Hebrews: The Sabbath Rest Shadow or Reality
Part Two Continued

Does the Rest in Hebrews Mean the Sabbath DAY is Abolished?

The challenger [whose words are in black] who has set himself up against Sabbath would answer yes; but let's take a closer look, for Hebrews clearly tells us "THE SABBATH REST REMAINS". That does not sound like it is abolished to me!

In the Book of Hebrews we have important information relative to this Sabbath rest in the dispensation of the New Covenant.

Heb. 3:7-15 -- So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for 40 years saw what I did.
This is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, "their hearts are always gone astray, and they have not known my ways." So I declared on oath in my anger, "They shall never enter my rest."
See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

According to the words here by the Holy Spirit these unbelieving Israelites, during their wandering in the wilderness, would never enter God's rest because of their rebellion and unbelief. This can't be speaking of the weekly Sabbath rest as demanded of the shadow as they entered into that faithfully every Sabbath day. This is the Holy Spirit speaking to us who are living in the dispensation of the New Covenant. This couldn't be speaking to those of previous ages because only at the cross of Christ did the law with all its regulations including the Sabbath reach its fulfillment.

The challenger assumes that the Israelites kept the Sabbath faithfully and thus assumes this could not be speaking of the weekly Sabbath. Yet Ezekiel 20 tells us a different story:
Ezekiel 20.12-16
Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them.
But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; and my Sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them.
..I lifted up my hand unto them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands;
Because they despised my judgments, and walked not in my statutes, but polluted my Sabbaths: for their heart went after their idols.
Yet I did not utterly consume them.

This is indeed speaking of those previous ages. Because they polluted the Sabbath and refused to submit themselves to God in love and trust, they did not enter Canaan. Their children did entered Canaan, but of the adult generation which left Egypt only two entered the promised land!

Of the adult population who were delivered from Egypt, who were under the cloud covering of Christ, baptized in the cloud and in the sea, ate of the spiritual manna, drank of the water from the spiritual Rock which was Christ, (only two, Calab and Joshua, entered the promised land) the others were all overthrown in the wilderness. (1 Cor. 10:1- 5)

Paul continues by telling us: "Now all these things happened unto them for examples: ... to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted....and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
Wherefore let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall."
(1 Cor. 10:8,11,12)

The challenger continues:
Here we are encouraged into God's rest, which is as was the rest that Adam and Eve entered following creation; a spiritual rest every day. It is "that rest" which gives us peace with God in the knowledge that our redemption through Christ was completed at the cross. We are to encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sins deceitfulness.

What is the deceitfulness of sin?
What are we called to do TODAY?

Nothing is more treacherous than the deceitfulness of sin. It is the god of this world that deludes, and blinds, and leads to destruction. Satan does not deceive people with temptations to gross sins, which are clearly recognized as wrong. He disguises these temptations with a semblance of good; he mingles some precious truth with the his challenge to disobey God, and deceived people use this as an excuse for their defiant disregard of God's expressed will, saying that great good is to be derived. This is only the deceitfulness of sin. Beguiled people take one step, then are prepared for the next. For now they are lead to believe it is OK to lay down their defenses against sin and just rest in the false assurance they are saved, even while disregarding the commandments of God, and it is much more pleasant to follow the inclination of their own hearts than to stand on the defensive and resist the first insinuation of the Satan. In this way they open up the avenues of the mind to rationalization and the suggestions of the evil one, while they shut out the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Oh, how Satan watches to see his bait taken so readily, "Just rest," he says, as he presents reinterpretations of the Bible to people, "Just rest and let me deceive you with the thought that you need not resist sin." How he rejoices as he sees people walking in the very path he has prepared, and defying the commandments of God! He does not want them to give up praying and maintaining a form of religious living. He doesn't want them to stop talking about how saved they are in Christ. For while they do this he can make them more useful in his service, after all if so and so great Christian speaker breaks God's commandments while claiming salvation will this not lead thousands more to break God's commandments and ensure them as his prey. . He unites his sophistry and deceptive snares with their experience and profession, and thus wonderfully advances his cause. The hypocritical Pharisees prayed and fasted, and observed the forms of godliness, while they were corrupt at heart.

