The Sabbath Rest of Hebrews 4
By Let Us Reason Ministries
Genesis 2: 3: "God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made," but this written by Moses is not a command for man to observe this day and enter into his rest. Genesis was written by Moses for the Jewish people after the giving of the Law, we can understand why he included this explanation. He was explaining to them the significance of the Law that he had laid down for the nation of Israel. Speaking of the Sabbath; God declared: "It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel for ever; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed" (Exod. 31: 17).
When the commandments are give later on Mt. Sinai, the Sabbath is included and they are told to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Why? This was the commandment God gave them after their release from bondage. They had worked in slavery over 400 years with no days off, the Lord was giving them a blessing, a day as a gift in which they could rest. However they had already broken it by not remembering and He was angry at them saying "why don't you keep my commandments." Here God gave to Israel a gift, the same day He rested after His work of creating.
To remember the Sabbath means to distinguish it from the other days of the week. Israel was identified by their observance of rest on the 7th day because they were the only nation (theocracy) under the creator. The Bible states that God made known "the holy Sabbaths" by the "hand of Moses His servant" (Neh.9:14). This means many holy days set aside for rest but it all came through Moses to man. The sabbath did not come through any other prophet but Moses.
There are many Sabbaths that did not occur on the 7th day so the word Sabbath should not be limited to the narrow meaning of 7th day only as some teach, it means to rest, to cease from work. The true Sabbath was not just a rest one day in seven but involved a complete change of life. All the feast days were instructions for Israel, but they were also types and shadows of something that was to come. All the feast days had relevance to doctrinal instruction, they were types and shadows of something that was to come. The Sabbath day rest was a shadow and a type. In Christ the type is done away. In Israel's Sabbath they did not have to prepare anything but only rest at home and enjoy God provision. This is a type of Christ in that He did the work for us and we enter into His rest. Instead of the continuing sacrifices of animals, he became " the lamb of God" offered for the sin of the world only once. Instead of going to a high priest at the temple to represent us, we have the great high priest who entered the Holy place once and for all. In place of literal circumcision, he gave the cutting off of the flesh, a circumcision "that is of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter"( Rom.2:28-29). Instead of Sabbath observance each week , he incorporated a day to rest from our works in the rest of God.
Hebrews is a commentary basically on Leviticus and compares the things of the law with Christ showing he is superior to what God gave through Moses. He is the substance of the shadows that are mentioned.
Heb.4 Explains of those not entering His rest was because of their unbelief 3:19.
Heb. 4:3-11 "For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: "So I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest," although the works were finished from the foundation of the world For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: "And God rested on the seventh day from all His works"; and again in this place: "They shall not enter My rest Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, "Today," after such a long time, as it has been said: "Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts. For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience."
The question that needs to be answered: is God telling us to keep the Sabbath day or something much more. The "Sabbath rest" should not be equated with the keeping of the 7th day Sabbath of the Old Covenant, because the Israelites who did keep it did not enter this "rest." The writer explains there is "another Day." Since Joshua and Israel kept the 7th day Sabbath this must mean something other than what Sabbatarians interpret it as. Joshua did not bring them into this day nor did he enter it himself.
David spoke of another day of rest. Heb.4:7-8... "saying in David, TODAY, after so long a time, as it is said, TODAY if you will hear his Voice, harden not your hearts. For if Joshua had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of ANOTHER DAY? There remains therefore a rest for the people of God." Joshua whose Hebrew name is equal to Jesus spoke of the one who came to deliver this rest. This was another day not a specific day like the 7th but a life that is given to all through the Messiah.
If there is another day then it isn't Saturday. There is another rest that the author is referring to in the future. The Israelites did not enter God's rest because of unbelief, not having faith but they did keep the Sabbath. They had the rules and regulations the oracles, but it was not mixed with faith. God has always looked to our heart, our attitude in the Spirit. The word for rest in vs.9 is the same word for Sabbath in the Greek. It is a Sabbath that never ends. In Heb.4.the author writes For the one who enters his rest he himself rests as God himself rested from his works. Today Jesus is our Sabbath. our every type, command, ordinance in the Old Testament He fulfilled.
Israel in the Old covenant rested in a day; we rest in the Person and His finished work. It was a picture of the future rest in the new covenant, the cross has the same implication, God finished his work. Our Sabbath day is rest in our soul, it is by faith. Under faith we can cease from our own works. Works that were required for the Israelites to do in the Old covenant to be accepted by god In this way the believer enters in and ceases from his own labors. God was bringing Israel to the promised land after their labors in Egypt this typifies rest in Messiah."
Hebrews 4 tells us to be diligent to enter his Sabbath rest (4:11), we do this 365 days a year. This rest is found only in the Messiah who accomplished all of God's work in our place. If you do not cease from your labors then you are not obedient to the New Testament Sabbath.
