1 Sep 2014

Laboring to enter God's rest? Hebrews 4:11

Submitted by theshovel
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Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. Hebrews 4:11 KJV

If Jesus offered rest to those who were over-burdened by labor, how then does Hebrews tell us that we must labor to enter his rest (or strive to enter his rest)? I’m telling you right now that anyone who can harmonize these opposing concepts simply do not know what they are talking about. The real question here is, does this verse actually teach that we must labor to enter God’s rest? And based upon two reasons, I say the answer is a definite no.

First, taking into account who the letter of Hebrews was written to and what they were dealing with at the time drastically affects how it should be viewed. Second, and perhaps more revealing, are the bogus translations of the Greek word that have been used to instill uncertainty regarding that rest. That’s right, the Greek word (spoudazo) does not mean labor or strive. Of course, in order to justify the translations found in most Bibles, alternative meanings are given. Here are two of them: “to use speed, i.e. to make effort” or “to make haste, hence to give diligence.” So tell me, when you read this verse, do you think the word labor is a legitimate way to express using speed or making haste? It seems many of us have been laboring under a false premise.

The proper understanding of Hebrews 4:11 is found in the realization that many of the Hebrews in Jerusalem who had joined the Jesus community were just like those who had escaped Egypt but did not enter the promised land because of their unbelief. History was repeating itself, and once again a majority of those who appeared to have escaped the corruption of the world were figuratively standing in the same place as did their ancestors. The message to the Hebrews was that of urgency. They were not being encouraged to strive in hopes of finding rest, but that they stop hesitating to believe the real promise of rest in Jesus Christ. For he had made the once and for all sacrifice for sins. Let your heart be assured that in having come to Jesus, you have already entered the rest being held out to the Hebrews.

For a more detailed break-down

Related Content: 
New Testament: 


Dear Jim,

PTL and once again, with your site each time comes a whole banquet of real food, food which truly satisfies. Thank you for being faithful to share what Father gives you by His Spirit.

I did some “jumping around” in your site this time, and came across what you had written about the Bible being “the completed word of God.” I sent it along to our daughter because she questioned (rightfully, I believe) those who say it IS completed, and use that as “proof” that earlier scriptures (i.e., those dealing about the gifts of the Spirit, etc.) are now past. Ah, how we do use our beliefs to “prove” what we KNOW to be true.

We do not argue; in every case where there is a difference, I believe that a veil, ignorance, is still in place. There is nothing wrong with “ignorance”, since it simply means God has not yet opened our eyes to see something. We are all ignorant until He reveals the truth about a particular thing.

Thank you again, dear Jim - you truly are a breath of fresh air in my life.

Blessings in Him,
Joanne A.

By the way, this writing - it does hit the nail on the head, so to speak. Your comments do point out the “foolishness of man’s wisdom.” Rest=labour is, to me, an oxymoron. Thank you for clarifying such in a most helpful, and simple to understand, way..

Joanne Anstine

Excellent! The detailed breakdown was great. I often find strange interpretations of the original language – almost suggests an agenda. Of course, we know that to be true.

John E

You da Man!

Hi Jim,

Thanks for the message here. I've thought about this for a while.

Just judging from my own life, I think what the author of Hebrews is getting at is the same idea in the kingdom of heaven being taken by force of the violent. In other words, we don't just "fall" easily into it. It does take effort to seek after and pursue the rest that is offered in the kingdom -- it's just that WE don't provide that rest ourselves. Abiding in the vine, being violent and taking the kingdom by force, and laboring to enter its rest -- I believe these are all talking about the same reality.

theshovel's picture

Hello my friend Brian :)

I hear where you’re coming from, and at one time I probably would have considered that you might be onto something. Obviously, I don’t see it that way now, but I do remember having been so encouraged by certain verses and passages that I didn’t consider that they might not actually mean what my father had taught me at the time. I have often reevaluated Bible verses over the years only to realize that I had been so far off the mark. And for a while, I assumed I had to discard everything I saw as being attached to the verses in question. And that might be why I was so hesitant to let go of my initial understanding of the passage in question. In having communicated with so many people over the years, I’m pretty sure that most of us resist a view of a Biblical passage that differs from our own under the fear that we will have to let go of something precious we learned from our father. But that is not the case. In fact, I have come to find joy in having my previous interpretations turned upside down because of the confidence I have found in the realization that the truth of God has been already put within us … and it cannot be lost.

