4 Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let
us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2
For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did;
but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did
not share the faith of those who obeyed.[a] 3 Now we who have believed
enter that rest, just as God has said,
“So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’”[b]
And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world.
4 For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words:
“On the seventh day God rested from all his works.”[c] 5 And again in
the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”
6 Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and
since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not
go in because of their disobedience, 7 God again set a certain day,
calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke
through David, as in the passage already quoted:
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”[d]
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later
about another day. 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for thepeople of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from
their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, makeevery effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by
following their example of disobedience.
What is this "Sabbath-rest for the people of God" that everyone should make every effort to enter, as Hebrews 4 indicates? What does this rest consist of, in simple and concrete terms? How does one enter this rest? How does one exit it? Are we to experience this rest during this life or in the afterlife? Is it temporary (e.g. every seventh day) or permanent (i.e. every day)? Are there rules/conditions governing it (in terms of things one is expected to do/not to do during the rest)?
In light of the previous questions: What is an OVERVIEW of the main interpretations the concept of "Sabbath-rest" is given in Christianity?
(**) Note: the multiple questions above are just suggested guidelines to explain the concept of "Sabbath-rest" which different denominations may interpret differently. Think of them as points to keep in mind while writing your overview, i.e., you don't have to answer each one explicitly, feel free to structure your answer as you see fit.
I have really only seen two major divisions in interpreting the "rest" considered in Hebrews 4. The first is a fragmented or parceled-out rest that can be accepted or received in stages and the second is a completed package. In the first view, whatever is most difficult to apprehend may be left off for now while that which is "at minimum" may be availed. In the second view, while the fullness of "rest" may escape us experientially in the present, once entered the whole package has been accessed. I am unaware of exactly where each Christian denomination falls within these two divisions except to say that Adventists are in the first and most mainline Christian denominations are in the second. Within the second there are those who hold that the "rest" is ultimately a future heaven and those who hold that the "rest" is both now and future. The differences between these are tied up in differences in soteriology and not in the nature of the "rest" itself. Both positions converge in the idea that, from God's perspective, the "rest" is and always has been completed.
The magazine "Adventist Today", in an article analyzing Hebrews 4, has little to say regarding once per week Sabbath keeping. Where Hebrews 4:3 says, "For we who have believed enter that rest" there is reference to the old testament sacrifices and indeed the keeping of the whole covenant of the Law but it is given in the negative:
For one thing, verse three starts by saying, “we who have believed enter that rest.” And as the English translation indicates, the form of the Greek verb “enter” does not imply a future tense in which believers “will enter that rest” but suggests either that they enter rest now or are in the process of entering. Plus, the phrase “have believed” clearly suggests an accomplished action. In other words, the original readers were in some sense already experiencing rest in the present, at least in part. Verse ten confirms this idea by saying that those who partake of God’s rest have also rested from their own works, a phrase that almost certainly refers to their acceptance of the atonement that Christ had already achieved (1:3; 9:24-26). In that case, the “works” they had laid down would surely include the old testament sacrifices, and possibly the expectation to live out the covenant of law as a whole.
No indication is given here that the Sabbath commandment is either included in or excluded from "the expectation to live out the covenant of law as a whole". As the article progresses, however, it becomes apparent that the Sabbath rest is seen as something that predates Sinai. The rest that yet remains for God's people is that Edenic rest which was part of God's original creation and which was forfeited by Adam and Eve. This rest has always been available for anyone who would "come and claim it":
Finally, the Greek word translated “remain” throughout the chapter, like the related word remnant, conveys the idea of something left over. This facet of the term’s meaning would help explain the unexpected reference to God’s finished work in creation, because it implies that the rest into which the Israelites should have entered is the same rest that Adam and Eve had forfeited in the garden. It points to the original creation rest that God established in the beginning but which had gone unused. That means the promised land was a new installment of Eden. It also means the rest that has been available since the time of Christ is a slice of creation rest too, a reinstatement of the untainted wholeness “left over” from the beginning.
