The Bible Teaches Only One Rest, Not Two, Including in Matthew 11:28-30
Updated: Apr 8
When God saves a sinner, He gives immediate and eternal rest. The sinner turned saint enters into God’s glorious rest. Perfect rest that is not in want. There is no lack. That rest is not missing something, to be sought after salvation. At the very moment of conversion we enter into His ONE rest of salvation (Heb 4:1-11) and everything ever needed for the Christian life is received, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Pet 1:3). Matt 11:28-30 does not teach two rests, one for salvation and one for service. That would contradict everything in Scripture about salvation and rest.
A brief exegesis of Matt 11:28-30 will show there to be only one rest. The actual words used (“find rest . . . find rest unto your souls” vv 28-29), the context (salvation, vv 20-27), and the audience (lost Jews) collectively reveal salvation as the only subject. In these 3 verses we note two major things: (1) Jesus is calling lost sinners to salvation with reasoning why, and (2) The reward offered to those heeding the call.
1. Firstly, the call to salvation. God uses many inducements to persuade man to seek salvation, as noted here: “Come unto Me . . . and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. . . . and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” It is for the reason that God wills for sinners to be saved (2 Pet 3:9). Twice we note here His petition to laborious and heavy laden sinners to be saved: “Come unto Me” (v. 28) and “Take My yoke upon you” (v. 29). Note also that the lost audience of “ye” and “you” in v. 29 is still the same “ye” and “you” in v. 28. Both are equally calls to conversion, both refer to the same thing, and frequently the call to salvation in scripture is described in diverse manners. This active call to come to Christ (v. 28) is heard throughout Scripture to whosoever will (e.g. Is 55:1-7; Mk 1:17; 8:34; 10:21; Lk 18:16; Jn 7:37; 14:6; Rev 22:17).
Verses 29 and 30 Christ gives further reasoning why they should come and take His yoke upon them for salvation: “I am meek and lowly in heart” and “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” which was in stark contrast to the proud and unabased ravenous self-righteous and hypocritical scribes, Pharisees and lawyers who “say, and do not” and laden the people with their leaven of “bind[ing] heavy burdens . . . grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers,” (Matt 23:2-4; Lk 11:46) which was causing the people great yoke of bondage to the law (while the laws purpose was to deliver them from bondage), to empty rituals, dogmas, harsh overbearing traditions, and oral laws to strap upon the people and bring them into even greater bondage (e.g. “corban” in Mk 7:7-13). Christ’s extraordinary meekness and light burden was prophesied in places such as Is 53:1-12; Ze 9:9; Matt 21:5, noted in Matt 12:20, “A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.” Christ, the greatest teacher, the Great Shepherd was not anything like the wolves teaching andleading the Jewish people, for He was meek and lowly in heart, His yoke easy and burden light, full of tender mercies, ready to forgive and save all who come to Him, to give them rest from their toils and snares.
They, the Jewish “babes” (Matt 11:25), would find His yoke easy, His burden light, and above all else, rest for their weary souls (Jer 6:16). Entering into God’s glorious rest was immediate at conversion (Jer 6:16; Ps 95:10-11; Matt 11:28-30; Heb 3:7-4:11). No more heaviness, no more bondage. No more broad destructive path that only leads to destruction (Matt 7:13). Just rest. The rest of salvation which is sufficient for all of life. He didn’t ask them to find a second rest. Only one. One that came with Christ's easy yoke and light burden. Saints are permanently “yoked” to the Lord Jesus, by repentance of sin and faith in His atoning bloody death and resurrection.
Taking His yoke has the idea of being removed from bondage and brought into freedom and becoming one with Him, for in salvation we are “baptized into Jesus Christ” and thus “baptized into his death” and “crucified with him” (Rom 6:3-6; Gal 2:20; 5:24). Taking Christ’s yoke involves taking up the cross, a requirement for salvation. Denial of self and taking up the cross is a representation of the sinner coming to the point of saving repentance which involves turning from our sins and own way of living and exaltation of self and comfort, to surrender to Christ as unconditional Lord, with the resultant entrance into rest and lifestyle of following Christ (Mat 10:32-39; 16:24-26; Lk 14:25-15:32; Jn 12:24-25).
