The writer of the book of Hebrews explains what it means to enter into God’s rest (Hebrews 3-4).
The Old Testament
According to Hebrews, the Lord originally designed that Moses should lead Israel into the Canaan “rest.” But neither Moses nor the generation that left Egypt entered Canaan (Hebrews 3:11, 18; 4:3, 5). God’s promise to Israel was not fulfilled because of the rebellion at Kadesh-barnea (Hebrews 3:7–11).
Joshua led the next generation into Canaan (Deuteronomy 3:18, 20; Joshua 21:44; 23:1). However, the entrance of Israel into literal Canaan was merely one aspect of the “rest” God planned for His people. Once they occupied the the Promised Land, the Lord planned to make them His witnesses to all the world. But because of their unbelief, God could not receive them into His spiritual “rest.”
In the days of David, God recalled His people to enter into His spiritual “rest.” But it was clear, by New Testament times, that Israel as a nation had not entered into God’s “rest.” Nonetheless, God’s call was not cancelled for when God promises, He fulfills His promise in spite of men’s short comings (Hebrews 4:3, 4).
The New Testament
Since God’s children have not yet entered into His “rest,” it is certain that “there remains … a rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9). If God’s people will “come boldly unto the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16), where Christ ministers as “the Apostle and High Priest of our profession” (Hebrews 3:1; 4:14, 15), they will find One who can “be touched with the feeling of” their “infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15), and will “obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). And by doing that, they will enter into God’s spiritual “rest,” the “rest” of the hearts to the repentant sinners. This experience that Israel had failed to enter in centuries before becomes a reality for the true believers in the New Testament (Hebrews 3:13, 15).
Faith is the way to entering into God’s “rest” (Hebrews 4:2; 3:18, 19; 4:6; 11). And we should “take heed” lest there be in us “an evil heart of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:12). “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. … Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Hebrews 4:1, 11).
In the old ceremonial system, believers were do specific “works” to help them understand the plan of redemption by the Messiah. But under the ministry of Christ as high Priest, believers are to go directly to Him without the mediation of a human priest. They are to obtain “rest” in Him, without the “works” which were commanded by the ceremonial system.
In Hebrews 3 and 4, the writer urges the Jewish Christians to cease from the useless “works” of ceremonies and to enter into the God’s rest of simple faith in the blood of Jesus Christ our high Priest in the heavenly temple. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29). Those who enter into God’s rest will conform their lives to His “good way” (Jeremiah 6:16).
In His service,