Monday, February 22, 2010

How Is The Sabbath Fulfilled?

Very high on the list of things that trips up people and directs them towards law-keeping, I would say, is a deep misunderstanding of the 4th Commandment.

Herbert Armstrong used to say the only Commandment the world has a problem with is the 4th. I say the only Commandment Herbert Armstrong had a problem with is the 4th.

If all the law was magnified, then the 4th Commandment is no exception. Even so, Sabbatarians treat it as an exception. I would like to go into this 4th Commandment and explore how it was magnified.
But I'm going to do that in a round-about way. I'm going to build a case. If you will be so kind to bear with my rambling, we will get there together eventually.

God prophesied that Old Covenant would not be kept (DEU. 31: 16-22). He knew the people of the Covenant would fail to keep their side of the bargain. I would go so far as to say that in our time the Old Covenant cannot be kept by man... and God knew it before He instituted it. He designed it that way.

See how Hebrews says it was only a shadow of things to come (HEB. 10: 1); even the Sabbath and Holy days were but shadows of things to come (COL. 2: 16-17). See how II COR. 3: 7-8 claims the glory of the Old Covenant was passing away even as Moses descended Mt. Sinai with the tablets in hand. See how even Deuteronomy 30: 1-6 preaches the New Covenant while it prophecies the failure of the Old. See how even Genesis itself is packed with prophecies of Christ, starting with 3: 15. None of these things came as a surprise to God. The Old was destined to fail - it was designed to be temporary!

We are always taught, "the Lord changes not, and therefore the law is not changed." But here's the thing about that.... since the Lord's plan was the New Covenant all along, it isn't the Old law that changes not. It's God who changes now. One reason why people think the law is unchanged is because they perceive it to have come first. But that is simply not the case, as we can see God's intention all along was the New Covenant.

To follow up on a few details in this regard, if the Lord changes not, then the Logos could not divest Himself of divine privilege and possession of all things, change to become a man with no place to rest His head, change to become a dead man, and finally change to become a resurrected man who now possesses all things through inheritance. Even if you don't believe Jesus is the Logos and eternally existed, the Father was once not a Father and now has Jesus as His only begotten Son. But even still this is not really a direct answer to how the Lord changes not. Let's look at what is.

Malachi 3: 6 actually says this, "For I am the LORD, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob." This verse has been abducted from its context and abused by many groups. It regards the hope of the Jews, not some eternal continuation of the Old Covenant law.
It is evident that it is the Lord's eternal nature that does not change. And by that I mean His eternal loving nature which includes His patience. Read Malachi 3: 1-6, these are verses about the coming of the Messiah. Who could stand His refinement? We know now the only ones who could were the ones who poured out their trust into Jesus the Christ. Yet even those Jews who rejected Him will not be utterly consumed. As we see to this day there are still Jews; religious and racial. There is still immense love from God towards the Jews. There is still coming much more prophetically to be fulfilled regarding the Jews. Since we have these promises from Him, and since He is love and His patience is beyond our understanding, God will not change His mind regarding the Jews, He will never relent, therefore they are not altogether consumed, nor will they ever be. This is the meaning of Malachi 3: 6 - in its proper context!

Perhaps the unchanging nature of God is not what we should focus on right now. Perhaps I should address this supposed unchanging nature of the law instead. I have heard from so very many seventh-day Sabbath keepers that the God's law is unchanging. Let's focus on that a bit.

If the law is unchanging, what about circumcision? Circumcision is the gateway to entering into the Covenant and thus was mandatory before entering into the law. Circumcision was given to Abraham (GEN. 17: 10) four hundred and thirty years before the law was given to Moses (GAL. 3: 17), Paul even had Timothy circumcised to avoid offending the Jewish converts (ACT. 16: 3), yet circumcision is not at all commanded for us, especially the Gentile converts (ROM. 2: 28-29; ROM. 4: 9-12; GAL. 5: 2-6; GAL. 6: 12-15). This is but one example yet it proves the law is changeable after all and has been changed.

"But the 10 Commandments are different. The Sabbath was from creation, and it also appears in prophecy," I am told. Thus, all Armstrongists that I speak with will have qualified what law they believe by saying something like, "At least we should be keeping the 10 Commandments."
I remind the reader that meats laws, tithes, and Holy Days are not of the 10 Commandments. So, even if the weekly Sabbath law was from creation - which it is not - none of those other things are implied. And thus, all Armstrongists that I speak with then begin once again to expand upon the law beyond the 10 Commandments to include these other items, thus proving statements like "At least we should be keeping the 10 Commandments" carry no weight even within Armstrongism.
The inconsistency in Armstrongism never ceases to amaze me.

Let's get a real good look at the root argument that if something predates the Exodus then it is in force today. Let's look at animal sacrifice.

God "sacrificed" a couple of animals to make clothes for Adam and Eve (GEN. 3: 21). This foreshadowed the blood of animals being unable to properly cover mankind's sin. Abel sacrificed animals (GEN. 4: 4; HEB. 11: 4). Noah sacrificed animals (GEN. 8: 20). Abraham sacrificed animals (GEN. 22: 13). Israel practiced animal sacrifice prior to the Exodus (EXO. 5: 3). Ergo, animal sacrifice was from the beginning. But is it still commanded today? No.
Now, let’s go farther.
Read Ezekiel 40-46 and see the description of a future temple in prophecy. See all of the places where animal sacrifice, and sacrifices of other kinds, will again occur. I’ll give you a few specific verses (EZE. 40: 38-43; EZE. 44: 10-11, 30; EZE. 46: 19-24). According to Armstrongist interpretation of prophecy, animal sacrifice has a place in out future. But is animal sacrifice commanded for us today? No.
What have we demonstrated, then? If something predates the Exodus, even if it also appears in prophecy, it does not necessarily mean it is in force for us today. And therefore that root argument is wiped out. To say, "the Sabbath was from the beginning" (even though it was not) proves nothing.

We are always taught Jesus promised us the law cannot change until the New Heaven and New Earth. We got that from misreading two verses:

(MATT. 5: 17-18) 17 Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

Now, what do these verses say? "One jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled." Right? Nothing may change from the law until all are fulfilled, right? Not so much as one jot or tittle, not one iota or keraia; not the slightest stroke of the pen. Right?
Here is where we missed the mark: "till heaven and earth pass away." We concluded that this is not an idiomatic expression at all, but a direct statement of time - in other words, we said, "Heaven and Earth have not passed, so the law is not fulfilled." We followed that up with, "Tithing, meats laws, the 10 Commandments, and the Holy Days will not be changed in the least until the New Heaven and the New Earth." But it doesn't say just those things, it says not one jot or one tittle of the entire law. Not one thing! Now look:

(HEB. 7: 12) For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.

A change in the law? But I was under the impression that not one jot or tittle could in any way pass from the law. Not one jot or one tittle! 

But the law was changed, ergo, all must already be fulfilled. And most assuredly, if all was not fulfilled, not one jot or one tittle would in any way be changed in the law until literally Heaven and Earth pass away. But there it is, right there in Hebrews 7: 12. There is no other conclusion possible but that all were fulfilled - even the laws regarding meats, tithes, Holy Days, and the 10 Commandments... including the weekly Sabbath.

We do not have the luxury of saying "the law was changed," and also saying "the law was not changed!" If the law was not changed, then Jesus Christ is not our High Priest and we are still dead in our sins. Then the laws mandating three pilgrimages to the place where the Lord places His name are still 100% binding, as is building booths at the Feast of Booths (though few reading this, who bound themselves to the law, have ever kept these mandates.) Also, the laws regarding animal sacrifices and circumcision are still binding. As well as other such laws, like cleanliness regulations, New Moons, land Sabbaths, Jubilee Years, separation of Jew and Gentile, Levitical and Aaronic Priesthoods and the Temple regulations, even not suffering a witch to live - all 613 laws in the Torah - are still very much binding.
If the law was not changed, then our righteousness is in our own efforts at law-keeping and not in the righteousness of Christ attributed to us by faith, the law is still our only route to a relationship with God which defies Christ's as that route, and thus we have all fallen from grace and made His sacrifice of no effect!
God forbid!!

