Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Heb. 4:3a “For we which have believed do enter into rest,”
“Rest! A dainty word indeed! Too rich a syllable for this unstable earth! Is it not a stray word from the language of the celestials? Rest! It is obtainable? Is it possible? Can there ever be rest for the race who were driven out of Paradise?” (Spurgeon).
Heart-rest is life as God meant it to be. It is a sweet thing, precious to all. Some spend their whole lives seeking it, but find it an elusive butterfly, always beyond their reach. In fact, rest seems so elusive that many think it is only a dream, a fantasy, something that happens only in fairy tales.
Our text, however, presents rest as a present possibility. “Enter” refers to making an entrance to a house or land to take possession of it. We know rest will be its greatest in Heaven, but it is entered in the present time. Rest is based on a Person, not a place. Rest is in Christ. If rest were only found in Heaven it would be based on a place rather than on a Person.
Believers can have Heaven beforehand. As we walk forward, we should feel already within us the dawning’s of the Heaven we are approaching. There is a portrait of the saintly Puritan, Mr. Sibbes, which has written at the bottom, “Heaven was in him before he was in Heaven.” How blessed it would be to walk from here to Heaven with restful hearts, led beside still waters.
Rest is a precious gift offered to us, but even believers often give up on ever enjoying it in this world. On multitudes of Christian gravestones, we see the phrase, “Entered into rest.” The phrase has become a synonym for death. This is unusual, for our writer takes great pain to show that the phrase to mean a future blessing, but in our text the phrase speaks of a present possession.
The fact that “entered into rest” is so often abused shows how rarely we Christians achieve God’s rest in this life. The mass of believers seems to contradict this text. “But if the fruit of faith is repose; and if we who say we have faith are full of unrest, the best thing we can do is not to doubt the saying, but to look a little more closely whether we have fulfilled is conditions” (Maclaren).
I speak for all of us in saying I want more in this world than a superficial appearance of calm. I long for a tranquility, which can survive deep introspection. If there is unrest in my heart, it will inevitably burst forth. I want deep down peace. In the final analysis, nothing can compare to heart-rest.
Once a Persian King gave his favorite councilors different gifts. To some he gave golden goblets, but to one he gave a kiss. All the councilors were filled with envy toward the man who had received the kiss. They counted their gifts of gold and silver as nothing compared to that token of royal favor.
What would you not give to receive the kiss of favor from Jesus’ lips? What is worth more than knowing all is at peace, all is well, and all is rest, between you and the King of Kings?
Rest can be ours if we learn to trust our Father. It comes when the heart focuses its desires into one point. “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple” (PS 27:4).
When the heart centers itself totally in Jesus, the causes of unrest are swept away. Abiding in Him brings rest, for it prevents sin, thereby ridding us of guilt, a gnawing conscience, and painful consequences. Faith also allows me to throw all my burdens onto another. It lightens the load on my shoulders.
Faith also makes us submissive. Much restlessness is due to our rebellious wills. We beat ourselves against God’s providences, and cause our own turmoil. We are grieved at His methods, angered at His directives, disappointed in His prohibitions.
In submission there is rest. The bird that beats itself against the wires of its cage will not sing well. The beautiful song rises from the bird that accepts its lot, and sits contentedly on its perch. You will know you are entering rest when you can accept God’s lot for you, and can kiss His rod.
Heb. 4:3b “…as he said, AS I HAVE SWORN IN MY WRATH, IF THEY SHALL ENTER INTO MY REST: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.”
Availability of rest does not necessarily mean realization of it. Quoting Psalm 95:11 again, the writer reminds us Israel failed to enter rest, though rest was available. “Works” refers to God’s work of creation. Rest had been available since creation. The lack of rest cannot be blamed on God. There is never any failure on His part. He has always offered the promise of rest. It has been His plan from the very first.
Heb. 4:4-5 “For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, AND GOD DID REST THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS. And in this place again, IF THEY SHALL ENTER INTO MY REST.”
The rest missed by Israel and offered to us, is the rest God Himself enjoyed after creation. It is truly God’s rest. He is not only the Author and Giver of it. He is also a partaker of it. We are invited to enter a rest, which God Himself entered. He rests, and wants to share that rest with us. Analyzing God’s seventh day rest helps us understand the rest available for us. God’s rest after creation included three key ingredients: satisfaction, activity, and harmony.
God’s rest was one of satisfaction based on the successful accomplishment of a task. God was satisfied with the results of creation, and found delight in what He had done. An architect who has built a majestic cathedral, a painter who has finished a glorious picture, a sculptor who has carved a noble statue—these all enjoy a rest which rejoices in the beauty and grandeur of an accomplished task.
Creation has ceased. It was a package deal, complete in itself. The six days of creation had “an evening and morning,” in other words, a beginning and an end. The seventh day, however, is not described as having an end. God’s rest continues. Creation was completed.
All that exists is a continuation of what God first made. No new species or genus has been created. Like produces like. Living things do not spring from nothing, but come only from other living things “after their kind.” All life can be traced through the generations to the week of creation itself. Creation is complete. God is at rest, satisfied.
The law of conservation of energy says the amount of energy in the universe always remains the same. It cannot be increased or lessened. Creation is complete. God is at rest, satisfied.
There is change in the universe, but no creation. Einstein said energy equals mass times the velocity of light squared. Thirty-five hundred years earlier, Moses had already said, “God rested.” God created for six days. No more needed to be done. God did a perfect job. Thus, on the seventh day, He rested. Creation is complete. God is at rest, satisfied.
In addition to satisfaction, God’s rest includes activity. Creation is finished, but works of preservation and providence continue. God is active in our world and our lives. His rest was not necessitated by fatigue. “The Creator of the ends of the earth fainteth not, neither is weary” (Isaiah 40:28). He is busily at work in behalf of His children.
God’s rest also includes harmony. On the seventh day, everything in creation was in harmony. God had made it that way. There was rest everywhere because everything focused in God. He was the center, all else revolved around Him properly.
God’s rest of satisfaction, activity, and harmony was enjoyed by all things, including man. To picture the fact that God wanted things to remain this way, He not only rested on the seventh day, but also “blessed it.” He made it something good for man, thereby saying, “You are invited to share my rest.” A day of rest was the pledge of a life or rest available.
God meant for men to share His rest. This perfect rest, however, was disturbed by a rebellion. When God was no longer the center, creation fell into chaos. Sin disrupted our rest.
Jesus, though, has come to restore in this world the rest men enjoyed in Eden, but lost in sin. If such rest were possible only in Heaven, Jesus would not be a restorer. But we know He is the Restorer. Failure to enter rest in this life is our fault.
Do not miss what Jesus died to provide. Enter the kind of rest, which God Himself has entered. From the very beginning, God wanted us to enjoy rest on this Earth. He still invites us to share it with Him. God wants His rest to become your rest.God wants to give you a rest of satisfaction. He desires for you a life worth living, a life yielding precious fruit.
God wants to give you a rest of activity. He wants you to perform deeds worth doing. Rest within makes labor for Jesus vigorous. Service gushes from a heart at rest with God.
God wants to give you a rest of harmony. He does not want you to have inner turmoil. He want to give you heart-rest. “Is it possible? Can there ever be rest for the race who were driven out of Paradise?” Yes, in Jesus.