Forgotten Law, Forgotten Purpose
The Sabbath is the commandment the world has forgotten, even most of those claiming somehow to be Israel. This is all the more striking, even ironic, in that it begins with the words, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”[fn]Exodus 20:8[/fn] And no other command in the Law of God receives more explanation than this, or has more prophetic vision attached to it, and which culminates in the stirring words, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land.”[fn]Leviticus 25:10[/fn]
It is so strange that this most significant command — the very sign of who God’s people are[fn]According to Exodus 31:13, the Sabbath is the sign of the people for whom Yahweh cares: “Speak also to the children of Israel, ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you.’[/fn] — has been forgotten by nearly the entire Christian world for seventeen centuries. And for even longer in the Jewish world it has been detached from all that it pointed to — the Sabbath years and the Year of Jubilee. So significant were these to the God of Israel that He sent His people into exile in Babylon so as to give the land rest — seventy full years of rest.[fn]2 Chronicles 36:20-21[/fn] That was the number of Sabbath years they did not keep from the time they entered into the land under Joshua.
Whoever Israel is, they will be the keepers of the holiness of the Sabbath.[fn]Keep means to preserve and maintain; to observe or fulfill; adhere to or not swerve from or violate, not neglect, to watch over and defend from danger, harm, loss.[/fn] Israel keeps the seventh day holy not simply out of respect for the One who commanded it, but because it is so deeply woven into the purpose of Israel to be a light to the world. As history shows, God’s people have not mastered the Sabbath.[fn]As Yahshua did, calling Himself its Lord in Mark 2:27-28.[/fn] They are either under the Law, worried about how many steps they may lawfully take, or lawless, setting the Sabbath aside to become Gentiles. They must do what is good on that day, desisting from the normal busyness of life, resting in the care their God has for them.
The Sabbath day is in the custody of man. It is something very significant that belongs to him. Man needs the Sabbath. Without a day of rest each week, life soon loses its meaning. This loss of meaning first happened at the fall of man. It remains the condition of all men who don’t know why they are living or what they were created for. Without a purpose to life, we are just breathing air until we die, and life has no meaning.[fn]Philosophy and religion vainly search for the meaning they will not find and cannot create.[/fn] Strife and the pursuit of fleeting, selfish pleasures has ever been the sign of who God’s people are not.[fn]The Romans, for instance, were quite proud of their seven-day-a-week business, condemning the Jewish people for their day of rest: “By introducing one day of rest in every seven, they lose in idleness almost a seventh of their life, and by failing to act in times of urgency they often suffer loss.” — Seneca, De Superstitiones, cited by Augustine, The City of God 6, 1.[/fn] The sign of who they are is found in these words to Israel:
Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: “Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you.” (Exodus 31:13)
On this day, once a week, they were to remember what He was doing in their lives, which was sanctifying them. When they forgot that He was seeking to make them free from sin, cleansing them from moral corruption, and purifying them from every love of the world, they also forgot to keep the Sabbath. But why should they do so out of mindless ritual? The Sabbath day apart from its meaning is like life without purpose: “Let’s eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”[fn]1 Corinthians 15:32[/fn]
The Sign Posts Toppled
There is a simple reason why both old Israel and the early church stopped keeping the Sabbath. Their love for their Maker and for one another grew cold. They forgot that love was the key to everything they did, from God’s point of view:
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40)
It’s amazing: God has entrusted the fulfillment of His word to His people. If only they would love Him! So, the love of God and the love of neighbor were the two signposts, as it were, on which hang all the signs of who God’s people are. Two of those signs were the Sabbath and circumcision. Both of these became mere laws of the Jewish people, outward observances lacking the inner reality. Later, Christians simply rejected them.
What would the Sabbath day matter to God if His people had not love? It would be a charade, a sign signifying nothing. The Sabbath is simply a sign of where God dwells in a people, where He is free to work in their hearts, purifying them. It’s a sign of the people who trust Him enough to rest one day a week.[fn]The Sabbath is only given to a nation, not to individuals.[/fn]
The Sabbath (and all the Law) must be Fulfilled
Thus says the LORD: “Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon My salvation will come, and My deliverance be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.” (Isaiah 56:1-2)
The God of Israel needs keepers of the holiness of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is part of the light Israel was to be to the rest of mankind. It is not just a day of rest that matters; the Sabbath is part of a much larger picture. No part can be taken away from that picture without ruining the whole.
The weekly Sabbaths point to the Sabbath years — one year of rest out of each seven. During the Sabbath year the land would rest. The people would trust the bounty God gave them in the sixth year to sustain them through the Sabbath year and on until the next harvest came in. And the Sabbath years point to the Year of Jubilee, which was to happen every fifty years, after seven cycles of Sabbath years.
Then all the busy buying and selling of the preceding forty-nine years would be undone and the land would return, every parcel, to the families who first owned it — who were first given it when Israel entered the Promised Land. There is no such command anywhere in the world’s religions. And so far, it has also proved too great for all those who have called themselves Israel.
