The Herald of Jehovah's Kingdom
The Herald of Jehovah's Kingdom
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.
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Themes Archive

 
The Sabbath, In Shadow and Reality
 
    In six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed." (Exodus 31:17) His resting or desisting from work was because he had accomplished his creative work as he had purposed. Hence he ceased from his creative work as respects the earth. At such a height of accomplishment he surveyed his finished earthly work; and "God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good". (Genesis 1:31) For such a reason, then, Jehovah God could feel refreshed. That is, he could enjoy the exhilarating pleasure of having accomplished his will. Only as regards our earth did he desist from creative activity, having finished his work on it to the extent that he desired. It is neither reasonable nor Scriptural to think that he halted operations as respects all the rest of his universe.
    "Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; . . . And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." (Genesis 2:1-3) This seventh "day" on which God desisted from his work toward our planet is not to be understood as a 24-hour day. This seventh day follows upon the preceding six days of creation. The Scriptural evidence is to the effect that all those six preceding days were much longer than 24 hours each. In fact, they were great periods of time thousands of years long. Measured by the length of the "seventh day", on which God desists from work and is refreshed, each of those days was 7,000 years long. Man being created toward the close of the sixth day, he was put on the earth toward the end of 42,000 years of earth's preparation. So in course of time the grand cycle of seven "days" will add up to 49,000 years. The Bible time-schedule indicates that slightly more than a thousand years of this great cycle remains yet to be run.
    Sha-vath' is the particular Hebrew word used at Genesis 2:1-3 and it is translated "rested". The English word sabbath is drawn from it. Certain religionists argue that there, at man's very beginning , God fastened the sabbath-day law upon his human creatures; and to their aid they call Genesis 2:1-3 as proof. Let such persons and all others take note that the day which God blessed and sanctified back there was no 24-hour day. We are yet in that "seventh day", because its time-length is equal to that of each of the six preceding days of creative work. The way the seventh-day sabbath-keeping religionists calculate, they claim man was made after the animals on the sixth 24-hour day of creation. If so, then the first full day of man's existence had to be a sabbath rest day for man without his having completed or even begun a week's work. So he rested before he began working. However, the Bible makes it plain that God's seventh day is longer than from sunset to sunset, just as the word day must mean more than a 24-hour period when Genesis 2:4 says: "These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that Jehovah God made earth and heaven." According to the Bible the "seventh day" is still continuing on the part of the Creator, Jehovah God.
    At the beginning of the seventh day God blessed it, pronouncing it good and to his glory and for the benefit of faithful creatures. At its ending, about a thousand years from now, the day will likewise be blessed; for the present evil conditions will then be entirely removed. He sanctified this day to his holy purpose. How? In that from its very beginning he ordained that it should vindicate him as the Creator of what is good and vindicate him as the Maintainer and Preserver of such good. And the end of this "seventh day" will yet prove that his original purpose in making this earth and putting man upon it has not been blocked but has been gloriously realized in full proof of his God-ship, supremacy and all-power. By the end of this "seventh day" the earth will be a beauteous paradise, everywhere like Eden's garden. It will be filled with righteous human creatures, all in harmony with the Creator and all acting as his representatives in having dominion over the birds, fishes, beasts, and other living things that creep upon the earth.
    When God blessed the perfect Adam and Eve and gave them his mandate to fill the earth with righteous offspring and to subdue the earth and have dominion over the lower living creatures, God included no command with reference to a sabbath-day observance. The temptation by Satan, and the sin by Adam and Eve, did not have to do with breaking any 24-hour-long sabbath law. If God did not give them such a law in Eden before they sinned, then certainly he did not give them such a law after driving them out of Eden as sinners. There is no record that he did so. —Genesis 2:15-17; 1:28.
    What, then, about the number seven which occurs 61 times in the book of Genesis alone? For instance, with regard to Noah: He and his family and the animals went into the ark during a seven-day period. "It came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth." (Genesis 7:1-10) Noah's ark grounded on the mountains of Ararat on the seventeenth day of the seventh month of the year. After waiting for the waters to subside Noah sent out a raven and a dove. The dove returned. "And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark." After its return with an olive leaf in its beak, Noah "stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any more". Then, a full solar year after having been shut up in the ark, Noah and his family and the animals left the ark of preservation. (Genesis 8:14) All this reveals that Noah divided up the time into periods of seven days, but it does not show he and his family kept a strict sabbath-day rest on the seventh day, doing no work thereon.
    In the everlasting covenant which God made right afterward and symbolized by the rainbow he made no reference to any sabbath-day observance. And in repeating the mandate to Noah and his sons he did not include any command as to sabbath observance. This was not because they had already been keeping a sabbath law down till then so that the law needed no repeating. No, but it was certainly because no such sabbath regulation had been put on men till then.—Genesis 9:1-17.
    Genesis 26:4, 5 is no proof that Abraham was under a sabbath-keeping law. God's commandments to him included none concerning a seventh-day sabbath-keeping. God's commandments to his obedient creatures are not the same at all times, but some are commanded to do certain things and others are not. Only Abraham was commanded to offer up his beloved son as a burnt-offering, but none of God's servants since Abraham have been so commanded. Abraham was commanded to be circumcised first after he was 99 years old; but no follower of Christ need be circumcised.—Genesis, chapters 17 and 22.
    The later evidence is against any argument that Abraham was under a sabbath-day obligation by God's express commandment. While the seventh day of the week may have been looked upon as specially marked by God with his favor, that does not prove he had enjoined a seventh-day commandment upon Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. When the sabbath-day law did not apply, it was no law-breaking not to keep sabbath. So Abraham's righteousness was no more dependent on sabbath-keeping than on his first being circumcised.—Romans 4:3-13.

