A Better Rest

by Mike Ratliff

7 For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice,
8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
As in the day of Massah in the wilderness,
9 “When your fathers tested Me,
They tried Me, though they had seen My work.
10 “For forty years I loathed that generation,
And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.
11 “Therefore I swore in My anger,
Truly they shall not enter into My rest.” Psalms 95:7-11 (NASB) 

I placed Psalm 95:7-11 at the top of this post. This part of Psalms 95, a song of praise, is a call for professors of faith to not harden their hearts like the Israelites in the Exodus, but to believe and obey God and, therefore, enter into His rest. In my post Pragmatism and Mustard Seed Faith a few nights ago, we looked at faith, belief, and unbelief. Those with faith that saves, πίστις, believe God and obey Him. These will enter into God’s rest. On the other hand, those in unbelief, ἄπιστος, do not believe God and, therefore, disobey Him. I used this contrast in an attempt to show how “liberal Christianity,” no matter what form it takes, is not Christianity at all because it is based entirely in ἄπιστος. This is true because its leaders attack God’s Truth as absolute truth. In fact, they elevate uncertainty about everything as a virtue and attempt to say that certainty about anything is arrogance in action. 

In this post we will look at Hebrews 4:1-13.

1 Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. Hebrews 4:1 (NASB) 

1 Φοβηθῶμεν οὖν, μήποτε καταλειπομένης ἐπαγγελίας εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν κατάπαυσιν αὐτοῦ δοκῇ τις ἐξ ὑμῶν ὑστερηκέναι. Hebrews 4:1 (NA28)

1 Therefore, let us fear if,  while a promise is left open to enter into His rest, anyone of you may seem to have fallen short. Hebrews 4:1 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Let us not stray from our main topic. We are looking at the nature of biblical faith or belief, and its antithesis, unbelief. The nature of real faith that God sees and justifies is that the one with it sees God’s promise(s) and believes Him. In v1 we have the Greek word for promise, ἐπαγγελίας. This word is primarily a legal term denoting a summons or promise undertaking to do or give something. God’s promises are always made in His Word with the emphasis on them being fulfilled, which is the result of the promise(s). What is the promise being discussed here? It is that those who believe God will enter His rest, κατάπαυσιν αὐτοῦ. What is God’s rest? We are promised His peace, confidence of salvation, reliance on His strength, and assurance.

What is the writer of Hebrews telling us in v1? What does it mean to, “fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it”? This is talking about about the fear of God that all true believers have. This reverential fear leads us to examine ourselves in the light of God’s Word, His doctrines, to look intently at our own spiritual condition (1 Corinthians 10:12; 2 Corinthians 13:5). As we do this and fellowship with other believers, in light of this, we press for commitment from them  to do the same (Jude 23).

2 For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said,
“As I swore in My wrath,
They shall not enter My rest,”
although His works were finished from the foundation of the world.
4 For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; 5 and again in this passage, “They shall not enter My rest.” 6 Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before,
“Today if you hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts.” Hebrews 4:2-7 (NASB) 

Those in the “liberal Christianity” movement hold to some form of a “doctrine” that states it does not matter whether a person is Christian, pagan, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, atheist, agnostic, or whatever, when they stand before God, He will fix all their problems and make them acceptable in His eyes. Therefore, it does not matter how one lives or what one believe or does not believe in this life. What does God say to us in these verses though? Those who have listened to God, and have believed Him will enter into His rest, however, those who have hardened their hearts and have not listened to Him will experience His wrath, which is eternal, and totally outside of His rest.

Here is v3 in Greek:

3 Εἰσερχόμεθα γὰρ εἰς [τὴν] κατάπαυσιν οἱ πιστεύσαντες, καθὼς εἴρηκεν·
ὡς ὤμοσα ἐν τῇ ὀργῇ μου·
εἰ εἰσελεύσονται εἰς τὴν κατάπαυσίν μου,
καίτοι τῶν ἔργων ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου γενηθέντων. Hebrews 4:3 (NA28)

3 For we who have believed enter into that rest, just as he said,
“As I vowed in my wrath,
they will not enter into my rest,”
although His works were finished from the foundation fo the world. Hebrews 4:3 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The word used here, that is translated as “wrath” is ὀργῇ (orgê). It is anger as a state of mind with emphasis on the resulting punishment. What did God say in is wrath about those who did not believe? He swore that they would never enter into His rest. They would be excluded eternally. On the other hand, those who are in belief are promised a spiritual rest that is complete and finished. It is a rest that is based on a finished work that God purposed in eternity past.