Anyhow, let me get specific with you regarding the phrases you’ve lumped together as supporting the effort you think is required for us to enter God’s rest:

  • Laboring (or using effort) to enter into rest. I noticed you did not address the actual meaning of the word that should indicate that effort, striving or laboring are not very good choices. I am guessing that since this verse suggests the same reality to you as the other phrases, you might not want to consider it. You also may want to consider the whole context of the Hebrews letter, for I have written and spoken on it extensively: Hebrews stuff
  • Taking the kingdom of heaven by force. This is another phrase that has been grossly misunderstood and abused because it has been assumed that Jesus was teaching one of his “kingdom” principles. Let consider that the whole barbaric crusades during what has been called the Dark Ages was fueled by the concept of taking the Kingdom of God by force (which to them meant gaining control over Jerusalem, no matter the cost). Instead, Jesus was making another in a long line of indictments against the religious leaders who had been desperately trying to take control of the masses who had been stirred to righteousness by the ministries of both John and Jesus. If interested, check this out: Taking the kingdom by force?
  • Abiding in the vine. Again, the sense of effort that has been imbued upon this Biblical phrase is sorely misplaced. It has nothing to do with a life of effort or works. If interested, check out the following articles: Abiding, Abiding and John 15, Banking on Abiding, The Reality of Abiding.

I understand that you value the conflicts you’ve experienced as a believer, and I’m not devaluing your struggles. But I will encourage you to consider that the real struggle is not about you being able to enter rest, but more so that you learn to find confidence in the rest Christ has already brought you into. Despite your acknowledgment that “WE don’t provide that rest ourselves,” you still suggest that we have to work our way into something we won’t be able to take credit for. Am I missing something here?

Jim :)

Hi Brian, I know your post is addressed to Jim but I just wanted to comment. You made a fairly simple yet very well described response on your position regarding the Truth of "entering His rest".

I think so many times we as believers get caught up into describing things from two different directions, especially when we come to the same place essentially. For sure there is a sense in which we do not "naturally" or easily rest from our works.[or enter His sense of rest] However, Jim often emphasizes the work of GOD were so many see the scriptures testifying to the work of men.

In the case of entering His rest, I think that it is God who has provided this rest to us who are His and all that will come to it now or in the future. As far as walking in it, well that can often be a training so to speak. For it is Christ in us that trains us and disciplines us to walk as we already are or as we already posses.

My two cents.


I believe the passage in Hebrews, like all Biblical passages, can only be understood, when revealed to us by the spirit of God. We do not gain an understanding, or a greater degree of understanding, by parsing the words in accordance with literary techniques; or by trying to come to a more precise understanding of a word used in a particular translation.
Looking at the verse which comes right before it the easy to read version says
Heb 10 “…everyone who enters God’s place of rest will also have rest from their own work just as God did.”
I not trying to be a smart ass but let me throw this in. Those who have ears to heart let them hear.
John 6 KJV
27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.
28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?
29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
John 6 ERV
27 …But work to get the food that stays good and gives you eternal life. The Son of Man will give you that food. He is the only one qualified by God the Father to give it to you.”
28 The people asked Jesus, “What does God want us to do?”
29 Jesus answered, “The work God wants you to do is this: to believe in the one he sent.”

Howdy Everyone,

Regardless of the positional aspects of truth and issues regarding opinion about what a word means, I believe we have to come down at some point to the bottom line ultimate truth that salvation is by faith alone with no hint of effort on our part. It is absolutely all of God and nothing of us. If that is true, then when Paul says in Galatians that we “walk” (live) in the same way that we received salvation, that says to me that effort in walking is also eliminated. Regardless of what anyone says, this eternal life which is encased in flesh cannot be lived outside of faith in Christ (Gal 2.20).

I remember when my son was little and sat at the table in a high chair. In teaching him how to use a fork one day, I stood behind him and wrapped his hand around the fork with my hand wrapped around his hand. Then I proceeded to pick up a piece of food and put it in his mouth while standing behind him. He got so excited that he had picked up a piece of food with a fork and fed himself! My wife and I even cheered and encouraged him in that. “See Caleb, you did it!” The reality was that I actually did everything for him despite his thinking that he had done it himself. I believe that we are just that dependent on the Heavenly Father.

