By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. [Genesis 2:2]
THE REST OF GOD
There is no “eighth” day with God. The seventh day simply lingers. Placing Adam and Eve in the Garden of God, Adam is instructed to “care for it”. But this task of Adam’s is not conceived to be a “work” because Adam, if you recall, is in Eden lingering with God on the seventh day. Adam – in other words – is wallowing in God’s Rest.
Now consider this: if the word “tabernacle” simply means “dwelling place” then Eden, properly understood, is the “Tabernacle of God”. It is the place where Adam and Eve are God’s first priest (and priestess), and where the instruction to “care for” Eden is conceived of in a similar fashion as when the ancient Hebrew priest’s “cared for” the Temple. This is why the Psalmist can exclaim “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere” [Psalm 84:10].
MADE TO ENTER IN
It is no mistake that God created Adam and Eve on the sixth day, they being the final and crowning moment of Gods six days of work. Man was not made in God’s Rest, but in his work. It’s always by God’s work, it’s always by grace. Then the scriptures read:
“Now the Lord God planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. [Genesis 2:8]
Since man was made on the end of the sixth day, his first day alive is the day he enters God’s Rest – i.e. the seventh day. Adam enters God’s Rest when he enters Eden. In other words, to be fully alive is to be in the Rest of God, which is in Eden.
THE WORK OF MAN
After the Fall God pronounces a curse over creation on account of Adam:
Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground. [Genesis 3:17-19]
Then the scriptures add, “So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground” [Genesis 3:23].
The comparison that needs to be observed is the God’s REST is linked to EDEN so that to be in God’s Rest is to be in Eden, and to be Exiled from Eden is to be Exiled from God’s Rest. It is only when Adam and Eve are Exiled from Eden that the curse of “work” takes effect.
When it is thought through in this way, the Sabbath Day which the Israelites were commanded to adhere to [Exodus 20:8], God was actually commanding his covenant people to Taste a little bit of Eden, a little bit of God’s Rest, even while in Exile from the Eden and in the curse of work. In other words, the Sabbath Day was supposed to be a little bit of Heaven on Earth.
THE LAND OF REST
The Lord tells Moses that he is going to bring the Israelites – his first born son [Malachi 11:1] – out of Egypt and into “a spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey” [Exodus 3:8]. But we know the story, how the Israelites rebelled against God, how their rebellion was evidence of their unbelief and that as a result most of them died in the desert without ever entering the promised land [1 Corinthians 10:5].
But the connection most of us fail to make is the one between Eden and the Land God gives the Israelites. The author of Hebrews retells the story of the first generations rebellion and failure to enter that land but he uses the term “rest” to describe the land:
“To whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.” [Hebrews 3:18-19]
The Land promised to the Israelites is conceived of as the Rest of God, the new Eden. And so Exile from that land is – quite literally – a reenactment of the Exile Adam experienced from Eden.
BLESSINGS OF THE REST, CURSE OF EXILE
It is interesting that in Eden is where the Blessings are. God blessed the seventh day (the Rest) and God blessed Adam and Eve several times [eg. Genesis 1:28]. But outside the Rest, outside of Eden that is, is where the curse is found [c.f. Genesis 3:17-19, Genesis 3:23].
This same story again is Adam’s Exile from Eden reenacted with Israel regarding the Promised Land (i.e. New Eden). Deuteronomy 28:1-14 describes all of the blessings the Israelites will continue to experience so long as they remain obedient to God (which is the fruit of their faith – c.f. Hebrews 3:19), but the rest of the chapter, Deuteronomy 28:15 ff., is a pronouncement of curses that they will experience if they are disobedient (which, again, is evidence of their unbelief – c.f. Hebrews 3:19). These curses will climax in their Exile from the land [Deuteronomy 38:21].
THE PROMISED REST STILL STANDS
But Israel’s Exile is not the end of the story. The author of Hebrews writes: “since the promise of entering his rest still stands” [Hebrews 4:1]. What rest, Palestine? No. For there is a Rest to which the “rest” promised to Israel pointed to… that “rest” pointed to the Gospel and those who entered that Rest (be it ancient Israel, or modern Christians), must enter it by faith. The author of Hebrews continues:
We also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. Now we who have believed enter that rest. [Hebrews 4:2-3]
And again he writes:
“It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. [Hebrews 4:6]
“There remains, then, a Sabbath rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his” [Hebrews 4:9-10].
I WILL GIVE YOU REST
And how do we enter that Rest but by faith? And it is precisely at this point that the author appeals to the “Word of God” [Hebrews 4:12].
Jesus – the Word [John 1:1] – invites, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” [Matthew 11:28]. Jesus is the Rest. He worked, i.e. performed the task and declared “it is finished” [John 19:30] while we were yet dead [Romans 5:8]. Then he breathed into us the Living Spirit of God [cf. Gen 2:7; John 20:22; Acts 2:4] and seated us in Heavenly places [Ephesians 2:6].
This is a reenactment of the creation account: God created man through His “work” on the sixth day [Gen 1:27]. Then God breathed life into his creation [Gen 2:7], then God placed his creation in Eden [Gen 2:15] where he was made to enjoy eternity with God in Gods Rest [Gen 3:22].
The major difference is that here in Genesis God created, now in Christ God re-created: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” [2 Corinthians 5:17] When we enter Christ, we enter – in a sense – the Rest of God. And in this the writer of Hebrews can say that we have been “enlightened”, have “tasted of the heavenly gift”, have “shared in the Holy Spirit”, have “tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age.” [Hebrews 6:4-5]