The Sabbath That Remains
“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.” -- Hebrews 4:9-11
Sabbath keeping is not a matter of indifference. It is not one of those areas about which the Scriptures give no specific instructions. In fact, the instructions given in the Word of God about sabbath keeping are very specific and clear.
Like circumcision, the passover, and all other aspects of legal, ceremonial worship during the Old Testament, the legal sabbath day was established by our God to be a sign, picture, and type of grace and salvation in Christ. This is not a matter of speculation and guesswork. This is exactly what God says about the matter in Exodus 31:13. -- “Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.”
Because sabbath keeping was a legal type of our salvation in Christ during the age of carnal ordinances, like the passover and circumcision, once Christ came and fulfilled the type, the carnal ordinance ceased. In the New Testament, we are strictly and directly forbidden to keep any of those carnal ordinances. In fact, we are plainly told that those who attempt to worship God on the grounds of legal ordinances are yet under the curse of the law. They have not yet learned the gospel.
Circumcision is forbidden as an ordinance of divine worship (Gal. 5:2, 4). Those who have their babies sprinkled to bring them into the church and kingdom of God, to seal them into the covenant of grace, attempting to retain the carnal ordinance of circumcision, by their act of sprinkling that child deny the gospel of salvation by grace alone. They deny the necessity of heart circumcision by the Spirit of God.
Passover observance is forbidden since Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us (1 Cor. 5:7). Those who continue to offer up sacrifices to God, either for atonement, or penance, or to gain a higher degree of divine favor, or to prevent his anger, by their sacrifices deny that Christ’s death at Calvary was an effectual satisfaction for the sins of his people. If something must be added by me to his blood and his righteousness, then his blood and his righteousness are totally useless.
In exactly the same way, those who attempt to sanctify themselves by keeping a carnal sabbath deny that Christ is enough to give us perfect acceptance with the thrice holy God. As Paul puts it in Colossians 2:23, they make an outward show of spirituality and wisdom; but it is all will-worship. Such pretenses of humility are nothing but the satisfying of the flesh. Not only that, the whole matter of sabbath keeping is strictly forbidden by the Holy Spirit in Colossians 2:16-17. Since the Lord Jesus Christ has, by his death at Calvary, blotted out the handwriting of the ordinances that was against us, since he nailed God’s broken law to the cross and put away our sins, he alone is our Sabbath. We rest in him. All carnal sabbath keeping, any form of it, is strictly forbidden on the basis of the fact that in Christ all true believers are totally free from the law (Rom. 7:4; 10:4).
The Sabbath that Remains
Yet, the New Testament does speak of a sabbath keeping that remains for the people of God (Heb. 4:9-11.) The children of Israel perished in the wilderness because of unbelief. They could not enter into God’s typical rest in the land of Canaan; they could not enter into that typical picture of God’s salvation because of unbelief (Heb. 4:1-6).
Though that unbelieving generation perished in unbelief, the purpose of God was not and could not be hindered. There is an elect multitude who must and shall enter into his rest (Heb. 4:6). However, that typical rest given by Joshua in the land of Canaan was not the rest purposed and purchased for God’s elect. It was only typical of that blessed rest of faith that is ours in Christ (Heb. 4:7-8).
It is this remaining sabbath rest that is discussed in Hebrews 4:9-11. The Scriptures declare, and declare very plainly, that the Old Testament sabbath day finds its fulfilment and complete accomplishment in Christ. All true believers, all who trust Christ keep the sabbath by faith in him.
First, the Holy Spirit here declares that The Lord Jesus Christ has entered into his rest, and his rest is glorious, because he has finished his work (Isa. 11:10; 2 Cor. 5:17-21; Rom. 8:34; Heb. 10:11-14), and his rest is glorious, just as Isaiah 11:10 declared it would be. Our Savior’s rest in heaven is his glory. In fact, as indicated by the marginal translation of the last sentence of Isaiah 11:10, his rest is his glory.
As God the Father rested on the seventh day, because his work of creation was finished; so God the Son rested in the seventh day of time and entered into his rest forever, because he has finished his work of making all things new for his people (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 10:11-14).
Read Matthew 28:1. This is a very remarkable verse of Scripture. I wish all who read these lines could read this text in its original language. – “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.”
The verse quite literally reads, “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the sabbath.” I take the verse to mean this: -- When the Lord Jesus Christ died at Calvary and rose again, the old sabbath of the law ended and the new sabbath of grace began. I cannot conceive any other interpretation of Matthew’s words.