We are always taught Jesus only came to preach against the man-made additions to the law - in other words, we said He came to remove the Talmud - but by this point you should be abundantly aware that Jesus changed much more than just the Talmud. Circumcision is not Talmud. The Levitical Priesthood is not Talmud. Tearing down the wall of separation between Jew and Gentile is not Talmud.
Please look with me at the whole evidence.

The people to whom the law was given didn't keep it in the raw state when it was first given, and Saul was blameless in the keeping of it when towards the end they had heaped and piled regulation upon regulation onto it - yet neither way was acceptable to God. Why didn't God correct people immediately? Ah!
Because they were doing what He intended them to do all along.
And He intended them to fail so that we could learn a lesson that no man can possibly match God's righteousness, so that in the failure of the Old Covenant people others could be grafted in (ROM. 11: 18-24), to show a pattern for all to follow (I TIM. 1: 16), so that no man could boast in His presence except about Christ (ROM. 4: 2; EPH. 2: 9; GAL. 6: 14), and so that He could have mercy on us all (ROM. 11: 30-32; TIT. 2: 14; I TIM. 4: 10) according to the promise given to Abraham (ROM. 4: 16) that we inherit through faith in Christ (HEB. 6: 13-18; GAL. 3: 14, 22; EPH. 3: 6; 2 TIM. 1: 1).
The Jews were not destroyed in spite of the law because the Lord changes not (MAL. 3: 6). The Gentiles are saved apart from the law because law cannot nullify the promise (GAL. 3: 17-19), as the promise is not of the law (ROM. 4: 13-16).

You see, the New Covenant was always intended. In order to understand anything at all we must first and foremost realize that this is all for God's glory (ROM. 11: 36). Not ours! And this leads us farther into the substance of how the Sabbath was fulfilled.

Ask yourself, what is the substance that cast the Sabbath shadow (COL. 2: 16-17)? Jesus Christ! And He has been glorified, and He will glorify Himself again. The whole law and prophets were fulfilled in Christ Jesus!
I still believe what I wrote in an earlier post titled "Common Legalist Arguments part IV":

(MATT. 17: 1-8) 1 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” 6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. 7 But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” 8 When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

Why do I quote these verses? Well, you may not have had these verses explained to you in quite this way before (and why would you; these verses were always read as part of a prescribed manner of prophetic interpretation as taught by HWA), but in tradition, Moses represents the law and Elijah represents the prophets. Here we have a vision of Jesus being glorified greatly beyond the law and the prophets. Our Lord speaks with them, and the scene is covered up by a cloud. From that cloud comes a powerful and commanding voice from the Father who says, "This is My beloved Son... Hear Him!" Not, "Hear the law". Not, "Hear the prophets". But hear Christ! When the cloud dissipated, there was Jesus standing alone; the law and the prophets gone. They were a shadow of Him. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets!

He filled the law and the prophets up to the full. Even the Sabbath.

(MATT. 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.

(COL. 2: 10) and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

To further fill in how the weekly Sabbath was magnified, let us read a quote from Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho [emphasis mine]:
The new law requires you to keep perpetual sabbath, and you [Jews], because you are idle for one day, suppose you are pious, not discerning why this has been commanded you: and if you eat unleavened bread, you say the will of God has been fulfilled. The Lord our God does not take pleasure in such observances: if there is any perjured person or a thief among you, let him cease to be so; if any adulterer, let him repent; then he has kept the sweet and true sabbaths of God.”
From the very beginning this was understood, but we have lost it because of error stemming from lack of faith. Don't you see what Jesus did? Don't you see how He fulfills the weekly Sabbath of temporary physical rest (if physical exercise avails only a little, then what of physical rest?) with a perpetual Sabbath of true, lasting, beneficial spiritual rest?
He finished the work of salvation, then He sat down [on His throne].
He sat down.
We can sit down with Him. We can rest in Him from working to earn salvation.

