The Promise of God's Rest Is Fully Realized
through Christ: Let Us Strive to Obtain
It by Him, Our Sympathizing High
1. Let us … fear—not with slavish
terror, but godly "fear and trembling" (Php 2:12). Since so many have fallen, we have
cause to fear (Heb 3:17-19).
being left us—still remaining
to us after the others have, by neglect, lost it.
his rest—God's heavenly rest, of which
Canaan is the type. "To-day" still continues, during which there is the
danger of failing to reach the rest. "To-day," rightly used,
terminates in the rest which, when once obtained, is never lost
3:12). A foretaste of the
rest Is given in the inward rest which the believer's soul has in
should seem to come short of
it—Greek, "to have come short of it"; should
be found, when the great trial of all shall take place [Alford], to have fallen short of attaining the
promise. The word "seem" is a mitigating mode of expression, though not
lessening the reality. Bengel and Owen take it, Lest there should be any
semblance or appearance of falling short.
2. gospel preached … unto them—in
type: the earthly Canaan, wherein they failed to realize perfect rest,
suggesting to them that they should look beyond to the heavenly land of
rest, to which faith is the avenue, and from which
unbelief excludes, as it did from the earthly Canaan.
the word preached—literally, "the word
of hearing": the word heard by them.
not being mixed with faith in them that
heard—So the Syriac and the Old Latin Versions,
older than any of our manuscripts, and Lucifer, read, "As the world did not unite with the
hearers in faith." The word heard being the food which, as the bread of
life, must pass into flesh and blood through man's appropriating it to
himself in faith. Hearing alone is of as little value as undigested
food in a bad stomach [Tholuck]. The
whole of oldest extant manuscript authority supports a different
reading, "unmingled as they were (Greek accusative case
agreeing with 'them') in faith with its hearers," that is, with its
believing, obedient hearers, as Caleb and Joshua. So "hear" is
used for "obey" in the context, Heb 4:7, "To-day, if ye will hear His voice."
The disobedient, instead of being blended in "the same body," separated
themselves as Korah: a tacit reproof to like separatists from the
Christian assembling together (Heb 10:25; Jude 19).
3. For—justifying his assertion of the
need of "faith," Heb 4:2.
we which have believed—we who at
Christ's coming shall be found to have believed.
do enter—that is, are to enter: so two
of the oldest manuscripts and Lucifer
and the old Latin. Two other oldest manuscripts read, "Let us
into rest—Greek, "into
the rest" which is promised in the ninety-fifth Psalm.
as he said—God's saying that
unbelief excludes from entrance implies that belief gains
an entrance into the rest. What, however, Paul mainly here dwells on in
the quotation is that the promised "rest" has not yet
been entered into. At Heb 4:11 he
again, as in Heb 3:12-19 already, takes up faith as the
indispensable qualification for entering it.
although, &c.—Although God had
finished His works of creation and entered on His rest from
creation long before Moses' time, yet under that leader of Israel
another rest was promised, which most fell short of through unbelief;
and although the rest in Canaan was subsequently attained under Joshua,
yet long after, in David's days, God, in the ninety-fifth Psalm, still
speaks of the rest of God as not yet attained. Therefore, there must be meant a rest still
future, namely, that which "remaineth for the people of God" in
heaven, Heb 4:3-9,
when they shall rest from their works, as God did from His, Heb 4:10. The argument is to show that by
"My rest," God means a future rest, not for Himself, but for
finished—Greek, "brought into
4. he spake—God (Ge 2:2).
God did rest the seventh day—a rest
not ending with the seventh day, but beginning then and still
continuing, into which believers shall hereafter enter. God's rest is
not a rest necessitated by fatigue, nor consisting in idleness, but is
that upholding and governing of which creation was the beginning [Alford]. Hence Moses records the end of each
of the first six days, but not of the seventh.
from all his works—Hebrew,
Ge 2:2, "from all His work." God's
"work" was one, comprehending, however, many "works."
