THE EVERLASTING COVENANTAL SABBATH
At the beginning of the human race, God very probably revealed to Adam the idea of the weekly sabbath, which idea was then doubtless designated by a special word in the universal human language then spoken in Eden. However, the advent of sin and its later result of the confusion of the tongues at the tower of Babel (Gen. 11) has probably1 led to the loss of the Edenic word, albeit not to the loss of the sabbath idea as such, the idea being infallibly and permanently recorded by divine inspiration in the Hebrew tongue from the first book of Moses onwards (cf. Gen. 2:1 f).
After the confusion of the tongues and the dispersion of the human race from Babylon outwards, the patriarch Abraham, a descendant of Eber the first Hebrew, brought his family and his Hebrew language2 into the land of Canaan. From there his immediate descendants first went to Egypt for four hundred and thirty years, and then returned to Canaan after a further forty-year journey through the Sinaitic wilderness with its desert inhabitants, Moses then inscripturating all prior sacred history in the Hebrew tongue. In Canaan, they — Abraham's later descendants, the Israelites — gradually expelled the Canaanites, Kenites and the other inhabitants, until they themselves were removed to Babylon about six hundred and thirty years later, returning again to Canaan from after some seventy years later onwards, and remaining there under Greek domination from about 330 B.C. and under Roman domination from 63 B.C. until their final expulsion in A.D. 70.
So the Hebrew people and their language — especially that important part of the Hebrew people which descended from Abraham and later became known as the Israelites3 — were possibly influenced (under the superintendence and guidance of Almighty God) by the language(s) and customs of Babylon before the pre-Abrahamic dispersion and by those of the Egyptians, Kenites, Babylonians and others thereafter. This then being the case, a possible etymological connection between the Hebrew word for "sabbath" (namely "shabbãth") and its Babylonian and other predecessors and successors, can by no means be discounted.
This is particularly the case since about 1850 when A. H. Layard discovered part of the famous royal cuneiform library at Nineveb in Assyria in North-West Mesopotamia, containing references to a religious day known as "Sabattu". The library had been collected before the Babylonian captivity of the Jews (from 597 onwards) by King Assurbanipal (668-626 B.C.), who had ordered Assyrian or bilingual copies to be made from many older cuneiform tablets originating in the earier Accadian or still earlier Sumerian cities in Babylon in South-East Mesopotamia such as Nippur, Eridu, and Ur — the city of Abraham's origin (Gen. 11: 9, 31)4.
Hence it is that some scholars like Sayce5 have observed that the sabbath rest was a Babylonian as well as a Hebrew institution, its origin going back to pre-Semitic days: and have claimed that its very name 'shabbãth' (by which it was known in Hebrew) was of Babylonian origin, the 'Sabattn' being described in the cuneiform tablets as 'a day of rest for the soul'. Moreover, in spite of the fact that the word 'Sabbatu' is of genuine Semitic origin, it is claimed that it was derived by the later Assyrian scribes from two Sumerian or pre-Semitic words, 'so' and 'bat', which meant respectively 'heart' and 'ceasing'.
According to Böhl6, the Babylonians indeed celebrated a 'day of calming of the heart (of the gods), which they called 'sha-pâtu', or 'day of the middle (of the month)', but this day was the fifteenth day of the three-yearly intercalary month and bore no relation to the weekly Babylonian seventh-day rest day (of man): although Jirku7 regards it as possible that the Babylonian NAME 'shob-buni' (for the fifteenth day of the intercalarv month) was adopted by the Jews and applied as 'shabbãth' to the different INSTITUTION of the seventh-day weekly rest day. Aalders8. however, has maintained that the similarity is only apparent between the Hebrew word 'shabbãth' and the Babylonian 'Shabattu': for the name 'Shabattu' is to be pronounced somewhat differently to the Hebrew 'shabbãth'. namely 'sha-patu'; and this latter view is endorsed by The Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics9, which claims that the word 'shabattu,' was applied to the festival of the full moon on the fifteenth day of the intercalary month when the earth's satellite 'rested' for a while at the height of its brilliancy, 'Sa-bat' and 'sapattu' its derivative thus not being applied to the seventh day of the continuous week by the Babylonians, for which seventh day they had another word ('u-hul-zallum').
It seems clear, then, that whatever nexus there may be between the weekly Hebrew 'shabhath' institution and the similar weekly Babylonian 'u-h ul-zallum' institution, any ETYMOLOGICAL nexus between the weekly Hebrew 'shabbãth' institution and the totally different three-yearly intercalary Babylonian fifteenth-day 'so-bat' or 'sapattu' institution, would involve the transference of the NAME of one institution to another totally different INSTITUTION — which transference is not, however, altogether unthinkable. For it is by no means quite impossible that the Hebrew weekly 'shabbãth' institution is etymologically derived from the Babylonian WORDS 'shapatto' or 'sa-bat', which words were used by the Babylonians to describe the completely different intercalary institution. (But see also Note 1 supra and Chapter III, note 6).
Whatever its remote derivation from non-Hebrew words, however, the more immediate deduction of the Hebrew noun "shabbãth", an intensive form (thus Keil10) of its corresponding verb "shähath" (cf. the Arabic11 "sabata'), is variously considered to be from other Hebrew words such as "shoob" (= "[re] turn") [thus Kanne and Bähr12]; "shêba'" (="seven"), [thus Lactantius13]; and "shàbbêtheth" (= "rest") [thus Ochler14]; of which the third deduction alone is probably correct [thus Geesink15].
In their standard lexicon, Koehler and Baumgartner16 record that the root "sh-b-th" occurs 101 times in the Old Testament. They variously give the meaning of the verb "shãhath" as "cease", "rest", "cease working", "keep the sabbath", etc., in the Qal; as "be stopped", "disappear", "caused to cease" in the Nifal; and as "put an end to", "cause to cease", "cause to cease to work", "make to rest from", "be caused to cease" in the Hif'il. The meaning of the noun and its derivatives are variously given as "(yôm) hashshabbãth" = "the day of rest, sabbath"; "shabbãthôn" = "sabbath feast", "shabhath shabbãthôn" = most solemn sabbath; and "shêbêth" = "sitting quiet(ly), inaction".
Gesenius similarly gives the primary meaning of the verb "shãhath" in his lexicon17 as "to sit down, to sit still"; and thence "to cease, desist, leave off", "to celebrate the sabbath", "to cause to rest or to cease" and "to remove, to take away"; and of the noun "shabbãth" as "cessation, a ceasing", hence "idleness, inactivity, interruption of work, time lost".
The immediate meaning of "shabbãth" then, is "(the day of) rest". It is immediately derived from the verb "shãhath" ("to rest") and probably further back from the noun shabbêthêth" (="rest"). Still more remotely it may be etymologically if not institutionally derived from the Sumerian "sa-bat" ("heart-ceasing") via the later Babylonian "sha-patu" or "shabbatu" ("day of the middle of the month"); but it also seems to bear some faint etymological relationship to the Hebrew "shêba'" (=seven), as it certainly bears strong material relationship thereto in its use in God's Word13. It was only a few centuries before Christ that the Hebrew "shabbãth" apparently found its way into the imperial languages of Greece and Rome as "ta sabbata" (and later as "to sabbaton") and "sabbatum" respectively.
B. THE SABBATH AND THE TRIUNE GOD
If rest(fullness) is the dominant characteristic of the word "sabbath", aseity or absolute independence is the absolute characteristic of the Lord God18. As the only Independent Being, the Lord Alone could eternally and absolutely "sabbath" in His Own infinite perfection throughout all the eternities before time began and before the world was.
