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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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So far as the apostolic writings are concerned, the teaching on rest in its relation to the believer’s life is confined to two great passages-Hebrews 4:1-11 and Revelation 14:13. The basis of the idea is the Divine rest, the rest on which God entered at the completion of His work of creation. Participation in this rest is a Divine gift to man. The natural tendency is to conceive rest as mere cessation of work. So far as the Jews shared this misapprehension, it is corrected by our Lord in the discourse of John 5:17 ff. beginning with the words, ὁ πατήρ μου ἕως ἄρτι ἐργάζεται, κἄγω ἐργάζομαι. This idea of rest as freedom for further work finds expression in Revelation 14:13 : ‘Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours (κόπων); for their works (ἔργα) follow with them.’ The ‘labours’ of the Christian’s life are ended at death; its ‘works’-i.e. habits, methods, and results-abide and remain in the new life.

It is in Hebrews 4:1-11 that we find the most exhaustive treatment of this theme. The whole passage may almost be called a homily or discourse having for its text the words of Psalms 95:11, ὡς ὤμοσα ἐν τῇ ὀργῆ̣ μου, εἰ εἰσελεύσονται εἰς τὴν κατάπαυσίν μου. The rest to which God, as quoted by the Psalmist, refers is the Divine rest, after creation, of which Genesis 2:2 speaks: καὶ κατἐπαυσε τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ ἑβδόμῃ ἀπὸ πάντων τῶν ἔργων αὐτοῦ ὦν ἐπλίνσε, a passage which links the idea of Divine rest indissolubly with the Sabbath. The writer’s argument is briefly this. The inspired oracle in Psalms 95 speaks of a ‘rest’ of God. The Psalmist tells how in the days of Moses this rest lay open to God’s people, but they did not enter in through disobedience. Neither then nor at the entry into Canaan under Joshua was the Divine idea of rest realized. The Psalmist, in fact, implies that the Divine idea still remains unrealized, it still awaits fulfilment; and the author of Hebrews, taking the Psalmist’s word as the last utterance of the OT on the subject of rest, applies it with confidence to his hearers of the NT epoch. He draws the inference ἂρα ἀπολείπεται σαββατισμὸς τῷ τοῦ θεοῦ.

The word σαββατισμὁς (Revised Version ‘Sabbath rest’) occurs here only in the Greek Bible. It is not a coinage of the author’s, because it is found in Plutarch, de Superstit. 3. Its occurrence therefore in Justin Martyr, Dial. 23 B, is not necessarily dependent, on Hebrews. The substitution of this word for κατάπαυσις, the word employed throughout the remainder of the passage, is not accidental. It not only denotes the Divine rest as a Sabbatic rest; it links together, in a most suggestive way, the end with the beginning, the consummation with the creation. It implies too that the rest which God gives is one which He also enjoys, and it strikes the note of universalism, for the Divine rest is prior to the very existence of a chosen people. Just as in the case of salvation, the Christian rest may be viewed both as a present possession and as a future blessing. On the one hand, ‘we which have believed do enter into that rest.’ On the other hand, the very conception of the rest as God’s rest involves fuller realization yet to come.

The word ἀνάπαυσις occurs now and then in the sub-apostolic writings with reference to the heavenly rest. 2 Clem. v. 5 speaks of the ἀνάπαυσις τῆς μελλούσης βασιλείας καὶ ζωῆς αἰωνίου, and in vi. 7 we read, ποιοῦντες γὰρ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ Χριστοῦ εὑρήσομεν ἀνάπαυσιν. The verb καταπαύω occurs throughout an interesting passage (Ep. Bran. 15) in which the hallowing of the Sabbath is discussed as something which will find its fulfilment in Christianity (as opposed to Judaism) in the impending Messianic Age. It is quite possible that the treatment here may be influenced by the thought and language of Hebrews 4:1-11.

In 2 Thessalonians 1:7 the Revised Version agrees with Authorized Version in using ‘rest’ to translate ἄνεσις. This word is used in the NT only by St. Paul, always with a contrast to θλίψις expressed (as here) or implied. That the idea of rest here has an eschatological reference is seen from the following words: ἐν τῇ ἀποκαλύψει τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ ἀπʼ οὐρανοῦ μετʼ ἀγγέλων δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ.

Literature.-Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , article ‘Rest’; H. B. Swete, Apocalypse2, London, 1907, p. 187; A. B. Bruce, Hebrews, do., 1889, pp. 92-100; G. Milligan, Thessalonians, do., 1908, p. 89.

Dawson Walker.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Rest'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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