Our last lesson from chapter 3:7-16 spoke of a believer losing God's promised rest (not salvation) through hardening his heart by disobeying His Word and chapter four continues this by showing us how to receive His rest. Two kinds of "rest" that come from God are seen in these verses: 1) the rest of faithful obedience through trust in and submission to God's Word and will; and, 2) the future rest of heaven – Sabbath rest (v. 9); the Greek word for ‘rest' in this verse, sabbatismos, is used only in this one verse and is defined in Strong's concordance as "the blessed rest from toils and troubles looked for in the age to come (heaven) by true believers." As true believers we can have peace with God through saving faith (Rom. 5:1) and yet still not have the peace of God which comes through trust and obedience (Phil. 4:6-9). As we will see from these verses in Hebrews 4 and other verses, God's grace which empowers us to obey Him is opposed to earning but not opposed to effort; i.e., we can never brag about our spiritual growth (it is all by God's power) but God requires us to choose to seek His power in order to grow in Christ-likeness; "Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest" – Heb. 4:11.

Another rest, the rest of salvation by grace through faith versus works salvation, is implied throughout this epistle as the author of Hebrews is writing to Jewish believers and uses the term "brothers", "we" and "us" as he includes himself and future believers, like us today, in his exhortations. The requirement of works for salvation is seen in all religions but Christianity so no true rest can come to followers of false religions.  Yet the same is true for "Christians" who only profess Christ but do not possess Him as Savior; they likewise will never experience rest. Make sure you have Him and He has you. (1 John 5:11-13; John 10:28-29; Matt. 7:21-23)

"Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it."  Just as Paul exhorted the Galatian believers to not go back to the Law but to go forward in and by the Spirit, the writer of Hebrews warned the Jewish believers then and us today to depend on God's power, not our natural strength to follow Him in obedience.  "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-continue to work out (not work for) your salvation with fear and trembling, (""Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest" – Heb. 4:11) for it is God who works in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire -Amp.] to will and to act according to his good purpose." (Phil. 2:12-13)   "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God ("Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest" -. Heb. 4:11) And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice ("Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest" – Heb. 4:11), And the God of peace will be with you. (Phil. 4:6-9)

We also see in these verses types of rest both in 1) the Sabbath rest that God modeled, commanded and provided; and 2) the rest from wandering in the wilderness, settling down in Canaan and receiving their inheritance of land. In an agricultural economy it took great faith to cease from working seven days a week and the Jewish nation demonstrated their faith to the nations around them of the reality of the one true God Who could multiply their efforts and provides needed crops in only six days of labor. Taking the Promised Land as God commanded is a type of finishing our work to which God has called us (our heavenly calling 3:1) and receiving our inheritance (eternal rewards) even as the Jewish believers in the OT received land for their inheritance.  "Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on."  "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them." (Rev. 14:13) For believers, salvation is a gift from God not our works and yet we are rewarded in heaven for our works/deeds done for God's glory. (1 Cor. 3:10 -15) The good news is that the battle against the world, the devil, and our own flesh is going to end (in heaven) and this truth can encourage us to keep fighting the good fight of faith as we remember the brevity of our life and our "momentary afflictions" compared to an eternal weight of glory. (Psalm 90:12; Rom. 8:17; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; James 1:12)

In the last five verses we see the tension of resting in God's grace and mercy for everything we need in this life, while knowing we are accountable to Him for all of our actions (and inactions) and even the inner motives for all we do or fail to do. For true rest from God does not come from getting what we think we want to make us happy in this life but getting what God knows we need to do what He wants; and His Word reveals what He wants. "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."  Paul says in Rom. 7:22, "In my inner man I delight in the law of God" even as he confessed his struggle with sin. Here we need to make a distinction between the soul (our mind, will, and emotions that need on-going transformation) and our spirit, which is that part of us which is declared righteous by God at salvation and through which we commune with God (1 Cor. 2:11-14). Our spirit-man needs and wants spiritual food, the Word of God, so as to grow more like Christ. Yet our soul-man still struggles with obeying the Lord and needs the proper fear of God that comes from knowing we will give an account to Him one day for our works (not our sins – praise the Lord!). So God's Word shows us how to please Him even with our inner attitudes (Psalm 19:14). And the good news is that Jesus, one just like us in every way except without sin, invites us to come boldly, quickly, and continually, to the THRONE OF GRACE, to receive on-going mercy and forgiveness if and when we fail and even better, to receive His grace (His power and desire to obey God) in advance before we fail.  "Therefore, since we have a great high priest (a priest sustains a believer) who has gone through the heavens (all the way to the right hand of God) Jesus (the Man) the Son of God (and God) let us hold firmly to the faith we profess (to what we believe). For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses (*infirmities) but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." {*Infirmities- "astheneia" – lack of strength, weakness, infirmity: a) of the body; – its native weakness and frailty and feebleness of health or sickness; b) of the soul;  lack of strength and capacity needed: 1) to understand a thing; 2) to do things great and glorious; 3) to restrain corrupt desires; 4) to bear trials and troubles. Strong's concordance}

How do we as weak, sinful people, even though we are forgiven, find the rest that comes through humble, faithful obedience to God? Through the help of our High Priest, Jesus the Son of God. These following points are in W.H. Griffith Thomas' commentary on Hebrews.) 1) By remembering we "have" Him – "since we have a great high priest"  we can go to Him for His power to obey God; 2) to be spiritually persistent – let us hold firmly to the faith we profess (to what we believe)."  3) to know we have spiritual freedom "to come boldly to the throne of grace" even if we sin but more so in the moment of our temptation to sin; 4) "so that we may receive mercy" – to receive mercy if/when we sin versus days of condemnation from Satan and self; 5) and find grace to help us in our time of need" – we receive mercy for a sin already committed (past) but we can look for (1 Cor. 10:13) and find grace (in the present moment) to help before we sin. Jesus suffered when tempted to sin (Heb. 2:18) more than sinful man does because the one who resists the temptation to sin feels the full impact of the sin more than the one who yields to sin. He could not sin because He would not sin. "Nevertheless, Thy will be done."  He always willed God's will. As believers we can now exercise our will to resist sin even as we suffer in our resistance to sin as Jesus did and find the rest of faithful obedience that our Lord continually experienced as a Man. (See Matthew 11:28-30; Psalm 40:7-8; John 4:34)


1) We are told to do our best to receive God's rest. How do you picture God's rest? Share what it means to you in your day to day life.

2) Why didn't most of the Israelites enter the Promised Land and receive God's rest, and how can that apply to us today?

3) How does God's Word lead us to true rest (versus fleeting happiness) with God?  How does Romans 10:17 apply to finding God's rest?

4) Explain what it means to you to have Jesus as your great High Priest. How did He suffer when He was tempted  (Heb. 2:18) and how does that apply to us?  

5) Which of the five points from W.H. Griffith Thomas on how to find the rest that comes through humble, faithful obedience to God, do you find the most helpful and why?

6) "Then Jesus said to them, "The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27 NLT)  How can the Sabbath "meet our needs" today and how does this relate to true rest with God?

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