Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Sabbath Rest of Hebrews 4

Back on February 22, 2010, I wrote a little piece called "How Is the Sabbath Fulfilled". This post is somewhat of a companion piece to that post. And this will likely be my last post on the topic of the Sabbath.

Predating Sinai

(EXO. 20: 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.

Many people have said to me, "See? The Sabbath day was made by God in the creation week." Their point is to argue that if something predated the Old Covenant, then it is still binding (something never taught in the Bible).
Is it not also the case that animal sacrifice was practiced by Abel, Noah, Abraham, and the Israelites before the Exodus? And yet animal sacrifice is not binding on us today. Is it not also true that circumcision was given to Abraham? And yet circumcision is not binding on us today. So the predating argument is not a valid one.

But does the weekly Sabbath day predate the giving of the law at Sinai?
An interesting fact is that most Jews - to whom the Torah was given and who have studied and written about it beyond extensively for over 3,000 years - do not believe that the Sabbath predated Sinai. They believe the Sabbath is a special command given to them to set them apart as a peculiar people. The Sabbaths were a sign of participation in the Old Covenant (EXO. 31: 12). I tend to agree with them in this. Rather, they believe that Noah was given understanding of a small set of seven laws collectively known as the Noachide Laws.
I find it interesting that so many thousands of people [the Sabbatarians] would cling so ferociously to a claim that sprang up quite recently (within the past 400-500 years), about which they have no historical evidence, and rest their entire claim on one verse (EXO. 20: 11), even while the people who should know best on this topic [the Jews] disagree with them on it.

Two Rests

(EXO. 16: 23) Then he said to them, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake today, and boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning.’”

This is the very first time the word "Sabbath" appears in the Bible. Even though God rested on the seventh day of creation and hallowed it, it was never described as a Sabbath. People conflate the creation rest with the weekly Sabbath rest, but I argue this is improperly done. In fact, I have Biblical evidence to support my claim.

(HEB. 3: 11) So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’
(HEB. 3: 18-19) 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

Who does God swear shall not enter His rest? The unfaithful Israelites, of course! And this after they were given the Sabbath command. These were people observing the weekly Sabbath rest, yet being told that they will not enter God's rest.

(HEB. 4: 4-5) 4 For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; 5 and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.”

If the rest of the weekly Sabbath were the same rest of creation, how could it be that the people who have the Sabbath rest do not enter into God's rest? It cannot be.

(HEB. 4: 8) For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day.

So we see that there is another day spoken of!
An on this other day there still remains a rest for people to enter in to:

(HEB. 4: 1-3) 1 Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. 3 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’” although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
(HEB. 4: 9-10) 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.

Notice how we enter it - by faith! By faith, not by physical rest nor by works of law. For the law is not faith (GAL. 3: 12).

So, I argue that there was a rest on the seventh day of creation, and there is a rest in the weekly Sabbath, I even argue that the weekly Sabbath was created as a reminder of the creation rest, but I argue that they are not the same rest, as Sabbatarians claim they are.

What Do You Mean "Rest"

Let's take this idea of two rests even farther. I want you to think about the kind of rests we are talking about here.

What kind of rest was the weekly Sabbath? It was a physical rest from work (EXO. 20: 9-10; DEU. 5: 14). We were also told in Armstrongism that on the Sabbath we were to rest from anything that was our own will and from anthing that was sinful and we were to dedicate the day to God (ISA. 58: 13). We were also taught that the Sabbath was an appointment that God had made with us to appear before Him and be in His presence (HOS. 22: 11). I'm not necessarily disagreeing here. I just wanted it stated what kind of rest we have in the weekly Sabbath.

But now apply your imagination a while. Stretch back in time and place yourself in the Garden of Eden with Adam. What kind of rest do you suppose Adam and Eve enjoyed in Paradise before the fall?
Adam had a garden to tend, but no hard toil to rest from like we have (this is before Genesis 3: 9). In our day, people who tend a garden but have no regular toil are called "retired."
Adam had no sin or self-centered activity to cease from. Adam was perpetually in God's presence; not even so much as a stitch of clothing separated him from God. This was no mere physical rest.
How long do you suppose this rest lasted? One day? Bah!

(GEN. 2: 1-3) 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.

Notice anything missing?
Where is, "So the evening and the morning were the seventh day"? It's not there. Have you ever wondered why not?
If these are literal 24-hour periods being spoken about here, then we know for a fact that the seventh day had an evening and a morning and then came the next day. Please indulge me in a little speculation. I believe that regardless of whether or not the seventh day came to an end, the rest begun on the seventh day did not end until the fall. It lasted until the fall. It was sin that separated man from God, brought in the curse of hard labor, created the need for God to offer the first animal sacrifice to cover mankind's nakedness, and sealed our need for a Savior. Until the fall, however - and no one knows when this was - the creation rest kept going and going.

What rest and what communion did Adam and Eve have then? They had a perpetual and true rest, satisfying for their very souls!

These two rests bear only a surface resemblance to each other. The weekly Sabbath rest is a mere wisp of the creation rest. Like the memory of a dream, quickly fading away. A shadow.
No, dear reader, the two rests indeed are not the same.

