Saturday, July 08, 2006

Sabbaths and Sundays, Common Proof Texts, #8

Claim: Hebrews 4:1-10 says that Christ is our Sabbath rest. Therefore, literal Sabbath keeping has been done away with.

Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest.

Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

The NASB translates verse 9 like this: "So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God."

First, let's look at who the book was written to and when. I think we can agree that it was written in the first century and the opening verses show it was probably written to Jewish Christians. Therefore, it was extremely likely that these Jews kept the Sabbath on Saturday.

In Hebrews 4 we find the author using the Sabbath as a metaphor for Jesus, but far from doing away with the Sabbath, he says that in Jesus there is a new dimension added to the Sabbath - that as we rest from our works "as God did from his" (Hebrews 4:10), we remember what God has done for us through Christ. It's not an abrogation of the Sabbath; it's a deeper meaning!

The word used in the first half of verse 9 for "rest" or "Sabbath rest" (depending on the translation), is a word found nowhere else in the Bible. The word is sabbatismos. It is found in extra-Biblical literature later meaning a literal Sabbath rest, but it appears here that the author was coining a new word to explain something that couldn't be explained any other way. He was explaining the new layer of meaning the Sabbath has in Jesus, not doing away with the Sabbath.

What we see in this passage is that Jesus is our true rest: this passage clearly indicates that there is another "rest" which is not fulfilled in the Sabbath observance (see verses 9-11). But this second meaning does not negate the literal Sabbath observance.

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Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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