Putting all these hints and allusions together, the author of Hebrews seems to be saying that from the seventh day of creation on, God’s work has been finished. And from the time of Abraham on, the homeland that God had prepared for His people had been finished too. Each of these provisions constituted a kind of rest that was in place the whole time, like a gift prepared for a friend who never arrived to pick it up. The completed rest of God – like that still-wrapped gift – has “remained” there on the shelf, so to speak, ready and waiting for people to come and claim it. Moreover, from a first-century perspective, Jesus had just added another rest, His completed, once-for-all atonement. So, spiritual rest had been provided too, though his readers were on the verge of wasting that gift as well.
This view appears to interpret "rest" in a somewhat layered fashion with the intended "rest" of creation parceled out or manifested in "installments" of physical/temporal rest available through the land promised to Abraham and in the "spiritual rest" provided by Christ. The summary of the article encourages us that, if all of this is too difficult to accept all at once, we can "at minimum" enjoy relational peace with God now.
To sum up, the mind-blowing, mystical lesson encrypted in the fourth chapter of Hebrews is this: in some sense, everything is already done, complete, and finished; and has been from the beginning. The chapter thus imparts a vision of how to live fruitfully in the present, not in quietism or passive inaction but in the peace and power of the Spirit. It intimates a life of faith that unfolds organically, in which individuals embrace rest as their starting point and perform their work in a mindset of rest, while progressing towards ultimate rest in the kingdom. And should all that be too much to accept, then, at minimum the chapter invites believers to know relational peace with God now, confident that His work of reconciliation is indeed finished and that they too “have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (10:10).”
Remarkably, in this Adventist treatment of Hebrews chapter 4, there is no mention of any requirement of weekly Sabbath keeping or any instruction or defense regarding which day of the week the Sabbath should be.
For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works. - Hebrews 4:4
Hebrews 4 defines this rest that is being spoken of as that rest wherein God rested from all his works. Verses 3 and 5 further define that rest as a possession of God: My rest. It is that rest with which God has rested. In the creative act God accomplished all that He intended including those things which, in our temporal economy, appear as yet future. In this way the coming forth of Israel's ruler (yet future) is said to be "from of old, from ancient days". (Micah 5:2). In this way also the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). God has rested and yet His works continue to unfold.
For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest - Hebrews 4:2-3a
Hebrews clearly presents faith/belief in "the message" as the mechanism of entry. In context it is the people of Israel's entry into the promised land that is treated immediately and "the message" is that God has promised to give them the land and has promised to go before them preparing the way and fighting the battles for them. In chapter 3 we see the flip side where unbelief is categorically given as the reason some did not enter rest:
And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. - Hebrews 3:18-19
The exodus generation refused to believe "the message" regarding entry into what God had promised and they spun 'round in the wilderness for 40 years and most died there because of unbelief. The current generation, to whom Hebrews is written, are similarly in danger of falling short of belief in "the message" regarding the Christ of God. The entire epistle appeals to them to cease going about (through religious activities and works of the Law) to establish their own righteousness and to receive the righteousness of God which is by faith.
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. - Hebrews 3:12-14
It appears as though it were possible to become hardened by sin's deceitfulness into developing an evil, unbelieving heart which may lead one to fall away from the living God. It is unclear in the text whether this falling away can occur once entry into "rest" has taken place or if developing unbelief hinders entry. Significantly, this passage links entering God's rest with "sharing in Christ" and also links the belief needed to enter with perseverance in that belief until the end.
Note: Theological bunny trails may begin here regarding perseverance as an act of human will or a gift of Divine grace, or some mixture of the two but they need not be entertained under this question.
So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. - Hebrews 4:9-10
The content of the Sabbath rest that is available for the people of God to enter is not a list of prohibitions or prescriptions; it is a cessation of works. Just as God rests in this Sabbath from His works so too, we who enter into this Sabbath rest from our works.
The report from the scouts into the promised land (Numbers 13) described all the ways that the people of Israel could not possibly enter the land and overcome the difficulties they perceived there. In other words, their faith lay in what works they could accomplish rather than trusting in the promise of the Living God. They were not resting from their works, they were relying on them. This is the unbelief which hindered their entry: Trusting in their works rather than God's.
