The Book of Hebrews #13 chapter 4:1-13
The Book of Hebrews
Entering into God's Rest
Hebrews 4:1-13
         
Tonight we continue our series of the book of Hebrews at chapter 4:1- 13.  The subject of these verses is entering into God's rest.
 
I want us to keep in mind we are in the middle of a warning to unbelievers.  Even though the book is written to believers, there is scattered throughout it these warnings to the lost.
 
In particular, they are lost who know about the Lord.  More specifically, they are Jews who are moving toward Christ, but having made a commitment to Him.  And so periodically in the book of Hebrews this group is warned not to turn around and go back to Judaism, but to take that next step of faith in Jesus Christ.
 
And chapter four beings right in the middle of one this warning.  And the warning begins in chapter 3 verse 7, "Today, harden not your hearts", it's repeated again throughout this section, as we see in verse 13 and verse 15 and again in verse 7 of chapter 4 again, "Today, don't harden your hearts".
 
And the illustration that is used all through here is don't harden your hearts like Israel did. Israel turned away from Egypt. They began to go toward the promise land but on the way to the promise land they stopped. And they did not believe God, they did not put their faith in God, therefore, they did not ever enter in to the full rest of Canaan.
They turned away from Egypt, and that generation that died, never went into the Promised Land. So the warning of the Spirit of God in this passage is do not do what Israel did.  Don’t awaken one day to realize your heart is hardened, you have an evil heart of unbelief and you have departed from the living God. That's the warning of this large section.
 
And it centers on this primary thought:  Because of unbelief, they never found rest.
 
The word “rest” used back there in Psalm 95, which is being quoted here, has reference to entering the land of Canaan, resting from the wanderings and the persecution in Egypt and so forth and so on. It's the rest of finally getting into your own land, not being persecuted, not being pressured, not being killed, not being made slaves; it's rest from all of that. And they never entered into that promised rest because of unbelief. That's the basic principle of this whole passage.
 
Now unfortunately, we generally associate “rest” with heaven.  Think of all the songs and language we use to support that.  And that is the ultimate rest.  But the “rest of Canaan” isn’t picturing heaven.  It can’t be.  Canaan was a place of war and conquest and victory and defeat.
 
Heaven is free from all that.  So what is the “rest” that Canaan pictures?  It is the spiritual rest that comes by faith in Jesus Christ. It's a picture of salvation rest and that salvation is still available but it is only available to those who believe God, who commit themselves in faith to Him.
 
Israel never entered full rest because of their unbelief and Moses couldn't make it happen and Joshua couldn't make it happen but God has a rest far greater than Canaan. God has an eternal rest that's available to you by faith in Jesus Christ and it takes a greater than Moses and a greater than Joshua to make it a reality.  And that greater than both is Jesus Himself.
 
Let’s zero in on this idea of rest for a little while tonight, because many people misunderstand what it is all about.
 
I want to define the word because if we are thinking of different meanings, the message here in Hebrews makes no sense.
 
First of all rest means to cease from action or motion.  If you are at rest, you’ve stopped doing what you were doing.
 
Applying that to God's rest means no more self‑effort in order to be saved. No more trying to please God by works. The moment you enter into God's rest, works cease as a way to please God.  They don't please Him anyway because you can't do enough works to be perfect. So rest first of all involves ceasing from what I’ve been doing.
 
Rest can also mean to be free from whatever worries or disturbs you. Some people can't rest mentally because they're always bugged by something.  Every little thing just pounds away in their brain and they can never just rest because they're always worried about everything.
And again, applying that to God's rest means to be at peace with God. It means you possess the perfect peace that only God can provide.  We are free from guilt; there is no need to worry about sin because sin is forgiven and we're at rest with no more anxiety, no more pressure, no more worry.
 
Thirdly, rest can mean to be settled or fixed. No more shifting around or being unsettled and disturbed.  We are no longer restless.
 
So that means God's rest is the kind of rest where a man is positionally established in Christ. No more running from philosophy to philosophy, no more being blown about by every wind of doctrine, no more floating over to this and floating over to that.  He is established he is rooted, he is grounded, unmovable. That's rest.
 
Fourthly, rest means because you’ve put your trust in something, there is a sense of confidence that develops from that.
 
To enter God's rest means to enjoy security, no more fear; you have absolute trust and absolute confidence in God's care and charge of your life.
 
And then lastly, rest means to lean on.  To enter into God's rest means that for the rest of your life and eternally you can rest on God and you can lean on Him and you can be sure that He will never topple over.
 
