The Christians Rest!
William Nicholson, 1862
"There remains therefore, a rest for the people of God." Hebrews 4:9
The privileges of the Gospel are a source of true comfort and joy. But these enjoyments are but the foretastes of the Christian's heavenly rest, when every evil peculiar to this mortal life will be annihilated, and the exceeding and eternal weight of glory be revealed.
In the beginning God rested from all his works. Israel rested in the promised land, from Egypt's bondage and the toils of the wilderness; the Church shall have rest in Heaven, the palace of the great King, "there remains a rest," etc.
I. The Character of Those for Whom Heavenly Rest Is Prepared."The people of God."
Whatever happiness Christ will confer in Heaven, it will be confined to believers, and they alone will or can enjoy it. As some of the Israelites never entered Canaan through their unbelief, so it was in the Apostolic age, so it is now.
1. The people of God have been Divinely enlightened to perceive their lost and perishing state — to feel that they have no help or deliverance in themselves — to perceive that salvation is in Christ alone.
2. The people of God have believed in Christ for salvation. Distrusting themselves, they have trusted in God for mercy through the atoning blood of the Redeemer. John 3:14-16; Acts 16:31.
3. The people of God have been renovated in heart and life. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17. See Romans 6:17, 18, etc.
4. The people of God are admitted to all the privileges of adopted children. "I will be a father to you." See Ephesians 2:11-13, etc.; 1 John 3:1.
5. The people of God have already, in this world, entered into rest, and the enjoyment of rest here, is the precursor of glorious rest hereafter. "We who have believed do enter into rest." Before they knew Christ they were strangers to rest, but Jesus said to them, "Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden — and I will give you rest!" etc.
That they enjoy rest now is evident from enlightening, redeeming, and regenerating grace.
They have rest of conscience. Guilt is removed by the blood of Christ. It is freed from the torment of fear, etc., Romans 5:1, etc. Rest in the understanding. Darkness has fled, doubt vanished — they are no longer in confusion about the truth. They know whom they have believed.
Rest as it regards the passions and appetites. These are mortified through the Spirit, and placed under restraint.
Rest from anxiety as to their state in life. Others are devoured by anxious solicitude, saying, "What shall we eat," etc., but they are "anxious for nothing," Philippians 4:6. "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you."
II. The Rest Which Remains for the People of God.
The present rest of believers is nothing compared with future rest. However favorable the voyage, they are now on the boisterous, treacherous ocean; they are looking out for their native shore, and will soon enter the harbor. At death, we are told that the righteous enter into rest, Revelation 14:13.
1. The scene of this rest will be Heaven, the glorious region of immortality, where God and all holy beings dwell. A place adapted for immortal existence.
2. This rest will be enjoyed by both body and soul. Though at death, the spirit immediately enters into rest — yet at the resurrection, the body shall be reunited to the soul, and both shall partake of endless felicity.
3. It will be a rest from conflict. The evil heart of unbelief shall afflict no more. Satan shall tempt no more. The world shall fascinate and ensnare no more. Darkness shall no more struggle with the light, or faith with unbelief. The flesh will no longer entice, etc. Nothing remains of their conflicts, but the grateful remembrance of the hand that sustained and delivered them.
4. It will be a rest from all suffering — in circumstances — in body — in mind.
Hear it, afflicted ones, "The inhabitant shall never say, I am sick."
Hear it, bereaved ones, "They die no more."
Hear it, you sons of poverty, "They shall hunger no more," etc.
5. It will be a rest from labor. Here man by the sweat of his brow strives to earn a subsistence. Here the mind anxiously devises, schemes, etc. All induces fatigue of body and mind. But the drudgery of earth will be exchanged for the glorious service of Heaven. "And his servants shall serve him" without weariness; for the service will be congenial to their immortal powers, and those powers will be fully equal to their work.
6. It will be a rest from fear — fear of sin, fear of losing the grace of God, the fear of death, the fear of Hell.
7. A rest from mental debility and darkness. The capacity will there be enlarged and shall forever enlarge.
8. Lastly, it is a certain and everlasting rest.
This rest is certain. "It is the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time!" Titus 1:2. How different from the hopes of earth! Some may anticipate coming ease, but they have no security. The mariner, full of hope, commences his voyage, but he returns not. The soldier is expected from the campaign, but eyes have failed in looking for him. The adventurer who has raised the expectation of a nation, returns no more.
But this rest is as certain as the promise, the oath, the infinite and immutable love of God can make it! John 17:24.
This rest is everlasting. Nothing is permanent here on earth. All is eternally permanent yonder. Count the sands of the sea, the leaves of the forest, the drops of the ocean — they are nothing compared to eternity. Survey the starry hosts of Heaven, imagine their number. All these images fail. "The wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars forever and ever!"