The argument that the weekly Sabbath was from creation is false. But on the seventh day there was a rest, hallowed and sanctified, and until sin entered in that rest was perpetual! If Jesus brought us back to creation, it was not to the weekly Sabbath that we come, but to a perpetual rest - with and in Him -- by faith.

Genesis 1 ends like this: "So the evening and the morning were the sixth day." But Genesis 2 does not! There is no such statement for the seventh day. The rest outlasted merely one day of the week. There was no sin yet to rest from, there was no curse of hard labor as of yet to rest from... this is true and perpetual spiritual rest. Man walked with God daily and talked with God and learned from God in beautiful, perpetual communion. Not even clothes separated man from God. It was interrupted by the first Adam, but restored again in the second Adam. Paul confirms this in Romans:

(ROM. 5: 18-21) 18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. 20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

And this is precisely how God knew it would be! These things were finished before the foundation of the world (HEB 4: 3). If we go back to the beginning, we only arrive again at Christ. It was interrupted, but it has again returned full circle to Christ. All things find their fullness in Christ Jesus.
The creation rest, our "Promised Land", remains for us to enter into, as we see in Hebrews 3 & 4. The anonymous author of Hebrews tells us when we should rest:

(HEB. 3: 13) but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
(HEB. 4: 6-7) 6 Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, 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.”

This is the day that the Lord has made (PSA 118: 24). Today! Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Now. Always.
Therefore, Paul says this:

(COL. 2: 16-17) 16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

So, long story short, God planned the New Covenant all along. The seventh day of creation began a perpetual rest in a "Promised Land" paradise of Eden. Man ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, so God implemented a system based on that. He implemented the Old Covenant, a system of discerning good from evil, as a tutor to point to Christ until the time for fulfillment came. He overlooked in times past because it was time to overlook. He was making a point. Christ the Fulfillment had to come before there could be fulfillment. Those things of the Old Covenant were true at that time, but only as true as a shadow is true. So, the prophets of old did not lie when they preached. Each one of them expected a fulfillment, so they did not lie and then learn the truth, rather they spoke as they understood and they knew that things were incomplete. Just as incomplete as expecting a temporary, physical salvation at the time of the first coming is incomplete when compared to the eternal, spiritual salvation we receive through faith in Christ. Just as incomplete as a weekly physical rest is incomplete when compared to a perpetual spiritual rest in Christ. When Christ came, a system based on the Tree of Life was implemented. It was planned this way. And it is all to His glory.
...If you will accept it.
I pray God blesses you with a heart to accept it, and speeds you into His New Covenant in Christ.

In closing, I want to give you a short, real-life story about the difference between grace and the law. This is a true story.

This past weekend at the church I attend, the Pastor brought an older woman and her adult son on stage. She had spent years of her life with kidney disease and had to suffer through dialysis 3 times a week. It is painful. It is repetitive. But when the kidneys cannot filter the blood, there is no alternative; even with dialysis the end is early death. The Pastor asked her to describe the process. She said the day of dialysis she would be exhausted to uselessness. The day after dialysis, she would feel like she was going to be alright. The third day, it started again. But without it she would die painfully.
The Pastor turned to her son. Earlier last year he donated one of his kidneys to his mother so she could live and spend her golden years in hope without dialysis. It was a hard decision. He faced death; he faced complications from the procedure; he faced a change of life from having only one kidney. He did it anyway. She was worth it. No greater love could he find in himself than to give part of his life for the woman that gave him that life. It worked. She no longer needs dialysis. Both of them are now healthy.
The woman, smiling from ear to ear, related how, for the first time in her life, she had the time and energy to go and participate in Christian missionary work. She broke into tears speaking about it. The freedom which that one act of kindness from her son afforded her had changed every single aspect of her life. One donation, once, changed everything and freed her from that repetitive process that could never bring her real health. Her thankfulness was without question.
There was not a dry eye in the audience. The Pastor, barely able to contain his own flood of emotion, turned to the congregation and explained that this is a metaphor for the grace we receive from God's giving of His only begotten Son for us. The Pastor then asked, how can we possibly believe that after all He has done for us, God still demands we return to dialysis [the law]?