In like manner we must not entertain all the myriad ways that we cannot possibly enter into eternal life. We must not allow ourselves an evil, unbelieving heart by which we abandon full trust in the promise of God and we begin to try to work our way into the kingdom or count ourselves as worthy or not by virtue of our works. God, in Christ, has done all that can be or need be done regarding reconciliation and all who enter by Him will be rested.
For Israel, entrance into the rest of God necessitated trusting in the "work" that God would do on their behalf in the promised land. In the Gospel age entrance into the Sabbath rest now is entirely a matter of trusting that God will accomplish what He has promised in Christ. Once entered that person has ceased from his own works.
Resting from our works is not a condition for entry into God's Sabbath, it is a description of that rest. It is also not a motionless rest:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. - Ephesians 2:10
And we also see Divine activity within this Sabbath rest of God:
And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” - John 5:16-17
In the following verses of John 5 Jesus explains how that He only does what He sees the Father doing. He has just done a work of healing on the legal Sabbath (religious rest), all of which fall within the confines of the Divine Sabbath (God's rest), to demonstrate that He is Lord of the Sabbath and that good works are always permissible because they are not man's works but God's works which, in the Divine economy, are already completed.
Jesus, in doing only God's work, was "resting" from his own works. Now we, who have believed in His Name and been saved are "in Christ" and have entered into the Sabbath rest of God with Him.. Jesus is the Sabbath rest that we may enter.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” - Matthew 11:28-30
4 Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2 For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed. 3 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,
“So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’” - [Psalm 95:11; also in verse 5]
And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world. 4 For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.”[Gen. 2:2] 5 And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”
6 Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, 7 God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted:
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.” - [Psalm 95:7,8)]
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.
(1) Resting from their own works by trusting utterly in the finished work of Christ on the cross. Christians do good works but not in order to enter into God’s rest; on the contrary, supposing that one must do things in order to be at peace with God results in distress – ceaseless striving to be good enough, as if what Christ had done was insufficient to bring peace with God. Spiritual ‘resting’ in Christ is the present, on-going ‘rest’ in this world where we can be at peace with God, despite all else going on around us. “O rest in the Lord, wait patiently for him... Wait on the Lord and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land.” (Psalm 37:7 & 34)
(2) In the world to come, it will be the joyous rest of being in Heaven and actually in God’s presence, away from the strife, turmoil and often misunderstood business of just trying to live as a Christian in a largely godless world.
The points made in Hebrews 4 must include chapter 3, which is the foundation for the writer’s conclusion in 4:8-11. The example is drawn of the sin of disbelief by Israel at the borders of Canaan, which prevented them entering into God’s rest back then. Believing, acting faith is key to entering in to rest with God. Disbelief and disobedience denies us the rest God would give us. This link is made in this Protestant book (originally published in 1899; my quote is from the 1978 reprint):
“For faithful though he was, Moses was only a servant within God’s house, while Jesus was a Son over it… the writer first of all impresses upon his readers the need of this continued faith and perseverance (c. iii.7-19), and then shows them that there is still a true Sabbath-rest after which to strive, of which the rest of Canaan offered to their fathers had given them the promise (c. iv. 1-13).” The Theology of the Epistle to the Hebrews by George Milligan (p 62)
In Hebrews 4:1-11, the Sabbath texts are analyzed with the conclusion that some form of Sabbath-keeping (sabbatismos) remains for God's people; the term generically means any literal or spiritual Sabbath-keeping.
The Sabbath is a weekly day of rest or time of worship given in the Bible as the seventh day. It is observed differently in Judaism and Christianity and informs a similar occasion in several other faiths. Though many viewpoints and definitions have arisen over the millennia, most originate in the same textual tradition of "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy".
Observation and remembrance of Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments (the fourth in the original Jewish, the Eastern Orthodox, and most Protestant traditions; and the third in Roman Catholic and Lutheran traditions), sometimes referred to individually as the Sabbath Commandment. Most people who observe Biblical Sabbath regard it as having been made for man (Mark. 2:27) at Creation (Ex. 20:8–11), and instituted as a perpetual covenant for the people of Israel (Ex. 31:13–17, Ex. 23:12, Deut. 5:13–14), a rule that also applies to proselytes, and a sign respecting two events: the seventh day, during which God rested after having completed Creation in six days (Gen. 2:2–3, Ex. 20:8–11), and God's deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt (Deut. 5:12–15). - Biblical Sabbath
St. Justin was the first Church Father to call it Sunday.
