The Sabbath Issue

Chapter 9: The Typology of the Sabbath.

We have noted that the Bible interprets the Sabbath as Typology. This indicates that it is not Absolute Moral Law, but Ceremonial Law designed to point to a greater truth and fulfilment beyond itself. In this Chapter, we will explore this profound Typology and discover the application to our lives today of the Sabbath revelation.The important thing is to partake in the Substance (Christ), rather than participating in the Shadow (legalistic Sabbath-keeping). 

Although this book makes the case that we are not bound to observe the Sabbath as Law as the Jews do, we are certainly not saying that the Sabbath does not apply to us as an important revelation from God, which has vital wisdom for our spiritual and natural lives. There is still the Sabbath principle (wisdom) for us to incorporate into our life. This Chapter is designed to draw out these truths.

As the outward sign of the Mosaic Covenant the Sabbath was an act of REMEMBERANCE of the Covenant and Grace of God (His completed works of (1) Creation (Exodus 20:8-11, 31:12-17) and (2) Redemption from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:12-15) that lay behind it. They were to use this day of physical rest to enter into rest (the spiritual reality of His finished work) by rememberance (meditation on the grace of God). So, as they outwardly rested, they were also to inwardly enter into rest by faith (faith-rest), by remembering, trusting in and thanking God for His finished work (grace) in Creation and Salvation. This is an exact parallel to what we are to do now, in taking the Lord’s Supper, which is the outward Sign of the New Covenant, ordained for us by God, to remember and enter into the grace of God in Christ and His finished work of Salvation. 

1. CREATION. There are many levels of the Sabbath revelation, but of course, it begins with Creation. God did all His work of Creation in 6 days, then ceased from His creative work and rested on the 7th day. His REST did not mean He was exhausted (!), but that He ceased from His work, having completed it with excellence. God entered into His REST on the 7th day and then invited Israel to enter into His REST every 7th day, making it a Sabbath (rest) day.

It was not just entering into rest by ceasing from their works, but an 
entering into God’s Rest. This made it a spiritual exercise of faith. They were to relax and meditate on God as the gracious Creator and Provider, realising and acknowledging that everything they had was from His hand. He had already created it and freely provided it before they even existed, so it was not a product of their labours. So part of way we are to fulfil the Sabbath is to cease from our own works and meditate and acknowledge God as our Creator, the Source and Provider of all good things. In order to look to God and receive His grace, we have to first take our eyes off self and stop trusting in our own works. Never resting from work is living as if everything depends on us, rather than trusting in God as our Provider. Our body and soul needs regular natural rest (both daily and weekly) if they are to function at their best (that’s the way God made us), but they also need spiritual refreshment. That is, we are not just to rest from our works, but to use that time of natural rest to receive God’s REST, through meditating on God’s Grace. 

The first mention of the Sabbath in connection with the Manna (Exodus 16) confirms this aspect of trusting God as gracious Creator and Provider of all good things. We have a tendency to think that we are the centre of the universe and that everything depends on our efforts, so we dare not take a day of rest, otherwise we will fall behind in our work or our finances or everything will fall apart. So a day of rest serves to get our focus off ourselves onto God, enthroning Him as the centre of our life, trusting Him for our provision. If we obey the Sabbath principle and take a day of rest and give it to God, we will not lose out, but only gain, for the Sabbath was made for the benefit of man (Mark 2:27), it is God’s gift to man (Exodus 16:29). When we give God our time, and rest in Him, not only do we gain natural rest, but God’s supernatural blessing, creativity, wisdom and refreshment is released in our life, so that what we acheive in the other six days is greater than if we were to work solidly through all 7 days (growing increasingly weary and stressed). That’s how God has made us to live and function best, for we are made in God’s image, and God worked 6 days and rested on the 7th - this is the Sabbath principle. 

God taught Israel this truth, by supernaturally providing their manna for the 7th day, so that by resting from work on that day, they lost nothing, because of God’s supernatural provision. Moreover, their efforts to get manna on the 7th day were futile (there was none), confirming that any gain from working all 7 days of the week is shortsighted and an illusion.

2. SALVATION. Although God entered into His Rest on the 7th day and surely intended man to enter this Rest, something happened to prevent man from doing this. The Fall broke man’s relationship with God making it impossible for him to enter into rest. Moreover, God also had to start working in time to accomplish His Plan of Salvation, so man could enter into His Rest: “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working” (John 5:17). Thus there is another dimension to Sabbath Rest made necessary by the Fall. Although God had finished His work of Creation, He now had another kind of work to do before He and man could truly enter into the blessings of Rest - that of accomplishing man’s Salvation. 