For prior to the creation of the heavens and the earth and all their inhabitants, the Lord God existed as an immutable Being from all eternity. As then He was ever contemplatively at rest as well as simultaneously, harmoniously, perpetually and actively at work in all His infinite counsels19. And throughout all this pretemporal and atemporal eternity, the perpetually energetic Lord God "sabbathed" or rested in Himself and in His eternal counsels.
But if rest(fullness) is the dominant characteristic of the word "sabbath", seven(ness) is seen to be a secondary characteristic as regards the word's use in the Holy Scriptures13. So it must now be asked whether this "sevenness" or any kind of sevenfold rhythm also characterizes the absolutely independent life of the Lord God — as Kuyper20 seems to think it does — and as Schilder21 insists it does not.
In the most absolute sense, the King of kings and Lord of lords dwells in unapproachable light as the only Sovereign, Whom no man has ever seen or can see. His judgements are unsearchable, and His ways inscrutable. And yet, the incomprehensible God is sufficiently knowable to men, because that which may be known of God, is manifest in them, for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead22.
As far as numbers are concerned, the incomprehensible God has revealed Himself intelligibly in terms of the figures one, three and seven.
The figure ONE is implied in the absolute uniqueness of God; in the identity in essence between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; in the one Name (singular) into which believers and their children are baptized; and in the name Jesus in Greek ("Iesous"), which, according to the great Bible numerologist Dr. Ivan Panin, has a numerical value of 888, or triple eight, and is also a multiple of eight, which number may be taken as the first of a new cycle of seven23.
On the other hand, the figure THREE is also prominent in God's revelation of Himself. He is a Triune Being, and reveals Himself as three distinct Persons (as at Jesus' baptism, Matt. 3:16-17; and cf. the baptismal formula itself, Matt. 28:19). As a Triune Being, He is also the Author, Sustainer and Finisher (or the Beginning, Continuance and End) of all things. His Hebrew Name as Creator, "'Elôhim", is not singular, nor dual. but plural in form, thus suggesting a (triune) plurality of Persons within the singular divine nature, and His Hebrew Name as Redeemer, Jehôvãh or Yãhvêh, is somehow connected with the Hebrew verb "hãyãh" i.e. "to be" in the ontic sense, thus transcending the three dimensions of time, namely past, present and future. [Cf. "Holy, holy, holy (=3), is the Lord God Almighty ( =3), Who was, and is, and is to come!" (=3)]24.
And, lastly, the figure SEVEN is encountered with respect to God's revelation of Himself in the Bible references to "the seven Spirits of God"; the sevenfold omnipotence and omniscience of the Son ("a Lamb . . . with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God"); the sevenfold nature of much of creation (infra), which, bearing the stamp of its Creator, thereby may lead to the inference of a sevenfoldness of perfection in Him ("for the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made"): and, according to Dr. Ivan Panin, the numerical value of the divine Name "Lord God" in Hebrew ["Yãhvêh 'Elôhim"], is a multiple of the figure seven too25.
Of these three numbers, one and three clearly point to ontic (i.e., actual and eternally unalterable) aspects of the Triune God. The question as to whether the number seven is also ontic in this respect, or whether it is merely economic (i.e., merely revealed as such by God to man in the dimension of time), must now be discussed.
Kuyper26 correctly distinguishes between the notional and the essential within God's eternal Intratrinitarian activities. The notional activities, on the one hand, are those independent of creation — such as God's Autopersonal paternity, filiation and spiration (the eternal love of each Person of the Trinity for His Own Person); or His Interpersonal activities (the eternal love of each Person for the Other(s); or His Trinipersonal activities (the eternal love of each Person for the Trinity). On the other hand, the essential activities are those essential for the activity of creation, and include both God's potential counsel which He sovereignly and eternally elected not to realize27, as well as His actual counsel which He sovereignly and eternally elected to actualize in and with time.
Clearly, if "sevenness" at all characterizes the life of Almighty God, it can only be in respect of the economic realization (for man's sake!) of His actual counsel, or at the most possibly also in respect of part or all of His potential counsel. As regards His notional activities, "sevenness" is totally precluded; in that realm the "unsevenfold" Trinity completely fills and exhausts all ontic reality.
Furthermore, it is careless if not dangerous to associate God's ontic life too closely with His actual counsel and its hebdomadal creation week for the sake of man. Even though weekly or hebdomadally sabbathing man is the image of God, it does not follow that God must also sabbath hebdomadally or weekly (or even on a longer sevenfold scale) in His own essential life. If He did so after creation week, it was purely for man's and the world's sake. Just as the confession of God's seventh day creation sabbath is essential to effect the distinction between Creator and creation, between God and man28, so too is the denial of any intrinsic sevenness in the ontic life of the Triune God equally essential to effect the distinction betsteen God's essence and His counsel (however connected they may be) and to guard against theological speculation as to hebdomadal ontic activity and rest within the very notional being of the One true Triune God.
It may be objected that such ontic sevenfold activity is indeed suggested by the previously mentioned "sevenfold" Scriptural references like that of the "Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth". But the very words "Lamb" and "earth" indicate that the text is economically and not ontically intended, and guard the Trinity against any speculations as to a hebdoformity or even a noneformity29 within the Godhead. Such texts can only mean that the Triune God has but one eternal Spirit, Who usually reveals Himself as one Spirit in the realm of time, but Who sometimes, yet only by way of symbolism, reveals Himself as a sevenfold (i.e. a perfect) Spirit.
By applying the analogia sacrae scripturae rule (i.e. by comparing all the relevant Scriptures with one another), it is clear that as opposed to the at the most five texts of Scripture30 [four of which are apocalyptical and the remaining text clearly symbolical31] which may be cited in support of a hebdoform or noneform Deity, all other Bible texts relevant to the Spirit(s) of God, amounting to scores of verses32, clearly point to the above explanation as being the true one. It is clear then, that the figure seven, which pervades creation and recreation, and is of great symbolical significance in respect of the work of the Holy Spirit and of the sabbath, has no ontic significance in respect of any one or all three of the Persons of the Triune Creator. Hence Zockler has rightly maintained that it is legitimate to regard the seven as the signature of the Holy Spirit or of that Triune God Who historically and judicially reveals Himself in the Spirit, while the symbolical value of this number (seven) is to be sought for in the seven days during which creation arose from chaos33.
That the number "seven" is at no time (past, present or future) ontically characteristic of the "timeless" God — neither in His sole existence before creation, nor at this present time during the process of re-creation of the fallen creation, nor even after the consummation of the ages in the new creation — but that the essence of this number seven is wholly embraced within the dimensions of the present creation and its re-creation, is further attested to by the following considerations: —
(i) The context of the first text in Scripture where the figure seven is introduced34. There it is stated: "Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because (the reason!) on it He had rested from all His work which God created and made". God rested on the seventh day, then, not because there is any essential sevenfoldness within Himself, but because it was on that day that He ceased from His creative activity of the previous six days.
(ii) Although in a certain sense even the minutest details of creation (and therefore "sevenness", and indeed even the sabbath itself), have eternally existed in the Counsel of God (Acts 15:18), this in no way implies an eternal dualism between Creator and creation, nor does it imply that "sevenness" (or that the sabbath) and God are ontically inseparable. Creation, including "sevenness" and its sevenfold sabbath — and even God's eternal potential and actual counsels while yet unrealized — are eternally dependent on the fiat of the Creator, not vice-versa! Furthermore, chronologically prior to the seventh day (Gen. 2:1-3) [and logically Prior to the first day (Gen. 1:3), and ontically prior to "the beginning" (Gen. 1:1)]. "sevenness" and the "sevenfold" sabbath only existed in the eternal counsel of God, and were as then merely pre-historical and strictly speaking non-historical ideas. It was only on completion of God's creation work in time, only at the beginning of the last or seventh day itself as recorded in Gen. 2: 1-3, that the "sevenness" and/or the weekly sabbath became historical.
