On the seventh day of creation, God rested from His work of creating all things (Genesis 2:2–3). The universe and all that is contained within it, including the earth, all its creatures, and mankind, were created during six days, and by the seventh day the Lord was done creating (Genesis 2:2).
Most versions of the Bible state that God “rested” on the seventh day of creation, but this does not mean that He was tired or needed to refresh Himself through rest (see Psalm 121:4; Isaiah 40:28). It was only a “rest” in the sense that it was a cessation of work. The NET Bible states that “he ceased on the seventh day all the work that he had been doing” (Genesis 2:2). God was not fatigued from creating the heavens and the earth, but rather had finished creating. All He had created was declared “very good,” and therefore creation was complete (Genesis 1:31—2:1).
Significantly, the Hebrew word for “rest” in Genesis 2:2 is also used in the Pentateuch to refer to the observance of the Sabbath day (Exodus 34:21; Leviticus 23:32). The Sabbath day command in the law was based on the principle of God’s “resting” or “ceasing” from work on the seventh day of creation (Exodus 20:11). As Genesis 2:3 states, “So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation” (ESV).
An important point about God’s rest on the seventh day is that He only ceased from new creative work, not from all activity. God is not distant from His creation, nor did He leave the universe to run by itself from that point. The Lord is still intimately involved in all He has created. Jesus affirmed this when He stated, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:17). God continually upholds and sustains His creation (Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3). It’s just that the Lord is no longer creating new things ex nihilo, such as making new planets or commanding new animals into being. God’s rest from His work of creation demonstrates that He is no longer creating as He did during the six days the heavens and the earth were made.
The book of Hebrews identifies the Lord Jesus as the ultimate Sabbath rest (Hebrews 4:9–11). Christ alone satisfies the requirements of the law, and He alone provides the sacrifice that atones for sin. He is God’s plan for us to cease from our own laboring to earn salvation, because He sanctifies and makes holy all who believe in Him.