Summary: We will experience an end to our energies and labor and enter into the flow of God’s energy, by the Holy Spirit. God’s rest is like jumping into a great rushing river that carries us effortlessly into His finished works.
Enter His Rest
Entering into God’s rest is not a new concept. Ancient Israel was called to do so but failed. Hebrews 3:7-11 puts it this way: “Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says,
“TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,
DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME,
AS IN THE DAY OF TRIAL IN THE WILDERNESS,
WHERE YOUR FATHERS TRIED Me BY TESTING Me,
AND SAW MY WORKS FOR FORTY YEARS.
“THEREFORE I WAS ANGRY WITH THIS GENERATION,
AND SAID, ‘THEY ALWAYS GO ASTRAY IN THEIR HEART;
AND THEY DID NOT KNOW MY WAYS’;
AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, ‘THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST’” (see also Psalm 95).
Entering His rest is a matter of faith. “Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence [faith] and the boast of our hope firm until the end” (Hebrews 3:5-6). The Israelites did not hold their confidence until the end, even though God had great things prepared for them. Israel went astray in their hearts as they began to worship the idols of the surrounding nations. They lost their knowledge of God even though He had done great works for them (delivered them from Egypt, sent the fire and cloud to guide them, won their battles for them and was constantly their deliverer). In His wrath He destroyed both Judah and Israel by foreign pagan nations.
Therefore the Lord says to current believers to strive to enter His rest. “Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end; while it is said,
“TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,
DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME” (Heb 3:12-13; Psalm 95:7).
The Lord is speaking of the oneness of the Body of Christ. An evil, unbelieving heart criticizes his brother thereby breaking the unity. A hard heart provokes God because the man with a hard heart rejects the Word of God. Hardening of heart occurs when a believer stumbles over something God says. An open heart receives the Word even if difficult. “For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they should not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? And so we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief” (Heb 3:16-19).We see that those who do not enter His rest are those who harden their hearts and are unbelieving; provoking God.
With whom was God angry for 40 years? The answer is that He was angry with those in the wilderness congregation who sinned and who died in that wilderness. Their disobedience in refusing to enter the Promised Land caused God to swear that they would never enter His rest. This meant of course that the sinful generation in the desert was permanently excluded from taking possession of their inheritance in Canaan (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 787). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books). That generation did not believe God or Moses despite reports that the land could be taken at that time. They were contentious with Joshua and Caleb who gave a good report.
Therefore since no people have entered his rest there still remains a rest of God that we can enter into. “THEREFORE, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said,
“AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH,
THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST,” although His works were finished from the foundation of the world” (Heb 4:1-3; Psalm 95:11).
As James said “Faith without works…is dead” (James 2:20). Israel had the word preached to them by Moses but they did not act on it and therefore were excluded from the Promised Land. “For He has thus said concerning the seventh day, “AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS” (Gen 2:2) and again in this passage, “THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.” Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before,
“TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,
DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS” (Heb 4:4-7; Psalm 95:7).
The text chosen by the writer to enforce the lesson he had in mind was taken from Psalm 95. Verses 7–11 of that psalm are quotedabove. The choice of this psalm is highly appropriate in a context that is concerned with worship and priestly activity. For Psalm 95 is, in fact, essentially a call to worship (cf. Ps. 95:1–7). The psalmists’ invitation, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker, for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care” (Ps. 95:6–7), ideally reflects the author’s perspective with regard to his readers. The material quoted in Hebrews immediately follows these words and, most naturally, must be understood against this background (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 786–787). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
God rested from all His works (creation) on the 7th day. He desires His Sons to enter that rest. The rest is a place where we cease from all our labors and enjoy the fruit of our works. God expended a great deal of energy in fashioning the creation, the earth and the universe. He put so much energy into it that it still continues to increase and expand. All the energy we have on hand today is God’s energy expended at the time of creation. Therefore since God’s works are already created there remains nothing for us to do than to enter that rest with Him. That does not mean our works cease after we enter the rest. It’s just that we enter into God’s completed works and our walks with Him become easier. We flow like a water current that carries us along. This is the true born again experience.
Jesus described the born again experience to Nicodemus a Pharisee who came by night to talk with Jesus. Jesus said to him: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”. Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Jesus said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water [the word] and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:3-8). As we said in the rest of God His spirit pushes you along with seemingly no effort by yourself.
The writer of Hebrews went on: “For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that [Joshua 22:4]. There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience” (Heb 4:8-12).
God rested. Verses 2 and 3 each state that God rested: Verse 2 says, “he rested … from all his work,” and verse 3 adds, “[He] rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” Why did God rest? Certainly not from fatigue. Omnipotence needs no rest because regardless of the amount of power that goes forth from him, his power is not depleted one whit. His omnipotent creating power is infinite. God did not need a breather. Actually the word “rest” means “to cease from.” God simply stopped his creating activity. In fact, though God rested (ceased his creating activity), he still worked. Jesus said exactly that when he healed a crippled man on the Sabbath: “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17). God rested from creating but works in sustaining the world by his power, governing it by his providence, and insuring the propagation of its creatures. In fact, if he stopped working, everything would dissolve into nothing.
God’s rest was one of deep pleasure and satisfaction at the fruit of his labor. This joyous rest of the Creator certainly extended to Adam and Eve in paradise as, in their state of innocence, they lived in blessed peace with their Creator. And this original rest was the beginning of a type of the rest that was lost at the fall but will be restored through redemption and its final consummation.
God blessed. God took such pleasure in the seventh day that he blessed it—“So God blessed the seventh day”—which means that he made it spiritually fruitful. We know that the two preceding blessings in the creation account, first on living creatures and then on Adam and Eve, bestowed fertility because in both instances God said, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Ge 1:22, 28). The meaning here is essentially the same but in the spiritual realm. “God’s blessing bestows on this special, holy, solemn day a power which makes it fruitful for human existence. The blessing gives the day, which is a day of rest, the power to stimulate, animate, enrich and give fullness to life.” The seventh day is one of perpetual spiritual spring—a day of multiplication and fruitfulness. This would become of great importance and benefit to God’s people (Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: beginning and blessing (p. 43). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books).
We as His children strive to enter God’s rest. It is a spiritual place of joy and blessing. It is what we would consider heaven although Heaven is not our final resting place (Hebrews 11:39-40). Our final rest is on earth as the Lord said. “Thy Kingdom come, they will be done, On earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).