Hebrews 4:1
Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeChrysostomClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKJTLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBVWSWESTSK
(1) Let us therefore fear.—The emphasis rests upon “fear,” not upon “us.” It is noteworthy that the writer begins with “Let us,” though about to write “lest any of you;” he will have gained his object if he brings his readers to share his fear.

Lest, a promise being left us.—Rather, lest haply, a promise being (still) left. No word must be inserted here that can diminish the generality of the words; in the sequel the statement will be repeated with all possible clearness. Here it is simply said that such a promise remains unexhausted, waiting for complete fulfilment. No Hebrew Christian would doubt this. As in Hebrews 1, the writer’s aim is not to establish a truth absolutely new, but to show that in this and in that Scripture a received truth lies contained. Most of our earlier versions (following Luther and Erasmus) give to this clause a different turn, which cannot be correct: “Lest any of you by forsaking the promise of entering in His rest.”

Any of you should seem to come short of it.—Rather, any one of you should be accounted to have come short of it. The difficulty here lies in the words rendered “seem” or “be accounted.” It appears impossible that the meaning can be “should even seem,” or “should think himself,” or “should show himself,” to have failed. It may be that the writer avoids positive and direct language in speaking of what lies beyond mortal ken, and therefore reverently says “should seem to have come short of it.” It is more probable that he is influenced by the figure contained in the next word, the falling short of a mark; and is thus led to refer to the judge who witnesses and declares the failure,—“Lest any one . . . be held (or, be adjudged) to have come short of” the promise.

Hebrews 4:1-2. In this chapter, which is of the same nature with the foregoing, the apostle proceeds with his exhortation to the Hebrews, and all professing Christians, to faith, obedience, and perseverance; and enforces it by a most apposite and striking instance in the punishment which befel the Israelites, those ancient professors of the true religion, who were guilty of sins contrary to those duties. And the example, as has been often observed, was peculiarly suitable, taken from their own ancestors, the evil being the same, namely, unbelief; the time in both cases being just after the establishment of a new constitution, and the consequence being the same, the exclusion from rest. The superior dignity of Christ above Moses, and the superior excellence of heaven above Canaan, greatly confirm the force of the apostle’s argument. Let us — Christian Hebrews; therefore fear, lest a promise being left — A conditional promise, to be fulfilled to all obedient, persevering believers; (the pronoun us is not in the original;) of entering into his rest — The rest of glory in heaven; and, preparatory thereto, the rest of grace on earth; the peace and joy, the solid and satisfying happiness consequent on pardon and holiness, on the justification of our persons, the renovation of our nature, and that lively, well-grounded hope of eternal life, which is as an anchor of the soul sure and steadfast, and entering in within the veil, chap. Hebrews 6:19; any of you should seem to come short of it — Should fail of it; as your forefathers failed of entering the rest of Canaan. The fear here inculcated is not a fear of diffidence or distrust, of doubting or uncertainty, as to the event of our faith and obedience. This is enjoined to none, but is evidently a fruit of unbelief, and therefore cannot be our duty. Neither can it be a timidity or dismayedness of mind upon a prospect of difficulties and dangers in the way, for this is the sluggard’s fear who cries, There is a lion in the way, I shall be slain. Nor is it that general fear of reverence with which we ought to be possessed in all our concerns with God; for that is not particularly influenced by threatenings, and the severity of God, seeing we are bound always in that sense to fear the Lord and his goodness. But it Isaiah , 1 st, A jealous fear of ourselves, lest, having run well for a time, we should be hindered; should grow lukewarm and indolent, formal and dead, and so should fall from that state of grace in which we had once stood. 2d, A suspicious fear of our spiritual enemies, inducing us to watch and stand on our guard against them. For unto us was the gospel preached — That is, good news of entering into his rest have been brought to us; as well as unto them — The Israelites in the wilderness. The Hebrews, to whom he wrote, might be ready to say, “What have we to do with the people in the wilderness, with the promise of entering into Canaan? or with what the psalmist from thence exhorted our fathers to?” Nay, these things, saith the apostle, belong to you in an especial manner. For in the example proposed, you may evidently see what you are to expect, if you fall into the same sins. For he declares, that in the example of God’s dealing with their progenitors, there was included a threatening of similar dealing with all others, who should fall into the same sin of unbelief; that none might flatter themselves with vain hopes of any exemption in this matter; which he further confirms in these two verses, though his present exhortation be an immediate inference from what went before. But the word preached — The promise declared unto them, did not profit them — So far from it, that it increased their condemnation; not being mixed with faith in them that heard it — So firmly believed as to become a principle of obedience in them. And it is then only, when these truths are thus mixed with faith, that they exert their saving power.4:1-10 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.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!


