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The Sabbath (3)

The Sabbath was given to Israel alone, according to the scriptures. Sunday is never called the Sabbath and is not the Christian Sabbath. Further, the New Testament tells us that the Sabbath, along with the rest of the Mosaic Laws, were a shadow of the things to come in Christ (cf. Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 10:1). In this final article we will examine what the Sabbath shadow was pointing to in Christ.

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. 2 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.

3 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. 4 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5 And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.”

6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 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.”

8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:1–13 ESV)

The writer of Hebrews weaves together an amazing point about the Sabbath rest. God established his eternal rest at the end of creation and invited Israel to enter it. However, Israel failed to enter that promised rest because of their disobedience (4:1-2,6). Therefore, God intended for his people to join him in that rest. The writer of Hebrews ties two scriptures together in verses 4 and 5 to argue that God began his rest at the end of creation but it does not say that the rest ended or that God resumed the work of creation. Therefore, the rest must continue on, yet Israel failed to enter the promised rest.

God’s purposes will not be frustrated or thwarted. Therefore, the promise of entering the rest still remains because the failure of the wilderness generation means others must enter. Further, the writer of Hebrews uses Joshua to point out that if the land of Canaan had been the promised rest, then he would not have spoken of rest later (4:8). Also, after entering and conquering the land of Canaan, David also speaks of entering the promised rest in the future (4:7). The land could not have been the fulfillment of the Sabbath rest otherwise David would not have encouraged the people to enter that rest and not harden their hearts in Psalm 95:11. The reason David said “Today” was because the rest was still available for the people to enter.

Verse 9 gives us our instructions. There still remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. Entering into God’s eternal rest is still available through the sacrifice of Jesus. This is what the Sabbath day command to Israel was foreshadowing. It was looking forward to the day when we would be at rest with God. Notice that this is the point the writer of Hebrews makes. We enter the eternal rest with God when we rest from our works (die) (4:10). So we must strive to enter that rest and give every effort to attain eternal comfort with the Lord so that we do not miss out on it like the previous people of God did. They did not receive that eternal rest because they were not united by faith (4:2) and were disobedient (4:6).

Verse 12 tells us that the tool we must use to assist us in entering into that rest is the word of God. The word of God is living and active. It is able to cut to the soul to purge us of our lack of faith and exposes the thoughts and intentions of our heart. The promise of rest with God still stands. Take the word of God and use it to examine your heart and your actions. Purge the sin from your life and make changes to be conformed to the image of Christ. This is the Sabbath rest we long. This is the Sabbath rest that the faithful in Christ will experience when they rest from their works.

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