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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Hebrews 4

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. IV.

The rest of Christians is attained by faith. The power of God's word. By our High-priest Jesus, the Son of God, who on earth was subject to infirmities, but not to sin, we must and may go boldly to the throne of grace.

Anno Domini 63.

THE apostle in this chapter enforces his exhortation to the Hebrews, chap. Hebrews 3:12 to beware of an evil heart of unbelief, by entering into the deep meaning of those passages of the Jewish scriptures, which describe the sin and punishment of the rebellious Israelites in the wilderness, who flatly refused to go into Canaan. For with a sagacity worthy of the inspiration by which he was guided, he proves from the oath by which the Israelites were excluded from Canaan, that the promise to give to Abraham and to his seed the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession, was really a promise to give persevering believers of all nations, the everlasting possession of the heavenly country, of which Canaan was the emblem: and that the oath which excluded the rebellious Israelites in the wilderness from Canaan, likewise excluded all from the heavenly country who continue in their sins. So that in this ancient oracle, a future state with its rewards and punishments, was actually made known to the Jews.

But, to understand the reasoningby which the apostle has established this important fact, the reader ought to know, what all the Hebrews who understood their own scriptures well knew, and what the apostle expressly declared, Romans 4:16 namely, That in the covenant with Abraham, God promised him two kinds of seed, the one by natural descent, and the other by faith; and that the promise to give to him and to his seed the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession, being made to both the kinds of his seed, it was to be fulfilled, not only to his natural progeny, by giving them the possession of the earthly Canaan, but also to his seed by faith, all persevering believers, by giving them the possession of the heavenly country, of which Canaan was the emblem and pledge.

Upon these principles the apostle affirms, that notwithstanding Abraham's natural seed have obtained the possession of Canaan, there is still left to his seed by faith, consisting of all God's faithful people, in all ages, whether they be Jews or Gentiles, a promise of entering into God's rest; for which reason he exhorted the Hebrews in his own time, to be afraid lest any of them should fall short of that rest, as their fathers in the wilderness fell short of the rest in Canaan, Hebrews 4:1.—His affirmation that, in the covenant, there is still left to Abraham's seed byfaith, a promise of entering into God's rest, the apostle establishes by observing, that the promise of the everlasting possession of Canaan being made to Abraham's seed by faith, as well as to his natural seed, his seed by faith have received the good tidings of a rest in the heavenly country typified by Canaan, as really as his natural seed have received the good tidings of a rest in Canaan. Only these good tidings did not profit the natural seed in the wilderness, because they did not believe them.

Next, the apostle observes, that God's oath concerning the rebellious generation in the wilderness, was again mentioned by the Holy Ghost to the Israelites at the time they were in possession of Canaan, when he said to them by David, Psalms 95:11. They shall not enter into my rest, Hebrews 4:5. Now though the apostle has not declared the purpose for which he mentioned this repetition of the oath by the Holy Ghost, the strainofhis reasoning shews that his design therein was to prove, that notwithstanding the people were then in possession of Canaan, they had not entered into God's rest, according to the full meaning of his promise to give to Abraham's seed the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession; but that there still remained a rest of God to be entered into, of which Canaan was only the emblem and pledge.

This fact the apostle takes it for granted that he has proved to the conviction of his readers; for in the next verse he says, since, after the Israelites were in possession of the rest in Canaan, it still remained for some in David's days to enter into God's rest; also since they who first received the good news of a rest in Canaan, namely, the Israelites in the wilderness, did not enter into that rest through unbelief, Hebrews 4:6.—it follows, that if the seed, who in the promise have received the good tidings of a rest in the heavenly country, do not believe these tidings, they are excluded from that rest bythe oath which excluded the unbelieving generation in thewilderness from the rest in Canaan.