We are not called to rest in a carnal security of thinking the deceitfulness of sin is not sin since [falsely assuming] the cross assures redemption by nailing the commandments [that which identifies sin] to the cross. Sin is the transgression of God's law. Only with a changed and sanctified heart can we keep that law, a heart filled with God's spirit. Only with Christ's justification can we be declared blameless. But to rest in the false security that we can now throw out God's commandments, and rest from the keeping of them, and still expect to enter the promised land is reading things here that are not written. It is the very essence of being deceived by the deceitfulness of sin.

Is it not interesting that the book of Hebrews clearly outlines what is and what is not done away with. The earthly priesthood is replaced by a heavenly priesthood, the sacrificial blood of animals is replaced by the better blood of Christ. The earthly sanctuary is replaced by the heavenly sanctuary. The laws concerning the administration of the sacrificial ceremonies are ABOLISHED, for Christ is our High Priest and Sacrifice. However, having told us what was abolished. The author of Hebrews clearly tells us THE SABBATH REST REMAINS!

The challenger continues by quoting:

Heb. 4:1-11 -- Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did [speaking of the Jews hearing the gospel from Jesus]; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. [They refused to accept Christ as the Messiah.]

Now we who have believed enter into that rest, just as God has said, "So I declared in my anger 'They shall never enter my rest.' "

Just as the Israelites who had been redeemed from slavery in Egypt, and their descendants, were entitled to the physical rest of the weekly Sabbath, so that spiritual rest (God's rest) is limited to all who believe on Christ and have had their sins cleansed by the blood of Christ on the cross. They have been redeemed from the world and set apart and enter into God's rest. This rest is peace with God in the assurance of eternal life through Christ.

First we see here the assumption that the Jews did not hear the gospel in times past, that all this happened, and refers to Paul's day. We already saw in Ezekiel that the Israelites in the wilderness did not enter Canaan because [contrary to what our challenger said] they did NOT keep the Sabbath holy but polluted it GREATLY. Now the challenger implies that the Israelites didn't hear the gospel until Christ came to earth. But that is not the case. The whole sanctuary which was given them at Sinai was a revelation of the gospel of Christ to come. The sins of the people were transferred by figure to the sacrifice, which represented Christ, the Lamb of God that was to die for the sins of the world. The gospel was revealed to them and by faith, as they partook of the sanctuary services, they were to rest in the faith that Christ would pardon, redeem and cleanse them from all sin.

But they did not believe in the gospel nor in the power of God, way back there in the wilderness. They did not believe and turned to other things, and other sources, and all but two of the adult generation did not enter Canaan's rest, even though they had been delivered from Egypt.

Hebrews tells us their "Not all that came out of Egypt by Moses entered the rest. For with whom was He displeased forty years? But with them that had sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to who did he sware that they would not enter the rest? But to them that were disobedient. So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

They did not mix what they heard, with faith, thus they could not keep God's commandments and fell into much sin.

This is all in the context of Israel in the wilderness. Israel not entering the promised land because of their sin and unbelief in their God.

And now this challenger is trying to tell us the Israelites were redeemed and kept the Sabbath faithfully there in the wilderness, but still couldn't enter the rest, and that "rest" is not literal resting, but that "rest" means we are now to act in disobedience to God's commandment and not worry about it?

He continues:

Heb. 4 (Cont'd) -- And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh-day in these words: "And on the seventh-day God rested from all his work." And again in the passage above he says, "They shall never enter my rest."

It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of unbelief.

This has to be those unbelieving Jews at the time of Christ because the gospel was first presented by Jesus at that time. They were keeping "the rest" of the Shadow on every Sabbath day, but they did not enter into God's rest as presented in the new covenant due to their unbelief. He is just as surely speaking of those at the present time who, blending good works, obedience to the law, Sabbath keeping, etc. to assist in assuring their salvation, fall into this same classification and cannot enter into this rest.

