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Before we get started, I want to say something briefly about physical rest.
Although the Fourth Commandment to do no work on the Sabbath or seventh day of the week, indeed the Old Covenant itself, was made obsolete by the New Covenant, there is nothing wrong with taking a day off to rest.
One of the beauties of studying the Old Testament is in learning the wisdom of God, who is all-wise, and knows all things. And physical rest is important, just as rotating crops from year to year was important, for example, so as to not deplete the soil.
And just as too much of almost anything can lead to what we have come to call burnout. So I encourage gleaning practical and spiritual wisdom and principles from the Old Testament, as long as we don’t fall into the trap of legalism, or putting ourselves under Law as a means of earning God’s love and favor.
O.K., Jesus our Sabbath, Part 2:
Brief Recap of Part 1
In Part 1 we gave several reasons why the Old Covenant Sabbath-keeping is not for believers under the New Covenant.
Briefly these are as follows:
1.In Colossians 2:16-17, Paul clearly refers to the Sabbath as a shadow of Christ, which is no longer binding since the substance (Christ) has come.
2.The Sabbath was the sign to Israel of the Old Covenant
( Ezekiel 20:12). Since we are now under the New Covenant (Hebrews 8), we are no longer required to observe the sign of the Old Covenant.
3.The New Testament never commands Christians to observe the Sabbath.
4.The church met on the first day of the week in the book of Acts (Acts 20:7), and even that is not a command, but merely a practice that sprang up, possibly in honor of Christ who rose from the dead that day.
5.We touched on this already, but nowhere even in the Old Testament are the Gentile nations commanded to observe the Sabbath or criticized for not observing it. That makes it clear that Sabbath-keeping is not meant to be an eternal moral principle.
6.Nowhere in the Bible does anyone keep the Sabbath before the time of Moses, and there are no commandments in the Bible to keep the Sabbath before the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai.
7.The apostle Paul warned the Gentiles about many different sins in his epistles, but breaking the Sabbath was never one of them.
8.In Galatians 4:10-11, Paul rebukes the Galatians for thinking God expected them to observe special days (including the Sabbath).
9.Nothing in Scripture indicates that Sunday has replaced Saturday as the Sabbath. Believers tend to gather on Sunday, which is the first day of the week, but there is no command of Scripture to do so.
10.Lastly, Hebrews 4:9-11 makes it clear that the Sabbath was all along meant to be a shadow of Christ who came to be our Sabbath rest.
It’s that last point, number 10, that I would like to dwell on for a while…that Jesus Christ Himself is our Sabbath rest, and we need no other.
About the Book of Hebrews
But before we get to this argument in Hebrews, primarily Chapter 4, let me give just a very brief overview of the Book of Hebrews as it relates to the New Covenant.
Hebrews was written specifically to Jewish Christians who had been undergoing some persecution, and would no doubt have more persecution in the future.
The letter was intended to show the superiority of Christianity over Judaism, or maybe to put it better, to show how much better the New Covenant is than the Old Covenant. And not just better, but how the New Covenant made the Old Covenant obsolete, as we read in Hebrews Chapter 8.
Let me just sort of rattle off these great themes of Hebrews. I won’t read the scriptural passages, though I would love for you to read them when you’re through listening to this, so I’ll reference the Chapters where these themes occur.
Here are the themes:
Jesus is a better revelation of truth 1:1-3
Jesus is better than the angels 1:3-14
Jesus is better than Moses 3:1-6
Jesus is better than Aaron, Moses’ brother, the priest 5
Jesus is a better high priest 6,7
The New Covenant has a better law 7:12
The New Covenant is a better covenant 8:6
The New Covenant has better promises 8:6
The New Covenant has a greater temple 9:11
The New Covenant has better sacrifices or sacrifice 9:23
The New Covenant has a better possession 10:34
The New Covenant has a better country 11:16
The New Covenant has a better resurrection 11:35
The New Covenant has better blood 12:24
The New Covenant has better atonement, which of course, goes beyond just covering sins, but taking them away, which the Old Covenant atonement could never do 10:1-5
So we see the overall theme of Hebrews might be called “betterness”, the betterness of Christ over Moses and the betterness of the New Covenant to the Old.
