The Saints Everlasting Rest and Hope
In Psalm 17:15 there is the following prayer: “As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.”
David’s prayer there differs from the prayer that men of the world would make. David says, concerning those men, that their portion, their desire, that which they live for, is only in terms of the earthly, in terms of this present world.
But, by a wonder of God’s Spirit, David’s greatest desire was for that time when he would be face to face with God, when he would awake and behold God’s face in righteousness and be filled with the likeness of God in a glorified soul and body.
Is that your desire?
Do you want to go to heaven?
Do you know what heaven is?
We see from the Word of God that everywhere in the Scriptures, heaven is described for us as the dwelling place of God. We see that it is a very beautiful and rich idea, bringing to us the fact that heaven consists in the perfect fellowship of God. We see that it is a very particular idea as well. That means that heaven can only be heaven for those who love God already now, only for those who have begun the life of heaven already in their heart when Jesus Christ implants His life in their heart. So, apart from faith in God, one cannot know heaven or even desire heaven itself. Heaven shall be the perfected fellowship with the living God through Jesus Christ.
But the Bible tells us more about heaven. We want to talk about that today. It tells us that heaven is also the place where the saints shall enjoy everlasting rest. Heaven is often pictured to us in the Bible as rest. We read in Hebrews 4:9, “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.”
Again, Revelation 14:13, we read, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” They may rest, we read, from their labors.
Now when heaven is explained to us as being the place where the saints shall have perfect and everlasting rest, what does that mean?
Does that mean that we will simply lull around by the River of Life and do nothing?
Will we be lazy?
Is heaven inactivity?
Is heaven simply when one plays upon a harp and sits and does nothing?
The answer to that is No! Of course not!
That is an earthly idea of what rest is. Rest in Scripture and rest in heaven is not that at all. It is not inactivity. It is not the waste of time. According to the Bible, rest is one of the most blessed things that could ever fill your mind and soul.
First of all, when the Bible tells us that heaven shall be the place of everlasting rest for the saints, it is looking back over our life as we have it now. And it is telling us that all the toils and all the labors of this present time, due to our sin, will be completely over. It is telling us that the toil and the labor of our sins, and the struggle against our sins will be finished. It is saying to us that the labor and the burden of sin, of the restlessness and of the vanity of this present time, will be completely behind us. The rest that Jesus spoke of when He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” was rest for the soul, rest which consists, first of all, in this: sin is over.
It is very hard for us to appreciate that, because right now all we know is a sinful existence. In our present flesh we know every day our own sins and the struggle against that sin. When we are renewed, when we are born again in Jesus Christ, we begin to see that. And it becomes a burden. We see that sin invades everything and spoils everything in our life. There is no aspect of our life which is free from sin. In our marriages and family, in our body, and in all of our life, it brings us woe and sorrow. Many struggles come to us because of sin. It is always there. And as a result of sin there is untold suffering, suffering in our body, death; but also other suffering: loneliness and mental illness. And there is no rest.
But then, it will all be over. Sin will be no more. Death will be vanquished. We read in the Word of God, Isaiah 35, that sorrow and sighing shall flee away. We read that God will wipe away all tears from our eyes. We read that we shall come with joy and laughing to Zion. Right now our souls labor, they struggle, they cry to God. And with the psalmist in Psalm 42, we often say, “Lord, my soul is cast down within me.” But we will not always be this way. We shall not always cry. We shall not always labor and struggle against our sins. There remaineth a rest for the people of God, a place of perfect joy and happiness where sin and toil in the present life will be forever gone and replaced with perfect joy.
But rest, in the Bible, means something more yet. It means that we will enjoy the perfect work of Jesus Christ. I was saying a moment ago that rest, in the Bible, never refers to inactivity. It is not laziness. It is not the waste of time. In the first place, we read that God Himself rested. Therefore, rest is to savor, to imbibe, the full and perfect work of God in Christ. In Genesis 1 and 2 we read the words, God rested the seventh day of the creation week. After six twenty-four hour days in which He created all things, “God saw all that He had done and it was very good. And God rested on the seventh day.”
That God rested on the seventh day means that God contemplated and rejoiced in what He had done. He saw the work of His hands. And He entered into the full enjoyment of His work.
To rest means that we, as saved in Jesus Christ, will, with open mouth and wondering eyes, drink in all that God has done for us in Jesus Christ. We will no longer be the spiritual clods that we are now: slow of heart to understand, impaired in our memories to remember the goodness and faithfulness of God. But there in heaven we shall see that wonderful work of God and shall enjoy it and rejoice in it. That is what it means to rest in Jesus Christ. There the Lamb of God, we read in Revelation 7, shall feed us and bring us to living waters. He shall sit down and break open to us the loaf of God’s infinite mercies and love to us in Jesus Christ.
You say to me, what will we actually do in heaven?
The Bible answers that we will walk with Jesus. Our whole life will be a life of activity and service. We read in Revelation 7 that they served Him night and day. So enthused are the saints in God, so filled with joy. It is as if they cannot sleep. But they serve God day and night, constant, blessed, full, joyful activity in the service of God.
You, as a child of God in heaven, will be given a specific place and task. You, with your glorified talents and gifts, will serve God. You will employ them as never before in the praise of God.
