God's Rest

Hebrews 3:1
"As having nothing, yet possessing all things," is a spiritual enigma which expresses a good deal concerning the saint's present position in this world. It shows on the one side the extent and security of his divinely-bestowed inheritance; and on the other, the futurition of its possession and enjoyment.
"Faith is the substance of things 'hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." It gives power and reality in the soul to unseen and future things-things which are designed to mold our whole character, and aims and being, here below, and in which we shall find our heavenly and eternal portion.
So entirely, indeed, is revelation occupied with the presentation of the objects of hope, blended and linked, it is true, with that which is actually accomplished in Christ, that a Christian cannot rightly enjoy the present grace of Christ without looking forward. Nay more, it may be said, that " if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable."
He who by the power and grace of Christ has been " delivered from this present evil world," is by that very deliverance constituted a child of hope, and set forward on his journey to a future world; and if he be true to his calling, and not like Israel, who in heart turned back again into Egypt, he will understand the meaning of that word, " One thing I do, fbrgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
The grace that attaches our souls to Christ makes us wish for his return. "The Spirit and the bride say, Come." Even the cross itself points us to the glory; for He who was "crucified through weakness yet liveth by the power of God." While the very institution of Christ, in remembrance of His death, brings home to the heart the bright hope of His return. "Ye do show the Lord's death till He come."
This hope, which is presented in various aspects, according to the variety of blessing which God hath prepared for them that love Him (for "He hath blessed us with ALL spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ"), may begin at that which is individual-and so far at self-as "in hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie hath promised before the world began." But it extends in widening circles, until it embraces all that can be enjoyed in the manifestation of the glory of God. "We rejoice in hope of the glory of God."
Even for creation itself, amidst its groans and sufferings, and subjection to vanity, through man's sin, there is a reserve of hope. "For creation (Gr.) itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God."
"We are saved by hope;" but, as it is divinely argued, not by a visible and temporal hope, but by one that is unseen and eternal. For this is the generic character in Scripture, of seen and unseen things. "The things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
To the affections of the saint or the Church of God, this hope is concentrated in the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. "Looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our. Savior Jesus Christ." And the moral conformity to this hope on the part of His disciples, is found in the exhortation of Christ, "Let your loins be girded about and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord."
The Church will have her proper joy in union with her heavenly Head and Bridegroom, in glory, which is now her stay and comfort in grace. But when she thus takes her place in heavenly joy-her central place of deep and unutterable peace and rest in the affections of Christ, on the marriage of the Lamb-there is still another character attaching to this hope, which stamps it with blessed and glorious features in contrast with all that the history of man and of creation has hitherto known.
There is the happiness to the saint (complete in itself) of being " forever with the Lord"; but there are also the blessed surrounding circumstances in which the triumphs of God's grace and glory will be manifested. There is the bright circle of accomplished blessing, of which Christ is the center and spring, extending to things in earth and things in heaven. For God," hath made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth; even in Him."
God will gather around Himself all whom His love has made happy; as it is the end of Christ's death "to gather together in one the children of God that are scattered abroad." Of this gathering the twelfth of Hebrews presents us with a blessed picture, which I should give thus: "Ye are come to Mount Sion; and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem; and to myriads of angels to a general assembly; and to the Church of the first-born (ones) who are enrolled in heaven; and to God the judge of all; and to the spirits of just men made perfect; and to Jesus, mediator of the new covenant; and to the blood of sprinkling which speaketh better things than that of Abel."
These are the constituents of that blessed assembly, that heavenly feast of tabernacles to which we are now come by faith, and in the actual gathering of which the rest of God will be found.
God's purpose in Christ is "to reconcile all things unto Himself.... whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven." And it is added, as to the church's portion, "you that were some time alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled." God's final purpose is to bless, not only as now, the souls of His people, nor even, in the fullest sense, to bless individually; but He will gather around Himself, and will bring into His rest, those whom His love has chosen in sorrow and affliction, and whom He has called to be the partaken of His glory. Here, the very world of their existence, and the whole condition of their being, will accord with the grace, that redeemed them to Himself; and will, with sin shut out, and sorrow banished, and need of conflict gone, and the tide of God's eternal goodness flowing unchecked on every hand, form not the saints rest alone, but the rest of God.
