Ellet J. Waggoner
The Present Truth : November 11, 1897
We have seen that perfect rest follows finished and perfect work. No such work is ever found among men, and therefore real rest is unknown in this world. But “as for God, His way is perfect; and therefore His rest is perfect. The children of Israel did not learn the ways of God and therefore they did not enter into His rest. In Christ Jesus we are created unto good works, which God hath before prepared, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2.10), and these works are ours by faith, for “this is the work of God, that we believe on Him whom He hath sent.” John 6.29. The Jews did not believe, therefore they did not get the works of God, and consequently they could not enter into His rest; for since God’s works are perfect and complete, whoever has the works, has the rest, and he in whom the works of God do not show themselves, does not have the rest.
“Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest,’” although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.” Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
It may be well to state that the words; “If they shall enter into My rest,” are the word for word rendering of the Hebrew idiom for, “They shall not enter into My rest.” We shall therefore, without further comment, use the English form of expression, as it is in the Revised Version, instead of the Hebrew form.
It should also be noted that in verse the Revised Version has “Joshua” instead of “Jesus.” Those who have Bibles with marginal references will find the word “Joshua” also in the margin. The two are identical in the Hebrew, being derived from the verb meaning, to save, to deliver. “Jesus” means Saviour (Matthew 1.21) as of course Joshua does. Joshua, who led the people of Israel into the earthly Canaan, is a type of Jesus, who leads His people into the heavenly Canaan—the heavenly country for which the patriarchs of old looked. Hebrews 11.11. When we recall the subject of the third chapter, how the Israelites failed to enter into rest because of unbelief, and note that in the immediate connection we are told that the promise is left to us because they failed, we can readily see that the Joshua who succeeded Moses as leader of Israel, is the one referred to in verse 8. So in our study we shall read it, “For if Joshua had given them rest, then would He not afterward have spoken of another day.”
Now, since the main thing is to find out exactly what the Scripture says, we will spend a few moments in asking and answering some
Questions on the Text
• Why could not Israel of old enter into God’s rest?
o “They could not enter in because of unbelief.”
• What must we therefore fear?
o “Lest any” one “should seem to come short of it.”
• What hope is there of our entering into His rest?
o “A promise is left us of entering into His rest.”
• How do we stand related to it, as compared with the people of old?
o “Unto us was the Gospel preached, as well as unto them.”
• What benefit did they derive from the Gospel?
o “The Word preached did not profit them.”
• Why not?
o “Not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.”
• If we, unlike them, have faith, what advantage shall we have?
o “We which have believed do enter into rest.”
• What assurance is given?
o “I have sworn in My wrath, they shall not enter into My rest.”
• What have we seen to be the only reason why they could not enter in?
o “Because of unbelief.”
• What evidence is there that they might at any time have entered in if they had believed?
o “The works were finished from the foundation of the world.”
• What did God in one place say of the seventh day, which showed that the works were all finished?
o “He spoke in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all His works.”
• What followed God’s finished work?
o “God did rest.”
• When did He rest?
o On “the seventh day.”
• What then is the seventh day?
o The seventh day is the Rest of the Lord thy God.” Exodus 20.9. (The word Sabbath is simply the untranslated Hebrew word meaning “rest.”)
• Having said in one place of the seventh day, “God did rest the seventh day from all His works,” what did He say of it in another place?
o “They shall not enter into My rest.”
• Nevertheless what must necessarily take place?
o “Some must enter therein.”
• Therefore since they to whom the rest was first offered entered not into it because of unbelief, what has God done?
o “Again He limits a certain day.”
• To what time is the offer limited?
• Where is this word found?
o “In David.”
• What is the word that is spoken to us?
o “Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts?”
• How is the long suffering and forbearance of God shown in this offer?
o He repeats it in David, “after so long a time.”
• But of what may we be fully assured, since “some must enter therein,” and the ones to whom it was first offered rejected it?
o “There remains therefore a rest to the people of God.”
• What time is allowed us in which to accept the rest?
• What is the condition of one who has entered into His rest?
o “He also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His.”
• Ceasing from his own works, what works, if any, does he have?
o “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before prepared, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2.8-10
• What are we then exhorted to do?
o “Let us labor therefore to enter into rest.”
• But what shall we do in order to work the works of God?
o “This is the work of God that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” John 6.29
• What in our lesson shows that this is the way we are to labor to enter into rest?
o We are exhorted to labor to enter into rest “lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.”
• What shows that the kind of labor that consists in receiving God’s Word in simple faith does not mean idleness and indifference?
o “The Word of God is living and active.”
God’s Oath.—In verse 3 we have the words, “As I have sworn in My wrath, They shall not enter into My rest,” as proof that “we which have believed do enter into rest.” The only oath of God we find recorded in the Bible is in Genesis 22.16-18, where God swore to Abraham that in his Seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed, and that his Seed should possess the gate of His enemies; and this is the same that constituted Christ Priest after the order of Melchizedek. See Hebrews 6.13-30. That was a promise of rest, consequent on Abraham’s faith. The promise of justification by faith is equal to a statement that the faithless shall not be justified, and likewise the statement, made of the unbelieving, “They shall not enter into rest,” is only the reverse side of the oath that they who believe shall enter into rest.
