I would like to discuss this passage under the following headings:
- Who is the one who has entered God’s rest?
- How is this an argument for present Sabbath-keeping?
- How the change of the day takes place.
The last two points will be treated under one heading.
Who is the one who has entered God’s rest?
The majority of commentators answer that this refers to the believer’s entrance into God’s rest (Adam Clarke, Albert Barnes, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown, Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole). Yet Owen stands both against the majority in his day and our day in his opinion that, literally, the “he” should be the “He” of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some have likewise followed him in this understanding (John Gill, Henry Alford, Joseph Pipa, Robert Paul Martin, Richard Barcellos). This was not the first unique observation and contribution of Owen. In chapter 17, when dealing with Hebrews 10:29 (see here), we likewise noted Owen’s contribution.
Before beginning this important inquiry, let us get the literal translation of this passage. The ESV is unfortunately not wholly accurate in this verse.
Heb. 4:10 YLT for he who did enter into his rest, he also rested from his works, as God from His own.
Heb. 4:10 KJV For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God [did] from his.
What are the arguments for the assertion that v. 10 speaks of the Lord’s Jesus Christ here?
The Singular Person
It is to be noted that this is the first time in which the Author speaks of the one who has entered God’s rest in the singular person. The Author speaks of:
- “they” in Hebrews 3:11, 18, 19; 4:3, 5;
- the plural “you” in Hebrews 4:1, 7;
- “us” in Hebrews 4:2, 11;
- “we” in Hebrews 4:3;
- “some” in Hebrews 4:6;
- “he” in Hebrews 4:10.
Isn’t it interesting to see that throughout Hebrews 3:11-4:13 the singular person is only once employed for entering God’s rest? Whenever the Author speaks of the believer’s entering God’s rest, he always speaks of us collectively and in the plural number. Even after v. 10, in v. 11, the Author calls upon “us” that we should “strive to enter God’s rest”. If the Author is speaking of believers in v. 10, why doesn’t he continue with his use of the plural and say “for we have entered God’s rest and have also rested from our works…” It is certainly strange because that is how the Author speaks throughout his discourse. Moreover, notice that this rest which is entered into is Christ’s own rest or alternatively, the believer’s. But all throughout the Author’s discourse, the believers do not enter their rest, but God’s.
The Tense Of The Verbs
The work of the one under discussion is said to be in the past. He has both “entered” and “rested.” He is already fully in God’s Sabbath. But the believers are in fact not yet fully in God’s Sabbath rest. That is why they still need to “strive” and to persevere to enter that rest (Heb. 4:11). Yet the one being spoken of here has already entered and rested from his works. Dr. Pipa observes that “In verse 10, the writer described a rest that is already completed, while in verse 11 he clearly stated that the responsibility to enter into the rest remains for the believer.” Therefore, this cannot be the believer.
According to those who say that the believers are being spo...