Hebrews 4:9-16


Hebrews 4:9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God;

Verses 9 and 10 are a grand conclusion to verses 3 to 8.  "There" meaning "therefore" introduces this conclusion. These verses, 9-10, might be used as a beautiful text for a funeral. And verse 11 can be used as an admonition to those attending the funeral. Note that in verse 6 we had the impersonal use of the verb. In this verse one word is the subject of this verb. The writer has switched from "rest" to "sabbath rest." He has passed from type to fulfillment. Here he speaks of not just any people but "the people of God." The term here is used, as in Romans 9:6, denotes the true Israel, all believers in Christ. The sabbath rest is the consummation of God's saving purpose.

Hebrews 4:10 for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.

An explanation. This verse elucidates verses 4-9. These Notes understand this verse primarily of those "who have died in the Lord." Verse 10 can be studied with Matthew 11:28 and Revelation 14:13 with great profit. Matthew 11:28 tells us that we can find rest from toil already now. Revelation 14:13 tells us that the eternal rest is rest from all toils.

Hebrews 4:11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.

This verse points back to verses 1-10. As pointed out above, verses 11-13 form a section. Both sections, 1-10 and 11-13, begin with a hortatory subjunctive. These verses speak of the Christian's response to what God has done. Note the stress here once again on the individual. Disobedience is a form of unbelief and vice versa. Note that verse 11 is set off by itself as a separate paragraph. Nothing more need be said about that example. What follows is explanatory.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living 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.

There might be those who feel that what God said long ago cannot reach them. The writer sounds a warning. Verses 12-13 are a grand locus on the essence of the Word in both Old and New Testament. Note the epithets for the Word: living, active, sharp, piercing, judging. For the believer these are comforting words but for the unbeliever, terrifying words. What is dwelt on in these verses is the nature of the Word to enter, permeate and transform. Note five sets of synonyms. Note the parallel passages in some margins. By the way, none of the references is to John 1:1. It is not the same idea as in John 1:1. In verse 2 logos meant Gospel. Here it means both Law and Gospel. The nouns "soul" and "spirit" can hardly be invoked in the interest of trichotomy. The figure is that of all pervasiveness.

Hebrews 4:13 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.

No man can hide his sins from God. And no man is so desperate that God cannot help him.

Hebrews 4:14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.

"High priest"  was introduced at 2:17 and repeated at 3:1. In the section 4:14-10:18 is occurs fifteen times. Jesus is called the "Great" High priest because He is the God-man, Luke 1:32. Note that He  "passed through" not simply "passed into." Christ is now omnipresent also according to His human nature. Both natures in Christ are indicated in this verse.  "Let us constantly cling to." 

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin.

"For" is an explanation. It indicates why Christian faith and confession are profitable to us. Not the double negatives of different types. Likely here we have a litotes. The texts speaks of our weaknesses. These make us an easy target for Satan's temptations. But, He is no longer being tempted. Note the three adverbial phrases at the end of the verse. the first denotes the extent to which He was tempted. The second denotes a comparison between His temptations and ours. The third denotes a limitation or difference. The third modifies the second and is adversative "but without sin." 

Lenski: For this reason (that he had no sin) the temptations of Jesus were far more severe than ours ever are . . . It has been well pointed out that the point is not the outcome of Jesus' temptation but the extent and the degree of His temptation.
Westcott: As we strive to secure the promised rest we must cling firmly to the confession in which lies the assurance of success.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

"Since He is utterly trustworthy let us constantly approach." This implies faith and plainly indicates fearlessness. Our Father does not want us to be afraid of Him. God is a King. That is indicated by the word "throne." But His rulership is not one merely of might. It is one of grace, unmerited kindness. At the throne of grace we obtain mercy and find grace. No more filial picture of God than this can be found in Scripture. Mercy is His attitude toward the miserable. Grace is His attitude toward the undeserving. AAT: "To help us when we need it." God steps in to help us at the time when the need arises. Bruce feels that "throne of grace" is antitype of  "mercy seat," 9:5.

Luther: In Christ's humanity alone are we protected and saved.

Verses 14-16 bring us back to the theme of 2:14-18, comfort and conscience terrified by 4:12-13, and introduce the lengthy discourse on Christ, the High priest, 5:1-10:25.


Adapted for Buls' Notes on the Web, from Exegetical Notes Epistle Texts, Series B, Sundays After Pentecost By Harold H. Buls, Pages 87-88

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