"Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief." (Hebrews 4: 11)''
The translation of this phrase has caused more problems than needed.
Other translations remove away the seeming (and unseemly) contradiction:
"May we be diligent, then, to enter into that rest, that no one in the same
example of the unbelief may fall," (Youngs Literal Translation)
This translation brings out the proper meaning of "labor"
"Let us hasten therefore to enter into that rest; lest any man fall into the same
example of unbelief. " (Douay-Rheims)
"Hasten", Hurry, do all that you can to enter into the rest.
What is this rest? Is it a rest from doing anything at all? Keeping in mind the context of the passage, this rest has to do with resting from the animal sacrifices, and instead believing that Jesus Christ has provided the final, fulfilling, and forever sacrifice for all our sins:
"3Who [Jesus] being the
brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and
upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our
sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; 4Being made so much
better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name
than they." (Hebrews 1: 3-4)
Notice how the writer emphasizes "by himself" -- not with any help from us, not with any additions from the previous lineage of high priests, prophets, and kings. Furthermore, Jesus our High Priest "sat down", while the other priests, from Aaron to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, never sat down, because they were always working, moving about with cutting and flaying animals, then waving the offerings, receiving the tithes, and communicating the imperfect atonement of the animal sacrifices for the sins of the offerer.
Other passages underscore the perfection of Jesus' sacrifice:
"By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus
Christ once for all." (Hebrews 10: 10)
The writer of Hebrews continues:
"And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same
sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12But this man, after
he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of
God; 13From henceforth
expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. 14For by one offering
he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." (Hebrews 10: 11-14)
While the priests under the Old Covenant ministered "daily" and "oftentimes", Jesus offered "one sacrifice. . . "for ever". . ."one offering". . ."perfected for ever".
Of course, there are plenty of other scriptures in the New Covenant which testify to the finality of the Cross:
"For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth
unto God." (Romans 6: 10)
"In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;" (Ephesians 1:7)
In this passage, the redemption that we receive in Christ is "present tense" active, now. Later in the epistle, Paul writes:
"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God
for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." (Ephesians 4: 32)
"And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he
quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;" (Colossians 2: 13)
"All" trespasses. Peter then writes:
"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:" (1 Peter 3: 18)
The Apostle John hammers this point:
"But if we walk in the
light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood
of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)
It's Finished, it's completed, it's done. So rest. No longer should anyone in the Body of Christ have an attitude, a sense, a feeling, or even a thought that they have to do, have, or be anything in order to qualify for God's blessings:
"For this is
the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith
the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts:
and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
"And they shall not
teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord:
for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
"For I will be
merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I
remember no more." (Hebrews 8: 10-12)
If we do not believe that God has finished the work for us, then we will find ourselves frustrating God's grace, engaging in dead works:
"Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto
perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and
of faith toward God," (Hebrews 6: 1)
"How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered
himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the
living God?" (Hebrews 9: 14)
"Dead works" refer to anything work that people engage in so that they can establish a right foundation with God, when Jesus Christ has already established it once and for all.
So, we must make every effort to allow ourselves to be established in righteousness (Matthew 6: 33), the gift which we keep receiving from Jesus,who is our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1: 30) and who became sin that we would receive His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5: 21)