Kuyper35 correctly states that "God was from eternity with His world, but God as then possessed this His world from eternity only in His thought, in His counsel in His Word. Then that moment came, in which God brought this world out from His counsel by creation into reality. Now this bringing out of the world by creation, was something quite exceptional. Something which had not happened previously, nor which would happen continually, but which only happened once and was thereby concluded". Thus too Geesink36. So God "sabbathed" very differently on His seventh creation day from the way in which He "sabbathed" in eternity before Gen. 1:1 (Cf. perhaps Acts 7:49).
(iii) Yet before the beginning of time, God was not a Deus otiosus (an idle God), but eternally replete with activity in the eternal Intratrinitarian counsel and essential communion between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Hence, if any numbers are characteristic of the eternal Triune Creator (before creation), those numbers are only "three" and "one", and certainly not the number "seven" of creation and its sabbath.
Summarizing then, it may be concluded that whereas "oneness" and "threeness" ontically characterize the Creator, "sevenness" is particularly characteristic of the dimension of (sevenfold) cyclic time. This cycle time probably only came into existence with the commencement of the first primordial day (if not as late as the seventh primordial day), and it would appear that this cyclic time bears no relation to the period of non-cyclic time which probably elapsed between "the beginning" (Gen. 1:1) and "the first day" (Gen. 1: 3-5). It is certain, however, that no manner of time whatsoever, cyclic or non-cyclic, existed before "the beginning" of creation (Gen. 1:1), as time is only one of the forms of all created existence, and therefore could not exist before creation (thus Berkhof 37). For God's eternity is no indefinitely extended time, but something essentially different, of which we can form no conception. His is a timeless existence, an eternal presence (thus Orr38). The objection that "sevenness" must be ontically and eternally characteristic of the unchanging God, otherwise the creation of "sevenness" would imply a change in God, is refuted by Wollebius' statement that creation is not the Creator's, but the creature's passage from potentiality to actuality39. The Triune Creator is essentially three-in-one, then, but the figure seven of creation is not essentially characteristic of the Ancient of Days, the King of Ages, the Only True God40.
C. THE SABBATH AND THE RHYTHMIC CYCLE
Kuyper20 has insisted that God and man live according to a cycle of sevenfold rhythm. It has been demonstrated above that such sevenfold rhythm in God is strictly economic. Next, it must be investigated whether God's (non-notional) potential and actual counsels and the latter's realization in time exhibit this sevenfold rhythm, whether His creation also exhibits any other kind of rhythm (such as a fivefold or nineteenfold, etc.), and whether any of these rhythms throw any light on the sabbath question.
As regards God's potential counsel, it is impossible to establish whether a sevenfold or any other kind of rhythm characterizes it. Certainly all other unrealized counsels are harmonious and no more or less "very good"27 than is the one actual counsel which God chose to realize. But further than this, all human knowledge is inadequate.
As regards God's actual counsel, we have as yet no knowledge of His harmonious decrees respecting the heavens and other earths and their inhabitants (if any41), but it does seem that His angels serve Him incessantly in restful activity and in active rest42. But whether this involves an alternating rhythm or not — while not impossible — cannot be determined.
As regards God's dealings with this earth, rhythmic patterns are everywhere apparent. They may be found in God's general revelation concerning creation, in God's special revelation concerning creation, and in God's special revelation concerning the re-creation of creation after its having been cursed by God when man fell into sin.
These three revelations are in perfect harmony and co-operation with one another in God's unified eternal actual counsel. For God eternally foresaw and pre-ordained43 the creation of this earth, its being cursed on account of the sin of the first Adam, and its recreation or redemption on account of the obedience of the Second Adam, the incarnated Second Person of the Trinity. And as far as the sabbath is concerned, this harmonious nexus between creation and recreation is clearly implied by such texts as Gen. 2:1-3; Isa. 66:23; Luke 6:5; Col. 2:16f and Heb. 4:1-14. Yet these three revelations are nonetheless distinct, and must be clearly differentiated, as follows
general revelation concerning creation.
God's general revelation (revelatio generous) in the heart of man, in history and particularly in the realm of nature, abounds in numerical order. For example. the number ONE is the hall-mark of all individuality in nature; the numbers THREE to SIX all feature in architectural design (triangle, square, pyramid and cube); ears of corn always have an EVEN number of rows; leaves of trees are always arranged one above the other in a constant numerical spiral ratio, which varies according to the species; the vibrations of the notes in music are always some multiple of ELEVEN; and the number three permeates the structure of the bee45.
But the number SEVEN is particularly prominent in nature.
In music, piano notes are arranged in series of sevens; the eighth note is the first one of the next series of seven and the eight together make the new octave. In astronomy, the measurements of the diameters of the planets and the time many of them and their satellites take to turn on their axes, are multiples of seven46. In ornithology and oölogy, the periods of incubation of the eggs of various birds also fall into multiples of seven days. In genetics, the number of genes and chromosomes of each species are all specifically predetermined. In entomology, the egg-cells of the wasp and the bee are hatched in seven half-days, while in other insects it is seven whole days. The eggs of the majority of insects, however, require from fourteen (=7 x 2) to forty-two (7 x 6) days to hatch. In biology and embryology, the mouse and the hen are born in twenty-one days after conception (=7 x 3), the duck, the hare and the rat in twenty-eight (= 7 x 4), the cat in fifty-six (= 7 x 8), the dog in sixty-three (= 7 x 9), the lion in ninety-eight (= 7x7x2), the sheep in one hundred and forty-seven ( 7x7x3), and a human baby in two hundred and eighty days (= 7 x 40). Even in medicine, various diseases have their critical days; the seventh, the fourteenth, the twenty-first. The pulse beats on the seven-day principle. For six days it is faster in the morning than in the evening, while on the seventh day it is slower in the morning47.
The field of mythology is especially interesting, as offering a field in which the remnants of God's primordial revelation to man are sometimes preserved, albeit deformed by sin and fantasy. Thus, according to the Indian doctrines, man is the representative of the great seven-stringed world-lyre, the symbol of cosmic harmony, the macrocosmic heptachord. The Chinese distinguished seven material souls in man, together with three spiritual souls. The Egyptians worshipped the seven planets; and Herodotus tells of their seven castes. There were also the sacred 'Heptads' of Greece and Rome, and hence the significance attached to Rome's seven hills, to the seven reeds in the pipes of Pan, the seven strings of the lyre of Helios [thus Zöckler48]. Both Greek and Latin Poets so frequently use the number seven, that it clearly indicates a mystical use thereof, similar to that in the Scriptures themselves. The seventh day is spoken of as propitious; the warrior's shield is constantly represented as sevenfold; vast heaps of snow are said to be piled sevenfold also: and the coils of the serpent, lying ready to spring, are described as sevenfold. Bees are said to live for seven summers; and seven bullocks and seven rams are offerings frequently made by the heathen to their deities [thus Jordan49]. Whereas with the heathen, the number seven — which also includes the seven planets, the seven colours in the rainbow, the seven tones of music — had almost exclusive reference to natural relations, and to the seven sacred divisions of time which all nations seem to have recognized50.
special revelation concerning creation.
The figure ONE seems to denote unity, uniqueness and newness. The One and Only God made the various genuses of plants, animals, etc., uniquely, "each according to its kind"52. He decreed that a man and his wife should become one flesh, and He made all nations of one blood53. But most obviously, He required one day in seven to be observed as a weekly day of rest, commencing with the first day after He had made man, such day of rest being the first full day as such of which man, only created at the end of the sixth day, was probably conscious. The sabbath was man's first full day. Unfallen man began his life by observing the sabbath day, even as does re-created man today who rests on the first day of the week in the finished work of the resurrected Saviour54.