Heb 4:1-16. The Promise of God's Rest Is Fully Realized through Christ: Let Us Strive to Obtain It by Him, Our Sympathizing High Priest.

1. Let us … fear—not with slavish terror, but godly "fear and trembling" (Php 2:12). Since so many have fallen, we have cause to fear (Heb 3:17-19).

being left us—still remaining to us after the others have, by neglect, lost it.

his rest—God's heavenly rest, of which Canaan is the type. "To-day" still continues, during which there is the danger of failing to reach the rest. "To-day," rightly used, terminates in the rest which, when once obtained, is never lost (Re 3:12). A foretaste of the rest Is given in the inward rest which the believer's soul has in Christ.

should seem to come short of it—Greek, "to have come short of it"; should be found, when the great trial of all shall take place [Alford], to have fallen short of attaining the promise. The word "seem" is a mitigating mode of expression, though not lessening the reality. Bengel and Owen take it, Lest there should be any semblance or appearance of falling short.Hebrews 4:1-11 The rest of Christians to be attained by faith.

Hebrews 4:12,13 The power of God’s word.

Hebrews 4:14-16 Having Jesus the Son of God for our High Priest, we

must hold fast our profession, and come boldly unto

the throne of grace.

Let us therefore fear: the Spirit draws this counsel from the former sad event of unbelief in the progenitors of these Hebrews, who were shut out of an earthly Canaan by it, which was promised to them: hereon he adviseth them to avoid that sin which will have now as fearful a punishment, viz. the shutting them out of the heavenly Canaan, tendered and promised to believers in thee gospel. Fear is that affection of the soul, by which it avoideth and shunneth what is hurtful to it, and here carrieth it in a gracious and child-like care and jealousy of slighting the Father’s promise, and coming short of heaven; it is a fear issuing from faith, Philippians 2:12.

Lest, a promise being left us; lest the promise of God to men, who sware some should not enter, but promised others should, as Numbers 14:23,24,30,31; a promise of the most excellent, glorious, and heavenly rest made to believers, Isaiah 11:10. This was graciously left or made to them by God; but kataleipomenhv here is an act of sin, lest we by sin should leave or reject God’s promise of the better, as the Hebrews did of the literal, rest, by their unbelief and disobedience to God’s law; and so is the proper object of fear, and therefore ought to have been read, lest the promise being left behind.

Of entering into his rest; of a free entrance into heaven, and enjoying a glorious rest with God there.

Any of you should seem to come short of it: he would have it the fear of all, that not one soul tnight be endangered by it; so as not in any measure to slight such a promise, nor as much as to seem so, flying from the very appearance of evil, 1 Thessalonians 5:22; usterhkenai, a metaphor taken from racers, where any are outrun and left behind; noting the miserable state of such Christians who profess to run to heaven, but never do so as to obtain it, 1 Corinthians 9:24-26. Alas, he that falleth short of heaven, reacheth home to hell!