Sunday was the first day of the week according to the Jewish method of reckoning, but for Christians it began to take the place of the Jewish Sabbath in Apostolic times as the day set apart for the public and solemn worship of God. The practice of meeting together on the first day of the week for the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is indicated in Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; in Apocalypse 1:10, it is called the Lord's day. In the Didache (14) the injunction is given: "On the Lord's Day come together and break bread. And give thanks (offer the Eucharist), after confessing your sins that your sacrifice may be pure". St. Ignatius (Ep. ad Magnes. ix) speaks of Christians as "no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's Day, on which also Our Life rose again". In the Epistle of Barnabas (xv) we read: "Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day (i.e. the first of the week) with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead".
St. Justin is the first Christian writer to call the day Sunday (I Apol., lxvii) in the celebrated passage in which he describes the worship offered by the early Christians on that day to God. The fact that they met together and offered public worship on Sunday necessitated a certain rest from work on that day. However, Tertullian (202) is the first writer who expressly mentions the Sunday rest: "We, however (just as tradition has taught us), on the day of the Lord's Resurrection ought to guard not only against kneeling, but every posture and office of solicitude, deferring even our businesses lest we give any place to the devil" ("De orat.", xxiii; cf. "Ad nation.", I, xiii; "Apolog.", xvi). - Sunday
Seventh Day Adventist’s and some other Christian denominations have some unique interpretations to what the Sabbath entails in comparison to most mainstream Christians.
At least two branches of Christianity keep a seventh-day Sabbath, though historically they are not derived one from the other: the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Seventh-day Sabbatarians. Of different outlooks in some respects, they share others. Just as in the Jewish calendar, the Orthodox begin and end every ecclesial day at sunset, including the Sabbath. Both branches thus observe the Sabbath from what the civil calendar identifies as Friday sunset until Saturday sunset. Both identify the Sabbath with the day of rest established by God as stated in Genesis 2, a day to be kept holy. Both identify Jesus Christ as the Lord of the Sabbath, and acknowledge that he faithfully kept the Sabbath throughout his life on earth. Both accept the admonitions of St. Ignatius on the keeping of the Sabbath.
Seventh-day Sabbatarians rest on the seventh Hebrew day. Jewish Shabbat is observed from sundown on Friday until the appearance of three stars in the sky on Saturday night; it is also observed by a minority of Christians. Thirty-nine activities prohibited on Shabbat are listed in Tractate Shabbat (Talmud). Customarily, Shabbat is ushered in by lighting candles shortly before sunset, at halakhically calculated times that change from week to week and from place to place. Observance in Hebrew Scriptures was universally from sixth-day evening to seventh-day evening (Neh. 13:19, cf. Lev. 23:32) on a seven-day week; Shabbat ends approximately one hour after sunset by rabbinical ordinance to extend the Tanakh's sunset-to-sunset Sabbath into the first day of the week. The Jewish interpretation usually states that the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31) refers to the future Messianic Kingdom.
Several Christian denominations (such as Seventh Day Baptist, Seventh-day Adventist, Sabbath Rest Advent Church, Church of God (Seventh Day), and other Churches of God) observe Sabbath similarly to or less rigorously than Judaism, but observance ends at Saturday sunset instead of Saturday nightfall. Like the Jews with Shabbat, they believe that keeping seventh-day Sabbath is a moral responsibility, equal to that of any of the Ten Commandments, that honors God as Creator and Deliverer. The Christian seventh-day interpretation usually states that Sabbath belongs inherently to all nations (Ex. 20:10, Is. 56:6–7, 66:22–23) and remains part of the New Covenant after the crucifixion of Jesus (Lk. 23:56, Mt. 24:20, Acts 16:13, Heb. 8:10). Many seventh-day Sabbatarians also use "Lord's Day" to mean the seventh day, based on Scriptures in which God calls the day "my Sabbath" (Ex. 31:13) and "to the LORD" (16:23); some count Sunday separately as Lord's Day and many consider it appropriate for communal worship (but not for first-day rest, which would be considered breaking the Ten Commandments).