As regards the figure THREE, the six days of creation (3x2) divide into three pairs of days, namely the days on which were created: (i) light and lights (first and fourth days); (ii) firmament and sea and population thereof (second and fifth days); and (iii) land and the population thereof (third and sixth days). The six days may perhaps also be regarded as two complete series each of three days' duration, each series involving work in respect of the same objects and in the same order, namely: (i) light; (ii) air and water; and (iii) land. God created the earth as an abode for man, consisting of three basic elements (water, air and land); three basic kinds of vegetation (grass, herbs yielding seed and fruit trees yielding fruit); three basic kinds of heavenly lights (sun, moon and stars), which were appointed as signs to demarcate three basic periods of time (seasons, days and years). Three basic kinds of living creatures were created on the fifth day (birds, great sea monsters and other creatures which the waters brought forth abundantly), and three basic kinds of land creatures (cattle, creeping things, and beasts of the earth) were created on the sixth day, on which day God spoke three times. Then, after taking counsel with His Triune (= 3) Self, God created unfallen man in His Own image, and revealed Himself to man in audible speech before the fall as the Triune 'Elôhim (=3) on the 6th (=3+3) day, as one of His last acts in creation. Finally, the figure three is significant in respect of the seventh day, the day of rest. On that day when the Triune 'Elôhim (= 3) finished His threefold work of creation ("the heavens and the earth and all the host of them"), He proceeded to do three things: He rested thereon, blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it. And from all these facts it is clear that the figure three signifies completeness in the work of creation (Gen. 1:1-2:3).
As regards the figure SEVEN, in addition to the many examples cited above [under (a)] from the realm of nature and general revelation, it would appear that as far as the Biblical data and special revelation are concerned, the seven-colour rainbow which was later appointed the sign of the Noachic covenant (Gen. 9:14-16), and the seventh day of creation, the day of rest (Gen. 2:1-3), have significance in respect of creation as such (as opposed to recreation)55. This latter Biblical reference to the seventh day of creation is, however, of tremendous significance, as it points to a "rhythmic completeness" of six periods of work to one of rest in the economic activities of the Creator, in Whose image and after Whose likeness (even in respect of this "rhythm", it is submitted), unfallen man was created. Echoes of this seventh creation day of rest persist regularly and rhythmically down through the ages, as specified below in the following section (c).
Summarizing, it may be stated that, apart from the rich numerical data of God's extra-Biblical general revelation (in which the figure seven especially abounds), His special revelation in the Bible in respect of unfallen creation as such (as opposed to re-creation), indicates that the numbers one, three and seven are of special significance. The limited importance to be attached to these difficult evaluations must once again be stressed, bearing in mind that the Bible is not primarily concerned with the untainted creation, but rather with the re-creation of the fallen creation. On the other hand, re-creation presupposes, is intimately connected to, and is built upon the foundation of creation, and hence even the relationship between the numerical data in the two cases is important, and — particularly in respect of the sabbath and its numerical aspects — although distinguishable, never completely separable.
In respect of the day of rest, however (as opposed to other matters in creation), it should be noted that only the figures one, three and seven are of significance, in that unfallen man, God's unique (= I) creation, created on the sixth (3+3) day, was required to observe one day in seven as his day of rest, namely the seventh day of creation week on which the Triune (3 in 1) God finished His threefold creation, and the first (= I) full day of unfallen man's own existence.
special revelation concerning re-creation.
The figure ONE frequently symbolizes the work of redemption and the unity of the believers — the passover was to be eaten in one house; the firstborn sons of Israel were redeemed; the people spoke with one voice; and many articles of the tabernacle were to be of one piece, like the seamless tunic of the Saviour for which the soldiers cast lots. The people were to have one law for all, one heart and one altar; they were all to be redeemed in one day (in Christ!): to become a nation born at once, when they were to have one Shepherd, one King and one Lord56.
In the New Testament, it was expedient that one man (Christ) should die; for by one man sin came into the world, and by one Man's obedience shall many be justified. There is one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one baptism and one God and Father of us all; one God and one Mediator, Whose one sacrifice and one offering was made once and for all, namely when God gave His only Son57.
In the second place, "one" and "first" also signify newness and initiation, and even rest58, sometimes also in conjunction with the above-mentioned ideas of unity and (particularly) of redemption. In the six hundred and first year of Noah, in the first month, on the first of the month, the flood waters had dried up, and man could make a new beginning after the flood59. The Hebrew calendar was inaugurated with the Passover month as the first month, marking redemption from the bondage of Pharaoh and a new beginning for God's people60. On the first day of the first month, the tabernacle was first erected in the wilderness, where the redeeming Lord was to be worshipped in newness of life61. In the first year of his government, in the first month, Hezekiah Opened the doors of the house of the Lord, and repaired ("re-created!) them62. In his first year as King, Cyrus decided to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem a new beginning for the Lord's people; and in the reign of Artaxerxes, On the first day of the first month, Ezra left Babylon to inaugurate new reforms in Jerusalem, involving inter alia the Jews' making a new beginning by putting away their foreign wives, which was also done on the first day of the first month63.
The number one also figures very largely in five of the seven appointed feasts of Israel tabulated in Leviticus 23. Immediately after the slaughter of the Passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the first month, the feast of the unleavened bread commenced on the fifteenth day, lasting for seven days. On the first of this seven-day feast, there was to be a holy convocation on which no work was to be done (vv. 5-8). After God's people came into the promised land, the sheaf of the first fruits of the harvest was to be waved by the priest before the Lord on "the morrow after the sabbath" (vv. 10-14), hence on the first day of the new week, if that "sabbath" refers to the weekly sabbath (or on the day after the Passover feast, if that latter is referred to by the word "sabbath")64. Again, at Pentecost (i.e., at the end of the feast of weeks seven weeks later), "fifty days to the morrow after the seventh sabbath" (thus probably again on the first day of the week on which day a convocation was held and no laborious work was done), a cereal offering of new grain was to be presented to the Lord (vv. 9-17). The feast of trumpets was held on the first day of the seventh month (once again a day of holy convocation on which no work was done) (vv. 24-25), and the feast of tabernacles (or "booths") commenced on the fifteenth day of the same month, and lasted for seven days, the first day of which was to be a day of solemn rest on which no laborious work was to be done, and on which a holy convocation was to be held (vv. 34-39).
Most important of all, the number one symbolizes Christ's atoning and Messianic re-creative work. For it is common knowledge that He rose triumphant from the dead "on the first day of the week", as recorded by all four evangelists; that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church on the first day of the week; that it was on the first day of the week that the Christians of Troas assembled to break bread, when they listened to Paul's address; and that it was required of the churches of Galatia and the church in Corinth to set something aside as a contributory gift to the needy Christians of Jerusalem on the first day of the week65.
However, the following lesser known examples which foreshadow Christ's advent should also be noted: —
1, on the first day of creation week, the light shone forth in the darkness, and on the first day of re-creation week, the Light of the world shone forth anew from the darkness of His tomb and man's sin, both now put away behind Him. Hence, on the first day of the unleavened bread, the leaven, often symbolical of sin, was put away from the houses of the Israelites66.
2, Phárez, a direct ancestor of the Lord Jesus, was born first before his twin brother Zárah, in spite of the midwife having bound a scarlet thread upon the latter's hand, in expectation of his first birth. In the substitutionary first birth of Phárez in stead of Zárah (cf. Isaac in the place of the first born Ishmael and Jacob in the place of Esau) is to be seen a type of the primogenital role of the Messiah, the Second Adam in our stead, i.e., in the place of the descendants of the first Adam67.
