GOD’S OFFER OF REST

GOD’S OFFER OF REST

‘REST’ is a significant theological word in the Bible.  From Genesis to Revelation, there is an emphasis on rest, the loss of rest, and rest given again by God.  Rest is from God.  Rest is tied to the Promised Land.  Rest can also mean Heaven.  The lack of rest is equated with the lack of God’s presence. Rest is a complicated word that has variations of meaning depending on the context.  When we understand the theological roots of rest, we understand more about human life and the rest to which God calls all human beings.

Rest is a significant thought in Hebrews 3:7-4:13. This thick theological passage begs the believer in Jesus Christ to look back into the Old Testament through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to see the emphasis God the Father makes on ‘rest’ and how it relates to the People of God.  The author of Hebrews says it related to the believers he was writing to and to the people who received the Old Testament.  It applies to us now.

GENESIS: THE LOSS OF REST

We are introduced to rest in Genesis 2.  Genesis 2:1-3 states, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.  And on the seventh day God finished His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done.  So, God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in creation” (ESV).  God creates rest and weaves it into the fabric of Creation and time itself.  Part of rest is holiness.  Part of rest is the set apart nature of something or someone dedicated to God. 

It is at the beginning of the human journey, in the Garden of Eden, where human beings suffer the loss of rest.  Sin broke Creation and the relationship human beings had with God.  Human beings were set apart for God and yet chose to sin.  Brokenness ruled.  As a result, there was a lack of rest.  Genesis 3:17-19 records for us that human beings would work and work and sweat and sweat in order to receive God’s provisions and then would return to the dust.  Sin created a lack of rest.

God removed Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and removed them from His life-giving presence.  He covered their shame and their bodies.  They were to survive outside of the Garden.  Eventually, God would deal with sin and bring about His will for Creation in the fullness of time, but that time was not then.  They did not have peace with God.  Yet, there was hope.  Because of God’s life-giving nature, there was hope for rest through the faithfulness of God.

In Genesis, we are introduced to the idea of rest and its theological connection with holiness, the presence of God, and an abiding relationship with Him.  Those things were broken because of sin and therefore rest was lost.

EXODUS: REST IN THE LAND

Rest was lost because of sin.  God, the Creator of Rest, brings the idea of rest to the forefront with His people the Israelites.  The Book of Exodus records for us that the People of Israel are enslaved in Egypt for over 400 years and literally and figuratively have no rest.  In Exodus 5, as Moses is beginning the back and forth to free Israel, the Pharaoh refuses with these words: “Behold, the people of the land are now many, and you make them rest from their burdens!” (Exodus 5:5, ESV).  Pharaoh ordered them back to their burdens.  Moses’ mission from God was to lead the people from Egypt and those burdens to a Promised Land.  Promised Land is rest from enslavement.  In Exodus, the rest is in the land free of a king other than God himself.

Israel is living out Genesis 3:17-19 under the yoke of slavery to work and work with no rest.  Moses will lead them from this horrible situation to a land where God will give them rest.  In God delivering Israel out of their slavery in Egypt, they were set free to pursue rest in the Promised Land by following the LORD.  God promises Israel that if they follow Him and abide in Him that He would lead them to rest (Exodus 33:14. ESV): “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

In a related passage in Deuteronomy (some passages from Exodus are repeated in Deuteronomy), God promises that He will lead them out of the desert to a last of rest.  Deuteronomy 12:10 (ESV): “But when you go over the Jordan and live in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and when He gives you rest from all your enemies around so that you live in safety.”  The LORD indeed led them from the emptiness of the desert wastes and the Children of Israel came to receive the Land.  It is interesting to note that a generation that did not believe God died and did not enter His rest.

This generation of doubters from the exodus time period is the focus of the end of Hebrews chapter 3.  Hebrews 3:7-11, 3:19, 4:3-5, and 4:7 all directly link back to the Exodus-Deuteronomic history and the events that shaped the People of God.  What does that mean?  We understand ‘rest’ better in Hebrews when we look backward and understand the Old Testament roots of the passage.

