Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Hebrews 4:1-10 - What is meant by attaining God's rest?

Hebrews 4 continues the discussion of Psalm 94.

Aquinas on why we should be anxious to 'attain God's rest'
Hebrews 4:1  -  Let us fear therefore lest the promise being left of entering into his rest, any of you should be thought to be wanting.
Timeamus ergo ne forte relicta pollicitatione introëundi in requiem ejus, existimetur aliquis ex vobis deesse.
Fear of the Lord: He was offended by those who would not believe, so that He swore that they will not enter into His rest. Therefore, let us fear, namely, with a chaste fear and with anxiety: ‘Blessed is the man that is always fearful’ (Pr. 28:14); ‘He that thinks himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall’ (1 Cor. 10:12). For such fear is a useful admonition to give, and it is the companion of three spiritual virtues, namely, of hope, faith, and charity: ‘I am the mother of fair love and of fear and of knowledge and of holy hope’ (Sir. 24:24).

Exclusion from seeing God While the promise of entering his rest remains, let us fear lest any of you be judged to have failed to reach it. For happiness or felicity consists in a man’s entering it: ‘Happy shall I be if there shall remain of my seed to see the glory of Jerusalem’ (Tob. 13:20); ‘Looking diligently, lest any man be wanting to the grace of God’ (Heb. 12:15), because, as Chrysostom says: ‘The punishment of not seeing God is greater than other punishments inflicted on the damned.’

Specific punishment for mortal sin: And he says, lest any of you be judged according to God’s judgment: ‘Depart, you accursed, into everlasting fire’ (Mt. 25:41). Or be judged according to human opinion: ‘For know you this and understand that no fornicator or unclean or covetous person (which is a serving of idols) has inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God’ (Eph. 5:5)...One should fear, therefore, that on account of his own guilt, he fails to enter, because he abandoned the promise, which we abandon by deserting faith, hope, and charity, through which we can enter. And this is done by mortal sin.

Hearing is not enough, we have to respond
2 For unto us also it hath been declared, in like manner as unto them. But the word of hearing did not profit them, not being mixed with faith of those things they heard. For we, who have believed, shall enter into rest; as he said: As I have sworn in my wrath; If they shall enter into my rest
 2 Etenim et nobis nuntiatum est, quemadmodum et illis: sed non profuit illis sermo auditus, non admistus fidei ex iis quæ audierunt. 3 Ingrediemur enim in requiem, qui credidimus: quemadmodum dixit: Sicut juravi in ira mea: Si introibunt in requiem meam: 
Aquinas: Here it should be noted that the things promised in the Old Testament should be understood spiritually: ‘All things happened to them in a figure’ (1 Cor. 10:11); ‘What things soever were written, were written for our learning’ (Rom. 13:4).

Then when he says, but the message did not benefit them, he shows that the promise is not enough, but that we should be solicitous; hence, he says that the message, which was heard and not believed, profited them nothing: ‘For not the hearers but the doers of the law will be justified’ (Rom. 2:13).

And he says, not being met [mixed] with faith, because just as the union of intellect and thing understood make one thing, so the believer’s heart and formed faith make one thing: ‘He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit’ (1 Cor. 6:17). For the words of God are so efficacious that they should be believed as soon as they are heard: ‘your testimonies are become exceedingly credible’ (Ps. 92:5).

What does rest mean in this context? 
Hebrews 4:3b - For in a certain place he spoke of the seventh day thus: And God rested the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again: If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing then it remaineth that some are to enter into it, and they, to whom it was first preached, did not enter because of unbelief: Again he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, Today, after so long a time, as it is above said: Today if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts. and this indeed when the works from the foundation of the world were finished.
et quidem operibus ab institutione mundi perfectis. Dixit enim in quodam loco de die septima sic: Et requievit Deus die septima ab omnibus operibus suis. Et in isto rursum: Si introibunt in requiem meam. Quoniam ergo superest introire quosdam in illam, et ii, quibus prioribus annuntiatum est, non introierunt propter incredulitatem: iterum terminat diem quemdam, Hodie, in David dicendo, post tantum temporis, sicut supra dictum est: Hodie si vocem ejus audieritis, nolite obdurare corda vestra. 
Rest from labours:  He says, therefore: The word was spoken to us as it was to them that we shall enter into rest: ‘In peace in the selfsame, I will sleep and be at rest’ (Ps. 4:9); ‘You shall rest and there shall be none to make you afraid’ (Jb. 11:19)...[one rest is] in external goods, and a man passes to it from peace of mind...

