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Hebrews 4:1-11 (NIV):

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2 For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed. 3 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,

“So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”

And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world. 4 For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.” 5 And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”

6 Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, 7 God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted:

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.

In this passage we observe expressions such as "certain day", "today" and in particular "another day". Which day is the "another day" that verse 8 is referring to?

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Let us be very clear - the passage we are discussing is Heb 3:7 to 4:11 is a section that is part of the argument about Jesus as High Priest. Specifically:

  • Heb 3:1-5 - Jesus as our great High Priest is greater than even Moses
  • Heb 3:7-11 quotes Ps 95:1-11 about entering the land and the state of "REST"
  • Heb 3:12-19 says that the children of Israel were prevented from entering the land of "rest" because of disobedience and unbelief. [One MUST trust God to be able to rest in Him!]
  • Heb 4:1-3 - by contrast, we as faithful Christians can enter that "rest" and we can enter it now or 'today".
  • Heb 4:4-7 - the "seventh day" is and was a symbol of the rest promised to those who enter the land of "rest"
  • Heb 4:8-11 - "Sabbath" named (for first time in this passage) as the commandment used to symbolize the rest of the promised land which the Israelites of the Exodus generation did not enter - But we can if we are faithful.
  • Heb 4:12-16 - return to the theme of Jesus as our great High Priest.

I observe two things about this passage:

  1. The passage is NOT primarily discussing the weekly Sabbath at all but the "rest" of serving our Lord and High priest, Messiah Jesus; which brings spiritual contentment and "rest" of which the weekly Sabbath is a symbol. Indeed, the sabbath was always a symbol (or "sign") of at least three things:
  • (a) creation of the hand of God, Ex 20:8-11, 31:16, 17, Gen 2:1-3, Eze 20:20
  • (b) release from slavery, liberty, freedom, salvation in serving God, Deut 5:12-15, Eze 20:12, John 8:33-46.
  • (c) "Resting" in God's security and freedom, Matt 11:28-30.
  1. The idea of "rest" has deep spiritual significance in the ancient Hebrew thinking and is often alluded to in places like Ruth 3:1, Lam 1:3, Matt 11:28-30. The whole purpose of leaving the slavery of Egypt to enter the promised land was to find "rest" - in modern language, the closest modern idiom is what the Americans call, "freedom" or "liberty" which is so often contrasted with slavery. Josh 1:13-15, 14:15, 21:44, 23:1, Judg 3:11, 30, Deut 12:9.

Thus, Heb 4 is not discussing the Sabbath but what the Sabbath represents or symbolized - that is the rest and blessing that people were supposed to enjoy by its weekly reminders.

Since the passage in Heb 4 quotes from Ps 95:7, 8, 11 discussing the rebellion at Meribah (Ex 17:7) where God declared that the rebellious Israelites would never enter the rest of the Promised Land - and they did not - they wandered the desert for 40 years (V9) until that generation had died out. Ps 95 then makes an appeal to not repeat this same behavior but to enter that rest in God.

The writer of Hebrews uses exactly the same language, addressed to the Hebrews based on the same passage of Ps 95 - do not rebel but accept Jesus as High priest and enter His rest as promised in Matt 11:28-30 -

28 Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Thus, Heb 3 & 4 is no arguement for or against the weekly Sabbath - it is an appeal to serve Jesus and enter His rest immediately, "Today".

[The necessity or otherwise of the Sabbath does NOT rest (pardon the pun) in the passage in Heb 4 for the above stated reasons. Sabbath keepers will typically quote other passages such as Acts 13:14, 42, 44, 16:13, 17:1, 2, 18:4. But this is outside the scope of our discussion here and the subject of another question.]

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  • Excellent portrayal/answer !! – Olde English Oct 27 '20 at 5:35
  • @OldeEnglish - many thanks for your vote of confidence. – Dottard Oct 27 '20 at 5:54
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This Hebrew passage talks of the day of rest.

In the days of Joshua, he bought the Israelites a certain kind of rest but it wasn't a permanent one.

A long time later God spoke through David in Psalm 95

7for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
Today, if only you would hear his voice,
8“Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness 9where your ancestors tested me;
they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
10For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
11So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ”

David was talking about a permanent rest, God's rest. The Hebrew writer was pointing out this important difference to his readers.

Hebrews 4:8 For if Joshua had given them [permanent] rest, God would not have spoken later [by David] about another day.

The phrase "another day" refers to the "today" in David's psalm which in turn, point to what Jesus says in Matthew 11:28

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

This is God's rest promised to us believers to be fulfilled in us. So, today, I have heard His voice saying to me "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" and I have received His rest every day.