Next, the apostle observes, that in the xcvth psalm the holy Ghost, by the mouth of David, mentioned a particular time, namely, the time then present, for the entering of the Israelites into God's rest, Saying, To-day, so long a time after they were in possession of the rest in Canaan, when ye shall hear his voice commanding you to enter into his rest, harden not your hearts, Hebrews 4:7.—His design in mentioning the exhortation of the Holy Ghost to the Israelites in David's days, not to harden their hearts when they should hear God'svoice commanding them to enter into his rest, the apostle has not declared. But the strain of his reasoning leads us to believe he mentioned that exhortation to teach us, 1. That the command to the Israelites in the wilderness to enter into God's rest, was not confined to them, but is a command to men in every age to enter into the rest which was typified by the rest in Canaan.—2. That neither the Israelites, nor any of mankind in this life, enter into that rest of God which is principally intended in the covenant.—Wherefore, having only insinuated these things hitherto in his premises, he now expresses them more directly, by observing, that if Joshua, by introducing the Israelites into Canaan, had caused them to rest according to the full meaning of God's promise, the Holy Ghost would not, after that, have spoken of another day for their entering into God's rest, Hebrews 4:8.

The reader may observe, that in the foregoing reasoningthe apostle has not drawn the conclusions which followed from his premises, but has left them to be supplied by the reader, either because they were obvious, or because the general conclusion, which he was about to draw from the whole of his reasoning, comprehends them all: namely, Therefore there remaineth a sabbatism to the people of God: in other words; seeing it appears from the oath, that the rest promised to Abraham and to his seed, according to its principal meaning, was not the rest in Canaan, there certainly remains to God's faithful people of all nations, the true seed of Abraham and people of God, a better rest, of which the rest in Canaan was only the emblem, Hebrews 4:9.—Withal, to shew that the remaining rest is not to be enjoyed by the people of God in this life, but in the life to come, and to give us some idea of its nature, the apostle adds, He who hath entered into God's rest, hath himself also rested from his own works of trial, even as God rested from his works of creation: consequently, he enjoys a happiness like to God's, Hebrews 4:10.—Then, as the improvement of his discourse concerning the rest of God, he took occasion, from the sin and punishment of the Israelites in the wilderness, to exhort all who read this epistle, to strive to enter into the rest which remaineth to the people of God, lest they fall or die eternally through unbelief, as the unbelieving Israelites died in the wilderness, Hebrews 4:11.—Withal, to enforce his exhortation, he described first the perfection of the gospel, by which men are to be judged before they enter into God's rest, Hebrews 4:12.—and next, the omniscience of Christ the Judge, who will render to all men according to their deeds, Hebrews 4:13.

Such is the account which the apostle has given of the great Author of the gospel, as the Creator of the world, as the Lawgiver in the true church, as the conductor of thespiritual seed of Abraham,—all persevering believers, into the heavenly country, the rest of God; and as the Judge of the whole human race.—He next proceeds to speak of him as the High-priest of our religion, and to shew, that as a High-priest, he has atoned for our sins by the sacrifice of himself.—This, as was formerly observed, is the fourth fact whereby the authority of the gospel, as a revelation from God, is supported.

And to give both Jews and Gentiles just views of the gospel, the apostle affirms, that although no sacrifices are offered in the Christian temples, we have a great High-priest, even Jesus the Son of God, who, at his ascension, passed through the visible heavens into the true habitation of God, after the sacrifice of himself; and from these considerations he exhorted the believing Hebrews in particular, to hold fast their profession, Hebrews 4:14.—Then to shew that Jesus is perfectly qualified to be a High-priest, he observes, that, though he be the eternal Son of God, he is likewise a man, so cannot but be touched with a feeling of our infirmities, since he was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin, Hebrews 4:15.—On which account, we may come boldly to the throne of grace, well assured that, through the intercession of our great High-priest, we shall obtain the pardon of our sins, and grace to help us in time of need, Hebrews 4:16.—These being the doctrines which the apostle is to prove in the remaining part of his epistle, Hebrews 4:14-16 may be considered as the proposition of the subjects that he is going to handle in Hebrews 5-10. And as his reasonings on these, as well as on the subjects discussed in the foregoing partof the epistle, are all founded on the writings of Moses and the prophets, it is reasonable to suppose, that his inspired interpretations of the passages which he has quoted from these writings, are no other than the interpretations which were given of them by the Jewish doctors and scribes, and which were received by the people, at the time he wrote.


Verse 1

Hebrews 4:1. Let us therefore fear, &c.— The promise of God's rest, signifies such a rest as his is; namely, a state of peace and enjoyment, and freedom from labour. When a rest was promised to the children of Israel, it was a freedom from the uneasinesses and dangers of the wilderness; God's rest, when promised to the faithful Christians, is a freedom from troubles, in a state of eternal happiness. A promise then of this sort being made to us, we are to take care, not to neglect or despise, but to pay all due regard to it.