PSALMS: REST IN THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD

The Psalms present to us theological truths, but they are also very personal.  People read the Psalms personally (which is beneficial), but we don’t want to miss the overall purpose of what God is doing.  We get solid thinking about ‘rest’ by understanding how faithful God truly is at all times.  The songs were written understanding all the times God was faithful in the past and projects for us how God will bring about the same now.

It is in the Psalms that we take note of a further aspect of ‘rest’ in the Bible that relates it to ideas of ‘peace.’  In rest, there is peace.  Rest is not only the absence of work and activity but is also an absence of chaos and disorder.  In the Psalms, we find words that look forward to the hope for rest that brings peace to our hearts.  We also note that God is the source of all the rest and it is found in no other source.

In Psalm 22:2 (ESV), we see God and His rest directly tied to the desire for peace: “O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.”  Only in God is there true rest and peace.  This idea that God is the source of rest and peace is found throughout the Psalms, such as 62:7 (ESV): “On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.” 

It is Psalm 95 that is directly quoted in Hebrews 3:7-4:13 directly tying the Old Testament and the New Testament together.

Psalm 116:7 (ESV) and Psalm 119:165 are other passages that in context (and in concert with other psalms) show us that God is the God of peace and rest and gives this as a reward to those who seek Him.  God gives not only peace for the heart now, but also rest in the future with Him.  He is the refuge.  He is the restful inheritance. 

ISAIAH: THE PROPHETIC PROMISE

In many passages in the Book of Isaiah, he describes God’s oracles to him that have a future flavor to them.  The people will be or are suffering, and Isaiah directs their view to the coming King Who will provide peace and rest for them from all that afflicts them.  For example, Isaiah 14:3-4 (ESV) says: “When the Lord has given you rest from your pain and turmoil and the hard service with which you were made to serve, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: “How the oppressor has ceased, the insolent fury ceased!”

In Isaiah, the prophetic (future-flavored) side of rest comes into view.  It is rest now.  It is a rest in the future.  Isaiah is speaking to people who will be or are suffering.  The prophet describes a God Who will see it all through to peace and is a prophetic word (eventually fulfilled in Jesus).  The ‘now’ is not there because it was not yet finished.  Rest is a promise as in Isaiah 32:18 (ESV): “My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.”

This is difficult for us because from Abraham to Jesus this was all promised.  We stand on the other side of reality where the promises are all ‘yes’ in Christ and are fulfilled in many ways.  This is why in the Book of Hebrews the author can state that the rest is upon them whereas for their forefathers it was only a promise. 

Isaiah speaks to those that will have rest and peace to come (Isaiah 62:6-8).  The emphasis on rest for the righteous is a greatly emphasized promise in Isaiah.  Israel was suffering and challenged and the righteous in the land, like Isaiah, were aware of the consequence of Israel’s immoral behavior as a nation.  So, with that would come the promise of God twofold: #1 discipline for misbehavior and #2 fulfillment of His promise that Israel under her Messiah would inherit the nations.

This emphasis is clear in passages like Isaiah 25:6-8, ESV): “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And He will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.  He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of His people He will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.”  There is rest in understanding God ultimately will keep His people safe from death.  See also Isaiah 26-27 for this thought as well.

GOSPEL OF MATTHEW: REST FOR THE SOUL

Jesus Christ notably talks about ‘rest’ in Matthew 11:25-30.  He frames rest in terms of those who know His Heavenly Father and those that follow after Him.  The source of the rest, as in the other passages of the Bible since the book of Genesis, is God the Father.  He offers this rest.  It is only in a relationship with Him that rest comes to those He has created.  Rest is hidden from those who do not know God.  This is consistent with the theology of rest that we have discussed from Exodus, Psalms, and Isaiah.

Matthew 11:28 (ESV) says clearly: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”    This is the first time (of 12) that the Greek word behind ‘rest’ is used in the New Testament.  Jesus reveals Himself by will of the Father and those who know Jesus come to Him and lay down the heaviness of life.  The hard work of living is made light and restful inside a relationship with Jesus.  Jesus states that in Him ‘easy rest’ is found.  This ‘easy rest’ is in contrast to the heaviness of life outside of the will of God the Father.  This is not something that is natural… it must be learned from Him.  This rest reflects the nature of Jesus which is humble and lowly.  It is a rest for the soul. 

