Church columnist: Building a biblical vocabulary: Rest

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 9, 2016

Norm Fields

Contributing columnist

“Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,” (2 Thessalonians 1:6–9, NKJV)

The word “rest” is a very comforting word. We all know what it feels like to be tired, hot and sweaty from arduous labor, and to finally have an opportunity to rest from that labor.

The feeling of washing away the grime and sweat in a hot shower, to sooth the sore muscles with that scalding hot water, and to sit back and relax — there’s not much else that feels better! Looking forward to the “rest” at the end of our labors is one of the things that help us keep going. It is a comforting and encouraging word, and it is a biblical word.

The word “rest,” like so many words, can be used in several different ways. It can refer to a portion of a group (cf. Matt. 27:49; Acts 15:17). It can refer to something placed on something else (cf. Rom. 2:17; 2 Cor. 12:9). It can be used as a verb to say something will cause you to be at ease, at peace, relaxed, etc. (cf. Matt. 11:28; 26:45).

These kinds of typical, common, uses of the word “rest” are not difficult for us to recognize and understand. We use it in these various ways in our everyday conversation and don’t really ever have any difficulty understanding it this way.

However, none of these uses would apply to the passage quoted above (i.e. 2 Thessalonians 1:7). The word “rest” in this passage is not used as a verb.

Paul was not telling the Thessalonians “to rest,” as in the verbal use. He was telling them that Christ will give His faithful disciples “rest” upon His return. It is something, used as a noun, that Christians will receive from Christ when He comes again.

The Greek word the Holy Spirit used here literally means: “a setting loose, unbinding, easing, liberty.” It is translated “liberty” in Acts 24:23, and “eased” in 2 Corinthians 8:13. The Thessalonians would have understood Paul to be saying that Christ would “unbind,” or “set them loose,” from the tribulation they were suffering at that time.

For the Thessalonians, and for us, this would encourage them to continue steadfastly in their service to Christ, knowing that there would come a day when His faithful disciples would be vindicated against those who persecuted them (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10).

Where Christians will be “set loose” from such tribulations, those who “do not obey the gospel” will suffer “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.”

It is also very interesting to note that the root from which this word comes is shared by the word for “remission” (cf. Acts 2:38), and “forgiveness” (cf. Ephesians 1:7). In Christ; when we have heard His word (Rom. 10:17), believed what it teaches about Christ and His kingdom (Acts 8:12), repented of our sins (Acts 17:30, 31), confessed our faith in Christ (Acts 8:37; Rom. 10:9, 10), and been baptized into Christ (Acts 22:16; Rom. 6:3, 4; Gal. 3:26, 27); we have the “remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).

We are “forgiven,” in that we have been “set free” from sin by the blood of Christ (cf. Rom. 6:16-18). And, in Christ, we have the hope of everlasting “freedom from tribulation” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10). That’s why we can take comfort in the knowledge of His coming! (1 Thessalonians 4:18). Are you in Christ today, with the comfort of looking forward to His coming?

If you would like a free Bible Correspondence Course by mail, please contact us. We would love to get that out to you. We also have a free online Bible Correspondence Course on our website at We would love to assist you in whatever way we can in your study of God’s word.

Norm Fields is the minister for the Church of Christ Northside meeting at 1101 Hogansville Road in LaGrange. He may be reached at 706-812-9950 or