Let us therefore fear,.... Not with a fear of wrath and damnation; nor with a fear of diffidence and distrust of the power, grace, and goodness of God; but with a cautious fear, a godly jealousy, a careful circumspection, and watchfulness:

lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest; not the land of Canaan, the type of heaven, but rather heaven itself, the ultimate glory: there is a rest of the body in the grave, from work, service, and labour, and from distempers and diseases, where it rests under the guardianship of the Spirit, until the resurrection morn; and there is a rest of the soul before the resurrection, in the arms of Christ, with whom it immediately is, upon its departure from the body; and there is a rest both of soul and body after the resurrection, from sin, from afflictions, from Satan's temptations, from unbelief, doubts, and fears, and from all enemies: and this may be called the rest of God, because he is the author and giver of it; and it will lie much in communion with him; and besides, heaven is the place of God's rest, Isaiah 66:1 and the possession and enjoyment of the heavenly glory is often signified by an entering into it: and there is a promise of this, which is left in Christ's hands, and shall never fail; though some who have hoped for it may come short of it, or at least seem to do so: but rather a rest under the Gospel dispensation is here intended, since it is a rest believers enter into now, Hebrews 4:3 and since the Gospel church is represented as a state of peace and rest, Isaiah 11:6 and which lies in a more clear and comfortable application of the blood and righteousness of Christ to the saints; in a freedom from a spirit of bondage to fear, and from the yoke of carnal ordinances, and in the enjoyment of Gospel privileges and ordinances; and this is God's rest, which he has provided for New Testament saints, and into which they enter by faith, and a profession of it; and the Gospel is the promise or declaration which was left among these Hebrews, and in the world, to encourage them so to do: lest

any of you should seem to come short of it; either of the promise, or the rest promised; which if understood of the heavenly glory, the sense is, that though true believers shall not come short of that, yet they may "seem" to others to do so; and therefore should be careful of their lives and conversations, that they might not seem to come short; and this they should do, for the glory of God, the honour of Christ and his Gospel, and the good of others; but if the rest, and the promise of it, intend the Gospel and its dispensation, the meaning is, that saints should be concerned so to behave, that they might not seem to fail of the doctrine of the grace of God, and to be disappointed of that rest and peace promised in it. One of Stephens's copies read, lest "any of us"; which seems most agreeable both to what goes before, and follows.

Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
Hebrews 4:1. Exhortation to the readers, deduced from the historic fact, Hebrews 3:15-19, and softened by the form of community with the readers adopted by the author, which, however, is involuntarily abandoned again at the close of the verse.

Φοβηθῶμεν οὖν] Let us therefore be apprehensive.

Indication not of the mere being afraid, but of the earnest endeavour, based upon the fear of coming short of the proposed goal. Calvin: Hic nobis commendatur timor, non qui fidei certitudinem excutiat, sed tantam incutiat sollicitudinem, ne securi torpeamus. Metuendum ergo, non quia trepidare aut diffidere nos oporteat quasi incertos de exitu, sed ne Dei gratiae desimus.

καταλειπομένηςαὐτοῦ] is made by Cramer and Ernesti dependent on ὑστερηκέναι, against which, however, the anarthrous participle in itself suffices to decide. It is parenthetical, and καταλειπομένης with emphasis preposed: while there yet remains promise of entering into His rest. But a promise remains so long as it has not yet received its fulfilment. For with its fulfilment it ceases to be a promise, loses its existence—inasmuch as the character of the future essential to it has then become present. Erroneously do Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Beza, Strigel, Hyperius, Estius, Schlichting, S. Schmidt, Limborch, Braun, Semler, Carpzov, al., explain: “by neglect or non-observance of the promise.” For, although καταλείπειν can signify that (comp. Acts 6:2; Bar 4:1), yet in that case the article τῆς could not have been wanting before ἐπαγγελίας and certainly also an active (καταλείψας τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν) would have been chosen in place of the passive participle. Finally, against the latter explanation, and in favour of that above given, pleads the ἀπολείπεται, Hebrews 4:6; Hebrews 4:9.

αὐτοῦ] not of Christ (Rambach, Chr. F. Schmid), but of God. This is required by the connection, alike with that which precedes (Hebrews 3:11; Hebrews 3:18) as with that which follows (Hebrews 4:3-5; Hebrews 4:10).

ἡ κατάπανσις] the repose and blessedness which belong to God Himself, and which shall become the portion of believing Christians in the epoch of consummation beginning with the coming again of Christ.

