Entering Into God’s Rest
Primary Truth Taught- It is through Jesus that the Sabbath is realized and God’s rest inaugurated and it is at His return will our rest be consummated.
Last week we traveled with Jesus to the City of Jerusalem where He did a great miracle in the life of a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years. The man had been holding out hope that there was something he could do to heal himself, such as get into the water before anyone else once the water was stirred.
Our Lord walks up to him and asks the man if he would like to be healed? After he answers yes, Jesus simply tells the man to get up, pick up your mat and go.
I mentioned that the Greek word used for get up was the same word used when Jesus performed a resurrection which points to the fact that not only was this man healed physically but he was made alive spiritually as well. He experienced a great resurrection from the dead and walked away to prove it.
You would think the entire city would celebrate the mighty work of God on behalf of this man, however, the exact opposite happened. We should notice how antagonistic people are, who are a part of a works religion when they hear of God’s wonderful grace. We see this in our text for today. Rather than being excited for this poor soul they want to hold him to their works tradition and frown on the fact that he’s carrying his mat on the Sabbath.
There was one part of this healing that turned persecution into a death sentence for Jesus. No longer were the Jews just persecuting Him but now they want to kill Him.
What was it that turned them so against our Lord? It was the fact that He achieved this healing showing great love for this man…on the Sabbath Day.
Because the issue of the Sabbath plays such a large role in Jesus’ ministry that I want to take time today to look at a proper understanding of the Sabbath and then transition to today and the issue of the Christian Sabbath or the Lord’s Day and then finally how we are to conduct our lives in this regard.
Human Need Met
God has placed special days in our schedule to extend even more grace to us. Each week we have the Lord’s Day. Every Sunday the New Testament Church gathers and celebrates the good work Jesus accomplished on the cross and in His resurrection. Now we who believe enter into God’s rest and look forward to its final consummation.
John 5:8–9 (ESV)
8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
Now that day was the Sabbath.
That Day Was the Sabbath
This account is the first real example of the Jewish Leaders persecuting Jesus. Throughout the Gospels, there seem to be two big things that keep getting Jesus into trouble with the Jews. He doesn’t abide by their Sabbath Laws and secondly, He keeps saying and doing things that show He is equal to God the Father. In this story, He does both.
The Christian Sabbath Called the Lord’s Day
On this next point I think we should challenge ourselves and if we’re not begin to hold the Christian Sabbath as a day set apart unlike the other six.
What is the spirit of the Sabbath?
Isaiah 58:13–14 (ESV)
13 “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the Lord honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
14 then you shall take delight in the Lord,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Here we see that the by taking delight in the Sabbath, the Sabbath will help us take delight in the Lord. God has set it in place for our blessing and delight…it’s a day we don’t have to work and a day in which we get to worship God…
So often people have turned it around by looking at all the things they don’t get to do.
Biblical Theology of the Sabbath
The first place we see the Sabbath or day or rest is in Genesis…
Genesis 2:3 (ESV)
3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
So, the Lord had been working for six days and completed all His work and rested on the seventh day.
Part of our being made in God’s image is that we are called to imitate God wherever we can. There are two areas in this section of Genesis that we see Adam, imitating God because He is made in God’s image. First, Adam and Eve together procreated. This is the way humans can honor God by imitation. God creates the world and fills it so too humanity is to be fruitful and multiply. The second way we are to imitate God in this section is to rest from our labors just as God rested on the seventh day from His labors.
One interesting note is that while the other six days had an evening and morning, showing a new day, the Sabbath rest of God is continuing for eternity. There is no other day for God; He is in a continual Sabbath rest from His work in creation.
The next place we hear about the Sabbath is in the giving of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20
Exodus 20:8–11 (ESV)
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
The Hebrews were told first to remember. The idea here was that they were to think back to the creation account and remember that God rested on the seventh day.
Humanity was to imitate God and advance through each weekly cycle consisting of 6 days of work followed by a day of rest. Unlike God who rested from all His labor humanity starts over each week. People move forward through the week from work done to work consummated. At the end of the six days, God entered into an eternal rest from His creation activity. This is the rest that God’s people look forward to weekly and eternally. The Sabbath’s purpose was to give mankind a glimpse of their eternal rest in God. So, the Sabbath Day given in Exodus 20 has end times shadows. It, being one day per week, pointed to an eternal rest given by God to His people.
At the end of Exodus 20:11, we read a very odd sentence. It states that the Sabbath Day is a day blessed by God. This is odd because most of the time the word blessed refers to people and to God not to a day. Elsewhere is Scripture the Sabbath Day is said to be holy to the Lord.
Exodus 31:14–15 (ESV)
14 You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death.
For Israel it was the Sabbath Day that as it were, let them step out of this world with all its toil and curse and enter into God’s rest if only for a day to be reminded that this world is not our home and this cursed ground will not be permanent.