Therefore the Fall meant that God’s Rest was not yet available to man. This, no doubt, is the reason why the Sabbath Law was not instituted from the beginning. Moreover, the Typology for the Sabbath was not complete at Creation, because the Salvation dimension could not yet be incorporated. Thus the basis for the Sabbath was not fully established at the Creation (because God wanted its Typology to contain another dimension - Salvation). This aspect of Salvation was only established at the Exodus, when God graciously delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt. That’s why God had to hold back the official observance of the Sabbath until the Exodus. Only then could the Sabbath be a Rememberance of both Creation and Salvation (the Exodus) and thus provide typology for the New Creation and our Salvation in Christ, through which we will enter God’s Rest. Otherwise it would have lost much meaning.

Thus the Sabbath was instituted at the Exodus to commemorate Israel’s deliverance (salvation) from slavery to Egypt and entrance into a Covenant Relationship with God (Deuteronomy 5:12-15). Israel was saved by God’s initiative, through faith in the Blood of the Lamb, and by God’s outstretched hand of power, subduing all her enemies. Then God established a Covenant with her through Moses, in which the Sabbath was the Sign, by which she was to remember her Deliverance from slavery and Covenant with God.

As slaves in Egypt, they never had any days off, so the Sabbath day of rest was a very apt way to remember their Salvation (what God had saved them from), and that they now belonged to a good God. So in their Sabbath Rest, Israel remembered the goodness and grace of God as their loving Creator, Provider and Redeemer; that He had chosen them out of all the nations, to be a holy nation unto Him, with whom He had entered into Covenant. In this way, the Sabbath was not just a natural rest, but a spiritual renewal. Even, beyond this, the Sabbath Rest pointed forward to yet greater future things.

*TYPOLOGY. Not only was the Sabbath a MEMORIAL
(to remember the past grace of God in Creation and Salvation, honouring their Covenant with God, and entering into its spiritual reality by faith), it was also a prophetic TYPE of the future New Covenant Creation and Salvation of God, yet to be accomplished in Christ. Thus the Sabbath both looked back (as Rememberance) of the Old Creation and Old Covenant, and looked forward (as Typology) to the New Creation and New Covenant in Christ.

Possessing the Promised Land. When Israel entered into Covenant with God at Sinai, they had only received the first part of their Salvation. They had been delivered from Egypt (representing sin and satan), but were living in the Wilderness (no man’s land). God did not just want to deliver them from the negative, He also had prepared for them a Promised Land of blessing, which He had given to them, to enter into and possess by faith. This Land was typified by the SABBATH DAY.Just as they were to be diligent, faithful and obedient to God’s Word in entering into their Sabbath Rest (given to them by God), they were to be diligent to enter into their Promised Land of Rest (where they would possess and abide in all the blessings of God). This language is used in Deuteronomy 12:9: “As yet you have not come to the REST (the Place of Rest)and the INHERITANCE which the LORD your God is giving you.”

Thus the Sabbath Day Rest was a symbol and type of the Promised Land Rest. Both represented Covenant Realities, that they were to possess by faith. By ceasing from (trusting) their own works, and trusting in God’s Word, they were to enter into His Rest. God’s Rest signified a PLACE in time or space, where God dwelt with all His blessings of grace (inheritance). By entering His Rest, they would enter into all the fullness of God’s blessings. Thus keeping the Sabbath was a Type of God’s people entering into and abiding (resting) in all of God’s promised Covenant blessings BY FAITH.

However, in the year after the Exodus, Israel fail to be diligent to believe and obey God’s word to enter into God’s Rest (Numbers 14). They failed to enter in because of unbelief. As a result, the TYPE was not fulfilled and they wandered in the wilderness 40 years. 

Then, God gave Israel Deuteronomy to prepare her to enter into the Land. Joshua was told to lead Israel into the Promised Land, and he was told that the key to success was to be diligent in God’s Word by meditating on it and being courageous to obeying (Joshua 1). Joshua was successful in leading Israel into at least a significant portion of the Land of REST: “now the Lord your God has given REST to your brethren, as He promised them... The LORD had given REST to Israel from all their enemies” (Joshua 22:4, 23:1).

However, it should be no surprise that the Typology of the Sabbath does not end here. As with all Old-Testament Typology, it is only ultimately fulfilled in Christ and His New Covenant Salvation. Once Israel entered her Rest (possessed her Promised Land), these blessings became part of her regular Sabbath act of Rememberance. But within the Old-Testament itself (Psalm 95), God indicated that the Sabbath Typology had a yet future and greater fulfilment. 

Psalm 95:7b-11: “Today, if you will hear His voice: “Do not 
harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, when your fathers tested Me; they tried Me, though they saw My work. For 40 years I was grieved with that generation, and said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts, and they do not know My ways.’ So I swore in My 

wrath, ‘They shall not ENTER MY REST.”

This is the starting point for the major New Testament Passage on the Sabbath (Hebrews 3:7-4:13), which shows how the Old-Testament Sabbath Typology is fulfilled in the New Testament (this is part of a long section of Hebrews that does this in many areas).

