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Hebrews 4:1

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Let us therefore fear - Seeing the Israelites lost the rest of Canaan, through obstinacy and unbelief, let us be afraid lest we come short of the heavenly rest, through the same cause.

Should seem to come short of it - Lest any of us should actually come short of it; i.e. miss it. See the note on the verb δοκειν, to seem, Luke 8:18; (note). What the apostle had said before, relative to the rest, might be considered as an allegory; here he explains and applies that allegory, showing that Canaan was a type of the grand privileges of the Gospel of Christ, and of the glorious eternity to which they lead.

Come short - The verb ὑστερειν is applied here metaphorically; it is an allusion, of which there are many in this epistle, to the races in the Grecian games: he that came short was he who was any distance, no matter how small, behind the winner. Will it avail any of us how near we get to heaven, if the door be shut before we arrive? How dreadful the thought, to have only missed being eternally saved! To run well, and yet to permit the devil, the world, or the flesh, to hinder in the few last steps! Reader, watch and be sober.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Let us therefore fear - Let us be apprehensive that we may possibly fall of that rest. The kind of “fear” which is recommended here is what leads to caution and care. A man who is in danger of losing his life or health should be watchful; a seaman that is in danger of running on a lee-shore should be on his guard. So we who have the offer of heaven, and who yet are in danger of losing it, should take all possible precautions lest we fail of it.

Lest a promise being left us - Paul assumes here that there is such a promise. In the subsequent part of the chapter, he goes more into the subject, and proves from the Old Testament that there is such a promise made to us. It is to be remembered that Paul had not the New Testament then to appeal to, as we have, which is perfectly clear on the subject, but that he was obliged to appeal to the Old Testament. This he did not only because the New Testament was not then written, but because he was reasoning with those who had been Hebrews, and who regarded the authority of the Old Testament as decisive. If his reasoning to us appears somewhat obscure, we should put ourselves in his place, and should remember that the converts then had not the full light which we have now in the New Testament.

Of entering into his rest - The rest of God - the rest of the world where he dwells. It is called “his” rest, because it is what he enjoys, and which he alone can confer. There can be no doubt that Paul refers here to heaven, and means to say that there is a promise left to Christians of being admitted to the enjoyment of that blessed world where God dwells.

Any of you should seem to come short of it - The word “seem” here is used as a form of gentle and mild address, implying the possibility of thus coming short. The word here - δοκέω dokeō- is often used so as to appear to give no essential addition to the sense of a passage, though it is probable that it always gave a shading to the meaning. Thus, the phrase “esse videatur” is often used by Cicero at the end of a period, to denote merely that a thing “was” - though he expressed it as though it merely “seemed” to be. Such language is often used in argument or in conversation as a “modest” expression, as when we say a thing “seems” to be so and so, instead of saying “it is.” In some such sense Paul probably used the phrase here - perhaps as expressing what we would by this language - “lest it should appear at last that any of you had come short of it.” The phrase “come short of it” is probably used with reference to the journey to the promised land, where they who came out of Egypt “came short” of that land, and fell in the wilderness. They did not reach it. This verse teaches the important truth that, though heaven is offered to us, and that a “rest” is promised to us if we seek it, yet that there is reason to think that many may fail of reaching it who had expected to obtain it. Among those will be the following classes:

(1)Those who are professors of religion but who have never known anything of true piety.

(2)those who are expecting to be saved by their own works, and are looking forward to a world of rest on the ground of what their own hands can do.

(3)those who defer attention to the subject from time to time until it becomes too late. They expect to reach heaven, but they are not ready to give their hearts to God “now,” and the subject is deferred from one period to another, until death arrests them unprepared.

(4)those who have been awakened to see their guilt and danger, and who have been almost but not quite ready to give up their hearts to God. Such were Agrippa, Felix, the young ruler Mark 10:21, and such are all those who are “almost” but not “quite” prepared to give up the world and to devote themselves to the Redeemer. To all these the promise of “rest” is made, if they will accept of salvation as it is offered in the gospel; all of them cherish a hope that they will be saved; and all of them are destined alike to be disappointed. With what earnestness, therefore, should we strive that we may not fail of the grace of God!

