Rest is presented as representative on 3 levels in Scripture. 1) the Promise Land that God led the Israelites too, was their rest, 2) the specific Sabbath day was a day of rest, and 3) of that final, eternal Rest which is the eventual outcome of our salvation.
In Hebrews 4, the writer urges us not to follow the example of disobedience, but rather to be diligent to enter the rest that is available today. What was the example of disobedience the writer urges us not to repeat? The refusal of the Israelites to obey God’s command and enter the Promised Land. (hence, the reference to Joshua in verse 8, and we are told specifically in chapter 3 that this is the disobedience referenced by verse 11.) The author of Hebrews reminds us in verse 9 that there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. And he refers both to the weekly Sabbath and to the eternal Sabbath.
When we refuse to enter the weekly rest that God has enjoined upon us, we are re-enacting the Israelites refusal to enter the Land, and directly violating a New Testament command not to follow that example of disobedience. Sure, we can rest every day in the knowledge that Yeshua has finished His work, but when God finished His work (creation), did He start a memorial or end a memorial? Why would we think that God no longer wants us to memorialize His great creative and then great redemptive work–and its finished nature–by ceasing from our labors?
This idea that because we now know more fully (with the benefit of hindsight) what the types and shadows anticipated by the OT are, we no longer need to honor or practice them befuddles me. Yes, they are shadows; shadows cast by the reality, the substance of Messiah. They remain the best picture we have of the eternal future and the truths upon which our participation relies.
I will never forget a story a friend of mine once shared. He went to Wheaton College outside of Chicago, IL and was greatly excited to learn that the Chicago Bulls would be practicing in the Wheaton College gym. He was shocked to discover upon entering that the team of professional basketball players were practicing layup drills, passing drills, etc. All the basics that he practiced in junior high and highschool!
Don’t you see? Just because we are “New Covenant” saints doesn’t mean that we can forsake the instructions of God, the keeping of by which you shall find life. No, they are the expression of a loving God’s heart for his am segullah–treasured possession. God is not capricious, no He is immutable. He would not give legalistic, binding, heavy, unbearable commands to His chosen people! God’s heart for his people (in which we Gentiles are now privileged to be included) has never changed, it has always been passionate and desirous that we might have life abundant!
What was the promise of the New Covenant? That God’s Spirit would write His Torah (instructions) on our hearts! Why? So we could subsequently ignore them? Of course not! “Do we then nullify the Torah through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Torah.” (Romans 3:31)
What is this “obedience of faith” that Paul speaks of? “For it is not the hearers of the Torah who are just before God, but the doers of the Torah will be justified.” (Romans 2:13) And why will the doers of Torah be justified? Because of their doing? No! Because those who love God, keep His commandments. Those who believe in God, love Him. “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Are we made righteous by keeping the commandments of God? Heaven forbid! Once having become part of His covenant people, does God wants us to honor His commandments? Absolutely! “For Moses writes about the righteousness that is by the law: “The one who does these things will live by them.” (Romans 10:5)
What does this word “fulfill” mean? Does it mean “made it so that you no longer need to abide by God’s commands?” Of course not! Messiah himself said that the greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Paul writes, “Love doesn’t harm a neighbor. Love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:10) When Paul says “fulfillment” does he mean that once having loved our neighbor we no longer need to keep the commandment? No; how silly that would be. That’s right! How silly it is to think that Messiah said, “I did not come to abolish the Torah but to fulfill it.”…”In fact, to fulfill it so much that it is effectively abolished!”
This word “fulfill” (pleroo) means to fill up, like you fill up the hull of a ship, in this case to fill full of significance! So now that we understand so much more, let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together (oh yeah, that was one of the commands for Sabbath wasn’t it?), rather let us encourage one another all the more toward love (the royal command) and good deeds! And what are good deeds? They’re the practice of God’s commands! There the very things that God fashioned before the creation of the world for us to walk in–for us to do (Eph. 2:10)!
“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13)
Not all the feasts of the Lord (note that they are never called “the feast of the Jews”) have been fulfilled, the event which some anticipate still remains unrealized. Let us then celebrate those that have been seen and testified to with joy and great gladness, but let us celebrate those which remain to be fulfilled with great joy and anticipation! Let us be “diligent to enter that rest”, to physically keep the Sabbath in celebration and anticipation of that final, joyous, everlasting Sabbath, when God will return to be our God and us to be His people, when God will finally dwell among men forever and ever.
Some might say, but “Messiah redeemed us from the curse of the Torah, having become a curse for us. For it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree,” (Gal. 3:13) Well, of course He did! He redeemed us from the curse that was written in the Law, from the condemnation of the Law, that stood as witness testifying to our sin (lawlessness). Is the Torah itself a curse? Absolutely not! “So then, the Torah is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good.” (Romans 7:12) One is only under a curse, if one looks to the keeping of Torah as a means of salvation. If one accepts the gracious gift of God, then one can keep the Torah with glee and gratitude. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commands are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)
“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:10 NASB)
4 thoughts on “Rest Today, Rest Tomorrow”
As always, great stuff. I hope you don’t mind but I am going to send this to a few friends who had asked some questions you just answered. Thanks!
Jamie, feel free to use or send this stuff to anyone you would like. I hope it is helpful.
This is indeed an excellently concise explanation of why we can and should remember and keep Sabbath – and all of Torah for that matter. It’s an expression of love for G-d empowered through the Holy Spirit with thanksgiving that through Y’shua we are saved from the law of sin and death. We can now live in the law of joy and life – TORAH. Bless His glorious Name forever.
Thanks, David; I appreciate the encouragement. When I re-read this post now it seems I must have been pretty fired up when penning it! lol, I wonder what events surrounded its writing? Anyway…