THE COMING DAY OF HIS REST

 

By ROBERT GOVETT, M.A.

 

[Taken from Mr. Govettís Commentary on Hebrews.]

 

6. "Since therefore it remaineth that some should enter therein, and those to whom the good news were first proclaimed entered not in because of disobedience, He a second time defineth a day - saying by David - 'To-day' - after so long a time, as has been before said - 'To-day, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.' "

 

The rest of God, offered to Israel, was never enjoyed by them.But the counsels of the Most High cannot be defeated.He has determined that He will rest, when His redemption work is over.The expression "My rest," spoken of in the future, proves it.And He will have companions in His joy.He has decided, both positively and negatively, who of men shall partake with Him in this bliss.Some believers He has excluded by oath.Some He has determined to admit, under His oath likewise (chap. 6.); of which more by-and-by.

 

The principle here is the same as in the parables of the Great Supper, and the Wedding Garment.Those first invited would not come to the Kingís feast."Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage" (Matt. 22; 8, 9).The first invited were rejected through their disobedience; those who enter shall enter as the obedient men of faith.

 

God has now announced another day of invitation "into the kingdom of the Christ and God.""His rest shall be glory" (Isa. 11: 10).God will see to it, that His Son shall have companions in His millennial kingdom.He defines this period of the call as, "To-day".To impress the present force of the invitation, the time is named "To-DAY."And to attract to it the more attention, and to show its present force, the word ĎTO-DAYí is repeated, after some words of introduction have been thrown in.

 

David is the writer, so long after Moses and Joshua.David though seated in the land of promise, and on the throne of Jehovahís kingdom over Israel, does not say, that the long promised "rest" has come; although God had given him "rest from enemies". The great Warrior-King of Israel could say, four hundred and fifty years after Moses: "We are strangers before Thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on earth are as a shadow, and there is no abiding" (1 Chron. 29: 15).Thus, then, he tells us, that the door into the new Eden is open, and that his subjects and himself were still to seek an entry, by diligent listening to God, and self-distrust; since the admission to that reward was encompassed with the same difficulties, within and without, as at first; and administered by the same Jehovah, on the same principles, as in the day of Moses.Israel then believed and obeyed at the Passover, and at the Red Sea; but, as it regarded their introduction to the land of rest, they failed.It is so still with most Christians.While they believe to the saving of the soul in Jesus as their Priest, they do not believe in Him as their Leader to the great prize, or give credence to the millennial kingdom to which He invites them.

 

"He defineth a day."The "day" of the wilderness was "forty years".This new day has been greatly prolonged since Davidís time; yet it shall have an end.It is the day of Godís testing His people, whether they will believe His testimony to the coming glory, and obey Him, as the way to enter it.ĎHear [and obey] His voice, and you shall enter.í ĎHarden your heart, and you shall be shut out

 

A period is now near, when the day of grace and invitation shall close.It is called "the end of the age".It is to be a day of visitation of vengeance, and of judgment, cutting off the foes of God and His Christ (Rom. 9: 28).If the day of patience in the wilderness ended so sadly, this of the worldís sorer trial will end worse still.

 

It is still "to-day".It is Godís part to define the "times and seasons", and to close them when He wills.Be it ours to labour on for God, looking for His glory as our reward.The six thousand years of redemption-work are still running on.ĎTis the day of good news, of mercy still, and the throne of grace, For the believer the world is still the desert; and the fight with the spiritual rulers of the darkness of this world (Eph. 6.) still goes on.

 

Davidís days, and Solomonís, though they brought the glory of the kingdom, and rest from foes in the land of promise, were still not "the rest of God".God could not rest even in David; much less in Solomon, who turned to idolatry.Nor did Israel rest in Jehovah.Therefore it is still the time to instruct each one his fellow, saying: "Know the Lord."It is still the time to exhort one another, not to give up the hope of the kingdom of Christís Millennial glory, or the conflict through which we must pass in the way to it (Acts 14: 22).But soon "this day" of peril and war shall merge into "that day" of the prophets, when the Righteous Judge shall assign the entry into His kingdom, and the crowns of reward to His faithful ones.

