James Smith, 1865
"There remains therefore a rest for the people of God." Hebrews 4:9
There was a rest for Adam in Paradise — which he lost by sin.
There was a rest for Israel in Canaan — which many forfeited by unbelief.
There is a rest for the Christian in Christ — which can only be enjoyed by faith.
And there is a rest for all the saints in Heaven — to which we can only be admitted at death.
To one of the last two, the Apostle refers; some think to the former, and some to the latter. We shall consider the words as referring to HEAVEN:
our Father's house,
our Savior's home, and
our eternal dwelling-place!
To the weary and way-worn — there is something delightful in the thought of REST, and they love to think of Heaven as the place where they shall "rest from their labors."
REST gives us the idea of . . .
repose — the calm, quiet repose of the soul;
refreshment — the refreshment of the exhausted spirit after conflict, sickness, or toil;
restoration to vigor — after debility, lassitude, and fainting.
Heaven will be a rest . . .
from sin — which will no more grieve us;
from sorrow — which will no more trouble and distress us;
from fears — which will no more harass and perplex us; and
from conflicts — which will no more agitate and suppress us.
It will be a rest . . .
with God in his glory,
with Jesus in his immediate presence,
with saints and holy angels in full perfection and blessedness.
This rest is FUTURE — it remains for the people of God.
This rest is the object of our hope and DESIRE. We look forward to it, with holy longing and cheering anticipations.
This rest is PERFECT — free from all mixture of anything that will agitate, give pain, or cause grief.
This rest is UNINTERRUPTED — nothing will ever occur to disturb, distress, or agitate us more.
This rest is GLORIOUS — as bright as the meridian sun, as balmy as the most pleasant morning, as glowing with holiness, splendor, and majesty.
This rest is ETERNAL — and this is best of all. The possibility of a change, of a return to former scenes — would spoil all. But that rest will be enduring — as changeless as the Divine nature, and as glorious as the Divine perfections.
Blessed be God for such a rest for the weary, suffering, and downcast believer in Jesus! Oh, to keep the eye fixed upon it, and the heart expecting it — amidst all the troubles and trials of time!
This rest is FOR the redeemed people of God. Not for the Jews as such, nor for the Gentiles as such — but for the Lord's people. The people He has chosen for himself, as says the Apostle, "God has chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth."
This rest is for the people He claims as his own, being set apart for himself in his eternal purpose, redeemed to God by the blood of his Son, out of every nation, country, people, and tongue. He claims them by his Holy Spirit in the day of his power.
This rest is for the people whom He himself teaches, as Jesus said, "It is written in the prophets — they shall be all taught of God, everyone therefore that has heard and learned of the Father, comes unto Me." Divine teaching is educating for eternity, and God thus educates all his own people. The people He prepares — for Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. Jesus is gone to prepare the place for the people — and the Holy Spirit comes to prepare the people for the place. To this end, He creates them anew in Christ Jesus, and makes them fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.
They are now a poor, tried, tempted, and restless people; strangers and pilgrims upon the earth, as all their fathers were.
Satan tempts them,
sinners try them,
fears harass them,
Providence perplexes them,
and they often cry out, "O that I had wings like a dove, then would I fly away and be at rest!"
Believer, let the prospect of this eternal glorious rest, cheer you in toil and trouble! Your work will soon be finished, your trouble will soon come to an end, and then the rest — the glorious rest, remains for you! Let it encourage you to labor and suffer: labor for Jesus, who is preparing the rest for you; suffer in the cause of Jesus, acquiescing in his will, who once suffered for you, and now rests as you will soon.
Think of the Christian believers — what they suffered, and how they suffered; they "joyfully accepted the confiscation of their property, because they knew that they had better and lasting possessions."
Let your Heavenly rest, quicken your pace homewards! You are going to a rest — a perfect, uninterrupted, and eternal rest; a rest in Heaven, a rest with Jesus, a rest in the presence of your God forever; therefore gird up the loins of your mind, and press on towards the mark, cheered by the prospect at the end of the race.
Remember, Christian, this rest is SECURE, for Jesus has taken possession of it for you. "I am going," said He, "to prepare a place for you." "Where," said the Apostle, alluding to Heaven, "Where the forerunner has for us entered, even Jesus." Yes, Jesus is gone there for you, He has taken possession in your name, He is preparing your place, and will soon come and receive you to himself!
Remember too, that it is NEAR — very near. Perhaps much nearer than you may think.
You may be sighing, sorrowing, striving, wrestling, doubting, fearing, and cast down today — and tomorrow you may be in your Heavenly rest!
Today, you may be lying, like Lazarus, at the rich man's gate, full of sores; tomorrow, you may be in Heaven!
Today, you may be dwelling in Mesech, or in the tents of Kedar; tomorrow, you may be basking in the beams of Immanuel's glory!
Today, you may be on the bed of sickness, suffering, and pain; tomorrow, you may be in the presence of Jesus, where there is no more pain, neither sorrow nor crying!
Who can tell how near we all are to our Heavenly and everlasting rest?
Remember also, that your very trials, toils, and sufferings here on earth, may SWEETEN your rest to you! And that soon, very soon — you may be rejoicing over your present sorrows, and praising God for what now fills you with grief and sadness. Things will look very different there — from what they do here. Never, never forget, then, in your darkest nights, in your most trying days, in the midst of every storm and tempest, when passing over burning sands and under a scorching sky — that there remains a rest for the people of God, and a rest for you!
"Arise and depart; for this is not your resting place, because it is defiled, it is ruined, beyond all remedy!"
"There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary are at rest!"
But, "there is NO REST, says my God, to the WICKED!" His soul is restless now, and, dying as he is — he will be restless forever. "And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. There is no rest day or night!" O think of an eternity of unrest! Think of an eternity of toil, agony, and woe! Think, and so think as to accept and act upon the invitation of Jesus, who is now at this moment saying unto you, "Come unto me, and I will give you rest; take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you shall find rest unto your souls!"