The contrast of rest with the world or living outside of God’s presence is definitely present in the New Testament and especially in the Gospels.  Many times (7x) the phrase ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’ is used to describe the chaos and emptiness and pain of those who are apart from God’s rest.  God is rest.  Christ is rest.  Outside of a relationship with Jesus is seen as empty, painful, and angry.

Jesus specifically points out in Matthew 11:29 (ESV) that “rest for your souls” is in view.  It is important to note that the rest that Jesus teaches (and offers) in Matthew 11 is a direct fulfillment of everything promised in the Old Testament.  In Christ, is fullness and peace and safety for souls and truly being set apart for God.  In Christ and only in Christ!

COLOSSIANS: REST IN CHRIST

In the Book of Colossians, we have an explanation by the Apostle Paul about ‘rest’ that does not necessarily mention ‘rest.’  He explains some Christian thought behind what brings about biblical rest, of which Jesus Christ is the source.  Paul explains the philosophy of ‘rest.’  Paul explains the Christian motivation to seek God in Christ and to have the blessing of rest/life in Christ.  Paul is explaining what Jesus offered in Matthew.  “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

In Colossians 2, Paul instructs the believers established in Christ (2:7) to follow Christ and trust in Him and in so doing, they will have rest.  Paul wants Christians to be able to accept the ‘available rest’ offered by Christ.  Acting religious does not lead to rest. Rather, following Jesus Christ leads us to “rest” by the living hope found being alive in Christ (see 2:6-15).   Following Christ is a lifestyle of abiding in His way of being, “GOD’S lifestyle if you will.”  Christians ‘rest in Christ.’  Following rules and regulations (see 2:16-17) will not lead to rest.  Those things lead to busyness and acting religious. 

The idea of ‘rest’ is the finished work of Christ in believers.  The idea of the Day of Rest for the Jews (Sabbath) has become an everyday spiritual reality for those in Christ.

A POEM: ‘Holy Day’  

Toil fades as the night gives way

To the rising light of the seventh day.

Time we wear like a violet robe

God shares with us his restful abode

Where provision is of no mind,

In tasting of God’s end design

Set apart

God to know

Through His Name

All life bestowed

LORD,

we rise with you

Higher than the sun.

Blessed under your loving gaze,

we live in your glory ablaze.

Sabbath,

is a muse to the soul.

Drawing us to breathe deep,

at the Father’s footstool.

Prophecy,

in the blessed flow of time

what’s Holy declared in creation’s design.

Set apart

Christ to know

Through His Name

All life bestowed

LORD,

we rise with you

Higher than the sun.

Blessed under your loving gaze,

we live in your glory ablaze.

Upheld, by the Sovereign’s way

Knit to humans,

In Christ sustained.

In the Son of Man,

freed from strain

Living bread beyond toil’s pain.

Present hope for all who cease,

to share in God’s holy peace

LORD,

we rise with you

Higher than the sun.

Blessed under your loving gaze,

we live in your glory ablaze.

Forever, we rest in a Holy Day

HEBREWS: THE REST TO COME

The Book of Hebrews is a key passage in the Bible in terms of understanding ‘rest’ because it specifically ties the Old Testament and the New Testament together on purpose.  The writer of Hebrews is encouraging the Jews-who-have-become-Christians not to back off faith, but to press forward in faith and receive the rest that is to come.  Jesus is the perfect answer to all questions human beings have and is the perfect answer to the chaos and trials we all endure.

Hebrews specifically talks about how the ‘rest’ found in Christ is better than any other type of rest.  Hebrews 3:7-11 (ESV) is specific: “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put Me to the test and saw My works for forty years.  Therefore, I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known My ways. ‘As I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’”

The author of Hebrew is pointing out to his readers. They are to remain faithful (3:12) and keep being faithful to Christ and keep their hearts soft towards God (3:13-19) for the express purpose of being able to enter into God’s rest (promised in the Old Testament), as stated in the New Testament will be realized by those who are faithful to Christ as Lord.