Let's look at the another translation here:
"Although the works were finished from the foundation of the world."

What was finished from the foundation of the world?

Matthew 25.34
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world"

The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

The plan of salvation had been laid before the creation of the earth. Christ is the center of the great plan of redemption, a plan which is a unit, and covers all dispensations. He is the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." He is the Redeemer of the fallen sons and daughters of Adam in all the ages of human probation. "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved."

The gospel was preached to Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses, and was to them good news; for their faith embraced a coming Saviour. A more clear and glorious light now shines upon the Christian world; it is true, for that which was faith to the patriarchs and prophets who lived before Christ, is assurance to us, as we see that Christ has come just in the manner that inspired men of old had foretold that he would come. It is just as essential that we have faith in a Redeemer who has come and died our sacrifice, as it was for the holy men of old to believe in a Redeemer to come, whom they represented by their typical sacrifices. Later in Hebrews we have a glorious account of the great faith of these old testament heroes who put their faith in God and obeyed. How much more should we, who have the assurance that Christ has come and confirmed the covenant, have faith?

Again, in the reasoning of the challenger, we see the wrong projection. We see the challenger assuming that the Israelites kept the Sabbath Day in the wilderness, yet still didn't enter the rest, that they kept the Sabbath day in Christ's day, but still didn't enter the rest.

Yet the TRUTH is they did NOT keep the Sabbath of the Lord their God HOLY, neither in the wilderness, for we are told by Ezekiel 20, that they greatly polluted "my Sabbaths" in the wilderness and for that reason could not enter in the promised land. We also know many were NOT keeping it holy in Christ's day, it was just an outward show.

No other command which was committed to the Jews tended so fully to distinguish them from surrounding nations as did the Sabbath. God designed that its observance should designate them as His worshipers. It was to be a token of their separation from idolatry, and their connection with the true God. But in order to keep the Sabbath holy, men must themselves be holy. Through faith they must become partakers of the righteousness of Christ. When the command was given to Israel, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy," the Lord said also to them, "Ye shall be holy men unto Me." Ex. 20:8; 22:31. Only thus could the Sabbath distinguish Israel as the worshipers of God.

The adult generation of Israelites delivered from Egypt never entered the promised land of rest [Canaan] because of unbelief, yes, "for without faith it is impossible to please Him" but this in no wise abolishes the seventh-day Sabbath which God has commanded us to remember.

For yes, God did "make" the seventh DAY back in creation. The Sabbath was made for mankind. Mark 2:27 God rested upon that DAY and blessed it and sanctified it. Jesus said the Sabbath was created for man.(Gen. 2:1-3, Mark 2:27)

He has asked us to remember that DAY to keep it holy. {Ex. 20:10) Yet only as we experience the holiness which only Christ can give, can we keep that DAY holy unto the Lord.

Heb. 4 (Cont'd) -- Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts."

Therefore God again set a certain day. What day had he previously set? It could only be the Sabbath. Which day was the day referred to as "God again set a certain day"? This according to the text above, can only be Today. This was the perfect opportunity for God to specify if another day had been solemnized to become a different Sabbath day. This He didn't do because the original Sabbath was a shadow of Christ and when He replaced the Sabbath at the cross, that day had served its purpose and now all our attention is to be returned to Christ instead of to any particular day.

The day we choose to come together to worship Him on a regular basis is left to the church to decide, but their decision, even though agreeable to the Lord, does not make it into a holy day. All the holiness of that day was transferred to Christ and none of it to be shared by another day. The day He chose was Today and everyday as long as it is called today.

Well, we can agree with the challenger that God did not specify ANOTHER Sabbath day, upon which to worship, however, we must greatly disagree that God abolished the SEVENTH-day.
However, the Hebrews does speak of ANOTHER DAY. In this sense the whole argument that the SABBATH is gone falls. For the call is not to abolish anything, but to establish another DAY. The day of salvation!

Today mercy pleads with the sinner. Today Christ is still calling us with words of love: "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me." "Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." Revelation 3:20; 2 Corinthians 6:2.

