on Hebrews 4 :9
There, remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God - It was not,
1. The rest of the Sabbath; it was not,
2. The rest in the promised land,
for the psalmist wrote long after the days of Joshua; therefore there is another rest, a state of blessedness, for the people of God; and this is the Gospel, the blessings it procures and communicates, and the eternal glory which it prepares for, and has promised to, genuine believers.
There are two words in this chapter which we indifferently translate rest, καταπαυσις and σαββατισμος· he first signifying a cessation from labor, so that the weary body is rested and refreshed; the second meaning, not only a rest from labor, but a religious rest; sabbatismus, a rest of a sacred kind, of which both soul and body partake. This is true, whether we understand the rest as referring to Gospel blessings, or to eternal felicity, or to both.
on Hebrews 4 :9
There remaineth, therefore, a rest - This is the conclusion to which the apostle comes. The meaning is this, that according to the Scriptures there is "now" a promise of rest made to the people of God. It did not pertain merely to those who were called to go to the promised land, nor to those who lived in the time of David, but it is "still" true that the promise of rest pertains to "all" the people of God of every generation. The "reasoning" by which the apostle comes to this conclusion is briefly this:
(1) That there was a "rest" - called "the rest of God" - spoken of in the earliest period of the world - implying that God meant that it should be enjoyed.
(2) that the Israelites, to whom the promise was made, failed of obtaining what was promised by their unbelief.
(3) that God intended that "some" should enter into his rest - since it would not be provided in vain.
(4) that long after the Israelites had fallen in the wilderness, we find the same reference to a rest which David in his time exhorts those whom he addressed to endeavor to obtain.
(5) that if all that had been meant by the word "rest," and by the promise, had been accomplished when Joshua conducted the Israelites to the land of Canaan, we should not have heard another day spoken of when it was possible to forfeit that rest by unbelief.
It followed, therefore, that there was something besides that; something that pertained to all the people of God to which the name rest might still be given, and which they were exhorted still to obtain. The word "rest" in this verse - σαββατισμὸς sabbatismos - "Sabbatism," in the margin is rendered "keeping of a Sabbath." It is a different word from σάββατον sabbaton - "the Sabbath;" and it occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, and is not found in the Septuagint. It properly means "a keeping Sabbath" from σαββατίζω sabbatizō - "to keep Sabbath." This word, not used in the New Testament, occurs frequently in the Septuagint; Exodus 16:30; Leviticus 23:32; Leviticus 26:35; 2 Chronicles 36:21; and in 3 Esdr. 1:58; 2 Macc. 6:6. It differs from the word "Sabbath." That denotes "the time - the day;" this, "the keeping," or "observance" of it; "the festival." It means here "a resting," or an observance of sacred repose - and refers undoubtedly to heaven, as a place of eternal rest with God. It cannot mean the rest in the land of Canaan - for the drift of the writer is to prove that that is "not" intended. It cannot mean the "Sabbath," properly so called - for then the writer would have employed the usual word σάββατον sabbaton - "Sabbath." It cannot mean the Christian Sabbath - for the object is not to prove that there is such a day to be observed, and his reasoning about being excluded from it by unbelief and by hardening the heart would be irrelevant. It must mean, therefore, "heaven" - the world of spiritual and eternal rest; and the assertion is, that there "is" such a "resting," or "keeping of a Sabbath" in heaven for the people of God. Hence, learn:
(1) that heaven is a place of cessation from wearisome toil. It is to be like the "rest" which God had after the work of creation (Hebrews 4:4, note), and of which that was the type and emblem. There will be "employment" there, but it will be without fatigue; there will be the occupation of the mind, and of whatever powers we may possess, but without weariness. Here we are often worn down and exhausted. The body sinks under continued toil, and fails into the grave. There the slave will rest from his toil; the man here oppressed and broken down by anxious care will cease from his labors. We know but little of heaven; but we know that a large part of what now oppresses and crushes the frame will not exist there. Slavery will be unknown; the anxious care for support will be unknown, and all the exhaustion which proceeds from the love of gain, and from ambition, will be unknown. In the wearisome toils of life, then, let us look forward to the "rest" that remains in heaven, and as the laborer looks to the shades of the evening, or to the Sabbath as a period of rest, so let us look to heaven as the place of eternal repose.
(2) heaven will be like a Sabbath. The best description of it is to say it is "an eternal Sabbath." Take the Sabbath on earth when best observed, and extend the idea to eternity, and let there be separated all idea of imperfection from its observance, and that would be heaven. The Sabbath is holy; so is heaven. It is a period of worship; so is heaven. It is for praise and for the contemplation of heavenly truth; so is heaven. The Sabbath is appointed that we may lay aside worldly cares and anxieties for a little season here; heaven that we may lay them aside forever.
(3) the Sabbath here should be like heaven. It is designed to be its type and emblem. So far as the circumstances of the case will allow, it should be just like heaven. There should be the same employments; the same joys; the same communion with God. One of the best rules for employing the Sabbath aright is, to think what heaven will be, and then to endeavor to spend it in the same way. One day in seven at least should remind us of what heaven is to be; and that day may be, and should be, the most happy of the seven.
(4) they who do not love the Sabbath on earth, are not prepared for heaven. If it is to them a day of tediousness; if its hours move heavily; if they have no delight in its sacred employments, what would an eternity of such days be? How would they be passed? Nothing can be clearer than that if we have no such happiness in a season of holy rest, and in holy employments here, we are wholly unprepared for heaven. To the Christian it is the subject of the highest joy in anticipation that heaven is to be "one long unbroken" sabbath - an eternity of successive Sabbath hours. But what to a sinner could be a more repulsive and gloomy prospect than such an eternal Sabbath?
(5) if this be so, then what a melancholy view is furnished as to the actual preparation of the great mass of people for heaven! How is the Sabbath now spent? In idleness; in business; in traveling; in hunting and fishing; in light reading and conversation; in sleep; in visiting; in riding, walking, lounging, "ennui;" - in revelry and dissipation; in any and every way "except the right way;" in every way except in holy communion with God. What would the race be if once transported to heaven as they are! What a prospect would it be to this multitude to have to spend "an eternity" which would be but a prolongation of the Sabbath of holiness!
(6) let those who love the Sabbath rejoice in the prospect of eternal rest in heaven. In our labor let us look to that world where wearisome toil is unknown; in our afflictions, let us look to that world where tears never fall; and when our hearts are pained by the violation of the Sabbath all around us, let us look to that blessed world where such violation will cease forever. It is not far distant. A few steps will bring us there. Of any Christian it may be said that perhaps his next Sabbath will be spent in heaven - near the throne of God.
on Hebrews 4 :9
4:9 Therefore - Since he still speaks of another day, there must remain a farther, even an eternal, rest for the people of God.