Behold our exalted Savior! Do you see him seated yonder upon his throne in heaven? There he sits in the undisturbed, undisturbable serenity of his absolute sovereignty! His rest is his glory (John 17:2; Phil. 2:9-11; Isa. 45:20-25). He has finished his work (John 17:4; 19:30). He has brought in everlasting righteousness by his obedience and obtained eternal redemption by his blood. Because Christ has finished his work, the salvation of his people is certain (Heb. 9:12). The works were finished before the foundation of the world in God’s purpose. They were finished in time when the God-man took his seat in heaven as our forerunner (Heb. 6:20). There is no more work to be done. Christ did it all. Since he has finished his work, he sat down in his glory. There he is resting; and his rest is his glory!
Second, the Holy Spirit declares that every sinner who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ keeps the sabbath by faith by entering into his rest (Heb. 4:3, 9-10). – “For we which have believed do enter into rest…There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.” We keep the sabbath of faith, a spiritual sabbath, not a carnal one. We rest in Christ, trusting his finished work, by faith entering into his rest.
The believer’s life is a perpetual keeping of the sabbath. None of us keeps it perfectly. Our best faith in this world is still unbelief. But we do keep this blessed sabbath rest sincerely, ever looking to Christ, ever coming to Christ, ever resting in Christ (Matt. 11:28-30).
Our all glorious Christ gives rest to every sinner who comes to him in faith. He says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
“I heard the voice of Jesus say,
‘Come unto me and rest,
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down
Thy head upon my breast.’
I came to Jesus as I was -
Weary, and worn, and sad:
I found in Him a resting place,
And He has made me glad!”
The Lord Jesus Christ has given and continually gives us rest. He gives us the rest of complete pardon (Isa. 45:22; Eph. 1:6), perfect reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 1:20-21), absolute security (John 10:27-30; Phil. 1:6; 1 Thess. 5:24), and of his special providence (Rom. 8:28).
As the ceremonial sabbath of the law portrayed a strict, universal consecration to God, so this blessed sabbath of faith involves the perpetual consecration of ourselves to our God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 11:29-30). We keep the sabbath of faith when we willfully, deliberately take the yoke of Christ. If we would keep the sabbath, it involves much, much more than living in religious austerity one day a week. To keep the sabbath is to bow to Christ’s dominion. To keep the sabbath is to learn of him what to believe, how to live, what to do, how to honor God. To keep the sabbath is to bow to his will.
How can a troubled, weary, heavy-laden, tempest tossed sinner obtain this blessed sabbath rest? I can tell you, both from experience and from the Word of God, there is only one way we can enter into his rest. We have to quit working! We have to trust Christ alone for everything!
Labor To Enter In
Third, we must labor to enter into that great, eternal rest of glory with Christ in heaven. “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Heb. 4:11). There is a great, eternal sabbath to be obtained. “There remaineth therefore a rest (a sabbath) to the people of God” (Heb. 4:9). -- An Eternal Remembrance of Redemption -- An Eternal, Perfect Consecration to Christ -- An Eternal Rest!
Some have already entered into that rest. “For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his” (Heb. 4:10). I have already shown you that this refers to Christ as our covenant Surety and Mediator; but it also refers to all God’s elect. There are many who cannot enter in because of unbelief. They simply cannot give up their own works as a grounds of righteousness before God.
Those who have entered into their heavenly rest have ceased from their own works. Their days of labor and toil are forever ended. They now serve God night and day, perfectly and without end; but there is no toil or labor involved in their service. Those who have entered into the blessed rest of faith in Christ have also ceased from their own works. They have quit trying to win, keep, or improve standing in God’s favor by their own righteousness. Believers simply trust Christ alone for righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30; Phil. 3:7-10). Then, there are some who “must enter therein.” There is an elect multitude of redeemed sinners who yet must enter into this blessed rest.
“Let us therefore labor (strive) to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief!” I cannot think of a better way to expound those words than by taking the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:7-14 for an inspired commentary on them.
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. -- Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, -- And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: -- That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; -- If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. -- Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. -- Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, -- I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
The penalty for not keeping the sabbath is still death. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). If we would be saved we must keep and satisfy the whole of God’s law. There is only one way we can do that. We keep the law by faith in Christ, only by faith in Christ. “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Rom. 3:31). Believing on the Lord Jesus Christ we offer the holy Lord God everything his holy law demands: -- perfect righteousness and perfect satisfaction. Come to Christ and rest forever! This is the sabbath that remains.
 I do not suggest that all who practice infant sprinkling, calling it the New Testament equivalent of circumcision, know that their popish practice implies such a denial of the gospel; but the implication cannot be denied. It is as clear a denial of the gospel as the papists’ mass.
 The word “rest,” which is used over and over and over in Hebrews 3 and 4, means to repose back, to lay down, to be at peace, to cease from work, to be at home. But, the word translated “rest” in verse nine is an entirely different word. The word here translated rest means “sabbatism,” or “a keeping of a sabbath.”