 

8. "For if Joshua had given them rest, He [God] would not have spoken of another day after these things."

 

These words set aside an objection of great plausibility against the argument.For it might be said by Israel: ĎIt is true, that the generation whom Moses led out perished in the desert, and never obtained the hope of their calling. But the next generation were led in by Joshua, with Godís full tide of power on their behalf, and they rested in the land of promise; the land which we of this day enjoy.It follows, therefore, that the call to diligence in order to enter the rest is over, and the rest has been long enjoyed.Scripture itself speaks of that day as one of restí (Josh. 14: 15).

 

Now this is partly true.Joshuaís partial clearing of the land by the sword, and settling the children of Israel in it in peace, was typical of the greater and complete repose one day to be.It is said, too, that "the land had rest from war".But that falls every way short of "the rest OF GOD", of which Paul is speaking.Israel gave God no rest, even when they had in triumph entered the land.They fell away from Him to idols continually, and were again and again troubled by foes.But the coming day is when God shall rest in His people, and His people shall rest in Him.Of Israel, says God, in that day: "The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty: He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing" (Zeph. 3: 17; Isa. 14: 3; Jer. 1: 34).

 

But of Israel now, the Lord says: "Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and chased us out, [marg.] and they please not God, and are contrary to all men" (1 Thess. 2: 15)

 

"If Joshua had given them rest, he would not have spoken of another day after these things."

 

Joshuaís was an attempt, under Godís hand, to see if there could be rest for (1) the fallen flesh under its best form, (2) in the old and blighted creation.But it could not be."The Lord gave them rest round about according to all that He sware unto their fathers" (Josh. 21: 44).But while they rejoiced in the gifts of Jehovah, they did not rejoice and rest in Jehovah.Much less could Jehovah rest in them.And here is the turning point of the matter, for the coming rest is Godís rest.

 

ĎIf, [argues Paul] as you pleaded, both Godís call and His rest are long past, there would be no new day of invitation to the rest, or of warning against loss of it, as nowBut God is still "inviting us to His own kingdom and glory" (1 Thess. 2: 12)."Seek first the kingdom of God" (Matt. 6: 33; Luke 12: 31).Run for the prize of your calling!The call from God is still uttered."To-day" - listen!Seek the rest of God! Beware lest you lose it are still the calls of the Lord Jesus.But "after these things" - (1) the conflict, and (2) the reward - the wilderness and the rest, there will be no such day again to all eternity.There will be no new trial of men for salvation, or perdition.All will be fixed: the lost in their fire, the saved in the new world.

 

"He would not have spoken of another day."That is, of another day of good news; of the listening to Godís invitation and obeying it - in order that you may enter the joy of Godís rest.The days, both of redemption-labour, and of redemption-rest are "limited".The eternal day comes after the seventh-day rest of millennial glory.

 

9. "There remaineth therefore the keeping of a sabbath-dayís rest for the people of God."

 

Thus we have reached the close of the argument which began with the first verse of this chapter.The objection was - that both the time of Godís call, and of His rest, had long ago been completed.It was admitted by Paul that this was true of the works of creation.But the ninety-fifth psalm had spoken of a future rest of God, and had called all who heard the invitation to seek that coming day of glory.To this it has been objected, that the rest of God had been enjoyed by the tribes of Israel, after their introduction into the land by Joshua.To which it is replied, that, the day in which the call of the psalm was uttered, refutes that idea.For David, near five hundred years after Joshua, speaks of his time as being the day of peril and of work, which must needs precede the day of repose and joy.It is still to-day when Christ is on high, calling us, "at the end of these days", to be His companions in the reign of His glory.Then God shall rest in His people, and His people shall have rest both within and without.

 

The Apostle here changes the word for "rest".He now uses the uncommon word "sabbatism".Why?On purpose to knit his present argument with what is testified of Godís creation-rest in Genesis 2., and with the feasts of the Law.

 

The coming day of sabbath-keeping is a special form of rest, of which God hath from the first given the type.Thus Moses is again constituted a witness to us, in this Epistle.

