I have certainly covered this topic in one fashion or another in earlier blogs but none that have addressed the Sabbath specifically. I feel that I should take some time to publish my studies on the Sabbath since Leaving Adventism.
It is not enough to simply prove that the Old Covenant Sabbath is obsolete, this is because Hebrews 4:9 clearly says the following:
“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God” Heb 4:9 ESV
The logical questions one is left with when reading that verse are the following:
- What is this Sabbath rest that remains for the people of God if not any of the Old Covenant Sabbaths?
- How do we receive this new Sabbath?
To answer these I am going to build from Genesis and work my way to Hebrews.
|Sabbath in Creation|
Sabbatarians at one point or another will argue that the weekly Sabbath is an eternal ordinance because it began at creation. The problem with this argument is that we don’t see the Sabbath being given to man here.
“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 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. These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.” Gen 2:1-4 ESV
The first thing to point out is that there is no verse anywhere in Genesis where God commands any man to keep the Sabbath. Since inferring such would be practicing Eisegesis that view is simply not an option. That said, what do we see going on in Gen 2:1-4? To pull this out of the text we have to take a closer look at the preceding chapter. If you want to take a moment of read all of Genesis 1 please click HERE. I will only be posting a selection of those verses below.
“5...And there was evening and there was morning, the first day…..”
8….And there was evening and there was morning, the second day…..
13…And there was evening and there was morning, the third day….
19…And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day….
23…And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day….
31… And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”
The word for day here in Genesis is the Hebrew word “Yom“. I am no Hebrew scholar, but from my studies I would argue that the meaning of Yom in ancient Hebrew seems to be very similar to the English word “day”. By that I mean that just as the word “day” can mean 24 hours, the period of daylight, or an undetermined length of time so it is with the Hebrew word Yom. That said, I believe that the Bible is clear that the first six days of creation are 24 hour days and this is due to the following reasons.
- Though Yom can mean an undetermined amount of time it can also mean 24 hours, the question of which is determined by context.
- In the context we see that the words “evening” and “morning” are associated with the word “day”.
- The use of Cardinal Numbers in conjunction with day implies a closed set or series. This literary technique can be seen in other writings by Moses and usually refers to 24 hour days. (Lev 23:5)(Lev 23:6)(Lev 25:9)(Lev 23:24)(Lev 23:27)(Exo 12:3)(Num 29:1)
When we get to the “Seventh Day” we see a few things stand out.
- There is no association of “evening” and “morning” with the “seventh day”.
- There is no mention of an eighth day.
- The only thing that God seems to be resting from is creating a universe.
- We see no mention of other universes being created in scripture until the age to come (Rev 21:1).
To me the above imply the ending of the series with nothing that follows until the next age. Since “yom” can also mean an undetermined amount of time I believe we are still in the Seventh Day now.
For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.” Psa 95:10-11 ESV
We see above that the Psalmist is speaking of the 40 year sojourn through the wilderness and how they could not “enter” the rest. In Heb 4 when this verse is quoted we see that this is named as the Sabbath rest. My point is though that the Sabbath rest is something that can be entered into or entrance can be forbidden.
|Sabbath in the Old Covenant|
There is more than just a weekly Sabbath of (Exo 20:11) in the old covenant. In fact there are many Sabbaths with none lifted above any other in preeminence:
- Weekly feast of the Sabbath (Exo 20:11)
- New Moon Feasts (Num 28:11-15)
- Sabbath Year Feasts (Deu 15:1-11)
- Jubilee Feasts (Lev 25:9-52)
In several verses old testament and new all of the above including the weekly Sabbath are summarized as “festival, new mood, Sabbath day” to refer to the system as a whole. For a full listing and exegesis of Col 2:16 please click HERE. That said, in each Sabbath day, new moon, or feast the Israelites were to “enter into” the rest of God. I see no reason to believe that this rest ended in between each period of time like peaks and valleys, but rather that they were permitted to “enter into” an on-going rest.
Dale Ratzlaff summarizes this concept nicely in his Book Sabbath in Christ Page 72:
“Each of the Sabbaths pointed them forward with hope to the next sabbatical event. The seventh-day Sabbath was a weekly reminder of the coming seasonal Sabbaths. The seasonal Sabbaths were a reminder of the coming sabbatical year. The sabbatical year was a reminder of the coming Jubilee. This kept hope alive.”
As the ages past Israel built into its peak of power under the rule of David and Solomon, then later fell apart piece by piece into idolatry. During the time that the Israelites possessed the promised land the sabbatical year and the Jubilee were ignored. When the Israelites were taken into captivity the duration was actually the 70 years of Sabbath for the land that had been denied to it. So even though we don’t see these years being observed pointing to Christ, he made it happen anyway so that we would know how important it was.
To summarize, what we see in the Old Covenant Sabbaths is a type and shadow pointing to a greater anti-type fulfillment.
|Sabbath in the New Covenant|
Before the captivity Jeremiah issues the following Prophecy:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord.” Jer 31:31-32 ESV
In the New Testament we see the beginnings of the fulfillment of this prophecy. Specifically, when Jesus begins his ministry declaring the fulfillment of the year of Jubilee. Thus showing that the type and shadow of the Jubilee was pointing to the anti-type which is his ministry.