5. in this place—In this passage of the
Psalm again, it is implied that the rest was even then still
6. it remaineth—still to be
some must enter—The denial of entrance
to unbelievers is a virtual promise of entrance to those that believe.
God wishes not His rest to be empty, but furnished with guests (Lu 14:23).
they to whom it was first preached entered
not—literally, "they who first (in the time of Moses) had the
Gospel preached to them," namely, in type, see on Heb
"disobedience" (see on Heb 3:18).
7. Again—Anew the promise recurs.
Translate as the Greek order is, "He limited a certain day,
'To-day.'" Here Paul interrupts the quotation by, "In (the Psalm of)
David saying after so long a time (after five hundred years' possession
of Canaan)," and resumes it by, "as it has been said
before (so the Greek oldest manuscript, before,
namely, Heb 3:7, 15), To-day if ye hear His voice," &c.
8. Answer to the objection which might be made
to his reasoning, namely, that those brought into Canaan by Joshua (so
"Jesus" here means, as in Ac 7:45) did
enter the rest of God. If the rest of God meant Canaan, God
would not after their entrance into that land, have spoken (or speak
[Alford]) of another (future) day of
entering the rest.
9. therefore—because God "speaks of
another day" (see on Heb 4:8).
remaineth—still to be realized
hereafter by the "some (who) must enter therein" (Heb 4:6), that is, "the people of God," the true
Israel who shall enter into God's rest ("My rest," Heb 4:3). God's rest was a Sabbatism; so also
will ours be.
a rest—Greek, "Sabbatism." In
time there are many Sabbaths, but then there shall be the enjoyment and
keeping of a Sabbath-rest: one perfect and eternal. The "rest" in Heb 4:8 is Greek,
"catapausis;" Hebrew, "Noah"; rest from weariness,
as the ark rested on Ararat after its tossings to and fro; and as
Israel, under Joshua, enjoyed at last rest from war in Canaan. But the
"rest" in this Heb 4:9 is the
nobler and more exalted (Hebrew) "Sabbath" rest;
literally, "cessation": rest from work when finished (Heb 4:4), as God rested (Re 16:17). The two ideas of "rest" combined, give
the perfect view of the heavenly Sabbath. Rest from weariness, sorrow,
and sin; and rest in the completion of God's new creation (Re 21:5). The whole renovated creation shall
share in it; nothing will there be to break the Sabbath of eternity;
and the Triune God shall rejoice in the work of His hands (Zep 3:17). Moses, the representative of the law,
could not lead Israel into Canaan: the law leads us to Christ, and
there its office ceases, as that of Moses on the borders of Canaan: it
is Jesus, the antitype of Joshua, who leads us into the heavenly rest.
This verse indirectly establishes the obligation of the Sabbath still;
for the type continues until the antitype supersedes it: so legal
sacrifices continued till the great antitypical Sacrifice superseded
it, As then the antitypical heavenly Sabbath-rest will not be till
Christ, our Gospel Joshua, comes, to usher us into it, the typical
earthly Sabbath must continue till then. The Jews call the future rest
"the day which is all Sabbath."
10. For—justifying and explaining the
word "rest," or "Sabbatism," just used (see on Heb
he that is entered—whosoever once
his rest—God's rest: the rest
prepared by God for His people [Estius]. Rather, "His rest": the man's
rest: that assigned to him by God as his. The Greek is
the same as that for "his own" immediately after.
hath ceased—The Greek aorist is
used of indefinite time, "is wont to cease," or rather, "rest":
rests. The past tense implies at the same time the
certainty of it, as also that in this life a kind of foretaste
in Christ is already given [Grotius]
(Jer 6:16; Mt 11:28, 29). Our highest happiness shall, according
to this verse, consist in our being united in one with God, and moulded
into conformity with Him as our archetype [Calvin].