In this way, St. Ignatius saw believers "no longer observing the [Jewish] Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's Day", and amplified this point as follows: "Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days of idleness .... But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, and walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them. And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord's Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days." - Biblical Sabbath
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work
The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.
I. The Sabbath Day
2168 The third commandment of the Decalogue recalls the holiness of the sabbath: "The seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD."
2169 In speaking of the sabbath Scripture recalls creation: "For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it."
2170 Scripture also reveals in the Lord's day a memorial of Israel's liberation from bondage in Egypt: "You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out thence with mighty hand and outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day."
2171 God entrusted the sabbath to Israel to keep as a sign of the irrevocable covenant. The sabbath is for the Lord, holy and set apart for the praise of God, his work of creation, and his saving actions on behalf of Israel.
2172 God's action is the model for human action. If God "rested and was refreshed" on the seventh day, man too ought to "rest" and should let others, especially the poor, "be refreshed." The sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite. It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money.
2173 The Gospel reports many incidents when Jesus was accused of violating the sabbath law. But Jesus never fails to respect the holiness of this day.98 He gives this law its authentic and authoritative interpretation: "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath." With compassion, Christ declares the sabbath for doing good rather than harm, for saving life rather than killing. The sabbath is the day of the Lord of mercies and a day to honour God. "The Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath."
II. The Lord’s Day
This is the day which the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
The day of the Resurrection: the new creation
2174 Jesus rose from the dead "on the first day of the week." Because it is the "first day," the day of Christ's Resurrection recalls the first creation. Because it is the "eighth day" following the sabbath, it symbolizes the new creation ushered in by Christ's Resurrection. For Christians it has become the first of all days, the first of all feasts, the Lord's Day (he kuriake hemera, dies dominica) Sunday:
We all gather on the day of the sun, for it is the first day [after the Jewish sabbath, but also the first day] when God, separating matter from darkness, made the world; and on this same day Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead.
Sunday - fulfillment of the sabbath
2175 Sunday is expressly distinguished from the sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the sabbath. In Christ's Passover, Sunday fulfills the spiritual truth of the Jewish sabbath and announces man's eternal rest in God. For worship under the Law prepared for the mystery of Christ, and what was done there prefigured some aspects of Christ:
Those who lived according to the old order of things have come to a new hope, no longer keeping the sabbath, but the Lord's Day, in which our life is blessed by him and by his death.
2176 The celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render to God an outward, visible, public, and regular worship "as a sign of his universal beneficence to all.” Sunday worship fulfills the moral command of the Old Covenant, taking up its rhythm and spirit in the weekly celebration of the Creator and Redeemer of his people.
What is this "Sabbath-rest for the people of God" that everyone should make every effort to enter, as Hebrews 4 indicates? What does this rest consist of, in simple and concrete terms?
Acts 7:49: 'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me?' says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be?
This is the only other usage of the Greek word for "rest" used in Hebrews elsewhere in the New Testament (according to Strongs concordance). I'd call it "heaven".
How does one enter this rest?
Verse 3: Now we who have believed enter that rest.
By believing in Jesus.
How does one exit it?
Revelation 12:7-9. Satan managed to get himself cast out of heaven. I expect that was one-off, as anyone who seeks to emulate the effort would be judged, by Jesus, as unworthy to enter.
Is it temporary or permanent?
Permanent: See above for exiting Heaven. Hell has no exit either... forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night Revelation 14:11 day and night forever and ever. Revelation 20:10 the second death Revelation 21:8
Are there rules/conditions governing it (in terms of things one is expected to do/not to do during the rest)?
No. There no sin in heaven, so rules are not necessary.
Revelation 21:27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false
What is an overview of how major branches of Christianity answer these questions?
Although I, personally, am speaking from a "Protestant" interpretation of the Bible, I do not anticipate a lot of controversy on these points. Thus I am tempted to suggest all major branches of Christianity would be in general agreement on these questions.