Verse 2

Hebrews 4:2. Unto us was the gospel preached, &c.— For we are made partakers of the good tidings, as they also were: But the word which they heard, did not profit them, &c. The children of Israel had a promise of rest made to them; and so have we, as well as they. The word gospel signifies properly, as we have often observed, good news, or good tidings; which is the meaning of the word ευηγγελισμενοι here: but as that term is now appropriated by custom to the particular good tidings of Christ, it renders this passage very obscure, to call the good tidings of a rest, the gospel. The meaning is, "We Christians have had the joyful tidings of God's rest, or a state of happiness, in a cessation from all our labours, preached, to us, as well as the children of Israel had to them." The last clause might be rendered more properly, Being not through faith mixed with (that is, digested and turned into) nourishment, as it were, by those who heard it. Faith is here considered as the means by which the word of God is thus incorporated in the hearers. See ch. Hebrews 3:16.


Verse 3

Hebrews 4:3. For we who have believed, &c.— This stands connected with the former part of the preceding verse: "Unto us was the good tidings of a rest preached, as well as unto them: For all we who have believed,—or, all who do believe, do enter into rest." Faith is the way by which men must expect to enter into whatever rest God promises in one age or another. The rest which was preached to them of old, they, for want of faith, and for acting disobediently, did not enter into; as appears from the declaration of God,—So I sware in my wrath, they shall not enter into my rest: But that rest which is preached to us, is a far superior, an infinitely more advantageous rest; even such a rest as God himself entered into,when his works were finished at the creation of the world; and consequently it is quite different from that which was spoken of the children of Israel in the wilderness. It is not therefore the land of Canaan which is eminently called my rest, but a state where there is to be no more labour, nor sorrow; Revelation 7:16-17. The term Και τοι does not in this place signify although, but for indeed, or for; and the true meaning is, "All we that believe, that is to say, who perseveringly believe, (as the whole epistle proves,) are to enter into God's rest;—not that which the children of Israel entered into, and was then called my rest, but that which was eminently so called; that which was so called when the world was made." There are then two different things spoken of under the terms of my rest: the one, that at the end of the creation, when God's works were finished; the other, when the Israelites entered Canaan. This latter is but a trifle, compared with the former: for that of which we have the good news, signifies a state of perfect happiness and repose from all labour and burdensome fatigue; and this is the state into which all who perseveringly believe and obey, are to enter.


Verse 4

Hebrews 4:4. For he spake in a certain place, &c.— The supplemental nominative case here is Γραφη, the scripture, not he: or it is to be understood impersonally, as in other citations in this epistle,—It is said concerning the seventh day. It was not customaryfor the Jews, when they quoted scripture, to mention the book or chapter; for they were so familiar with the sacred writings from their infancy, that they knew where to find any passage as soon as they heard it.


Verse 6

Hebrews 4:6. Seeing therefore it remaineth, &c.— The difficulty here is, how does it appear, from the passages cited, that any were to enter into God's rest? That the incredulous and disobedient children of Israel were not to enter into Canaan, the place of their rest, appears, because God had declared that that generation should not enter into it. But whence does it appear that any were to enter into that rest eminently so called?—The reasoning is this: 1. There is such a rest of God: this is proved from what the scripture says, God rested the seventh day from all his works. 2. That rest which is spoken of, and into which the children of Israel did enter, was not that rest of God; but though it was called his rest, yet it was not designed to be a cessation from all labour, but only from the labour in the wilderness. Since then the rest of God remained unpossessed, notwithstanding Joshua gave the people under his charge possession of Canaan, and we are invited still tocome into the rest of God, there must be such a state to and for the people of God. Instead of must enter, we may read do enter; and instead of they to whom it was first preached, Doddridge and others read, they to whom the good tidings were at first declared; as in Hebrews 4:2.


Verse 7

Hebrews 4:7. Again, he limiteth a certain day, "The scripture mentions God's rest again, with a strong exhortation to the people in David's days; and he gives a strong encouragement to them not to harden their hearts: and even so many years after Moses was dead, he uses the expression to-day; which implies present time, and a rest different from that of Canaan, and what the faithful even then were to enjoy." Dr. Heylin renders this and the next verse more clearly thus: He again determines a certain time, called To-day; saying by David, so long after the words recited, To-day, since you heard his voice, harden not your hearts, Hebrews 4:8. For if Joshua had given them rest, David would not afterwards have spoken of another day. "The land of Canaan cannot be the true rest promised by God, because David speaks of a rest as still future, and to be acquired by such as were ready and willing, in his time, to hearken to the voice of God."


