William Nicholson, 1862
"For you have not yet come to the rest and to the inheritance which the Lord your God gives you." Deuteronomy 12:9
Some knowledge of Heaven is necessary. Without this, we could have . . .
no desire after it,
no sympathy with it,
no preparation for it.
But our acquaintance with it here on earth, is very imperfect. After all the description of inspired truth, it does not yet appear what we shall be; it is a glory that is to be revealed. "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him!" 1 Corinthians 2:9.
It must have been cheering to the Israelites, amid the perils of the wilderness, to know that they were, under the guidance of God, gradually nearing the land of Canaan, where they would enjoy rest. The wilderness with its toils and privations, was unfavorable to Divine worship, and therefore Moses, in the preceding verses, tells them that on their arrival in the promised land, they would worship God without such inconvenience, verse 5-8.
So it is with Christians now; their worship, their spiritual enjoyment, are frequently interrupted by adverse circumstances; but when they come to "the rest," their worship will be pure and uninterrupted.
I. The Nature of Heavenly Rest.It is called "the rest and the inheritance."
1. It is a promised rest.
Canaan was promised to the Israelites again and again, and they were now going on to possess it, Genesis 35:12, etc.
Just so, Heaven is promised to believers, Hebrews 4:9, 11; John 14:1, etc. The Lord knows that his people cannot be happy in this world, so full of evil, and therefore he has promised, and provided for them a permanent rest. They are "heirs according to the promise;" "heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:7; Romans 8:17.
2. This rest is the purchase of the Redeemer, and the result of his mediatorial conquests.
The Israelites entered Canaan through the intervention of God. He rescued them from Egypt, conducted and guided them by his Omnipotence through the desert, and at length brought them to the land of promise. All was effected by Divine power.
Just so, believers are saved by Omnipotent grace. From the cross of Christ, they received their fitness for the heavenly inheritance! On that cross he became their surety, atoned for their sins, and procured for them a righteousness which covers all their natural deformity. He broke down the middle wall of partition, and gave access to God in Heaven. He spoiled principalities and powers, and triumphantly entered Paradise as the forerunner of his people; there he waits to receive them, and to crown them with glory. "To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne!" Revelation 3:21. Glorious thought! My crown of glory was purchased by Christ's crown of thorns, etc. Revelation 5:12; 7:10.
3. It will be a rest from all evil.
(1.) From all temptation to sin. So long as man lives on earth, he has various incitements to sin. Enemies both external and internal, are all plotting his ruin, and instigating him to renounce his allegiance to Christ. How numerous are the sources of temptation:
the depraved heart,
worldly pleasures and amusements,
the pressure from friends,
the intoxicating cup as the relief of pain or calamity,
the evil heart of unbelief,
the lusts of the flesh, etc.
Yes, the child of God is constantly inhaling infected air! He living in an atmosphere impregnated with death — nearly every step is surrounded by some hidden snare. No sooner does he embark to the land of his Father in Heaven, than his frail bark is in danger of some hidden quicksand, or sunken rock, etc., etc.
But in Heaven there are . . .
no more incitements to sin,
no more snares set for his fall,
no more painful trials for his virtue,
nor evil examples to lead him astray.
There the eye shall never behold, and the ear never hear, vanity. The tongue shall never deceive, and the heart never misgive. The aged will never seduce the inexperienced, nor the oppressor bear down the weak. Poverty shall not tempt to injustice, nor wealth lead the possessor to forget God. Nothing shall exist there to excite sinful passions, nothing to awaken unhallowed desires.
The atmosphere of that region is healthful,
the language of that country is pure,
the conduct of its inhabitants is righteous.
There is nothing to hurt or destroy, in that holy mountain.
(2.) It will be a rest from all sin. A depraved heart is the fruitful source of all the misery existing in the world — the source . . .
of all defilement,
of all immoral action,
of all anguish and remorse, and
of exposure to endless ruin.
Were the heart pure, this world would be a paradise! Though believers are regenerated — yet sin frequently distresses them.
But in Heaven sin shall be done away. The emancipated soul shall be restored to the full liberty and purity of a son of God. "The spirits of just men are made perfect," and freed from all "spot or wrinkle" when they reach Mount Zion. Angelic natures may possess more enlarged and more exalted capacities, but not purer natures, than the glorified saints. All the remains of sin, and the dregs of corruption — are left far and forever behind.
No condemning conscience is found there,
no unhallowed appetites are found there,
no disordered affections exist there,
no vestige of evil is found there!