When this troubled age comes to an end, a new age will dawn — the Sabbath age. It will be a thousand years of peace. The Jubilee of ancient Israel connects to this time prophetically. They were supposed to celebrate the Jubilee and proclaim liberty throughout the land[fn]Leviticus 25:10[/fn] because everyone, whether slave or free, was to return to their own land. But a greater cry will go up from new Israel at the end of this age when all the earth goes back to its rightful owner![fn]1 John 5:19; Daniel 7:27 (NRSV)[/fn]
Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Revelation 11:15)
Israel never did celebrate a year of Jubilee, and obviously the Christian Church has not proclaimed Revelation 11:15. The reason, in light of the Law, need go no further than Leviticus 25, where these things were commanded. You see, there is no record of Israel even keeping the Sabbath years. So, who will fulfill this great law? Only those who love God with all of their heart, mind, soul, and strength, and in the same way, their neighbor as themselves.[fn]Matthew 22:36-40[/fn] Who else would give the land back which they had purchased and labored over? Who else would acknowledge in their hearts that everything comes from God, even their abilities, and give it back to Him by returning it to their neighbors?
It is only when all that is recorded in the Law and Prophets has been fulfilled that the original purposes of God in creation, now in abeyance, can resume. This entire age, this tragic time of death and suffering for mankind, was the necessary interlude to deal with the fall of man and to accomplish both his redemption and restoration.
Why Messiah Came
So the Sabbath is the sign of God purifying or sanctifying a people who do what He says to do. Many totally miss the point Messiah came for, which was to save a people and equip them to do the will of God. Without that purpose being accomplished, all that the Law and Prophets foreshadow will never come into reality. God never intended for His will, His heart towards mankind, to remain shadowy and indistinct. He wants His nature of love to bloom in full, dramatic color. But, He is waiting on a people who will do all His will.
Whoever fulfills all that pertains to the Twelve Tribes of Israel is Israel. They are the suitable companion for the Messiah, because He fulfilled all that pertained to Him in the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms.[fn]Luke 24:44[/fn] He did not come to abolish these things, but to fulfill them:
Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 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. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.(Matthew 5:17-19)
In these stirring words He points us to our great purpose of fulfilling His Father’s words,[fn]His words commanded in the Law and spoken through the Prophets.[/fn] just as He did. It is the path of greatness for all true disciples, that we would both keep His commands and teach others to do so. Such men and women will be great in the kingdom of heaven. So God’s people must come to know why He rested; that is, what gave Him rest. Otherwise, as the Proverbs say, even they will go unrestrained.[fn]Proverbs 29:18[/fn] Only what gives Him rest can truly give His people rest.
The Dawning of Eternity
So His people will not regard this day of rest lightly, for it is certainly the shadow of things yet to come.[fn]Matthew 5:18, just quoted, says not one aspect of the Law will pass away until it is fulfilled.[/fn] This is the revelation Paul gave the Colossians, which has been preserved for us to give us vision of what’s ahead in the coming ages.
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body [is] of Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17, KJV)
Note this: the King James Version italicizes the word “is,” which means the word is not in the Greek manuscript, but added by the translators to make things clear (according to their slant on the text). In this case, the translators did just the opposite, obscuring its plain meaning instead. Omitting the word “is,” you see clearly what the text really means: “Let no man therefore judge you ... but the Body of Christ.” The festivals,[fn]As other translations such as New King James Version translates holyday.[/fn] the new moons, and the Sabbaths, especially, are a shadow of things to come — so don’t let anyone else judge you about them. What they point to has not yet come. They are prophetic events to prepare God’s people for the ages to come.
