What does God's rest mean?

The author of the Book of Hebrews warns us to not harden our hearts as did the Hebrews during the days of Moses (Hebrews 3: 7-11).  Remember it was these people who rejected God’s promise and chose not to trust in Him.  The author of Hebrews concludes this passage, which quotes the Holy Spirit, with “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘they will never enter God’s rest’.  The passage in Hebrews is quoted from Psalms 95: 7-11.  So what does ‘God’s rest’ mean?

Reading on in Hebrews 3 we read of the people of the exodus.  They were not able to enter God’s rest because of their unbelief.  In this context, ‘God’s rest’ refers to the Promised Land.  When the people were finally able to enter the Promised Land at the time of Joshua, we read, “So the Lord gave Israel all the land He had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there.  The Lord gave them rest…” (Joshua 21: 43-44)  Now as we continue into chapter 4 of Hebrews, we are told that we are in the same position as those that entered the Promised Land with Joshua.  We, too, have been preached the gospel.  We must combine the Words with faith.  But now, we are talking about Spiritual rest.   Our rest is the eternal rest and joy which comes from faith in Christ.  “Now we who have believed enter that rest…” (Hebrews 4: 3)

In Hebrews 4: 4-6, we have reference to the creation week, and God resting on the 7th day.  This is not because He is tired, but because His work was done.  “There remains then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God: for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His.” (Hebrews 4: 9-10)  When we come to a saving grace in Christ, we enter that rest.  The author of Hebrews reminds us of the urgency of this coming to faith.  “Therefore, God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time ago he spoke through David, as we said before: ‘Today if you hear my voice, do not harden your hearts.’” (Hebrews 4: 7) The emphasis is on today.  Don’t harden you hearts, don’t wait until tomorrow, the time is now!   Jesus said, “Come to Me all you who are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11: 28)  We enter God’s rest by choosing to place our faith in Him.  We either trust ourselves to save ourselves, or we trust in God.


Dan Porte

Originally from Erie, Pennsylvania, Dan is a graduate of Otterbein College (now University). He graduated with a degree in education. From time to time Dan still substitute teaches. His interest in history led him to investigate the historical accuracy of the Bible. This, in turn, led to a full investigation of Apologetics.

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