Every child of God is as pure as Christ is pure. He is as perfect as his Father in Heaven is perfect. Child of mortality, heir of corruption, what will be your feelings when you shall rest in Heaven from all the effects of sin?
"There the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest!"
3. It will be a rest from all the temporal ills of our mortal condition. This world is a valley of tears. Poverty of circumstances, induced, it may be, by personal or relative affliction — by lack of occupation, or deficient remuneration for the labor of the hands — the failure of well-concerted schemes of business, by the injustice or insolvency of others — bodily and family affliction, bereavements most affecting. These are some of the bitter waters of which the Christian has to drink; and though they may act as a necessary cause of discipline — yet they are painful, and cause the distressed to say, "O that I had the wings of a dove — I would fly away and be at rest!" Death too, is a foe that distresses the mind by gloomy apprehensions.
But all the ills of mortality are in yonder temple of rest — as waters that are poured out, or as the dreams of a winter night.
A cold countenance,
a diseased frame,
a sorrowful heart —
are not seen within the gates of the holy city!
No wearisome nights,
no restless days of pain,
no anxious cares and heavy disappointments
— are there.
No persecutions for conscience' sake,
no painful separations that agonize the heart,
no bitter lamentations over the loss of relatives dear to the soul,
no parents bewailing the death of their offspring, or their sinful departure from God, are there.
"God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away!" Revelation 21:4
4. This rest will be glorious.
This will appear, if we consider the place — Heaven, the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of God, the "better country," Revelation 21.
This will appear, if we consider residents — Deity, our adorable Redeemer, angels, etc., etc.
This will appear, if we consider the employments — with extended capacity to study the most wondrous themes, creation, redeeming love, immortality. Communion with Deity and immortal spirits. Etc.
Then there will be ecstatic enjoyment, from . . .
the reception of Heaven's light, emanations from God himself,
the unraveling of hitherto perplexing mysteries,
the enjoyment of a capacity that will never tire or droop, but always be excited and increasing in vigor.
5. This rest will be complete and eternal.
Canaan was to be a perpetual dwelling-place to Israel and their posterity, but conditionally. Hence the promise to Abraham, "To you will I give it, and to your seed forever." The conditions were violated. Witness the dispersion of the Jews!
But the heirs of heavenly rest, having entered Heaven shall never go out. "Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of Heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name!" Revelation 3:12
It is "the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ." It is "a priceless inheritance — an inheritance that is reserved in Heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay!" 1 Peter 1:4
The fairest earthly inheritance must soon be relinquished. The possessor of the largest and most fertile domains, may say, as he surveys them, "These hills will rejoice, these valleys will sing, and these trees will flourish for another, but not for me."
Were the saints to be driven from the paradise of God! were they to fall from that perfection in holiness to which Divine grace has exalted them in Heaven — then Jesus would not be solicitous about their welfare. But this cannot be; the Lamb in the midst of the throne is the guardian of their eternal security! The very thought of leaving their inheritance, would make Heaven doleful; its hills of frankincense would lose their fragrance; the flowers of paradise would blossom to them in vain, and they would feel themselves incapable of relishing its enjoyments. But the saints shall reign forever and ever in that kingdom which can never be moved.
II. Believers have Not Yet Come to this Rest."For you have not yet come to the rest and to the inheritance which the Lord your God gives you."
1. This is very evident; for you are yet in the body, in a world of trouble and vexation. Before you enter Heaven, you have much to do, much to suffer, and many foes to encounter.
2. As you are not yet come to the rest, submit to the will of God — put up with inconvenience; be patient, establish your hearts.
3. Though not come to it, you have foretastes of it — many drops before the shower.
4. Desire it, hope for it, esteem it above all the possessions of earth. This will prove the heavenly origin of your spiritual life.
5. You are not yet come to it, but you are preparing for it. You feel the work of God in you — it is progressing. You are animated with the prospect. Follow on to know the Lord. Go to his house — to prayer — to the Bible — and catch the breezes that come from Canaan's hills! Pant after foretastes.
6. You are not come to it; no, you have yet to die — to pass the valley — to cross the river of death. Pray for grace to suit your dying hour. Look beyond the valley, across the river. Behold the shining ones on the other side. They bid you come; and Jesus, the conqueror of death, says, "Fear not!" Relying upon him, you will triumph amid the swellings of Jordan, you will come to the desired haven, and open your eyes to behold the glories of your glorious and eternal "rest" and "inheritance."
Finally, remember your future glory is all of grace. It is "the rest and the inheritance which the Lord your God gives you."