The author of this passage instructs its readers to works towards or strives towards entering God’s Rest. The nature of this rest and what it entails will be the major focus on this paper where will be analysing the actions and instructions that are related to this rest and what it means for future goals and present reality. In relationship to the author’s elaborate argumentation of the ascendancy of the new covenant over the old, Hebrews 3:7-4:13 can be regarded as a sort of parenthesis. It is preceded by a brief section on the supremacy of Jesus to Moses and is immediately followed by the opening phrase of the long discussion of Jesus as the new and better High Priest. Despite its status as the longest of the author’s “exhortation side-tracks,” this unit is nevertheless linked to the overall flow of the epistle on both ends by the obvious relation of Moses (3:1-6) to rest and the heavenly aspect of both rest and the heavens which Christ the High Priest passed through (4:14).
Although the unit forms a complete thought from start to finish, it can be easily divided into halves. The shift takes place in 4:1 as the author has finished his exposition of the exodus generation’s failure to enter rest and begins his exhortation to the readers to enter rest. The distinction is also demonstrated in that the rest of which the author is speaking in chapter 4 is different from the one in chapter 3. However, the author continues to draw implications from the historical situation of the earthly rest as if the same rules apply to both (v. 6). He uses the historical rest typologically, but in a type to anti-type relationship.
Having established 4:1 as a logical opening to the passage, the difficult task of setting an end-limit on the passage remains. The famous “word of God” section (4:12-13) concludes the whole unit, yet appears to stand alone. Much of the confusion of its relation to the preceding section is wiped away if the “word of God” itself is not regarded as Scripture but rather God’s judgment. We will discuss in greater detail as to why this so later, but for our purposes in setting the limits to the passage something must be said. The judgment language of 4:12-13 constitutes a final and stern warning to strengthen the exhortation. It is an essential part of the passage, for the author chooses not to end with a mere call to enter rest but makes an appeal to the reader’s fear of God’s judgment in order to persuade them unto obedience.
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