 
 
 
Listen as a person at rest in God, I can totally depend on God for everything I need. I can be confident and secure that God holds my life in an eternal trust; I can be settled and fixed, no more flux, no more floating around; I know Whom I have believed and why I believe it and I stand on it.
 
I have a relationship with God that means I can be free from that which disturbs me; sin is gone; it's been washed in the blood of Jesus Christ, therefore guilt is gone, therefore we have no reason to worry we have only reason to be at peace with ourselves and with others since we are at peace with God.
 
I don’t have to perform a certain way in order for God to find me acceptable.  My salvation isn’t dependent on me; it’s dependent upon Him.  And that’s just a little bit of t in total is what rest is all about.
 
So when the Bible says here in Hebrews that God offers you rest it means all of those things which we have talked about; a new relationship with God that includes all those things we’ve just seen.
 
That’s what God is offering to every man. And it’s exactly what was pictured in the Canaan rest that Israel never understood and never entered into because of unbelief. And just as Israel never entered Canaan rest because of unbelief so soul after soul after soul since the time of Israel and even before has also missed God's rest spiritually because of unbelief.
 
 
 
Then there are two other dimensions of rest beyond this life that need to be mentioned.  One is kingdom rest which is the millennium and the other is eternal rest which is heaven.  And those are the ultimate expressions of that new relationship.
 
Notice how it just keeps getting better and better.  The fullest kind of relationship with God thatwe could ever know will be during the millennial reign of Jesus Christ.  Then, what we cannot experience in an earthly setting we will enjoy is a heavenly setting when we go to heaven.
 
That's what God is promising and that's what He calls rest. And if men don't enter into that rest there's only one reason why and that is unbelief.
 
It's unbelievable to think about it but it's true that when God offers a man all of this, men won't believe it. And some get extremely close.  They go to church; they know about Jesus and yet many never commit themselves to Christ and they will miss it all because of unbelief.
 
And that’s why this warning is giving.  Don’t harden your hearts.  Don't be like unbelieving Israel and miss God's perfect rest.
 
Now that is an introduction. Let me very quickly show you four things about this rest here in chapter 4.
 
 
 
 
 
 
First of all
 
1. The Availability of Rest
 
verse 1
 
What does “therefore” refer to?  That means go back because of what we saw in Israel.  Israel forfeited rest and never entered into God's promised rest.  And he says, “Consider that and "fear". Why?
 
Because when you don't believe God, you don't enter into His rest. That's something to be afraid of. When you look at the past history of Israel and you see what happened to the people who didn't believe God, therefore, let us fear.
 
Now Scripture indicates that the Christian doesn't need to fear, Jesus said, "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid".
 
Believers don't need to fear but here he says to unbelievers, fear. Why? Because you might miss God's rest. That's something to be afraid of.
It’s not an incidental, trivial thing to mess around with the opportunity to be saved.   That's not something you fool around with.  That is something you consider with great fear for God is a God of judgment and consuming fire.
 
Now notice in verse 1 it says, "a promise remains”.
 
What the Holy Spirit wants those reading the book of Hebrews, those Jews and also us today, is when Israel fell because of unbelief that didn't mean God deserted them.
When Israel fell in the wilderness God didn't say, OK Israel, out the door, you go your way and I’ll go mine.
 
Just because a particular generation of Israelites were disobedient didn't mean that rest ended.
 
A lot of people believe that.  They believe that because the Jews of Jesus day rejected the Messiah, God forfeited all of His promises and blessing to them and turned to the church.
 
That’s ludicrous.  God knew about the church long before the 1st century Jews rejected Jesus, and just because they did doesn’t change the fact that He is a covenant keeping God.  The word of God says right here:  The promise remains!
 
The promise is not removed from Israel, it's still there; it’s still in effect and the Bible is full of support for that argument.
 
And so he says don't get the idea that there's no rest remaining and you’ve missed it.  There still remains a rest. And that is still true today.
 
Someone might say, "But you don't know how bad I really am, I've probably gone too far". No, the Bible says there's a perfect rest available to you.  It’s not automatically yours, but by faith in Jesus Christ it can be.  There is a rest available.
 
You may say, well if it’s available, how do I get it?
 
 
 
 
Here’s the second thing:
 
2. The Basis of Rest
 
verses 2 to 7
 
Rest is available, number one, by personal faith.
 
And for illustration’s sake, Israel heard the message as well.  They knew what God expected and yet they didn’t believe it.  In like manner, to hear the gospel preached is not enough.  If you don’t believe it, you miss the boat.
 
If you do believe it and accept it, you enter rest.  It’s just that simple.  The only requirement from our standpoint is faith.
 
