Troublesome Topic: Heaven Will be Characterized by Rest

MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO FULLY CONNECT TODAY SO REST CAN FOSTER THE ANTICIPATION OF HEAVEN

Hebrews chapter four contains the longest discourse on rest in the Bible. It is not like the Old Testament laws about Sabbath, neither is it like the words of Jesus about the Sabbath. At first glance it does not seem to fit well with the points I have been making in this study on Sabbath/rest. But the connections will soon become apparent.

Here is the passage in its entirety.

Hebrews 4:1

Translation

Therefore we should fear, lest any of you should seem to have fallen short of it, since the promise of entering His rest

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remains,

Paraphrase

Therefore we should be controlled by a healthy fear, lest any of you should even seem to have fallen short of the promise, since the promise of entering His fullness remains available to us,

Hebrews 4:2

Translation

For we also have had the Gospel preached to us, just as they did, but their hearing of the message did not profit them since it was not united with the faith of those who heard it.

Paraphrase

Now all those on both sides of the issue have had the Good News from God preached to them so they are all equally responsible, but when those on the other side heard the message it did them no good because they did not combine hearing of it with believing it, like the others did.

Hebrews 4:3

Translation

For those of us who have believed enter that rest, as He has said, “So, in my wrath, I swore an oath: ‘They will never enter my rest.’” And yet from the laying of the foundations of the world, the works have been finished.

Paraphrase

Those of us who have believed, by believing we have entered into the fullness we are speaking about; on the flip side of things He has made it clear in this way, “I was so angry with them that I made a solemn pledge saying: ‘There is no way I will ever let them enter into the fullness of what I have to offer.’” And yet, the reality is that His offer has been available to all since the very beginning.

Hebrews 4:4

Translation

For He has spoken somewhere

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about the seventh day in this way, “And on day seven THEOS rested from all His works.”

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Paraphrase

For God spoke somewhere else, you figure out where that was, because who knows, it might be important (wink), and He said this about the seventh day: “On the seventh day of creation THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS paused after having created or set in motion everything He had planned.”

Hebrews 4:5

Translation

And again in this passage, “They shall never enter into my rest.”

Paraphrase

But I remind you that in the passage quoted above He said, “There is no way I will ever let them enter into

the fullness of what I have to offer.”

Hebrews 4:6

Translation

Therefore, since it remains for some to enter into it, and those who formerly had received the Gospel did not enter in because of their disobedience,

Paraphrase

Therefore, since it remains true that some will enter into His fullness, and others who previously heard the Good News from God did not enter into it because they disobeyed His call to believe,

Hebrews 4:7

Translation

again He appointed a certain day, calling it “Today,” saying through DAVID a long time later, just it had been said earlier, “Today, if you should hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”

Paraphrase

God’s gracious offer is obvious because God makes it available on a day that is called “Everyday,” and He explained it through THE ONE WHO IS LOVED a long time after it had been explained the first time – “On this special day, if you happen to hear His voice, make sure you don’t harden your hearts.”

Hebrews 4:8

Translation

For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken after this about another day.

Paraphrase

Think about it; Joshua came before David, so if Joshua, in his day, had given them the fullness of everything God has to offer, God would not have spoken later about another special day of opportunity.

Hebrews 4:9

Translation

So then there remains for the people of God a time to pause and connect as God truly intended.

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Paraphrase

Here is a summary statement: There remains yet unfulfilled for the people of God alive today a blessed rest from toils and troubles which will bring us close to God on a level we have not yet known but which God has always intended.

Hebrews 4:10

Translation

10 For the one who has entered into His rest also rests

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from his work just as God rested from His own work.

Paraphrase

So, the one who has entered into the fullness God offers does what He has seen God do by learning to rest, to connect, to commune, to cease from vain striving and thus he follows the example God showed us from the beginning.

Hebrews 4:11

Translation

Therefore, we should urgently exert ourselves

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to enter into that rest, so that no one fall

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by [following] the same example of disobedience.

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Paraphrase

Therefore, with great effort and urgency we should strive to entre into God’s fullness, so that no one meet disaster by practicing the same sort of disobedience that our forefathers did in the Old Testament.

Hebrews 4:12

Translation

For the word of God is living and energetic;

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it is sharper than a two-edged sword, and it can penetrate so far as to divide the soul from the spirit,

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or divide the joints from the marrow of the bones, and it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Paraphrase

For the word of God is alive, not dead or lifeless, and it is able to work and accomplish what God wants; it is able to penetrate deep within, in fact it can cut through things that no one can see and can separate what seems to be completely intertwined or

penetrate deep and deeper; it is also able to separate the thoughts and intentions of one’s heart as good or bad.