3, the Passover lamb was to be without blemish, a male of the first year, prefiguring Christ, the real Passover Lamb68.
4, the Levites, prefiguring the priestly office of Christ, could be taken by the Lord in redemption in the place of all the first-born among the people of Israel69.
5, then again, in regard to the camp order in the wilderness, the camp of Judah not only was the first to set out on the march from the camp, but that tribe also had the first position towards sunrise, foreshadowing the Lion of Judah, the Sun of Righteousness Who was to rise early from the grave on that first day of the New Testament week with healing in His wings, when the day was to dawn from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death70.
Finally, the number one is also that of sanctification and dedication to God. Abel brought of his firstlings unto God (Gen. 4:4). Later, the first fruits of a man's ground had to be brought into the house of the Lord his God71. All the firstborn had to be sanctified unto the Lord, and it was not permitted to do any work with the firstling of one's herd, neither was a man permitted to sheer the firstling of his flock; but they were to be consecrated to the Lord. Lastly, as pointed out above, the Spirit of holiness was given to sanctify the church on the day of Pentecost, the first day of the week, and the New Testament Church met regularly on the first day of the week, sanctifying or putting aside their gifts for their poorer brethren on that day72.
To summarize. The number one in the Bible pre-eminently symbolizes Messianic redemption, newness and initiation, rest, the unity of the believers and sanctification and dedication. In terms of a weekly day of rest, it should be noted how perfectly the New Testament first day of the week embodies all these features. The resurrection of Christ on the first day of the week, when, after His perfect work on earth, He again entered into His perfect rest73, sealed the work of His Messianic redemption, and formally confirmed74 the New Covenant. Fifty days later, again on the first day of the week, the Holy Spirit was poured out, causing the sanctified Peter to preach the meaning of the resurrection with power, and causing more than three thousand persons to receive rest for their troubled souls by being initiated into the New Covenant by faith and baptism into the Lord's death and resurrection. By meeting regularly for worship in the newness of life on the first day of each week, the believers dedicated themselves to the Lord and towards the material uplift of their poor, and were sanctified by the use of the Lord's Supper in the unity of faith.
The figure THREE is of significance, particularly in respect of Messianic redemption, completeness and sanctification (cf. the number one). The ark was three hundred cubits long (=3x100), and thirty cubits high ( 3x10); it had three storeys, and it was the means of redemption of Noah and his wife and his three sons and their three wives, after which Noah lived for a further three hundred (= 3x 100) years75. Christ's three days in the tomb were even more distinctly foreshadowed by Abraham's setting out on a three days' journey to Moriah to sacrifice his only son, and by the three days' darkness in Egypt during the ninth (= 3x3) plague, just prior to the redemption of God's people76. In the tabernacle were a three-branched candlestick, three bowls, three pillars and three sockets in the court thereof, and most Levitical offerings involved (inter alia) three tenth deals of flour77. In Solomon's temple were three oxen facing north, three facing south, three facing east, and three facing west; the inner court was built with three rows of hewed stones, three rows of windows, and window opposite window in three ranks78. Ezekiel considered three men to be especially righteous, namely Noah, Daniel and Job, and the number three figures prominently in his representation of the new temple — particularly in respect of the side chambers and the gates79. At the age of thirty (= 3x10), Christ commenced His three-year ministry, which terminated when He was betrayed for thirty (= 3x10) pieces of silver. He was in the earth for three days and three nights, like Jonah in the great fish, after which, as prophesied in Hosea 6:2, His body, the prefigured Temple, was rebuilt (or "re-created")80. At Pentecost, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity (three-inOne), the Holy Spirit, came to dwell in men with power, sanctifying them, and working in them the ninefold (= 3x3) fruit of the Spirit and the three graces (faith, hope and charity), so that they may be prepared to inhabit the heavenly city, which has three gates on each of its sides, where the Lamb Himself shall be the temple81.
In all, the expression "three days" or "the third day" occurs at least ninety-three times in Scripture82, and of these occurrences at least thirty-five are Clearly Messianic83. To some extent, then, "three days" indicates a time rhythm, though considerably less so than in respect of "seven days" (q.v.).
The number three then, symbolizes redemption in Christ (the ark; Moriah; the ninth (= 3x3) plague of darkness; the construction of the tabernacle in the wilderness, the temple of Solomon, Ezekiel's new temple and the heavenly city of Revelation; and Jonah in the great fish), and sanctification in the Spirit (the three-branched candlestick; the three-tenths flour for Levitical offerings; the Third Person of Trinity; the ninefold (= 3x3) fruit of the Spirit, and the three graces), and is, as a period of days, to some extent rhythmic.
The figure SEVEN, signifying rhythmic completion or completeness, is of tremendous significance, particularly in the field of re-creation, to which field amost all the Biblical material herewith concerned belongs. However, it will be remembered that the figure seven is also most important in the field of creation, which is hereby again referred to and presupposed by the data of re-creation which will now be dealt with.
In respect of the use of the figure seven as regards periods of time, it is first encountered in respect of the first day of rest, which fell on the seventh or last day of God's creation week (Gen. 2:1-3). Echoes of this primordial seventh day of rest (quite probably in respect of creation, and certainly in respect of re-creation) are found explicitly mentioned in subsequent injunctions to keep each (weekly) seventh day as a regular day of rest, and implicitly involved in the mention of certain other Scriptures concerning: the "week" as such; the "sabbath" as such; and perhaps also the expression "seven days" as such — provided, of course, such "seven days" run from one sabbath to the next.
The first time the regular (weekly) seventh-day day of rest is explicitly mentioned AFTER the fall, is in connection with the gathering of the manna in the wilderness (Ex. 16:22-30). The next explicit injunction to observe this day of rest is found in the giving of the Ten Commandments on Sinai (Ex. 20:8-11), which injunction is specifically repeated five times thereafter on different occasions in the wilderness84 once more it is specifically stated in the Ten Commandments, as repeated again by Moses to the people in the land of Moab85; and finally specifically restated (in its relation to the seventh day of creation and to Christ's work of re-creation) in the Epistle to the Hebrews86.
Implicit references to the seventh day of the week as a day of rest in Old Testament times, are to be found in explicit references to the "week" — at least seventeen times87 in the Old Testament, and nine times88 in the New Testament. As the Hebrew and Greek words89 for "week" are clearly etymologically connected to their words for "seven" and "sabbath" respectively90, it necessarily follows that every explicit reference to "week" is also an implicit reference to the seventh day, as each seventh day marks the end of an old week (and each first day marks the beginning of a new week).
Similarly, implicit references to the seventh day (or sometimes to the seventh year) are found in the one hundred and eight Old Testament91 and in the sixty New Testament92 explicit references to the "sabbath", seeing that the seventh day is clearly described as the sabbath day in the Old Testament from Ex. 16 onwards. This does not of course imply that only the seventh day of the week (Saturday) is the sabbath as such. It is not. For — apart from the weekly sabbath — all the various (annual) "sabbath" feasts of Israel recorded in Lev. 23 only fell on a Saturday once every seven years. And yet "servile work" was prohibited every year on the first day of the unleavened bread (Lev. 23 :6, 7, 11), the day of Pentecost (vv. 15, 16, 21), the feast of trumpets (vv. 24-25) and the first day of the feast of tabernacles (vv. 34-36). The day of atonement (vv. 27-32) is described in the same way as the weekly sabbath, namely "a sabbath of rest", and the first and eighth days of the feast of tabernacles are both described as "a sabbath" (vv. 34, 39). None of these feasts normally fell on a Saturday, and none ever fell on the seventh day of the month, or on a subsequent seventh day of the month (such as the fourteenth of a month). Only the Passover (v. 5) fell on the fourteenth, and that is described in that chapter neither as a "sabbath" nor as a day of no "servile work". So the word "sabbath" not necessarily implies a seventh day. But neither does the word necessarily imply a seventh day. For it is specifically stated that a sabbath occurs once every seven years in respect of the land, and lasts for a whole year (Lev. 25 :2-4).
