Entering God’s Rest

What is God resting from? Many think that he rests from the 6-day labor of creation. Nothing is further from the truth as God cannot be tired. He does everything with a purpose. All things He did before Christ were shadows of things to come after him. Though he started with the rest from the work of creating man, he ended with the rest from the work of saving them. This rest began after Jesus uttered his last words on the cross: “It is finished.” It is this second rest that he wants you to enter with him, but you must first understand the meaning of this rest.

From what did God rest?

The Jewish Sabbath, which Christianity adopts though may be on a different day, symbolizes God’s rest after creation. However, the rest Jesus alludes to is about a different kind of rest.

For thousands of years, since man fell short of the glory they had when they were still in the garden of Eden, God gave them a means to reconnect with the divine. But the sacrifices they perpetually brought to the temples could only go so far in giving them a glimpse of the glory that was lost. The Lord never meant to give such means to them as the ultimate solution to their loss of eternal life. They were only meant as a foreshadow of the true means of reconciliation between God and man: Jesus Christ.

Jesus entered this rest when he gently whispered as he took his last breath on the cross: “It’s finished.” But it was several years before when Jesus looked forward to this moment when he said: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28)”

It is also to this point at the cross when the Hebrews writer admonished his readers: “Make every effort to enter into my rest (Hebrews 4:1)”

There was no rest for the Levitical priesthood, as there were no chairs in the Holy of Holies. Sacrifices had to be continually offered for the sins of the people. But these rituals were ended at the cross when Jesus, being the Great High Priest of the line of Melchizedek offered himself, the Lamb of God, once for all for all the sins of mankind. Then he sat down at the right hand of the Father. The work of saving man was finished. He’s made them perfect once for all. Hence he rested.

“Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” ( Hebrews 10:11-14 )

What more sacrifices, penances, or acts of contrition, are needed if Jesus had made you “perfect forever”? What sins need to be forgiven if Jesus’ blood had already covered them? If one has been cleansed from a guilty conscience, why the need to drag out what God had forgotten? This truth is asserted in the following Hebrews verses:

17Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” 18And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. 19Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:17-22)

What are you doing?

Yet, the purveyors of the business of sins thrive in the guilty conscience of “unbelieving” believers. They, the believers, should put on “full assurance of faith” to come boldly to the throne of grace, believing that God no longer counts their sins against them. But the grip on their insecurity is strong. Every time a point is being made about God’s grace, or His unconditional love, or the total forgiveness of their sins, they raise their objections: “Such unrestricted forgiveness of sins will give people a license to sin.” They mistakenly believe that the law will keep the believers in the straight and narrow, that the guilt of sin will reduce the sinful proclivity in their hearts. The truth is the law actually arouses sinful passions (Romans 7:5). Its effect is contrary to the hope of those who rely on it.

So the believers continue to deal with sins the way they had always done. They offer sacrifices in various forms. The Jews offered their animal sacrifices, people of the world’s religions offer things that prove their repentance, and the Christians offer their lip service of asking for forgiveness. They have all forgotten, or have read but still been uninformed that God no longer accepts any further sacrifices for sins; sacrifices in whatever forms; be they confessions to a priest, or directly to God.

Enter God’s rest

Jesus is calling out to all those who are still under the weight of the law: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”, while the Hebrews writer points back to that pivotal point at Calvary: “Make every effort to enter into my rest.” However, I have a strong suspicion that preciously few heed these declarations. Jesus knew this already when he said: “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and the only a few find it.” Few, like the only two Israelites, Joshua and Caleb, that had enough faith to come into the promised land while more than 600 thousands would rather perish than enter God’s land of rest.

We would do well to learn from the Galatians by avoiding their insistence in relying on their own effort to bring to completion what Christ had finished:

1O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? 2This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1-3)

How to tell

Are you still trying to relate to God through sins, through the permissible or forbidden things you do, or not do? As these things determine your relationship with God, whether they bring you closer to God or drive you apart from him? If you do, the Bible says you’re living in sin.

But the Bible says that you’re no longer in sin because Christ had been raised.

if Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins (1 Corinthians 15:17).

The sole reason God considers you as not in your sins is because Christ had been raised. It’s not because you’re living a perfect life. It’s not because you can no longer sin like a common man. The fact is the capacity for sins is ever present in everyone’s flesh.

Therefore, stop trying to rid sins from your life, but instead rest in the finished work of Christ on the cross. That is the only way to live a victorious life, and the only way to live a life that pleases the Lord. And don’t be foolish like the Galatians who continually try to improve on Christ’s work to present you perfect and blameless in God’s sight. It’s done. It’s finished. REST.

Nghi Nguyen

- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion on the topic, which does not necessarily reflect the church's theology, or beliefs of the individuals in it — Nghi Nguyen

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