Hebrews 4:13

Translation

For nothing in all creation is hidden from Him; but all things are stripped naked and cut wide open

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before the eyes of Him to whom our reckoning is due.

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Paraphrase

For nothing about our lives or anyone else’s life can be hidden from God; instead every aspect of our lives is

stripped of the protective coverings we use to hide the bad stuff and it reveals things we don’t even know are there; they are all perfectly clear in God’s eyes, and it is to He who prepares the scorecard for our life.

Now let’s break it down and look at a few of the highlights of this passage.

Heb. 4:1 since the promise of entering His rest remains,

This means there is more to be attained, but to attain it we need to be careful, diligent, obedient and trusting.

Heb. 4:6 it remains for some to enter into it,

This means the opportunity is still open, rest (connectedness) is available now.

Heb. 4:8  For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken after this about another day.

The promised land was not a place, but a condition. Attaining the land was not the final goal. There is a kind of rest which is not physical in nature, and such rest is the real thing, far beyond what claiming the promised land could bring them.

God told Moses the promised land would be “rest” (completion) for them. That was the most completeness they could attain then, but the writer of Hebrews is saying that we can attain a more complete rest, a fuller completeness than they could then (see the next verse).

Heb. 4:9  So then there remains for the people of God a time to pause and connect as God truly intended.

This is the Greek word for “Sabbath”; literally it means, “to continually practice the observance of the Sabbath.” It implies that doing so will bring positive consequences. The word focuses on the observance of the Sabbath, not the day of Sabbath; it is a noun, but a verbal noun, a noun that conveys action. The point being made is that heaven will be characterized entirely by an enjoyment of rest. It will not be numerous times of rest separated by times of work as we have here on earth; rather it will be one perfect and perpetual observance of rest (closeness). “Heaven will be one big Sabbath, a complete connection to God.”

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“Heaven will be like Sabbath; the Sabbath here should be like heaven.”

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“They who do not love the Sabbath here are not prepared for heaven.”

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Yet, the point of Hebrews 4:9 is that this heavenly state of rest is available while we are still on earth, literally, “a little bit of heaven on earth.”

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We may not reach all its fullness here, but we can indeed begin experiencing its benefits and making progress toward complete connection while in this life.

This entire passage reverberates with the concept of rest as a state of completeness, a level of fulfillment that is still waiting to be attained.

The “people of God” in Hebrews 4:9 are those who already know rest, at least to some degree. But those who are God’s people in the truest sense of the word will never be satisfied, they will always crave more time and connection to Him. I am convinced we have only begun to scratch the surface of that closeness. Look at Hebrews 4:10 once again.

Hebrews 4:10

Translation

10 For the one who has entered into His rest also rests

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from his work just as God rested from His own work.

Paraphrase

So, the one who has entered into the fullness God offers does what He has seen God do by learning to rest, to connect, to commune, to cease from vain striving and thus he follows the example God showed us from the beginning.

Here is what I understand verse 10 to mean: Anyone who enjoys God and is close to God does as He does, he facilitates that closeness through time with God, through resting, and he will cease from all striving just as God ceased from creating. When I say cease from striving I mean cease from struggling to make things work, but rather live with perfect trust in God.

A person can still hold down a job and go to work even after learning to cease from striving; the difference is that this person will fully trust God; he will not trust his job. If he loses his job his trust in God will carry him through without a noticeable change in his demeanor. His faith was not in that job anyway, so losing it does not change much, it only changes the physical source God uses to meet his needs.

Heb. 4:11 Therefore, we should urgently exert ourselves to enter into that rest, so that no one fall by [following] the same example of disobedience.

We need to press on to get closer to God. Any striving we do should be to enter deeper levels of communion with God, for there is danger in backing off too soon. As seen in the example of the children of Israel, anything short of making God our top priority will end poorly.

This entire passage is both an encouragement and a warning. It encourages us to press on because there is more, but warns us to not be like those who did not take advantage of the previous opportunity. In summary, this passage says: “There’s more! This is just the beginning! No one has ever exhausted, or fully realized, the fullest extent of resting in God (connecting with God), or the completeness that it brings. But be careful; keep your eye on the ball, or it will thump you on the head and knock you out. You need to take hold of rest, or its consequences will take hold of you.”