Hebrews 3:7-11: “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says (quoting Psalm 95:7b-11 in full): “Today, if you will hear His Voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, tried Me and saw My works 40 years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, 
and they have not known My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not ENTER MY REST (the Promised Land)

The willderness generation were a warning to all generations that believers can fail to enter into the promised blessings that God has prepared for them if they are disobedient to God’s Word. Even when we are saved by the Blood of the Lamb and in Covenant with God, we must be diligent in the Word to enter into God’s Rest. 

In Hebrews 3:12-19, this warning is applied to believers TODAY: “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “TODAY,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become PARTAKERS of Christ (His Promised Land of blessings, our Inheritance), if we hold the beginning of our confidence (faith) steadfast to the end, while it is said: “TODAY, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? (the redeemed Covenant people of God). Now with whom was He angry 40 years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His Rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of UNBELIEF (unfaithfulness to the Word).

This warning applies to all believers today in the New Covenant, who have been redeemed from sin by the precious Blood of Christ. We have been given a Promised Land of blessings in Christ, that we are to go in and possess. By faith, we are to enter into God’s Rest, that is, into His Presence, the Place where He dwells and rests (c.f. Psalm 95:1-6) and where our blessings are located in Him, and we are to partake (take possession of) our promised blessings. But for us to succeed in this, we must be diligent in the Word, to meditate in it and to do it. Otherwise, we too will fail to enter in because of our unbelief, and God will be disappointed in us.

Hebrews 4:1,2: “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His Rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the Gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the Word which they heard did not profit them, 
not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.” 

Here again he applies the Typology of Sabbath and Land Rest to us. We fulfil it by entering God’s Rest (His Presence and Provision) by faith. The key is hearing and believing the Word of the Gospel, that God offers all this to us as a free-gift (mixing faith with the Word). Now the writer to the Hebrews is building his argument on the fact that Israel’s entering into the Promised Land of Rest (which is also connected to the Sabbath Rest) is a TYPE of our New Covenant Salvation. He establishes this from Psalm 95, which was written by David AFTER Israel possessed her Land through Joshua. At this time, there was still another Rest that remained for God’s people to enter in and possess: “since a promise remains of entering His Rest.” As it can’t be the Promised Land (Rest) of the Old Covenant it must be a Type of the Promised Land (Rest) of the New Covenant.

Hebrews 4:3: “For we who have BELIEVED do enter that REST 
-as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My REST,’ although the works (of God) were finished from the foundation of the world (God’s Rest was available to receive).

Again we see that the key to entering God’s Rest is FAITH, for all those who failed to enter in, clearly did so because of UNBELIEF. It was not because the Promised Land was not available for them to possess. God had done everything necessary for them to enter in: “the works (of God) were finished (completed).” They did not enter His Rest, despite the fact that His work in providing it for them was finished (accomplished). They only failed because they did not trust His promise. The same truth applies to us now. It’s up to us to enter into what God has done by faith. Those who believe the promise (that it’s ours to receive through His finished work) enter in, but those who do not believe, will not enter into His Rest. 

These 2 groups are illustrated by the 2 generations of Israel in the Type. God had given them both the Land to possess, but the first generation failed through unbelief, whereas the Joshua generation possessed it through faith. God has completed His work and has entered into His Rest (where He dwells with all His blessings), and He now invites us through the Gospel to enter into His Rest and partake of His blessings, but even so, some fail to enter His Rest. 

In emphasising that God has done His part, he shifts the imagery behind God’s Rest from the Promised Land to the Seventh Day of Creation: “the works (of God) were finished from the foundation (Creation) of the world.” This confirms that he is talking spiritually, not literally about the Promised Land, and that he is using Israel’s keeping of the Sabbath as well as her possessing of the Land (in the Old-Covenant) as Typology for us entering into God’s Salvation-Rest (in the New Covenant), possessing every blessing in Christ. Thus he is interpreting the Sabbath as Typology to be fulfilled in us.

Hebrews 4:4,5: “For He has spoken in a certain place of the 7th day in this way: “And God RESTED on the 7th day from all His works”; and again in this place: “They shall not enter My REST.” He is linking the spiritual place of God’s REST that was prophesied in Psalm 95 (as typified by the Promised Land of REST) to God’s Creation REST, that was established on the 7th day. Just as God completed all His work of Creation in 6 days, and entered into His Rest on the 7th day, so that man could then enter into His Rest; so now Christ has completed all His work of Salvation (the New Creation) and has entered into His Rest, so that we can now enter into our full Salvation in Christ (typified by the Sabbath-Rest). Now because man fell into sin soon after his Creation, he was unable to enter into God’s Creation-Rest, and had to strive to survive. Thus, although God entered into His rest, man could not. But now, through Christ’s Work of Salvation, the penalty has been paid for our sin, so that we could be forgiven.



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