This pure gospel of Christ’s yoke and rest is what Jesus preached to the lost ruler: “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” (Mk 10:21). He wouldn’t come and take up Christ’s yoke and find rest, but 11 of the apostles had (Mk 10:28-30). The one who wishes to continue living his own way, to “save his life,” will eternally lose “both soul and body in hell” (Matt 10:28, 39), while one who turns from his own way, denies self, takes up the cross, and loses his own life for Christ and the gospel’s sake (Mk 8:35), will save his life or soul by receiving Christ’s yoke and rest.
In Lk 14:15-35, Christ teaches that “whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath” (vv. 33, 26) to “bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (vv. 27, 33); those who refuse to put Christ before property (vv. 18-19) and family/people (vv. 20, 26) will not enter His rest and “eat bread in the kingdom of God” (v. 15), but be “cast out” (v. 35) of the eschatological feast of the saints into hell (v. 24), while God rejoices over the repentance and salvation of those who become disciples in the way people rejoice over the recovery of a lost sheep, coin, or son (Lk 15). All this ties into what Jesus is teaching in Matt 11:28-30 as the requirements for salvation.
Salvation also involves learning of Him (Matt 11:29), for knowledge of God and the fear of the Lord is essential for conversion (Pr 1:7, 20-31; 2:1-5; 9:6; etc), faith coming through hearing, receiving and believing the incorruptible Word of God (1 Pet 1:23-25; Rom 10:9-17). This entails seeking after God and His truth, learning of Christ and His gospel, about His salvation, about us, sin, eternity, etc (but not for entrance into an elusive second rest). This truth is noted in places such as Is 55:6-7; Jer 29:13-14; Matt 9:12-13. God gives light (Jn 12:35-36; Matt 11:28-30, even reasons with lost sinners (Is 1:18-20).
A notable example is found in Matt 9:12-13 where Jesus is preaching His gospel: ”But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. BUT GO YE AND LEARN WHAT THAT MEANETH, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” By going and learning what that means, they would be learning of Christ, for He is the Great Physician, the Balm of Gilead (Jer 8:22). God exhorts sinners to receive His Word (Pr 2:1), to incline their ears unto wisdom and apply their hearts to understanding (Pr 2:2), to cry after knowledge and understanding (Pr 2:3), to seek for Christ as silver and the pearl of great price and search for Him as hidden treasures (Pr 2:4; Matt 13:44-46), and when they do, they’ll come to “understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.” (Pr 2:5). This all takes place PRIOR to salvation and is learning of Christ, but missing in the Christ rejectors of Pr 1:20-31, for they “received not love of the truth, that they might be saved.” (2 Th 2:10). The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Pr 1:7) and wisdom (Pr 9:6). Matt 28:19a speaks to this: “Go ye therefore, and TEACH all nations, baptizing them …” The word “teach” refers to making disciples. Teaching who? Lost people. Teaching what? God’s Word: To Learn. Receive. Apply. Study. Seek. Search. Fear God. God gives light (Pr 1:20-2:5; Jn 12:36). Repent and believe (Is 55:1-7).
All this ties into what Jesus is teaching in Matt 11:28-30, the call to salvation, to learn of Christ’s rest and then come and take the yoke and find rest for their souls. Scripture harmonizes perfectly. Heb 3:7-4:11 likewise refers to it, “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.” (v 11). The “rest” is entered in by “labour” which word means to make effort and be prompt, be earnest and give diligence and study (same word translated “study” in 2 Tim 2:15), to seek after salvation, lest God’s conviction and drawing fades away (Pr 1:20-31; Jn 12:35-36; Matt 25:1-13). The “[LORD’s] spirit shall not always strive with man" (Gen 6:3)!
