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Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 4

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-16

Hebrews 4:1 . Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. This caution is repeated from the preseding chapter, but the reading does not satisfy. The ancient Israelites really did come short of the promised land, and the caution is expressly against casting away the gospel, making shipwreck of faith, and of a good conscience. Δοκη is not videatur, “should seem,” but as in Montanus, who follows the Vulgate, existimatur, “should be estimated” to come short of it. In Tirinus, videatur is turned, should be found to come short of it. The Mons version, of high repute, reads, Il n’ y ait quelqu’une d’entre vous qui en soit exclus. Lest there be among you some one who should be excluded from it.

Hebrews 4:2 . For unto us was the gospel preached, by Jesus Christ himself, as well as unto them, in all the ancient promises of the Messiah, and in all the types and figures of the law. Nay, they saw his glory, and spake of his passion, and of the glory that should follow, in the conversion of the gentile world. These shadows are called the wisdom of God, hidden in a mystery. Howbeit, the word did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those that heard. It fell as seed by the wayside, or in rocky places, and had no root in their carnal hearts.

Hebrews 4:3 . For we which have believed do enter into rest. Canaan, where the Hebrews found inheritance and repose, was a figure of the heaven into which we enter by faith, a place of everlasting rest, of which the sabbath instituted at the creation was a standing type from the foundation of the world. There, and only there the church shall rest from all her travail and pain, as God reposed from all his works, and hallowed the sabbath as the seal of the covenant that he would grant us eternal rest. Such also is the promise: they shall hunger no more, nor thirst any more. The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

Hebrews 4:8-9 . If Jesus (the greek name for Joshua) had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. Paul does not deny that Joshua gave them rest, and a paternal inheritance, but he denies that this was the true rest, else why did wars and troubles follow; else why does David speak of another rest, for by the Holy Spirit he foresaw that Christ would prepare a better country for his people; that is, a heavenly heritage.

Hebrews 4:11 . Let us labour, or as the greek, let us study, and warmly espouse the cause of religion, to enter into that rest, lest any one stumbling at our walk and misconduct should fall through unbelief. Satan puts the stumblingblock of some beguiling sin before men, and seduces them by their passions to destruction. The best guard against sin is to realize the presence of an omniscient God.

Hebrews 4:12 . The word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any two- edged sword. By the Word is generally understood Jesus Christ, out of whose mouth goes a sharp sword with two edges. Isaiah has said, He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked: Hebrews 11:4. Now as the sword lays open the body by a stroke, and as the sacrificial knife divided the victims, so the word of the Lord makes manifest the thoughts of the heart. The sense is the same, if we understand it of the word preached, for it is the voice of Christ which raises the dead, and bids the dry bones hear and live. Where can we hide from him, who has eyes like flames of fire. Apostates from truth and righteousness can find no cover at his bar. We should notice the term: the word of God is “quick,” or living; it is spirit and life to the soul.

Hebrews 4:14 . Seeing then we have such a great highpriest, who is as gracious, compassionate and tender to sincere souls as he is terrific to those who harden their necks, let us hold fast our profession. Let the defection of some make us the more bold and determined in the Lord. Let us repose under his wings, rely on the intercession of our great highpriest above, and give him our cause to plead, for him the Father heareth always.

Hebrews 4:16 . Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace. The word has reference to the mercyseat, where the glory appeared in the holy place, and where the Lord held communion with his people. On this throne he dwells in glory, and still communes with and blesses them that fear him. On this high throne he now sits at the Father’s right hand, uniting the regal, and the priestly dignity in his own person. Here he reigns, the defence of Zion, till all his enemies are put under his feet. He is full of compassion, being touched with the feeling of our infirmities. To him we may boldly come with our complaints; no ear will listen like his ear, no bosom will commiserate like his. He is able also to save to the uttermost all who come to God through him.


The unbelievers who perished in the desert afforded a grand argument to Paul against the jews, who rejected Christ through unbelief and enmity against the Holy One of God; for those are instructive figures to the christian church, who like the ancient Israelites are waiting for the promised rest. They were a figure of the true Israelites, and to them was the gospel preached in shadows and in promises; though much veiled even to holy men who searched the import of the Spirit in their hearts, while they spake of the salvation which is come unto us.

As heaven is our rest, and the sabbath from the labours and conflicts of life, we must endeavour to enter into that rest in the spirit and temper of our minds here on earth, where we may have the firstfruits and earnest abundantly shed abroad in our hearts, even the perfect love of God which casteth out the fear of man. They that believe do enter into this rest, as a meetness for the inheritance. Colossians 3:12. Let us labour to get this rest, this sweet repose of mind, lest any one discouraged because of the way, fail through following the old examples of unbelief.

As a preservative against this evil heart of unbelief, let us be awed by the piercing sharpness of God’s word and Spirit. It is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword. The Messiah who brandishes it against rebels, discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart. When he by this word, struck the unbelieving rebels at Kadesh, they died in despair. Numbers 14:0. When he pierced David by Nathan’s mission, the monarch dropped from his throne, as the wounded fall in battle. And when he turned the sword, by St. Peter’s sermon, against the three thousand who had pierced him on the cross, they were cut to the heart. Acts 2:36-37. Who then may abide the day of his coming, when a sharp sword with two edges shall go out of his mouth against the wicked?

But while the wicked fear, let the righteous hope. While apostates are menaced with this sword, and with exclusion from heaven, let the trembling soul come boldly to the throne of grace. This throne is the mercyseat, sprinkled with blood. From this throne God has promised to commune with sinful men. From this throne he pardoned the rebels who had made the calf, and proclaimed his character, merciful and gracious, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin. This glorious high throne is our sanctuary from the beginning. It is the throne of intercession for sinful man. Come with boldness, trembling soul; thou art invited by all the characters of a weary, heavy laden, and captive soul. Yea, God also hath sent the Spirit of his Son into the heart, crying, Abba, Father. Come as a son, plead the promises, and claim the rights of adoption. Come, and fear not: thy near kinsman, thy Joseph, thy Redeemer is on that throne. He will in no wise cast thee out: thou shalt see his face, and live.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Hebrews 4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/hebrews-4.html. 1835.
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