When we get to the other side, we will see that He was really the One doing the work. We were just walking in the good works that He had prepared beforehand. If a legalist gets to heaven (and I believe many will because to varying extents, we all are legalists), then no matter how much he or she thought was required of them to “do” down here, they will realize that it was really the Father and not them doing it.

As the Food Lion says, “That’s just my two cents.” :)

Yours in Him,


“They were not being encouraged to strive in hopes of finding rest, but that they stop hesitating to believe the real promise of rest in Jesus Christ. For he had made the once and for all sacrifice for sins. Let your heart be assured that in having come to Jesus, you have already entered the rest being held out to the Hebrews.”  <~theshovel

also:   “… confidence in the rest Christ has already brought you into.” <~theshovel

i LOVE that!  in this world there is so much UN-rest and so much WORK, STRUGGLE and Stress involved just to survive the world itself.  (“but GOD…” as the apostle Paul liked to say)  with us and GOD there is ultimate rest and peace and comfort and confidence, and it is all found in Christ and the miraculous work and relationship that the FATHER has provided for the New Creation HE has made us.  :)  there is no rest or peace or true comfort anywhere else nor from anyone else.  it is ours and all sourced in Him.  :)  when we are overwhelmed with the sense of unrest, it is not sourced from GOD, but from circumstances, situations, other people's expectations of us, our own unrealistic expectations of us, conditioned reasoning, etc. that we experience in this world.  yet HE will work it for our good.  apparently, the experiential process for our 'good' is not always comfortable, painless, easy or controllable from our perceived end.  amen?!!!    frown   blush  but with GOD all is at peace and rest with HIM and us.


Sherri! I re-read your post this morning. I like your perspective about “this world.” I supervise 17 people in my “day job.” I find myself often saying little phrases that describe this to them both as believers and unbelievers. “In this world down here” is one I hear myself saying most often. I think and hope that some or many of them will begin to see the stark contrast between the two worlds.

Though I live in this body in this world, I am not of this world. I hear the Lord telling them things that are “other-worldly” through me (you know, those “grace things”). And, as this world degenerates, I think the contrast becomes more and more pronounced.

I love this statement you made: “there is no rest or peace or true comfort anywhere else nor from anyone else. it is ours and all sourced in Him.” Many in the world are beginning to see this especially as they view the grace walker living it out. As one of my African American in-laws is fond of saying, “God has a way and it’s mighty sweet!”

Thank you for the encouragement my Sister! And, you too, Jim!

happy that you were encouraged!  :) 

'…stark contrast…'  and  '…more pronounced…'  <~john 

i LOVE those descriptions!  :)


great to hear from you, John  :)  

I know this is kind of an aside but something really wonderful has been developing in my son over the past three or four years. He believes and thinks according to Grace! He “gets it” to the extent that it gets him “into trouble” at the Christian school where he is a high school freshman. Most of the teachers there attended Bob Jones University. My son actively questions a lot and I think they are getting pretty frustrated with him—very interesting to watch his sacrifice.

Here is another “down here” concept in that regard—the world is determined to make us pay a price for our freedom. Sometimes it is a pretty hefty price in their view but everything has already been purchased for us and belongs to us already. So, even if we pay their ultimate “price,” in reality it is nothing because we already have THE life.


it seems that quite often a LOT of teachers, preachers, parents, and most other human adults, like kids (or anyone else for that matter) to ask questions only when they are the questions that they 'approve', or are the ones they actually know answers to,  and/or are not some kind of 'threat' to their intelligence and/or their perceived reputations of knowing all the answers.  wink

the mind of the world has its own versions of what freedom is.  it is quite limited and yet varied.  the world can only do what the world can do.  it is quite unable to create and provide the ultimate freedom, as you pointed out, that has already been bought and generously given to us through Jesus Christ.  smiley

there is no end to the things that require/demand our sacrifice, labor and funds here on this present earth.  i am so very thankful that Jesus paid His ultimate and now generously gives and supports and provides all that we have and need in this miraculous relationship that we have together in Him.  bouncyenjoying your input, John   give our best to your son.  smiley


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Random Shovelquote: Inner Objections (view all shovelquotes)

I say, listen to those objections you hear within yourself and let the lies fall away under the light of Christ.   source