Perfect Rest, God’s Way

Simply put, rest is freedom from work or activity. The source of the Christian doctrine of rest is the rest of God Himself, who, after completing the work of Creation in six days, “rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” – Genesis 2:2. This provides the basis for the Hebrew Sabbath as the weekly seventh day of rest (sabbath is the Hebrew term for rest), which is presented as an ordinance of Creation. The fourth commandment demands the consecration of the Sabbath day to God and the limitation of labor to six days precisely because God made all things in six days and rested the seventh day (Exodus 20:8–11).

The biblical concept of rest, however, is not just based in the past (Creation) and present (weekly) but also in the future. This future aspect received symbolic expression in the Israelites’ pilgrimage under the leadership of Moses through the wilderness from the bondage of Egypt to the “rest” of the Promised Land. That rest was accomplished under Joshua, who led them into the land and settled them there (see Joshua 23–24).

The 40 years of restless wandering in the wilderness meant that the whole adult generation that set out with Moses perished without entering the Promised Land. This was a judgment they brought upon themselves by their ingratitude and rebelliousness (Numbers 14:26–35). Centuries later God warned their descendants against the danger of following this example of hard-heartedness and reaping a similar consequence of not entering into His rest: “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts . . .” (Psalm 95:7–11). The author of Hebrews cites this passage in Psalms (Hebrew 3:7–8; 4:7) as evidence that God’s rest is not a matter of past history but that “the promise of entering His rest remains.” The word “today” indicates that the day of grace is not closed: “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” – Hebrews 4:8-9.

pd - rest of God

It is God’s rest into which all persons are encouraged to enter. The weekly day of rest is just a reminder and a reflection of that rest. The rest of the Israelites in the Promised Land after their wilderness wanderings is a symbol of God’s eternal rest that His people will share. The rest that Christ gives to those who come to Him (Matthew 11:28) is a foretaste and a guarantee of the divine rest that awaits them. The rest after death of believers who have fallen asleep in Christ is a blissful intensification of the reality of this experience: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord . . . . they may rest from their labors.” – Revelation 14:13. But the completion of this rest in its inexpressible fullness will take place at the return of Christ, when at last all who are His will be fully conformed to His likeness (1 John 3:2). Salvation will finally be achieved as believers are clothed with imperishable, glorified bodies (2 Corinthians 5), and the renewed order of creation in which righteousness dwells will be established (2 Peter 3:13).

This will be the climactic point of all history and the moment of the entry of God’s people into the full and unending enjoyment of His promised rest. The completion of the redemption purchased by Christ at the cross will mean rest and freedom from all sin, and this in turn will mean rest and freedom from all sorrow, pain, suffering, persecution, frustration, injustice, and death (Revelation 7:9–17; 21:1–7). The rest of mankind, moreover, will involve the rest of God’s whole creation as it is brought to the perfection of that glorious destiny for which it was intended from the very beginning (see for example Romans 8:19–25).

Rest, however, is not synonymous with inactivity. What God rested from was the work of Creation. He continues constantly to be active, however, in providentially sustaining all that He has created and in the work both of righteous judgment and gracious salvation. Jesus Christ, indeed, in His incarnation, life, death, rising, and glorification, is precisely God in action (2 Corinthians 5:19). Hence the assertion of Jesus: “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” – John 5:17. What the Christian will rest from is the struggle against the forces of evil and the afflictions by which this present life is marred. The rest into which the Christian will enter will not be a state of uneventful boredom. God Himself is dynamic, not static, and so also is His rest. Since we were created in His likeness, we also will share in that attribute once we enter into that glorious “rest” that is promised.

Consequently, all that a Christian rests from simply sets him free to be active ceaselessly and joyfully in the service of God, the Creator and Redeemer. In perfect harmony with all God’s works, and in complete fulfillment, Christians exultantly praise and serve the triune God. Joy will be full, without possibility of improvement or deficiency (see Revelation 4:8–11; 5:8–14; 7:9–12). Such will be the rest without end of that eternal Sabbath that has a morning but no evening: “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest.” – Hebrews 4:11.

pd - God's rest

Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, ESV © 2016 by Crossway Bibles.
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About Roland Ledoux

Pastor of Oasis Bible Ministry, an outreach ministry of teaching, encouragement and intercessory prayer from the Holy Bible, the written Word of God and author of the ministry website, For The Love of God. He lives in Delta, Colorado with his beautiful wife of 50+ years and a beautiful yellow lab whom they affectionately call Bella.
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