Verse 9

Hebrews 4:9. There remaineth therefore a rest The word hitherto used for rest had been καταπαυσιν, cessation from labour: here a new term is introduced σαββατισμος, such a rest as was proper to the seventh day, on which God rested. The apostle had said, Hebrews 4:6 that the rest of God was left unpossessed; that generation which Joshua led into Canaan, did not then take possession of God's rest; for God, four hundred and fifty years afterwards, speaks of his rest as still to be entered into; therefore his rest still remained for the people of God. All that is here said is, to urge the Hebrews to continue steadfast in their faith, by proving to them that the rest of God preached to us by Christ, is infinitely more advantageous, and infinitely superior to that which was promised by Moses. It was a state of perfect happiness, peace, quietness in heaven: it was such a cessation from labour, as God himself enjoyed after the creation. This rest therefore ought to be the great object of our care, the grand point to be adhered to; and the principle by which it is to be attained, is a faith firm and sure.


Verse 10

Hebrews 4:10. Hath ceased Hath rested.


Verse 12-13

Hebrews 4:12-13. For the word of God is quick, &c.— "The word of God, which promised to the faithful an entrance into God's rest in David's time, and now to us, is not a thing which died, or was forgotten, as soon as it was uttered; but it continues one and the same to all generations. It is Ζων, quick, or living: so Isaiah says, The word of our God shall stand for ever: Isaiah 40:8 compare Isaiah 51:6; Isaiah 55:11; 1 Esdras 4:38. John 3:34. 1 Peter 1:23 and powerful, efficacious, active; sufficient through the power of the Holy Ghost, if it be not actually hindered, to produce its effects;—effectual: Philemon 1:6. See 2 Corinthians 10:4. 1 Thessalonians 2:13.—and sharper than any two-edged sword, τομωτερος υπερ,— more cutting than: The word of God applied by his Spirit, penetrates deeper into a man than any sword; it enters into the very soul and spirit, into all our sensations, passions, appetites; nay, to our very thoughts; and fits as judge of the most secret intentions, contrivances, and sentiments of the heart: See Ephesians 6:17. Revelation 1:16; Revelation 2:16.—piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit:"—When the soul is thus distinguished from the spirit, by the former is meant that inferior faculty, by which we think of and desire what concerns the present being and welfare. By spirit is meant a superior power, by which we prefer futurethings to present; by which we are directed to pursue truth and right above all things, and even to despise what is agreeable to our present state, if it stands in competition with, or is prejudicial to future happiness. See 1 Thessalonians 5:23. Some have thought, that by the expression before us, is implied, that the word of God is able to bring death, as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira: for, say they, if the soul and spirit, or the joints and marrow, are separated one from another, it is impossible that life can remain. Mr. Peirce observes, that the apostle has been evidently arguing from a tremendous judgment of God upon the ancient Israelites, the ancestors of those to whom his epistle is directed; and in this verse, to press upon them that care and diligence which he had been recommending, he sets before them the efficacy and virtue of the word of God, connecting this verse with the former, by a for in the beginning of it: and therefore it is natural to suppose, that what he says of the word of God, may have a relation to somewhat remarkable in that sore punishment of which he had been speaking; particularly to thedestruction of the people by lightning, or fire from heaven. See Leviticus 10:1-5. Numbers 11:1-3; Numbers 16:35. Psalms 78:21. All the expressions, in this view, will receive an additional force; for nothing is more quick and living, more powerful, sharp, and piercing, than lightning. If this idea be admitted, the meaning of the last clause in this verse will be, "That the word of God is a judge, to censure and punish the evil thoughts and intents of the heart:" And this brings the matter home to the exhortation with which the apostle began, ch. Hebrews 3:12-13. For, under whatever disguise they might conceal themselves, yet, from such tremendous judgments as God executed upon their fathers, they might learn to judge as Moses did, Numbers 32:23. If ye will not do so, ye have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out.


