The Christian Rest

“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.” (Hebrews 4:9-10)

This is an important New Testament affirmation that God’s work of creation was “finished from the foundation of the world” (Hebrews 4:3). The reference is to Genesis 2:1-3, where the writer has told us that God had “rested from all his work which God created and made,” thus completely denying the contention of theistic evolutionists that the processes of “creation” (that is, evolution) are still going on.

In addition, it makes a significant comparison between the believer’s rest and God’s rest. The word “rest” here is not the usual word for “rest” and is used only this once in the New Testament. It means, literally, “sabbath rest,” or “keeping of the Sabbath.” In the context of chapters 2 and 3 of Hebrews, the concept of rest is being expounded with several meanings. The original warning was in Psalm 95:11, where it referred both to the Israelites entering into the promised land under Joshua and to God’s own rest after His work of creation. Psalm 95 is repeatedly quoted in Hebrews, where other meanings are also implied: the keeping of a weekly Sabbath in commemoration of God’s rest after creation; the promised future rest to the world and its believing inhabitants—possibly in the millennium but certainly in the new earth; and the believer’s present spiritual rest after he puts his faith in Christ, no longer trusting in his works for salvation.

With such a rich investiture of meaning in the fact of God’s past rest and the promise of our future rest, it is appropriate that there should be a perpetual weekly commemoration and expression of faith in that rest in every generation, until its ultimate fulfillment in the eternal rest in the New Jerusalem.

In the meantime, we are urged to “labour” to “enter into that rest” (Hebrews 4:11). HMM

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