For he has spoken somewhere of the seventh day. This can be read in two ways: in one way by omitting the for. Then the sense is this: they shall enter into the rest which was prefigured by the seventh day from the foundation of the world. And God rested the seventh day from all his works. Or the Holy Spirit spoke in a certain place of the seventh day. And he spoke after describing the works of the six days, when the works from the foundation of the world were finished. But he says, from the foundation of the world, because the world was first established, and after six days it was made perfect in all its parts...

...‘rest’ is not taken as the opposite of labor, but as the opposition of motion...And so, God made the seventh day as every other day, because something was added then, for that was the time when the state of purgation began...

It should be noted with Augustine that he does not say simply that He rested, but that he rested from his works. For He rested in Himself from all eternity, but when He rested, it was not in His works, but from His works. For God works in a different manner from other artisans: for an artisan acts because of a need, as a house builder makes a house to rest in it, and a cutlerer a knife for gain; hence, the desire of every artisan comes to rest in his work. But not so with God, because He does not act out of need but to communicate His goodness; hence, he does not rest in His work, but from producing a work; and He rests only in His goodness.

The Promised land: ...he extracts two things: one is well known, namely, that the ancestral fathers did not enter; the other is that during the time of David there remained another rest to be given. For although the promised rest was to be obtained in the promised land, yet by the fact David so long afterward says, Today, if you hear his voice, harden not your hearts, he shows that another rest remains...There is, therefore, a rest into which we are to enter, but which they did not enter because of unbelief. a temporal rest, which the children of Israel had in the promised land..

Eternal rest: the other is in spiritual good, which is within, and to it a man enters: ‘Enter into the joy of your lord’ (Mt. 25:21); ‘The kind has brought me into his storerooms’ (S of S 1:3)...God created man for eternal happiness, for he created him according to His own image and likeness, He prepared a rest for him. Therefore, although someone might be excluded because of his sin, God does not wish that preparation to have been made in vain. Therefore, some will enter, as is clear from those invited to the marriage feast: ‘The marriage, indeed, is ready, but they that were invited are not worthy. Go, therefore, into the highways and as many as you shall find, call to the marriage’ (Mt. 22:8).

The work of love and praise continues
8 For if Jesus had given them rest, he would never have afterwards spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a day of rest for the people of God.For he that is entered into his rest, the same also hath rested from his works, as God did from his. 
8 Nam si eis Jesus requiem præstitisset, numquam de alia loqueretur, posthac, die.  Itaque relinquitur sabbatismus populo Dei. Qui enim ingressus est in requiem ejus, etiam ipse requievit ab operibus suis, sicut a suis Deus.
Aquinas:  i.e., Joshua, had given the children of Israel final rest, God would never have spoken of another day, i.e., another rest would not remain for us, nor would David have spoken of another rest after that day. Hence, it is clear that that rest was a sign of spiritual rest.

...For whoever enters God’s rest also ceases from his works: because just as God worked six days and rested on the seventh, so by the six days the present time is signified, because it is a perfect number. Therefore, one who works perfectly, rests from his works on the seventh day, as God did from His.

But not from all works, because there are certain works, for example, to see, to love and to praise: ‘And they rested not day and night saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty’ (Rev. 4:8), but from laborious works: ‘But they who hope in the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall take wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall work and not faint’ (Is. 40:31).

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