Implicit references to the week, and consequently therein to the seventh day of the week in the Old Testament (or to the first day of the week in the New Testament) as a day of rest [as the day of demarcation between the weeks], are probably implied by at least sixty-eight Old Testament93 and four New Testament references94 to "seven days" as a period of time.
In all then, there are at least two hundred and seventy-two explicit or implicit Bible references to the seventh day as a day of rest in Old Testament times.
Although the figure seven is primarily used in respect of days, especially days of rest, the number is also used (which use is probably derived from the use of the week and its sabbath as such) to denote completeness in respect of months (at least thirteen times in the Old Testament)95 and in respect of years (at least twenty-three times96 in the Old Testament explicitly, and at least eleven times97 implicitly).
But quite apart from its use in respect of periods of time as above, the figure seven is also used thirty-three times98 in the Bible to denote completeness in the number of times an action is performed (e.g., sprinkling blood seven times, chastening someone seven times, etc.), and fifty-five times to denote fullness or sufficiency in the number of things, (e.g. seven pairs of clean animals into the ark, an offering of seven lambs, etc.) in the Old Testament99 and twenty-five times in the New [fifteen times in Revelation alone, and only ten times in all the other New Testament books]100.
Multiples of seven (such as seventy, seventy-seven, seven hundred, and seven thousand) appear in the Scriptures at least twenty-seven times101, but in respect of the tabernacle (apart from manifold examples of sevenfold sprinkling as mentioned above) we only find the seven-branched candlestick and its seven lamps102. This surely seems to indicate that the primary meaning of the figure seven is that of completeness, and not redemption. However, in this respect it may be noted in conclusion that there are seven divisions in the Lord's Prayer, that the Lord spoke seven times from the cross and sent His Holy Spirit forty-nine days (= 7x7) after His resurrection. It is also possible that He appeared just seven times between His resurrection and His ascension, and that He hung on the cross for approximately seven hours103.
Summarizing, it is seen that the figure seven signifies rhythmic completion or completeness. It is chiefly used in respect of various periods of time (three hundred and six times), and for periods of days in particular (two hundred and seventy-two times). Secondarily, it is also frequently used (though less so than in respect of time, from which these lesser usages are no doubt derived) in respect of fullness or sufficiency as regards the number of times an action is performed and as regards a sufficient number of miscellaneous things; and to a very limited extent it also applies in respect of redemption.
It is most important that the rhythmic implications of the figure seven be grasped, particularly in respect of time. As will presently be seen, the whole idea of the human sabbath or the day of rest is intimately connected with this rhythmic cycle.
Not incorrectly has Zöckler103 remarked that "the Bible begins, in the Book of Genesis, with a seven, and ends, in the Apocalypse, with a series of sevens . . . With reference to this sacred number — all the legal festivals were ordered. Thus the great festivals lasted seven days, . . .the seventh day is a sabbath, the seventh week a Pentecost, the seventh year a sabbatical year, the seventh sabbatical year a jubilee . . .The symbolical value of this number is . . . to be sought for . . . in the seven days during which creation arose from chaos . . . We are entitled to regard the seven as the signature of the Holy Spirit".
Having established in the immediately preceding paragraph that God's revelation abounds with examples of rhythmic sevenness stamped upon the very fabric of creation and re-creation as such, it is obvious that the figure EIGHT not only stands in its own right as a "prime" number, so as to speak, but that it also represents a new beginning of a second cycle of seven, being the first number of such a new hebdomadal cycle (cf. for e.g. Neh. 8:18), and thereby to that extent sharing in the affinities of the figure one, to which reference should again be made at this juncture. The number 'one' is always the beginning of something, just as the number 'seven' continually terminates a period. For this reason the number 'eight' as well as the number 'one' both occupy the place of a new beginning in the Scriptures. For 'eight' is, after all, also a new 'one' after 'seven' again, and consequently the beginning of a new period.
Apart from this, however, the Biblical occurrences of the figure eight as such must briefly be investigated, and it will be seen that (like one) eight shares the qualities of newness, redemption, sanctification and rest.
The basis of postdiluvian mankind redeemed from the flood into newness of life and rest from the waters of God's judgement, were Noah and his family, eight persons in all104. Further, it is most noteworthy that an Abrahamic covenant Child by birth, received the covenant sign of rebirth, circumcision, not on the Seventh day of his first (unclean) week, but on the eighth day of his life, the first day of his second week. The correspondence with the Lord's resurrection on that first day of His new, sinless cycle, after completion of His first "week" on earth when He was made uncleanness on our behalf, is very striking and rich in symbolism, signifying the redemption of the believers into newness of life and their consequent rest in Christ105.
The number eight figured to some extent in the furnishings of the tabernacle and in Ezekiels vision of the new temple106, and to a great extent in respect of the eighth day of the most important feast of tabernacles, which was a day of solemn rest or, as the A.V. translates it, "a sabbath"107. The eighth day also figured very prominently in respect of other ordinances. It was the day of dedication of the firstborn son and firstling of one's livestock, the day on which Aaron and his sons were called upon to offer the sin-offering, the day on which offerings were brought by a leper desiring to be cleansed, the day of cleansing in respect of ceremonial uncleanness of men and women, and the day of cleansing from defilement. On the eighth day, after seven days dedication of the altar and seven days' feasting, the Israelites held a solemn assembly in respect of the dedication of the temple, and on the first day of the first month, and on the eighth day of the month, king Hezekiah and his people sanctified the house of the Lord. Finally, it is recorded that the Lord Jesus Christ, THE Temple, appeared to the eleven disciples eight days after His first appearing to them all (excepting Thomas) on the evening of Resurrection Sunday, the first day of the week108.
The number eight as such, then, has the same meaning of newness, redemption, sanctification and rest which is characteristic of the number one, and to which the number eight itself is indeed equivalent as the first day in the second cycle of seven days, the number one being the first day of the first cycle.
As in respect of the cyclic eight, FOURTEEN is of importance in that it conveniently marks the end of a second hebdomadal cycle (14 7+7) (cf. for e.g., 1 Kgs. 8:65). Jacob served Laban for fourteen (7X2) years (Gen. 31:41), and there were thrice fourteen Messianic generations (Matt. 1:1-17). Fourteen lambs (7X2) were sacrificed every day for seven days during the feast of tabernacles (Num. 29:13-32), Job possessed fourteen thousand sheep (Job. 42:12), and Paul recorded two memorable experiences in his life in respect of periods of fourteen years109.
The fourteenth day (as the end of a second hebdomadal cycle) was of considerable importance in computing time. On the fourteenth of each first month, the Passover lamb was slain (Lev. 23:5), and on the fourteenth and fifteenth days of each twelfth month, the Purim feast was to be held (Esther 9:15-21) [see however the next paragraph]. And Paul (Acts 27:27, 33) noted that the ship carrying him to Rome had been drifting aimlessly for fourteen days (or two seven-day weeks).
