There are many points in the Bible about which there is a lack of understanding or acceptance among nonbelievers and believers alike. One point is the Sabbath. What is the meaning and purpose of the Sabbath? Is the Sabbath Saturday or Sunday, or is it any day that one chooses to rest on? Is the Sabbath relevant today? What is the actual seventh day of the week?
There are several religious groups who believe that the Sabbath is Saturday, and those who worship on Sunday are breaking the Law of God. Seventh-Day Adventists, Seventh-Day Baptists, Hebrew Israelites, Seventh-day Pentecostals, and others teach that it is necessary to keep the Sabbath in order to be saved, insisting that we are still under the law. Believers today continue to dispute whether Christians are required to honor the Sabbath. I hadn't really given it much thought until I received a video from someone about the Sabbath. Then, in Bible study that same day, we were studying John chapter five, and the subject of the Sabbath came up again. During Bible Study, God pointed out something to me, which caused me to go home and study more on the subject that I want to share here. It is not my intent to prove one is right or wrong, whether the Sabbath is Saturday or Sunday. I want to show, as the title says, that Jesus is our Sabbath rest, with the Word of God, of course.
The word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word sabat, which means "to rest or stop or cease from work." The origin of the Sabbath goes back to Creation. In Genesis 2:1-3 we read:
"(1) Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. (2) And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. (3) Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made."
When we read a little further back in Genesis chapter one, we see that the prior six days end with the words, "And the evening and the morning were the (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th) day." However, we do not find the words "evening" and "morning" in the description of the seventh day. Man was made, and then God rested, and there has been no creation since. So, the seventh day's lack of "evening and morning" in Genesis was about the end of creating. Therefore, the Sabbath rest upon which God entered is still continuing today.
The scripture says after six days of creative work, God ceased from His labors. He did no work between the end of creation and the fall of man, except for His sustaining work. When the Jews criticized and accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath for healing the lame man at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath, He replied: "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working" (John 5:17). His point was that by performing a deed of mercy on the sabbath day He was merely imitating His Father who was continually active in mercy and love on His Sabbath day. God had stopped creating, but he was still busy in many ways. Thus, the Sabbath means that God's creative activity has ended.
After the mention in the creation account, there is no mention of the Sabbath until God instituted the covenant of the Law 430 years after He made the covenant of grace with Abraham (Genesis 12–17). In Exodus chapter 20, God said the Israelites were to rest from their labors one day out of every seven, and they were to give the same day of rest to their servants and animals:
“(8) “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. (9) Six days you shall labor and do all your work, (10) but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. (11) For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. − Exodus 20:8-11
God gave Israel the Sabbath command so that they would remember His creation work and His work of deliverance (Exodus 20:11, Ezekiel 20:12). The Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law were given to Israel to show them (and the other nations) how God’s covenant people were to live. They constantly labored trying to obey the numerous do’s and don’ts of the Law to make themselves acceptable to God. They couldn’t keep all the do’s and don’ts of the Law so God provided several sin offerings and sacrifices which would allow them to come to Him for forgiveness and restore fellowship with Him, but it was only temporarily. When Jesus came, everything changed. He eliminated the priesthood and all the sacrifices once and for all.
I am constantly amazed at God’s wisdom. The more I study the Word of God, the more I realize how brilliant He is in giving us types and shadows of Christ throughout the Old Testament. Shadows point to something else. When you see a shadow, you know there is something casting it. Jesus is the substance casting the shadow. A type and shadow in scripture is a person or thing in the Old Testament that foreshadows a person or thing in the New Testament. A few examples are:
Jesus Himself told the Pharisees in John chapter 5, "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life." Look what Hebrews 9:8-10 tells us, "8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing 9 (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10 but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.
Like most of the ceremonial laws of Moses had New Testament antitypes, the Bible calls the Sabbath a shadow and an antitype. Hebrews 10:1 says, "For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect."
Hebrews 10:12, says "But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God." Jesus after performing the ultimate sacrifice, ceased from His labor of atonement.
Colossians 2:16-17 says, "So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ." Paul says we shouldn’t let anyone judge us for keeping the Sabbath, and we shouldn’t let anyone judge us for not keeping the Sabbath. The reason is that the Sabbath was a shadow of something to come. The substance, or the thing that the Sabbath was pointing to, is Jesus Christ. The Sabbath is only a picture of the true and greater rest found in Christ (Hebrews 3:7-4:11).
Because of what Jesus did, we no longer have to "labor" in law-keeping in order to be justified in the sight of God. Because of Jesus, we can rest in God and in what He has provided. Jesus is our rest, so it doesn’t matter whether you go to corporate worship on Saturday or on Sunday, because that’s not what really matters. What really matters is that you find your rest in Christ! And you can (and should) do that every day of the week!
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