What is the rest that God promises us? How does one qualify for God’s rest? How does a person not receive God’s rest?

Some verses about God’s rest: Exodus 33:14, Isaiah 14:3,and  Matthew 11:28.

Some verses about not experiencing God’s rest: Isaiah 28:12, Jeremiah 6:16, and Isaiah 30:15.

Also, see How can we enter into God’s rest?

My translation and notes on Hebrews 4:1-13.

1 Therefore, let us be very careful, lest, since the promise of entering his rest still remains, any of youp might think youp fell short of reaching it.

[All Israel left Egypt on their journey to the Promised Land. Those over 20 years old died except for two—Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 14:26-38). Those who died did die because they did not believe God].

2 For the Good News was spoken to us as well as to them, but the message heard [by them] did not benefit them, [because it was] not united with faith in those who heard it,

[They heard the Gospel just like people today. The message had no benefit because there was no faith. They did not believe God. What God speaks is total and good truth. We can believe or refuse to believe. The rest for Israel was life in the Promised Land under God’s guidance. The rest for non-Israel is life serving God in heaven and on earth forever. Compare Revelation 14:13, John 20:19, Romans 8:6, Romans 14:17, Psalm 29:11, and Psalm 119:165. Refusing to believe has consequences (Isaiah 28:12). Believing God’s words and message brings peace with God (Romans 5:1). Compare life for those who do not believe (Psalm 38:8, Isaiah 57:20, and Revelation 14:11)].

3 Yet, we who have believed enter rest. Just like he said, “As I have taken an oath in my wrath, those people will never enter into my rest,” even though the works were finished from the foundation of the world. [Psalm 95:11]

[There is a contrast here from the preceding. Believers do have a rest. The writer than expresses God’s anger at the people of Israel who refused to believe and enter God’s rest. This refusal is common among people today. They will not enter God’s rest. Vincent (WORD STUDIES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT) writes on this verse: This is an awkward and indirect way of saying, “these unbelievers did not enter into God’s rest, although he had provided that rest into which they might have entered.” The providing of the rest is implied in the completion of God’s works. The writer assumes the readers’ acquaintance with the narrative of the creation in Genesis].

4 For he spoke in a certain place about the seventh day this way, “And God rested the seventh day from all his works.” [Genesis 2:2]

5 Again here, “If they will enter into my rest…” [Psalm 95:11]

6 So then, it still remains for some [people] to enter it, and those to whom it was first spoken did not enter because of obstinate unbelief.

[The writer makes an emphasis on belief. God loves for people to believe, have faith, and trust in Him. The Greek word for ‘obstinate unbelief’ is ἀπείθεια apeítheia (G543). It means disobedience (Jerome, inobedientia), obstinacy, and in the N. T. particularly obstinate opposition to the divine will—Thayer].

7 Moreover, he designates a certain day, today—saying through David after such a long time—to quote it exactly, “Today—if youp will attentively hear his voice—do not harden yourp hearts.” [Psalm 95:7-8]

[The voice is there. It is God’s message. Most people do not take the time to go beyond just hearing the sound. All need to be interested in the message. If we take the time to not only listen but listen to know what is being said, then we have a choice to believe or not to believe, to agree with God’s message or disagree, to soften our attitude or harden our attitude. The writer urges all not to harden. We are to seek the rest that God provides. Albert Barnes (ALBERT BARNES’ NOTES ON THE BIBLE) writing on Psalm 95:7-8 states:

His voice calling you; commanding you; inviting you; encouraging you. See this passage explained in the notes at Hebrews 3:7-11. The word “today” here means “the present time;” now. The idea is, that the purpose to obey should not be deferred until tomorrow; should not be put off to the future. The commands of God should be obeyed at once; the purpose should be executed immediately. All God’s commands relate to the present. He gives us none for the future; and a true purpose to obey God exists only where there is a willingness to obey “now,” “today;” and can exist only then. A purpose to repent at some future time, to give up the world at some future time, to embrace the Gospel at some future time, is “no obedience,” for there is no such command addressed to us. A resolution to put off repentance and faith, to defer attention to religion until some future time, is real disobedience—and often the worst form of disobedience—for it is directly in the face of the command of God. “If ye will hear.” That is, If there is a disposition or willingness to obey his voice at all; or, to listen to his commands].

8 If Joshua had given them rest, then [God] afterward wouldn’t have spoken about another day.

[God’s rest has never fully been realized. There is spiritual rest but not total being (body, soul, and spiritual) rest. It will come for Israel and for the world when Jesus reigns in Jerusalem. Joshua is a very important man and is to be honored, but the rest that Joshua worked and fought for—under God’s directions—is not equal to Jesus. Jesus is greater, and the rest that Jesus gives is also greater].

9 Therefore, there remains a rest for the people of God.

10 For one who enters his rest also ceases from his own works, just as God did from his.

[‘His rest’ refers to the rest God gives. The Greek word for ‘rest’ is κατάπαυσις katápausis (G2663). It means to cease. This rest is a place of no suffering in body, soul, and spirit. It is being in God’s rest. The writer urges us not to ignore the opportunity to be in God’s rest. Compare Matthew 11:28-30, Psalm 23, and Revelation 21:3-6].

11 Therefore, let us be diligent to enter that rest, in order that no one would fall in the same obstinate unbelief.

[There is opportunity. We must take that opportunity today. Unbelief becomes obstinate the more we resist. Israel was obstinately refusing to believe God. The start of the walk of faith is finished. Now, we must continue our journey with God’s grace (Jude 1:24-25). The Greek word for ‘diligent’ is σπουδάζω spoudázō (G4704). It means to hasten with determination. God has given His message to us through the ministry of Jesus Christ. It is not to be disregarded. The provoking of God proves the Israelites did not have faith even though they heard God’s message and saw its effect but still refused to believe. Pett (DR. PETER PETT’S COMMENTARY) writes: The ancient Israelites, just like we do, received Good News of a rest that could be theirs (e.g. Exodus 6:6-8 and often). But the good news did not produce faith and trust in their hearts, and thus it did not profit them. Rather they provoked God and finally perished. We also have had Good news proclaimed to us by a greater than Moses. Have we then entered into that rest of which He spoke and become partakers of Him, or has it not met with faith in us as well]?

12 For the Word of God is living, powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to separate the soul and spirit, and joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

[God is able and knows the truth about each person. Note the truths about God’s word—spoken or written. Living—can bring into existence. Powerful—omnipotence. Sharper—to dissect even between soul and spirit. Discerner—knows the motives and attitudes of our choices].

13 Nor is there anything in creation that is not transparent in his sight, but all things are uncovered and opened to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account [of ourselves].

[Choices have consequences (Proverbs 12:21 and Proverbs 5:22) and accountability (Luke 12:20 and Matthew 12:26)].

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