Final thoughts on Hebrews 4:1-10
Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath,‘They shall not enter My rest,’” although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.” Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. NKJV
Hebrews is written to the Jews to show them that Jesus is the Messiah, and as such, He is the fulfillment of all of the Old Testament ceremonial laws. In our text, the Lord demonstrates that the ceremonial laws fulfilled by Jesus included the Sabbath day commandments. In these verses, we see three key truths regarding the Sabbath.
First, the Sabbath was a picture of the believer’s life in Christ. Our text states plainly in verse three that “we who have believed do enter that rest.” As New Testament Christians, we enter into the true Sabbath rest through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In verses 6-9, we see that true Sabbath rest in Christ is superior to that offered by Joshua via entry into the land of Canaan, because it is spiritual rather than physical. The Israelites spent forty years of weary wondering in the wilderness before Joshua led them into the Promised Land where they found rest from the years of wilderness wandering. Spiritually speaking, outside of Christ, we were wandering blindly in a spiritual wilderness, but in Christ, we have spiritual rest (Matt. 11:28). The Lord Jesus Christ has given us rest from the guilt of sin, from worries about the future, and from the fear of death and the judgment to follow.
Second, the Sabbath was primarily a ceremonial law. There is a moral aspect to the Sabbath that was established at creation, and this is why the Sabbath is included in the ten commandments (Ex. 20:8,11). The moral principle found in the Sabbath is that one day a week is to be set aside from the normal work activities of the week for the purpose of joint public or corporate worship of God. But since the Sabbath is primarily ceremonial in nature, public or corporate worship does not have to fall on the seventh day of the week, and in fact, since the beginning of the New Testament church, Christians have set aside the first day of the week as the day for public or corporate worship (Acts 20:7, I Cor. 16:2). Seventh Day Adventists claim that mainline church denominations are worshipping on the wrong day of the week because they worship on the first day instead of the seventh day; and sadly, some Christians in their ignorance compound the problem by referring to Sunday as the “Christian Sabbath.” The first day of the week is not the Sabbath, and nowhere does the New Testament ever refer to it as the Sabbath. The New Testament church did not meet on the Sabbath, which is the seventh day. They met on the first day of the week and called it the “Lord’s Day” (Rev. 1:10). The church began meeting on the first day of the week because it was the day on which the Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. The church was meeting on the first day of the week when Pentecost came and they were baptized by the Holy Spirit on that day (Acts 2). Understanding that the Sabbath is primarily a ceremonial law, it’s not that Christians don’t keep the Sabbath by not having public or corporate worship on Saturday. To the contrary, Christians perfectly keep all of the ceremonial laws in Christ (who is the type of all the ceremonial antitypes), including the Sabbath. As New Testament believers, we don’t need a high priest to enter into the holy of holies for us and offer up sacrifices for our sins, because we have the true and perfect high priest (Christ), who has entered into the true holy of holies made without hands (heaven), and offered up the perfect sacrifice for our sins (his own body and blood). Likewise in Christ, we have entered into the true Sabbath rest.
Third, in our Sabbath rest in Christ, we have ceased from our own works (v.10). Those who object to the idea that the Sabbath is primarily ceremonial say, “What about the commandments to keep the Sabbath holy and not to work on the Sabbath?” The answer is simple; those were ceremonial commandments that pictured the believer’s life in the true Sabbath rest in Jesus. In Christ, we have ceased from our own works. We don’t work for ourselves anymore, we work for Jesus. As believers who have entered into the true Sabbath in Christ, we are not called to be holy just one day a week; rather we are called to be holy seven days a week (I Pet. 1:16-17). Christianity is not just a one day a week religion, it is a seven day a week, twenty-four hours a day religion. For believers who have entered into the Sabbath rest in Jesus, every day is to be holy. We are not to reflect Christ’s character just on Sunday, but our lives are to reflect His character all of the time (Eph. 5:1-2).
Have you entered into the true Sabbath rest in Christ by repenting of your sins and trusting Jesus as your personal Savior? If so, is every area of your life, every day, holy—consecrated to the Lord?