Verse 13

Hebrews 4:13. Neither is there any creature, &c.— It has been greatly debated among commentators, whether this and the preceding verse are to be understood of Christ, the divine Logos, or of the gospel and scripture revelation. The interpretation given of the preceding verse, shews the idea that we have of it. But the sacred writer, by the present verse, evidently understands the word as accompanied with the divine efficacy of the Speaker, to whom he here plainly turns his discourse. In his sight, and with whom we have to do, evidently mean the great Author of that word, whose almightypoweranduniversalknowledgegiveto the word the efficacy above assigned to it. The words rendered naked and opened, are generally explained as metaphorical, and taken from sacrifices. (See the Reflections.) The last clause may either signify, as in our translation, with whom we have to do, or to whom we must give an account, or concerning whom we are speaking.


Verse 14

Hebrews 4:14.— The apostle having finished the digression about the rest of God, and havingshewn,whathealwayskeeps in view, the infinitely superior advantage of what is to be had by Christ, above what is to be had in or by the law; he returns to what he had been saying, ch. Hebrews 2:17, Hebrews 3:1. Christ has been proved infinitely superior to Moses; and the rest that he promised infinitely superior to that of Canaan: he now proceeds to treat of Christ as our High-priest, still with a view of shewing his infinite superiority to the Jewish high-priest; and having mentioned what were the peculiar qualifications requisite in a high-priest, he proceeds to shew that Jesus had, in a most eminent manner, all those qualifications; that he was equal to Aaron, in that which was peculiar to Aaron; after which, he proves him to be infinitely superior to Aaron in many respects, in ch. 7. See ch. Hebrews 4:14 to Hebrews 5:11.

Seeing then The expressions in this verse bear a manifest relation to what the sacred writer had said in the two first chapters, and the beginning of the third, as will immediately appear to any reader who will be at the trouble of comparing them. Passed into the heavens, is, literally, passed through the heavens; to the highest heavens, or the heaven of heavens, that he might sit at the right hand of the Majesty on high; ch. Hebrews 1:3. It is said of John Baptist, that he confessed and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. John 1:20. That is, "He openly professed this truth." Hence, when difficulties have arisen, and good men have steadily persevered in the faith, they are said to profess a good profession: 1 Timothy 6:12.


Verse 15

Hebrews 4:15. Which cannot be touched with the feeling, &c.— With a fellow feeling, &c. See ch. Hebrews 10:34. The Greek of the next clause is literally, but in all things tempted according to a likeness; that is, with us. Compare ch. Hebrews 2:17-18.—Yet without sin;—we have added the word yet in our version. He underwent all kinds of trials, sufferings, and temptations: he stood firm, and went through them all, without any falling away from the truth, or doing any thing amiss:—we, therefore, through his grace, should act with the like resolution. Or rather the meaning is, (which seems more natural, and must be included according to the course of the apostle's reasoning,) that we should hold fast our profession in every respect, because we have a High-priest who knows how to sympathize with us, and will be the more inclined to favour us, since, though he was without sin, yet he was perfected through sufferings: ch. Hebrews 2:10. One further design of the sacred writer, in mentioning this circumstance, might be, to shew how infinitely preferable Christ, the High priest of our profession, is to the ancient high-priests; inasmuch as they were subject themselves to sin, and therefore had occasion to offer for their own sins, as well as those of the people. See ch. Hebrews 5:3, Hebrews 7:26. 1 John 2:1-2.


Verse 16

Hebrews 4:16. To the throne of grace, That throne on which God the Father, who hath shewn us so great favour through Jesus Christ, sits. "Let us come, not fearful or distrustful, nor under any concern or anxiety, but with freedom and boldness, to this throne of God the Father, through our great High-priest, who stands ready to make intercession for us; that we may obtain mercy; that all our sins,—not only those committed before our conversion, but likewise those of which we may have been guiltyafterwards,—may through his infinite merits be forgiven us: And that we may find favour, to have help whenever it is wanted; seasonable, opportune help, if at any time we should fall into seasons of persecution, or any other great difficulties and distresses." Though the rule given us in this verse is never in any case improper to be observed, yet the scope of the sacred writer shews at what he more especially aims. He considers the Hebrews as compassed with infirmity, and as violently tempted by persecution to apostatize from their holy profession; in which circumstances help was peculiarly necessary and seasonable to them. Hence he encourages them to come freely to the throne of grace for it, and to expect it through this great High-priest, as the effect of grace and favour, and not of their own desert.