That’s the Sabbath for Israel, now let’s look to the Sabbath as it pertains to the Church.
We have a New Testament reference which shows us that God is in eternal rest and that we who are in Christ will join Him someday.
Hebrews 3:7–4:11 (ESV)
7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
9 where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
11 As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’ ”
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
4 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, 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. 4 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5 And again in this passage he said,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
So this first generation Israelites failed to enter God’s rest because they did not believe and acted in disobedience.
In Psalm 95 subsequent generations of Israelites are addressed and while the Bible says they were ready to enter, they failed to do so. This Psalm written many years later tells us that Today, they were to hear God’s voice and enter His rest.
3 For we who have believed enter that rest,
Hebrews 4:10 (ESV)
10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
This is why Jesus would offer His call and say:
Matthew 11:28–30 (ESV)
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Let’s consider that the Hebrew every week observed the Sabbath Day and rested from his work. Now, in the New Covenant ushered in by Jesus Christ the Bible tells us that because we believe we have entered into God’s rest. Now, these passages are written in what’s called future perfect tense, which means the writer is so confident that he can write about a future event in the past tense. In other words, when we believe and trust Christ to save us we enter into the promise of God’s rest. It hasn’t ultimately happened yet, but the writer is so confident that it will happen he uses the past tense.
This is another already not yet issue. If you believe then you have entered into God’s rest but there is more to come. Either at the return of Christ or your death, then you will truly experience the rest God has for us who believe.
Israel’s Sabbath pointed to the rest that God is currently experiencing. When Jesus came, the writer of Hebrews tells us that if you believe in Christ and the Gospel you have entered into God’s rest. With that being the case, the early church saw that Israel’s Sabbath as being fulfilled in Jesus Christ and what they were waiting on, namely, God’s rest was given in Jesus. So, they stopped the seventh day Sabbath observance.
They also realized something else truly amazing. They saw a parallel between creation, God, and the Sabbath rest…Jesus, new creation and the resurrection rest.
When one becomes a Christian one enters into the rest Jesus speaks of here. But we do not fully enter it until we see the Lord in His return or see the Lord at our death. Until our rest is fully realized, the early Church saw a great promise to come and so stopped Saturday Sabbath and began a Sunday (1st day of the week) celebration and worship of our Lord.
Two reasons they did this, first Jesus rose on a Sunday ushering in the preliminary rest and two, because we are in Christ everyday is a day free from works to earn salvation or good works because Christ fulfilled all for us. We can take our day of rest on the first day, the day that used to be the first day of work.
When Jesus rose from the grave on Sunday He began a New Creation and the resurrection marks His rest from all His work. Just as our Lord said it is finished while dying on the cross, He declared His work to be done. The resurrection is Christ’s rest from His labor and that took place on a Sunday. We are to imitate God.
So, the church began to see that all the Sabbath promises were fulfilled in Christ. So they began to mark off a special day commemorating the rest God took when His good work on Calvary was completed.
God rested in Genesis 2 from all His work and told mankind to remember His Sabbath or His rest. Now, we remember the Sabbath or the rest our Lord entered into when He rose from the grave.
So now the Church does not observe the OT Sabbath but the NT Lord’s Day as she waits for the complete fulfillment of the rest that God will give when Jesus Christ returns.
Remember God’s rest…
3 For we who have believed enter that rest,
I am reminded from all the OT passages the importance of the Israelites looking forward to the fulfillment of entering into God’s rest by observing the Sabbath. How much more do we long for the promise that Jesus inaugurated to be consummated. We have tasted this rest in Jesus Christ and I pray we too take the Lord’s Day and make it a day special and set apart as we look forward to our Lord’s return.
Oh, what blessings await us as God’s people when we take a day and wait and long for and remember God. When we by taking a day once a week and tell God by our actions that we long for the eternal rest He has for us. We delight in God and His promises and we say thank you Father for giving me a day off to rest and worship.
We believe that the Lord’s Day is a day set aside for diligent worship and rest as a picture of the ultimate rest we have in Christ and will have in the life to come. We believe this requires us to stop all labor except for that which charity and necessity require.
To observe the Lord’s Day takes preparation and purposeful thought and planning. Because God promised blessing and holiness for those who observed the Sabbath we too can expect to grow in grace and holiness as we take a day and focus on God through Jesus Christ.
Are there things we can move around in our schedules to enable us to honor God and enjoy Him in a special way on the Lord’s Day?
Are there things we can do differently to better prepare ourselves to meet with God’s people on the Lord’s Day?
Declaration of Grace
In the mercy and grace of Almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for us, and for His sake God forgives us all our sins. To those who believe in Jesus Christ He gives the power to become the children of God and gives to them the Holy Spirit. May the Lord, who has begun this good work in us, bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen