The Lord’s Eternal Rest
“This is My rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.”
THESE are the words of Jehovah Himself concerning the hill of Zion, but it is clear that He did not intend us to understand them merely in their literal reference to Zion, because Zion could not be a fitting place for His eternal rest. Nor has He made it literally His rest forever, for Zion has been trodden down of the Gentiles for all these centuries. I have no doubt that the Lord had in His mind the greater Zion, “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in Heaven.” The eternal God, looking down from His Throne of Glory upon all the creatures He has made, selects His Church–elect, blood-bought, called, preserved and sanctified, and He says concerning this Church–“This is my rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.”
We would never have ventured to conceive of God as finding rest in such puny creatures as we are. However beloved, and however filled with His Spirit, it would seem too great a thing for the Creator ever to rest in His creature! Yet it is true that this is where He finds His rest. It is concerning the redeemed souls who make up the Church of Christ that He says, “This is my rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.”
I must, at the outset, confess my inability to dive into the depths of this subject. I can only, as it were, flit across its surface as the swallow with swift wings skims over the brook. I am going to ask, first, about God finding rest in HisChurchour finding rest where God finds rest.
- First, then, let us think of GOD FINDING REST IN HIS CHURCH.
He does this, in the first place, because in His Church all the three Divine Persons of the Trinity are honored. A mandoes not find rest in anything which gratifies only one part of his nature. Therefore it can truly be said to Christians concerning this world, “This is not your rest,” for whatever gratification it may yield to the body, it can never satisfy our soul. If there were in the Church of God honor only for God the Father, but none for God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, it could never be the Lord’s eternal rest. But, Beloved, when the Father looks upon the Church, He views with delight His own chosen children and sees His eternal purposes accomplished in them! He thinks of the Covenant into which He entered with His dear Son on their behalf, and of the Atonement which He gave for them when He gave His only-begotten Son to die as their Substitute and Surety. As for God the Son–when He looks upon the Church, He beholds those for whom He paid the ransom price on Calvary–every member of that Church He has purchased with His own blood and, therefore, He looks upon them with peculiar complacency. As for God the Holy Spirit, He–
Takes delight to view
The holy souls He formed anew."
As He gazes upon them, He sees the gracious results of His regenerating energy and He rests in holy contemplation. I hope, Beloved, you will never exalt one member of the ever-blessed Trinity above either of the rest–it is quite a mistake to ascribe the work of salvation entirely to the Father, or to the Son, or to the Holy Spirit. In the first Creation, it is most emphatically true that God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.” The first Creation was the work of Deity as a whole, and so is the new Creation! And for both we may most justly sing–
“Praise Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
All are equally concerned in perfecting the Church, the true Zion, and therefore God, in the Trinity in Unity–Father, Son, and Spirit–says concerning the Church, “This is My rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.”–
“Arise, O King of Grace, arise,
And enter to Your rest!
Lo, Your Church waits with longing eyes,
Thus to be owned and blest.
Enter with all Your glorious train,
Your Spirit and your Word–
All that the Ark did once contain
Could no such Grace afford.”
Just think for a minute or two what this rest of God is. Is it the entire cessation from toil? When we do nothing, but sit still in listless inactivity, that cessation from toil may yield us a measure of rest, but it is not rest of a kind that we could long love–certainly it is not such rest as we should wish to enjoy forever! We would be in a most restless state if we had nothing to do! We would soon be worn out with the weariness of living an aimless, purposeless life. I believe the truest state of rest is when a man has just as much to do as he can perform with ease. If your mind does not think at all, it is in a coma or in a sort of fainting fit. But when it is occupied with pleasing themes, not working out difficult problems, but meditating upon simple themes which you can easily understand, then it is at rest! Perhaps you sit down quietly by the fire and indulge in what we call day-dreams–your mind is active all the while, yet its activity does not prevent it from resting. Heaven is a place and state of perfect rest, yet it is not the rest of silence and stagnation! In one sense, they rest not day nor night, yet they serve God continually–and that is perfect rest!
