By Tyson Thorne

March 14, 2018

Hebrews 06 Large

In chapter four the author turns to an elaboration of a very Jewish concept, that of God's rest. He addresses the issue not in the manner of a theologian, with definitions and detailed analysis, but as a pastor warning his flock not to miss it. While his point is well made, and still highly relevant to all believers, we are so removed from his time, language and culture that we must do the work of the theologian so that we may enjoy the passionate teachings of the pastor. To this end we begin by learning the meaning of "rest".

There are three Greek words used for rest in this passage. Two are based on the same word, katapau- in the noun (rest) and verb (to rest) forms, but the third is altogether different. The third is the noun sabbatiosmos (Sabbath-rest). In the text it is made clear that this rest is more than a day of sleeping in and relaxation, it is no more rest than the drink Jesus referred to as "living water" is H2O. The rest referred to here is God's rest, something that requires some explanation. He harkens back to the creation story in Genesis one where God rested on the seventh day, and to the rest the Israelites were to know once they entered the promised land. Unfortunately in the later case, the first generation was denied such rest and perished in the desert. How, then, are we to understand this "rest"?

Many mistakenly believe that "entering God's rest" means to enter heaven, or eternal bliss. If this were the case, how could God promise the Israelites such rest when entering the land? While it is clear from the text that this rest, like heaven, may only be entered by faith it is still distinctly different. Something besides heaven must be in view.

Based on the context the first verse of chapter four is based on a future event, notice the language used: "while the promise of entering his rest remains open...". Notice too that verses three and four tell us the rest was prepared from the foundation of the world. In verse eight the rest is referred to as a prophetic day. So this rest is clearly a future blessing for believers prepared by God in advance. In verse nine sabbatismos is the word used — a word that had special meaning to the Jews of the day; in Jewish Hellenistic literature sabbatismos refers to the kingdom age!

Am I saying, then, that the rest in Hebrews four is referring to the millennial kingdom? Not yet, there are a couple more evidences to consider. For instance, Psalm 95, quoted in the chapter, bring us closer to the truth. That psalm speaks to Israel's dwelling in the land, therefore settlement in the land cannot be separated from the promised rest, just like the millennial kingdom. Finally, Psalm 95 is an enthronement psalm and such hymns tell the story of a divine kingdom yet to be founded upon the earth. The theme of enthronement psalms is eschatological and look forward to the rule of God on earth.

So yes, now I'm ready to say it: the Sabbath-rest referred to by the author of Hebrews is the coming millennial kingdom.

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