Sabbath Rest (Hebrews 4:1-13)

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.” (Hebrews 4:4, KJV 1900)

In 1973 before completion of the Army Ranger School, we had to complete combat patrol in the panhandle of Florida. We spent 12 days on this patrol, most was in the swamp. During the patrol we averaged one to two hours of sleep per day and patrolled over 200 miles carrying a full combat load. We were given one combat ration per day containing 1200 calories each. We had numerous engagements and challenges during the 12-days. By the time it ended, we were completely famished and exhausted.

I remember when we finished the patrol and returned to our Quonset hut. I had this great feeling of euphoria and peace, knowing that we had finished the course. For the next three days we ate a lot of food and slept. It was time to rest.

The author of Hebrews speaks of rest twelve times in the Book of Hebrews from Heb 3:11 through Heb 4:11. He urged the recipients of the letter to ensure they entered God’s rest. What does He mean by rest? He illustrates this to his Jewish audience by using several thoughts from the Old Testament. These are things that they as Jews would readily grasp.

I already covered one of them on a previous post. The writer warned the reader to avoid being like the Jews who left Egypt and did not enter the Promised Land because of unbelief. With this he warned those who heard the promise of salvation in Jesus to make sure they entered that rest by true faith. At the beginning of chapter 4, he then states the promise of entering still stands. They still have time to trust in Jesus for their salvation. He is telling them not to delay.

In Hebrews 4:4 we see a further point that speaks of the blessed and assured rest available to believers. Here he referred to Genesis 2:2. God having finished the work of creation in six-days, rested on the seventh day from His work. Now, unlike me when I finished the 12-day patrol, God was not exhausted from all His work. God is omnipotent. His energy is inexhaustible. He never grows tired. Why did God rest? His rested because His creation was perfect and complete, lacking nothing. No further work was needed. His rest on the seventh day was the foundation of the Sabbath rest later kept by the Jews.

The Sabbath observed by the Jews was very special. Though most of the Jews probably did not understand its deeper meaning. The Sabbath rest pointed to the perfect rest that believer can enter by faith in Jesus Christ. As God rested from His labor in creation, with everything perfect and complete, we can enter God’s rest in Christ. Christ’s labor in atoning for our sin was perfect and complete as well. There is no further work necessary. It is finished, complete, and perfect. A true believer’s sin, past, present, and future has been completely covered by the shed blood of Christ. In this we can truly rest.

I remember in 1983, when I trusted in Jesus Christ alone. I entered that rest. The peace and feeling of euphoria I felt in that moment I have never forgotten and cannot accurately describe. My hope for everyone is that same as the author had for his readers. I hope that others will experience the blessing of God’s rest. You can rest from your labors to earn salvation and to keep your salvation. Christ has finished the work for you perfectly.

Published by Steve Hankins, Th.D.

Steve has had extensive military, business and ministry experience. He has served for over 16 years in full time vocational ministry and many years of part time ministry in churches. He has led churches through start-up and recasting of vision. Now He resides on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he is working to help smaller churches and believers to renew their hearts and regain the joy of the Lord.

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