilled in Christ and remains a delight for us to this day.