The Rest of God.

Hebrews 4; Rev. 21:22 - 22:5.

E. L. Bevir.

Christian Friend vol. 19, 1892, p. 245.

It is a happy thing for the saints when they begin to understand what is meant by entering into God's rest.

We are in a world of sin and misery, and whichever way we look we behold the sad effects of the work of the enemy. For nearly six thousand years - ever since Eve, the mother of us all, ate the fatal fruit - disease and death have been destroying everything upon earth; nor is the moral effect of sin less conspicuous. Violence and corruption have been irrepressible, and no panacea has been found for either temporal or spiritual disorder.

I well remember standing in a chemist's shop in France, and the owner of it saying to me: "There is no preparation amidst the numerous bottles and phials that you see, which is not a reflection of some grievous malady!"

The point before us is this - that we, believers, are on our way to the rest of God. In the Epistle to the Hebrews it is no question of the relief of the conscience, and of assured pardon and justification (these things are understood), but of a people called with a heavenly calling (many sons being led to glory), who are upon their way to God's rest. God shall rest when all trace of evil shall have been done away, and His saints shall enter into this repose.

I say this, beloved friends, because we are apt to think merely of our own escape from a world of sin and sorrow (and who would not rather be in glory than at B- ?), and to limit the passage to our deliverance from the present state of things, whereas the important subject of which we are speaking is the rest of God. I recollect a brother, a weaver by trade, who sincerely wished for rest, because the silk was so bad and the pay so scarce. He is not the only example, but the passage before us treats of quite a different matter.

It is not merely that sin has brought with it temporal distress, disease, and suffering, but we are in a world where there is no rest. We recollect the words of one, now with the Lord, who spoke of the fretting nature of sin; and the sad, restless condition of man without God becomes every day more evident to any one who lives for some time in this world. God cannot rest in the midst of such a state of things, and we find in John 5, when the Pharisees accused our blessed Lord of working upon the Sabbath-day, that He asserts that His Father worketh hitherto, and that He worketh. (See John 5:17.) Neither the Father nor the Son could be inactive, where there was sorrow to be taken away, or the effects of sin to be alleviated; and - oh, blessed assurance! - neither demons nor men can prevent the blessed work of God!

But it shall not be always thus. The time shall come when God Himself shall rest; when He shall have gathered all His own, in housed security, into His presence (one single speck of sin would destroy the rest of God), and when He shall rest in His love.

There remaineth a rest (sabbatism) for the people of God; and if this be blessedly true for Israel in the millennium, it is true in a far brighter and higher way for Christians, who are called to heavenly glory, and whose citizenship is on high.

For we, who have believed, do enter (that is, we are entering) into His rest. We are not there yet, but are on our way to it; there is no uncertainty as to arriving, but we are not yet in it. We might compare it to a number of persons, bidden to a feast in a splendid upper chamber, and ascending the staircase to it: they are entering in.

The rest after creation had been destroyed by the serpent's deceit in Paradise; Israel's rest in Palestine has never really taken place, and there remains a rest for the people of God - that rest where He Himself shall repose in the midst of the redeemed.

This takes us at once further than any such selfish thought as wishing to escape from present evil; for we are called to use all diligence in working now in communion with the God who cannot be inactive where there is evil to be met, and where we ourselves are found - pilgrims travelling on to glory - as working, bringing into this troubled scene the resources and grace of the glorified Jesus. Thus a Christian, instead of taking his colour from the circumstances around him, brings into them blessing and power from quite another scene, and is thus found to be answering to the thoughts of God, who is actively working for the blessing of men in this poor world.

In this sense we have not yet rested from our works, but we are encouraged to give all diligence to them, as seeing before us the certain and glorious repose of the people of God, when they shall have entered into His rest. There is nothing in our labour in common with modern philanthropy (true philanthropy is from God to man, Titus 3:4) which seeks to make use of all the means it can find in this planet; but it is the active service of love in a scene of misery where God cannot be inactive, and in this we are certain to find opposition from the enemy, and severe labour.

The two things at the end of the chapter are so connected with the passage by the Holy Spirit that we must notice them. The word of God (vv. 12, 13) is applied so as to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. No humanly-fashioned blade of steel could divide the "joints and marrow," nor could any human word judge between that which is natural and that which is spiritual; we are thus brought into God's very presence, and motives are laid bare; we have to do with Him. Again, the priesthood of Christ, who is Himself above the heavens, sustains us and keeps us in the power of the things above, so that we are prevented from giving way to temptation, having full and free access to the throne of grace.

How serious and glorious a thing then our service and our work becomes, as we go on to the rest of God!

I have read a few verses in the Revelation in order to make the contrast between the present state of things, and the rest to come, the more striking. Now, all our service is accompanied by labour and effort; for we have to resist the enemy outside, and to walk under the power of the word of God (knowing the priesthood of Christ) as to our own souls. But then! each time we read this passage our heart glows with anticipated liberty and joy in unrestrained service, yet perfect repose - no painful labour. "His servants shall serve Him: and they shall see His face" etc.

No doubt we have here a description of the heavenly city during the millennium, but the point before us of the absence of evil, and of free hearts in the presence God and the Lamb, will be readily understood. The street of transparent glass has been much spoken of; that is, we shall walk upon that which is absolutely pure. Now we have to be very careful where we place our feet, and to be diligent in walk, so as not to become defiled. All is worship (Rev. 21:22) there; now there must be diligence, for the enemy endeavours to rob us of sustained worship. The glory of God lightens the city, and the Lamb is its light, anal there is no night there; we cannot in our present state bear continuous light. I recollect whilst in Norway a long time ago, being annoyed at there being "no night," for it was near the time of the summer solstice. All this helps us to understand the difference between the condition of things during our pilgrimage, whilst we are labouring in this scene of sorrow, and the state of the holy Jerusalem, where all toil shall be at an end, where shall be uninterrupted light, joy, and peace, and where no sin can enter to defile.

The water of life, and the tree whose fruits are constantly renewed, (how much more blessed to eat of the fruit, as the heavenly company will, than merely to have the benign influence of the healing leaves!) speak to us of the unhindered power of the Spirit, and of the fulness of joy and blessing. For now we must be diligent, so that our souls be fed upon Christ and strengthened, and the enemy will constantly seek to prevent our joy and progress; but then, though surely all delight shall be found in Christ and nowhere else, there shall be that peaceful enjoyment of Him, that partaking of the ever-ripening fruit, with no evil to disturb. The curse taken away, there shall be such nearness to the Lord in serving Him, that the very anticipation of it fills our hearts with joy; for at the present all our service is accomplished with difficulty, and, indeed, no true service can now be done for the Lord without suffering; but then we shall serve according to our heart's desire, and blessed it is to think of the activity of that day, when He shall be served without any hindrance. I have briefly noticed these things, as contrasting with the present labour, and diligent working to enter into God's rest. As to our consciences, they are purified for ever, and our hearts are satisfied, but we are still on our way to the glory, and there can be no resting in the sense of Hebrews 4:9, until we have entered into the rest of God.

Blessed, unspeakable privilege to have been called to serve such a God, and to enter into His rest! May He give us to understand this more fully! E. L. B.