The Sabbath: Permanent or Temporary?

Sabbath Study, Part 7

When we get to the actual Ten Commandments (in Exodus 20), we will see that God quotes directly from Genesis 2 to provide the basis for the Sabbath rest. Beginning with the next post, we will start to work our way through Scripture from the beginning, focusing first on Genesis 2 and what it means. In the meantime, I want us to examine the nature of all of God’s creation-week ordinances. As far as I can tell, there are three:

1. A RESPONSIBILITY: work (or labor).
2. A RELATIONSHIP: marriage.
3. A RITUAL: weekly rest.

Before sin ever entered the picture, there existed these three divinely ordained aspects of man’s existence. Each gives us a greater understanding of the reason for which man was made. Let’s briefly examine each one and see what we notice about the perpetuity (or brevity) of each.

First, the responsibility. When God placed Adam in the garden, He did so with a specific purpose. “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). Adam was placed in the garden so that he would take care of it. What this shows us is that part of man’s original design is to work. “When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you” (Ps. 128:2; see also Ec. 5:18, 19). The Bible even says that if we don’t work we shouldn’t eat (2 Thes. 3:10).

Sin did not and could not destroy this God-given purpose for man—although it certainly made it more difficult (Gen. 3:17-19). But even with the presence of sin, we have hope for rewarding work because of Christ. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).

Even in heaven, satisfying labor will exist, free from the trappings of sin. “And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. . . . And they shall reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:3, 5). Notice how the elimination of the curse of sin does not eliminate the presence of labor. After all, service and reigning will undoubtedly involve work. Without the influence or presence of sin, however, this work will be a peaceful and restful work.

The second Creation ordinance is the marriage relationship. After placing Adam in the garden, God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Gen. 2:18). Adam named this helper Woman, “Because she was taken out of Man” (v. 23). “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (v. 24). We know from the Apostle Paul that this “one flesh” union—that marriage in general—was designed to point to the relationship Christ has with the church (Eph. 5:32).

So we see that marriage presupposes sin: if there were no sin, there would be no need for a Savior. If there was no wayward bride, it would be meaningless to have a faithful groom. If the stain of sin had not sullied the human race, there would be no need for One to wash and cleanse it, as Christ does the church (Eph. 5:25-27). Marriage was designed as a portrait of the future wedding and marriage between Christ (the bridegroom) and the church (those redeemed by God). As such, the institution of marriage (the symbol) will last only until the marriage supper of the Lamb (the reality) (see Lk. 20:35). Once the “real thing” comes in all its fullness, the mirror image will pass away.

Nevertheless, even though it is a temporary institution, God calls all men to hold it in high regard: “Let marriage be held in honor among all” (Heb. 13:4, NASB). This high view of marriage is necessary, for in the relationship between a husband and a wife the glory of God is displayed; marriage is the ultimate gospel illustration. Though its days are numbered, its message is of eternal value.

The third and final creation ordinance is the Sabbath ritual. God created the universe in six days, then rested on the seventh day, blessing and sanctifying it—setting it apart as different from any other day of the week (Gen. 2:1-3). In Exodus 16:26 this day is explicitly referred to as “the Sabbath,” and in Exodus 20 this Sabbath is explicitly shown to be for man to follow in God’s footsteps.

Along with the doctrine of marriage, we learn more about the Sabbath as redemptive history unfolds. It isn’t until later in the Bible that we read of the illustrative link between the Sabbath and eternal Heavenly rest, just as it isn’t until later in the Bible that we read of the illustrative link between marriage and the gospel. Because of the nature of these two illustrations, both marriage and the Sabbath foreshadow sin—marriage by picturing God’s redemptive relationship with His people and the Sabbath by picturing the rest enjoyed in God’s finished work of redemption.

If sin really does find symbolic representation in both marriage and the Sabbath, it follows that both institutions will pass away when—and only when—sin is finally and completely eradicated. So, in the end, I believe the Sabbath is indeed temporary—albeit, in the same way marriage is temporary. But until sin passes away, there will be a need for the gospel to shine through the biblical illustrations God has set up, namely, marriage and the weekly Sabbath.