Time Distortions

There is a second, much more vaporous thing going on here. It is so subtle that even when I point it out to you, you may find it difficult to see. But first, I want to prove the idea out in an easier example before we move on to the more subtle one. Let's return to Exodus 20.

(EXO. 20: 8) Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Many Sabbatarians were convinced with little arguments like, "God said to 'remember the Sabbath'. How could they 'remember' something that didn't exist? So the Sabbath existed before that time." If you're reading this blog, certainly you've heard something like this.
Problem is, they forget that God said "remember the Sabbath" in Exodus 20, that is 4 chapters and several weeks after God began to introduce the Sabbath in Exodus 16. If the Red Sea crossing was on the third day after Passover, and if tradition is correct that the Sabbath command in Exodus 20 was given on Pentecost day, then the introduction of the weekly Sabbath in Exodus 16 could be as many as six weeks prior to the giving of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20. When God says, "Remember the Sabbath," He could very well be harking back to five or six weeks prior and not 2,300 years prior. Personally, I think an even more reasonable reading would be, "From this point forward, remember..."
My point is, it is nothing but an assumption that God was indicating the Sabbath existed since creation when He said "remember."

So, what do we have here? We have a distortion of timing. People see "remember" in Exodus 20, and transport that idea back a book and a half - 2,300 years - to Genesis 2 in an improper manner, ignoring Exodus 16 as they go. Why insist on this? Because they need this particular interpretation in order to support their predetermined conclusion that the weekly Sabbath is from creation. Because they've been told the Sabbath is from creation, therefore they demand this specific interpretation - not because of the weight of evidence, nor because it is the most reasonable interpretation based on the evidence (in fact they conclude this in spite of the evidence). It is a calculated distortion of the timing in the Bible.

That is the first example. Now, let's see that more difficult one.

(EXO. 20: 11a) 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. [STOP]

Let's pause where the idea pauses. In six days the LORD created and in the seventh day He rested. This is a complete idea unto itself. Now, let's go to the rest of the verse:

(EXO. 20: 11b) Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. [STOP]

Sabbatarians read these verses and conclude,
"Because God rested on the seventh day of creation in Genesis 2, therefore the weekly Sabbath day was blessed and hallowed in Genesis 2."
But I want to ask you to consider this another way,
"Because God rested on the seventh day of creation in Genesis 2, therefore the weekly Sabbath day was blessed and hallowed in Exodus 20."

Do you see the difference? Perhaps if I paraphrase, it will make more sense. "The LORD rested on the seventh day of the creation week; this is why he has at this time chosen the seventh day of the week to be the weekly Sabbath."

Who is to say one reading is better than the other? The evidence must be weighed out from what we can collect in other places. We must let the Bible interpret the Bible.

Details From Deuteronomy

As we've already seen, the weekly Sabbath day is not the same kind of rest as the seventh day of creation. The weekly Sabbath rest is a memorial of the creation rest, but it is not the same quality and potency of rest as the perpetual creation rest.
I argue that God explains in Exodus 20 why He set the timing of the weekly Sabbath rest as He did. It was set as it was to be a memorial of the creation rest. This is an explanation of the timing only; the when. But I also argue that God does not there explain the reason why he made the weekly Sabbath in the first place.

In Deuteronomy 5, Moses reviews the Ten Commandments as given on Mount Sinai. Verses 12-15 discuss the Sabbath command. In verse 15 we see this detail:

(DEU. 5: 15) And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

Isn't that interesting? If Exodus 20: 8 tells us about why God chose to time the Sabbath day as He did, here we see the reason why God instituted the Sabbath day in the first place.

Now, if it is true that the Exodus was symbolic of Christ redeeming us from slavery to sin, then this adds another wonderful dimension to the memorial. The Sabbath looked forward to the time when Christ redeemed us from sin, while it also looked backward to the days before sin entered in.

Known By The Patriarchs?

As a necessary consequence of believing the weekly Sabbath and the remainder of the Ten Commandments were from creation (how Adam and Eve, alone in the Garden of Eden in perfect communion with God, could have stolen or coveted or committed adultery or had other gods is not explained), Sabbatarians also conclude that the Ten Commandments were known by the patriarchs. They cite Genesis 26: 5 as evidence. But is that verse even relevant, let alone the final word on the matter? Or was that verse taken out of context and proof-texted improperly? Deuteronomy 5 gives us some important clues to help us see that the Sabbatarian viewpoint has missed key details.
In Deuteronomy 5, Moses specifically says there was no agreement with the patriarchs regarding these things.

(DEU. 5: 3) The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, all of us who are alive.

Moses makes it abundantly plain that there was no agreement between God and the patriarchs regarding the Ten Commandments. So, how can the Adventist be so adamant that Moses was wrong? But Moses was not wrong. In all reality, if the Sabbath was known by the patriarchs, and was commanded from creation, then God had absolutely no reason for saying what He did in verse 15. It only makes sense if the patriarchs were not commanded to keep the Sabbath. And thus we see the claim is not based on Biblical evidence, but an improper leap of reasoning which I contend is derived from an improper starting point.

