A Rest for the People of God

(The Hope of the Promises)

After toil is rest. Our Heavenly Father has promised an eternal rest for the people of God. This promise is given by the Apostle Paul after a lengthy dissertation on the bad example of Israel in the wilderness during the exodus from Egypt. "Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest."(Hebrews 3:8-11)

The rest waiting for this mass of people was the land promised unto the natural seed of Abraham in the promises delivered unto him about four hundred years earlier. The primary symptom of the provocation in natural Israel was the prevailing "evil heart of unbelief" (Hebrews 3:12). Even though the people that God had chosen to be his own "peculiar treasure" (Exodus 19:5) had seen the great miracles of deliverance from the hand of the Egyptians, they could not maintain their faith in Him. They could not keep the vision of the great land reserved for them at the end of their journey.

In order to gain an entrance into the rest, which God has reserved for His people, we have to "exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." (Hebrews 3:13). The condition of the world in these latter days blurs the vision we have of the glorious Kingdom of God. This evil heart of unbelief can grow each day of our lives as we are deceived by the subtle enticements of this life fueled by the basic instinct of our flesh to please self instead of God. Unbelief is not usually demonstrated in what we say but by what we do. We would not openly state that we stopped believing in God or what God has said in his inspired Word, but the actions of our daily lives do demonstrate our belief.

The toil that is of benefit to God is only that done in His vineyard, not in our own. We may find human rest in retirement after working in our own vineyard for seventy years, but if that work came by sacrifice of our work in God's vineyard, the rest we receive will be temporary and not eternal. By definition we are not then a part of the "people of God" that do work in His vineyard. Paul goes on in Hebrews Chapter 4, "Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it." (Hebrews 4:1-2). Only those that have faith are in a position to receive the grace that will be needed to enter into the rest of God.

This then brings us to the great lesson of Abraham, the "Father of the Faithful." God handpicked Abram out of the races of man to be the beginning of a people to witness Him in all the earth. Abram apparently had the attributes and qualifications that God required to take on this great task. On eight occasions God enumerated the natural and eternal promises to Abraham and his faith grew as he walked before God. Abraham demonstrated over and over his willingness to obey God, looking only through the eye of faith to see the conclusion of the requests of his Heavenly Father. The Apostle Paul states in Galatians 3:6, "Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." If we have that true "faith" then we become related to Abraham, for Paul goes on to say in verse 7-9, "Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham." In verse 9, the faith spoken of is from the Greek word pistis which is also translated belief - the opposite of the unbelief spoken of by Paul in the letter to the Hebrews noted above. This faith is the confidence of the people of God. The rest that is promised is part and parcel to the realization of the Abrahamic promises.

Through the eye of faith, Abraham could see the land promised "northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward" was the whole earth. And the seed to which the land would be given is all the people of God, not just Abraham's natural seed, the Jews. "For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered." (Genesis 13:15-16). So then our hope lies in the hope of Abraham and the realization of the precious promises. As gentiles in the latter day, our realization of the promises noted comes through the connection with the singular seed of Abraham, Christ. Paul tells the Galatians "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." (Galatians 3:16). And continuing on, "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus...And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."(Galatians 3:26-29).

We believe the same Gospel that was preached to Abraham and if we are worthy we will enjoy the same promises he embraced but has not yet received. As a matter of fact, all the people of God will receive the substance of the promises at the same time when the Kingdom is established in the earth at the appearing of Jesus Christ as King. "And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." (Hebrews 11:39-40)

These great and precious promises will soon be realized, but these are truly perilous times for the people of God. Will God find the Faith that is required to inherit those promises enumerated to Abraham? Or will He find the evil heart of unbelief that was entombed with those Israelites that died in the wilderness? We do truly make the answer now! As truly as our Heavenly Father liveth, He will reap a people of this creation that will share His nature and enjoy His glorious Kingdom. A people that will be part of the kings and priests foretold by Jesus in the Revelation:

"And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth." (Rev. 5:9-10)

This is the city which Abraham saw through the eye of faith, New Jerusalem, coming down from God with Christ, prepared for the people of God who died in faith and who remain alive at his coming. "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God." (Rev. 21:1-3)

Mike Cude

San Antonio, TX