Inferences.—How ancient is the gospel of salvation by Jesus Christ! It has been all along the same, for substance, under various dispensations, and different degrees of light, from the fall of Adam to the New Testament times: the promise of evangelical and eternal rest is now set before us with the clearest evidence in the preaching of the gospel; but our hearing it will be of no saving advantage to us, unless it be mixed with faith. How should we therefore dread the thought of taking up with any thing short of an effectual faith, to receive and digest what we hear, lest God should swear in his wrath against us, as he did against the unbelieving Israelites, that we shall never enter into his rest! But the faithful people of God shall enter into a better rest, than that of the land of Canaan; an everlasting rest in heaven, which is a delightful and holy sabbatism founded on Christ's resting from his mediatorial labours and sufferings on earth, when he had finished the great work of atonement, as the seventh day sabbath was founded upon God's having ceased from his creating work, when he had finished it.—How efficacious is the written word of God in the hand of Christ, the living and life-giving Word! He sets it home with power and penetration upon the heart, and gives the soul a plain view of itself, either for its reformation and comfort, or its condemnation and confusion. How aweful, adoring, and endearing, should our thoughts of Christ be! All things are continually and exactly open to his all-seeing eye: as he is God the Word, he narrowly inspects and observes the most secret dispositions and designs of our hearts; and we have the most important of all concerns to transact with him, and must give an account of all that we think, say, or do, to him, as our Judge, at the great day. O solemn considerations! But how sweetly are they tempered by believing views of him as the Son of God, our great atoning and interceding High-priest and almighty Saviour! He has been exercised in our nature and world with the very same sort of temptations, inward and outward, as we ourselves are; and he, still remembering what he suffered by them without sin, compassionates us under ours; and is gone into the heaven of heavens now to appear in the presence of God for us. What an encouragement is this to hold fast our faith in him, and steadfastly abide by our holy profession of his name; and to come with humble boldness and holy freedom of spirit to God, through him, as on a throne of grace at all times, and especially in the worst of trials, fears, and dangers, for all the seasonable mercy and grace that we stand in need of.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The apostle, in the view of the foregoing observations,

1. Exhorts them to holy jealousy. Let us therefore fear for ourselves, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, into the eternal enjoyment of him hereafter, any of you should seem to come short of it; overcome by temptation, apostatizing from your experience, or faultering in your Christian course; so as, like Israel of old, to fail of the promised inheritance. For unto us was the gospel preached clearly and plainly, as well as unto them more obscurely in types and figures; but the word preached did not profit them, to any saving purpose; not being mixed with faith in them that heard it, and therefore never incorporated with their hearts, as the food when digested affords nourishment to the body. Nor will the gospel profit us any more than it did them, unless it be received by faith into the soul. Note; (1.) The same gospel in substance was preached under the Old Testament as under the New; and only by faith then, any more than at present, could any man be justified and saved. (2.) It is a dreadful thing to experience gospel grace, and yet to come short of glory, and perish in our sins. (3.) The way to ensure our entrance into the promised rest, is by constant watchfulness and holy caution. They who do not fear, will fall.

2. He shews the surpassing excellency of that spiritual rest, to which, under the gospel, the faithful are admitted. For we which have believed, do enter into rest, through Christ, having present peace with God by virtue of our union with our exalted Head. As he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, If they shall enter into my rest, which implied a promise, that all the faithful saints should enter into rest; although the works were finished from the foundation of the world, and a sabbatical rest enjoined in consequence thereof, which was most eminently a type of that eternal rest which remains for all persevering believers: for he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, (Genesis 2:2.) And God did rest the seventh day from all his works, hallowing it for ever after as a day of holy rest; concerning which God sware unto the Israelites. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest; as I live, saith the Lord, they shall not; which being spoken by David to the people of his own days, could not refer to the land of Canaan, of which for some hundreds of years they had been in possession. Seeing therefore it remaineth, that some must, or, rather do enter therein, as is implied in the very threatening; and they to whom it was first preached, the generality of them at least, entered not in, that is, into the typical rest; of Canaan, because of their unbelief: Again he limiteth, and fixes a certain day to come, saying in David, (Psalms 95:7-8.) To-day, after so long a time had elapsed from their settlement in Canaan; as it is said, To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, and ye shall enter into the promised rest. Now this must be different from the possession of the land of Canaan; For if Jesus, Joshua, had given them rest, and none farther was to have been expected, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day, as he does in that psalm. Since then neither the sabbath literally, nor the land of Canaan, is meant in this passage of scripture, there remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God; a rest into which the spiritual Joshua should bring his faithful followers; a rest infinitely preferable to either of these, even an eternal rest in glory everlasting. For he that is entered into his rest, his final and complete rest, of which we now speak, hath also ceased from his own works, entirely ceased from all the labours and fatigues of his works, as God rested from his own on that first seventh day, which, in commemoration of it, was appointed sacred to future ages.