As in respect of the cyclic fourteen and eight, FIFTEEN conveniently marks the beginning of a third cycle of seven (15 = 7 + 7 + 1), (cf. for e.g., Lev. 23:34). Apart from its use to demarcate time in general, however, fifteen is of specific importance to mark the beginning of the feast of the unleavened bread on the fifteenth of the first month, a day of holy convocation on which no servile work was to be done (Lev. 23:60; as well as the beginning of the feast of tabernacles on the fifteenth of the seventh month, also a day of holy convocation on which no servile work was to be done — but furthermore a "sabbath" (Lev. 23:34-39). Then again, both the fourteenth and the fifteenth days of the twelfth month were set aside as days of gladness and feasting and holiday-making, called Purim, to mark the redemption of the Jews from Haman's evil plans to murder them. As the Jews in the king's provinces had feasted and rested on the fourteenth day, as opposed to the Jews in Susa, who had feasted and rested on the fifteenth day, Mordecai enjoined the Jews to keep both the fourteenth and the fifteenth days as days of feasting and gladness thenceforth (Esther 9:18-21).
Apart from this, the number fifteen (like one and eight), figures to a much greater extent in the tabernacle and the temple of Solomon than does fourteen110.
Fifteen, then, like one and eight, symbolizes newness, redemption and rest.
The figure TWENTY-ONE marks the end of a third cycle of seven (21=7+7+7) and was used ritually to mark the end of the feast of unleavened bread on the twenty-first of the first month111; whereas the figure TWENTY-TWO marks the beginning of a fourth cycle of seven (22 7+7+7+1), and was used ritually to mark the end of the feast of tabernacles or booths on the twenty-second of the seventh month112 — "a sabbath".
The figure FIFTY — apart from its significance as a multiple of ten (see Appendix III) — marks the beginning of an eighth (or new, 7+1!) cycle of seven (50=7X7+1), and is used ritually is respect of the new first-fruits of Pentecost fifty days after the first day of the unleavened bread (Lev. 23:6-21), and also in respect of the new liberty of the jubilee every fifty years (Lev. 25:8-13) — both of which signified periods of rest.
All other figures, apart from multiples of the above numbers already dealt with, would appear to be of no important symbolical significance55.
The above numbers so indicated, then, are all of symbolical significance, but a careful checking through will reveal that only the numbers one, three and seven, and the corresponding cyclic numbers eight, fifteen, twenty-two and fifty (in respect of one) and fourteen and twenty-one (in respect of seven), are of any great significance in respect of days, and that only one and seven and their cyclic correspondents are significant in respect of days of rest.
of the rhythmic analysis.
In respect of re-creation, it was seen that all the significant numbers are ranged between one and fifty and multiples thereof. Within this range, it was further seen that a volume of data was available in connection with the figure seven, and that its cyclic nature was established as the last number of a series, denoting rhythmic completion or completeness. It was found that this also holds true in respect of fourteen and twenty-one as the last numbers in respect of a second and a third rhythmic series respectively, and it was further noted that this same hebdomadal rhythm was again detected in the figures at the beginning of the hebdomadal cycles, namely in the figures one, eight (= 7+1) fifteen (=7+7+1), twenty-two (=7X3+l) and fifty (= 7X7+l), all of which, remarkably enough, have the same symbolical significance of newness, redemption and rest. Moreover, the numbers at the beginning of the various hebdomadal cycles are more pre-eminent than those at the end, in that Scripture only mentions three "seventh days" (the 7th, 14th and the 21st) as compared to five "first days" (the 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd and the 50th). See Diagram I. Grouping fourteen and twenty-one with seven at the end, and grouping eight, fifteen, twenty-two and fifty with one at the beginning of the hebdomadal rhythmic cycle, the following hebdomadal cyclic table of days significant in re-creation can be constructed: —
The following additional table summarizes the meaning of the three important figures (one, three and seven) in respect of re-creation —
DIAG. II — MEANING OF RE-CREATION DAYS.
From the first table, it appears that the days of re-creation fall into a hebdomadal cycle, and from the latter table, it is clear that the most common symbolical meanings of the numbers112a concerned (one, three and seven) are those of completeness and redemption.
As it will be remembered that it has previously been shown that only the figures one, three and seven are both characteristic of the onefoldness, threefoldness, and (economic!) "sevenfoldness" of the Creator Himself as well as significant to man in respect of creation, it is even more remarkable that, as has now just been seen, these same three figures are also characteristics of re-creation — which remarkable numerical characteristics may be tabulated as follows: —
DIAG. III — CHARACTERISTIC NUMBERS
Hence "oneness" "threeness" and the cyclic "sevenness" characterize everything that is (Creator, creation and re-creation), and all this is indelibly brought home by the Creator's memorial of creation and re-creation, the sabbath, or day of rest, for: —
The sabbath is clearly connected with the
hebdomadal cycle. But it is equally rooted in God's eternal
counsel and covenants with Adam and the Second Adam. For the
last time the seventh-day (Saturday) sabbath was ever held as
of obligation, was when Christ the Second Adam rested on it
from His finished redemptive work in His death, the pangs of
which God rent asunder when He raised Him up on the third day
in newness of life, on the first day of the New Testament
week. This familiar weekly cycle of seven days was confirmed
when the risen Christ again honoured His disciples with His
presence eight days or exactly one week later (hence again on
the first day of the week), and further confirmed when He sent
His promised Spirit (the Third Person of the Trinity) to His
Church several weeks later to the very day (hence again on the
first day of the week), under Whose infallible guidance this
first day of the week, as the Lord's day or Christian sabbath,
has been observed cyclically every seven days by the vast majority
of the people of God as a religious institution ever since.
D. THE SABBATH AND THE COVENANTAL REALIZATION.
God is a covenantal God — a God Who monopleurically or freely and sovereignly enters into an unbreakable covenant (Hebrew: "berith": or Greek: "diatheke") with another or others, whereby He promises and agrees to render certain benefits for the other(s).
From all eternity, even the three Persons of the Triune God covenantly loved One Another in their notional activities, for conscious and reciprocal love demands the existence of a covenantal relationship113. Furthermore, the Three Persons also eternally loved Their potential and actual counsels in Their essential activities; and seeing that each Person played His part in those counsels, that love too was a covenantal love114. But as both His notional and His essential activities are activities of the one and same indivisible God, they are both embraced in the one supreme covenant within His innermost Being — the eternal covenant governing all reality between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Sovereignly and eternally electing to realize only His actual counsel, and to manifest therewithin something of His (Personal, creative and re-creative) eternal covenantal love to man His image, God eternally established His covenant and the Three Divine Persons eternally entered into covenant relationship with One Another in respect of man and this present earth. God the Father covenanted to create it and sustain it in spite of the fact that Adam and his race would fall into sin. God the Son covenanted to incarnate Himself as the Second Adam to redeem the elect of the race; and God the Holy Spirit covenanted to call the elect to salvation in due season115.
sabbath and the covenant with Adam
This ultimate destination of Adam in connection with his confirmation in or loss of this life was dependent upon his obedience to the covenant of works which God made with him118. This covenant required positively that Adam should subdue the earth and the sea and the sky to God's glory (and that he should start to do this by dressing and keeping the garden and abiding in the law of God written in his heart)119; and negatively that he should deny himself the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:1 6f; 3:1-13), and abstain from work on each weekly sabbath. This covenant involved work and rest. Written on Adam's heart was the substance of "Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God — in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter . . . For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it" (Ex. 20:11, cf. Gen. 2:1-5, 15-17 and Hos. 6:7 marg., and Rom. 2:13-16). The punishment for disobedience to the covenant was (restless) death, but the reward for obedience was eternal life120, i.e., eternal rest121, which rest was portrayed to him each week by the day of rest or the weekly sabbath.
The Edenic sabbath, then, has covenantal significance. This has been warmly debated, but it is none the less the clear teaching of Scripture, as will appear from the following considerations.
