HEBREWS EXPOUNDED (4: 1- 5).
ROBERT GOVETT, M.A.
displeasure which God felt against the sinful of
Their unbelief rising to its height in disobedience, drew down the punishment of God. Beware of like conduct, that you may escape the like end. For we [Christians] are of the same nature as they; and God is still the same. He has erected this lighthouse on the rock on which they suffered shipwreck; that we may escape. And while to most Christians this danger is not presented, to you, reader, it is.
led them out of
Chapter 4: 1. "Let us fear, therefore, lest a promise being left [us] of entering into His rest, any of you should think that he has come too late for it."
previous chapter has set before us
It is on this point that the succeeding argument turns. The writer shows, that the rest spoken of in the psalm has never yet been accomplished. †The call to have part in the millennial day of joy and privileges is still in force, with the consequent perils and besetments of those travelling to it.
I have translated the close of the first verse now before us differently from the Established Version. If we retain the usual rendering, the sense would be: ĎFear, lest you should be left upon the earth as an unwatchful servant, after your watchful brethren have been removed by the first rapture.í
But that does not suit either (1) the words of the verse; or (2) the scope of the passage. The Greek word Ďto come shortí is in the perfect: it should in that case have been in the present. (3) The Apostle is warning us against not a seeming and partial loss, but an entire forfeiture of the prize, under the oath of God. (4) After such a fear, as that translation supposes, the course of the Apostleís argument would have been entirely altered.
Translate the verse as I have done,* and it falls perfectly into the following line of argument, and is just such an objection as was likely to occur both to Jew and Gentile.
[* The authors who defend this translation are given by Alford on the passage. Alford admits that it may be so rendered.]
"Let us fear." How should
there be room for fear, if we are, as believers, certain of that rest?
God is not to be mocked. We believers have to do with a real peril, as
[* The Epistle to the Philippians regards Ďsalvationí as yet future, to be attained only Ďin the day of Christ'.]
"Any of you should think he has come too late for it."
Here the writer changes the pronoun. Before it was, ĎLet us fear.í He says here, ĎAny of you:í for the mistake he now names did not apply to himself. He was sure, that Godís rest had not begun; but that the call was still made to believers, bidding them seek to enter into the coming glory.
The Greek word means to Ďcome shortí either in relation of (1) place or of (2) time. A man might lose his train, either by being a mile off the station when the train left; or by falling asleep in the waiting-room, and only being roused after the train had started. Here the coming short refers to time. Some would think, that the rest here spoken of was long ago past, and, if so, they would take no pains to seek an entrance into it. So great is the boon here set before us, that the Holy Spirit always urges the use of all diligence in attaining it. And Satan, on the other hand, seeks to induce a belief of its being a small affair, an illusion, or long ago past. ĎThe first resurrection is past alreadyí, was one of his ancient deceits (2 Tim. 2.). Another idea, equally effectual to quench the true view, is, that the rest is a spiritual attainment, possessed now by all Godís rightly instructed people.
"Lord, I believe a rest remains.
To all Thy people known,"
as Charles Wesley sings. But our passage is speaking of a future rest of reward. Four times it is spoken of as unfulfilled. (1) "A promise being left". (2) "It remaineth that some must enter therein" (verse 6). (3) "There remaineth therefore a rest" (verse 9). (4) "Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest" (verse 11).
translators did not understand this passage: hence their renderings have only
darkened a place already obscure through much condensation. In the
Established Version it would seem, as if the Gospel of Jesusí death,
resurrection, and forgiveness through Him, had been preached to
But the Gospel which our Lord proclaimed to
This is another name for the
doctrine of the millennium; a doctrine remaining to be taught to those who have
already received the good news of present forgiveness through Jesus risen. These glad tidings were taught to
[* See Acts 7: 5.]
"But the word of the report did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it."
"The word of the report" refers to the report
[* The ultimate provocation and exclusion ensued at once on the refusal of Godís report, and that of their own spies.]
Through their unbelief - as God says: "How long will this people provoke Me? †And how long will it be ere they believe Me, for all the signs which I have showed unto them?" (Num. 14: 11).
3. "For we believers* are entering into the rest, as [God] said, ĎSo I sware in My wrath, They shall not enter into My rest:í although the works from the foundation of the world had [already] been completed. For He spake in a certain place concerning the seventh day thus ĎAnd God rested on the seventh day from all His works.í †And in this place [He says] a second time, ĎThey shall not enter into My rest.í "
[* I do not think that any stress is to be laid on the participles being in the aorist. †They might have been in the present. The aorist denotes that they had now for some time been believers.]
The "for" with which the verse commences is connected with the word Ďfaithí in verse 2. ĎThe Israelites lost the rest, as devoid of faith. But we, as men of faith, are entering into it.í
Established Version gives "do enter", as though the rest were something of
habitual and present attainment by [regenerate] believers generally. †Thus it confounds the sense, and the course of
the Apostleís argument; who is proving the futurity
and the external character of the rest to them who believe.
The present here is prospective. It is illustrated for us, as previous
points have been, by the history of the wilderness. Up to the time when
the tribes, through unbelief, were rejected by the oath of God, they were
continually on the move toward the promised land.
So believers in the millennial glory
are moving onward to Godís rest in that
day. For they, unlike
[* More and more regenerate believers are now rejecting the divine prophecies which must be literally fulfilled during the coming age, when Christís glory will be manifest upon this earth for 1,000 years.]
should read: ĎWe believers are entering into the restí - the same
rest as that which
"Although the works from the foundation of the world* had [already] taken place."
[* This is the order of the Greek; and it makes the sense more distinct.]
