Striving to Enter God's Rest

Hebrews 4:1-11 – Rest

Life requires strength!  When you are young, you usually are under the delusion that your strength will last forever.  Life will remain the way it is.  The older you become, life’s demands become weightier and weightier.

ESV  Job 5:7 but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.

ESV  Jeremiah 12:5 "If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?

  • Why older saints, increasingly long for Heaven, as they age.

Until heaven, life requires rest!

  • We all know we need physical rest.
  • Most require between 6 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep!
  • Sleep deprivation will change you and will mess up your health.
  • 60 million in our country suffer from insomnia each year.
  • Sleep deprivation is powerful and why it is used as a form of torture, to force prisoners to “talk.”

Seasons and circumstances often vary our need for rest.

  • Our year acts as a sign-wave making Christmas break or New Years a natural let down.
  • Whether physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually - we sense an extra need to recover!
  • To stop!

“Rest” is a primary theme in this broad section of Hebrews.

  1. God’s rest: 4:4
  2. Canaan rest: 3:7-19
  3. Salvation rest: 4:1, 3a, 8, 9
  4. Heaven rest: 4:10, 11

These 4 categories represent 4 dimensions of “rest.”

  1. God’s rest [Seventh Day]
  2. Physical rest [Canaan]
  3. Spiritual rest [Peace with God]
  4. Eternal rest [Heaven]

“Rest” [katapausis] in every context has a similar meaning.

  • Idea is to cease from work or any kind of action.
  • To “stop” doing what you are doing!
  • Action, labor, exertion is over.
  • Freedom from worry, from mental and emotional anguish!
  • It is to be at peace, to lie down, to be settled, fixed, secure. No more running in circles.

You can recast these four categories as applications.

  1. Seeing God’s example of rest
  2. Fearing forfeiture of rest
  3. Embracing God’s promise of rest
  4. Striving to enter eternal rest

How do you find “rest?”  The answer is in verse 11.

ESV  Hebrews 4:11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

  • This is the last application: “You ‘strive’ for it!”
  • “Striving for Rest” sounds like an absolute contradiction. Pushing for Peace?

ESV  Psalm 46:1-11 To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. "Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah


“Striving” is the opposite of “Being still” unless you put Hebrews 4:11 in context!


  • “Striving” is an action word!
    • Paul uses it for being “zealous” - “eager” - “taking pains” - “making every effort!”
    • He longed to see people’s faces!
    • “to be diligent to present yourself approved to God.”
    • 2 Peter 1 says, “be being diligent” regarding your “calling” - “being chosen” - being “spotless” and “blameless” when the Lord returns.


“In what sense can this word, strive a call to rest?”


You have to exert the strong muscles called “Faith” to “Stop” life’s Locomotives and “Rest!”


  • Or, you will not “rest!”
  • In this way, “to strive” in Hebrews is synonymous to the command to “cease striving” in Psalm 46:10 (NASB).
  • This is a “work of faith.”


  1. Rest begins and ends with God (vv. 1-9)


The key to understanding these verses is to see the main point in verse 4.


  • The writer harks back to the creation account in Genesis 2.


ESV  Genesis 2:1-3 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.


“Rest” was created by God - meaning it was God’s idea!


  • God’s omnipotence means he of course does not need physical rest.
  • His strength is inexhaustible.
  • God did not create rest just because we need
  • He did not create rest simply to prove our dependence on him.


ESV  Exodus 20:8-11 "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.


  • Sabbath rests is meant for us to “stop” and to “Remember.”
  • To remember that God is God, the Creator!
  • For the New Testament Church our Sabbath became The Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, the same Day Jesus rose from death! (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10).


ESV  1 Corinthians 16:1-2 Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.


Sabbath rest begins and ends with God.


  • We “rest” in God because He is God!


But, this is not the main point of the “rest” in Hebrews 4!


  • Back to the Creation account, surveying Genesis 1, after each creation account, there is the mention of “morning and evening!”
  • By the way, this refrain is why I am a 6 literal day creationist!
  • That said, Genesis 2 (what we just read) conspicuously makes no mention of “morning and evening” in regards to the Seventh Day!
  • Each creation day had an end and a beginning.


