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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 4 - Verse 9

Verse 9. There remaineth, therefore, a rest. This is the conclusion to which the apostle comes. The meaning is this, that according to the Scriptures there is now a promise of rest made to the people of God. It did not pertain merely to those who were called to go to the promised land, nor to those who lived in the time of David, but it is still true that the promise of rest pertains to all the people of God of every generation. The reasoning by which the apostle comes to this conclusion is briefly this.

(1.) That there was a rest called "the rest of God"—spoken of in the earliest period of the world—implying that God meant that it should be enjoyed.

(2.) That the Israelites, to whom the promise was made, failed of obtaining that which was promised by their unbelief.

(3.) That God intended that some should enter into his rest—since it would not be provided in vain.

(4.) That long after the Israelites had fallen in the wilderness, we find the same reference to a rest which David in his time exhorts those whom he addressed to endeavour to obtain.

(5.) That if all that had been meant by the word rest, and by the promise, had been accomplished when Joshua conducted the Israelites to the land of Canaan, we should not have heard another day spoken of when it was possible to forfeit that rest by unbelief. It followed, therefore, that there was something besides that; something that pertained to all the people of God, to which the name rest might still be given, and which they were exhorted still to obtain. The word rest in this verse sabbatismov Sabbatism, in the margin is rendered keeping of a Sabbath. It is a different word from sabbatonthe Sabbath; and it occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, and is not found in the Septuagint. It properly means, a keeping Sabbath— from sabbatizw to keep Sabbath. This word, not used in the New Testament, occurs frequently in the Septuagint, Ex 16:30; Le 23:32; 26:35

2 Ch 36:21 and in 3 Esd. 1:58; 2 Mac. 6:6. It differs from the word Sabbath. That denotes the time—the day, this, the keeping, or observance of it; the festival. It means here, a resting, or an observance of sacred repose—and refers undoubtedly to heaven, as a place of eternal rest with God. It cannot mean the rest in the land of Canaan—for the drift of the writer is to prove that that is not intended. It cannot mean the Sabbath, properly so called—for then the writer would have employed the usual word sabbatonSabbath. It cannot mean the Christian Sabbath—for the object is not to prove that there is such a day to be observed; and his reasoning about being excluded from it by unbelief and by hardening the heart would be irrelevant. It must mean, therefore, heaven—the world of spiritual and eternal rest; and the assertion is, that there is such a resting, or keeping of a Sabbath in heaven for the people of God. Learn hence,

(1.) that heaven is a place of cessation from wearisome toil. It is to be like the "rest" which God had after the work of creation, (Heb 4:4) See Barnes "Heb 4:4, and of which that was the type and emblem. There will be employment there, but it will be without fatigue; there will be the occupation of the mind, and of whatever powers we may possess, but without weariness. Here we are often worn down and exhausted. The body sinks under continued toil, and falls into the grave. There the slave will rest from his toil; the man here oppressed and broken down by anxious care will cease from his labours. We know but little of heaven; but we know that a large part of what now oppresses and crushes the frame will not exist there. Slavery will be unknown; the anxious care for support will be unknown, and all the exhaustion which proceeds from the love of gain, and from ambition, will be unknown. In the wearisome toils of life, then, let us look forward to the rest that remains in heaven; and as the labourer looks to the shades of the evening, or to the Sabbath, as a period of rest, so let us look to heaven as the place of eternal repose.

(2.) Heaven will be like a Sabbath. The best description of it is to say it is an eternal Sabbath. Take the Sabbath on earth, when best observed, and extend the idea to eternity, and let there be separated all idea of imperfection from its observance, and that would be heaven. The Sabbath is holy; so is heaven. It is a period of worship; so is heaven. It is for praise, and for the contemplation of heavenly truth; so is heaven. The Sabbath is appointed that we may lay aside worldly cares and anxieties for a little season here; heaven, that we may lay, them aside for ever.

(3.) The Sabbath here should be like heaven. It is designed to be its type and emblem. So far as the circumstances of the case will allow, it should be just like heaven. There should be the same employments; the same joys; the same communion with God. One of the best rules for employing the Sabbath aright is, to think what heaven will be, and then to endeavour to spend it in the same way. One day in seven at least should remind us of what heaven is to be; and that day may be, and should be, the most happy of the seven.

(4.) They who do not love the Sabbath on earth are not prepared for heaven. If it is to them a day of tediousness; if its hours move heavily; if they have no delight in its sacred employments, what would an eternity of such days be? How would they be passed? Nothing can be clearer than that if we have no such happiness in a season of holy rest, and in holy employments here, we are wholly unprepared for heaven. To the Christian it is the subject of the highest joy in anticipation, that heaven is to be one long, unbroken SABBATH—an eternity of successive Sabbath hours. But what, to a sinner, could be a more repulsive and gloomy prospect than such an eternal Sabbath?

(5.) If this be so, then what a melancholy view is furnished as to the actual preparation of the great mass of men for heaven! How is the Sabbath now spent? In idleness; in business; in travelling; in hunting and fishing; in light reading and conversation; in sleep; in visiting; in riding, walking, lounging, ennui; in revelry and dissipation; in any and every way except the right way; in every way except in holy communion with God. What would the race be if once translated to heaven as they are! What a prospect would it be to this multitude to have to spend an eternity, which would be but a prolongation of the Sabbath of holiness!

(6.) Let those who love the Sabbath rejoice in the prospect of eternal rest in heaven. In our labour let us look to that world where wearisome toil is unknown; in our afflictions, let us look to that world where tears never fall; and when our hearts are pained by the violation of the Sabbath all around us, let us look to that blessed world where such violation will cease for ever. It is not far distant. A few steps will bring us there. Of any Christian it may be said that perhaps his next Sabbath will be spent in heaven—near the throne of God.

{3} "a rest" or "keeping of a Sabbath"

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