Introduction and Thesis
There are few books in all of the inspired Word of God that display for us the supremacy of Christ in a more glorious way than the book of Hebrews. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the author of Hebrews makes poignant cases for the Son’s superiority to the prophets of old (1:1-2), the very angels of heaven (2:1-2), and the patriarch Moses (3:1-6). As Hebrews’ author sets forth the supremacy of Christ in exquisite rhetorical form, streams of salvific urgency resulting from Christ’s unmatched nature flow freely from the author’s pen (2:3). In short, the first three chapters of Hebrews prove the supremacy of Christ by describing his position and works to the end that people might recognize their position, and ponder their eternal destiny.
The concept of a rest for those who would persevere is introduced with some level of ambiguity in Hebrews 3 (11; 18), only to be developed with a careful eye towards doctrinal accuracy in Hebrews 4 (1-13). The ideas developed within Hebrews 4:1-13 must be approached with utmost respect and care, for in them we see the doctrine of our eternal security hanging within the balance. Although troubling at times, passages like this should not be avoided. The author of Hebrews introduces and explains three key aspects of the believers rest in this passage:
The Definition of the Believer’s Rest
The discussion in Hebrews regarding the Lord’s rest is not simply limited to chapter 4. In chapter 3 the author uses the example of the children of Israel who, through their disobedience to God and lack of faith, failed to enter into the rest that was in store for them. This background information provided by chapter 3 serves to show the reader that the concept of missing the rest that God has in store for the believer should merit grave concern in the hearts of all those who study this passage. When opening this portion of his dialogue, the author chooses to use as his first word, the Greek word fobhqwmen (v. 1), which is a word that carries with it the idea of a righteous awe or a reverent respect bringing about sobriety in the hearts of the listeners. Not only does this rest have an aspect to it that should inspire fear in the hearts of the listeners, but the believer’s rest is also received as “good news” (v.2). Using the example of the Israelites, as well as God’s rest following His creation the author defines what this rest means to the believer today.
Just as the Israelites had the wonderful promise of entering into the land of Canaan if they would persevere so believers today have the promise of entering into God’s rest. The difference is the way that the New Testament believer relates the aspect of physical rest. While the promise made to the Old Testament believers (v. 3) referred to a physical rest in the promised land of Canaan, the promise made to New Testament believers refers to a spiritual rest resulting from placing one’s faith completely in Christ. Logical comprehension of the author’s argument would lead the listener to believe that just as the Old Testament believer could tragically fail to enter into God’s rest (v. 3) so the New Testament can fail to enter God’s rest as a result of disobedience (v. 6). With a preliminary understanding of the background of Hebrews 3 firmly intact, and with carful consideration given to the arguments developed in this chapter, the reader of the book of Hebrews must recognize that the rest promised in this passage refers to a state that the believer enters into now, but must rest in its fullness to await the destination that has been offered for the future.
The Duration of the Believer’s Rest
As the timeline of the believers rest is considered, two important aspects must be seen. First of all, the offer of the believer’s rest is eternally available. The preacher of this sermon notes that although some have failed to enter into God’s rest because of their disobedience, the offer is still available through faith today (v. 7). In fact, the compelling argument is made that the availability of a rest has never ceased to exist. The point is made that God created the world in seven days and then rested (v. 4). The Israelites were offered a rest upon their entrance into the Promised Land (v. 8). The words of David in Psalm 95 show us that he was well aware of the rest that God offers to those whom he loves (v.7). Finally, a rest remains for those who would accept Christ by faith today (v. 9). All of these examples are given to the readers to cause them to realize the eternality of God’s rest, and yet it’s eminence in regards to their lives today.
The second aspect that must be seen in regards to the duration of the believer’s rest is that of the personal application of this rest. The believer’s rest is something that is entered into upon conversion (v.7; 10, and yet not fully enjoyed with all of its benefits until eschatological consummation (v.11). In this sense the believer is already enjoying some of the benefits of the rest that is offered to him by God, but will not fully appreciate this rest until he is able to see God face to face, and be completely glorified with Him in His kingdom.
The Deductions Resulting from the Believer’s Rest
Hebrews 4:11 admonishes the believer that he must be “diligent” to enter into the rest of God. The tone of this verse implies that there are actions that must be taken by the believer in order to rest completely in Christ. The believer must first of all realize that he is required to look to Christ consistently, completely, and solely. He is to give himself earnestly and with much effort to rely on Christ by faith. These are terms of urgency that lead the reader to realize that this is a topic that cannot be taken lightly. The believer must rely on Christ’s finished work on the cross daily so that he will never lapse back into thinking that there is anything that he can do to warrant his eternal security.
In addition to looking up to Christ, there is an inward emphasis for the believer to consider in regards to his acceptance of the rest that has been offered to him. Verses 11 through 13 serve as a convicting discourse that shows the power of God to discern the thoughts and the intents of the heart. In these verses the power of God is shown as it relates to his ability to cut right through the surface and determine whether or not the believer is truly living by faith, resting in Christ’s finished work, or still striving to complete some type of work that he believes will grant him favor with God. Such an approach is dangerous, self-centered, prideful, disobedient, and could ultimately result in a misunderstanding of the gospel leading to a missing of the rest offered by God. After considering the rest offered to Him in Christ, the believer must realize that he is required to look up – to Christ, and in – to himself to ensure that he does not miss the believer’s rest.
In order to accurately understand the book of Hebrews, and the themes of eternal security that unfold within its pages, one must understand the concept of the believer’s rest as it is developed in Hebrews 4:1-13. It is important to be able to properly define the rest offered to believers, to gain an understanding of the timeframe surrounding the rest, and to understand the deductions that result from an understanding of the believer’s rest.
Chapter 11 of this great book will pick up on the theme of faith and develop it with eloquent words, and excellent examples of those who have lived by faith. In the corrupt world in which the believer lives in today, it is easy to think that upholding standards of morality will somehow bring one into favor with a thrice holy God. This assumption is false; tragically false. In fact, many have tried to be accepted in to God’s rest that way, only to realize that all our God demands from us is faith. God demands faith to believe on His name unto righteousness. God demands faith to continue trusting in His Son alone. God demands faith to understand that one day the saved person will be glorified with Him. God demands faith to enter into His rest.
 English Standard Version
 Kent, Homer A. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972. 79.
 It is important to remember in passages such as this that the author is indeed taking a logical approach to this subject by means of a rhetorical medium. Most scholars agree that the book of Hebrews is a sermon that was preached, and then transcribed by a listener. As a sermon, this book must be read with a careful eye toward the logical comparisons, and developing arguments that would be particularly useful to a listening audience.
 Guthrie, George H. Hebrews, The NIV Application Commentary, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998 .152.
 Lane, William L., Hebrews 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Books, 1991), 84.
 The most important aspect of understanding the enjoyment that the believer receives as a result of his rest is understanding that the believer’s rest involves consistently putting his faith in the Christ alone for his eternal security. No longer must he try to do anything to merit favor from God, but he must place his faith solely in the blood of Christ every moment, every hour, every day, and rest in the enjoyment of completely trusting His promises.
 New American Standard Bible.
 Hughes, Philip E. A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977. 162.
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