All of these things - two completely different rests, a stated reason that the weekly Sabbath was commanded because of the Exodus, and no prior agreement with any of the Patriarchs - lends weight to my claims above that God created the weekly Sabbath rest in Exodus 16-20, not in Genesis 2, and that God simply timed the weekly Sabbath rest as a memorial of Genesis 2, and therefore the Sabbatarians are distorting time once again by improperly moving what happened in Exodus all the way back to Genesis 2.


Now we have all of the pieces in place that I need to summarize my view.

There were two different rests. Adam and Eve enjoyed a perpetual rest in perfect communion with God until the fall. The rest now ended at the fall when man found himself separated from God, waiting for their Savior to come and heal the breach. So God prepared the lineage of our Savior. God prepared special vessels in that lineage, like Noah and Abraham, for special works until the time came to set aside the people of Israel for a certain lesson.
Adam and Eve lived under a perfect system of life until they chose death. The Tree of Life was open to them until they chose the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and were cast out. The Old Covenant and its laws and rituals is the ultimate expression of this system. It is "do or die." It was the "the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones" (II COR. 3: 7). This is explained in the post "Two Trees - Two Covenants". But mankind cannot "do" because of the wickedness of our hearts, so we died all the more (ROM. 5: 20). This was the lesson - "with man it is impossible" (MAT. 19: 26).

Woe is me! "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (ROM. 7: 24). Who will restore us to Eden? What is the fulfillment of the Sabbath?

In the post "Nailed to the Cross" I went over how the Sabbath is just a shadow that was cast by Christ. So the Sabbath looked back and the Sabbath looked forward.
"The law pointed a rebellious people in the direction of His righteousness until the fullness of time came for our Savior's first coming. When He came, the fullness of the Godhead came. We no longer need the shadow when we have such unspeakable fullness!"
"I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! " (ROM. 7: 25)
"But with God all things are possible" (MAT. 19: 26).

Jesus fulfilled it all. He lived as a Jew during the time of the Old Covenant in order to perfectly fulfill all the law and the prophets. He accomplished it all. On the cross He cried "It is finished!" ["Teleo": to end, that is, complete, execute, conclude, discharge (a debt)] (JON. 19: 30). Trust in this! The Old Covenant was abolished, its debts and requirements nailed to the cross, its power over us shattered in pieces in victory of holiness just as Moses cast the tablets to the ground and shattered them in pieces in disgust of sin. Now, Jesus has healed the breach. He has made propitiation for our sins and redeemed us. The Jews and Gentiles, separated under the Old law, are now made one in Him. We are His body; the temple of His Spirit. No more is there a need for an appointment when God's presence is always in us... and we in Him. The Old Covenant was obsoleted, abolished (HEB. 8: 13). Now there is a New Covenant in His blood, not like the Old. All things are made new (II COR. 5: 17). Trust in this!


So we ask, what is the fulfillment of the shadowy Sabbath and the restoration of the true rest enjoyed in Eden? Jesus Christ!

(MAT. 11: 28-29) 28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 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.

(EXO. 33: 14) And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

And we ask, when is the Sabbath rest that the faithful of the New Covenant enter in to? Today!

(HEB. 4: 7-) 7 again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.

And we ask, how do we rest from our works? Faith and Love!

(MAR. 12: 29-31) “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. 30 And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
(JON. 13: 34-35) 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
(JON. 15: 9-12) 9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
(JON. 15: 17) These things I command you, that you love one another.
(JON. 17: 26) And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.
(ROM. 5: 5) Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
(ROM. 13: 8) Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.
(ROM. 13: 19) For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
(ROM. 13: 10) Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
(I COR. 13: 1-7) 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
(I COR. 16: 13-14) 13 Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done with love.
(GAL. 5: 6) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
(GAL. 5: 14) For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
(GAL. 5: 22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness
(EPH. 3: 17-19) 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
(EPH. 5: 2) And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
(EPH. 6: 23) Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(COL. 3: 14) But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
(I THS. 5: 8) But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.
(I TIM. 1: 5) Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith
(I TIM. 1: 13) Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
(HEB. 10: 24) And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works
(JAS. 2: 8) If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well
(I PET. 4: 8) And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”
(I JON. 2: 10) He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.
(I JON. 3: 11) For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another
(I JON. 3: 23) And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.
(I JON. 4: 7-11) 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
(I JON. 4: 20-21) 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
(II JON. 1: 5-6) 5 And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another. 6 This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.

(JON. 15: 12) This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
(JON. 15: 17) These things I command you, that you love one another.

Because God is love, He is restoring all things to how it was in the Garden of Eden. It was impossible for man, who was barred by the fiery sword - but all things are possible with God! These things remain: faith, hope, and love (I COR. 3: 13). We have more to do. We have farther to go. We have yet to fully enter into that rest. But this is no longer a day of the week rest for the rump. No! It is a perpetual rest for the whole being. And when He comes, bringing the promises of Abraham with Him, we will receive the promise of eternal life in that rest, and He will be all in all.


It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11

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