It is in His Church that God finds His rest, for it is there that He finds work exactly adapted to His infinite capacities. The blessedness of God must consist partly in His activity–what an active Being God is! There is not a cloud that flies across the sky of which He is not the pilot. How busily He worked in creating the heavens and the earth and all that they contain, yet He never rested in them for the visible creation is too narrow a couch to provide a resting place for the Eternal! But when He comes to the mightier work of Redemption and reveals the combined Majesty of His Justice and sublimity of His love in those whom He forms anew, then He is engaged in a task that occupies those attributes which He most delights to exercise! And therefore He says to His Church, “This is My rest forever: here will I dwell.” When He made the earth, “the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” But you never read that God sang at the Creation. It is when He is working in the higher sphere that He says to Zion, the Church of His choice, “The Lord your God in the midst of you is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over you with singing.” In the new Creation He finds such rest as the old Creation never could afford Him. We know so little of the Infinite God that we must speak with due humility and reticence concerning these great mysteries, yet it seems to me that in the making of those who shall show forth His praise forever, He is doing a work in which He especially delights and in which He, therefore, rests and rejoices as He does in nothing else!
Further, He rests in His Church because He sees, there, His eternal purposes fulfilled. Whenever a soul is saved, Godsees, there, another of His Divine decrees accomplished. And that affords His heart rest–to speak after the manner of men–and we cannot speak in any other way. As, one by one, those who were chosen by Him unto eternal life, those whom He gave in Covenant to His Son, those who were redeemed by that Son’s precious blood are delivered from the Egyptian bondage of sin, conducted safely through the howling wilderness waste of this world and carried across the Jordan of death into the Canaan of heavenly rest, God sees His eternal purposes fulfilled and therein He finds most blessed rest! When the entire Church of God shall have been brought, safe and perfected, to His right hand in Glory, then will He say, in the words of our text, “This is My rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.” I must confess that I do not understand the condition of mind of those brethren who are not able to perceive in the Scriptures a clear Revelation concerning the purposes of God in the salvation of His elect. It would be strange if the work of Grace were left to chance. An architect would not permit an important building like St. Paul’s, for instance, to be erected according to the whims and fancies of the individual workers employed! He would not leave to the freewill of every laborer the decision as to where each pillar should be placed, or what stone and other materials should be used in the building–he has everything done according to the plan that he designed before the work was commenced! And shall not the Most High, who is building a habitation for Himself, have it erected in harmony with the plan that He had prepared from all eternity? I think, Brothers and Sisters, it is because God has planned what His Church is to be and because that plan will be exactly followed until the whole building is complete, that the Lord says concerning it, “This is My rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.”
Then, in the next place, have we not in the Church of God almighty energies rewarded? God rested on the seventhday because Creation’s work was done. And God rests in His Church in so far as it also is a finished work. Every soul saved by Grace, every soul brought home to Glory is the result and the reward of almighty labor. He who spoke and it was done in the making of the material world made not His Church so easily. It was with His word that He made this world, but it was the Incarnate Word that was necessary to the new creation! No blood needed to be spilt for the making of this earth in all its pristine beauty and glory, but the new heavens and the new earth could be cemented by nothing less than the product of almighty suffering! The Church of God is a most wonderful fabric upon which not only have the purposes of God been exercised from all eternity, but “all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” has been at work to accomplish this marvel of marvels which shall set all Heaven ablaze with astonishment when it is at last complete and perfect! For many centuries stroke upon stroke from God’s hand and instruments has been telling upon the rough block of marble, and when the last touch shall have been given to it, and the work appears in all its Glory and beauty before the eyes of God, He will rest, just as a skilled workman does in the successful accomplishment of some great task which he has undertaken and which he regards as his masterpiece.