It is the believer's entrance into this rest that is the subject of instruction in these chapters; and the moral wilderness which man's sin has made of this world, may well cause our hearts to long and sigh for this coming rest.
It is indeed set before us, like the coming of the Lord, as the proper object of our hope; but like this, amidst the confusion and evil, the difficulties and sorrows of the last days, it becomes also our necessary and only resource.
Man in innocence failed to enjoy this rest; the Israelites in the wilderness, through unbelief, came short of Canaan, which was only the type of it; and Joshua, when he had led the tribes into the land, could not give them rest. But God will not be defeated of his purpose. "Some must enter therein." "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God."
In David, after the tribes had been long in possession of the land, the Spirit of the. Lord revives, even to Israel, the testimony of this rest, and presents it as their yet future hope: " saying in David, To-day, after so long a time;" as it is said (i.e. in Psa. 95) "to-day if ye will hear His voice harden not your hearts," etc.
The feast of tabernacles, the type of this rest, is to Israel, practically, like the passover and pentecost, an unaccomplished feast. The Church of God, that can say, "Christ our passover is sacrificed for us," and can speak of "the day of pentecost being fully come," has as yet known nothing of the antitype of the feast of tabernacles.
Israel-will have its rest under the shadow of the Lord; and the Lord will have His rest in Israel's blessing. "In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not; and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack. The Lord -thy God in the Midst of thee is mighty, He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love; He will joy over thee with singing." But this is an earthly rest. " God's rest," as presented to the faith and hope of His pilgrims now, is a heavenly rest; and we are urged to "labor to enter into that rest."
Whether our hearts are pressing on to this rest or not, it is certain, that redemption, as to its present results (like the type in Israel), delivers us only into a wilderness. Canaan lay beyond the desert; and the tribes of the Lord must needs learn the toilsomeness of the way before they reached their rest. God had not redeemed them from Egypt to leave them in the wilderness; and where there was any sense of his presence, the people could say, like Moses, in the midst of their weariness, "We are journeying to the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you." God will not allow His saints to find a rest in this world, any more than He would allow Israel to find the land of promise until they had crossed the desert and the Jordan. His purpose in redemption is to bring us into His rest; and hence the admonition, " Let us fear, lest a promise being left us of-entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it." He would not have His people indifferent about their inheritance, nor "despise the pleasant land;" but would have their faith and expectation and moral position here in accordance with the unchanging counsels of His grace.
We rest in Christ now, it is true, from every burden of sin and condemnation; and our consciences rest from the guilt which Christ's blood has removed; we " rest thus from our own works as God did from His," but this is only that we may without hindrance, pursue our pathway to the heavenly rest.
Toil and conflict in the world for Christ now, are as much the fruit of grace as rest and glory will be by and bye. God cannot rest in the confusion and vanity, and misery and death, which now mar the fairest scenes of this world; and for the same reason, He says, in effect, to His people, " Arise ye and depart, for this is not your rest; because it is polluted."
God's rest is before us; and the exhortation is, "Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest." And be it remembered, that, if the pressure of the last days makes us sigh for our rest and deliverance, it is God's rest that He is bringing us into. It is but to lower its character, if we think of it only as the saint's rest.
There is something wonderful in the thought that this rest of God, this final purpose of his heart, has been kept in reserve-unentered through all the ages of the past; a joy to be tasted by His people when the Jubilee of redemption is come. It could not, indeed, be entered before, for Christ, the new man and second Adam, must bring us into it, and be' the ground and center of this rest of God.
The sabbath was the great type of this rest; and accordingly, in Gen. 2:33And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. (Genesis 2:3), it is said, "On the seventh day God ended. His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He made. And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made."
Creation is here the sphere of this rest; but it is creation before sin had disturbed the order and beauty of God's works, or had cast a cloud of sorrow over that bright scene, in the contemplation of which it is said, "God rested and was refreshed."