δοκῇ ὑστερηκέναι] should appear [be seen] to have come short, i.e. to have failed of attaining to the κατάπαυσις. The infinitive perfect characterizes that which, with the dawn of the Parousia, has become an historically completed, definite fact. δοκῇ ὑστερηκέναι, however, does not stand pleonastically in place of the bare ὑστερῇ or ὑστερήσῃ (Michaelis, Carpzov, Abresch, al.), nor is it placed “because, in connection with the question whether and where the ὑστερηκέναι, exists as a concluded, and therefore irreparable, fact, the human perception does not extend beyond a mere videtur” (Kurtz); for it is not here a case of a question to be decided by men still living upon earth. It serves rather, as the videatur often added in Latin, to give a more refined and delicate expression to the discourse. Comp. 1 Corinthians 11:16. Erroneously, however, Delitzsch, that in δοκῇ there is contained not only a softening, but, at the same time, also an accentuation of the expression; the sense being: “they are to take earnest heed, lest haply it should even seem that this or the other has fallen short.” For the augmenting “even” is only arbitrarily imported.

Grotius explains δοκῇ by: “ne cui vestrum libeat,” for which, however, the construction with the dative (δοκῶ μοι) would have been required, and to which, moreover, the infinitive perfect does not lend itself. Schöttgen finally, Baumgarten, Schulz, Paulus, Stengel, Ebrard, and Hofmann take δοκῇ in the sense of opinetur. The author is thus supposed to be warning the readers against the delusion that they were too late, i.e. that they lived at a time when all the promises had long been fulfilled, and no further means of salvation was to be expected. But the linguistic expression in itself is decisive against this interpretation. The author could not then have put φοβηθώμεν οὖν, μήποτε, but must have written μὴ οὖν φοβηθῶμεν ὑστερηκέναι, or something similar. Moreover, the whole historic situation of the readers of the Epistle to the Hebrews is out of keeping with this view. It was not therein a question of consoling and calming those who still despaired of being able at all to attain to salvation, but of the warning correction of those who were wanting in the assurance of conviction that faith in Christ is the sufficient and only way to salvation. Only a warning to the readers, not by their own behaviour, like the fathers, to incur the loss of salvation, can therefore be contained in Hebrews 4:1.

Hebrews 4:1-13. Thus, then, the promise of entering into God’s rest is still unfulfilled. The promise yet avails for the Christians. Let, therefore, the readers be careful, lest they, too, by disobedience and unbelief forfeit the proffered salvation.Hebrews 4:1. φοβηθῶμεν οὖν, “let us then fear,” the writer speaks in the name of the living generation, “lest haply, there being left behind and still remaining a promise to enter [ἐπαγγελίας εἰσελθεῖν; cf. ὥρα ἀπιέναι, Plato, Apol., p. 42] into His (i.e., God’s) rest, any of you (not ἡμῶν) should fancy that he has come too late for it; δοκῇ ὑστερηκέναι. Of these words there are three linguistically possible translations.

