. . . for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.
- HEBREWS 4:10
In Hebrews 4, the writer of Hebrews reflects on the topic of rest and includes a quote from Genesis 2:2, a verse that says God “rested” on the seventh day of Creation. This verse from Genesis frequently strikes people as odd. If God is really the all-powerful Creator of the universe, why would He need to rest? Was God tired?
We often associate the idea of “rest” with being tired and needing sleep, but in the cultural context of Genesis, rest — specifically a god’s rest — was associated with security and control. When a god was said to be resting in his temple, the idea was that he or she had things under control, all potential crises had been averted, and life was operating normally. This is the idea behind God’s rest in Genesis 2:2. To say that God “rested” in His cosmic temple was to say that He had successfully brought order out of chaos through Creation and He had control over the universe.
So why does the writer of Hebrews include this verse in Hebrews 4? Genesis 2:2 makes a powerful statement that God is the One who is really in control of the world, but we frequently live our lives as though we are in control. We allow our success — the fruit of our labor — to deceive us into thinking that if we work hard enough and long enough, we can secure whatever outcome we desire. This false sense of control can even bleed over into our belief about our eternal outcome. We believe that if we do enough good things, we can secure a spot in Heaven. This conflicts with the argument that the writer of Hebrews has been making and will continue to make throughout the book: eternal security only comes through faith in what God has accomplished, not from anything we can do. As Hebrews 4:3 says, “Now we who have believed enter that rest.”
In light of this, the writer challenged the original readers and us to do our best to “enter [God’s] rest” (Hebrews 4:11). We enter God’s rest when we humbly acknowledge that He is in control and “rest from [our] works” to secure our own eternity (Hebrews 4:10).
A SABBATH-REST FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD
1 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 nished 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.
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.