Mankind will one day live in the light forever, in the fullness of God’s love and His purpose for man in creation. Men and women will fill the universe with life, restored from every ill effect of the Fall, and bearing God’s image as they were always meant to. They will have children forever and ever, as the Scriptures say:
To Him be glory in the church and in Messiah Yahshua to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:21)
This is the destiny of the righteous people of the nations.[fn]They are the sheep in the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46.[/fn] The holy people, on the other hand, will be as the angels, not marrying or having children.[fn]Luke 20:31-38[/fn] They are the Wife of the Lamb, who made herself ready for His return by doing the deeds prepared for her.[fn]Revelation 19:7-8; Ephesians 2:10[/fn]
In Colossians 2:16-17, the light is shining from the Eighth Day upon the Sabbath Age of the Seventh Day, thus casting a shadow into our day. So the perfect age is only known indistinctly to us, as a shadow lacks the substance of what the light shines upon. Since the Eighth Day has not yet come, the Seventh Day of the week is still a sign. The Sabbath Age will be the glorious age of peace the prophets foretold, yet it will pale before the Eternal Age.[fn]Revelation 21:1-4[/fn] The shadow does not pass away until the reality comes, which is the Seventh Day.[fn]That reality is the anti-type, the fulfillment of the type.[/fn] That is why Hebrews 4:9 says that there remains a Sabbath-keeping for the people of God.[fn]In spite of devious translations and concordances, Hebrews 4:9 says just this: “There remains a Sabbath keeping for the people of God.” #4520, sabbatismos, means “Sabbath keeping,” just as Thayer’s Lexicon says.[/fn]
The Shadow of Things to Come
Festivals, new moons, Sabbaths, and Sabbath years — these are a shadow of things to come. None of them have arrived in their fullness yet. The thrilling, wonderful reality of the whole earth keeping the festivals, feast days, new moon festivals, and Sabbaths in the next age is the “object” that casts the “shadow” in this age. This is just what the prophet Isaiah foretold:
And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD. (Isaiah 66:23)
As Matthew 5:17-18 says, not until heaven and earth pass away will the Sabbath day as a sign also pass away from the Law. Messiah did not come to nullify the Law, but to fulfill it. He will do so through His people, those set free from living for themselves.[fn]Romans 8:2-4[/fn]
It is those under the Law who cannot fulfill it. Only those who walk by the Spirit and are under grace can and will fulfill the Law.[fn]Romans 6:14; Galatians 5:16,18[/fn] It is prophesied that there will be such a people.[fn]Daniel 2:44-45[/fn] Only after mankind is fully restored and death is no more will the Sabbath pass away. Then there will there be a new heavens and a new earth.[fn]Hebrews 1:10-12[/fn] They will never wear out, just as the righteous of the nations will never die. Eternal men dwelling on eternal planets circling eternal suns, spreading from solar system to solar system, galaxy to galaxy, super cluster of galaxies to super cluster in an unending, ever expanding universe full of life...
Yet only when the Twelve Tribes are raised up as a light to the nations, and the Sabbath is a true sign of who God’s people are, will the Seventh Day rest be ushered in for all men. In the next age, the millennial Kingdom, the Sabbath will continue to be observed, but it will not be a shadow of things to come then. The rest and peace the world knows then will no longer be foreshadowed in the Communities of Messiah as it is now. Rather, that peace will fill the earth. That is why those who are learning to do these things — keep the Sabbaths and the festivals — must let no man judge or deter them from doing them, for they are a shadow of what is to come. Those who would judge them would have the same spirit as Peter when he attempted to deter Yahshua from going to Jerusalem to be the sacrifice for our sins, deserving the same response Messiah gave him.[fn]Matthew 16:21-27[/fn]
Why Did God Rest on the Seventh Day?
If we see that God rested in a certain thing, then we know that it is something He wanted, something He was after from the beginning. So we must not regard the seventh day lightly. We must not regard any of the Ten Commandments lightly![fn]Exodus 20:8-11[/fn] He did not rest the first six days because He did not get what He desired, and He was not satisfied until He did. The seventh-day rest says that He accomplished something very significant, that His labor brought forth His heart’s desire. He delighted in what He had done in making man, male and female.
His work in making man was such that it could not have possibly been better. This is why we are to remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy, too, because it tells us why He rested — He had what He needed to accomplish His purpose in the physical creation of all that we see. This extended to all the works of His hands, to the very limits of the starry heaven. And in man, God also had what He needed to deal with His enemy in the spiritual realm, Satan, and all of his accusations.
With the Fall, the earth became God’s testing ground for man, the place to see who feared Him enough to obey his conscience, God’s quiet voice within them. It is not given to natural man to defeat the spiritual enemy of God and man. It is enough that they turn from his voice and listen to their consciences. This tests their belief in the God who sees all things to the uttermost. But God never lost sight of His ultimate purpose for man or for the earth. The testing ground of the earth was only for the purpose of regaining mankind and the earth for its real purpose — as the launching pad for the colonization of the stars, the galaxies, and the entire universe. It is restored mankind who will rule the physical universe under the loving care of redeemed man.[fn]Revelation 22:1-5[/fn]
But after the Fall, only redeemed man could accomplish what man was created for, as God’s champion, which was to destroy the works of the evil one.[fn]Genesis 3:15[/fn] Yahshua accomplished as the “second man” what Adam didn’t, what Adam lost when he sinned and fell.[fn]Romans 5:12-19[/fn] In His life, death, and resurrection, Yahshua broke the evil one’s legal claim over mankind due to the Fall. But the evil one’s power to deceive was not destroyed,[fn]Revelation 12:9; 20:3[/fn] and he will not be cast into the bottomless pit[fn]Revelation 20:1-3[/fn] until there is a people who overcome all things as Yahshua did.[fn]Revelation 12:11[/fn] He waits for us to do just that:
But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. (Hebrews 10:12-13)
Now, in the restoration of all things prophesied by the Son of God Himself,[fn]Mark 9:11-12[/fn] His enemies are being put under foot by brothers and sisters living together in unity, loving each other, and making an acceptable, spiritual sacrifice of their lives day by day.[fn]Romans 12:1-2 and 15:16[/fn] They are those who remember the Law of Moses,[fn]Malachi 4:4; Matthew 22:36-40; Romans 8:4[/fn] so as to fulfill it by the power of love.