1. Should seem to have fallen short.

2. Should be judged to have fallen short.

3. Should think that he has fallen short or come too late.

The argument of the passage favours the third reading, for it aims at strengthening the belief that the promise does remain and that the readers are not born too late to enjoy it. “Gloomy imaginations of failure were rife among the Hebrews” (Rendall). These persecuted Christians who had expected to find the fulfilment of all promise in Christ, found it hard to believe that “rest” was attainable in Him. The writer proceeds therefore to prove that this promise is left and is still open. καὶγάρ ἐσμεν εὐηγγελισμένοι.… “For indeed we, even as also they, have had a gospel preached to us.” We should have expected an expressed ἡμεῖς, but its suppression shows us that the writer wishes to emphasise εὐηγγελ. To us as to them it is a gospel that is preached; and the καθάπερ κἀκεῖνοι, “even as they also had,” brings out the fact that under the promise of a land in which to rest, the Israelites who came out of Egypt were brought in contact with the redeeming grace and favour of God. The expression reflects significant light on the inner meaning of all God’s guidance of Israel’s history. They received this rich promise laden with God’s intention to bless them, “but the word which they heard did them no good, because in those who heard, it was not mixed with faith”. [For συγκεκ. see the Phaedo, p. 95A. The accusative is best attested (see critical note), but the sense “not mixed by faith with those who heard,” i.e., Caleb and Joshua, is most improbable.] Belief, then, is everything. In proof of which our own experience may be cited: “For we are entering into the rest, we who have believed”. This clause confirms both the statements of the previous verse: “we have the promise as well as they,” for we are entering into the rest [note the emphatic position of εἰσερχόμεθα]; and “the word failed them because of their lack of faith,” for it is our faith [οἱ πιστεύσαντες] which is carrying us into the rest. This fact that we are entering in by faith is in accordance with the utterance quoted already in Hebrews 3:11, καθὼς εἴρηκεν, Ὡς ὤμοσα … “I sware in my wrath, they shall not enter into my rest, although the works were finished from the foundation of the world”. This quotation confirms the first clause of the verse, because it proves two things: first, that God had a rest, and second, that He intended that man should rest with Him, because it was “in His wrath,” justly excited against the unbelieving (cf. Hebrews 3:9-10), that He sware they should not enter in. Had it not been God’s original purpose and desire that men should enter into His rest, it could not be said that “in wrath” He excluded some. Their failure to secure rest was not due to the non-existence of any rest, for God’s works were finished when the world was founded. This again is confirmed by Scripture, εἴρηκεν γάρ που, viz., in Genesis 2:2 (cf. Exodus 20:11; Exodus 31:17), where it is said that after the six days of creation God rested on the seventh day from all His works. That God has a rest is also stated in the ninety-fifth Psalm, for these words “they shall not enter into my rest” prove that God had a rest. The emphasis in this second quotation (Hebrews 4:5) is on the word μοι.1. Let us therefore fear] The fear to which we are exhorted is not any uncertainty of hope, but solicitude against careless indifference. It is a wholesome fear taught by wisdom (Php 2:12).

lest] Lit. lest haply.

being left us] It is better to omit the word “us,” It means “since a promise still remains unrealised.” The promise has not been exhausted by any previous fulfilment.

any] Rather, “any one.” See note on Hebrews 3:12.

of you] He cannot say “of us,” because he proceeds to describe the case of hardened and defiant apostates.

