There Is a Rest for the People of God
Yesterday we ended with verse three, “For we who have believed enter that rest.” Now the Preacher feels the need to go back and prove that there still is a rest for the people of God even now. His argument is basically: 1) The ancient Hebrews were supposed to enter into their rest, which in their case was the equivalent of the Promised Land, or land of Canaan, which had been promised to Abraham and his descendents some six centuries prior (Genesis 15:1-20), but failed to enter in when under Moses’ leadership they refused because of unbelief (Numbers 13-14). Still, the rest was there had they believed and conquered the land. 2) Joshua did lead the Israelites into that rest when they entered the Promised Land. 3) Yet, David spoke of another rest for the people of God in Psalm 95 just a few hundred years after Joshua led the people in, thus indicating another day when rest would be available for God’s people. 4) And it is this rest that the Preacher uses to prove that a rest for God’s people still remains—not of entering an earthly land but a heavenly one based on faith in God’s promise which is now founded upon the person and work of His Son. 5) And added to all of this is that even God rested from His labors after creation into whose rest we enter.
We might enquire as to what this heavenly rest is. We remember that in the Garden, Adam was required “to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15), thus indicating that work was not intended to be a curse. But work did become implicated in the curse after sin in that now Adam had to deal with thorns and thistles when he worked the ground (Genesis 3:17-19). So drudgery was added to work.
But it seems more is included in “rest” than not having to work. Indeed, to limit rest to labor is to cheapen it. Heavenly rest means to rest from striving with temptation and trial, even doubts and fears—all the things the world, our sinful natures, and the devil constantly hurl at us day by day. In many places of our planet, it means ultimate release from persecution and suffering; in others, freedom from poverty and deprivation. For some, it includes final discharge from sickness and disease, lifelong handicap and mental infirmity. It means that the struggle and the war that Christians face everyday will be over. Yes, I know that unbelievers face some of these things as well, but it stings more deeply for the Christian who knows but for his own sin, it wouldn’t be this way. But that just makes the rest all the more glorious, for it is God who cleanses, heals, makes matters right again, and wipes away the tears from our eyes. And that makes a true rest.