Faith, Works, Rest.—“By grace are ye saved through faith; . . . not of works, lest any man should boast; for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before prepared, that we should walk in them.” Human works have nothing to do with salvation; for, as we have previously seen, they are always imperfect, and can therefore never be finished, so that rest can follow. But God’s works do save us. “For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.” Psalm 74.12. “Thou, Lord, hast made me glad through Thy work; I will triumph in the works of Thy hands.” Psalm 92.4. The works of God do save us; and these works we make ours by faith. John 6.29. The works are perfect and are all done, so that in getting them we get rest; therefore it is that “we which have believed do enter into rest.” Whoever believes finds that rest. Our part, therefore, is to acknowledge that our best works are only a damage to us (See Philippians 2.6, 7), and to recognize and worship God as the sole Creator of all things.
When the Rest was Prepared.—Those who did not and would not believe, could not enter into rest. Of them God swore, “They shall not enter into My rest,” and this in spite of the fact that “the works were finished from the foundation of the world.” It was not because the rest was not ready, that they could not enter in, for it was ready and waiting from the foundation of the world, when the perfect work of God was finished.
What Works?—What works were finished from the foundation of the world?—Manifestly, the works of creation; for in proof of the statement that the works were finished from the foundation of the world, we have this: “For He spoke in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all His works.” That “certain place” is Genesis 2.1-3, where, after the detailed account of the six day’s work in creating the heavens and the earth, we read: “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which God created and made.” The “finished works,” therefore, which afforded the rest, were the new heavens and the new earth, which God pronounced “very good.”
Two things are said of the seventh day. In one place God says of it, “And God did rest the seventh day from all His works.” In another place He said of it, “They shall not enter into My rest.” Thus we see that the rest, which God enjoyed on the seventh day, when creation was finished, is the identical rest which He offered to Israel of old, and which He now offers to us. That is the rest into which those who believe do enter in. Let no one think that this is a belittling of God’s rest. No; it is not that God’s rest is a small thing, but that the Sabbath is a much greater and more blessed affair than most, even of those who regard it, know it to be. God’s rest is infinite and eternal; and the seventh day is the Sabbath-rest of the Lord.
Seal and Mark of Perfect, New Creation.—Jesus says, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11.28. He gives rest because in Him the works of God are perfect. “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” In Him “we have our redemption, the forgiveness of sins . . . for in him were all things created.” Redemption through Christ is nothing else than creation—a new creation. Just before His crucifixion, Christ said to the Father, “I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.” John 17.4. And when He hung on the cross He cried, “It is finished; and He bowed his head, and gave up the Spirit.” John 19.30. Thus He indicated that in the cross are to be found all the perfect, finished works of the new creation. Now the Sabbath was given as the sign of a perfect creation completed; therefore it is the sign of those perfect works restored by the cross of Christ. That is to say: Since the Sabbath is the sign of a perfect creation completed, and by the cross of Christ a new creation is accomplished, the Sabbath must be the sign of the cross. Try it and see if it is not.
A Gift, Not a Task Exacted.—Here is where so many people mistake: they think that the Sabbath is a hard requirement that God lays on men, and then they soon get in the way of thinking that God cannot require it of us, since He does not desire his people to be burdened. But salvation is not a thing required of us, but a gift to us; and the Sabbath is the sign of Christ’s saving power: He saves by the power by which He creates. Rest is not a burden - it is a pleasure. Nothing more absolutely delightful can be imagined than rest in the consciousness of work all done and well done, and this is the privilege of the people of God: “All Thy works shall praise Thee, O Lord, and Thy saints shall bless Thee. They shall speak of the glory of Thy kingdom and talk of Thy power; to make known to the sons of men Thy mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of Thy kingdom.” Psalm 145.10-12. “One generation shall praise Thy works to another, and shall declare Thy mighty acts.” Verse 4. The Sabbath is the pledge and assurance to us, that the power by which the worlds were made has wrought good works for us in Christ, and that these works are all ours if we believe. This is the rest prepared for us from the foundation of the world. This is the rest to which Christ invites us—rest from our own sinful works.
“Some Must Enter In”—What a blessed assurance this is: Some must enter into that rest. God has sworn by Himself, and it must be done. God does not owe anything to sinful men, but He has put himself under obligations to Himself, so that he says: “I, even I, am He that blots out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember Thy sins.” Isaiah 43.25. So absolutely necessary is it that some must enter into the rest that God has prepared, and which can be entered into only by faith, that even if every man should be false and faithless, God would still remain true to his promise (Romans 3.3, 4), for He could take some of the ground and raise up children to Abraham. Matthew 3.9
It would be a manifestation of the same power that in the beginning made man of the dust of the ground; it would be only the same creative power now that takes the stony heart and reduces it to dust,—makes it contrite,—and then creates a new man in Christ Jesus. Therefore since God is able, and not only willing, but even under bonds (to Himself) to prepare people for His rest, let “whosoever will” come. “Him that comes to Me,” says Jesus who calls, “I will in no wise cast out.” John 6.37. The case is urgent, and the Lord is not requiring any certificates of good character, or making any examination of candidates. The worst, weakest, most degraded and despised, is accepted without any questions being asked except this: “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?”
