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1. What the rest of God is (Hebrews 4:1-11 )
2. The power of the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12-13 )
“Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left of entering into His rest, any one of you might seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached as well as unto them, but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” These words of exhortation belong properly to the preceding chapter.
What is the rest of which these verses speak? It is generally explained as the rest which the true believer finds and has in the Lord Jesus Christ in believing; that his conscience has rest. It is frequently identified with Matthew 11:28-29 . While it is blessedly true that all who come to the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour find rest in Him from the curse of the law and the burden of sin, while it is equally true that those who follow Him in obedience and learn of Him find rest day by day for their souls, yet it is not this present rest which is before us in these verses. The rest which is meant is called by God “My rest”; it is the rest of God and is future, the rest in coming glory, an eternal rest. It is God’s rest, because He made it Himself and He will enjoy it in glory with those who have believed in Christ, in whose perfect work God has His rest, because it satisfies His holiness and His love. Into this rest the believer enters at His coming. Then work will be over and all burdens cease. Righteousness reigns and groaning creation is delivered and all the promised glory will be accomplished. God rests then in His love and rejoices (Zephaniah 3:17 ). Till that day God works, for sin and the curse is unremoved, but all will be changed when His Son appears in glory and all things are put in subjection under Him. The perfect, complete rest of God is in the new heaven and earth, when God dwells among men and sin and death are forever gone. He then is all in all. This is the rest which remains for the people of God.
“God must rest in that which satisfies His heart. This was the case even in creation--all was very good. And now it must be in a perfect blessing that perfect love can be satisfied with, with regard to us, who will possess a heavenly portion in the blessing which we shall have in His own presence, in perfect holiness and perfect light. Accordingly all the toilsome work of faith, the exercise of faith in the wilderness, the warfare (although there are many joys), the good works practised there, labour of every kind will cease. It is not only that we shall be delivered from the power of indwelling sin; all the efforts and all the troubles of the new man will cease. We are already set free from the law of sin; then our spiritual exercise for God will cease. We shall rest from our works--not evil ones. We have already rested from our works with regard to justification, and therefore in that sense we have now rest in our consciences, but that is not the subject here--it is the Christian’s rest from all his works. God rested from His works--assuredly good ones--and so shall we also then with Him.
“We are now in the wilderness; we also wrestle with wicked spirits in heavenly places. A blessed rest remains for us in which our hearts will repose in the presence of God, where nothing will trouble the perfection of our rest, where God will rest in the perfection of the blessing He has bestowed on His people.
“The great thought of the passage is, that there remains a rest (that is to say, that the believer is not to expect it here) without saying where it is. And it does not speak in detail of the character of the rest, because it leaves the door open to an earthly rest for the earthly people on the ground of the promises, although to Christian partakers of the heavenly calling God’s rest is evidently a heavenly one” (Synopsis of the Bible).
The argument and exhortation of Hebrews 4:3-11 is therefore easily understood. God had rested in creation on the seventh day from all His work. But that rest was broken and is also the type of another rest of God to come. Those who believe not cannot enter into that coming rest and it is shown that Joshua (Hebrews 4:8 , not Jesus, but Joshua) and the rest in Canaan is not the true rest of God, for if it had been why would David, long after Joshua, have spoken of it again? Nor has this rest come now for the people of God; it is still in the future. A Sabbath-keeping remaineth for the people of God. We are on the road toward it, beset by dangers and difficulties as Israel was when passing through the wilderness. And therefore the exhortation to be diligent to enter into that rest and not to be unbelieving and disobedient. Entrance into the rest is by faith. We who have believed do enter into rest. While the believer is assured of this future entrance into the rest of God, he also uses diligence and earnestness while on the way, watching and praying. True faith is evidenced by such a walk.
The Word of God and its divine living power is here introduced by the Holy Spirit. It is the method of God, to use His Word, to bring to light and judge the unbelief and workings of the heart. It judges everything in the heart which is not of Him. Its use, its constant use, is the supreme necessity of those who believe and are on the way to the rest of God, for it is His divine Word which brings us into God’s presence. It is a searching Word and under its power the conscience becomes aroused and the blessed and needed work of self-judgment begins. Life, power and omniscience, three great attributes of God, are here given to His Word. The Word also gives power and spiritual energy.
