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Author: Dr. Barbara

Entering God’s Rest

There is a Sabbath-rest for believers today. Hebrews 4:1 assures all of God’s people that entering his rest still stands.  God’s rest is not physical or earthly; it is spiritual and eternal. The child of God must “labor to enter into his rest”, that is, make every effort to submit to the Lord. They must cease from doing things in their own strength and by faith, trust in God through his Word and the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.

God cautions that those whose hearts are gone astray shall never enter his rest. “. . . ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways. So, I declared on oath in my anger, they shall never enter my rest.’ ” (Hebrews 3:10-11) The Israelites’ disobedience caused them to wander in the wilderness for forty years after their freedom from Egyptian slavery. That generation was unable to enter the land of Canaan, the physical resting place, prepared for them by God.  Hebrews continues with:

And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So, we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.  (3:18-19)

Christians are warned: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 3:8, 15; 4:7)  Unbelief (lack of faith) leads to a hardness of the heart and disobedience. And this  disobedience and hardness of heart will prevent Christians from entering the divine rest that Jesus sacrificed his life for on the cross.

To get a complete understanding of the significance of “entering God’s rest,” leads back to creation in the book of Genesis. After six days of creating the earth, God ceased from his work on the seventh day. The word ceased here is from the Hebrew word, shabat and it means stopped. The Sovereign Creator of the universe stopped working after the sixth day—not because he needed to rest or he was tired—he stopped because he had finished his creative work. So, he called the seventh day, a day of a divine Sabbath rest. That Sabbath was supposed to be perpetual because creation was completed and there was no eighth day. God would be able to maintain communion and relationship with his creative beings continuously in that Garden Paradise. That communal relationship divine fellowship would have been in effect, even as Adam and his wife took dominion of the earth.

However, that sabbath rest was severed because of the sin of Adam and his wife at the Fall. (Note: The woman was named Eve after the Fall. (See Genesis 3:20.)  The couple disobeyed God when the serpent entered the garden. God had forbidden them to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The woman hearkened to the voice of (Satan), not realizing she was already made in God’s image, and ate from the tree. She gave some to  Adam who ate it; knowingly disobeying God. They were expelled from Eden! Because of their disobedience, they were no longer in a state of divine rest with constant communion with their God!  The ground was cursed and brought forth thorns and thistles because of Adam’s disobedience. His work would no longer be under the providence of God. He would, from then on, toil from the field by the sweat of his brow.  (Genesis 3:17-19)

So, God looked to the future for a man who would obey him and he found Abraham. Even though Abraham’s father, Terah, was an idol worshipper, Abraham obeyed God when he told him to go to the land of Canaan. Canaan would be Abraham’s promised land—a land of physical rest. God blessed Abraham and Sarah with a son, Isaac, when Abraham was one hundred and Sarah was ninety years old. Because of Abraham’s obedience, God made a covenant with him:

“. . . ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land (Canaan) that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” (Genesis 12:1-3)

God intentionally blessed the Israelites, the seed of Abraham, throughout the centuries. He set them apart so that they would know that he was their God. Those blessings are also for those who believe in Jesus, Abraham’s spiritual seed. “For you are all sons of aged through faith in Christ Jesus. . . And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”  (Galatians 3:26, 29)

The Old Testament Sabbath Rest

Even though God found Abraham, an obedient man, the sabbath was not mentioned again until Exodus 16:23–twenty-five hundred years after the seventh day Sabbath rest in the Garden of Eden! Moses, who led the Israelites out of Egypt, was told by God to tell the Israelites that honoring the Sabbath is a sign between them and him in Exodus 31:13 & 17:

“Speak also to the children of Israel (Abraham’s descendant), saying: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you. . . It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’”  (Also see Ezekiel 20:12)

Moses led the Israelites out of four hundred years of Egyptian slavery. God gave Moses Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. The Ten Commandments were laws, codes of conduct, written on two tablets for the the of Israelites. The Sabbath law was the fourth of the Commandments.  Galatians 3:19 shares why God established the ten laws:

“Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed (Jesus) to whom the promise referred had come.”

All the Israelites were required to obey the laws, which included the Sabbath law—a complete day of rest from all work. Those who did not observe the Sabbath were put to death. (See Numbers 15:32-36.) Moses admonished the Israelites to keep the Sabbath holy in Exodus 20:8:

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

But the Israelites were disobedient, so they remained in the wilderness for forty years before getting to their physical rest, the promised land (Canaan).

They finally reached Canaan after forty years in the wilderness, but it never became their complete Promised Land, their true physical and literal land of rest. Their disobedience and their rejection of God prevented them from entering a complete rest in Canaan. And to add to that, they never completely eliminated their enemies in the land.

The Sabbath in the New Testament

During New Testament times, the Sabbath commandment, as did the other Commandments, still remained in place until the crucifixion of Jesus. (Hebrews 4:9)  Jesus, Himself, kept the Sabbath law while he was on the earth. However, he fulfilled the law and nullified the commandments, including the Sabbath law by his death. (Matthew 5:17-18). Remember: The law was put in place until the Seed, Jesus, who nullified the law by his death for the sins of mankind.(Galatians 3:19)

Through Jesus, believers may walk in restoration with God like it was before the Fall. They are empowered by the Holy Spirit to enter the rest of God. They can cast their cares on Jesus, surrendering all. And through the grace of Jesus, they can trust and rest in his peace and love, no longer constrained by earthly bondage.

(Note: The Sabbath was mentioned only once, in Colossians 2:16, after the Gospels and Acts.)

Entering God’s Divine Rest through Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath

Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-8) and through his death believers are set free. They are set free from earthly laws and restrictions, i,e, the Ten Commandments. They no longer have to rely on a physical place to rest, like the land of Canaan. They must no longer rely on their own strength, which produces self-righteousness. Christians can and must abide in Jesus and enter into his divine spiritual rest. hebrews 4:11 states, “Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall according to the same example of unbelief.”  Laboring to enter God’s rest requires yielding to God’s will. Submitting to God produces the grace to trust in Christ and take on his righteousness. When we enter into God’s rest, it brings:

  1. Freedom from a mandated Sabbath. By the crucifixion of Christ, all who believe can rest in his finished work. (Matthew 12:8)
  2. Cessation from works and control in one’s own strength by yielding and surrendering all to God as Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-29:
    “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
  3. Salvation and deliverance from the heart problem of sin—unbelief and  disobedience which cannot be fixed by Old Testament laws, i,e, the fourth commandment. Only Jesus, through his death, brings salvation to those who believe. As Hebrews 4:9 says:
    Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.
  4. Restoration and a right relationship with Abba Father to regain the spiritual Sabbath rest the way it was before the Fall.

Conclusion

Jesus freed believers from rules and regulations which were earthly and temporal. Through the death of Christ, yielded and submitted believers can enter into his Sabbath rest. Their potential and destiny can be released. Their relationship with Father God that was lost at the Fall can be reclaimed. Entering God’s rest is spiritual and for today and for eternity.

Be blessed.

Scripture References:

Hebrews 4:11