Best of all, however, is the next reason why God rests in His Church! That is because it is the reward of stupendoussuffering. We are told that “the Lord smelled a sweet savor” when Noah offered burnt offerings after he came out of the ark. The marginal reading is “a savor of rest.” And when God is dealing with sinners, now, He finds no savor of rest except in the Sacrifice of His dear Son! All the world over the spirit of Justice flew in search of a righteous man, but the only result of that long search was the verdict, “There is none righteous, no, not one.” Justice next looked to see if there was any helper who could deliver the guilty, but none could be found until she turned her eyes to the Cross where hung the Son of God in extreme agonies. And as she marked the falling blood, the bowed head and the crown of thorns–and heard the Voice that said, “It is finished,” she rested! Her long quest was over, for she had found the One who was Himself perfectly righteous and who was, therefore, able to deliver the guilty by the full and complete Atonement that He offered for their Redemption. The Son of God takes delight in His Church because He sees that in her, all His pains and agonies have yielded to Him a glorious harvest! And God the Father, who smote His Son so heavily when He took the place of His sinful people, delights in His Church because He sees in her a full reward for all that His well-beloved Son endured.
Then do you not think that God finds rest in His Church because of the relationships there developed? Where do youfind rest, dear Friends? You not only rest in the garden which you have planted, and in the house which you have with a great effort, bought–but your choicest rest is found with the children whom you so fondly love. There is no stranger in the family circle! The door is closed, the fire is burning brightly and now is mother’s time for rest, and father’s time for joy, for there are only loved ones around the hearth. The merchant comes home from the counting-house where he has been on the watch all day lest he should be deceived and over-reached. But he can come down from his watchtower, now, for he has no fear of being deceived in the family circle. The judge has been sternly administering the law while he has been upon the bench, but He lays aside all his sternness when he takes off his robes of office and gathers his children around him. The toiling laborer wipes the sweat from his brow and gladly rests at home among those whom he loves. “Perfect love casts out fear,” and fear is like a thorn in our nest–it prevents us from resting. But when “perfect love” comes, then we are perfectly at our ease. When you are at home, you may say what you will, and do what you please–there are none to slander and align you there. You do not say all you feel in the presence of your servants–they are faithful and true, but you do not tell them all that is in your heart. It is when you are among your children that you feel free and unrestrained. So it is with God! Not even among the angels does God find His rest–bright and perfect beings though they are, they are but ministering spirits waiting in the great Temple of God to render service to the saints! But here, where He sees His own likeness in every blood-bought soul. Here where He sees those whom He has begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead–here it is that He feels at home and finds His rest! Do not think that I am speaking too boldly when I use the family metaphor to illustrate this great Truth of God, for I am but following the example of our Lord Jesus, Himself, when He said, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in Heaven give good things to them that ask Him?” He rejoices over the son who was dead, and is alive again–who was lost, and is found–and because He is our Father, and we are His children, He says of us and of the whole company of His redeemed, “This is My rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.”
II. Now I am to speak briefly concerning THE DURATION OF GOD’S REST IN HIS CHURCH. “This is My rest forever.”
Then this proves that there will always be a Church of God. There are certain persons who are constantly subject togreat fear and their fears make them quiver and shake–and then they imagine that God’s Church is quivering and shaking, which is a very different matter! They hold up their hands, and cry, “Alas! Alas! The Church is in danger!” Well, some particular church, designed by men, may be in danger, but I do not believe that the Church of God is, or ever was, or ever will be in danger! It is thought by some that Popery will swallow the Church of Christ just as the whale swallowed Jonah. But if it should do so, the Church would come back again as surely as Jonah was cast up upon the dry land! There is no sword fashioned that can smite the Church of God, nor will there ever be one! There will be a Church as long as there is a world–and when this world is burned up, the Church shall shine more brightly than ever–and it shall keep on shining to all eternity, and be a rest for God forever–
“Glorious things of you are spoken,
Zion, city of our God!
He whose word cannot be broken,
Formed you for His own abode:
On the Rock of Ages founded,
What can shake your sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
You may smile at all your foes.”
