Rest is a concept that appears frequently throughout the Bible. God promises rest for His people, Christ invites all who are weary to find rest in Him, and eternal rest is depicted as the ultimate hope for believers. But exactly how many times does the word “rest” appear in Scripture? In this comprehensive study, we will examine the precise usage of “rest” in the Bible and reflect on the theological significance of this important theme.
- The word “rest” appears 546 times across 38 books of the Bible in the New King James Version.
- It occurs 461 times in the Old Testament and 85 times in the New Testament.
- God promises rest for His people throughout the Old Testament, typified by the Sabbath and the Promised Land.
- Jesus invites all who are weary and heavy laden to find rest in Him (Matthew 11:28).
- The letter to the Hebrews promises an eternal Sabbath rest for the people of God (Hebrews 4:9).
- Our eternal destiny as believers is depicted as entering into the rest of God (Revelation 14:13).
- The theme of rest in Scripture points to the peace, comfort, and assurance that comes from faith in Christ.
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A Comprehensive Examination of “Rest” in Scripture
The specific word “rest” occurs 546 times across 38 books of the Bible in the New King James Version (NKJV). From the Old Testament depictions of God’s promised rest to Christ’s invitation to find rest in Him, Scripture uses this term to convey the concept of comfort, peace, and assurance for God’s people. Let’s explore the usage of this important term throughout the pages of the Bible.
Rest in the Old Testament
Based on the statistics provided, the word “rest” occurs 461 times across every Old Testament book except Obadiah, Jonah, and Malachi. The Torah contains the highest concentration, with 76 mentions in the Pentateuch:
- Genesis (19)
- Exodus (23)
- Leviticus (23)
- Numbers (9)
- Deuteronomy (11)
The Major Prophets reference “rest” 112 times:
- Isaiah (36)
- Jeremiah (20)
- Lamentations (8)
- Ezekiel (23)
- Daniel (7)
And the Poetic Books include 60 references:
- Psalms (25)
- Job (20)
- Proverbs (9)
- Ecclesiastes (3)
- Song of Solomon (1)
The Old Testament usage establishes God’s Sabbath rest, the rest of the Promised Land, and the prophetic hope of future messianic rest.
Rest in the New Testament
The New Testament contains 85 references to “rest” across 17 books:
- Matthew (10)
- Mark (7)
- Luke (10)
- John (2)
- Acts (12)
- Romans (2)
- 1 Corinthians (2)
- 2 Corinthians (5)
- Galatians (2)
- Hebrews (11)
- 1 Peter (3)
- Revelation (10)
The Gospels recount Jesus’ invitation to find rest in Him. Hebrews elaborates on entering God’s Sabbath rest by faith. And Revelation depicts the eternal rest reserved for believers.
Overall, the biblical theme of rest points to the comfort, peace, and assurance for all who trust in Christ.
Jesus Christ, the Source of True Rest
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is revealed as the ultimate source of rest for all who are weary and heavy laden. At key points in His ministry, Christ offered rest to the needy multitudes who flocked to Him.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV)
Here, Jesus presents Himself as the promised Messiah who can provide true spiritual rest that transcends any earthly circumstance. His “yoke” of obedience to Him is easy because it aligns our lives with God’s good purposes.
When sending out His twelve disciples, Jesus instructed them to pronounce peace upon homes that welcomed them: “And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you” (Luke 10:6 NKJV). The peace of Christ would settle on households that received His followers and their message.
In offering salvation, Jesus reminded all who labor for earthly gain about the eternal rest that He provides:
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29 NKJV)
Speaking to those who refused His message, Jesus lamented: “And you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:40 NKJV). Only through Christ can true spiritual rest be found.
The Rest of Faith in Hebrews 4
The most extended teaching on rest in the New Testament comes in Hebrews 4. The writer of Hebrews reminds Christians of God’s promised rest, comparing and contrasting it with the incomplete rest found in this world.
He begins by saying: “For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened” (Hebrews 4:2). Like the Israelites who failed to enter God’s rest due to unbelief, we can miss out on true rest if we fail to trust in Christ.
After again quoting Psalm 95 about God’s rest, he concludes: “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:9-11a). Through faith in Christ, we can cease from our own labors and enter into the eternal spiritual rest promised by God.
The writer of Hebrews is encouraging believers to persevere in the rest we have in Christ, rather than turning back to the incomplete rest the world offers. This passage reveals the eternal significance of the rest God promises His people who place their faith in Christ alone.
Eternal Rest in Revelation 14
Finally, the concept of eternal rest in Christ finds its fulfillment in the book of Revelation. As the apostle John glimpses the final victory of believers, he hears a pronouncement from heaven:
“Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.'” (Revelation 14:13 NKJV)
Here, dying in Christ is connected with resting from earthly labors. Eternity with God is depicted as the ultimate state of rest for His people. All of the promises and typologies of rest throughout Scripture find their completion in the eternal rest reserved for believers in the new heavens and new earth.
This hope of eternal rest serves as a comfort and encouragement to persevere through trials. As Paul wrote: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18 NKJV). The rest we taste now through faith is only a foretaste of the glorious divine rest to come.
The Significance of Biblical Rest
Now that we’ve surveyed the precise number of references, let’s reflect on key theological insights from this theme:
God’s Sabbath Rest – The pattern established at creation provides the model for humanity’s cycle of work and renewal.
The Promised Land – Israel’s rest in Canaan illustrates the spiritual rest we gain in salvation through Christ.
Divine Gift of Rest – The Old Testament presents rest as a gift from God to those who walk in His ways.
Rest in Christ – Jesus invites the weary and burdened to exchange their striving for His light yoke of obedience.
Sabbath Rest in Hebrews 4 – Through faith, we enter the eternal rest accomplished by Christ’s finished work.
Eternal Rest – Our future heavenly rest fulfills all God’s promises of ultimate rest for His people.
In summary, the extensive scriptural emphasis on rest reveals the comfort, assurance, and peace that God desires His people to experience through faith in Christ. As we labor and grow weary in this life, we can look toward the eternal Sabbath rest that yet awaits all believers.