    INTRODUCTION OF REST DAY

    The Hebrew word shah-bath' means "cessation; rest". It occurs first at Exodus 16:23 and marks the time of introducing the sabbath law, to the Jews. By miraculously keeping manna from falling on the seventh day, God enforced the seventh-day sabbath law that he had just announced to the Jews. (Exodus 16:23-30) Whereas it was given informally out in the wilderness, the sabbath-day law was embodied in the law code which Jehovah formally gave the Jews by Moses when inaugurating the law covenant at Mount Horeb. It was made the fourth of the Ten Commandments there given, and was stated in these words: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is a sabbath unto Jehovah thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore Jehovah blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it."—Exodus 20:8-11.
    Now note what Deuteronomy 5:1-15 says: "And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and observe to do them. Jehovah our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Jehovah made not this covenant with our fathers [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob], but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day. Jehovah spoke with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire . . . , saying, I am Jehovah thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. . . . Observe the sabbath day, . . . remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and Jehovah thy God brought thee out thence by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm: therefore Jehovah thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.”.
    In those words it distinctly says that Israel's forefathers, including most prominently of all Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the twelve sons of Jacob, were not under this law covenant. Those forefathers were under no obligation to do what the Fourth Commandment says, namely, keep the weekly sabbath day holy by a complete rest on it. But, as Moses further said to their descendants: God "declared unto you his covenant, . . . and he wrote them upon two tables of stone. And Jehovah commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and ordinances, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it". (Deuteronomy 4:13,14) Thus the sabbath commandment was a component part of God's covenant with Israel, and it could not be separated from that covenant. The Gentile nations were not and never have been under God's Fourth Commandment of the covenant. "He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them."—Psalm 147:19, 20.
The sabbath was a distinguishing feature of Jehovah's covenant, arrangement with Israel alone: "Verily ye shall keep my sabbaths: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; ... It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed."—Exodus 31:13-17; see also Ezekiel 20:12 and Nehemiah 9:13,14.

    ARE CHRISTIANS UNDER SABBATH LAW?

