For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day': an exposition on Paul's words in Hebrews 4:8

Samuel Smith



You are welcome to another edition of Insights from God's Word, a Bible study programme that is committed to sharing God's Word by allowing the Bible to speak for itself.

In this edition, we continue with our series on The Sabbath Question. The topic for this study is: "For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day": an exposition on Paul's words in Hebrews 4:8. Some in Christendom have been led through this text to believe that Christ gave His disciples another rest day to replace the Seventh-day Sabbath. In this study, I want us to critically consider the content of the text in Hebrews 4:8, and ascertain for ourselves the intended message that the apostle Paul wanted to convey to the Jewish believers in Christ.

Beloved, for us to obtain a clear understanding of difficult verses in Scripture (such as the one in Hebrews 4:8), we need to consider among other things the entire or key passage in which the difficult text is positioned. And so in this segment of our study, we are going to consider the key passage of Hebrews 4:1-11. I believe an analysis of the various verses in this passage will help us to come away with an understanding of our key text in Hebrews 4:8. To reach this desired goal, we will be analysing the entire passage in four sub - sections as follows:


"4:1 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.

4:2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

4:3 For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.

4:4 For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.

4:5 And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest.

4:6 Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief:

4:7 Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts."

(Hebrews 4:1-7)

Key Explanation: The first 7 verses in Hebrews 4 present the background of the entire passage. In these verses, Paul reminds his own countrymen about the terrible experience of their forefathers in the wilderness. He reminds them that even though God had promised them rest in the land of Canaan (see Genesis 12:6-7, Numbers 13:2, Deuteronomy 12:9-10), only few could enter into that rest because of their unbelief. The apostle Paul utilised this experience to exhort the Hebrews to learn some important lessons from their forefathers so that they will not also miss the ultimate rest that God has promised those who come to believe in Christ.


"For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day" (Hebrews 4:8).

Key Explanation: In this key text, Paul continues to exhort the Hebrews in relation to the rest that God desires for His children. The points outlined below will help to bring out the deeper meaning of this usually misinterpreted text:

1) It is important to note that the name Jesus as utilized by the KJV in Hebrews 4:8 is used in reference to Joshua, the son of Nun. The name "Jesus" is actually the Greek version of the Hebrew name "Joshua" (see how the Greek name Jesus is also used in place of Joshua in Acts 7:45). The NKJV as well as other modern translations use the name Joshua instead of Jesus to clear any ambiguities. The understanding obtained from this point that the 'Jesus' utilised in Hebrews 4:8 is actually used in reference to Joshua, the son of Nun, overthrows the teaching that Christ gave a new rest day to those who believed in Him (review Hebrews 4:8 carefully).

2) The text of Hebrews 4:8 actually captures the fact that it was through the leadership of Joshua that the Lord brought the Israelites to the promised land. However, the rest that Joshua obtained for the people of God was temporary. It was an earthly rest which was to actually pass away.

3) After establishing this point of a temporary rest in Hebrews 4:8, Paul now drew the mind of the Hebrew believers to the ultimate rest which is promised in Jesus Christ (see Isaiah 61:1-11; Matthew 11:28).

4) From Paul's comparative analysis in Hebrews 4, we gain an insight that Joshua is actually a type of Christ. Even as he led the Israelites to the promised land of Canaan, so will Christ also lead those who come to believe in Him to the promised inheritance of heaven (see John 14:1-3; Hebrews 11:10; 16).


One key parallelism that cannot be missed in the passage of Hebrews 4:1-11 is Paul's continuous linkage of the ultimate rest in Christ that he desired for the Hebrews with the weekly Sabbath rest. The following texts in the passage bring out this beautiful comparison: "4:4 For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.

4:9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.

4:10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

4:11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief."

(Hebrews 4:4, 9, 10, 11)
From these verses, we learn clearly about how the apostle Paul utilized the weekly Sabbath rest to teach the Jewish believers about the ultimate rest that is found in Jesus (review verses 4, 9). We learn about how Paul admonished the Hebrew believers that now that they have found Christ, they should rest in His gift of salvation by ceasing from their own works (that is, the carnal ordinances), even as God rested from His works of creation on the Sabbath (review verse 10). Finally, the apostle challenged the Jews to enter into the rest that is found through a belief in Christ so that they don't repeat the same example of unbelief which was exercised by their forefathers (review verse 11).

D) Thus beloved, from the scriptural passages we have reviewed so far, it is clear that the text in Hebrews 4:8 does not teach that Christ gave a new day of worship to replace the Sabbath day. On the contrary, the key passage of Hebrews 4:1-11 is actually a proof that believers in Christ continued to keep the Sabbath after the ascension of their Lord. This fact is seen in the way Paul employed the weekly Sabbath rest in a positive manner to help his Jewish brethren to understand the rest that they will have in believing on Jesus.

Exhortation: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you REST" (Matthew 11:28; Capital Emphasis Added).

"1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he RESTED on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had RESTED from all his work which God created and made" (Genesis 2:1-3; Capital Emphasis Added).

In our next study, we will consider the topic: Which day is the Bible Sabbath? The Bible study references for this study are Genesis 2:1-3, Exodus 20:10, Luke 23:50-56 and Luke 24:1-6. Please do well to go through these passages before the next study is released.

Stay blessed and keep shining for King Jesus.


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