Remember what we read from Revelation 14?
We read, “their works do follow them.” The work of God, begun already on the earth, the Lord’s work in us, will be perfected. In heaven we will live and exercise the love of God as never before. We will be devoted in our heart to God in everything. All the talents and gifts that we have now will be perfected. And we shall serve Him with joy.
Therefore, heaven is our earnest hope, our great hope. The Scriptures always present heaven as the longing, as the intense desire of a believer. That was true of the Old Testament saints. We read in Hebrews 11 concerning them: “For they looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” We read, further, that if the Old Testament saints had been mindful of this present, earthly land they would have remained or gone back to it. But they desired a better country, that is, a heavenly. And that was true also of the New Testament saints. We read in Colossians 1:5 that “the hope of the gospel is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the Word of the truth of the gospel.”
Again, in 2 Corinthians 5 we read, “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: …that mortality might be swallowed up of life.”
And again, Philippians 1, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
You see, wherever the grace of God is present in a person’s heart, that grace will also create a longing for the fulfillment of the work of Christ which is enjoyed in heaven.
Do you want to go to heaven?
The grace of God, you see, always kindles in us the intense longing and desire there to be in the presence of God.
Would you be afraid to die if it was God’s time for you to die today?
Do you want to be with Jesus and the angels and with your heavenly Father?
We, as believers, answer that question, “Yes, that is true.” We find that testimony in our hearts.
But we want to be here, too, don’t we?
We love this present life, too, don’t we?
We are of the earth earthy, the Bible says. God wants you and me now, as His children, to live on the earth because He has a work for us to do. Our life here is not meaningless. God has assigned to us our place in His kingdom. And that work is important; it has important dimensions. Through that work God is preparing His kingdom and He is preparing us for that kingdom. But when that work if finished, He will come for you. And that can be at any moment. It will be at the moment of His determining.
Are you ready?
Do you want Him to come?
Do you want Him to come exactly at that moment that He has picked and not delay it for a second and take you to be with Him in heaven?
You see, it does not work for a Christian to try to live two lives: one of the earth, living for self and earthly things and for the honor of this present world; and another life which, perhaps, is in his hip pocket, which is his heavenly life – his insurance in case of troubles and death. If you do not live in Christ now, and if Christ and God are not the center of your living, you do not want to die. You do not want to face the reality of death. Death can only be a horror for you. But to live in Jesus Christ – that is life. And that life also yearns to be perfected in God’s presence. To live in Jesus Christ says it is not a car, it is not a bike, it is not clothes, it is not a beautiful figure, it is not popularity, it is not a home, but it is Christ that is the center of my yearning and desires.
Then we will live heavenly minded. And a heavenly-minded man, woman, boy, or girl is a useful man or woman on earth. When we say that we live heavenly minded it means that our goals are right. We are seeking the eternal, we are seeking to serve God in this life. We are not trying to pile up debts into a lasting memorial. We are not trying to suck out of this present life satisfaction for our souls. No, we have that satisfaction in Jesus Christ.
And having that satisfaction and salvation in Jesus Christ, we can remain unshaken in this life, because our goal and our hope is not in terms of the earthly. We are not going to lose everything when we die. But our hope and our goal is in the heavenly.
What is your inheritance?
What do you want?
Are you living for a great name?
Are you living for more money?
Are you living for more earthly possessions?
Or, is the inheritance in glory that which lays captive to your heart?
The inheritance that Peter says fadeth not away. Then, you see, when problems come to you, and the loss of earthly things come to you, and sickness comes to you, you will not be beside yourself. You will not come unglued over these things. But you will look up, knowing that your redemption draweth nigh.
Living in Jesus Christ means that this hope of heaven will grow and become stronger in you. You will feel God in His work of prying our fingers loose from these earthly things which we so desperately grasp. And we will reach out by faith with all of the saints to that which eye cannot see nor ear hear, the things that God hath in store for those who believe in Him.
We will begin to feel more and more that this world is not our home, that our citizenship is in heaven, from whence also we look for Jesus to come (Philippians 3:20). We will find that we are strangers and pilgrims, we are aliens in this world spiritually. Another land, our Father’s land, captures our hearts. That becomes our longing, our goal. And we will hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto us until at last our time comes and we will enter into Father’s house of many mansions, into the heavenlies, into the sanctuary of God. And there we shall be at rest.
What is heaven?
Heaven is where God is, where the fellowship of God shall be enjoyed perfectly. Heaven is rest, where sin and sorrow will be no more and the perfect work of Jesus Christ shall be enjoyed for ever. Heaven is the hope and the longing of a child of God.
Are you ready, right now, to go to heaven?
Would you go to heaven if you died now?
By faith, the gift of God, by a true faith, we give an answer to that. And our answer is this: I know (not I think, but I know) that when this earthly body dies I will enter into a mansion, a mansion not made with hands, a mansion which was made by my Savior through His work for me upon Calvary’s cross. And in that mansion I will have perfectly what I have been given to know already now. I will know and enjoy God for ever.
And I will be there to praise Him and to love Him for ever!
That is heaven.
May God bring this Word and press it down upon our hearts and minds.
By Carl Haak