"For he said: ‘So I swore in my wrath, they shall not enter my rest’; not because the rest was not prepared—it had been ready since the work of creation was completed, as he says elsewhere in the scriptures, speaking of the seventh day of creation, ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.'
"And in the passage above he refers to 'my rest' as something already in existence. No, it is clear that some were intended to experience this rest and, since the previous hearers of the message failed to attain to it because they would not believe God, he proclaims a further opportunity when he says through David, many years later, 'today,' just as he had said 'today' before. ‘Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.'" (Hebrews 4:3b-7)
So what do these 4.5 verses really tell us about God's "rest"? Let's catalogue the statements down the line: "it has been ready since the work of creation was completed"; in fact, it was "already in existence" prior to that seventh day of existence's existence; "some [people] are intended to experience this rest," yet unbelief is the cause for "failing to attain it"; however, even today, in the ever-present "Today" spoken of by David, there is the "further opportunity" of still, this day, experiencing it.
And here's what strikes me most within these statements. If this "rest" was already existent before Creation, is it not perhaps part of the very nature of the Godhead, the Trinity, itself? Is abiding in this "rest" to experience the climate of Heaven? Is "rest" just another name for pure, true Abiding?
Well, just as whenever we have big deep questions about the realities of God, all we have to do to satisfy our curiosity is to look at Jesus, "the flawless expression of the nature of God" incarnate. And I love this quote from the story of James Fraser, a long-ago missionary to China, because I think it tells us everything we need to know of Jesus' restfulness:
“In the biography of our Lord nothing is more noticeable than the quiet, even poise of His life. Never ‘flustered’ whatever happened, never taken off His guard, however assailed by men or demons: in the midst of fickle people, hostile rulers, faithless disciples – always calm, always collected, Christ the hard worker indeed – but doing no more, and no less, than God had appointed Him; and with no restlessness, no hurry, no worry. Was ever such a peaceful life lived – under conditions so perturbing? … ‘We can afford, then, to work in the atmosphere of eternity,’ James [Fraser] said. ‘The rush and bustle of carnal activity breathes a spirit of restlessness; the Holy Spirit breathes a deep calm. This is the atmosphere in which we may expect a lasting work of God to grow.’” (From Mountain Rain)
So if this "rest" is of the essential-eternal nature of God, and if all the other statements so far in Hebrews 4 hold up, we are left with a three-component equation, a matter of equivalencies:
REST = ETERNITY = TODAY
Or, to draw it out a little: Since this "rest" is part of the atmosphere of Heaven, and the life and work of Heaven are necessarily eternal, our only human ability to interface with the eternal rest of God is in the construct of Today. The Eternal is Right Now.
For me, personally, it was eight years ago, this June, that I came to really, truly know this. And like so many wonderful revelations, it was as I was reading in the works of C.S. Lewis, specifically this time in Screwtape Letters, chapter 15. Let me just go ahead and give you the section that forever changed my life that day:
“The humans live in time but [God] destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which [God] has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present – either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure…”
Friends, our only experience of eternity is happening right now, now, now, now, now, even as you're reading the sentence composed of these words. Yesterday is forever over and tomorrow is a non-reality. Today, with the promise of the eternal heavenly "rest" on-offer in Jesus, what do you say; what do you desire? I'm talking about something that's already yours - RIGHT NOW. Will you take and live what's already yours?