Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Levitical Sabbath Pointed Forward to the Christian Sabbath

There are two errors that I seek to refute in this post. The first is that of dispensationalists who claim that the Sabbath was only a Jewish ceremony, and is thus done away in the Christian dispensation. The opposite error is that of the Seventh-Day Adventists, who claim, not only that the Saturday Sabbath of the Jews is still in force, but also that it is is the only legitimate expression of the Sabbath. They describe the Sunday Sabbath as a sign of the Whore of Babylon (refer to Revelation 17).

Against the dispensationalists, not only do I direct the argument below, but also Hebrews 4:9: "There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God." They also make an error in claiming that the Sabbath is merely a part of the Mosaic ceremonies, which were, indeed, types and shadows that have no place, now that Christ has come and done His work of redemption. The Sabbath, in contrast, was a creation mandate
(Genesis 2:2-3), together with marriage and the command to work. All three are Old Testament, but not Mosaic. Thus, if the one is abrogated, then so must be the other two.

Against the Saturday Sabbatarians, I insist that the Sabbath was indeed transferred to the first day, i. e., Sunday, after the resurrection of Christ on that day. And I will show from the Levitical prescriptions that the transfer was always the intention of God.

I want to consider three verses in Leviticus. First, Lev. 22:27, about the animals that were brought to the tabernacle for sacrifice: "When an ox or sheep or goat is born, it shall remain seven days with its mother, and from the eighth day on it shall be acceptable as a food offering to the Lord." The sacrifices were types that pointed forward to the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ. The newborn animal was to remain with its mother for a week, and then sacrificed on the eighth day. What is the eighth day? It is the first day of the next week!

Next, turn over a page to Lev. 23:11, describing offerings for the Feast of Firstfruits: "On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it." When was the offering to be made? Not on the seventh day, but on the next day, that is, the first day of the next week.

Third, Lev. 23:36, regarding the Feast of Booths: "For seven days you shall present food offerings to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the Lord." For this feast, too, the focus is transferred to the eighth day, not the seventh. And, again, keep in mind that the eighth day is the first day of the next week. Also note that this is not an exhaustive list of such references.

Finally, I want to consider the Feast of Pentecost, which is also found in Leviticus 23. I deliberately passed over it to give it more consideration. The name "pentecost" is derived from the Greek word for "fifty," because it was to be held fifty days after Passover (Lev. 23:15-16): "You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days, to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the Lord." That number is important, because fifty is seven Sabbaths plus one day, the day after the seventh Sabbath. What is the next day after the Jewish Sabbath? It is the first day of the week! The Feast of Pentecost was itself a prophecy of the Christian Sabbath! That is why we see the disciples gathered on that day (Acts 2:1). And what happened? The Holy Spirit was poured out on them, just as Jesus had promised (Acts 1:8). Just as Jesus rose from the grave on the first day of the week (John 20:1, 19), so also the Holy Spirit was poured out on the first day of the week (Acts 2:3). That is why the Apostolic church recognized the first day of the week as the day for the church to assemble (Acts 20:7, I Corinthians 16:2). 

The practice of the Sabbath is not only binding on Christians, but is a blessing to us! And the change of the Sabbath was predicted in the Mosaic ceremonies. The ceremonial aspect was done away in the finished work of Christ, but its blessing continues on the first day of the week. In the Old Testament, the Sabbath was at the end of the week, because believers were looking forward to their redemption. Now it is on the first day because believers look back on the fulfillment of their redemption. And that is a need that cannot end, on this side of our glorification.

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