Steven said…
Hey Cap,
Google UCG AIA (United Church of God) they have a great site for any info you might need for the seventh day Sabbath position. Their booklets and articles are very thorough and well written.
God bless your study. Steven
Joshua said…
Cap, I think what I'm hearing is that the "institution" of the Sabbath as a weekly rest is what you are saying is temporary. Given the truth that God's character does not change, it would seem that, if from the foundation of the world, rest was part of God's character, then in the future, even though expression of that character to us might change, rest would still exist for the people of God post 2nd coming. Right? Or are you going to explain this later?
Cap Stewart said…
Thanks, Steven! I'll check out that website and look through their information.

Joshua: yes, that is correct. The weekly Sabbath (which, I believe, will pass away only when Christ returns) is a symbol of the eternal rest we are called to enjoy in the redemptive work of Christ. So, even after the second coming (i.e., when the weekly Sabbath is done away with), we will continue to enjoy rest in God--albeit, perfect, unbroken rest. Was there anything I could have done in the post to communicate that more clearly/effectively?
Steven said…
Cap, I have to chime in here to address what you said in your comment to Joshua that the Sabbath will not be observed after Christ's return. IS 66:12-24 is clearly at Christ return and beyond vs. 23 clearly states the Sabbath is still intact. IS 2 1-4 What Law do you suppose it is that goes out from Jeruselem? Zech 14 is clearly describing Christ's return and beyond vs. 16-19 even states that all nations will be required to keep the Feast of Tabernacles or it will not rain on their nation. I could go on and on, God's Law is a Law of Love and God is Love it's what he is! I will be commenting on Gal 4:9 Col 2etc. in the next few days.
Cap Stewart said…

I’m not quite sure what to do with Isaiah 66:23. I know a lot of people believe that in this passage Old Testament language is being used to describe New Testament realities. Honestly, I have yet to come to a conclusion on the matter myself. In any case, I still believe Scriptural evidence points to the rest promised in the Sabbath foreshadowing the eternal rest found in God in Heaven. I plan to expand on that idea as the blog series progresses.

Thanks for your input on my posts. I’ve enjoyed the cordial exchange of hermeneutics. As I stated in an earlier comment, though, time constraints will not allow me to continue dialoguing with you at such length. I’m fairly certain that we won’t see eye to eye when all is said and done, but I do hope that this blog series serves as a blessing to all who read it, and that we all grow in our appreciation for the blessings provided in the weekly Sabbath.
Steven said…
Hey Cap,
Glad to see you back posting! I also am enjoying this cordial exchange. It is usually not the case when two don't agree on religious beliefs. I especially appreciate your hospitality of the use of this forum to voice my understanding in these matters.
I understand the time constraints fully. One of the things I wish I had more of is time. Please don't feel obliged to have to reply to all my posts I certainly will not feel offended in any way. As for your desire for this blog series being a blessing for all who read it, I say a big AMEN!!
I'll try some exhortation at this point Cap, if you don't mind.
To all the observers out there please feel free to join in. I'm sure Cap would appreciate the input. My understanding might be different from what yours may be but we all need to grow in grace and knowledge. I for one sense God's spirit working here and His Spirit leads us to all truth does it not? Cap has already taken a position here that some of you might not agree with and some of our comments may lead us off the main topic which opens up further issues. Feel free to comment on any issue you may feel the desire to. Cap and I agree on half the main issue here that the Sabbath is intact and should be observed by God's church. Where we disagree is on which day should be observed. The side issues that arise from our discourse can be seen as an additional blessing that we can reap from this blog, but I certainly do not want them to be a distraction from Cap's endeavor.
"Hello is there anybody in there just nod if you can hear me is there anyone at home"? (Comfortably Numb Pink Floyd) Sorry I just had to do that. Erika forgive me! May God continue to bless this study. Steven