We hear the term rest in peace every time someone dies. We want to think of our loved ones finally resting peacefully after the turmoil and tribulations of this life, but are they truly resting?
To understand spiritual rest, true rest, we must first understand there are two types of people in the world, those who are in Christ (those saved) and those who are not (the unsaved). Those who are in Christ experience true rest every day and will have eternal rest after this life. Those who are not in Christ will never experience true rest until they look to Christ for their salvation.
There are three reasons rest is needed: laboring, toiling, and being overburdened. To labor is to work, to toil is to put forth laborious effort, and to be overburdened is to be excessively loaded with responsibility. Those who are without Christ work and put forth laborious effort at doing good works overburdening themselves. They load themselves with the responsibility of their salvation. Adhering to the ideology that if they do enough good works, think enough good thoughts, say enough good prayers, and treat others good they will attain salvation for themselves.
Those without Christ, also, weary themselves thinking they do well. Instead, they fatigue themselves with works causing themselves to worry they may not be doing enough. They torment and oppress themselves trying to keep their own moral laws, adhere to a teaching from some guru about kindness and karma, or try to follow a religious set of laws, rules, or practices. They labor hard day in and day out without ever feeling rested. Sure, they can sleep well at night, but there’s a deeper sense of unrest in the soul that sleep will never take care of. So, where does this rest come from? And, how can they attain it?
Matthew 11:28-30 tells us rest comes from Christ. In this passage Christ offers rest as he is praying to the Father. Even though he is speaking to the Jewish people, this also applies to Gentiles (salvation was first offered to the Jews then to the Gentiles or Greek, Romans 1:16). He offers rest to those who “labour and are heavy laden.” These are those who labor for their salvation and overburden themselves with that responsibility. This is the way of the world. Christ offers an unyoking from the world and a yoking to himself. What does that mean?
It means he has taken the burden of working for your salvation upon himself, unchaining you from the burden of following worldly doctrine and working for your salvation. He does this by first having completed all that is necessary for our salvation. He died on the cross, fulfilling God’s requirement of a blood sacrifice, in our place having all our sin placed upon him, facing God’s complete and total wrath so we won’t have to once we place our faith in him. But how is his yoke different from the world’s?
First, by taking his yoke upon us we will desire to and be able to learn about him. The world rejects Christ and wants nothing to do with him or his salvation. Instead, the world places the burden of salvation on your shoulders. Second, Christ is humble and those in Christ are made humble. Christ humbled himself to follow the Father’s every command, even the command of death. Instead of being humble the world is prideful. When a person attempts to work for their salvation, they reject Christ and his sacrifice for their own prideful sacrifices. They reject the fact salvation is from God alone (Eph. 2:8-9 states salvation is a gift from God lest any man should boast). It’s only when we take the yoke of Christ upon ourselves and follow him and his commands that we will find rest. Those who labor and toil serving Christ will never be overburdened with the responsibility of salvation nor will they ever labor in vain for worldly gain (Matthew 6:19-20). Instead, they find refreshing rest in the grace of God while serving Christ and will gain eternal rest in the afterlife.
Hell, as described biblically is a place of eternal sorrow and anguish. It is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 8:12; 13:42; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28). R. C. Sproul explained best when he wrote in a devotional for Ligonier Ministries, “Those cast into the outer darkness gnash their teeth (Matt. 25:30), meaning that their unjust anger at the Lord for their just punishment grows more intense every moment.” Anger is not a restful emotion and being eternally angry guarantees an eternity of unrest. Then there is the weeping, the other side of the coin. The weeping is an eternal state of regret for rejecting Christ. When we truly regret something, we weep over it, and those in Hell will be no different. Their regret will last eternally causing them to constantly weep, and then that weeping will turn to anger and anger to weeping. This provides for an eternal state of unrest. This is the punishment for those who die without Christ, having rejected him and his salvation.
Those who bear Christ’s yoke indeed find it easy and the burden light. All that is required is to humble ourselves and follow our Master and serve him. He alone provides the complete works for salvation. Those who are yoked to the world find it laborious and burdensome with no rest. They will have no rest in this life nor in the afterlife. If they reject Christ and his yoke in this life, they will be eternally separated from rest and spend eternity in unrest and torment.