 

The coming rest is to be:-

 

1. A sabbath day of "holy convocation".The ransomed of the Lord shall assemble, His approved ones of past generations.They shall come together to keep the feast of resurrection.There shall no "servile work" then be done by these anointed priests and kings.The Christ, the Creator, the better Joshua, the Redeemer, shall institute the feast, shall bless and hallow it: it shall be a time of rest after toil; when disturbers shall be imprisoned, and earth and heaven rest.

 

2. It shall be "the seventh day", the "great day" of Godís appointing; and upon the same scale of length as the six previous redemption-days.

 

3. It shall be the day of Godís complacency in His works, both of creation and of redemption.For after the work was complete we read: "And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1: 31)."In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed" (Exod. 31: 17).

 

Therefore God shall, before the coming day of His rest, remove those works in which He cannot feel pleasure. Therefore, O people of God, provoke Him not now, in this day of trial in the wilderness.For if He be grieved and angry with you, you will not then rest with Him."The righteous, by faith, shall [then] live; but if he draw back, My soul hath no pleasure in Him" (Heb. 10: 38).Paul himself therefore feared, lest he should, in reference to that reward, prove rejected (1 Cor. 9: 27). "Wherefore we are ambitious, that whether present or absent, we may be well-pleasing to Him" (Greek) (2 Cor. 5: 9; Heb. 11: 5, 6).

 

4. God, and they who attain the kingdom, "shall rest together, after working together." (1) Under the Law, rest was to be furnished for Jehovah by man.He was bound over to work and to rest with his God.(2) Under the Gospel, the Lord has bestowed on us a better rest of soul in justification, than Israel knew.And on the footing of that we are to move onward to the complete rest to come.Man had no rest with God, in Godís creation-sabbath, which was broken.But many will rest with Him in the unbroken Sabbath to come.

 

It is a rest "for the People of God."

 

These are of three kinds.

 

1. The approved of the Patriarchs: the men of faith commended in chapter 11.

 

2. The approved under the Law; who suffered Ďfor righteousnessí sakeí.

 

3. The servants of Christ under the Gospel.For it is one God, Who, in regard of the coming reward, will act on the principle of "recompence to each according to works.""Ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the Prophets, in the kingdom of GodĒ ... ďAnd they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God" (Luke 13: 28).

 

10. "For he that entered into his rest, himself also ceased from his works, as did God from those peculiar to him."

 

There are several difficulties in this verse.I will therefore consider - (1) Its sense; (2) the connexion; (3) the application.

 

1. First, then, the sense of the passage.Whose is the rest in question?We should naturally say "the rest of God," (1) as following after the word "Sabbath-rest"; (2) and the fourth verse of this chapter has cited from Genesis the Lordís rest from the works of creation; as (3) also because the words "of God" have closed the previous verse. But if we so decide, whose are the works spoken of?Godís works?Hardly so.For the last clause of this verse contrasts the works of God with those here spoken of. 'His works,' then, will mean, the works of the man who enters Godís Sabbath-rest.

 

2. Next, the connexion.This tenth verse is giving the justification of the peculiar expression, ĎSabbatismí, employed in the preceding verse.It is designed to instruct us in the nature of the coming day.It was not in vain, that God rested on the seventh day from His works of creation.He who shall enjoy the coming day of rest, will repose with God.That day will be quite a contrast to "to-day".Now it is the time of labour and of war. That will be the day of repose, of peace, of recompense, of joy.

 

3. The application.Here arises a serious difficulty.We should have expected "For those who shall enter into that rest shall cease from their works."Here we have: ĎHe that is enteredI believe, then, that the words apply directly and primarily to Christ.Of us it is said: "We are entering [not Ďdo enterí] the rest."ĎBut He has entered.í The reference is to His session on high on the Fatherís throne, after His work of atonement is complete (1: 3, 13; 8: 1; 10: 12; 12: 2).Thus the Joshua of the New Testament, Who gives rest, stands in contrast with the Joshua of the Old Covenant, who could not give rest.And this idea is strongly confirmed by verse 14 of this chapter. "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest Who has passed through the heavens, Jesus [Joshua], the Son of God, let us hold fast the confession."Thus, too, our Joshua stands in contrast with Moses, the Apostle of the earthly calling, who was himself shut out of Godís rest.

