Narnia, we are told, while it was in the grip of the White witch, was in a state of always winter and never Christmas. What a dreadful thought. Meant to communicate to children especially just how horrible the place God had made good, had become.
There are lots of dreadful thoughts. In Revelation 14 we are given a description of hell that ought to terrify anyone who seeks to live in our very confused world today. When you hear the word “hell” what image pops into your mind? Fire, pain, torment, agony, darkness, loneliness. These are all pictures that reflect in some measure the Bible’s description of hell. But there is one in Revelation 14:11 that is even more frightening to us in our world of instant communication, multi-tasking attempts to get more done than any single person can ever succeed at. A seven word phrase that describes our culture’s current hellishness but will be unbearably so when real hell arrives. “… they have no rest day or night…”. Narnia was always winter and never Christmas. Hell is always tired and never resting. Constantly tired. To do lists that never get close to being done and never able to take a break and replenish one’s energies.
This should not surprise. Coming to Jesus is receiving from Him – rest. He is our Sabbath rest. We come to Him and He gives us rest. Hell is not entering into the rest that God offers. “They shall never enter into my rest” is God’s judgement upon the disobedient (Psalm 95:11). Hell is for those who seek to work their way into heaven. And the reason there is no rest there is because they never rested in Christ in life. The reason there is no rest there is because an eternity of work can never pay the price for sin. Hell is people receiving justice. It is Haman’s noose. Haman was the man who built a gallows for Esther’s uncle Mordecai and ended up swinging from it himself. People who end up in hell are those who sought to win the favour of God through work and end up finding out that God has given them exactly what they wanted – endless work and no rest.
I do not know what terrifies you about hell. But this is one of the most terrifying things I can think of. Constant exhaustion and eternal absence of rest. Always pushing on to the next project only to find that the previous one is never done. Always thinking that rest is just around the corner, only to find that the corner has been hiding more work. Always hoping that if one does just a little bit more, God will be pleased. He will be satisfied and then there will be rest. And it never happens.
Let us go to a world that is tired and confused and yet unwilling to rest in the only thing that will give them hope and tell them to stop working. Working for the right to be accepted by God. Working to make themselves something. Working to get approval from – anyone. Jesus has done it all, we say to them. Rest now in Him and forever, or you will never rest at all.
Contrast this horrible fate of the wicked with that of those who die “in the Lord”, in verse 13. They “rest from their labors.” Those who do not seek rest in Christ and who never worked for Him will have no rest – forever. Those who now rest in Christ for their salvation and use all their strength, not to win God’s approval but as a sacrifice of thanksgiving, will rest from their labours. Horror and glory in such a brief passage. Let us take the Gospel of rest in Jesus Christ, to a world that is constantly tired and stressed and thinking that the only good that will come is what they will earn for themselves. At the same time longing for a real break. Let us be tireless in our efforts to offer rest. Our eternal rest will come when God rewards us for our labours.