Tuesday, June 1, 2021

The Ultimate Sabbath (Hebrews 4:1-13)

"For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day" (Hebrews 4:8).

We come now to Hebrews 4, which continues a theological argument begun in Hebrews 3. The author points out that God has promised rest to His people, but that the people who were delivered from Egypt never entered that rest. The whole point of the Exodus was to deliver the Israelites from a situation of bondage and labor, where they were engaged in endless state-centered public works for Pharaoh, into a situation of liberty and rest, where they would joyfully work for God and for their own families. But because of their unbelief, those people did not enter that rest. They refused to conquer Canaan and they died in the wilderness.

Now the author goes further. He makes the point that we still have the fullest expression of that rest ahead for us. He begins by saying that God’s promise of rest still stands. It is His Sabbath-rest. He entered it after finishing His work in Genesis 1, and He invites us to join Him in His own rest when we have finished ours. He points out that if Joshua had given Israel the promised rest—when the faithful second generation did conquer the land—there would not have remained this later Davidic prophecy of entering rest in the future. But in fact, Joshua’s conquest of Canaan was only a type, a foreshadowing, a dim reflection of the greater conquest to come. Thus, the promise of entering rest remains.

Verse 3 says that those who believe have already joined God in His rest, while verse 11 exhorts believers to enter the rest by doing good works. This is not a contradiction. In theology, we call this the “already but not yet” of the kingdom of God. Jesus Christ finished His work, as a human being, and as a man entered into God’s rest. In union with Him, we have also entered God’s eternal Sabbath. Yet, each of us also has a life to live, and we must live that life in obedience to God, faithfully trusting Him and doing what He says, and repenting when we sin. Thus, each of us must strive to enter into Christ’s rest, day by day, by putting our faith in His finished work. By doing this we also strive to enter God’s rest when we die and finish our earthly work.

Each Lord’s Day is a sabbath, a reminder that God has entered His rest after Creation, that Jesus has entered His rest after redemption, and that God’s faithful people will enter their rest when they have completed their course. With this concept informing your mind, plan to do your duty to the Lord this week.