Further, there will always be a Church with God in it, and such a Church as God can rest in. Some people think thatthere is no church of which they can comfortably be members. But, dear Friends, there is a Church of which Jesus Christ is a member, for He is the Head of it! And if you cannot be members of any visible church, be not content unless you are members of that Church in which God rests forever, for that is always a pure Church! You sometimes hear a great deal about Apostolic succession–it is a gross lie as it is generally understood, but in itself it is a great Truth of God. The Apostolic succession may be very clearly traced through the Novatians, Donatists, Lollards, Albigenses, Waldenses, Anabaptists and Huguenots, right down to the Christians of various denominations that exist today. There is a true line that never entered the Stygian bog of Rome! A pure silver stream which has flowed down to us right from the times of the Apostles! There always has been a Church in which God could dwell and there always will be a Church that shall be His dwelling place! You know that Christ prayed, “Holy Father, keep through Your own name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one, as We are.” And I do not believe that Christ prayed any prayer that will not be answered in due time! More than that, I believe that the Church of Christ is one now. “Oh, but!” says someone, “look at the many divisions and denominations that there are!” Yes, I know about them, but the only true unity is that of the spiritually quickened souls that form the Mystical Body of Christ. Whatever division there may be among them at present is only external–if we could see beneath the surface and judge as God judges–we should perceive that in the truly vital matters, they are one. Being one with Christ, they are also one with each other. We must look less and less to mere externals, and think more and more of that which is spiritual, for it is only in the invisible and spiritual Church of Christ that God finds rest. I do not believe that He finds rest in the Baptist denomination, or in the Independent, or in the Church of England, as such–He finds His rest in all the saved to whatever denomination they may belong! His rest is not in great human organizations, but in those whom His Grace has called–who are already one in Christ Jesus!
Another inference that I draw from the text is that the Church of God will always be secure. “Here will I dwell,” saysthe Lord. And there would be no rest for Him if the enemy could be continually scaling the ramparts, damaging the walls and carrying away His people as captives. A king within his capital could not rest if one suburb after another fell into the hands of his foes. The rest of a shepherd would be effectually broken if he heard a lion scrunching the bones of any of his sheep, or if a wolf seized even one of the lambs of his flock. When the Lord says, “This is My rest forever,” He seems to me to guarantee the eternal security of every soul that is in the true Church of Christ. All who are in the Church which Jesus bought with His precious blood must be perfectly safe forever–
“The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
He will not, He will not desert to His foes!
That soul, though all Hell should endeavor to shake,
He’ll never, no never, no never forsake!”
There may be many in any part of the visible church who will perish, but there shall never be one who is truly a member of the Church of the living God who shall be lost! I started a little, the other night, when a Brother said that once we are brought into the Church, we are safe forever. But when he went on to show that by the expression, “the Church,” he meant what God means by those words, I fully agreed with him! This is the Zion of which Jehovah says, “This is My rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.” And it is His rest because He knows that all who are within it are safe forever! At the last, Jesus will be able to say to His Father, “Of all whom You gave Me have I lost none.”
I also infer from the text that
the whole Church will be eternally glorified, otherwise God could not say of it, “This is
My rest forever.“ The living stones that are to form the "habitation of God through the Spirit,” are being quarried, fashioned and polished here below–and one by one they are being transported to the holy hill above. And so, “all the building fitly framed together grows unto a holy temple in the Lord.” And when it is complete, He will say, “Here will I dwell forever.” The eternal duration of the Church’s blessedness ought to be a theme of greater consideration and rejoicing than it is. Think of it, Beloved, that the great God will forever find His rest in you and in others like you who have been redeemed by the precious blood of His dear Son! Does not this make time seem a mere trifle, and earth but a tiny speck scarcely worthy of our notice? Then, as you are forever and ever to be the object of Divine delight, cannot you see that you must always have been so? Oh, revel in this thought, that every blood-bought soul shall eternally be the templeand abode of God, Himself, and that all of them united in one shall be His rest forever!
III. Now we are to close with a few practical words concerning OUR FINDING REST WHERE GOD FINDS REST.
God finds His rest in His Church. Is that where we find our rest? I wonder how many here could truly repeat the language of Dr. Watts–
“Let others choose the sons of mirth
To give a relish to their wine.
I love the men of heavenly birth,
Whose thoughts and language are Divine.