As to man, this rest comes in only at the close (if I may so speak) of long ages of labor. Not that this was necessary to prepare the rest itself; for " the works were finished from the foundation of the world;" though in reality, through man's sin, the rest was broken up: however the type of it, in gracious promise, might remain. God could not rest where sin was producing moral disorder and misery and death, and hence the force of our Lord's expression, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work."
It is necessary that sin and all its consequences should be excluded from God's rest; and hence the necessity of redemption, in order to bring any into the enjoyment. of- it. Rest of conscience, through the blood of Christ, God now gives to a poor sinner, as a preparation for His holy presence; but the rest of God itself is in the wide scene of God's completed works, when redemption shall bring alike the heirs and the inheritance into participation in that rest. It stands necessarily in redemption, because sin is to leave no stain on that which God pronounces perfect; and because sinners are to be associated with Him in this rest. " For this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil." He must unweave the mighty web of mischief which Satan, since the fall, has cast around man and his lost inheritance, ere the saint can have rest, or God can rest in the completion of His work.
One may, indeed, through grace, enjoy communion with God here, and maintain by the same power of grace the conflict with Satan and all evil, but this is conflict and trial, and not rest. It was in the review of God's finished works in creation that He is first presented to us as having rest; and that rest of God which is future, will be in redemption's completed work, when both the heirs and the inheritance will be in the full power of that redemption which is by Christ.
Nothing in man, nothing in the saint, could procure this rest, nor give title or fitness to enter it. It is emphatically God's rest; and it will bear the stamp of that perfectness which is impressed upon all the works of God.
Nor is this a slight and unimportant circumstance connected with this rest. For all His works are perfect; and thus stand eternally in contrast with the works of man. This is seen in all God's works, whether, in the order and glory of the great frame-work of creation, or in the transient beauty of the flowers of the field. A lily, for example, is invested by the hand of God, prodigal of its infinite resources, with a splendor of attire that man's proudest efforts can never reach. "Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."
So in His ways of love and grace, there is an absolute contrast to all the principles and the ways of man. There is no parallel to His love. The way He has taken to bring our souls acquainted with Himself is a demonstration of this. He is GOD in His love, as He is in the supremacy of His power and glory; and the rest which He has prepared for His saints will only be the fruit of the fully accomplished counsels of His love.
In a sense it may be said, that God Himself has foregone His own rest, until He can enjoy it with us His poor weary pilgrims, who are yet on our journey towards it.
In His rest in creation, there is no intimation of any being associated with Him in the enjoyment of it. It is only declared that God rested from all His works. But His counsel from the beginning was • to bring, through the second Adam, His redeemed into this blessedness. Hence, when sin disturbed His sabbath in creation, He goes on to work anew; as has been already quoted, "My Father worketh hitherto." And hence also the renewal of the institution of the sabbath, or seventh day's rest under the law. It still held forth as a type the hope of rest, after all the toil and labor which sin had introduced: though an entrance upon it can only be secured by association with Him who brings in by death and resurrection a new order of things in redemption, of which not the seventh but the first day of the week is our constant memorial.
The seventh, or sabbatical year, in Israel's constitutions, presented another re-duplication of the type of a final sabbatic rest. The jubilee also, at the end of every hebdomad of sabbatical years, with all its joyousness, and thrilling sounds of liberty and recovered inheritances, kept up the type and this blessed hope of final rest.
But as to enjoyment, whether in Israel or the church of God, we are taught that the antitype is yet entirely future, save, as to the work of Christ, by which it will be all brought in.
"There remaineth, therefore, a rest to the people of God." God's rest is that to which we are now journeying, when He will again keep sabbath amidst the glorious scenes of redemption's wonders, and not merely amidst the works of creation. At creation's rest " the morning stars sang together;" but when God's rest in redemption is entered upon, " every creature which is in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth," as well as angels' and the redeemed shall unite in saying, " Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever!"
And their notes of heavenly joy will not be exchanged as upon earth for sighs and sorrow, nor will they ever die away again, as now. For redemption will stamp an eternal character upon the rest, and open an eternal spring of joy.