HM#139 - THE REST OF THE RIGHTEOUS Feb 2013
THE REST OF THE RIGHTEOUS
What is it?
Hebrews Chapters 3 & 4
Hebrews 4 starts with the words:
“Let us therefore fear, …… lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.”
“Therefore” points us back to what has just been said in Chapter 3.
In summary, chapter 3 begins by comparing two “houses”, built by God through two different men – Moses and Jesus. (Of course we are not talking about literal houses of bricks and mortar. The two houses are the people who are members of the two households established by their founders.)
The comparison goes on to emphasise how much more glory and honour is due to Jesus as the founder of the second.
Understanding “The Rest” - The promises to Abraham
We must not read Hebrews in isolation from the Gospel …… which is primarily about God’s promises to Abraham. These promises are essential to understanding the Gospel of Jesus, and the nature of the “Promised Rest”.
In Genesis 12:1-3, God promised Abraham THREE things.
1. That he would become a GREAT NATION.
2. That he AND his descendants would inherit the earth as an EVERLASTING POSSESSION.
3. That through him AND his seed, all nations of the earth would be blessed.
In Gal. 3:16-18 & 28-29, we learn that there is more to being a TRUE descendant of Abraham than mere physical descent. Those who comprise the GREAT NATION, and THOSE WHO INHERIT THE LAND FOR EVER, are those who belong to Jesus …… and it is NOT only Jews, but MEN and WOMEN from amongst ALL NATIONS.
2. In Acts 3:25-26, the third promise is shown to be the “turning away from sin” that is accomplished by Jesus when he changes the hearts of ALL who follow him.
To make sure we understand what this “rest” is, (and is not!), and to emphasize the CONDITIONAL NATURE of the promise, Hebrews refers us to the 40 year sojourn of Israel in the wilderness, when some of them (not all!) were prevented from entering the “promised land” because of unbelief and rebellion.
“For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief”.
Eventually, the others – the “some” who were obedient - were allowed to enter the land, led by Joshua. However, it is important to understand that even then THEY did not receive the promised rest! Heb. 4:8 tells us that this promise actually refers to “ANOTHER DAY”, much later in time. (Heb. 4:8)
“Today”, David said, (meaning in his own time, centuries after Meribah!) the door of opportunity to enter “REST” was open. And in Hebrews 4:9, we are given to understand that David’s “today” is still ongoing. The inference seems to be that the “today” spoken of by David, begins NOW for all of us, each in our own time, when we hear the call and respond, and it will continue to be “today” until “the household” is complete and the time for all who ultimately meet the conditions, will “enter rest”, TOGETHER. (Heb. 11:39-40; 2 Pet 3:9, 13)
Note carefully that “today” is NOT the actual time of rest! Rather “today” is the time of opportunity, when we are called to “labour to enter” the rest.
The “rest” we “labour to enter”, is compared with the rest which God entered on the seventh day, AFTER he had completed his 6 days of creation work! (Heb. 4:4, 10)
You may live in the land without inheriting it as an everlasting possession!
The “rest” which we “labour to enter” is reserved for a future time.
(Gal 3:29; Heb. 11:39-40)
Just as God did not rest until his six days of work was completed
We must first continue with our own labour, until OUR “new creation” work is completed,
before we can enter the “rest” Hebrews exhorts us to labour for.
Note carefully that we must not confuse this “rest” in Hebrews,
with the other “rest” mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 11:29.
The “rest” described by Jesus is the Greek word “anapausis”. It appears 12 times in the NT, and is translated rest 4, refresh 4, take rest 2, give rest 1, take ease 1; 12
Clearly, from the context, this is a different “rest” to be enjoyed by his disciples NOW, in this life, while we are, at the same time, “striving to enter” the other (eternal) rest described in Hebrews 11:28-29 – the FUTURE Kingdom of God - which is the ultimate goal of the Gospel promises. (Gen. 12:1-3: Gal 3:16, 27-29)
The “rest” discussed in Hebrews is a different Greek word, "katapausis". It appears 9 times in the NT, 8 of them in Hebrews chapters 3 and 4. It is translated “rest” in all 9 places it appears.