from his own works—even from those
that were good and suitable to the time of doing work. Labor was
followed by rest even in Paradise (Ge 2:3, 15). The work and subsequent rest of God
are the archetype to which we should be conformed. The argument is: He
who once enters rest, rests from labors; but God's people have not yet
rested from them, therefore they have not yet entered the rest, and so
it must be still future. Alford
translates, "He that entered into his (or else God's, but rather 'his';
11:10, 'His rest': 'the joy
of the Lord,' Mt 25:21, 23) rest (namely, Jesus, our
Forerunner, Heb 4:14; 6:20, 'The Son of God that is passed
through the heavens': in contrast to Joshua the type, who did
not bring God's people into the heavenly rest), he
himself (emphatical) rested from his works (Heb 4:4), as God (did) from His own" (so
the Greek, "works"). The argument, though generally applying to
anyone who has entered his rest, probably alludes to Jesus in
particular, the antitypical Joshua, who, having entered His rest at the
Ascension, has ceased or rested from His work of the new creation, as
God on the seventh day rested from the work of physical creation. Not
that He has ceased to carry on the work of redemption, nay, He upholds
it by His mediation; but He has ceased from those portions of the work
which constitute the foundation; the sacrifice has been once for all
accomplished. Compare as to God's creation rest, once for all
completed, and rested from, but now still upheld (see on Heb 4:4).
11. Let us … therefore—Seeing such
a promise is before us, which we may, like them, fall short of through
that rest—which is still future and so
glorious. Or, in Alford's translation of
4:10, "That rest into which
Christ has entered before" (Heb 4:14; Heb 6:20).
fall—with the soul, not merely the
body, as the rebel Israelites fell (Heb 3:17).
after the same example—Alford translates, "fall into the same
example." The less prominent place of the "fall" in the Greek
favors this. The sense is, "lest any fall into such disobedience
(so the Greek for 'unbelief' means) as they gave a sample of"
[Grotius]. The Jews say, "The parents
are a sign (warning) to their sons."
12. For—Such diligent striving
4:11) is incumbent on us
FOR we have to do with a God whose
"word" whereby we shall be judged, is heart-searching, and whose eyes
are all-seeing (Heb 4:13).
The qualities here attributed to the word of God, and the whole
context, show that it is regarded in its JUDICIAL power, whereby it doomed the disobedient
Israelites to exclusion from Canaan, and shall exclude unbelieving
so-called Christians from the heavenly rest. The written Word of God is
not the prominent thought here, though the passage is often quoted as
if it were. Still the word of God (the same as that preached, Heb 4:2), used here in the broadest sense,
but with special reference to its judicial power, INCLUDES the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit
with double edge, one edge for convicting and converting some (Heb 4:2), and the other for condemning and
destroying the unbelieving (Heb 4:14).
19:15 similarly represents
the Word's judicial power as a sharp sword going out of Christ's mouth
to smite the nations. The same word which is saving to the
faithful (Heb 4:2) is
destroying to the disobedient (2Co 2:15, 16). The personal Word, to whom some refer
the passage, is not here meant: for He is not the sword, but
has the sword. Thus reference to Joshua appropriately follows in
quick—Greek, "living"; having
living power, as "the rod of the mouth and the breath of the lips" of
"the living God."
not only living, but energetically efficacious.
two-edged—sharpened at both edge and
back. Compare "sword of the Spirit … word of God" (Eph 6:17). Its double power seems to be
implied by its being "two-edged." "It judges all that is in the heart,
for there it passes through, at once punishing [unbelievers] and
searching [both believers and unbelievers]" [Chrysostom]. Philo
similarly speaks of "God passing between the parts of Abraham's
sacrifices (Ge 15:17,
where, however, it is a 'burning lamp' that passed between the pieces)
with His word, which is the cutter of all things: which sword, being
sharpened to the utmost keenness, never ceases to divide all sensible
things, and even things not perceptible to sense or physically
divisible, but perceptible and divisible by the word." Paul's early
training, both in the Greek schools of Tarsus and the Hebrew
schools at Jerusalem, accounts fully for his acquaintance with Philo's
modes of thought, which were sure to be current among learned Jews
everywhere, though Philo himself belonged to Alexandria, not Jerusalem.