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    I am not sure you can make Ps 95b point to Jesus because it actually speaks about "today" - in David's time. He was encouraging the people to keep the covenant then - Jesus certainly did the same later on by alluding to Ps 95 but that does not stop Ps 95 applying to David's time at it explicitly says. – Dottard Oct 27 '20 at 0:02
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    6 up votes for an only somewhat credible answer, which lacks not only basic content but content in general, really !!! Just goes to show that if you get that short answer in early, before the much fuller and more informative answers, which have indeed showed up here, you can benefit royally. @Dottard just edges out the others in my humble opinion. A very erudite Q. from the OP and with a generous offering to boot. – Olde English Oct 27 '20 at 5:33
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Hebrews 4 is, of course, the continuation of the argument that started in Chapter 1 about the Supremacy of Christ over all that has come before Him. But those that came before him are also shadows of Him. In chapter 1 & 2 Jesus is manifestly greater than the Angels though he was made lower than them. In chapter 3 He is greater than Moses, the faithful messenger of God who led His People to the point of Entering into the Promised Rest.

Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. (Heb 3:2-6)

But they entered not in because of their unbelief. At this point Paul (who I am convinced is the author), brings in Psalm 95, where the Holy Ghost explains why they did not enter into the rest on that day when Moses brought them close:

Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) (Heb 3:7-11)

Paul, applies this immediately to his reader:

Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.(Heb 3:12-15)

Why is it so important to apply it Today while it is still today?

For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. (Heb 3:16-19)

None that did not believe on that day, entered into his rest. And this exhortation is given to support his main premise: the danger of neglecting this most excellent salvation (a warning which he repeats over and over in this epistle). This is then the immediate preceeding context of Chapter 4 in the OP's question, and important to understand the conclusion with which this passage starts:

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. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest 1: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 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. (Heb 4:1-4)

In other words, the seventh-day rest of God, is used here as an allegory and shadow of the rest that God's people are called to enter into: a rest that God has promised in his wrath, is conditioned upon faith.

"But wait," says the Hebrew that knows his history, "Afterwards (40 years later) they did all enter into the promised land under Joshua (Jesus)! Did they not all enter into his rest then, what more is there to this rest?"

Notice in support of this objection, the occurrence of Rest in the book of Joshua.

Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, The LORD your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land.(Jos 1:13)

Until the LORD have given your brethren rest, as he hath given you, and they also have possessed the land which the LORD your God giveth them: then ye shall return unto the land of your possession, and enjoy it, which Moses the LORD'S servant gave you on this side Jordan toward the sunrising. (Jos 1:15)

And the name of Hebron before was Kirjatharba; which Arba was a great man among the Anakims. And the land had rest from war. (Jos 14:15)

And the LORD gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand. (Jos 21:44)

And now the LORD your God hath given rest unto your brethren, as he promised them: therefore now return ye, and get you unto your tents, and unto the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side Jordan. (Jos 22:4)

And it came to pass a long time after that the LORD had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua waxed old and stricken in age.(Jos 23:1)

To which our brilliant Paul draws them again to the Psalm which he quoted in the previous passage as the words of the Holy Ghost:

And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus (Greek for Joshua) had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. (Heb 4:5-9)

He demonstrates again to them the allegory of the promised rest fulfilled in the ultimate Joshua, since if the first Joshua did bring in this rest, why is the Holy Ghost speaking in Psalm 95 through the mouth of David talking of another day: "Today"?

There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. (Heb 4:9-11)

What is the "another day"?

The day in verse 8 is TODAY! This day is the day, if you are hearing God's voice in the offer of his great salvation, to enter into his rest (peace with God) by ceasing from your own work, as He did from his, and believing in Him alone to take you into his promise through the Work which he has done, in Christ the better Moses and the better Joshua.

In answer to the OP's implicit question about the application of this conclusion to seventh-day Sabbatarianism:

This is NOT a passage that supports or reject seventh-day Sabbatarianism for Christians because Paul is not quoting or referencing any of the Sabbath commands or ordinances. He is explaining the shadow of that rest that the People of God receives through faith in entering in through the Promise. Israel entered into a shadow of that rest through Joshua, and still had to obey the Sabbath commands after entering into the promised land - as a matter of fact, that is one of the reasons their rest failed: they failed to uphold the Sabbath ordinances. Also Psalm 95 which Paul relies on for his argument that there still remains another day when the Peopl of God will enter into the Rest of God, is the joyous song of the greatness of God with a stern warning of not hardening your heart to God's call and its sung by Jews on Wednesdays - it has nothing to do with the Seventh-day sabbath.

