AN IMPORTANT TEXT (3)

By

G. H. LANG.

 

"There remaineth therefore a sabbath rest for the people of God" (Heb. 4: 9).

 

What rest is this?  Its noblest feature is that God calls it "My rest." Therefore it cannot be that rest of conscience received by the sinner upon faith in Christ, nor that rest of heart which the saint gains when he casts all his anxieties upon God Who cares for Him. These are our rest in God, but this is Godís own rest, which cannot be that of a purged conscience or of peace of mind after turmoil.

Nor can it be that unbroken tranquility which is the eternal condition of God, for here it is a rest after work; wherefore it is termed a sabbatism, for sabbath rest is cessation of work.

Godís first work was the act of creating: "the heavens are the work of Thy hands" (Psalm 102: 25).  The result of that work was disturbed by pre-historic rebellion, which brought judgment and chaos.  In due time God wrought again and in six days refitted the earth for man to inhabit and restored the stellar world for manís benefit.  This finished, God "rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made" and declared that day holy (Gen. 2: 1-3).

Then sin disturbed this fair realm also and brought disorder and ruin.  But God is indefatigable.  Again He set to work to reduce this world to order, to further which work the Son of God came here, and said "My Father worketh even until now, and I work" (John 5: 17). This work being still in progress (for the past intervention of the Son of God did not complete it), God is not yet resting, and therefore what He calls "His rest" cannot be a present experience.  His servants are called and privileged to share His work.  "We are Godís fellow-workers ... working together with Him" (1 Cor. 3: 9; 2Cor. 6: 1); and therefore this is not the period of our rest, as here meant, but of our toil and suffering until the time shall come when God will again rest.  Thus it is written by the apostle, "to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven" (2 Thess. 1: 7).  And therefore it is said here that "there remaineth a sabbath rest for the people of God."

The English versions obscure this by inserting without warrant the tiny word "do," "we who have believed do enter." Delitzsch gives the sense aright as being that, we who at the time of entering in shall be found to have believed will enter.

It is further clear that not peace of conscience or rest from care is meant because these are gained by ceasing from work, whereas this [future] rest has to be gained by all diligence, and may be missed by [our] unbelief and disobedience, even as Israel of old failed to enter the earthly and physical rest in Canaan.  Yet these men were the redeemed of the Lord and heirs to that land, even as those here addressed are "holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling" (Ch. 3: 1).  It is not title that is gained by diligence, but realization and enjoyment of the property inherited.  The one is a gift in Christ, even as Israelís title to that land was a gift to them in Abraham; but possession has to be won by supreme effort, by a faith that perseveres to the end.

Of what, then, was Canaan a type?  What is the antitype for the Christian?  It is (1) something to which the redeemed of the Lord hold a title; (2) but actual possession of which must be won by the sword; and (3) it may be forfeited by misconduct. Therefore it cannot typify [eternal] salvation in the popular sense of the term, eternal life, for this is a gift of grace free of conditions (Rom. 3: 14; 6: 23), and therefore unforfeitable when once accepted by faith. It cannot be rest in the eternal kingdom, for each and all of the saved [by grace] must share that, or he would not be of the [eternally] saved, but of the [eternally] lost.

Moreover, Canaan was not a type of complete, unbroken, eternal rest.  For a short time the land had rest from war, but as our chapter itself shows, Joshua did not bring Israel into enjoyment of what God here calls "My rest."  Of many of Israel God had sorrowfully and sternly declared on oath that they never should enter His rest.  Yet they were His [redeemed] people, His children, and He did the best He could for them, but in the wilderness, not in the land of promise (Isa. 63: 8-10).

But as Godís rest here in view is neither present nor eternal, it can be only that [millennial] age which is to intervene between the close of this [evil] age, at the coming of the Lord in glory, and the eternal ages to commence after the final judgment and the creating of new heavens and earth.  The Millennial Age is frequently set forth in Scripture as a Ďprizeí to be won by diligence, patience, endurance, and as being forfeitable by negligence or misconduct.  As William Kelly said on this passage: "We are called now to the work of faith and labour of love, while we patiently wait for rest in glory at Christís coming" (Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, 73).

At His second coming "the Lord will speak peace to His people, and to His saints" (Psalm 85: 8), and He Himself will enter His rest, "He will rest in His love" (Zeph. 3: 17). "Let us [regenerate believers] fear therefore, lest haply, a promise being left of entering into His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it ... Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, that no man fall after the same example of disobedience" as was seen in Israel of old (Heb. 4: 1, 11).

-------