A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2:2-3)
These two verses are much different from those describing the preceding days in the creation account. All of them included the phrase “it was evening and it was morning, day … “. Not so for the seventh day. Also the Hebrew word translated rested is Shabath (pronounced sha-BAT). We get sabbath from this word. It appears 71 times in the Bible, and 47 of those times it’s translated “cease”. It only means rest 11 times.
Will This Day Ever End?
Now obviously, the seventh day had a beginning and an end just like all the days before and after it. But the fact that there is no mention of this in the text of the creation account indicates that in a spiritual sense this day has never ended. There is no eighth day of creation. God has never taken up the work of creation again, and that’s why a word that also means ceased was used in describing His Sabbath rest.
Now don’t accuse me of promoting the “Great Watchmaker” theory of creation. That’s the one where God created the world and all that’s in it, then set it in motion, and has been just sitting there watching it run down ever since. Let’s look at what God has been doing since He stopped creating. We’ll begin in John’s Gospel.
So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:16-19)
This tells us that both the Father and the Son have so much to do that they work every day, even on the Sabbath. So what are they doing? Matthew 11:5 explains. “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”
Almost as soon as the Creation was finished, it was subjected to sin. From that day to this the Father and the Son have been battling to protect us from the effects of sin in our lives.
So they haven’t been just sitting around waiting. They’ve both been working every day from that day to this, including the Sabbath. But my point is, God has never again taken up the work of creation. Where the creation is concerned he has never ceased his Sabbath rest.
In Numbers 15:32-36 we read of a man who was caught gathering wood on the Sabbath. It was a violation of the commandment, but the Israelites didn’t know what to do with him. When they inquired of God, He told them to take him outside the camp and stone him to death. God was serious about not working on the Sabbath.
What’s External And Physical In The Old Becomes Internal And Spiritual In The New
But when we get to the New Testament we find that the commandment to rest on the Sabbath is the only one of the 10 Commandments not specifically repeated. In fact the most frequent reference to the Sabbath commandment in the New Testament concerns the Lord’s frequent and flagrant violations of it. On six different occasions, the Lord defended working on the Sabbath, each time showing the religious leaders of the day that their rules for keeping the Sabbath were man made, arbitrary, and counter to God’s purpose. For example the priests in the Temple desecrated every Sabbath (Matt. 12:5), and the people could water their animals (Luke 13:15) or rescue them from danger (Matt. 12:11) but they couldn’t heal a person (Luke 13:14).
In Romans 14:5 Paul taught that we have the right to either consider one day holier than the others or to regard all days the same, based on our personal convictions. And in Colossians 1:16-17 he said not to let anyone judge us in regard to a religious festival or a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. He said that these things were only a shadow of things that were coming, that the reality was found in Christ.
Somehow the Sabbath commandment was supposed to teach us something about our relationship with Jesus. So let’s find out what it is.
God created the Heavens and the Earth. They didn’t do anything to help, He did it all. At the end of six days, He rested (ceased) from His work because it was finished. He never again took up the work of creating. He made the seventh day, a day without end, holy. There was no eighth day. Then He created a memorial. From that time forward the seventh day was a day of rest where no work was permitted to remind us that when His work was finished He rested.
Since we’re trapped in the dimension of time, we can’t have any days without end. So when God set up our calendar He made every seventh day holy, and then the calendar began again. There’s never an eighth day. This was to help us to see that the seventh day, the day of rest, never ends. To underscore the importance of this, He made working on the seventh day punishable by death.
But man missed the point. We thought it was about working on the Sabbath when it was really about resting when the work is finished. Here’s how that relates to Jesus.
Jesus came to Earth with one job to do. It was to die for the sins of the people so that we could be redeemed and live forever with Him (John 1:29). He was making us into a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) We didn’t do anything to help, He did it all. When He went to the cross, His work was done. That’s why His last words before He died were, “It is finished.” Then He bowed His head and gave up His Spirit (John 19:30). He never had to do the work of redemption again, for by that one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy (Hebr. 10:14) When He ascended into Heaven, He sat down at the right hand of the Father. In effect, He rested. The work of our new creation was finished.
This is why some theologians refer to the Lord’s “completed work” at the cross. It’s is also why the writer of Hebrews said that going back into the Jewish sacrificial system is relegating His death to the same status as animal sacrifices and subjects Him to public disgrace. (Hebr. 6:6) It meant that they didn’t believe the work was finished.
What Is Our Work?
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:28-29)
When you believe that Jesus went to the cross for you, and that by His death all of the sins of your life are forgiven, you’ve done what God requires and the work of your salvation is finished. You will inherit eternal life. “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40) When you believe that, you have entered into your life-long seventh day, your Sabbath Rest.
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:9-10) Just as God never again took up the work of creation, and Jesus never again took up the work of redemption, you need never again take up the work of salvation. You’re a new creation and the work is finished. Now you rest, as they have rested.
Please read this very carefully. As we can see from the above, the folks who keep asking whether Saturday or Sunday is the correct Sabbath for Christians are asking the wrong question. The question we all need to ask is whether we’re keeping the Sabbath or not. It doesn’t matter that you say you’re born again. Any work you do to earn or keep your salvation after saying that you’ve accepted the work that Jesus did for you is evidence that you don’t believe the work is finished. This subjects you to the penalty of the Sabbath breaker in Numbers 15. His was a physical death, but yours will be a spiritual one, because by continuing to work after the work is done you’re saying that Jesus didn’t finish the job so you have to complete it and save yourself. It means you don’t believe He saved you, and that means you haven’t done the one and only thing He told you to do; “Believe in the One He has sent.” It means you aren’t saved.
If you believe that you can lose your salvation because of your behavior, it means that you don’t believe Jesus took all of the sins of your life to the cross (Col 2:13-15), and therefore you don’t believe He saved you completely (Hebr. 7:25). It means that you don’t believe God has accepted responsibility for keeping you saved (2 Cor. 1:21-22) and you have to finish the job yourself by meeting some standard of behavior. That means that you’re working to keep your self saved after your work of salvation was finished, which means you’re subjecting yourself to the penalty of the Sabbath breaker in Numbers 15. It means that you aren’t saved.
There isn’t much time left for the Church. The Lord could come while you’re reading this. Please consider these things carefully. Make sure you’re really saved by grace through faith. Not by works, lest anyone boast. (Ephes. 2:8-9) You can’t be working to become saved and you can’t be working to stay saved. You are either forever saved or you were never saved. Remember, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Romans 4:5) There is no eighth day. You can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah. 05-24-08