should seem to come short of it] Rather, “should seem to have failed in attaining it.” The Greek might also mean “should think that he has come too late for it;” but the writer’s object is to stimulate the negligent, not to encourage the despondent. The word “seem” is an instance of the figure called litotes, in which a milder term is designedly used to express one which is much stronger. The author of this Epistle, abounding as he does in passages of uncompromising sternness, would not be likely to use any merely euphuistic phrase. The dignity of his expressions adds to their intensity. For a similar delicate yet forcible use of “seem” see 1 Corinthians 11:16. The verb “to fail” or “come short” occurs in Hebrews 12:15, together with a terrible example of the thing itself in Hebrews 12:17.Hebrews 4:1. Φοβηθῶμεν, let us fear) Since many have fallen, there is cause for fear.—καταλειπομένης ἐπαγγελίας) Since a promise has been left and reserved for us, after the others have neglected it. The same word is found, in the same sense, Romans 11:4. A kindred verb is ἀπολείπεται, is left, remains, Hebrews 4:6; Hebrews 4:9, ch. Hebrews 10:26. This expression, interwoven with the exhortation, is a proposition which is proved, Hebrews 4:3. The verb ἐπαγγέλλομαι, I promise, is very often found in this epistle, as well as the noun, ἐπαγγελία, a promise. In this chapter the apostle is speaking of the rest of eternal life; for to-day still continues, when (since) there remains the danger of falling, if we give way to hardness of heart. To-day, well improved, terminates in rest. Rest is that which, once obtained, is not again lost. We now (comp. ch. Hebrews 2:5, note) are urged to look still further. Foretaste in this life is not denied: full rest is. All foretastes of rest are evidently small, when compared with things above.—δοκῇ τις, any one should seem) Euphemism. Every man should so run, that it may be said of him, without any appearance of the contrary, This man runs. Δοκεῖν, in this passage, ὑπόδειγμα, an example, Hebrews 4:11, and ἐνδείκνυσθαι, to show, ch. Hebrews 6:11, are conjugates: δείκω, pret. mid. δέδοκα, thence δοκέω, and the ideas agree; for he who shows a desire does not seem to remain; he who seems to remain is an example of obstinacy.—ὑστερηκέναι, to have failed) to have come short. The same word occurs, Hebrews 12:15. The examples, Hebrews 12:17; Numbers 14:40; Luke 13:25 : ὑστερεῖν ποιῆσαι τὸ πάσχα, to fail to keep the passover, Numbers 9:13. Ὑστερεῖν, with Plato, at the beginning of the Gorgias, is to come after the festival is ended.Verse 1. - Let us fear, therefore, lest, a promise being still left of entering into his rest, any one of you should seem to have come short. This verse is a renewed warning against remissness, based (as is shown by the connecting οϋν) on the preceding argument, but introducing also, by means of the clause, καταλειπομένης, etc., a new thought, the elucidation of which is the subject of what follows. The new thought is that the true "rest of God," typified only by the rest of Canaan, remains still for the attainment of Christians. That this is the case has not yet been shown; and hence the clause, "a promise being still left." etc., does not point to a conclusion already arrived at, but to what is coming. The new thought is taken up in ver. 2, and what has been thus intimated in ver. 1 is asserted as a conclusion after proof in ver. 9. ἄρα ἀπολείπεται, etc. A different view of the drift of the warning in this verse, main-rained very decidedly by Ebrard, demands attention. It rests on the interpretation of δοκῇ ὑστερήκεναι, which is taken to mean "should think that he has come too late," i.e. for the promise of the rest, under the idea that its meaning had been exhausted in the rest of Canaan. It may be said in support of this view that such is the most obvious meaning of the phrase; that δοκεῖν in the New Testament most commonly means "think" or "suppose;" that the primary sense of ὑστερεῖν is that of being behindhand, either in place or in time; and that the perfect ὑστερήκεναι is thus accounted for, whereas, according to the usual interpretation, the whole phrase is unsuitable: why was not ὑστερήση written, if a mere warning against remissness was intended? Further, it may be said that what immediately follows is in favor of this view of the purport of the caution in ver. 1, being an evident carrying out of its idea. Thus the verse is supposed to be not at all a continuation of the previous hortatory section, but rather serving as the thesis of the coming argumentative section, though put in the form of a caution because imperfect appreciation of the view to be now established was at the root of the danger of the Hebrew Christians. Some of them at least did not fully grasp the true character of the gospel as being the fulfill-merit of the old dispensation, the realization of its types and promises. They were inclined to rest in the Law as a revelation to which the gospel was only supplementary, and hence to regard the promised land, the offer of which was before their time, as the only rest intended; and therefore the writer, after adducing the example of the Israelites under Moses as a warning against remissness, prefaces his exposition. of the true rest of God by a warning against misapprehending it. But against this view of the meaning of δοκῇ ὑστερήκεναι there are the following reasons:

(1) The word φοβήθωμεν suggests rather (like βλέπετε) a warning against conduct that might lead to forfeiture than a correction of an inadequate conception; and οϋν connects the warning with what has gone before, in which the view of what the true rest is has not entered.

(2) Though δοκεῖν is most frequently used in the New Testament in its sense of "thinking," "seeming to one's self," yet it has there, as in Greek generally, the sense also of "appearing," "seeming to others;" and certainly, as far as the word itself is concerned, may have this sense here. Also the verb ὑστερεῖν, though its primary idea (as of ὕστερος) is that of "coming after," is nevertheless invariably used in the New Testament to express "deficiency," or "falling short" (cf. especially in this Epistle, Hebrews 12:15): it is never elsewhere (though capable of the meaning) used to express lateness in time.