He does not.

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


Luc said...

Genesis 1 ends like this: "So the evening and the morning were the sixth day." But Genesis 2 does not! There is no such statement for the seventh day. The rest outlasted merely one day of the week.

Awesome observation xHWA. Combined with (HEB. 3: 13) but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,”.

This is a precedent for a day referring to a larger span, or in this case, any time the voice of God is heard,not just the technical 24 hour period.

Well it's always today. But Seriously, the definition of the word for day includes that it can be used for an undefined period of time

_Strongs___H3117 yowm yome

from an unused root meaning to be hot;
a day (as the warm hours), whether literal (from sunrise to sunset, or from one sunset to the next), or figurative (a space of time defined by an associated term),

xHWA said...

Thanks, Luc.

I thank God for leading me to such an understanding of what He has been doing. It is all for God's glory.

I also owe you a great many thanks!

"The best explanation I have ever heard was that God will make the nations that attacked Israel live like His people whom they hated."

Amy said...

I've just stubbled upon your blog yesterday while searching out "support" for people trying to move on from COG views. I first read quite a bit on "The Painful Truth," but found it a bit atheist or anti-God. I admit to initially being turned off by religion or anything relating to God when I first left, I think growing up in WWCG and then UCG does that to people. I am now starting to do my own Bible study, which at times, can be very frustrating trying to get over what's been pounded into my head over the years. Thank you so much for the information you've posted! Keep it up!

xHWA said...


Your one small paragraph has done more for us here at ABD than we can articulate. To God's credit, we find the strength to continue because we literally believe that if we help only one of His lost and hurt children, then it was all worth it. You have made it all worth it. Thank you!

If we can be of any help, or any comfort, then thanks go to God, but we sure appreciate your visit here. Feel free to email us, too.

You say you've had a rocky time after you left. Amy, you're not at all alone. I think every last one of us has had a horrible time leaving Armstrongism. I want to warn you that this will last for a while, yet. But you've found some companions here. You're not alone. And we recommend you also stop by the Exit and Support Network. There is a lot there that can help you pull out of the funk Herbert Armstrong got us into.

I pray God bless you, and prosper your studies, and begin to fill your heart with the joy He has filled my heart with in the grace of Christ Jesus and the rock-solid assurance of salvation in Jesus. Because He lives, we will live. God bless you!!

Thank you so much! You've made my whole week.

Amy said...

Thank you for your kind words. By the way, after re-reading my post... stubbled = stumbled. :)
Yes, I am preparing myself for a rough journey. But, with God, all things are possible, right? The hardest part is that my daughters (who are young, ages 8-11-14) still attend UCG with their father and view me as lost or "in satan's hands now." They don't understand how I can be feeling Christ's love now that I've left God's "one true church." However, they are starting to see me "happy," which they've never seen before. I really struggled with depression in my previous life (growing up WWCG/UCG), I think that Armstongism almost makes it impossible to feel God's love and understand grace.
When you say I can email you all with questions, what emails are you referring to?... I've been looking all over the site. When ever I come across a question- I wish I had someone who can answer it, especially someone who has a similar background and knows where I'm coming from (besides my church pastor, who's been overloaded with questions from me over the past few months! :)

Amy said...

Nevermind, I found the emails! Thanks! :)