Hebrews 4:11.a Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest.
You don’t have to look to long to find this verse being used to demonstrate some act of personal performance being necessary to gain entrance into the rest of God. Of course, to the extent that this labor is defined is always at the mercy of the one using the verse. How convenient! Still, others view this verse as the means of salvation under a “different program of God” – a “program” in which God, looking down at the same flesh that you and I have, yet expecting and therefore requiring good works out of that flesh in order to make it righteous. Thankfully, however, God has one “program” and that is Jesus Christ.
So, what are we to make of this verse then? Before we put on our theological caps in order to give this verse a meaning, let’s try something very novel and consult the context. Perhaps this “laboring” should be understood differently than we might be prone to immediately define it.
Hebrews 3:1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; 3:2 Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. 3:3 For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. 3:4 For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. 3:5 And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; 3:6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.
The author of Hebrews identifies his audience as ‘holy brethren’ and ‘partakers of the heavenly calling’. By the way, you can search the scriptures for the phrase “earthly calling” and you’ll always come up with the same answer – zero. For, in the “program” that is Jesus Christ, there is but ONE calling – a heavenly one. It is a calling so heavenly and so immediate that Paul writes to the Ephesians and reminds them that they are seated with Christ already in heavenly places.
Ephesians 2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
The author wants the reader to consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession – Jesus Christ. When someone asks you who your apostle is today, the answer should always be and solely be, Jesus Christ. What better Apostle could one hope to have? Apostle means “a delegate” or “a messenger” and certainly the Word of God Himself would be the supreme messenger. In fact, verse 2 tells us this, that Jesus Christ was faithful to the Father as likewise was Moses over his house. The author is going to take this occasion to confirm that if you think Moses was faithful, understand that Christ was faithful all the more. Verse 3 says that Christ was counted faithful all the more and therefore worthy of more glory than Moses. In what capacity?–in the same way that the builder or architect of a house receives greater praise than the house itself.
Moses was indeed faithful to his house, but note that the builder of all things is God. The house that Moses was given was not constructed by Moses, but was built by God Himself. Moses was given charge over that house, to be faithful with the furnishings of that house, as it pleased God (the Builder). But, Christ not only was given charge over a house, but we see that Christ built His own house, which is IN HIM. Christ is not only the house itself, but is the Architect. Both the house and the Architect receive more glory in Christ than did under Moses. And, the author notes that Christ is our house, assuming we hold steadfast our confidence. Confidence is from a Latin word that means “with/having faith.” In other words, we are Christ’s house through faith. Keep this in mind as we move through the rest of chapter 3 and into chapter 4 – faith is the key.
Hebrews 3:7 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 3:8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 3:9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. 3:10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. 3:11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) 3:12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 3:13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
Therefore, on account of the fact of the greater house and Architect of Christ, harden not your hearts as Israel’s father’s did in the wilderness. The house that Moses was given was to be a house of faith, manifesting the One True God. However, in Moses’ day, many rejected this idea and went about building their own houses – houses that would often harbor false gods and would be the facility of pagan rituals. It grieved God that they would see Him work on their behalf, efficaciously, yet still rejected it. God had had enough and declared that they would not enter into His rest. And, Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years as a result. Rest was to be found in Canaan, yet God determined that they would not enter.
In verse 12, notice that this error of time past was a result of UNBELIEF (lack of FAITH). They departed the grace that God was bestowing upon them in favor of their own imaginations. The author wants these Hebrews to exhort one another daily about this reality and about this history to encourage one another to not fall prey to the deceitfulness of sin – as their fathers did.
Hebrews 3:14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; 3:15 While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. 3:16 For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 3:17 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? 3:18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 3:19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
Likewise, daily, exhort one another that they have become the very partakers of Christ. Note it doesn’t say, “For we WILL BE MADE partakers of Christ, if…” Many read this verse this way, that holding your confidence firm unto the end is what finally will clinch the deal of being a partaker of His. But, the verse says that these Hebrews ARE MADE partakers of Christ. They partake in the very House that He is, but likewise with the Architect. This is the confidence (FAITH) that they are to hold firm unto the end. In other words, don’t ever let your mind wander to the deceitfulness of sin and allow yourself to depart from the living God. Many believer’s keep their minds wandering in the wilderness because they have a struggle with FAITH. They want to enter into God’s rest through their own means rather than simply yielding to His Goodness and Grace.
The author draws on a little more history to further prove that entrance into God’s rest was forbidden because of UNBELIEF (FAITHlessness).
Hebrews 4:1 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. 4:2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. 4:3 For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
Therefore, the author wants his audience to be sure, lest they should fall short of entering into God’s rest, that they fully understand that entering in His rest is a matter of FAITH. He reminds them that unto these Hebrews was the gospel preached as UNTO THEM. Who is “them”? – it is the very Israelites who died in the wilderness. It was the SAME MESSAGE – a message of what? FAITH! He then says that these Hebrews who have BELIEVED do ENTER INTO HIS REST. Why? Because the works necessary were finished from the foundation of the world. These works are not theirs, but God’s. All of the work necessary was completed by the Architect and therefore, simple FAITH would suffice as the entrance “fee” to His Rest.
Hebrews 4:4 For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. 4:5 And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. 4:6 Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: 4:7 Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. 4:8 For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. 4:9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 4:10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. 4:11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
This message is still valid – there remains a rest for the people of God – even those who were alive at that time. Jesus proclaimed that He would give rest unto all that came unto Him, yet the full manifestation of that Rest is still yet to be experienced. The believer is at Rest in Christ, for Christ furnished all of the works necessary. Yet, there awaits a culmination of that truth in the time-frame of God. That (future) Rest is entered in the same way – by FAITH. When the author says to “let us labour therefore to enter into that rest”, is he all of a sudden switching gears to tell folks that they enter into that rest by works? If so, then why did he just spend all of that time recounting how the people of time past did not enter into His Rest because of UNBELIEF and why would he have started out the beginning of chapter 4 by saying that they had entered into His Rest BECAUSE OF their BELIEF?
The word “labour” there comes from a word that means “to be diligent” or “to give diligence.” (It is the same word used for “study”, by the way, in 2Timothy 2:15.) And, indeed, they were exhorted to make it known that by FAITH, entrance into His Rest can be secured. They were to be diligent (labor) to enter into His Rest – they were to be persistent and careful to enter into God’s Rest by making sure that they were not attempting to enter therein by any other means than FAITH.
Anyone who enters into God’s Rest ceases from their own works – not that they reached the point where their works were deemed sufficient, but that they literally stopped making any attempts to enter by their works and rather yielded to FAITH.