Addressing Jews, he by the Spirit sanctions what was true in their
current literature, as he similarly did in addressing Gentiles (Ac 17:28).
even to the dividing asunder of soul and
spirit—that is, reaching through even to the separation of
the animal soul, the lower part of man's incorporeal nature, the
seat of animal desires, which he has in common with the brutes; compare
the same Greek, 1Co 2:14,
"the natural [animal-souled] man" (Jude 19), from the spirit (the higher part of
man, receptive of the Spirit of God, and allying him to heavenly
and of the joints and marrow—rather,
"(reaching even TO) both
the joints (so as to divide them) and marrow." Christ "knows what is in
2:25): so His word reaches as
far as to the most intimate and accurate knowledge of man's most hidden
parts, feelings, and thoughts, dividing, that is, distinguishing
what is spiritual from what is carnal and animal
in him, the spirit from the soul: so Pr 20:27. As the knife of the Levitical priest
reached to dividing parts, closely united as the joints of the
limbs, and penetrated to the innermost parts, as the marrows
(the Greek is plural); so the word of God divides the
closely joined parts of man's immaterial being, soul and spirit, and
penetrates to the innermost parts of the spirit. The clause (reaching
even to) "both the joints and marrow" is subordinate to the
clause, "even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit." (In the
oldest manuscripts as in English Version, there is no "both," as
there is in the clause "both the joints and … which
marks the latter to be subordinate). An image (appropriate in
addressing Jews) from the literal dividing of joints, and penetrating
to, so as to open out, the marrow, by the priest's knife, illustrating
the previously mentioned spiritual "dividing of soul from spirit,"
whereby each (soul as well as spirit) is laid bare and "naked" before
God; this view accords with Heb 4:13.
Evidently "the dividing of the soul from the spirit" answers to the
"joints" which the sword, when it reaches unto, divides
asunder, as the "spirit" answers to the innermost "marrow." "Moses
forms the soul, Christ the spirit. The soul draws with it the body; the
spirit draws with it both soul and body." Alford's interpretation is clumsy, by which he makes
the soul itself, and the spirit itself, to be divided,
instead of the soul from the spirit: so also he makes not only
the joints to be divided asunder, but the marrow also to
be divided (?). The Word's dividing and far penetrating power has both
a punitive and a healing effect.
discerner of the
thoughts—Greek, "capable of judging the purposes."
intents—rather, "conceptions" [Crellius]; "ideas" [Alford]. AS the Greek for "thoughts" refers
to the mind and feelings, so that for "intents," or
rather "mental conceptions," refers to the intellect.
13. creature—visible or invisible.
in his sight—in God's sight
4:12). "God's wisdom, simply
manifold, and uniformly multiform, with incomprehensible comprehension,
comprehends all things incomprehensible."
opened—literally, "thrown on the back
so as to have the neck laid bare," as a victim with neck exposed for
sacrifice. The Greek perfect tense implies that this is our
continuous state in relation to God. "Show, O man, shame
and fear towards thy God, for no veil, no twisting, bending,
coloring, or disguise, can cover unbelief" (Greek,
'disobedience,' Heb 4:11).
Let us, therefore, earnestly labor to enter the rest lest any fall
through practical unbelief (Heb 4:11).
14. Seeing then—Having,
therefore; resuming Heb 2:17.
great—as being "the Son of God, higher
than the heavens" (Heb 7:26):
the archetype and antitype of the legal high priest.
passed into the heavens—rather,
"passed through the heavens," namely, those which come between
us and God, the aerial heaven, and that above the latter containing the
heavenly bodies, the sun, moon, &c. These heavens were the veil
which our High Priest passed through into the heaven of heavens,
the immediate presence of God, just as the Levitical high priest passed
through the veil into the Holy of Holies. Neither Moses, nor even
Joshua, could bring us into this rest, but Jesus, as our Forerunner,
already spiritually, and hereafter in actual presence, body, soul, and
spirit, brings His people into the heavenly rest.
