I’m of the opinion that the writer of Hebrews is careful with his language with regard to how he addresses his readers. He wants them to be clear on the fact that he’s talking to believers here. He has referred to them as brothers and sisters earlier and included them with himself in those anticipating their heavenly homes. In Hebrews 4:8-10, he refers to his readers as “the people of God.” He writes, “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.”

The translator’s handbook makes this passage a little easier for us. It says, “If the noun rest is rendered as a verb, ‘to rest,’ then that God had promised may be translated as ‘in the way in which God had promised them.’”[1] God had “rest” in mind for His people but it wasn’t the kind of rest they would experience by just sitting down and wiping the sweat from their foreheads. God promised them something much more significant. It would be of a more permanent nature and would be a “rest for our souls.” It was a rest that wasn’t based on what we could earn or deserve. It was a rest based on a finished work of God. It was a true rest from the demands of our lives in a fallen world where sowing and reaping is the rule. It is a rest from all our “falling short.” It’s a rest from all our “failure to measure up.” It’s a rest from all the religious demands and expectations. It’s a true deliverance from the heavy burdens of life and religion that always leave us stressed out wondering if we’ve been good enough. It’s rest from those nagging reminders that we always could have done more!

“God’s rest” is the rest that Jesus calls us to. It’s Jesus’ rest. It’s a rest from the stress and strife of trying to measure up because through our faith in Christ, we know He has measured up to God’s standards for us. He came not to destroy the laws of sowing and reaping or to eliminate the laws of good and evil, but He came to completely satisfy them on our behalf. I don’t measure up. You don’t measure up. Nobody measures up! The writer of Hebrews is well aware of the fact that his readers believe that Jesus opened the door for them and welcomed them into the household of the people of God but they are insisting that to stay in that room, one must keep another list of religious obligations and expectations. There’s no rest in that room. Our eyes are on Jesus until we enter the room and then we must take them off of Him and put them on ourselves again. Once again, we’re trusting in our own works and not in the finished work of Jesus. The only way to enjoy God’s rest in Jesus Christ, is to trust completely in His work realizing it’s so complete, we can add nothing to it! There’s the rest Jesus calls us to.

[1] Paul Ellingworth and Eugene Albert Nida, A Handbook on the Letter to the Hebrews, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), 79.