 

Also, thus taken, the sentiment links itself on to the previous announcements - that Jesus is the Creator of all.It was fitting then, that He should enter on the rest which attaches to His work of justification and atonement already complete.The Creator rested the seventh day, and charged His earthly people, under penalty of death, to rest likewise on that day.But the Redeemer rose on the eighth day, His work of justification completed; and now He has, for Christians, set aside the Mosaic rest in creation and its seventh day.They are to rest on the eighth day, in the better work of the Son of God accomplished for them.And they are to be looking on to their own resurrection.

 

The course of the argument here is like the previous one.(1) Man shall one day rule over all.(2) This is not yet fulfilled. (3) But the work is begun in Christ.Thus we have in this chapter: (1) [Regenerate] Believers are called to God's rest.(2) It is not come yet.(3) But it is begun in Christ. The Father rests in the finished work of His Son on our behalf; as He has proved, by seating the Saviour at His own right hand.We, then, are to rest in the commencing victory achieved by our Leader in His character of High Priest.Thus expounded, we obtain a natural and easy transition to the next division of the Epistle.Herein believers stand opposed to the vain labours of Israel in their attempt to work out a righteousness for themselves.The first work of God is, faith in the Sent One (John 6: 28).The Christ, while on earth, was working; but, before His death, He finished the work given Him to do (John 6: 28). And now He rests from that work, in opposition to the vain activities of Aaronís priesthood, which could never bring righteousness, or take away sins.Christís session on Godís throne is the contrast to their perpetual standing and doing, but in vain (9: 25; 10: 12).And as here we read of Christ - ĎHe has entered into rest, and ceased from His works' - "The forerunner is for us entered" (6: 20; 9: 12, 24) - so of them, it is spoken continually in the present tense:* "The High Priest entereth into the Holiest every year."But Jesus is resting in a work sealed in resurrection.And we who believe, are resting with Him, in righteousness and atonement brought in.

 

[* Though our translators have trodden down this important distinction.]

 

To-day, believers, is a day of working.Jesus, "as a man taking a far journey, has left His house and given authority to His servants, and to each his work" (Mark 13: 34; 1 Cor. 15: 58; Phil. 2: 30).The idle servants are to be shut out from reward in that day (Matt. 25: 30).

 

Thus the history of the Exodus still lends us light here.

 

Israel, delivered out of Egypt and led into the wilderness, though still travelling, were free and at rest from the daily slavesí labour of brick-making.But there were still both war and work for them to fulfil in the desert.So we are no longer slaves, vainly labouring to deliver ourselves by our good works, from the curse and penalties of a broken Law.Though we have peace within, it is a time of unrest still.It is the desert, and a time of labour and war.We are "not yet come to the rest and the inheritance, which the Lord our God giveth us."When once that rest is attained, there is to be no future change from it.Nor are the works of the millennium for God of the same character as those now required.Now, it is teaching our neighbour to know the Lord.Then, the Lord Himself undertakes that new covenant-work.When once the Gospel harvest is gathered in, the field is no more to be sown with the Word of God, as now.

 

If we apply to ourselves, and to the future, the principle of this verse, then we may say: ĎThe enterers into Godís rest of the day to come, shall cease from their labours.But the people of God are still labouring, fighting, and under trial from God and men. Therefore the promised rest of God is not yet come.'

11. "Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any fall, in the same example of disobedience."

 

We are not invited to the rest of verse 10, for that is already being enjoyed through our High Priestís atonement. But while resting in part, we are also called to work and to fight.

 

The Lordís Day, or the first of a new week, is the testimony to us of the portion of redemption accomplished.The Son of God has wrought His work, and brought in a new rest.We no longer keep the Sabbath or seventh-day rest of the Law in the old creation, but the day of Jesusí passage out from the old creation into the new, in His rising from among the dead.

 

We trust to rest one day as God did, and with God.We shall be like unto God: not through disobedience, as the devil proposed, but through the Spiritís renewing us unto the likeness of God.