Even me with all my sin;
Purged from every spot and stain,
Heaven with Him I enter in.”
None Compelled.—As anxiously as God longs to save men, and as urgent as the need is, He forces none, How could He? Think what it is that He offers: it is rest—rest from sin. Now it is an utter impossibility to force anybody to take rest. Mere cessation of activity is not necessarily rest. Bind a man who wishes to do a certain thing so tightly that he cannot by any possibility use a muscle, and he will not rest; he will wear himself out by the resistance of his mind against the enforced idleness. God not only does not and will not force anybody to be saved, but He cannot; for the very word “force” implies resistance, and the man who resists does not rest. Those, therefore, who make and enforce laws to compel people to be religious, show that they have not the faintest conception of what the Christian religion is; men who would compel people to keep the Sabbath, have no more idea of what the Sabbath really is, than they have of the language used by the inhabitants of Saturn. There is no one so foolish as to suppose that he can compel another to love him by kicking and beating him; yet many think that people can be compelled to serve the Lord, not knowing that God is love, and that His service is love. Absolute freedom is what the Lord gives,—freedom from every sort of oppression. This is what the true keeping of the Sabbath brings.
“The Long suffering of God”—Because some must enter into the rest, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief, therefore God extended the time. When Moses was born, the time of the promise which God had sworn to Abraham drew near (Acts 7.19), yet five hundred years later, in the days of David, “after so long a time,” we hear the Spirit saying, “Today, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” And still the Spirit says, Come. Men abuse the long suffering of God, and mockingly say, “Where is the promise of His coming?” but we must remember that “the long suffering of our God is salvation.” He is not willing that any should perish. 2 Peter 3.3, 4, 9, 15
A Limited Time --“Another Day”— Although God is so long suffering; He has not given men eternity in which to repent and believe. Eternity of rest is what He offers, but He allows men only one day in which to accept the offer; and that day is Today. “Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6.2. This is the day of which we read in Psalm 118.19, 20: “Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord. This gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter.'” Compare John 10.9: “I am the Door, by Me if any man enter in he shall be saved.” “I will praise Thee; for Thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation. The Stone which the builders rejected is become the head Stone of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice, and be glad in it. Save now, I beseech Thee, O Lord; O Lord, I beseech Thee, send now prosperity.” Psalm 118.21, 25. This is the day of the Lord which Abraham rejoiced to see, and in which He was glad (John 8.56), for the salvation which he enjoyed is the very same that is now offered to us. It is salvation from sin. See Romans 4.1-0. The “accepted time” has been extended, “another day,” and so from day to day God is patiently waiting. Who will heed the blessed invitation, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”?
Ceasing from Our Own Works.—He that has entered into God’s rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His; but not for the same reason. God ceased from His works because they were finished and perfect; we are to cease from our own works because they are all imperfection, and there is no hope of making them good. Taking into consideration all the people of the earth, the Lord says, “Behold, they are all vanity; their works are nothing.” Isaiah 41.29. “Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works; their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands.” Isaiah 59.6. The Lord rested in the contemplation of His own glorious works; we likewise find rest in the contemplation of His, not our own, gloriously perfect work. “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law, and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.” Romans 3.20-22
It is sometimes supposed that it is only the works of a man before his conversion, that are of no avail for righteousness, and that a man’s works are all right after he is once converted. But this is a mistake. The best man in the world is but a man, and not God. The righteousness of the best man is not his own, but the righteousness of God by faith. The righteous man has no more strength than the sinner, but his advantage lies in the fact that He knows and acknowledges the Lord as the source of strength. A man must absolutely and forever cease from his own works, if he would rest in God. This is what the Sabbath of the Lord—the seventh day, teaches us. Sabbath keeping in spirit and in truth is the fullness of justification through faith.
Laboring to Enter into Rest.—“Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest,”—the rest that still remains. What kind of labor secures that rest?—the labor of faith, for “this is the work of God that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” Paul thanked God for the Thessalonians, when he remembered their “work of faith and labor of love.” 1 Thessalonians 1.3. Faith works by love. Galatians 5.6. Belief is salvation and rest, for “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” “If thou shalt confess with Thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Romans 10.9. But this does not mean idleness and indifference. It means compliance to the Word of God dwelling in us, that it may have free course, but that means intense activity, “for the Word of God is living and active.” Oh, weary, troubled soul, believe the Word of the Lord, and believe now.
Come to Me, saith One, and coming, be at rest.”