Do you, dear Friends find rest in the company of God’s chosen people? The ungodly do not. If some gracious person should go to their house and begin talking about the mysteries of the Cross, their impatient glances at the clock would soon show that such a theme was a weariness to them. When they go up to the place where God’s people meet, to worship Him, the shorter the service is the better they like it! And the reason is that they do not savingly know the Lord. A man without sight would not be likely to be very much charmed in a picture gallery. And a man who was stone-deaf would not be very delighted with the grandest oratorio that was ever performed! In like manner, we cannot expect that those who have no spiritual sense can find delight in the company of God’s people. But how different it is with the man who is really saved! He can say, with David, of the saints that are in the earth, that they are “the excellent, in whom is all my delight.” A good old saint, whom I went to see on her dying bed, said to me, “It always gives me comfort, Sir, to think that God is not likely to send me to dwell with the wicked, for I never liked their society here. I believe He will let me go with my own company and I have always kept company with His people since I have learned to know Him.” I assured her that I believed it would be so. It is a sign of Grace when we find rest with those who are really spiritual because they are spiritual. You may love some saints of God, yet it may be no sign of Grace on your part–there may be something specially lovable about them so that you cannot help loving them or you may have received some temporal kindness from them and, therefore, love them for purely natural reasons. But it is a very different matter when we can say, with John–“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” Some of us can truthfully declare that our happiest hours are those that we expound with the saints of God! And we can fully sympathize with Dr. Watts when he says–
“My soul shall pray for Zion still,
While life or breath remains;
There my best Friends, my kindred dwell,
There God my Savior reigns.
God says of His Church, “This is My rest forever,” and we can say the same. I cannot say that concerning any visible church–I should not like to have to rest forever in any portion of the church on earth! But in union with the redeemed in Glory, I can rest! When I think of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. When I read the lives of Prophets and Apostles. When I turn to more modern times and think of Calvin, and Luther, and Zwingli, and Berridge, and Wesley, and Whitefield, and a host of others, I can say, “Ah, let me once get into their company and then I shall feel, ‘This is my rest forever.’ I do not need anything more than this except to be in the Master’s own company!” Oh, what rest it will be to be with Him! This is our rest even now–to be with Him! And to be forever with Him will be the perfection of rest–
“Let me be with You, where You are,
My Savior, my eternal rest!
Then only will this longing heart
Be fully and forever blest.”
Do you not think that Abel must have felt very strange when he went to Heaven? How startled the angels must have been when they saw the first soul redeemed by blood in Glory all by himself! I think they must have hushed their songs awhile to ask all about him. Here was a man come to sing in Heaven, to chant before the Eternal Throne the praises of a Sacrifice greater than any that he had offered! Yes, but Abel could not have felt perfectly at rest, for Paul tells us that the Church in Heaven will not be made perfect without us. When another and yet another joined Abel in Heaven, I think it must have increased his happiness. And now, as others keep on going Home, the glorified saints welcome them with exceeding joy, for they all feel that their bliss will not be perfect until every redeemed soul is gathered there with them and the whole of the shining ranks are filled! Then, when all shall be there, each one of them will say, as God Himself now says, “This is my rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.”
I wonder if there are any here who will never find rest in the Church of the First-Born which are written in Heaven? If you want to get into the Church of God, do you know the way to get in? You say, “I must come before the Elders.” No, no–that is the way to get into our Church, here, but not into the invisible Church above! “Well, then, I must be baptized.” No, that is the ordinance for you after you have entered the Church of God. “Well, then, how am I to get in?"He whose hand was pierced says, I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” The only door to the Church of God is Jesus Christ! Trust to His precious blood sprinkled upon the altar to give you access to and acceptance with God–and having that blood sprinkled upon yourself, you may venture to draw near even to the Eternal, for you shall be “accepted in the Beloved.” God grant that it may be so, for Jesus sake! Amen. [See Sermon #3287, Volume 58–THE ONLY DOOR–Read/download the entire sermon, free of charge, at http://www.spurgeongems.org.]