8 For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. 9 So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. 10 For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. 11 Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. Hebrews 4:8-11 (NASB) 

I want to look at two words from this passage, “diligent and “disobedience,” both from v11. The word translated here as “diligent” is σπουδάσωμεν. It could be translated, as “we should hurry.” The KJV translates it as “let us labor.” I like this one; “We should be diligent,” which is a straight translation from the Greek. This Christian walk is not one of saying a prayer, joining a church, becoming part of some organization, et cetera. No, it is a day-by-day commitment to walk in obedience to God in all parts of our lives. Never forget, that true faith produces this sort of obedience. The word “disobedience” here is the Greek word ἀπειθείας. It means “disobedience” and corresponds with the verb unbelief, which opposes the gracious word and purpose of God. I cannot think of a better description of the liberals. They are sons of ἀπειθείας. They oppose the Word of God as God’s absolute truth throughout their teachings. They reject it, yet we are commanded throughout it to hold it, study it, and obey it. Why?

12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Hebrews 4:12-13 (NASB) 

12 Ζῶν γὰρ ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἐνεργὴς καὶ τομώτερος ὑπὲρ πᾶσαν μάχαιραν δίστομον καὶ διϊκνούμενος ἄχρι μερισμοῦ ψυχῆς καὶ πνεύματος, ἁρμῶν τε καὶ μυελῶν, καὶ κριτικὸς ἐνθυμήσεων καὶ ἐννοιῶν καρδίας· 13 καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν κτίσις ἀφανὴς ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ, πάντα δὲ γυμνὰ καὶ τετραχηλισμένα τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς αὐτοῦ, πρὸς ὃν ἡμῖν ὁ λόγος. Hebrews 4:12-13 (NA28)

12 For the Word of God is living and effective and sharper than every doubled edged sword and penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, both of joints and marrow, and able to discern the thoughts and insights of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from before Him, but all things are bare and having been exposed to the eyes of Him with whom our account is given. Hebrews 4:12-13 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

This is one of many well-known passages from the Bible. I have heard it quoted hundreds of times in sermons and read it in dozens of books, but what does it really mean? All who have heard God’s truth, His Word, are accountable to those commands because they are based in His Truth. While the Word of God, ο λογος, is comforting and nourishing to believers, it is a tool of judgment and execution for those who have not committed themselves to Jesus Christ. In John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress as Christian and Hopeful near the Celestial City they encounter some shepherds who allow them rest in comfort while teaching them some deep things of God. Christians asks if it is far to the city. One of the shepherds responds, “Too far for any, but those that shall get thither indeed.” Christian asks if the way is safe or dangerous. The Shepherd responds, “Safe for those for whom it is to be safe, but Transgressors shall fall therein.” This is the accountability all have to the Word of God. The liberals treat the Bible as optional. They are focused on the present and ignore the eternal. They will be judged by the doctrines and commands they are ignoring. Their claim to be Christians increases their accountability.

All will give an account to the Lord. Those who are true believers will be welcomed into eternal rest in Him. However, all others will not, those in unbelief; for they will be cast into eternal torment in the Lake of Fire. The myth that Universalists have come up with and comfort themselves with, is a well crafted lie from our enemy. It ignores what God’s Word clearly says. These people are in unbelief. They have hardened their hearts against God’s truth and so are under His wrath. Let us examine ourselves daily my brethren and also encourage one another to remain faithful.

Soli Deo Gloria!

2 thoughts on “A Better Rest

  1. Amazing timing of this article!
    Was in a discussion with a brother about 3000 miles away for over an hour on these verses in Heb 4:1-12.
    Also currently examining the same verses in a men’s BSF group.👍
    The Word of God is LIVING and ACTIVE! …able to JUDGE the THOUGHTS and INTENTIONS of the heart! We so desperately need that word proclaimed in these evil days. Thank you Mike for doing that.


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