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.…
Still dealing with the superiority of Christ to Moses. Having shown the possibility of departing from Christ as they did from Moses, he goes on to show that, since Christ was greater than Moses, the evil of departing from him was so much more terrible. There is a Divine promise of rest unexhausted in Old Testament times, and only fulfilled through faith in Christ. "Let us fear therefore, lest a promise being left of entering into his rest, any one of you should seem to come short of it. For, indeed, we have had good tidings preached unto us, even as also they. But the Word of hearing did not profit them, because it was not united by faith with them that heard. For we which have believed do enter into that rest." This is proved (as usual) from their own Scriptures. "Even as he hath said, As I sware in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest, although the works were finished from the foundation of the world." That is, the promised share in God's rest cannot be that after his creative work, for it had not been enjoyed two thousand years after the creation; nor could it be the rest of Canaan, for long after the entrance into Canaan, David, in the ninety-fifth psalm, speaks o! it as still unpessessed. "He again defineth," etc. What then? "There remaineth therefore a rest," etc.
I. THE CERTAINTY OF DIVINE REST TO THE CHURCH OF CHRIST. This is rest on earth, for "we who have believed do," etc. This is also rest in heaven, for "let us labor therefore," etc. But these two are one. Yet so much better is the latter, the believer being ever able to say, "There remaineth a rest," etc., that we refer this mainly to the rest of the eternal world. And this is certain:
1. Because God continues his work till it is perfected. "God did rest the seventh day from all his works," because they were complete. It reminds us that God always perfects what he begins - that is a necessity of his nature. Now he has begun his work wherever "repentance toward God, and faith toward," etc., are; then he will perfect it. That makes our future rest certain, for perfection brings rest. Our sabbath must follow our perfection.
2. Because the promised rest has not yet been reached. The argument applies to us as to the Hebrews. We may have been persuaded into the Christian life by "Come unto me, and I will give you rest," but our experience is far below what is thus assured to the believer. Where we have most it falls short of the promise. Then the promise has yet to be fulfilled.
3. Because Christ rests after his redemptive work. "For he that has entered into his rest " - i.e. Christ - "he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his." As the Father rested after his creative work, so did the Son after his work of redemption, and for the same reason. It was because he could say, "It is finished," that "he sat down at," etc. If, then, Christ only rested because he had made our perfect redemption secure, we know we shall enter into rest. The vision of the Redeemer resting from his work conveys the utmost assurance that to his people the blessings of redemption, in their height, and depth, and length, and breadth, are as sure as though they possessed them.
II. THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE DIVINE REST WHICH APPERTAINS TO THE CHURCH OF CHRIST. The English word "rest" occurs nine times in the context, but in the ninth verse a different Greek word is used, which (as it is said to occur nowhere else in Greek literature except in one passage of Plutarch) may be said to have been coined for the occasion - sabbatismos, a sabbath-keeping. No word could convey a deeper sense of rest to the Hebrews; for they had a seventh-day sabbath, and every seventh year a sabbath year, and every seventh seven years of sabbaths the year of jubilee. See here the kind or' rest to which Jesus leads his people.
1. It will be rest in finished labor. Whatever inward rest his people have now, they have also much outer weariness - weariness of labor, sorrow, conflict, advanced age. Christ leads to rest from this. Rest for the weary brain, the aching heart, the tired feet, the tempted spirit, the weight of years; the world's sounds all hushed, and the world's work laid aside; Sunday morning after the week's toil - a sabbath-keeping.
2. It will be rest in Divine fellowship. Rest with God. Not simply life's business suspended and its shops closed, but the multitude gathered in the place of prayer to keep holy day in communion with God. "If they shall enter into my rest." In Christ, God and his people find a common rest. That Divine fellowship will be the true sabbath-keeping.
3. It will be rest in holy service. Sabbath days to his people are days of sacred work. So in heaven "they serve him day and night." One kind of work over, but another taken up, and only in this work will our spirit rest. Doing nothing rests the body, but the heart and mind only rest when their faculties are in full employ. There, lessons to learn, mysteries to comprehend, service to render, attainments to pursue, gifts to receive, talents to expend, and all absorbed in the spirit of worship. God first, last, midst, and without end. What rest that will be - work which never becomes toil, nor seeks repose it That will be sabbath-keeping.
III. THE FEAR OF LOSING THIS DIVINE REST WHICH SHOULD ANIMATE THE CHURCH. That the burden of the passage. Its first word, "Let us fear, lest," etc., and its last, "Let us labor;" etc. This fear not inconsistent with the certainty of rest to Christ's people, because it is a question whether we have a right to the assurance of his people. Therefore "fear."
1. The fact of Israel failing to enter Canaan is held up to the Church as a warning. Even those who had received all the mercies given to ancient Israel could die as outcasts in the wilderness.
2. The means by which alone that rest can be obtained are clearly defined. Faith; but faith manifests itself by obedience (ver. 6). See Revised Version. "Faith" and "Obedience" are here used almost interchangeably, as though they were the same. The existence of faith is proved by consecrated life. If the way to rest were manifold, we need not so much fear, but it is one, only one - "faith which worketh."
3. The blessedness of the promised rest makes failure to reach it the more terrible. If it were sad to lose the rest of Canaan, what to lose the rest of heaven! What to be for evermore a companion of "sabbathless Satan"! - C.N.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.