Hebrews 4:1-5

Sunday, January 1st, 2017




Chapter 4 continues the section begun in chapter 3 which teaches that Christ is worthy of more glory than Moses. It is seen here that unbelief prevents one from entering God’s rest; whereas, belief admits one into God’s rest (vv. 1-10). Therefore, believers ought to labor to enter God’s rest (vv. 11-13).


In this message, we will limit our study to verses 1-5.

We see that –



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.


Let us . . . fear is let us be afraid or let us become frightened and is exhorting the readers to make certain that they are really saved.


Therefore draws an inference based on what is written in Hebrews 3:7-19 , that people in the Old Testament times could not enter God’s rest because they were guilty of unbelief. It is used in the sense of then, consequently, accordingly, or so.


Lest introduces a negative purpose clause and is understood in the sense of that (none of you), in order that (none of you), or for the purpose that (none of you). Lest is to be connected with any of you should seem to come short of it.


In a promise being left us of entering into his rest, being left suggests being left behind; and when used in a passive voice as it is in this verse, it suggests remaining, being unfinished, being incomplete, or being open.


Now, what is left, what remains, what is unfinished, what is incomplete, or what is still open is a promise, i.e. a pledge or an offer; and it is a specific promise, i.e. the promise of entering into His rest.


Of entering is of going into or of coming into.


His rest is used because the term rest had been used throughout chapter three, where the Israelites, who had been characterized by unbelief, were not able to enter God’s rest.


In chapter 3 the rest referred specifically to the rest in the land of Canaan.


By contrast the idea of rest in chapter 4 is understood as the heavenly rest of believers.


Just as God rested on the seventh day after six days of creation, so the one who has placed his trust in Christ as Savior has rested from whatever works he may have been doing in order to try to attain salvation.


Rest is, therefore, used to mean the heavenly rest which all believers will one day experience.


As us suggests, believers have a promise given to them that they may enter God’s rest.


Any of you should seem to come short of it is suggesting that there may be some who have heard the gospel message, who have gone along with it, but who have never been truly saved.


Any is singular; whereas, you is plural.


Together they express an indefiniteness and mean someone of you (plural) or someone from among you. It is not hinting that the number is great.


Furthermore, it is instructive that the writer, as in the previous chapter, says any of you rather than any of us.


This is reminiscent of what he wrote in Hebrews 3:12-13 .


Hebrews 3:12-13 – (12) Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. (13) But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.


By writing any of you, the writer excludes himself from this group who may be unsaved. He knows that he is saved; and he knows that the majority of his readers are saved. However, the possibility exists that one or several may not yet have put their faith in Christ. There is no hint here that one who has been genuinely saved in the past may lose his salvation. The problem is that there may be some who have never yet been genuinely saved. These were in danger of ultimately rejecting Christianity.


However, as has been seen in 3:6 and 3:12-14, those who are genuinely saved will continue in their confidence steadfast unto the end; and their continuance is the proof of their salvation.


By contrast, some may depart because of unbelief, and this departure will be proof that they have never been saved in the first place.


Should seem to come short of it is seem to come too late, seem to fail to reach, or seem to be excluded and implies from the rest that God has promised us.


Should seem is instructive. It means to have the appearance of. It is not saying that they are necessarily lost. It is saying that they should not appear to be lost. Thus, the readers are being encouraged to make sure that they are genuinely saved and living for the Lord so that no one comes up short, so that no one will even give the appearance of coming up short or of being lost. If they appear lost, one would wonder whether they might really be lost.


A person who is genuinely saved should have evidence of his salvation in his life. It would be horrible for someone to learn when it is too late that he had never been saved in the first place.

We also see that –



Hebrews 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.


For is used in the sense of now and indicates that verse 2 is given in explanation of verse 1.


Unto us was the gospel preached is literally we have been evangelized or we have been given good news.


Of course, it means that someone has proclaimed the good news to us, the readers of this epistle.


As well as is just as; and unto them is they also, where them refers to the people involved in provoking God in the wilderness.


In order to reflect the fact that this phrase and the previous one are parallel, the reader must supply have been evangelized or the good news was preached. In other words, the gospel or good news had been proclaimed to these people living during the time of the provocation; and, inasmuch as the gospel was preached to them, they could have been saved or delivered by believing it just as people can be saved or delivered by believing or trusting the gospel message or good news about Christ today.


However, what was the gospel preached unto them? It was the good news of deliverance from physical bondage in Egypt and entrance into the promised land, i.e. into Canaan’s rest. When one realizes that what the Israelites did not enter was Canaan’s rest, it implies that the gospel was only physical deliverance.


But introduces a strong contrast and is used in the sense of yet or nevertheless. It is the same word translated howbeit in 3:16,


Hebrews 3:16 For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.


The word preached is the word of hearing. In this particular case, it is the word of the account, the word of the report, or the word of the preaching.


In other words, the gospel had been proclaimed to those people living in the time of the Exodus; but that message, i.e. the message preached, did not profit them, or did not help them, did not aid them, did not benefit them, or was of no use to them, where the ones represented by them refers to those who were provoking God in the wilderness.


The reason it did them no good is expressed by not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.


Being mixed with is being mixed together with, being blended with, or being united with. It is used in the sense because it had not been mixed with faith.


It was not mixed with faith in them that heard it, i.e. in the ones who heard it. In other words, they did not believe it.


Faith is belief or trust.


In them that heard it is literally in the hearers and tells where the word preached was not mixed with faith and indicates that the hearers of the gospel at the time of the exodus did not personally mix what they heard with faith. This means that the reason the gospel or good news preached did not profit those living at the time of the provocation was that they did not believe that God could deliver them into the promised land.

