The unbelief of the desert generation prevented them from entering into the rest God promised. But God kept urging His people to enter this rest and not to harden their hearts. Paul repeats several times that God’s promise “remains” (Heb. 4:1, 6, 9, NKJV). He uses the Greek verbs kataleipō and apoleipō, emphasizing that the “promise of entering his [God’s] rest still stands” (Heb. 4:1, ESV)d The fact that the invitation to enter this rest was repeated in the time of David (Heb. 4:6, 7, referring to Psalm 95) implies both that the promise had not been claimed and that it is still available. In fact, Paul suggests that the experience of true Sabbath rest has been available since the time of Creation (Heb. 4:3, 4).

God invites us “today” to enter into His rest. “Today” is a crucial concept throughout Scripture. When Moses renewed Israel’s covenant with God at the border of the Promised Land, he emphasized the importance of “today” (Deut. 5:3; compare Deut. 4:8; 6:6; 11:2). It was a moment of reflection to recognize God’s faithfulness (Deut. 11:2–7) and a time of decision to obey the Lord (Deut. 5:1–3). Similarly, Joshua called on the people of his time to “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Josh. 24:15, NKJV).

In the same way, “today” is a time of decision for us, a time of opportunity as well as of danger, as it always has been for God’s people (See 2 Cor. 6:2). “Today” appears five times in Hebrews 3 and 4. It emphasizes the importance of listening to God’s voice (Heb. 3:7, 15; 4:7) because failing to listen and believe God’s word leads to disobedience and the hardening of our hearts. It could even delay our entrance into the heavenly Canaan, just as it kept the wilderness generation from entering the earthly Canaan.

But Jesus has defeated our enemies (Heb. 2:14–16) and inaugurated a new covenant (Hebrews 8–10). Thus, we can “come boldly to the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:14–16; 10:19–23). The appeal “today,” invites us to recognize that God has been faithful to us and has provided us with every reason to accept His invitation right away without delay.

Both the Sabbath commandment in Exodus 20:8–11 and Moses’ restatement of it in Deuteronomy 5:12–15 invite us to remember what God has done for us. As we have seen, what God wrote on tablets of stone point us to the finishing of His work of Creation (Exod. 31:18; 34:28). In Deuteronomy Israel is commanded to keep the Sabbath in view of God’s finished work of deliverance, from Egyptian bondage. The Exodus from Egypt pointed forward to the ultimate work of deliverance from sin that Christ would accomplish on the cross when He said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). So the Sabbath is doubly blessed and, in fact, is especially meaningful for Christians.

The Sabbath rest celebrates the fact that God ended, or finished, His work of Creation and redemption. Similarly, Jesus’ ministry in the heavenly sanctuary celebrates that He offereda perfect sacrifice for our salvation on the cross (Heb. 10:12–14).

Notice, God rests only when He has secured our well-being. At Creation, God rested when He had finished the creation of the world. Later on, God rested in the temple only after the conquest of the land He had promised to Abraham was completed through the victories of David and Israel “lived in safety” (1 Kings 4:21–25, ESV; compare with Exod. 15:18–21; Deut. 11:24; 2 Sam. 8:1–14). God had a house built for Himself only after Israel and the king had houses for themselves.