“There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.”- Hebrews 4:9
It is important for us to understand what is being referred to here in these chapters. To paint the picture, the writer refers to the Exodus. The Jews were set free from the bondage of Egypt and they were led into the wilderness. God’s desire was not for them to remain in the wilderness, but to enter into the land of Canaan. They were to cross the Jordan. But, they stopped short because they doubted. They even wanted to return to Egypt and into bondage. In the Bible Egypt represents sin. When we accept Christ as Savior we are freed from the bondage of sin (Col.1:13-14) and enter into the rest of salvation.
The people were to cross the Jordan and enter the land of Canaan and take all the blessings of the land that God had given to them. Many hymns that have been written have portrayed the crossing the Jordan as death and entering the land of Canaan as eternity in heaven. However, Canaan is a poor example of heaven because in it, the people experienced battles and failures. It is important for us to get the picture here because the Jordon does not represent death and Canaan does not represent heaven, as many hymns portray. Crossing the Jordan and entering the promised land of Canaan represents the Christians spiritual inheritance and life of submission in Christ while on earth (see Eph.1:3). Laying that foundation helps us to understand more clearly what the writer of Hebrews is trying to communicate.
The Sabbath rest (Heb.4:4) is a picture of our rest in Jesus through salvation (being led out of Egypt). The Canaan rest (Heb.3:11) is when the Christian claims inheritance in Christ through submission and obedience (crossing the Jordan and entering Canaan to enjoy the full blessings of God while on earth). The third rest (Heb.4:9) is a reference to our future rest in heaven. It is viewed as a future rest because here the writer is saying that there remains a future rest. The Greek word being used for rest is only found in verse 9 in the New Testament and it means “a keeping of the Sabbath”. It is eternal rest.
Many of us as Christ followers accept Jesus as Savior (led out of Egypt) and with that comes our eternal rest in heaven for the future (the remaining rest). But while here on earth, many never cross the Jordan and enter into the land (our rest of submission). Many never experience God’s full blessings because of disobedience, doubt and fear. Sadly, we never take the land and are left wandering in the wilderness. As a Christ follower, where do you fit in this picture today? Are you reading God’s Words and taking steps of faith to enter into all the blessings He has for you today?
“The Canaan rest for Israel is a picture of the spiritual rest we find in Christ when we surrender to Him. When we come to Christ by faith, we find salvation rest (Matt.11:28). When we yield and learn of Him and obey Him by faith, we enjoy submission rest (Matt.11-29-30). The first is ‘peace with God’ (Rom.5:1); the second is the ‘peace of God’ (Phil.4:6-8). It is by believing that we enter into rest (Heb.4:3); it is by obeying god by faith and surrendering to His will that the rest enters into us.” – Wiersbe