Paul is writing to Hebrews who had an Old Testament injunction to keep the seventh-day Sabbath forever (Exo 31:13-18). He would NEVER have instructed or even suggested to Jewish Christians that the Law of Moses (which include all of the Sabbath commands and ordinances) should not be obeyed by them (see James' defence of Paul in Acts 21:20-24). The word Sabbath does not even once appear in the whole Book of Hebrews, so to stretch the application of the argument presented here in chapter 4 is not a sound hermeneutic.

Note

1 Neither the Hebrew nor the Greek has a negation in Psalm 95:11, but its rather a conditional statement that goes both ways: "believe NOT and you will NOT enter, Believe and you WILL enter." Most translations include the "NOT" here as they did in Heb 3:11, but the premise has changed, in Heb 3:11 the premise is those that did not believe, so the consequence is "shall not enter", but in Heb 4:3 the premise is "we which have believed" and therefore "do enter into rest, as he said"

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  • +1 b/c good connections made between "rest" and occupying the land / ceasing from war; as well as between "rest" and believing God as both Joshua and Caleb did. Side note: closely consider Heb. 2:3, "... which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard;" Paul did not believe in Christ b/c of testimony of others. He had direct contact with Yeshua (Joshua) the Messiah. Recommend reading the book Priscilla's Letter by Ruth Hoppin. – Gina Oct 20 '20 at 8:47
  • @Gina Hi Gina! Thanks for that - I agree 2:3 is the strongest argument against the Pauline authorship in my opinion - I think the positives outweigh the negatives and on this point, I think Paul is not writing claiming apostolic authority to the Jewish audience to which the letter is addressed, because they simply did not easily accept his apostolic authority (being an initial persecutor and not one of the twelve) and so to acknowledge that "which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him": "them" does not necessarily include or exclude him. – Pieter Rousseau Oct 20 '20 at 12:25
  • @Gina Will look into the book you recommended - thank you! – Pieter Rousseau Oct 20 '20 at 12:26
  • Thanks @PieterRousseau for the elaborate answer. Some comments: 1) since the answer is a bit long, a summary at the beginning may be useful, 2) isn't the word Sabbath used in v9 "There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God"? 3) Isn't the seventh-day rest of God (v4) the same kind of rest (God's rest) for God's people (v5 and v6)? Because v4 says that God rested on the seventh-day, and then v5 and v6 we read "you shall never enter my rest" and "that rest". – Spirit Realm Investigator Oct 20 '20 at 17:15
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator Fantastic comments deserving pause for thinking - and almost certainly corrections on my part! Thanks... – Pieter Rousseau Oct 20 '20 at 17:35
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There is another way to approach the answer to the OP's question by considering the logical conclusion to the premise of "Sabbatarianism". If Heb 4:1-11 was speaking of the 7th day weekly rest, then the believers who had entered into God's rest would only be entering into it each 7th day? What about the rest of the days of the week? Are they only believers on the 7th day?

The OT manifested physical, carnal outward shadows. God led the Israelite through the desert for 40 years because of the unbelief of the generation of slaves. God equated their failure to do what He had told them to do with unbelief.

"35 Not one of these men of this evil generation doth see the good land which I have sworn to give to your fathers, 36 save Caleb son of Jephunneh -- he doth see it, and to him I give the land on which he hath trodden, and to his sons, because that he hath been fully after Jehovah." (Deu. 1:35-36, YLT)

As pointed out in another answer, the context of Heb. chap 4 continues from Heb. chap 3, namely continuing to believe, to not fall away.

"12 See, brethren, lest there shall be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in the falling away from the living God, 13 but exhort ye one another every day, while the To-day is called, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of the sin," (Heb. 3:12-13, YLT)

Heb. 3:13 defined every day as the Today of Psalms 95. Every day is an opportunity for each of us to hear our Lord's voice (John 10:27). So, the "To-day" is continuing action for those who have not yet entered into Christ (Gal. 3:26-29; Rom. 6:3; 1 Cor. 12:13).

The another day then was a second, third, fourth (ad infinitum for every day we are given) opportunity to hear His voice and to do what is needed. Belief requires follow through action, or there is no belief. Just as the former Egyptian slaves were told to enter into the land to occupy it, but failed to do; they did not believe God. They did not enter into His rest because they did not do what they were told to do.

As God equated entering into the physical promised land of Canaan with entering into His rest (Jos 1:13), then the corollary must be drawn between the spiritual promised land of the everlasting kingdom vs. the physical promised land of the Old Covenant.

The Israelite were promised the land of Canaan. Entering into that land was the same as entering into God's rest. Did they only enter into it each 7th day? Or did they occupy that land every day of their lives?