Jesus—the antitypical Joshua (Heb 4:8).
hold fast—the opposite of "let slip"
2:1); and "fall away" (Heb 6:6). As the genitive follows,
the literally, sense is, "Let us take hold of our profession,"
that is, of the faith and hope which are subjects of our profession and
confession. The accusative follows when the sense is "hold fast" [Tittmann].
15. For—the motive to "holding our
profession" (Heb 4:14),
namely the sympathy and help we may expect from our High Priest. Though
"great" (Heb 4:14), He
is not above caring for us; nay, as being in all points one with us as
to manhood, sin only excepted, He sympathizes with us in every
temptation. Though exalted to the highest heavens, He has changed His
place, not His nature and office in relation to us, His condition, but
not His affection. Compare Mt 26:38,
"watch with me": showing His desire in the days of His flesh for the
sympathy of those whom He loved: so He now gives His suffering
people His sympathy. Compare Aaron, the type, bearing the names
of the twelve tribes in the breastplate of judgment on his heart, when
he entered into the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord
continually (Ex 28:29).
cannot be touched with the feeling
of—Greek, "cannot sympathize with our infirmities":
our weaknesses, physical and moral (not sin, but liability to
its assaults). He, though sinless, can sympathize with us sinners; His
understanding more acutely perceived the forms of temptation than we
who are weak can; His will repelled them as instantaneously as the fire
does the drop of water cast into it. He, therefore, experimentally knew
what power was needed to overcome temptations. He is capable of
sympathizing, for He was at the same time tempted without sin, and yet
truly tempted [Bengel]. In Him alone we
have an example suited to men of every character and under all
circumstances. In sympathy He adapts himself to each, as if He had not
merely taken on Him man's nature in general, but also the peculiar
nature of that single individual.
but—"nay, rather, He was (one)
like as we are—Greek,
"according to (our) similitude."
"choris," "separate from sin" (Heb 7:26). If the Greek "aneu" had
been used, sin would have been regarded as the object absent
from Christ the subject; but choris here implies that Christ,
the subject, is regarded as separated from sin the object [Tittmann]. Thus, throughout His temptations in
their origin, process, and result, sin had nothing in Him; He was apart
and separate from it [Alford].
16. come—rather as Greek,
"approach," "draw near."
confidence," or "freedom of speech" (Eph 6:19).
the throne of grace—God's throne is
become to us a throne of grace through the mediation of our High
Priest at God's right hand (Heb 8:1; 12:2). Pleading our High Priest Jesus'
meritorious death, we shall always find God on a throne of
grace. Contrast Job's complaint (Job 23:3-8) and Elihu's " If," &c. (Job 33:23-28).
mercy—"Compassion," by its derivation
(literally, fellow feeling from community of suffering),
corresponds to the character of our High Priest "touched with the
feeling of our infirmities" (Heb 4:15).
find grace—corresponding to "throne
of grace." Mercy especially refers to the remission and
removal of sins; grace, to the saving bestowal of spiritual
gifts [Estius]. Compare "Come unto Me
… and I will give you rest (the rest received on
first believing). Take My yoke on you … and ye shall find
rest (the continuing rest and peace found in daily submitting to
Christ's easy yoke; the former answers to "receive mercy" here;
the latter, to "find grace," Mt 11:28, 29).
in time of need—Greek,
"seasonably." Before we are overwhelmed by the temptation; when we most
need it, in temptations and persecutions; such as is suitable to the
time, persons, and end designed (Ps 104:27). A supply of grace is in store for
believers against all exigencies; but they are only supplied with it
according as the need arises. Compare "in due time," Ro 5:6. Not, as Alford explains, "help in time," that is,
to-day, while it is yet open to us; the accepted time (2Co 6:2).
help—Compare Heb 2:18, "He is able to succor them that