2nd, Such a glorious rest being promised,

1. The apostle exhorts them to secure a part therein. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, in opposition to every discouragement and difficulty, from sin, Satan, and the world, which may be laid in our way, considering the aweful example above mentioned, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief, and perish in his sins. Note; The way to heaven is strait, and the gate narrow: we must strive if we would enter in; the slothful never went to glory.

2. He enforces his exhortation by the strongest argument. For the word of God, which gives you this account, or the uncreated Word, the Son, our Lord, and shortly to be our Judge, is quick, having life in and of himself, and is the author of it to all his creatures; powerful in agency, and omnipotent; sharper than any two-edged sword, in his gospel word brought home to the conscience by the operation of the Holy Ghost; piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow; entering into the inmost recesses of the heart, carrying the deepest conviction, and working effectually in the faithful to bring the whole inner man into obedience to himself; and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, intimately acquainted with every secret of the soul. Neither is there any creature, in heaven or in earth, that is not manifest in his sight; nor can their inmost thoughts be hid from him; but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do, ( γυμνα και τετραχηλισμενα .) As the sacrifices were flayed and laid open, and their entrails inspected with nicest care; so distinctly is every imagination of our hearts bare and exposed to him whose eyes are as a flame of fire, and at whose bar we must shortly give an account. How awakening a consideration! and what watchfulness and diligence should it excite in us, that we may be found of him in peace, and enter among his faithful ones into the promised rest. N.B. I have in the reflections above, met the sentiments of many spiritual commentators, and in my notes those of very many others.

3. He returns to the consideration of the priesthood of Christ mentioned (chap. 3:50) as an encouraging motive to quicken their diligence, considering the power and grace which were engaged for their support. Seeing then that we have a great High-priest, whose excellence is so superlative; and that, having offered the all-atoning sacrifice, he is passed into the heavens, into the holiest of all, into the immediate presence of God; even Jesus the Son of God, one in essence with the Father, and as Mediator exalted to the highest dignity and glory, able and willing to succour and save his faithful people to the uttermost: therefore let us hold fast our profession, unwavering; for we have not an high-priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one who tenderly sympathizes with every pang that we feel in body or soul, and was in all points tempted like as we are, only without sin. His love and compassions therefore being as great as his power, his faithful people may confidently expect salvation to the uttermost, and comfortably labour, when they are assured that it shall not be in vain in the Lord. Note; (1.) Christ is passed into the heavens, and appears in the presence of God, to plead the cause of all who are willing to be saved by grace. (2.) It should be an unspeakable comfort to us under every temptation, that Jesus has endured it before us, knows our weakness, feels for our distress, and is willing to proportion his grace to our necessities. (3.) This should embolden us under the severest conflicts to hold fast our profession, and never to be moved away from the hope of the gospel, seeing that he is near who strengthens us.

4. The glorious high-priesthood of Jesus should encourage us to draw near to God in prayer. Let us, therefore, having such an all-prevailing Advocate, come boldly unto the throne of grace, where our reconciled God in majesty and love unspeakable appears, inviting our applications—with humble reverence, and filial confidence; that we may obtain mercy, and pardons multiplied from day to day, and find grace to help in every time of need; in time, manner, measure, vouch-safed according to our danger, trials, and distresses, till he land us safe on the shores of eternal rest. Note; (1.) They who know the inestimable privilege of having a throne of grace to go to, will not fail to be found there often upon their knees. (2.) There is nothing that we can want, of which we are not assured of a supply, when by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving we make our requests known to a reconciled God. (3.) All our hopes of mercy or grace arise purely from the great High-priest, who lives to make intercession for us; for in him God is always well-pleased, and with believers for his sake. (4.) Humble boldness becomes a child of God, when approaching that throne, where grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Hebrews 4:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/hebrews-4.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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