Not the Law, nor Joshua could bring Israel into God's True Sabbath "rest", "another day", not a Seventh day or a First day, Sunday, but the day of Salvation. Heb.4:2 "For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as them" But he states they did not mix it with faith.
Isaiah 49:8: "Thus says the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard you, and in "A" DAY OF SALVATION have I helped you: and I will preserve you, and give you for a covenant of the people, (not a day, but Christ the savior) to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; Paul quotes the Isaiah passage 2 Cor. 6:2. " For he says, in a acceptable time I have heard you, and in the DAY OF SALVATION have I helped you. behold, NOW is the accepted time; behold, NOW is the DAY OF SALVATION. This day is any day one receives the Lord and enters into the rest He offers in the new covenant. With the law one had to do work to be blessed in the New covenant that operates under grace we receive by faith to be blessed.
Hebrews 4:9-10: "There remains therefore a rest for the people of God." One can observe the Saturday Sabbath, but to have the rest they need to know "the Lord of the Sabbath. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His."
Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. The old covenant which the Sabbath was the seal of was a conditional one based on works.
This Scripture is speaking of entering into a future God's Sabbath Rest. Go back and read verses 4 and 5 again. Don't forget that the "Rest" which God entered into (Genesis 2) was not a physical rest from his labor. It is an Eternal rest, not once every week. In Genesis 2 on the day God rested there is no "evening" or "morning." This "rest" neither they nor we can enter into by the law, or the fourth commandment - a day; Moses was kept out of the Promised Land, the law kept him from entering while Joshua entered by faith.
These men are illustrations of types. The "True Sabbath Rest" is found only, by faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ. In the New Testament the true light comes to earth and the shadows (types which were temporary) disappear. Now we no longer look to the shadows, but to the substance which the shadow was cast from, the substance in the person of Christ (Col. 2:16-17). To go back in the shadows out of necessity is to have our light become darkness as if we never received it. We are undoing all that Christ has done. Jesus said in Mt.11:28: "Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." The Apostles knew the burden of the law. This is why at their Jerusalem Council they refuted the law being added to grace. Stating those who do trouble you with words and subverting your souls. In Acts15:10: "Now therefore, why put God to the test, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear."
The Old Testament purpose of Sabbath was one of completion, the number 7 is the number of completion the 8th day is the number of new beginnings.
The emphasis at Pentecost is the first day, we should not confuse the Sabbath as now being Sunday, it is still Friday night to Saturday night. These are pictures of what God would do in the future as He came to earth. The Sabbath refers to completion, God rested when He was done, the Lords Day has to do with a new beginning, the resurrection to eternal life was something absolutely new. The Sabbath is relating to God's rest in creation. The 8th day is a memorial of new creation of Israel as well as Gentiles receiving new life in God, Commemorated by the resurrection.
In Scripture the number seven represents completion; it is the cycle given for us as a completed week. Jesus rose on the first day of the week, (the 8th day) giving us Eternal Life and an eternal Sabbath rest in him. 1 Pet.1:3: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
In Heb.4:10: "For he that has "entered into" his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God [did] from his. "This "entering in" is to "remain in", the rest. It is an Eternal rest of which the seventh day is but a type. The high priest would enter in with sacrifices and come out again. Christ the eternal high priest entered once and finished the work remaining as our eternal high priest.
V.11 therefore let us be diligent (strive) to enter that rest- we must persevere in faith to the end not become disobedient and turn back as Israel did. This was not a day but a person and relationship. The solution is clear, its Jesus, it's found in His person and not in the Old Testament commandments he replaced.
"We are delivered from the law, that ... we should serve in newness of the spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter" (Rom. 7: 6). This letter clearly is in reference to the Old Testament law.
At His death on the cross, the "veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom" (Matthew 27:51), indicating that the offering of sacrifices and other temple services have already served their purpose and were finished. Christ did not bring reform to the Mosaic Law and the Sabbath, but instead installed a NEW COVENANT to replace the Old (Heb.8:13). The Old Testament Sabbath was based on a works covenant. The NEW Testament rest (Sabbath) is based on grace.
Exod. 33:13-16: "Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people." And He said, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." Then he said to Him, "If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. "For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth."
Grace was shown to Israel by the Holy Spirit who gave them rest. God's presence, His Spirit brings us into His rest for today. Without Christ fulfilling the law perfectly and raising from the dead we could not be given the Spirit.
This we see why God could not give us any one day of the week as a Sabbath (rest). We've 'entered into' and are to 'remain in' His rest. This, Israel could not do having only a shadow of the true substance which came later, which we now enjoy. God sent the Holy Spirit on Sunday (Pentecost), to accomplish that rest which was apprehended in Christ. 1,500 years before this event the Sabbath was given for Israel, 1,500 years later the church was given the comforter, the Spirit, God himself, who gives us the promises of God and the true rest promised.