[ Author: Kathy Petersen ]
(KJV) Exodus. 20:9-10 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work…
(KJV) Colossians 2:16-17 Let no man therefore judge you … in respect of … the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come…
(KJV) Romans 4:5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
Seventh Day Adventists (and some others) think that the Sabbath is still enjoined upon man as a requirement to continue to rest physically from physical work on the Sabbath day (either Saturday or Sunday, depending on the person/group).
Only a shadow
In Colossians 2:16-17, Paul includes the Sabbath as one of those things “which are a shadow of things to come”, so this means that what the OT said the Sabbath was, was simply a shadow of a future fulfillment. Most who claim to be Christians (whether SDAs or Sunday-Sabbath-keepers) would agree that Christ fulfilled the “types and shadows” of the Law, and that we have the greater light and the true reality now in the NT era, while those in the OT had only the types and shadows.
Since the Sabbath is here clearly said to be a shadow of things to come, and since nothing else that is considered a “shadow” in the OT is considered still enjoined on Christians as a duty (e.g., the tabernacle/temple worship with animal sacrifice pointed forward to the ultimate sacrifice of Christ, which fulfills and does away with the types and shadows so that we are no longer required to sacrifice animals), I have to wonder why they consider the physical rest of the Sabbath to still be enjoined upon us, as the one and only type and shadow from the OT that is still active in our day!
When we combine Paul’s teachings in the various epistles, such as considering what he said in the above-cited verse in Romans, we see that faith not works is accounted as righteousness.
A changing of the guard
Much of the Law was fulfilled and done away with, since the Law was a type/shadow of Christ. As such, the laws regarding physical purity and physical signs to show separateness from the world around us (not trimming the corners of the beard, wearing a fringe of blue on our clothes, not eating certain kinds of foods, etc.) are no longer incumbent upon us because it has been superseded by the Law of Christ which requires spiritual purity to show separateness from the surrounding world.
The laws regarding the Levitical priesthood are not on Christians because those likewise were superseded by the greater Melchizedek priesthood, and while Christians are called “a holy priesthood”, we do not offer physical animals in physical sacrifice, but present a “sacrifice of praise” and of good works. The Law said “don’t murder”, but Jesus said, “don’t even be angry without a cause”; the Law said “don’t commit adultery” while Jesus said, “don’t even lust”. In all these things, we see that Christians are called to a greater and fuller fulfillment of the Laws — not with physical Laws and physically trying to fulfill the Law, but by spiritual purity and faithfulness, living in the light of the Real, not just the types.
Similarly, the Genesis account tells us that God worked for six days and rested from His works on the seventh. When we next read of the Sabbath, it was at Mt. Sinai, and God said that the Israelites were to keep HIS Sabbath, resting from their physical works as God did from His.
As the author of Hebrews notes, if that were the fulfillment (rather than just a shadow, as Paul says in Col.), there would be no reason to speak of another rest, yet God did speak of another rest, and not the physical weekly day of rest, because they were already observing that! — and since the OT Sabbath was a “shadow” as Paul tells us in Colossians, it likewise must point to a greater NT fulfillment.
I think that fulfillment is found in Romans, where Paul says that to the one who doesn’t work, his faith is counted as righteousness. That is, God worked then rested; later, God instituted the physical Sabbath as a shadow (not the full reality) at least in part to point to the greater spiritual aspect and truth of resting from works.
In one sense, we will rest from works only when we’re dead, but spiritually speaking, we who trust in Christ have stopped working, in that we are no longer “working to get to heaven”, but are trusting in our faith in Christ. Indeed, as Paul said in various places, that if we are in Christ, then His death is applied to our account and we are dead in Him — and if dead, then we have ceased from our own works — which is good because righteousness doesn’t come by the Law and “by the deeds of the flesh shall no man be justified in His sight”.
To sum up, the Sabbath rest was instituted in the OT, but the NT declares that this was a shadow of a future fulfillment, while also telling us that those of us who have stopped working (which was of course what the physical Sabbath was all about) have Christ’s righteousness. Thus, I think the full Bible teaches that the physical Sabbath law has been superseded by the spiritual Sabbath (rest from works) that we have found in Christ. No longer are we slaves to works, trying to earn our salvation through works. Rather, we have stopped working because we know our salvation lies in Christ.
Yet, of course, this cessation of works does not lead us to idleness, indolence, or “let us do evil that good may come”, for a true Christian. Rather, because we have been saved, we want to please our Master by continuing to do good works. Not for some slavish hope of gain nor out of some slavish fear of punishment if we do bad works or don’t do enough good works, but in order to please Him who has called us and already promised us Heaven. We have spiritual rest!