 

Only those who have accepted the first repose,- that of the soul in the work of Christ,- can start for the prize of our calling.Before we attain the rest of the glory outside us, we must have the rest of conscience within us, which springs out of Christís accomplished work."His rest shall be glory" (Isa. 11: 10).

 

Lest we should imagine, that all we have to do is to rest ourselves in Christís finished work for us, believers are here summoned to strive after the future rest, of which the Apostle has been speaking."Let us labour." Paul includes himself.And to this end he did labour (Col. 1: 29) more abundantly than any.

 

The word translated "labour", is often rendered, `Be diligentí.It contains two main ideas: one negative, and one positive. (1) Abstinence from what would hinder. (2) Effort toward the end in view.For a prize is set before us, which those who work not will lose.Hope is to spur us toward the goal.For how valuable must be that prize to which God and Christ call us!Fear is to restrain us, from those things which would shut us out.

 

We are to work now for the Lord.Now we have to do the will of God: then to receive the promise (10: 36)."The God of peace make you perfect in every good work to do His will" (13: 21).Now is the time to trade with our talents, that we may give a good account to the Master at His coming (Matt. 25: 16).If any believe there is no prize to be won, he will make no effort toward it.Hence the Apostleís earnestness of exhortation.The present rest given us by the work of Christ achieved on our behalf, only sets us at the starting-post.The race has only then begun.

 

Seek not then, believer, your rest here and now, else you will lose the one to come (Luke 6: 20-26.)

 

"Lest any fall."Our translatorsí usual supplement, Ďmaní tends to darken the exhortation.It is a word to believers. Here we have come back to the former word for rest, and to the history of Israel in Numbers 14; as in verse 10 we were engaged on Godís work in Genesis.For the two threads are closely interwoven.

 

Two senses may be given to this clause. (1) ĎLest any fall into the same example of disobedienceBut that is not a usual sense of the Greek expression.And besides, it omits the statement of the consequence of disobedience. (2) I prefer therefore the other - "Lest any fall"; that is, "lose the rest", giving it the sense of Numbers."Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness" (Num. 14: 29, 32, 33).Cited also by the Apostle in chap. 3: 17.It is also thus put in 1 Cor. 10: 5, where the same history of Israel is exhibited."With the majority God was not well pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness" (ver. 5). "They fell in one day three and twenty thousand" (ver. 8).Also Jude 5. They who Ďfallí by the way, do not Ďenter the restí.

 

It is an individual word, "lest any".The exhortation is meant to touch each believer.This Epistle seven times uses the word "any one"; for it deals less with the privileges of Christís mystic body, than with the result expected by God as the answer to His so great mercies.

 

"In the same example of disobedience."

 

1. The state of things in Paulís day amongst the believing Hebrews answered greatly to the crisis at Kadesh-barnea. The Hebrew Christians were rejected by their nation, put out of the synagogues; and they themselves were discouraged, because the way through the wilderness was long; because the new Moses, who, had gone up to God, still delayed to come down.The difficulties of the desert oppressed them; they were ready to turn back to Egypt - to return to Moses and Law.

 

2. Ours, too, is still 'the evil dayí.War against Satan is still going on.But faith in Christís return waxes feebler; and in consequence the world, when it smiles, looks brighter than the clouded views of His coming kingdom.Many are unwilling to come out of the world, and to leave it by Christís appointed way of immersion.Many believers are in full pursuit of the worldís fame, riches, and honours.Even millenarian Christians will not accept the true views of the intent of God, in setting the prize before us.They hold and teach that it is a gift: that all believers, no matter how immersed in dispensational and other offences, will yet attain the hope of their calling; in opposition to this and other clear passages.All then that can be done is, to testify and exhort, and look for a remnant who will hear and be faithful to the call.

 

12. "For the word of the Lord is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even so as to divide between soul and spirit, both joints and marrow, and is a judge of the thoughts and intents of the heart.Neither is there any creature that is not manifest before Him; but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him, to Whom is our account."