The Apostle is now teaching us concerning the meaning of the phrase, "Godís rest". The expression is used in Genesis 2: 2, of Godís repose from creation-works on the seventh day. He notices, then, that of course that could not be the one into which we are invited, and toward which we are moving. Both the work and the rest of that day ended ages ago: sin had not entered, and man had no part with God in that enjoyment of His finished works. He sware, that unbelievers should have no part in His rest. But how could they? †The rest of the first Creation-Sabbath was long, long past. †ĎWhy, Then, did Paul cite the passage?í Because Godís creation-rest on the seventh day is typical of His redemption-rest on the seventh millennium yet to come. Hence Paul quotes anew the passage from the psalm, and observes that the expression occurs a second time. "They shall not enter into My rest." The words are quoted to bring to notice, by way of contrast, the futurity of Godís rest there spoken of. "If they shall enter." †Here is a "second time" a similar expression.
Godís creation-work was speedily marred by Satan and by man. †Could the Most High rest in a world of sin and death? Impossible! †He began, therefore, a new work of redemption, that the world and man might finally be set on the foundation of eternal repose; while unbelievers are eternally cast where no rest is to be had (Rev. 14: 9-11). The psalm notices new "works" of God, to be succeeded, like those of creation, by a new "rest". "They saw My works forty years." "They shall not enter into My rest." These new works of God are still proceeding; as our call to worship and to conflict, in the midst of an evil world, shows. Still the tidings of salvation go forth, and still some are being brought over to Christ. Since, then, both God and His people are at work, Godís [millennial] rest is not yet come.
redeeming works were shown to
From these six thousand years of redemption-work God shall rest on the seventh thousand. †As surely as a dayís rest followed on Godís six daysí work of creation, so surely shall the rest of a day follow on Godís six daysí redemption-work. Only "Beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years" (2 Pet. 3: 8). It is this which explains to us how God could be true, in saying to Adam: "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." He did not die in the day of twenty-four hours: but he did die in the day of a thousand years. And none of the antediluvian patriarchs lived a thousand years.
this coming repose Moses is a constant witness. (1) As soon as Noah,
coming out of the ark on the new world, had offered his sacrifice, we read:
"And Jehovah smelled a savour of rest"
(Gen. 8: 21). He owned, in that
sacrifice, the ground on which another and a better earth shall rest eternally [millennially] on a
better sacrifice, the sacrifice of Christ. (2) As soon as He had redeemed
His earthly people out of
[* 'Sevení in Hebrew signifies Ďfulnessí. ĎThe dispensation of the fulness of timeí is the seventh millennium yet to come (Eph. 1).]
the Law, the Sabbath was the chief positive command, as in
deeply this counsel of God was inwrought into the Law will be seen, on study of
the subject of the Sabbath and its rest. It signified
The great festival of earth, of which the Feasts of the Law were memorials, is to be the fulfilment of the Feast of Tabernacles - the festival of the seventh month (Lev. 23), after the works of the harvest and the vintage were over.
The Law, then, has much instruction to give us on the subject of this future blessed Sabbath, which Law could not really bring in.
1. First, it teaches us often concerning the TIME of rest. It is to be the seventh day. The Lordís rest on that day hath consecrated it; and, in its appointed time, blessing will flow out of it. "The Sabbath of rest, the holy convocation" of Godís approved ones, from the patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian dispensations, shall in due season be held under Godís better Apostle and High Priest (Rev. 7).
2. (1.) It testifies concerning the PLACE of rest. It shall be this earth, of which Abraham was made the heir (Rom. 4: 13). There, where Godís rest was broken by sin, shall the Most High prevail to bring in true repose, and shall rejoice in His works. The promises to Abraham, David, and the prophets, can only be fulfilled by resurrection. "The habitable earth in its future state" (Ps. 8) is to be filled with the glory of Jehovah.
But there will be one portion of earth in which that rest and glory will be
most visible. The
And the centre of that blessing and the rest shall be: -
It teaches us also concerning the MEANS of the coming rest. (1)
The first and chief cause of all is Jehovahís self, the Giver of
all good. "My Presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest"
(Exod. 33: 14). (2) Sacrifices and priests were
the means whereby the Holy God could dwell amidst the sinful. Thus the
"odour of rest" which God
smelt in the sacrifice of Noah was intensified and established in the
sacrifices of the Law. "Command the children
[* Our translators have put, a "sweet savour" instead of "a savour of rest." See LXX who translate the Hebrew expression.]
4. The King of Godís appointing was to be "a man of rest". "Behold, a Son shall be born to thee [says God to David] who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about; for his name shall be Solomon [Ďpeaceableí], and I will give peace and quietness to Israel in his days" (1 Chron. 22: 9).
5. "And in this place a second time: ĎIf they shall enter into My rest.í"
An examination of the 95th. psalm, whence this passage is cited, will throw further light upon the argument. It seems to be addressed to all the world. There is a call to worship God, as Creator of the earth and man (ver. 5, 6). God is showing Himself to be King (ver 3). This, as we have learned, applies to Christ, Who is more than once in this Epistle described as Creator (3: 4).
comes the appeal to the listeners to Ďobey His voiceí,
as the Redeemer. "We are the
people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand." He is
"our God" (ver. 7).
These expressions include both of Christís flocks. Of
God shall surely rest from His work of salvation, and from His war against the earth in the last days. The only question is: Who shall rest with Him? For multitudes of [regenerate] believers shall be saved eternally in the new heaven and earth, who will fail of reward in the transition-period of the thousand years. For they do not work and rest with God, nor can God feel complacency in them.