Who Hebrews Was Written To, And A Warning
Now I’ve left out part of Chapter 3 and all of Chapter 4, but now I want to talk about that, because this is where we find that the New Covenant has a better Sabbath.
Now when I said that Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians, I should have said PROFESSING Jewish Christians, because the writer is careful not to assume that all his readers are really born again.
And so he warns them in Chapter 3, verses 7-11, not to harden their hearts as the Israelites did in the Wilderness, causing God to swear, “They shall not enter my rest.” Now the writer is quoting Psalm 95 here, but here’s what’s important to realize. These Israelites already had the Sabbath law. They already had the Fourth Commandment, and yet they did not enter God’s rest.
And the writer of Hebrews is warning those who have not yet really believed in the Messiah, and then encouraging them to believe, by showing them the superiority of Christ.
He makes it clear that the rest is to come by belief, by faith. Faith in what? Or more accurately, faith in whom?
Well, Christ, the Messiah! The one who is better than Moses and whose New Covenant is better than the Old. Or to put it another way, believing the Gospel, the good news. Look at Chapter 4, verse 2, “For indeed we have had good news preached to us...”
The "Rest" Of The Gospel
And so the case is made in Chapter 4 that this rest comes from believing the good news, and in verse 7 the writer emphasizes that the day to believe the good news is “Today”. It’s always “today”, isn’t it? Today is the day of salvation, today is the day to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ if you haven’t.
Thank God we are still under the New Covenant. It’s still “today”.
That’s why Hebrews 4:9,10 says, “There remains, therefore, a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.” That’s our Sabbath. See that?
A Shadow of Things To Come
That’s why we read in Colossians 2:17 that the Old Covenant Sabbath was just a shadow of things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
Christ is our Sabbath, our better Sabbath, because He paid for our sins, and gave us forgiveness for all of our sins, past, present and future, and declared us Righteous in Him.
So we can rest from our works. We can rest from our performance as a means of gaining the love and favor of God. He already loves us and He has already favored us in Christ. That’s our rest. That’s our Sabbath.
Now I should mention, if you might be reading the King James version, that Hebrews 4:9 doesn’t say “Sabbath rest”, it just says, “rest”. But the Greek word is Sabbatismos, and it’s the only place it occurs in Scripture. It’s the word for Sabbath, applied to the beautiful rest from our works that Christ has provided.
It Is Finished
And one more thing about Chapter 4, verse 10. When it says, “For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works...”, those words translated “rested” are written in the verb tense which means they are DONE, they are completed, they are finished, just as Jesus said on the Cross, “It is finished”.
What that means is that when you believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, when you became a Christian, when you were saved, you permanently entered into His rest. He no longer holds your sins against you, because you have rested from your works and His work on the Cross has paid for your rest.
Why is that important? Because it tells you, “Don’t be restless, now that you’ve rested.” Don’t jump back into the Law-based mode and try to earn God’s love and favor. Rest in the love and favor that He already has for you, paid for by Jesus on the Cross.
And that’s why the writer of Hebrews can go on to tell of the better priesthood, and the better promises, and the better sacrifice, and the better blood. Because under the Old Covenant, there was this awful veil of separation between God and Man, but under the New Covenant, the veil has been torn, and we now can come boldly or draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of trouble.
Christ In You, The Hope of Glory
We not only can approach the throne of God boldly, we have the very Christ Himself inside us, Christ in you the hope of glory.
That’s our Sabbath. That’s our Sabbath rest.
And that’s why Jesus, just before one of his Sabbath confrontations with the Pharisees, in Matthew 11:28,29, said, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.”
Have you entered that rest? Have you believed on the Lord Jesus Christ? He died on the Cross to pay for sins, and to give the free gift of His righteousness to all who would come to Him. Then He rose from the dead, and is alive today. Believe in Him today, if you haven’t.
And if you are already a believer, you have entered into that rest, that beautiful Sabbath rest which is Jesus Christ. Your works, your performance, are no longer the requirement for God’s favor. He has given us all spiritual blessings in Christ (Eph. 1:3) He loves you and desires your close fellowship with Him.
Oh, you will do works. But they will be the works worked in you by His Spirit, His very life. For it’s God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13).
Friends, rest in Him, your Sabbath rest.