That’s what is being told us in verse 3.  It’s just that simple.  Those who believe enter into God's rest.  We are saved by faith.
 
Then he says on the negative side, quoting back again Psalm 95 where David described Israel in the wilderness,
 
Verse 3b
 
That’s God speaking.  When you're dealing with God's attitude toward those who are unbelieving you're dealing with a very serious thing. And this verse simply tells us that we who believe enter into rest, they who don't believe are under the wrath of God and forfeit rest eternally.
 
 
 
And notice God says, “My rest”.
 
This is God's rest. God's own rest and God's rest is based on finished work.
 
Verses 3-5
 
Let’s look at that.  God's rest began after His creation. In six 24‑hour days, He put it all together. And once He had put it all together, He did rested. And God said, "It's done, I've made a wonderful world for man and I've plopped him down there and I've given him a wife and everything is set, and I'm going to let him enjoy his relationship with Me".
 
Adam was a saved man. Adam was walking and talking with God; he was enjoying God's rest. He leaned on God. He had no anxieties; he had no worries; he had the complete freedom to fellowship with God while he was living in God's rest. God had finished His work and God rested. That's what it says in verse 3 at the end.
 
Verse 4
 
That certain place is Genesis 2 where we are told “God rested from all His works."
 
Now stay with me on this, you're going to have to use your brain for a minute. "My rest" (verse 3) is defined as the rest when God finished His works and rested on the seventh day.
 
 
 
He was satisfied and He rested and He said, “Adam, I am t rest.  You can rest also.  I made you a lovely world.  You and I enjoy a perfect relationship.  Everything is perfect and provided for.  Everything you need you have.  There’s just one thing I need you to do.  Trust me.”  In other words, “Put your faith in Me.”
 
What happened? Satan came along and started casting doubts on the word of God and pretty soon Eve thought, “I’m not sure God can be trusted.”
 
And Satan kept working on her and she disobeyed. And what happened? Immediately unbelief forfeited the rest Adam and she enjoyed.  And in that moment, everything changed.  No longer did they walk and talk in the cool of the day.  They started making clothes and hiding behind leaves and sneaking around with Eve trying to stay out of the sight of God.
 
And God's great rest that He had provided for His creation was lost.
 
And if you keep reading from there, you will discover the rest of the Bible is God's attempts to get man back into His rest with the ultimate demonstration being the cross.
 
So the first basis of rest is personal faith, the second one, is sovereign decree and this is the balance of salvation. We are saved by personal faith only because of the total and absolute sovereignty of God who chose you in Him before the foundation of the world.
 
We’re saved because He designed to redeem you before the world was ever created. That's the balance of salvation.
 
Jesus put them both together in John 6 when He said, "No man cometh unto Me except the Father draw him".  Then He said, "Him that comes to Me, I will not cast out."
 
There you have the balance of salvation. It's total and absolute sovereignty and it's personal faith and how the two meet, I don't know and I'll never know till I see God. That's His problem not mine. I'm just glad He said, "Whosoever will may come." I'll let Him worry about how He justifies that with His absolute sovereignty.
 
And so on the other side you have not only personal faith but you have Sovereign decree.
 
verse 6
 
See what happens here? Rest still remains. Why? God couldn't cut off rest. Do you know why? Because that would mean that God had started something that didn't have any purpose. He started rest and everybody blew it so He just threw it away. God doesn't do that. God isn't like you and me. He doesn't do things that don't matter. If God started a rest then somebody's going to enter that rest. That's exactly what it says.
 
God established His rest and man lost it so God initiated a recovery process through Christ to get some people back into it because He put it there for the purpose of fellowship with man and so He had to have somebody in it.
And by divine decree there is a remnant of believers throughout history.
 
So the basis of rest personal faith, that's our part; secondly, it's by sovereign decree, that's God's part.  Then the third thing is immediate action.
 
verse 7
 
Here’s the kicker.  Just because God doesn’t give up and throw it all away doesn’t men He doesn’t limit the opportunity.
 
God designates a certain day. And to prove the point, he quotes David in Psalm 95 again.
 
Did you know that God limits the day of grace? And  because of that, see the basis of entering into rest is not just personal faith and sovereign decree, but it requires immediate action.
 
What is the designated day?  Today!
 
See it there in verse 7?  Today is the day that salvation is offered. Today is the day that rest is available. And so the Spirit of God is saying in verse 7, act immediately, today doesn't last forever. Life could end for some of you tonight. Jesus may come tonight. Your heart may come hard tonight. The promise will end and rest is lost forever. This is an urgent cry.
 
So we see the availability of rest and the basis of rest.  We’ll stop there.
 

 

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