(“Soul and spirit” as thus named together can only be the two parts of the immaterial nature of man; which Scripture, in spite of what many think, everywhere clearly distinguishes from one another. The soul is the lower, sensitive, instinctive, emotional part, which, where not, as in man, penetrated with the light of the spirit, is simply animal; and which also, where man is not in the power of the Spirit of God, will still gravitate towards this. The spirit is intelligent and moral, that which knows human things (1 Corinthians 2:11 ). In the “natural man,” which is really the psychic man, the man soulled (1 Corinthians 2:14 ), conscience, with its recognition of God, is in abeyance, and the mind itself becomes earthly. Important enough it is, therefore, to divide between “soul and spirit.” “Joints and marrow” convey to us the difference between the external and the internal, the outward form and the essence hidden in it” Numerical Bible.)
III. CHRIST AS PRIEST IN THE HEAVENLY SANCTUARY
The Great High-Priest (4:14-16)
With this statement the main section of the Epistle begins, and the great theme, the priesthood of Christ, is introduced. This section covers six chapters, ending with the tenth. Here we learn that Christ, the true priest, has passed through the heavens and is now in a heavenly sanctuary, the way into which His own work has blessedly opened. The different contrasts with the priests and sacrifices of Judaism, the old covenant and the new, are made in these chapters. The concluding verses of the fourth chapter one might say, contain all the truth of His priesthood which the succeeding chapters develop and expand.
He is the great high priest who is passed through the heavens. He has entered heaven itself, the third heaven, the holiest. The earthly tabernacle in which Aaron and his successors ministered had three parts. Through these Aaron passed as he entered into the holiest and these parts are typical of the heavenly things. Christ also passed through, but not through the places made by hands--He passed through the heavens and into the holiest. “Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figure of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (9:24). And He who passed through the heavens is Jesus, the Son of God; He who was made a little lower than the angels and after His sacrificial death arose, is now clothed with a glorified human body in the presence of God. His priestly ministry there is in behalf of His people. He is, as high priest, touched with the feeling of our infirmities; He was in all points tempted as we are, apart from sin. (“Yet without sin” is an incorrect translation and is responsible for the very erroneous teaching that our Lord, while He did not sin, might have sinned. It was absolutely impossible for Him to sin, for He is the Son of God and God cannot sin.) He lived on earth and passed through life; He suffered and was tempted; He experienced all the trials His people have to pass through in their lives and infinitely more than His saints can ever suffer, and therefore He sympathizes with all our infirmities. In all the difficulties, perplexities, trials and sorrows, the saint of God finds perfect sympathy in Him as priest. His heart filled with that love which passeth knowledge, is touched, beyond our finite comprehension, with the feeling of our infirmities.
As to sin, temptation from within, the lust of an evil heart, He knew absolutely nothing. He knew no sin. He was tempted in all things, apart from sin. Sin, therefore, is excluded. Nor does a child of God desire sympathy with indwelling sin. It must be judged, put into the place of death, and not sympathized with. And this fact that He is the great High Priest touched with the feeling of our infirmities, our weaknesses and our trials; the knowledge that He, who is exalted in glory, concerns Himself about us and our trials down here, gives encouragement to hold fast our confession. He will not leave, nor forsake, nor fail His saints.
We have evil temptations from within; Christ had none. Temptation from sin was absolutely incompatible with His holy person. By a miracle he was even as to humanity exempt from the taint of evil. It is of holy temptations this Epistle treats, not of our unholy ones. The Epistle of James distinguishes them very definitely in Chapter 1. Compare James 1:2 , James 1:12 , on the one hand, and James 1:13-15 on the other. We know the latter too well. Jesus knew. But He knew the former as no other before or since. He was in all things tempted according to likeness, i.e. with us, with this infinite difference ‘apart from sin.’ He knew no sin. He is therefore the more-- not the less--able to sympathize with us. For sin within, even if not yielded to, blinds the eye, and dulls the heart, and hinders from unreserved occupation with the trials of others” (J.N. Darby.)
And while we are not told to go to this great High Priest (He is constantly occupying Himself about us) we are told to come boldly to the throne of grace. We look to the Lord Jesus Christ, trust His love and sympathy, and knowing that He is there we can go with boldness to the throne of grace. And there we find all we need.
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Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Hebrews 4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24