The Rabbis were right arguing while other days came to an end, the day of God’s rest had no ending; the rest was forever.


God’s rest remains!


How do we know?


  1. Israel failed, not you (vv. 1-6)


Beginning back at verse 1 the writer (as strange as it might seem) is applying comfort.


  • Verse 1 is a call to “fear” but this is the Christian call to “fear God!”
  • This is a rally call to “get your eyes heavenward!” And, not to wallow in self-pity believing your opportunity has passed.
    • It is easy to slip into the delusion that you are beyond the reach of God’s gracious promises.


  • Fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it!” (v. 1).
    • Why? “Good news” – Gospel came!
    • Just like it came to their kinsmen, the Israelites.
    • “But the message they heard did not benefit them!” (v. 2).
    • It fell on deaf ears! Unprofitable!
    • “They were not united – “blended” – with those who listened – “hearers” (v. 2).
  • The promise of “Rest” had to be embraced by “faith!”


Verse 3 rings with “hope!”


  • “For we” meaning the writer includes himself. “who have believed” – “enter that rest” meaning salvation is now.
  • Israelites failed to believe and you don’t have to be like them!


The author cites Psalm 95 to drive the necessity of “faith” home!

  • God’s “works” meaning He established Sabbath rest in Creation and Redemption “from the foundation of the world” (v. 3).
  • Creation and Christ who is the “Lamb slain before the foundation of the world” (1 Pet. 1:19-20).
  • God’s work transcends you, nevertheless, God requires faith.
    • Believing gives God the glory due to Him.
    • Verses 4-6 reinforce this, verse 6 stating that “…[this promised rest] remains for some to enter it” but that Israel’s failure was manifest “disobedience” which was rooted in their unbelief!


  1. God’s promise is not limited by time (vv. 7-9)


Verse 7 again picks up the concept of “Today” (cff. 3:7; 3:15).

  • Chapter 3 uses “Today” warning not to:
    • “harden through rebellion” – warning not to:
    • “harden through disobedience”
    • and now in 4:7 not to: “harden through losing hope!”


  • The temptation is to believe that God’s promise has “timed out” on you!
  • The mention of David and then Joshua serve to Date Stamp when God speaks of His “rest.”
  • Joshua led the children of Israel into the Promised Land around 1400 B.C.
  • King David penned Psalm 95 sometime around 1000 B.C.


Verse 7 explains that “again he appoints a certain day, ‘Today,’ saying through David so long afterward…”


Verse 8, using some sarcasm, says “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.”


  • “Where did “God…speak of another day?”
  • 400 years later by David (cf. Psalm 95:8; v. 7).
  • If “Today” was live in 1400 B.C. and then re-applied in 1000 B.C. and then re-applied in A.D. 70 (Hebrews 4) then why shouldn’t we apply “Today” to the New Year, 2019!!!


Principle: God’s rest remains!


Joshua (same Greek spelling as ‘Jesus’) was a physical savior of sorts leading them to a physical rest (Josh. 21:43-45).


ESV  Joshua 21:43-45 Thus the LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there.  And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.


  • This rest was later filled with attacks and a daily cycle of work.
  • The second Joshua, Jesus offers heavenly rest where no enemies dwell! All labor ceases.


  1. Rest is by faith not works (vv. 10-11)


Verse 10 says, when you “entered God’s rest” you “also rested from his works as God did from his.”


  • I take this in a duel sense.
    • This looks future in the sense that as God ceased to Create and then rested, we too will one day cease to work on earth and enter “heaven’s rest!” Fair enough!


  • However, verse 11 brings back the concept of “Striving!”
    • Verse 10 says, you “have entered that rest” (aorist tense, state of being) meaning now!
    • So, you’ve entered into rest, Now, so “strive” to enter!


“Let us therefore,” meaning this is the application!  What is it?


  • “Strive to enter that rest.”
  • Stop the Locomotive of worry, doubts, fears, faithlessness, despair, quitting! And “STRIVE!”  Push ahead by faith!
  • Again, “Striving” is driven by faith.
  • You are not working your way to heaven.
  • You are persevering, running a marathon, by faith which equals “rest!”
  • If you try to run by any other power then God’s strength, then you are certain to “fall by the same sort of disobedience” (v. 11).