Jesus with an open arm declared:
To those who are weary of being separated from the life of God and have not yet made the decision to respond to His call and follow Christ, his arms are still wide open to embrace you, forgive your sins and give you His rest. Will you respond in faith and repentance? For these same hands will one day be stretched in the sky with clouds of heaven, then only to judge the living and the dead. While there is still a today, we persuade you to respond to these loving hands.
To those of us who have responded to the call of entering into his rest, these same hands would still say “would you persevere to the end, as I have and entered into my Father’s glory on His majesty on high?” Even though we have come to partake the Sabbath rest in Christ already, for there yet remains a Sabbath full rest for the people of God (Heb. 4:9). Let us then lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb.12:1–2). The same exalted Christ, who received sinners onto His rest in Galilee, is now seated in the heavenly temple and is now calling the nations to the obedience of faith. He dwells among us through His Spirit on one hand and yet is calling us to where He is and run the race with endurance on the other hand. We shall one day enter his Sabbath rest. Let’s stand and persevere in the midst of temptation, trials and tests in life. We shall enter into His rest, just our hero did. This rest is a scriptural testimony, and here is why.
Sabbath Rest in the Old Testament
Ever since the creation of the universe, Yahweh had rested on the Seventh day. He blessed it and sanctified it. He then created the first humans and placed them in the garden as an invitation to entering His holy rest (Genesis 1). Eden was a Temple-City where Yahweh dwells with his image bearers. Eden also points forward to an ultimate Temple-City, the new Jerusalem, to which Adam and Eve were invited to take part in taking caring of it and expand its boarders through obedience, until the whole creation becomes Eden. Theologians calls this scenario a ‘Covenant of Works’ (Genesis 2). Humans, instead, joined a rebellion party led by a mischief creature that sought to coup d’état Yahweh and thwart his purposes. They rather preferred to build their own Babel-City than to work for Yahweh in Eden (Genesis 3-11).
However, Yahweh is so Loving and graceful. He graciously called a man by the name Abraham to undo this rebellion, to give humanity rest by setting them free from slavery of sin, death and the evil-one (Genesis 12-50). Abraham was called to bless the nations, as represented by the 70 mighty nations around them (Gen 10-11). Yahweh promised Abraham and his seed a city called Canaan where He would give them rest from their enemies. He understood it to mean that Yahweh prepared him a heavenly inheritance for him and his seed larger than a mere piece of land in Palestine. It is note worthy to realize in the Genesis narrative that we find three-fold battles between the seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15; Cf. Gen. 5:1-2) represented by Seth, (then Noah, Shem, Abraham, David, Jesus) and the seed of the evil-one represented by Cain (Lamech, Ham, Canaan, Pharaoh..the Anti-Christ). The repeated cycle of famine and bareness were a means to destroy the seed of the promise. Abraham then believed Yahweh and it was counted for him as righteousness. From this one-man, came about 70 souls (for the sake of the 70 nations representing all the other nations). Israel descended to Egypt and was forced to slavery under another mischief serpent by the name ‘Pharaoh’, who sought to oppose Yahweh’s purposes. We see another evil figure who wanted to build his own Babel-city (Exodus 1-6). Yahweh stretched out his hand. Through the sacrifice of blood, a nation was redeemed out of slavery from Egypt (Exodus 7-18). Yahweh reigned upon his redeemed community by giving them his Law .
In this Law, the fourth commandment, is a command to observe the Sabbath. The Sabbath, on the one hand, looks back to His seventh-day rest in creation (Ex. 20:10-11) and their redemption from slavery on the other (Deut. 5:13-15). However, the same serpent crawled to the wildernesses in order to test Israel. Israel fell just as Adam and Eve did. They worshiped a golden calf. This time, Moses stood to intercede so that Yahweh would forgive his people and give them rest. At this point we recognize the point of the Sabbath rest. Yahweh’s presence is the true meaning of the Sabbath rest. Yahweh is once again gracious. He promised them that his presence would be among them (Ex. 33-34). Through the conquest of Joshua, Israel entered into the promised land where they would experience God’s rest. Through the construction of the tabernacle (Ex. 40) and the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam 7:1-14; 1 King 6-9), Yahweh dwelt among his people. Once again, the people of Israel refused to enter his rest through faith and obedience. They refused to observe the Sabbath day and desecrate the holy Land of Yahweh, just as Adam and Eve did in the Garden. Like Adam and Eve, Yahweh removed his people from His holy presence into exile. He abandoned the temple and his presence left Zion (Eze. 8-11) because the people refused to be faithful to his covenant.
Yet again, he appointed in the future a certain day so long after Joshua had given them rest. saying:
At this point, several prophets arose pointing to yet another return of Yahweh to His people after the exile.
Fulfillment of ‘Sabbath’ in Jesus
After several decades passed, a voice was heard in the wilderness of Judea, at the bank of the river Jordan, a prophet speaking:
Jesus is the awaited revelation of the glory of Yahweh, as promised by the prophets. He is the true meeting place between God and Man, the incarnate divine Son, just as the temple was for Israel. He who has seen him, has seen God. Jesus in his person, words and deeds, fulfilled the Sabbath rest that Yahweh promised to his people.
Immediately after Jesus said “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew would like to show us that just as Yahweh equates His presence with rest, saying: “my presence will go with you, and I will give you rest (Exodus 33:14.)”. Likewise Jesus gives us His rest by mediating God’s presence to those who follow Him “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here…for the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” Sabbath rest is found in God’s indwelling presence. Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. He entered into the heavenly temple not made by human hands representing us.
We Too Shall Enter the Final Rest
We too one day shall enter our final rest. We now experience the Sabbath rest because of our union with Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit, as we abide in Christ. But one day, he promised that he will return and restores Eden on earth. Heaven will kiss the earth. The dwelling place of God will be with man. He will dwell with us, we will be his people, and God himself will be with us as our God. And he who was seated on the throne said,
Brothers and sisters, let’s persevere to the end. We need each other! We need the gospel. We need to remind each other of the immeasurable love of God in Christ, so that we persevere to the end!
© 2016, Samson Tilahun. All rights reserved.