Hebrews 4:1 is clear: “Therefore, while the promise of entering His rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it” (ESV).  Faith is required to enter His rest (4:2-3).  Receiving the Good News is required for those who want rest in God (4:4-7) because only in Jesus Christ is rest realized.  Being outside of Christ means no access to rest.  Other kinds of rest exist (4:8), but true eternal God-given rest only comes from God the Father through Jesus Christ and people are marked for it by the Holy Spirit.

REVELATION: THE FAITHFUL GRANTED REST

The Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, concludes the Bible with a grand declaration of ‘rest,’ for those faithful on to death.

The weaving of the truth of rest has been in and out of many passages and books and lives and prophets.  The Book of Revelation shows that those who are faithful to God will be granted rest.  Those who are in Christ and marked by Him will be part of the worldwide Garden of Eden we normally call Heaven. 

The rest that was lost in the Book of Genesis is restored.

The rest foreshadowed in Exodus is made real.

The rest flavored by peace in Psalms is given.

The rest given as a future secure promise in Isaiah comes to the present and is realized.

The rest for the soul in Matthew is fully deposited for those in Christ.

The rest produced by living for Christ in Colossians is rewarded.

The rest promised to the faithful in Hebrews is secured.

Many verses (we will cover 7 passages here) in the Book of Revelation reveal the realized Kingdom of Jesus Christ which provides the peace that the rest of the Bible promises and looks forward.  The ‘now and not yet’ quality of ‘rest’ is settled in the future and ‘rest’ becomes the ‘normal now’ once Jesus Christ has returned.

‘Rest’ is promised to those who lost their lives because of faith (the martyrs).  Once the work of God is completed, the rest is given.

Revelation 6:10-11 (ESV): They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

Revelation 7:13-17 (ESV): Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. “Therefore, they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.  For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

We see in this passage, related to the previous, that the white robed faithful to Christ will be given the rest they were promised.  This only happens in God’s presence and nowhere else.  It is only those who have Jesus Christ as their Shepherd that will receive the peace and rest and reward for trusting in Him.  Literally, there is no peace/rest outside of Christ.

This same truth about rest only being in Christ is further (and plainly mentioned) in Revelation 14. 

Revelation 14:13 (ESV): And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

Revelation 20 is continuing the idea that martyrs and the faithful receive the promised rest that God desires to give His children.   Those souls marked by Christ rest.  Those souls marked by the beast (those outside of Christ) do not receive rest.  We are talking about spiritual/soul rest and not a rest tied to land or work like a vacation, but rather the highest form of ‘rest’ discussed in the Bible.  Those outside the presence of God are not those who rest in any way shape or form.  To be outside of the presence of God, means no rest (see also Revelation 22 below). 

Revelation 20:4-6 (ESV): Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also, I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.  The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

Revelation 21:1-4 (ESV): Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

We find in this passage the idea that rest also includes: God dwelling with man, no tears, no death, no mourning, no sadness, and no pain.  There is a complete rest from all of these experiences and issues as it relates to sin.  Rest in God is complete rest.

Even to the very end of Revelation, we see a comparison of those who are part of the Kingdom of God and those that are not.  Inside the Kingdom is rest.  Outside the Kingdom is un-rest. 

Revelation 22:14-15 (ESV): Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

The Kingdom of God is those that bend their knee to King Jesus. A Kingdom is made up of a king and his subjects. King Jesus declares His burden is light. Serving Him brings rest to the soul. There is no rest outside of Lord Jesus. No rest day or night forever

Understand Jesus is fighting back such darkness from consuming our souls. There is rest in Jesus and freedom from the power of sin and death. Fully embrace the offer of rest in Lord Jesus because He loves you.

‘REST’ is a significant theological word in the Bible.  From Genesis to Revelation, there is an emphasis on rest, the loss of rest, and rest given again by God.  Rest is from God.  Rest is tied to the Promised Land.  Rest can also mean Heaven.  The lack of rest is equated with the lack of God’s presence. Rest is a complicated word that has variations of meaning depending on the context.  When we understand the theological roots of rest, we understand more about human life and the rest to which God calls all human beings.