In Christ's everlasting kingdom which He established at His death on the cross, and which He confirmed and fully probated with the destruction of that carnal temple in Jerusalem in AD 70, the spiritual kingdom, the spiritual promised land was birthed out of the old.

"and [there are] heavenly bodies, and earthly bodies; but one [is] the glory of the heavenly, and another that of the earthly;" (1 Cor. 15:40, YLT)

Just as Paul discussed the change between the physical body of man to the incorruptible spiritual body of the resurrection, so was the change from the physical temple worship of physical animal sacrifices to the spiritual worship through the one sacrifice of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8).

Is the observance of a 7th day of the week the true topic of Heb. chap 4? Is God's promised rest of the everlasting kingdom an earthly, physical, carnal observance? Rather, isn't the point of Heb. 3 and 4 the unbelief of those who refused to obey God's commands.

Even those who refused the command to enter the land of Canaan were most probably keeping the 4th commandment of the 7th day rest (Ex. 20:8). That was not the point of Num. 13-14, nor is it the point of Heb. chap. 4.

The discussion was about staying in a condition of belief, about not falling away while they were waiting for the final end of that old covenant temple worship system. They were looking forward to what we now have, the spiritual promised land of His everlasting kingdom. When we enter into Christ, we have entered into His spiritual kingdom, and His spiritual promised rest.

The Sabbatarianism doctrine stretches the meaning of Heb. 4 to create their own religiosity.

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It’s either an allegory for Jesus (less likely) or an allegory for Holy/New Jerusalem (more likely) described in Rev 21 & 22. Given that Joshua was leading them into a country was called a “(Sabbath-)rest” and Hebrews 11 speaks of desiring a “better country” then it would follow that this is the “another day”.

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  • Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for your contribution. Please take the tour to better understand how this site works. Can you provide and references or reasoned argument to support your assertions? – Dottard Oct 18 '20 at 20:57
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The rest that was promised, and delivered through Joshua, was given to those who obeyed under the old covenant. The old covenant, with the Sabbath as a key component, was always a 'type' of what was to come - what was always going to come since before the 'garden'.

The day of 'rest' each week was a special and profitable time as there was no pressure to feel like one was 'missing out' while others around them worked or profited somehow - even the animals had the day off and rested. Sadly, over time, the leaders spent too much effort making the Sabbath a burden of rules and stumbling blocks (except for themselves of course).

There remains a whole other time, another age which is signified by the appearing of Christ and a new covenant based not on law and death, but life and spirit. Not based on physical segments of life as in hours or days or sacrifices or guilt offerings, but on whole of life service and giving

This 'another day' looked forward to genuine spiritual rest from the rules and compartmentalised life they came to live under - the onerous legalities of the law. Rather than one day a week and other special days, God's people would come to understand and enjoy a whole life of rest from rules and governing by crooked and selfish leaders - The Lord promised would lead by love and grace, by kindness and patience, by mercy and forgiveness.

Rom 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

Heb 1:1 On many past occasions and in many different ways, God spoke to our fathers through the prophets. 2 But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the ages.(not universe or world)

The process of salvation, the 'another day', is available to all men in a way that could be expressed in 3 phases;

Phase 1 of the new covenant is the time since Jesus began the church until his return. We are in the latter part of that, called TODAY, now.

This new age is open to Jew and Gentile alike, though the Jews/Israel has precedence in all things. The new age is available to all, but only through Jesus - only in him is the transition from death to life possible. He is the firstborn from the dead, the firstborn of many brethren. As Hebrews expresses, we are to enter a rest from works - law keeping to be made right with God (which we know was insufficient, but it sufficed for the time being). Now all men are made right through Jesus - if they choose to accept the terms of the covenant. Jesus' blood spilt for us - in him we die and in his new life we may live.

Rom 8:29 He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

Phase 2 begins, after the return of Christ (and the 1st resurrection of the 'saints') with the remnant of humanity (those that are not already his). Satan is removed from earth and deception with him. The new spirit-life saints reign over this earth and its remnant with Christ.

Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection! The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with Him for a thousand years. Rev 20:6

Phase 3 At the 2nd resurrection, all who have ever lived (and presently dead) will be raised to physical life and offered the same choice of spirit and life in Jesus. This is their 'another day'. Their first true opportunity to realise God's grace and know of the true son, Jesus who gave his life for them.

v5 The rest of the dead did not come back to life until the thousand years were complete.

When all 3 phases are concluded, comes the new heavens and earth.

This present age is NOT the only day of salvation. In God's grace He has provided "another day" - that all might be saved.

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