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A Sabbath Rest for Preterists (and other Believers)
by Mark Honegger
This article appeared in the 2021 Spring issue of Fulfilled! Magazine
If Jesus has already returned, how should Christians live
today? That is the pressing question of our time. Preterists
have become very adept at proving from the Scriptures when
the second coming had to have taken place, but they haven’t
fully entered into the spiritual significance of how it
changes our life, and this hinders the rest of God’s church
from entering into preterism.
One of the obstacles holding back futurists from accepting preterism is the uncertainty of what it means for how we live today. When I talk to futurists, they ask a very good question—if Jesus has already returned, why isn’t the world a better place? Life on our present earth doesn’t match the fabulous descriptions the Bible gives of a time when righteousness and love rule the planet. Part of the answer I would like to suggest is that God is aiming for something very different than what we are aiming for and therefore we aren’t truly on the same page as God is.
The page that God is on is our salvation, a salvation
that is too amazing for words. When we understand
eschatology aright, the great benefit is that it opens our
eyes to see this salvation for what it really is. Futurists
can’t fully embrace its greatness because of the cloud that
hangs over their heads. Because they are waiting for a
mighty judgment to happen, they tend to underestimate the
power and character of grace, and so they long for God to
use force to usher in a better world. I find that futurists
by and large have a poverty mindset, and this for a very
good reason. They do not believe that the work Jesus has
already done is enough to change the world. Is the death and
resurrection of Jesus Christ by itself sufficient to achieve
God’s ultimate goals for this world? Or is there something
else God has to do? Their answer is yes, God has to do
something more. Namely, there must be a second coming that
takes away all the bad people. That is how God reaches his
ultimate goals. Needless to say, this option is not
available to preterists. For us, the “only” thing we have is
our salvation, and we need to grasp its significance.
One example of this poverty mindset in the church is that
it is weakened by the burden of incessant waiting for God to
act and do something that will shake up the world. Among
evangelicals, it is considered to be a great virtue to wait
and wait for God to “show himself in a mighty way.” After
all, evangelicals are waiting for him to come back and right
the wrongs plaguing our world. This is reflected in one of
the current praise songs that the church sings, called “Take
Courage.” One verse goes like this,
So take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting
He’s in the waiting
And hold onto your hope
Watch your triumph unfold
He’s never failing
He’s never failing
This song acknowledges that Christians are not at rest,
hence its admonition to “take courage.” It is an example of
how Christians ever romanticize the struggles they go
through as they endure long waiting. One can hear many a
heroic tale of how a believer was threatened by doubts
within and desperate circumstances around him, yet he grimly
held on. What is wrong when pastors and teachers praise
people for having a profound sense of waiting in their
spirit? The problem is that it introduces a serious disquiet
into our spiritual life. The world is like an ocean full of
storms and pounding waves. This world inherently is given to
instability and disquiet, and now we have Christians who are
taught to expect that something is missing from God’s work
and that they have to wait for God to supply that missing
something. The church has cultivated Christians with waiting
spirits that now match the lack of rest in the world around
them. However, God has promised us something much better
than the waiting that drags down many Christians today.
It starts with this simple idea—God has finished all his work.
Therefore, we are not waiting for anything to happen. More
precisely, there is no waiting in our spiritual life. Of course, we
wait for many things in world—in lines at the store, for the birth
of a child, for a new job, for a spouse, for a cure to COVID-19—but
I am talking about spiritual waiting. We are not waiting for
anything in our spiritual life. We are not waiting for God to do
something. This might seem like a small matter, but it is one of the
most radical things a person can experience on planet earth, because
it means that even in a world like we have today, the Christian life
should be one filled with rest.
Hebrews 3:7-4:11 describes this rest; it is not a human rest but
a divine rest that God himself lives in. Much of this section is a
stern warning to listeners to heed its admonitions, but I want to
focus on three verses, Hebrews 4:3a and 4:9-10. The first verse says
that the generation Moses led out of Egypt did not enter that rest,
but as for us,
. . . we who have believed enter [present tense] that rest.
The entering of rest is now according to Hebrews 4:3, but the
implications of a future second coming keep futurists from enjoying
this rest today. For them, God’s work is not done. There is a cloud
hanging over the horizon, because any day the sky will start to
fall. Secondly, verses 9-10 explain how that rest applies to us,
So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for
whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God
did from his.
Sabbath rest God experienced on the seventh day of creation. To
appreciate this truth, we must go back to the story of creation. We
find there the surprising teaching of Genesis 2:1-3, which says,
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of
them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done,
and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.
