Why the Fourth Commandment Holds the Key to Heaven

Twice in the past fourteen months my family and I have traveled to Florida by car. (You’re not getting me on a plane with three young kids—especially my own.) But here’s the best part:

We drove straight through.

Ready for some rest after a long road trip

Now if you’re coming from, say, Alabama that’s not such a big deal. But we drove from Norman, Oklahoma—a twenty-hour trip.

We’re talking a full day in the car.

With three kids.

I cannot say I recommend it per se, but it was the right decision for us: it saved time, saved money on hotel and saved money on food because we ate meals in the car.

Both times we did it, getting there was much easier than getting back.


On the way there we were fueled by excitement. We were fueled by the promise of a week of fun.

But we also had the promise of rest.

We knew once we got there, we would have a week of relaxation (as much as a parents with three children can).

On the way back?

Not so much.

We would have to go back to the grind—back to work, back to responsibility.

Our lives are kind of like a road trip: exciting at times, grueling at others. But just like my family's road trips to Florida, we too have the promise of rest once we reach our destination:

. . . the promise of entering his rest still stands . . . Hebrews 4:1

But God's rest is eternal, and there is no return trip.

Our journey on earth, though tough at times, is totally bearable because we have that promise.

The Fourth Commandment as a Metaphor

So where does the Fourth Commandment fit in to all of this?

While I do believe that the commandment to honor the Sabbath is literal, and that it is still relevant (more on that in two weeks), I also believe that the Fourth Commandment is a metaphor—one that demonstrates the key to eternal life:

Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work . . . For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.  Exodus 20:9-11

These six days of labor represent our time on earth. We toil at school and at jobs. We work hard supporting our families.

And make no mistake: everybody labors.

We either serve ourselves (or something else) or we do the work of our Father.

After the sixth day?

The seventh day is a Sabbath rest, and that rest represents heaven.

Rest Comes From God

But notice that the commandment never actually commands us to rest. It simply reads, “on it you shall not do any work” (Exo. 20:10). (To be fair Exodus 23:12 does explicitly command rest in the NKJV version.)

We will all cease from working one day, but we cannot obtain rest on our own.

Eternal rest must come from God.

So if we cannot make it to heaven (rest) on our own, how then should we spend our six days on earth? Does it even matter?

Read the following excerpt from Revelation:

“There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.” This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus. . .
“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on . . . they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”
Revelation 14:11-13

In this passage, the answers to these questions are clear.

How we spend our time is supremely important, and this is how we should spend it: keeping God’s commands and remaining faithful to Him.

This is our work on earth.

But lest you misunderstand me: rest assured, we cannot earn heaven by our work.

Vital Faith

Who then will enter God’s rest?

Jesus says that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life (John 3:16).

But if you do not do what God commands you to do, do you really believe in Him?

Consider this:

Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:17

Is dead faith faith?

Therefore belief is essential, but obedience is vital.

This concept is easy to understand, but not easy to act on.

Taking a twenty-hour road trip is a cakewalk compared to some things we have to do for the sake of the cross. Some are called to persecution, some to missionary work overseas, some to sacrifice.

But when tribulations do come, remember God’s promise: we shall have rest.

That makes the trip so much easier.


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