(3) The phrase, δοκῇ ὑστερήκεναι, in the sense of "seem to have fallen short" (rather than ὑστερήσῃ) is capable of being accounted for. One explanation of it, adopted by Alford, is indeed hardly tenable. He accounts for the past tense by supposing reference to the final judgment; taking it to mean, "lest any one of you should then appear [i.e. be found] to have fallen short." But the word δοκεῖν, which, however used, refers, not to what is made evident, but to what is thought or seems, refuses to be thus misinterpreted. It is better to take it as a softening expression. We may suppose that the writer (with a delicacy that reminds us of St. Paul) was unwilling to imply his own expectation of any failure; and so he only bids his readers beware of so living as even to present the appearance of it or suggest the thought of it to others. According to this view, the tense of ὑστερήκεναι is intelligible, the supposed deficiency spoken of being previous to its being perceived or suspected. It is not necessary to supply an understood genitive, such as "the promise," or "the rest," after ὑστερήκεναι. It may be used (as elsewhere) absolutely, to express deficiency or failure; i.e. in the conditions required for attainment. One view of its meaning is that it has reference to the idea of being behindhand in a race: but there is nothing in the context to suggest this figure.

(4) It is not necessary that ver. 1 should express only the idea of the following argument; it does sufficiently express it in the clause, καταλειπομέμης, etc.; and it is in the style of this Epistle to connect new trains of argument by a continuous chain of thought with what has gone before (cf. the beginning of Hebrews 2. and 3.). Though there is uncertainty as to the sequence of thought in the several clauses of the following argument (vers. 2-11), its general drift is clear. Its leading ideas are these: The invitation to enter God's rest contained in the psalm shows that the rest of Canaan, which, though forfeited under Moses, had long been actually attained under Joshua, was not the final rest intended. What, then, is meant by this remarkable term, "my rest," i.e. God's own rest? Our thoughts go back to the beginning of the Bible, where a rest of God himself is spoken of; where he is said to have rested on the seventh day from all his works. Participation, then, in that heavenly rest - a true sabbath rest with God - is what the term implies. Though this rest began "from the foundation of the world," man's destined share in if, however long delayed, was intimated by the typical history of the Israelites under Moses, and by the warning and renewed invitation of the psalm. This renewed invitation makes it plain that it is still attainable by God's people. It has at last been made attainable by Christ. who, as our great High Priest, has himself entered it, and leads us into it if we are but faithful. Being left (καταλειπομένης)

Still remaining: not being neglected. It is not a reason for fearing that is given, but a circumstance connected with the thing to be avoided. As there is now left a promise, let us fear. Being left announces the thought which is afterward emphasized, and on which the whole treatment of the subject turns - that God's original promise of rest remains unchanged, and still holds good. Such being the case, he who doubts the promise itself, or thinks that it is too late for him to enjoy its fulfillment, runs a risk.

Should seem to come short (δοκῇ ὑστερηκέναι)

According to this rendering, the meaning is that one must avoid the appearance of having failed to enter into the rest; the perfect tense (ὑστερηκέναι) placing the reader at the parousia, when judgment will be pronounced. This is forced, tame, and irrelevant to the previous discussion. Rend. lest any one of you think he has come too late for it. This accords with the previous admonitions against unbelief. For one to think that he has come too late to inherit the promise is to disbelieve an immutable promise of God. Hence the writer may well say, "Since this promise remains, let us fear to distrust it." Ὑστερεῖν is to be behind; to come late; to come short; hence, to suffer need, as Philippians 4:12; of material deficiency, Luke 15:14; John 2:3; of moral and spiritual shortcoming, Romans 3:23; 1 Corinthians 8:8; Hebrews 12:15.

Hebrews 4:1 Interlinear
Hebrews 4:1 Parallel Texts

Hebrews 4:1 NIV
Hebrews 4:1 NLT
Hebrews 4:1 ESV
Hebrews 4:1 NASB
Hebrews 4:1 KJV

Hebrews 4:1 Bible Apps
Hebrews 4:1 Parallel
Hebrews 4:1 Biblia Paralela
Hebrews 4:1 Chinese Bible
Hebrews 4:1 French Bible
Hebrews 4:1 German Bible

Bible Hub

Hebrews 3:19
Top of Page
Top of Page