    Why did Jesus observe the Jewish sabbath law, especially by going to synagogue on that day and preaching? Why did Paul go into the synagogue on the sabbath days, "according to Paul's custom," and preach and reason with the Jews there? We reply: "God sent forth his Son, who was produced out of a woman and who came to be under law." (Galatians 4:4) Hence Jesus was obliged to keep that law, as long as he was in the flesh. He was circumcised in the flesh and kept passover and other feasts. Hence his keeping the Jewish sabbath does not mean his followers must do so, no more than his being circumcised and keeping Jewish feasts requires his disciples to do so. He said: "Do not think I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I came, not to destroy, but to fulfill." (Matthew 5:17) His coming to fulfill such Law and the Prophets proves that the law covenant and the sabbath obligations are not binding upon his disciples.
    Destroying the Law by breaking God's law covenant is far different from fulfilling it and thus moving it out of the way and lifting its obligations from his disciples. Certainly the 'fulfilling of the Prophets' made their prophecies a thing of the past and no longer applying or requiring fulfillment. Likewise the fulfilling of the Law makes it a thing of the past and relieves his followers from its requirements. So, in order to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, Jesus by Jewish birth "came to be under law". To illustrate: The Law commanded the yearly celebration of the passover over a slain lamb. Jesus did not destroy the passover celebration, but moved it out of the way by fulfilling it, in that he became the real passover Lamb, "the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world."—1 Corinthians 5:7; John 1:29; also Ephesians 2:13-15.
    Jesus went to synagogue on sabbath days to preach to the crowds there, as he was anointed with God's spirit to do. (Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:14-21) Just so, too, the apostle Paul went to synagogue to preach, on the sabbath day when the Jews met there.