“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luk 4:16-21 ESV
The Old Covenant Sabbath proclaimed the ministry and gospel of Jesus Christ on this earth in type and shadow. In ancient times a nation of slaves received freedom from bondage and rest from labor in the type and shadow of the Sabbath. This is a lesser image of the fullness of Christ that we receive today.
Today we receive true rest from this world and freedom from sin and death in the broken and crucified body of Jesus Christ.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matt 11:28-30 ESV
We even see during the ministry of Jesus Christ that the Old Covenant types and shadows were fading away into obsolescence being replaced by the Glory of Christ.
Jesus Broke the Sabbath Day
“This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” John 5:18 ESV
Some SDA strenuously object to me using this verse above because they say I am calling Jesus Christ a sinner by quoting it. The fact is, this verse doesn’t say that the Pharisees thought Jesus broke the sabbath. Instead St. John under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit identifies the reasons for which they were stoning him as breaking the Sabbath and making himself equal with God. Both accusations are true, and the only reason that they are not sin is because Jesus is God and the Sabbath day had already faded into obsolescence at this point in the ministry of Christ.
Jesus touched a Leper
“While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him.” Luk 5:12-13 ESV
In old covenant law among other things it was required to go through ceremonial cleansing after touching a leper. In this instance Jesus Christ did in fact touch the leper and even healed him, but did not undergo the ritual of ceremonial cleansing. It is not as if he never obeyed old covenant law, he was even circumcised into the old covenant. However, by this point in his ministry the old covenant was already fading away into fulfillment that ceremonial cleansing was simply not a law anymore.
“And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Luk 22:20 ESV
If you wanted a date and time stamp for the full initiation of the new covenant here it is. Just as the old covenant was initiated with a meal (Exo 24:11) and blood (Exo 24:8) as type and shadow, so the new covenant is initiated with anti-type fulfillment in a last supper, the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, the true Passover Lamb provided by God.
|The New Covenant Sabbath is a Person|
As I stated above, the Sabbath rest still exists in heaven before, during, and after the Mosaic Covenant. Just as there was no covenant law for the Sabbath before Moses so there is none in Christ. Instead the Sabbath we enter now is Gospel rather than Law, the Body of Christ, true rest for our souls (Matt 11:29). Clearly specific days on a calendar are not in view at all in the New Covenant.
“One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.” Rom 14:5-6 ESV
“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” Col 2:16-17 ESV
Instead of specific days on a calendar pointing as shadows to an anti-type we have the fullness of Jesus Christ whom all the prophets spoke of:
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” Heb 1:1-2 ESV
“Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” Heb 3:1-6 ESV
Notice above the juxtaposition between Moses the servant and Jesus the son. This shows the superiority of Christ over Moses. To a Jew this would be a very big deal indeed. This is important in establishing other truths later pointed out in Hebrews.
Read this next piece of the same chapter carefully. You will see that the Jews were forbidden the Sabbath rest due to disobedience. He also warns us not to neglect our call to rest in Christ today. All emphasis is mine.
“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to SHARE IN CHRIST, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.” Heb 3:7-19 ESV
And now the punchline….
“Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.” Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Heb 4:1-7 ESV
Today is our Sabbath rest in the finished work of Christ. This juxtaposition rings clear in Hebrews.
One rest had more glory the other less.
One rest existed with Moses and the other was spoken later.
One rest could not be entered due to hardness of heart and the other is being offered today.
One is in the past the other is offered “today”.
One is a day and the other we “share in Christ“.
One “they shall not enter” the other “remains for some to enter”
One was on “the seventh day” the other is “today”.
Logically two things juxtaposed so strongly against each other are not the same exact thing. But rather in this case one was a prefigure for the other. Lest there be any confusion in Hebrews 8 and 9 the writer clearly spells out the disposition of the Old Covenant. Specifically in Heb 8:6-12 he quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34 noting that he is speaking of this prophecy as being fulfilled. Then in Heb 8:13 we see the following:
“In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” Heb 8:13 ESV
Lest there be any confusion the writer continues right on into chapter 9 and details what is included in the “obsolete” old covenant:
“Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.” Heb 9:1-5 ESV
Notice in verse 1 he restates that we are speaking of the old covenant. Then he continues to list the various items associated with it, to include the ten commandments in verse 4 and then a general statement with which to cover everything else not mentioned in verse 5. I would argue that this covers the rest of the Torah rather than listing it out in detail. Ultimately this shows the error that Sabbatarians fall into, they argue that the Ten Commandments carry the Sabbath into the new covenant but that cannot be if the Ten Commandments are made obsolete along with the rest of the Torah as stated here in Hebrews.
In the new covenant we turn to the Law of Christ spoken of by Paul (1 Cor 9:20-22)(Gal 6:2) of which can be defined nicely with the Ten Commandments. That said, we dont use Exodus 20 prescriptively we instead use the teachings of Christ and the apostles. Its a fine line theologically speaking, but due to these complexities it has been easy for groups like the SDA to pull the wool over the eyes of the laity.
You can read more about the proper way of understanding the Ten Commandments HERE, notice that the author in that link teaches them from a new covenant perspective.
The sad thing is that in their confusion Sabbatarians obfuscate the blessings of the new covenant Sabbath rest in Christ spoken of in Hebrews 1-4. The Sabbath in the New Covenant is not Law, its Gospel. The Gospel of Christ crucified for our sins, conquering sin and death in his glorious Resurrection. In the New Covenant we rest in his completed work, for it truly is “finished” just as Jesus said on the cross.