4:12-13 For the word of God is living and energetic; it is sharper than a two-edged sword, and it can penetrate so far as to divide the soul from the spirit, or divide the joints from the marrow of the bones, and it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

We have often heard these two verses at the end of this passage that talk about the word of God, but they have almost always been separated from their context. As always, the context is very important. These statements are proving that we cannot hide from God any disbelief or disobedience in our lives. He is the judge and He will judge rightly because He sees all things and He will dissect the minutia of our lives, if He needs to, in order to prove His judgements to be true. But usually our actions are obvious to us and to others, so such scrutiny is not necessary. Thankfully, the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus mean that we do not need to fear God’s judgment, but such fear is warranted for those who have not accepted what God has to offer.

The next lesson is Practicing Rest

Footnotes

1: “His rest”

This is not the word “Sabbath” but a normal Greek word that means to “to rest, to lay down, to settle down and make a place home.” This same word is used throughout this passage until in verse 9 when there is a momentary switch before it goes back to using this Greek word again – I will let you know when we get there.

2

This was said, not because didn’t know where it was found, but because he wanted the reader to participate even more by thinking about where it was and understanding its importance from its location in the Old Testament.

3

This quote is found in Genesis 2:2. It is the climax of the creation narrative; rest (connection) is what God was working toward all week long. This made the quote carry more weight, and by not telling them where it was found, the writer emphasized its importance more than if he had just told them.

This statement also indicates that God set in motion everything necessary for our salvation and our communion with our Creator. While God is always active in our lives, we can also say that His plan was determined and initiated from the beginning and, in that limited sense, His work was “complete” at the end of creation week.

4

Here is that momentary switch I told you would come. This is the Greek word that resembles the Hebrew word “Sabbath.” It was a way of pointing to all that the Old Testament taught about the benefits of the Sabbath. It pointed to how crucial the Sabbath was for the people of Israel during the Old Testament times and how central it was to their relationship with God. This word has often been translated “Sabbath rest.”

5: “also rests”

The point here is that the person who has entered into what God has to offer has done what God did, and is doing what God is doing – he has learned to rest, to connect to cease from vain striving. The verb form used here is one of the past tenses, which seems strange to us. But I think the type of action being pointed to is not bound by time. He has done and is doing what God does – he rests. I have rendered it as “rests” because it flows better in English.

6: “urgently exert ourselves”

This verb has “speed” at the core of its meaning, hence it means things like, “with great speed, speedily, with urgency, exert great effort, be diligent, endeavor with haste, hasten, etc.”

7

What “fall” means is not made clear, but it is obviously something very bad. It implies punishment, destruction, and personal ruin, and when God is the one delivering such things “it ain’t gonna be pretty.”

8

The disobedience being spoken of is likewise assumed, not clarified. But the reader should know that it involved at least the following: Their disbelief and disobedience in the desert for which they were punished for 40 years, how once they got in the promised land they did not follow God but quickly turned to idol worship, how they refused God’s many overtures toward them and spurned His longsuffering patience.

9

We get our word “energy” from this Greek word.

10: “soul and Spirit”

We often think of these two things as either the same things, or very similar, although some make the effort to define them differently. The people of ancient times debated the same issues. But let me tell you that both of these words mean “breath” and both mean “spirit,” similar to the overlap of similar words in Hebrew. I believe they were used in this way because of the similarities of these words, not due to any slight differences they may possess.

11

“Stripped naked” reveals things that are covered by clothing, “cut wide open” would reveal things on the inside of a person, their entrails, their organs. Both of these words are quite graphic and therefore powerful.

12

This is the word “logos” which means many things, including “word, revelation, logic, reasoning.” It can also mean “a reckoning or an accounting for one’s actions,” even the idea of “the score” that has been kept.

13

Gnomon of the New Testament by Johann Bengel, comments for Heb. 4:9.

14

Albert Barnes, Barnes notes on the Bible, 1834, under comments on Hebrews 4:9.

15

Albert Barnes, Barnes notes on the Bible, Heb 4:9.

16

Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, regarding Heb. 4:9.

17: “also rests”

The point here is that the person who has entered into what God has to offer has done what God did, and is doing what God is doing – he has learned to rest, to connect to cease from vain striving. The verb form used here is one of the past tenses, which seems strange to us. But I think the type of action being pointed to is not bound by time. He has done and is doing what God does – he rests. I have rendered it as “rests” because it flows better in English.