    SHADOW AND SUBSTANCE

    At Colossians 2:12-17, Paul writes to Christ's followers: "By relationship with him you were also raised up together through your faith in the operation of God, who raised him up from the dead. Furthermore, though you were dead in your trespasses and in the uncircumcised state of your flesh, God made you alive together with him. He kindly forgave us all our trespasses and blotted out the handwritten document against us which consisted of decrees and which was in opposition to us, and He has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the torture stake. . . . Therefore let no man judge you in eating and drinking or in respect of a feast day or of an observance of the new moon or of a sabbath, for those things are a shadow of the things to come, but the reality belongs to the Christ." At Galatians 4:9-11 he asks certain deceived ones: "How is it that you are turning back again to the weak and in adequate elementary things and want to be slaves to them over again? You are scrupulously observing days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that somehow I have toiled to no purpose respecting you.".
    Since God has taken the Jewish law covenant with its Ten Commandments out of the way by nailing it to the torture stake on which Jesus died, the Christians must observe, not the law-covenant shadows, but the reality. Showing that God's seventh day of rest continues 7,000 years, Paul writes, at Hebrews 4:9 (N\V): "So there remains a sabbath resting for the people of God." In the surrounding verses Paul makes no reference to keeping a 24-hour seventh-day sabbath. Instead, he quotes Genesis 2:2: "And God rested on the seventh day from all his works"; which fact began applying over 4,000 years before Christ. Also, Paul refers to God's words at Numbers 14:28-35, that unbelieving Jews should die in the wilderness and not enter and find rest in the Promised Land. This sworn declaration of God was made over 1,500 years before Christ. Then Paul quotes David's words at Psalm 95:7-11: "Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, . . . unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest." This psalm of David was written about 1,077 years before Christ. So, from about 4,000 B.C. down to 1,077 B.C., Jehovah God is still speaking about his rest, and in David's day his rest was already almost 3,000 years long. Then what?
    Then Paul himself writes, still speaking about entering into God's rest; and this makes God's resting-time down to Paul's day more than 4,000 years long, for Paul wrote Hebrews more than 40 years after Christ's birth. Furthermore, Paul's words about Christians' entering into God's rest still apply, that is, apply now and today, in the 1950's, which is nearly 6,000 years from the time of Genesis 2:2. And now the battle of Armageddon is near and Christ's reign of 1,000 years will begin immediately after it, during which time redeemed mankind will be given the privilege of entering into God's rest. All of this, therefore, extends God's rest to a length of 7,000 years. So this makes up the length of the seventh day on which he rests, sanctifying the day for vindicating himself as Creator.
    From that standpoint Hebrews 3:13 to 4:11 can now be understood, and on it we comment: "For we who have exercised faith do enter into the rest, just as he has said [about 1500 B.C.]: 'So I swore in my wrath: "They shall not enter into my rest,"' although his works were finished from the foundation of the world [about 4000 B.C.]. ... he again marks off a certain day by saying after so long a time in David's psalm [about 1000 B.C.] 'Today'; just as it has been said above: 'Today if you would hear his voice, do not be hardening your hearts.' For if Joshua [Moses' successor] had led them into a place of rest, God would not afterward [about 400 years afterward, in David's time] have spoken of another day. So there remains a sabbath resting for the people of God. For the man that has entered into God's rest has also himself rested from his own works just as God did from his own. Let us therefore do our utmost to enter into that rest, for fear anyone should fall in the same example of disobedience [given by the unbelieving Jews]."—Hebrews 4:3-11.
    So, every day that Christians exercise faith and obedience through Christ, they are keeping sabbath, God's sabbath or rest. They judge no day of a week above another. (Romans 14:4-6) They do their utmost to hold their faith and to keep faithful in God's active service as his witnesses, so as not to fall away and fail to enjoy complete rest with God during his day, which is not yet ended.
Keep in mind that the Jewish law covenant set forth a "shadow of the good things to come, but not the very substance of the things". (Hebrews 10:1) Of what good things to come was the Jewish weekly sabbath a shadow? It being the seventh day of a week, the weekly sabbath foreshadowed the last 1,000 years of God's rest day of 7,000 years. That thousand years God has assigned to the Lord Jesus, to reign then without disturbance from the Devil's organization in either heaven or earth. Such 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ, as foretold at Revelation 20:1-6, begins after Satan is bound; in other words, after Armageddon, a war which all evidences indicate will begin inside our generation.—Revelation 16:14-16.
    A glorious sabbath day that will be for mankind. It will be the sabbath of which Jesus spoke in a prophetic way when he said: "The sabbath came into existence for the sake of man, and not man for the sake of the sabbath; hence the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath." (Mark 2:27, 28) He was greater than the temple at Jerusalem, in which the Jewish priests under the old law covenant seemed to profane the sabbath day by carrying on their sacrificial duties and yet were guiltless. (Matthew 12:1-8) Christ Jesus is the Head of the great spiritual temple of God made up of "living stones", his disciples. Therefore God has appointed him to be the Lord of the antitypical sabbath, namely, the 1,000-year period of the Kingdom.
    Because the Jewish sabbath foreshadowed this Kingdom sabbath, Jesus on the weekly sabbath day did many works of healing and of delivering believing persons from the bondage due to the Devil. He healed the blind, raised up the crippled, and, when criticized by the enemy for curing an infirm woman, he said: "Was it not due, then, for this woman who is a daughter of Abraham, and whom Satan held bound, look! eighteen years, to be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?" (Luke 13:16) Thus Jesus foreshadowed what wondrous works of deliverance and relief he will do on the 1,000-year sabbath day when he reigns as Lord, raising even the dead from their graves. God made or ordained that coming sabbath day for man, for man's benefit, and not for man's oppression.
    Hence the believing and obedient ones then on earth will enter into a rest from slaving toil and from bondage of sin, Satan, totalitarian rule and false religion. And since God commanded sabbath breakers of the old law covenant to be killed, so those refusing to keep the Kingdom sabbath by faith and by ceasing from selfish works of sin and false religion will be executed by the Lord of the sabbath and be destroyed eternally.—Exodus 35:2.
    Consequently, at the close of Jehovah's 7,000-year sabbath or rest day, his earthly creation and mankind upon it will be perfect, pure, and fully enjoying his blessing, just as when he finished his work at the end of the sixth creative day. Foreknowing this, Jehovah God could keep on resting all during this long sabbath day. (Genesis 3:15) And thus, due to his kingdom under Christ, all of Jehovah's earthly works will show forth his handiwork and be for an eternal vindication of his name. His good purpose in making this earthly creation will not have failed. So in this triumph of success he reaches the end of his 7,000-year sabbath day greatly refreshed.