So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God
rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
When we hear the word “rest,” we think of fatigue, and we ask,
did God get tired from creating the heavens and earth? Yet we know
that God does not grow weary, and even here there are clues that
this rest is not the rest of recharging one’s batteries. Rather, it
is the rest that comes from the joy and contentment of a work done
perfectly because it corresponds to God’s plan for righteousness.
Rest teaches us about the nature of God’s goodness. In creation, God
did exactly what he needed to do to achieve all his spiritual
purposes for creation. Nothing could be added and nothing could be
taken away from his work (Eccl 3:14). The measure of God’s righteous
work is that there is nothing missing from it. That is why he made
the Sabbath rest holy, completely inhabited by every fiber of his
moral being. We don’t understand what it is to be good if we do not
understand the Sabbath rest that is connected to God’s good work.
Goodness is inherently complete in its nature.
Verses 9-10 tell us not only that God has rested from his
work but also that we rest from our own work. This is even
more astounding. What can this mean that we rest from our
works? Don’t we have lots to do on this planet? It is a mess,
Today, God has given us the same Sabbath rest that he
experienced on the seventh day of creation. This changes the
way we view what we do. For example, every good deed and act
of obedience we carry out in this life is not filling in the
holes of something missing from God’s work. It is not
achieving something that needs to be achieved. This last
statement is especially important for American Christians.
American culture worships achievement, and American
Christians follow American culture by worshipping spiritual
achievement, but achievement is excluded from the Sabbath!
If I have a need to achieve, I am really saying that
something is missing from the work of God. Instead, our work
is our experience of God’s goodness. Even more, when we do
good, we begin to experience heaven, just as Revelation 21
teaches us that heaven has come down to earth. We experience
God’s completed work when we do what he did, and the
clinching test is that every deed is accompanied by a divine
rest in our souls. When we help a brother, when we bless our
families, when we give to the poor, we feel the peace of
God’s finished work. However, if we do something good for
God and don’t feel rest in our souls, then there is
something wrong with our obedience.
Now we can see how little we understand God’s plans for
us. For example, suppose you have an opportunity to share
preterism with a fellow futurist brother or sister in
Christ. You faithfully share good biblical teaching but
unfortunately the other believer does not accept or maybe
even understand the powerful points you have made. At that
point, are you at rest? It seems to me that most often we
are not at rest. It breaks our heart when people don’t
respond the way we want them to, and we pray and pray and
ask God to “help them get it!” In fact, Christians often do
acts of obedience that are not accompanied by the rest of
Hebrews 4, and their hearts anguish as they look for some
results in this world from what they have done. Our deeds
don’t lead to rest because we don’t see them result in the
changes we want to see, and we feel that our labor in the
Lord is in vain (1 Cor 15:58). This is what God delivers us
from. We are forever delivered from the burden of trying to
achieve things in our spiritual life, of trying to change
the world, because God’s perfect work has completed the
achievement process. That means we can rest in our
obedience. God has guaranteed that every good thing that
Christians do achieves his eternal purposes regardless of
what we observe with our eyes. It doesn’t depend on other
people and their responses and it doesn’t depend on what
does or does not happen in this world. When we speak aright
the message of the Bible, we can rest assured that God is
fulfilling his good purposes no matter how people respond to
us. Let me summarize four points:
1. God is in his Sabbath rest, because his work is complete
and it will achieve everything his heart desires.
2. We are in God’s Sabbath rest. This means our work is the opportunity for us to experience God’s goodness and achievement.
3. If we believe Hebrews 4, we will be in complete rest when we do anything for God.
4. If we obey but our hearts do not feel rest, then that shows we have not rested from our works and have failed to enter into God’s Sabbath rest.
The Sabbath rest ends creation and is the end state of
God’s plans and timetable. Today, we live with God in a
permanent Sabbath! Note that because our rest is a Sabbath
rest, there is no waiting for anything. The work is done.
There is nothing left to accomplish, and because preterists
are the only ones who know that God has finished his work,
we are the only ones who can truly see Hebrews 3-4 for what
it really is and apply it with full gusto to our lives
today. Preterists should be the most restful people in the
Let me circle back to my earlier question. If God has
finished all his work, then that means he has already done
everything he needs to do to accomplish his goals for this
world. I do not mean that the world is perfect. I do mean
that what God intends the world to become will be the
fruition of his already accomplished work.
Let me add one caution to this article. Some people may
hear the word “Sabbath” and the words “the work is done” and
conclude that there is nothing left for them to do, so they
can fold their hands together and do nothing. Nothing could
be further from the truth. God’s idea of Sabbath does not
mean inactivity or laziness, but I will have to leave the
biblical explanation for this to a follow-up article.
What do you think, reader? Are preterists the most restful people in the world today?
Your honest review will help others in their search for truth. If you must leave a negative review please be gracious.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every
way into him who the head, into Christ . . . .