Understanding the Sabbath (Part 5): Looking Ahead to a Future Eternal Sabbath

Understanding the Sabbath (Part 5)

Looking Ahead to a Future Eternal Sabbath

The Sabbath day eventually became associated with God’s redemptive plan for Israel. As mentioned in Deuteronomy 5:15, the Sabbath “released human and beast from the labors of the week, and likewise the Redeemer released Israel from its slavery” (Matthews, The New American Commentary – Genesis 1-11:26, p. 180). In Genesis, the seventh day is the only day of creation that did not mention and evening and then morning to complete the day. This absence suggests that this day has no end. God created man in his own image, and commands him to be fruitful and multiply and to watch over the land. He also later tells him to observe Sabbath rests, just as He observed during the Creation account.

This thought was further expounded upon as the rest became associated with the land of promise that lay before Israel. Rest in Canaan was intended for Israel, but Israel’s disobedience prevented this from being accomplished. When Jesus spoke later of giving rest to those who labor and are heavy laden, he is calling for people to have faith in him and commit themselves fully to God. Sailhamer comments that only those who believe enter that rest.

At creation, God set up a pattern that will be beneficial to His creation in the present state, yet also “will be necessary for him, yes, that which one day will receive him eschatologically in eternity” (von Rad, Genesis, p. 60-61). The seventh day’s lack of evening and morning is intentional making it an unlimited day. Continuing to develop this thought, von Rad adds “thus Genesis 2:1 speaks about the preparation of an exalted saving good for the world and man, of a rest ‘before which millennia pass away as a thunderstorm'” (von Rad, Genesis, p. 60-61).

The workweek for man starts over each week and can be considered recurring. God however has finished his work making rest in God eternal. Because of this eternal rest, theologically, creation’s seventh day should be seen as eschatological. The New Testament interprets God’s rest as such and specifically in Hebrews does the author identify a Sabbath rest that awaits those in Jesus Christ. The author of Hebrews uses this example as a warning against those who do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah. He warns that just as Israel failed to enter Canaan and the land of rest, the current generation may also miss the eternal rest by not believing in Jesus as Christ.

The apostle Paul identified the Sabbath as a foreshadowing of the Lord and the church in its eternal state. “The old signs of circumcision, dietary laws, and Sabbath observance were set aside as ‘boundary markers for the people of the covenant’ (cf. Gal 4:10). Christians are circumcised in heart (Rom 2:29), undefiled by foods (John 15:3), and free to treat every day as sacred (Rom 14:5, 12; 1 Tim 4:3-5)” (Matthews, The New American Commentary – Genesis 1-11:26, p. 181). Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Sabbath has provided a way to obtain the now recognized “Lord’s Day.” The church now sets aside the first day of each week as a day of worship. As Matthews states, this observance by the Christian community “proclaims the new creation, the era of messianic redemption” (Matthews, The New American Commentary – Genesis 1-11:26, p. 181).

Danny Akin describes the eternal state, defining it as “a new Jerusalem coming down from the heavens to a transformed and regenerated new earth” (Akin, A Theology for the Church, p. 873). In this new earth, all of God’s promises will be fulfilled. God will dwell with man, with His people.

“God’s creation purposes are fulfilled as humanity is fruitful and has multiplied, filling the earth (and perhaps beyond). The cultural mandate is fulfilled, with a glorious civilization built to the pleasure of God” (Akin, A Theology for the Church, p. 873). All the while, man will enjoy rest with the Father, because of God’s promises and the fulfillment of the promise through Jesus Christ.

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