Understanding the Prophetic Intent of the Scriptural Account of the Creation
Chapter 8: The Rest of the Story
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 He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made." (Gen. 2:1-3)
So God finished His work of creation, but He was not quite done "declaring the end from the beginning." After six days of work, God rested. He separated the seventh day and blessed it.
It is believed by many, that since God rested on the seventh day, He straightway commanded mankind to do likewise. It is imagined that Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and the other early patriarchs kept the seventh-day sabbath. This is not the case. It was not until Moses received the law of God on Mount Sinai that the Lord revealed the sabbath to His people, and made it a requirement. This is clearly stated in Nehemiah 9:13-14, "Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments: And madest known unto them Thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses Thy servant."
God reserved the benefits of rest for His people. The Sabbath was a mark of identification for Israel. Israel was the only nation which provided a day of rest for all that dwelt there, Jew or Gentile, bond or free.
God reinforced the connection between the seventh and rest in the years. Every seventh year, as with the days, the land was to rest. No sowing or pruning could be done in the seventh year. God promised that, if the children of Israel would keep the sabbath years, the sixth year would bring forth enough for three years, and they would begin to sow again in the eighth year, while still living off of the harvest of the sixth.
Sadly, Israel never kept the seventh-year Sabbath. For 490 years, they refused to keep the commandment of God, and received the judgment of Lev. 26:14-46, "If ye shall despise My statutes, ... I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, ... And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it. And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste. Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies' land; even then shall the land rest and enjoy her sabbaths." So the children of Israel were 70 years in captivity, to make up for the 70 seventh-year sabbaths they refused to observe. God promised the land rest, and He delivered.
After the death of Moses, the Lord told Joshua that the time had come to take the land. Joshua and the Israelites crossed the Jordan and began to take Canaan. "Joshua made war a long time with all those kings." And "Joshua took the whole Land, according to all that the Lord said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by tribes. And the Land rested from war." (Josh. 11:18,23)
Today, many theologians insist that Israel never received the entire land which God had promised to Abraham. This theory is summarily dismissed by Joshua 21:43-45, "And the Lord gave unto Israel all the Land which He sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein. And the Lord gave them rest round about, according to all that He sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass." Israel got their land. Israel had its rest. Joshua led them to the realization of their promises. But even so, these promises had spiritual implications far greater than what natural Israel was to receive.
God told Abraham, "Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever." (Gen. 13:14-15) What Abraham saw with his natural eyes, his natural offspring, the children of Israel, inherited under the leadership of Joshua. But Paul said, "For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith." (Rom. 4:13) The spiritual implications of God's promise to Abraham was that he would be heir to the entire world. That promise was passed on to his spiritual seed, the children of faith.
Likewise, God promised rest to the children of Israel: a condition they also attained under the administration of Joshua. Once again, however, Paul shows that the natural fulfillment was to be eclipsed by the spiritual manifestation. "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 if Jesus [Joshua, the son of Nun] had given them rest, then would He not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God." (Heb. 4:1-11) The temporary rest enjoyed by natural Israel in the days of Joshua was an allegory fulfilled in Acts 9:31. After the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (later Paul), it is recorded, "Then had the churches rest throughout all Judæa and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied." This would not last, however, as multitudes of Christians would soon find themselves martyred for their faith in God.
Jesus of Nazareth said, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." (John 5:17) The Father has been working for nearly 6,000 years. Man, too, has been working for nearly 6,000 years. His time is almost up. Six "days" are given to man to labor and to do all his work, but the seventh day is the Lord's. At the end of these six millennia, the Sabbath of the Lord shall begin.
The dead in Christ shall rise, and we which are alive and remain shall be changed. We will have rest from pain. Rest from the sting of death. Best of all, we will have rest from the flesh and its temptations. We, who have been born of the Spirit, and received "an earnest of the Spirit," will at last receive our full inheritance: immortality and unfettered communion with God.
The kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ. The Father shall give all authority unto the Son, and He shall rule until He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. (1 Cor. 15:24) First on the agenda, at the beginning of the seventh millennium, the Lord shall take the beast and the false prophet and cast them in the lake of fire. After that, Satan shall be bound and cast into the bottomless pit for a thousand years.
Christ will conquer and rule the earth with His people. Then the earth will have rest: Rest from Satan, Rest from ungodly governments, Rest from war and conflict.
This is the Rest, which God has promised His people. He has shown it from the beginning, when He sanctified the seventh day and blessed it. He confirmed it in the Law with the seventh-day and seventh-year Sabbaths.
This Rest yet remaineth for the people of God. Yea, it is even nigh at hand. The sixth millennium is swiftly coming to an end, and the seventh day is about to begin. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest. Your inheritance awaits. Receive Jesus Christ today as your Lord and Saviour, for He said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28)