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The privileges we have under the gospel, are greater than any had under the law of Moses, though the same gospel for substance was preached under both Testaments. There have been in all ages many unprofitable hearers; and unbelief is at the root of all unfruitfulness under the word. Faith in the hearer is the life of the word. But it is a painful consequence of partial neglect, and of a loose and wavering profession, that they often cause men to seem to come short. Let us then give diligence, that we may have a clear entrance into the kingdom of God. As God finished his work, and then rested from it, so he will cause those who believe, to finish their work, and then to enjoy their rest. It is evident, that there is a more spiritual and excellent sabbath remaining for the people of God, than that of the seventh day, or that into which Joshua led the Jews. This rest is, a rest of grace, and comfort, and holiness, in the gospel state. And a rest in glory, where the people of God shall enjoy the end of their faith, and the object of all their desires. The rest, or sabbatism, which is the subject of the apostle's reasoning, and as to which he concludes that it remains to be enjoyed, is undoubtedly the heavenly rest, which remains to the people of God, and is opposed to a state of labour and trouble in this world. It is the rest they shall obtain when the Lord Jesus shall appear from heaven. But those who do not believe, shall never enter into this spiritual rest, either of grace here or glory hereafter. God has always declared man's rest to be in him, and his love to be the only real happiness of the soul; and faith in his promises, through his Son, to be the only way of entering that rest.
Ellen G. White
This Day With God, 344.4

God does not take man with his own natural feelings and deficiencies and place him right in the light of the countenance of God. No, man must do his part, and while man works out his own salvation, with fear and trembling, it is God that worketh in him to will and to do of His own good pleasure. With these two combined powers, man will be victorious, and receive a crown of life at last. He stands in view of the haven of bliss and the eternal weight of glory before him, and he fears lest he will lose it, lest a promise being left, he shall come short of it. He cannot afford to lose it. He wants that haven of bliss, and strains every energy of his being to secure it. He taxes his abilities to the utmost. He puts to the stretch every spiritual nerve and muscle that he may be a successful overcomer in this work, and that he may obtain the precious boon of eternal life.... TDG 344.4

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Ellen G. White
This Day With God, 104.2

Oh, if every one would only know by personal experience how much of heaven's promised rest can be secured to the soul, even now, by sincere prayer. If one has not learned this lesson, every other lesson of life [had] better not be learned till he shall learn in the school of Christ how to master this lesson. TDG 104.2

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Ellen G. White
That I May Know Him, 162.3

We shall be saved eternally when we enter in through the gates into the city. Then we may rejoice that we are saved, eternally saved. But until then we need to heed the injunction of the apostle, and to “fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of us should seem to come short of it” (Hebrews 4:1). Having a knowledge of Canaan, singing the songs of Canaan, rejoicing in the prospect of entering into Canaan, did not bring the children of Israel into the vineyards and olive groves of the Promised Land. They could make it theirs in truth only by occupation, by complying with the conditions, by exercising living faith in God, by appropriating His promises to themselves.... TMK 162.3

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6 (EGW), 1100

Yet Paul comes as near to expressing it as he can, that the imagination may grasp the reality as far as is possible to finite minds. It was a weight of glory, a fullness of God, knowledge that was measureless. It was an eternal weight of glory. And yet Paul feels that his language is tame. It falls short of expressing the reality. He reaches out for words more expressive. The boldest figures of speech would fall far short of the truth. He seeks the broadest terms which human language can supply, that the imagination may grasp in some degree the superlative excellency of the glory to be given the final overcomer. 6BC 1100.1

Holiness, dignity, honor, and felicity in the presence of God are things now unseen except by the eye of faith. But the things which are seen, worldly honor, worldly pleasure, riches, and glory, are eclipsed by the excellency, the beauty, and resplendent glory of the things now unseen. The things of this world are temporal, enduring only for a time, while the things which are not seen are eternal, enduring through endless ages. To secure this infinite treasure is to gain everything and lose nothing (Manuscript 58, 1900). 6BC 1100.2

18 (Colossians 3:2; Hebrews 11:27; see EGW on 2 Corinthians 6:17, 18). Seeing Him Who Is Invisible—Our minds take the level of the things on which our thoughts dwell, and if we think upon earthly things, we shall fail to take the impress of that which is heavenly. We would be greatly benefited by contemplating the mercy, goodness, and love of God; but we sustain great loss by dwelling upon those things which are earthly and temporal. We allow sorrow and care and perplexity to attract our minds to earth, and we magnify a molehill into a mountain.... 6BC 1100.3

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