2. Secondly, the result and reward of heeding the call to conversion: “I will give you rest,” (v. 28) “and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (v. 29). Obviously, the soul that is being called to rest in v. 28 still doesn’t have rest in v. 29, so both passages are clearly referring to the exact same rest, the rest of salvation. Verse 29, which has been falsely attributed to a second rest of service, simply further confirms the reward of rest in v. 28, as “rest unto your souls” after Christ’s second call to conversion in this passage (“Take my yoke upon you”). This ONE rest is permanent and needs no additions & produces everything required for the Christian life (2 Pet 1:3-4), including service (2 Cor 5:17-20; Eph 2:10), for the rest is God’s (“my rest,” Matt 11:28-29; Heb 3:11; 4:3, 5). At the moment of conversion, simultaneous with justification, someone receives in that instance everything needed to live the Christian life. Nothing more is necessary than what he already possesses from that moment on. Every genuine believer is a have. There are no have-nots. This is recorded in many passages. E.g. 1 Cor 1:4-9, the church at Corinth were enriched by Jesus Christ in everything—in grace, in all utterance & all knowledge. They come behind in no gift. They didn’t lack anything spiritually. Eph 1:3, those in Christ are blessed by God with all spiritual blessings. All.
Col 2:9-10, in Jesus dwells all the fulness of the Godhead, and since you are in Him, you are complete in him. Complete. Full. Lacking nothing. 2 Pet 1:1-4, everyone justified has obtained like precious faith. No believer's faith is different than any one else's. And faith is not quantitative. You either have it or you don't. It isn't that at the moment of your justification, you have a faith tank that is at ten out of a hundred and it can move up toward that goal as long as the tank continues to be filled. No. The faith tank is completely full, at one hundred, right at the instance of conversion. And then His divine power has given unto the saved all things that pertain unto life and godliness.
All things. No thing missing. Converts are partakers of the divine nature. The divine nature!Professing “believers” lacking something, not serving and obeying God are not lacking a second rest—just the one rest of salvation. They’re unregenerate. Christ wants people to be saved through Matt 11:28-30, not confirmed in their lost estate or looking for some enigmatic second rest that will never come. Changing the meaning of vv 29-30 into something after salvation is perversion of this text and perversion of salvation. Rest is entered into at salvation, not after, and gives everything at that moment, so to corrupt rest is to corrupt the gospel, and we know what Gal 1:6-9 and 2 Col 11:4 say about that.
Nothing in Matt 11:28-30, or the context, lends support to a division of rest; a salvation rest and a service rest. This is an eisegetical misinterpretation of these verses, meaning the error is read into the passages. We must pull out of Scripture (exegesis), not put in (eisegesis). All three verses of Matt 11:28-30 are Christ preaching to lost people to come unto Him for salvation and then receiving His rest when they do. It has nothing to do with service to Christ. Only salvation. And the rest of Scripture harmonizes with that, when we rightly divide the word of truth, as noted above and further noted in the go-to verses on rest in Heb 3 and 4. “For we which have believed do enter into rest” (Heb 4:3). One rest.
That rest is perfect, just like Gods sabbath rest (Heb 4:3-5, 10), which never ends when He entered into it day 7 (Gen 2). Eleven times between Heb 3:7-4:11 (the context) is rest mentioned. In these verses, Paul (the Hebrews writer) is warning his Hebrews audience about the possibility of having never been saved and thus never entered God’s rest, like their forefathers in the wilderness. Practically all the Jews in the wilderness were unsaved, with the exception of very few, and these passages in Heb 3:7-4:11 lay that out for us (something I will not go into here). In these passages of Hebrews 3 and 4 we note that rest is ONLY one, the rest of salvation.
In Heb 3:11 and 18-19 Paul appeals to the OT (Ps 95:7-11) to remind the Hebrews that most of their forefathers in the wilderness did not enter God’s rest of salvation: “So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest. . . . And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” Unbelievers (unbelief—same thing) haven’t entered His rest. In Heb 4:1 the warning is applied to the present Hebrews, that some would come “short of” “entering into his rest.” Heb 4:3 he refers to himself and others which are saved, “we which have believed do enter into rest,” which is “[God’s] rest” (Heb 3:11; 4:3, 5),
God’s sabbath rest that started after the 6th day of creation (when His “works were finished” Heb 4:3) and has never ended, was “finished from the foundation of the world” (Heb 4:3), which the penman at this point addresses in Heb 4:4-5, 10-11. He details this great and wonderful truth, how God can give us rest. The entrance “into [God’s] rest” is a beautiful picture of salvation that started on the Sabbath, the 7th day of His creation (Gen 2:1-3). Heb 4:4 and 10 declare, “For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. . . . For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.”