 

The Apostle now takes up the subject of the Word of God, a matter which was lying all along at the root of the present argument.The whole turned on the question: ĎWhether the ninety-fifth Psalm applies to us, or noThe Apostle has been reasoning with those who thought, or even said: ĎThe rest of God about which you talk, has passed away ages ago: it is a mere dead letterHow many are saying this now!

 

But, in so saying, they are denying it its true character, as "the Word of God."Hence many now say: ĎScripture is not the Word of God, though there are words of God in itAgainst such error the Most High witnesses.The Scripture is the Word of God.

 

1. "The Word of God is living."Manís word conveys only his intelligence, authority, and duration.But Godís Word is like Himself, "living."It is nowhere Ďa dead letterMan may despise it; but the inspired uphold it as Godís living Word.Even of the Law it is written: "Who received living oracles to give to us" (Acts 7: 38).To the Son of God it was ever the voice of the Father, ever to be upheld, incapable of being broken in its least part.

 

2. It is "powerful." It is not only living, but mighty.It commands and forbids, with all authority.The sentence passed on Israel in the desert is still in force against like offenders.It will avail one day, either to admit you to glory, or to exclude you from it.

 

3. "Sharper than any two-edged sword."Perhaps there is a reference to the angel of the Lord who stood before Joshua with a drawn sword in his hand, as the Captain of the Lordís host.Manís sword can cut through flesh and bone, and let out the life-blood, so as to sever between body and soul.But this is of keener edge by far - in accusing and convincing of in distinguishing between true and false.

 

4. It can sever between soul and spirit; those parts of a man which Godís Hand has so closely intertwined, that, when the soul leaves the body, the spirit goes with it; or, if the spirit return to the body, the soul comes with it.

 

For Scripture distinguishes man into three parts: "spirit, soul, and body" (1 Thess. 5: 23).

 

The soul is the scat of the instincts and passions, which we possess in common with animals.The spirit is the deeper and more immaterial portion, with which we serve God.Scripture can discriminate what is of the flesh, and what of the spirit.It can not only hit the joints of the bones, but pierce into their interior, in which lies the marrow. ĎThe Word of God is the sword of the SpiritIf the sword of the flesh can effect so much, much more the sword of the Spirit!

 

5. "It judges thoughts and intents of the heart."

 

It not only commands the actions of the man, but it also reaches inward to the springs of conduct, seated in the affections and the will.

 

This has been shown in the argument above displayed.The psalm twice speaks of the "heart".(1) It forbids that hardening of it which man cannot see.(2) It condemns the heart as erring, before the consequences of that error appear in the conduct.It condemns those who do not regard Godís ways, as well as words.Man judges the Word of God now: but the Word of God will by-and-by judge him.It will stand good at last, both in its promises and its threatenings; however much man, in his ignorance, may despise or deny.

 

ĎThe Word of Godí and Ďthe Son of Godí or ĎGod the Wordí, are closely united together.The Apostle passes almost insensibly from describing the Word of God, to speak of God Himself.He speaks of it as having eyes, and beholding all things; and then to Him is our account to be given.If the word of Adam, the first man, so prevailed at first, as to impose upon every creature its name; much more shall the Son of God pronounce all, at last, either Ďblessedí or Ďcursedí.And His sentence will bind eternally.Clothing conceals our limbs from our fellows: but to God we are naked.Darkness conceals us from man: but to the Lord darkness is as the light.And, as God, He will judge the thoughts, words, and actions of all; as now His Word pronounces them to be good or evil.The closing words declare, that believers also shall be judged.Against this many are rising up, as if the privileges of grace set aside judgment.They will one day find their mistake.

 

The servants of the Great King will one day have to give in their account (Luke 19; Matt. 25.).And not all of Christ's servants will be welcomed as "good and faithful".Let us not then seek to twist or to evade the Word of God, but to submit to it.However plausible the evasion, its futility will one day appear.Reader, do not follow the current of our day, in despising the Word of God.Man may now judge God; but the day is coming in which God will judge man, and then ĎHe will be justified in His sayings, and be clear from manís imputationsí.But alas for the man who rebukes God, and has to answer it to Him!

 

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