GOD’S REST IN GENESIS Chapter 1
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
Some people try to use Hebrews 3 & 4 to justify imposing their belief in Seventh Day Sabbath keeping on Christian Gentile believers.
So, first, let us be clear that these two chapters have nothing at all to do with any Mosaic commandment about Sabbath Keeping!
The purpose of mentioning God’s Seventh Day “rest” at creation, in Hebrews, is to draw a parallel between that and the future “rest” to be enjoyed by the righteous in the Kingdom of God which is to be established on earth AFTER the return of Jesus from Heaven.
The message we are meant to take from the mention of God’s creation rest, in the context of Hebrews, is this:
Just as God enjoyed his ONE DAY rest after he finished the work of creating the earth
in six days, so are the righteous to enjoy an ETERNAL REST after the work of the
NEW CREATION (2 Cor. 5:17 ; Gal. 6:15) is completed in them.
Although Hebrews 3 & 4 does promise a future rest, we must not lose sight of the PRIMARY emphasis which is:
AN EXHORTATION TO RIGHTEOUSNESS________________________________________________________________________________________________
as the only way to the promised “REST”
in the future Kingdom of God!
HOW TO MEET THE CONDITION OF OBEDIENCE TO QUALIFY FOR REST?
The question of HOW TO ACHIEVE THE REQUIRED OBEDIENCE, is not discussed in Hebrews Chapters 3 & 4! That is left for later chapters …... and other Scriptures. Some of these are:
WE ARE NOT LEFT IN IGNORANCE TO WORK IT OUT FOR OURSELVES!
In verse 12 of Chapter 4, we are pointed to THE WORD OF GOD as the tool by which God shapes our thoughts and intentions.
And then in Hebrews 8:8-12 and 10:16-18 we are pointed to a NEW COVENANT administered by Jesus.
In this NEW COVENANT GOD’s role is to forgive and forget our sins …… and to write his laws into our minds and hearts so that we will be able to KNOW him. Our role is to let God do what he promises!
Of course God’s promise to write his laws into our minds and hearts assumes that we will read his WORD and LISTEN to what he says THERE! That is where Jesus learned to KNOW God, and how he was able to pass on what he learned to us. And that is where we will hear him say it TO US.
And it surely goes without saying, that God cannot write what we do not hear! If we do not read it ourselves we will not hear it ourselves from God.
Nor will he write what is NOT IN HIS WORD! Be warned! Many write other things for themselves, without listening to God! Or listen to preachers who stand BETWEEN them and God! But that cannot ever help them to KNOW God in the way promised by the NEW COVENANT.
WE ARE NOT LEFT WITHOUT RESOURCES TO LABOUR WITH!
GRACE is NOT merely about forgiveness of sins! It comes complete with a TRAINING COURSE designed by God! (Titus 2:1-14) We must submit to the training and complete the course, in order for Grace to be effective in us.
WE ARE NOT LEFT TO “LABOUR” AGAINST THINGS BEYOND OUR KNOWLEDGE!
"For this commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.” (Deut. 30: 11-14)
WE ARE NOT LEFT TO “LABOUR” AGAINST THINGS TOO BIG FOR US!
“No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” (1Co 10:13)
WE ARE NOT LEFT IN FEAR THAT WE CANNOT COMPLETE THE “LABOUR”
It does not depend on our ability to “labour” only in our own strength or knowledge!
It depends on GOD’s PROMISE TO FINISH WHAT HE STARTED IN US!
“I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philipp. 1:6)
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1Co 15:58)
“And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, "Surely I will bless you and multiply you."
And thus Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise.
Men indeed swear by a greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation.
So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he interposed with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God should prove false, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us.
We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb. 6:11-20)