Entering salvation rest is entering God’s sabbath rest and is illustrated here as precisely that. In Heb 4:9 “rest” means cessation, a rest from work when finished and refers to God’s sabbath rest, “And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.” (Heb 4:4). Like God’s one sabbath rest has no end, our one rest of salvation has no end. God’s rest didn’t end on the seventh day but continues on eternally and it is into this eternal divine rest that the believer enters (Heb 4:1-5). This is why Moses recorded the end of each of the first 6 days (Gen 1: 5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31), but not of the 7th (Gen 2:1-3). God’s rest is perfect in every way. Does our rest lack anything that we didn’t receive at salvation? Nothing!
To speak of a second rest is to say God’s finished work from the foundation of the world was incomplete (Heb 4:3), and that “God did” not “rest” after all on “the seventh day from all his works” (Heb 4:4) and thus has never ceased from His own works (Heb 4:10) or entered into His eternal rest. This would then consequently mean that the believer can never “enter into his rest,” (Heb 4:10) and therefore never be saved, since salvation requires entering His rest (Heb 3:11, 18; 4:1-11; Matt 11:28-30). We note that rest dovetails with the gospel, so to change the meaning of rest from one into two will adversely affect the true gospel. And again, Gal 1:6-9 & 2 Cor 11:4 gives the grim warning to those who do this.
The O.T. sabbath is a picture of N.T. salvation rest in that both are a complete rest from works (Heb 4:4; Gen 2:2; Ex 20:11) and entrance into God’s rest (Matt 11:28-30) with complete forgiveness of all sins. The OT priestly atonement for sins was a prophetic picture of Christ’s complete and perfect atonement for our sins (Heb 9 and 10), which became a sabbath of rest unto us. “For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever.” (Lev 16:30-31). Rest removes all fear and uncertainty and is entwined with eternal security of salvation.
In conclusion, teaching two rests in Matt 11:28-30 is misinterpreting and misrepresenting scripture. It’s an invention of man that doesn’t exist in Scripture. It also changes Biblical salvation. Where does it come from? Many commentaries including by C.H Spurgeon, but its roots are mostly in Keswick/ Higher/ Deeper Life revivalism heresy. Although he teaches a lot of sound doctrine, and his warning ministry greatly valued, David Cloud also teaches this error, being steeped in Keswick “theology” through commentaries and books he studies, which also happens to be present in basically all “evangelical” and majority Baptist churches. A major feature of keswick “theology” is its corrupted two-tiered “Christianity” system, which corrupts both salvation and sanctification.
It essentially creates three categories of people: spiritual Christians, carnal Christians and the lost. Out of this heresy comes a lot more heresy (i.e. Gal 5:9) such as carnal, lukewarm and backsliding terminology used to describe alleged “Christians” that are unchanged from their profession, love the world and follow after error or live in sin, etc, whereas Scripture declares all three to be lost. Keswick heresy does a lot of dividing and wresting of Scripture. It divides “rest” (and “peace”) into two stages, divides penalty and power of sin, justification and sanctification, salvation and discipleship, Saviourship and Lordship, etc. It rejects Lordship salvation, claiming it is works, and embraces easy believism (decisionism).
God’s Word commands the exposure of this serious error, for it is the destructive seed and leaven of false doctrine. “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” (Gal 5:9). No lie must be left unexposed. Characteristic of a true preacher is that he preaches the truth. Truth is a larger category than “fundamentals” or just the gospel (although “rest” is tied into the gospel). Truth is all of God’s Word. If someone wants to preserve the truth, they can't let any truth go by the wayside. If we take a verse or part of a text out of its setting or meaning, we can make Scripture appear to teach the very opposite of what it’s really teaching. That is what happens when salvation rest is divided in two.
"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Tim 2:15)