Finally, we see that –



Hebrews 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.


For is again used in the sense of now.


We which have believed is simply we, the ones who believed. Its tense indicates action which occurred before the action of do enter.


Do enter into is do come in, do go in, or are entering. The believing occurs before the entering.


What believers are entering is rest, and in particular, God’s rest.


The difference is that the ones who are entering that rest are the ones who have believed, and the ones who could not enter that rest are the ones who did not believe. There is no such thing as someone who believes and thereby enters that rest and then ceases to believe and finds himself excluded from that rest.


Believers are already on their way toward entering God’s heavenly and eternal rest. Meanwhile, they have already gained a small portion, a foreview or downpayment, of that rest with the assurance of their salvation and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.


As he said introduces a quotation from Psalms 95:11 which has been previously quoted in Hebrews 3:11 : As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest.


In the Greek text the wording is identical to the wording of Hebrews 3:11 ; yet, there is a difference in the translation between 3:11 and 4:3.


Whereas 3:11 translated the actual meaning of the Hebrew text, the translation of the Greek text in this verse is more literal in order to suit the author’s special purpose.


The King James translators have caught the flavor of this and have rendered 4:3 different from 3:11.


Hebrews 4:3 is a literal translation reflecting a Hebraism in the text.


Why did they translate it differently here? The answer is that they are using the literal rendering of the Hebrew text in this verse because the author of Hebrews applied it in this verse to the ones who have believed rather than translating it as if it applied to the ones who have not believed as they did in 3:11.


By doing this, they indicate that there is a condition for entering God’s rest which the unbelieving Israelites failed to meet. This condition is believing the gospel which had been proclaimed to them.


As is just as.


He said is He has said and refers to God.


A second as indicates result and is used in the sense of so that or with the result that.


I have sworn is I swore or I took an oath. It has been translated in a way which emphasizes the result of its action.


In my wrath suggests that God was angry when He swore.


This term for wrath means anger or indignation, but it is not so much used to describe an emotional outburst as it is used to describe the outcome of an angry frame of mind when He judged them.


What He swore to them at the time of the provocation was, They shall not enter into my rest. In this verse, however, the Hebrew idiom is rendered literally.


In the Greek text it appears as a simple condition which, for sake of discussion, is assumed to be true.


What God swore is literally, If they shall enter into my rest; and it is assumed for sake of discussion to be true; and it is true.


Hence, if should be understood in the sense of because, since, inasmuch as, or in view of the fact that.


The fact is that the ones represented by they, will enter God’s rest.


Shall enter is predictive of a future event which will definitely take place.


Here, they refers to believers; whereas, they in Hebrews 3:11 refers to unbelievers.


Rest is used in the sense of place of rest, and my refers to God. This rest serves as a reminder that the believer can cease from his own works as God ceased from His. The place of eternal rest for the believer is heaven.


Although the works were finished from the foundation of the world is a reminder that God entered into His rest on the seventh day after the six days of creation. Thus, the suggestion is that God has been in His rest since the completion of the creation.


Foundation is a term for beginning, and the works referred to here were finished, i.e. were made, were created, were fulfilled, or were performed.


From the foundation of the world suggests away from the foundation of the world and indicates separation. In other words, the works were finished at that time; and there have been no more works of creation since that time.


Verse 3 indicates that God entered His rest from the foundation of the world, i.e. when He finished the work of creation; and He has been in that rest ever since.


By contrast, believers enter rest when they trust Christ as Savior and are at rest with God, no longer seeking to earn their way to heaven. Eventually they will enter their heavenly rest and will spend eternity in heaven with the Lord Jesus Christ.


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.


For introduces an explanation in the sense of now.


He spake is He has said or He has spoken, and He is God the Father.


In a certain place is somewhere and means particularly somewhere in the Scripture. This somewhere is Genesis 2:2 .


Genesis 2:2 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.


What God has spoken about is indicated by of the seventh day. It is He spoke somewhere concerning the seventh day or He spoke somewhere about the seventh day.


On this wise is in this way, in this manner, or as follows.


What He said was, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.


The significance of the fact that, according to Hebrews 4:4 , God spoke in Genesis 2 is that God is thus viewed as the divine author of Genesis.


And God did rest is and God stopped or and God rested.


The seventh day is on the seventh day.


From all his works indicates what God rested from.


In other words, God finished the work of creation in six days. On the seventh day He ceased; He did not do any more creating; He rested.


His refers to God, and works refers to the works of creation.


Hebrews 4:5 And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest.


Whereas in verse 4 God spoke of His rest after the six days of creation, in verse 5 the writer refers again to what He has said in verse 3 and speaks of the rest that is available to believers.


Again is once more or anew.


In this place refers to the quotation from Psalms 95:11 which has been referred to in Hebrews 3:11 and again in Hebrews 4:3 , If they shall enter into my rest.


It is used in the same sense here as in verse 3 as a literal translation of the phrase they shall not enter into my rest in 3:11.


Again the King James translators translated it one way in 3:11 and a different way here because the intent is not the same as in chapter 3.


Here it is used as a simple condition that is assumed for sake of discussion to be true; and again it is actually true.


Hence, if is to be understood in the sense of because, since, inasmuch as, or in view of the fact that.


Enter is come in or go in; and what they may enter is my rest, i.e. God’s rest. Thus, there is a rest into which God entered; and believers enter His rest.



Be certain that you have entered God’s rest by receiving Jesus Christ as your personal Savior from sin and its consequences.