Today, everyday we need to commit our lives to Christ. Only then can we experience rest in Him. It's not saying, keep today, as the Sabbath, it's saying today harden not your hearts with the deceitfulness of sin. If we surrender self to Christ, today, then the weekly Sabbath day will be a day of delight holy unto the Lord, and a symbol of the heavenly Canaan rest in the future.

What is it that Christ came to make holy when he came to earth?
Was it to absorb holiness from earth unto Himself, or was it to impart holiness?
Christ did not come to rob the seventh-day of it's holiness. He came to make a people holy so they could enjoy the holiness of the Sabbath DAY now, and enter into the holy, heavenly Canaan in the future.

The author of Hebrews is directing the minds of Christians away from the Jewish ceremonial system in the earthly tabernacle to Christ's ministry in the heavenly sanctuary.

Tempted as they were to look to the Jewish rituals they needed an understanding of the meaning of Sabbath observance in the light of Christ's ministry.

The Sabbath rest "REMAINS" for the people of God (Heb. 4:9)

Unlike the sanctuary rituals, the Sabbath Rest remains, it acquires fresh meaning and function with Christ's coming. Christ did not do away with the Sabbath rest but made it more meaningful!

It is a day to experience and share the joy of resting in HIM.

It is the services of the earthly temple that are obsolete and abolished in Hebrews. But the "Sabbatismos-- Sabbath rest" is explicitly and emphatically presented, as not being OBSOLETE! It remains! (Present tense! Literally translated it means "has been left behind".

The Sabbath rest "has been left behind for the people of God! Hebrews 4:9

The contrast between the Sabbath and the earthly temple services are obvious. The later is obsolete, the former is left behind and therefore is still relevant.

Verse 11 exhorts us to strife to enter that rest.

Therefore a Sabbath Rest Remains for the people of God. (Hebs. 4:9)

The Sabbath continues. The verb "remains" is "(apoleipetai) which literally means "has been left."
The Greek word translated "rest" in every other passage throughout Hebrews 3 and 4 is "katapausis." The word for "rest" in Hebrews 4:9 is (sabbatismos). The term (sabbatismos) is seen in the writings of Plutarch, Justin, Epiphanius, and others, and each time the term denotes the observance of the Sabbath. Therefore the text is saying, that Sabbath obsevance remains for the people of God. Later the author tells us what has been abolished BUT FIRST he confirms the SABBATH REST remains behind for the people of God.

Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy,...for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is and rested the seventh day, and made it holy. (Ex. 20:8,11)

The Sabbath was created for mankind! Mark 2:27

The author of Hebrews reaffirms that the Sabbath is a day to experience the present rest of salvation while looking forward to the future and final rest in the heavenly Canaan.

For whoever enters God's rest ceases from his labors as God did from His.

Some say this is to stop doing "dead works" of legalism. Did God cease from dead works of legalism or did He cease from His weekly activities? It is absurd to think that God ceased from "sinful deeds". God ceased on the seventh day from His creation work, so believers are to cease on the same day from their labors. This is a confirmation of the 4th commandment!

In Hebrews we find the deeper meaning of rest.
Resting in Hebrews is not merely a routine ritual, but rather a faith response to God. A making oneself available to "hear his voice".
It is a faith based, not works based, resting and delighting oneself in the Lord. Only thus can we keep the Sabbath holy as outlined in Isaiah 58.13
If you take away your foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shall honour Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words:
Then you will delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it.

"Cease from our work, to allow God to work in us."
Upon the Sabbath Day we free oneself from the cares and demands of our workweek in order to experience freely, by faith God's recreation and redemption rest.

It is for those who "believe". (Heb. 4:3)

Another article dealing with issues in Hebrews 3 and 4
Did Christ make that which was holy, unholy?
Part one in this Sabbath Rest Series
Part two in this Sabbath Rest Series
God's judgment proclaimed in the NT SABBATH TEXTS
Understanding the New Covenant in Revelation
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