By Greg Litmer
And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove. For then would I fly away and be at rest (Psa. 55:6).
Who among us has not had thoughts similar to those expressed by David? Truly among the deepest longings felt by man is the fervent desire for rest. We long not only for the cessation of our toils, labors, and trials, but also for the enjoyment of the bountiful blessings to be found in sweet repose. For the Christian, just such a rest is promised, and indeed it serves as an “anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.” And that rest is heaven.
A wonderful treatise on this rest is found in the first eleven verses of Hebrews 4. The Hebrew writer speaks of the time in which God rested from his labors of creation, that being the seventh day. He intimates man’s part in this rest through the weekly sabbath instituted at Mt. Sinai and given to the Jews as a sign between God and them. This sabbath rest was but a symbol, or a type, of something yet to come. The Hebrew writer also speaks of a fuller realization of that longed-for rest in the land which flowed with milk and honey – Canaan, the promised land. Yet, even as the new generation of God’s chosen people entered into the land of Canaan, it but foreshadowed the rest yet to be obtained. Then came our Lord Jesus and his promise of rest found in Matthew 11:28-30, in which he said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: And ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” As the Hebrew writer said, “We which have believed do enter into rest.” The follower of Jesus Christ does indeed enjoy rest now; rest from the guilt and the burden of sin, rest from the anxieties that plague us in this life. But even that does not truly satisfy all of our desire, all of our longing for that rest. Indeed, our life with Christ stirs within us intense and deep longing for the rest that it foreshadows – heaven. I am reminded of the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” But thanks be to God “there remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God” (Heb. 4:9).
There are two different words that are used to describe this rest. In verse 3 of Hebrews 4, the emphasis is on cessation. The idea there is from the negative standpoint expressing things that will end. In verse 9, the word for rest indicates a sabbath rest, which implies considerably more than just cessation.
Let us consider some of the things with which we will no longer have to deal when we enter into that promised rest: (1) Heaven will be a place of rest from all forms of suffering. John expressed it so beautifully in Revelation 21:4 when he said, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (2) In heaven, we will rest from the constant struggle with sin and the trying association with sinful people. Again from Revelation 21:27, we read, “And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (3) Heaven will be a place of rest from our toils of life, and it will be a place where at last we will lay our burdens down.
Our promised rest, however, will not be a state of total inactivity, for there will be bountiful blessings to be enjoyed and service to be joyfully rendered. Think about it, my friends. When we enter into that promised rest, we will be forever and consciously in the presence of God. John said in verse 3 of Revelation 21, “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” This rest will be a time of continual service to God, freely and joyfully given. From Revelation 22:3,4 we read, “And there shall be no more curse; but the throne of God and the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him; and they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.” The faithful children of God, with their robes washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb, shall reign forever and ever.
The longing for heaven sometimes grows so intense as to be painful. It will be ours to enjoy. “Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Heb. 4:1).
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 20, pp. 618-619
October 17, 1991