Firstly, it appears from Hos. 6:7 marg. that God made a covenant with Adam. There we read: "But they [Ephraim and Judah, v. 4] like Adam have transgressed the covenant; there have they dealt treacherously against Me". That this reference is to Adam, the ancestor of all mankind, has sometimes been questioned, but that this is indeed the case has been convincingly argued by men like Kuyper122, A. A. Hodge123 and Aalders124, and in any case, God's Word in this matter is quite clear on the point, as is the Westminster Confession Chapter XIX:1 — "God gave to Adam a law, a covenant of works, by which He bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience; promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it; and endued him with power and ability to keep it". And the Westminster Catechism, Q.20, states that God placed man "in paradise, appointing him to dress it, . putting the creatures under his dominion, . . . . instituting the sabbath, entering into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of personal, perfect and perpetual obedience".
Secondly, attention should be drawn to the protective purpose of this covenant. The covenant was not merely a covenant between God and Adam, but a covenant between God and man against Satan, their common enemy125. Hence God put Adam in the garden "to till it and to guard it" ("ooleshômrãj")126, clearly implying the possibility of attack from a common enemy. After Adam broke the covenant and succumbed to the enemy's onslaught by eating of the forbidden fruit of death, thereby entering into a treasonous covenant with Satan, death and hell against God127, God did not abandon Adam to whom He had previously allied Himself; to the contrary, faithful to His divine covenant with man, the Lord proceeded to break the unholy covenant between Satan and mankind, by putting enmity between Satan and the woman, and between Satan's seed and the Seed of the woman, Jesus Christ the Second Adam, Who would bruise Satan's head by freely offering His heel to be bruised in His death in man's stead, and thus, by dying conquer death, and by rising unto life eternal earn for man the eternal sabbath rest of God to which the first Adam had aspired yet failed, but to which Christ was to succeed in triumphing over death. Thus was the Second Adam to smash the first Adam's covenant with death, hell and Satan and, through the inauguration of the New Covenant in His blood, eternally to confirm the first Adam's covenant with God against the enemy128.
Thirdly, there is the promise of the Adamic covenant. This was eternal life which was promised. This is surely implied in the negative wording of the test prohibition in respect of the forbidden tree, "for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die" (Gen. 2:17); it is also expressed in the positive wording of the reward in respect of the tree of life129, as Christ Himself130 promises: "To him that overcometh, will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God"; and it is further implied in the wording of the institution of the Edenic sabbath in Gen. 2:2. in respect of which it is recorded in Hebrews 4:4-11 that "God did rest on the seventh day from all His works . . Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, (the sabbath) rest (that remaineth) for the people of God".
Fourthly, failure to inherit the promise implies the penalty of the covenant. If the promise implies eternal life, it would be expected that the penalty would imply the opposite, namely eternal death. This is not only generally taught by Scriptures such as Gen. 2:17; 5 :5; Hos. 6:1-9; and Rom. 5:12, etc., but what is of particular interest, is that it is also clearly implied in the connection between the Edenic sabbath of Gen. 2:2 and the disobedience to God recorded in Ps. 95:11, which connection is clearly brought out in Hebrews 3 and 4: "God rested on the seventh day from all His works", which rest "they to whom it (the gospel) was first preached, entered not because of unbelief", whence the Christians are warned in respect of the remaining sabbath "rest to the people of God", to "labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief". For, as "I sware in My wrath", said the Lord (of the unbelievers), "'they shall not enter into My rest'"
Fifthly, the universal scope of the covenant should be noted, i.e., the organic implications (for the entire human race) of its observance or breach. Adam stood in natural relationship to all his unborn descendants, who would therefore inherit his nature, Rom. 5:12f. But Adam also stood in covenant relationship to them. Consequently, if Adam had kept the covenant, not only he, but also his descendants would have received eternal life, imputed unto them by the obedience of Adam, their federal head, who stood in their stead131. But if Adam transgressed the covenant as their federal or representative head, his sin of transgression would be imputed to them, cf. Rom. 5:12, 14 and ICor. 15:21, 22. cf. Deut. 5:1-10. Hence, even in respect of the people of God, for whom the sabbath rest of Heb. 4:9 was intended, in the succinct words of Hosea 6:7 marg.. "they like Adam have transgressed the covenant". The alternative reading, "they in Adam"132, does not in the least detract from the argument here. To the contrary, the alternative reading adds strength to the case. It was precisely because, having transgressed the covenant in Adam as their federal head, they became like Adam as their fallen natural head, and thus continued to transgress the covenant even in Hosea's day.
Sixthly, attention must be given to the legal nature of the covenant. Because "sin is not counted where there is no law", as Paul writes in Rom. 5:12-14 precisely in connection with "the transgression of Adam", and because "sin is the transgression of the law", as John writes in I John 3:4, it necessarily follows that Adam transgressed God's law to man, which fact is the whole substance of Paul's argument in Romans 2 to 5. After stating through Hosea that Ephraim and Judah "like Adam have transgressed the covenant", God proceeds to describe the nature of their transgression. God says of His people, "they have dealt treacherously against Me. Gilead is a city of them that work iniquity, and is polluted with blood. And as troops of robbers wait for a man, so the company of priests murder in the way of consent" (Hos. 6:7-9). The nature of the work of iniquity of Ephraim and Judah is here described as dealing "treacherously against Me" ( God), and "murdering in the way" as troops of "robbers wait for man". The transgression then, is against God and man, and is likened to Adam's transgression of the covenant. Hence the breach of the Adamic covenant also involved a transgression against God and man, which latter must be Adam's own descendants.
It has been seen in the previous two paragraphs that Adam transgressed God's law to man (Romans 5) and that Adam transgressed the covenant against God and man in terms comparable to treachery, murder and robbery (Hosea 6). Now when it is further remembered that Jesus regarded the gist of the Ten Commandments as involving loving God with all the heart, etc., and loving one's fellow man too (Matt. 22: 37f.), it is clear that the legal nature of the Adamic covenant involved the gist of the Ten Commandments. Indeed, Hosea's description of Ephraim's and Judah's transgression of the covenant on account of their treachery, murder and robbery is perfectly paralleled by Adam's treachery towards God's test commandment, his murder of his own soul and of those of his descendants, and his robbing himself and them of the promise of eternal life, which, as has been seen from Hebrews 4, was also involved in the Edenic sabbath.
Seventhly, reference must also be made to the condition of the covenant. It has been observed that the moral law, as Adam knew it, was essentially the Ten Commandments, but yet it must have differed therefrom in form and been communicated inwardly by being written on the tables of his heart. For as the moral law was revealed to Adam before the fall and the knowledge of good and evil, it must have been positive and reasonable in character. But precisely because it was positive (thus Berkhof), it could not make him conscious of the possibility of sin. So therefore a negative and arbitrary commandment had to be added, a test commandment given in the form of a prohibition to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which was conjoined to the moral law as a test. This test prohibition, involving his not tasting of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, was not written on the tables of Adam's heart as was the moral law, but it was outwardly and audibly communicated to and understood and accepted by Adam of his own free will as the arbitrary decree of a sovereign God. But God's communication and Adam's acceptance constitute the making of a covenant, involving the penalty of death in the event of its transgression, and the reward of (eternal) life on its being kept. So the condition of the covenant was that of implicit and perfect obedience133.
Although only added after the inherent moral law, the test prohibition in every sense presupposes and reflects the law. Hence the prohibition of Gen. 2:17 was promulgated by the only Lord God (cf. 1st Commandment); it was communicated directly (cf. 2nd Commandment); its breach embodied a solemn penalty for Adam and his descendants (cf. 3rd); its penalty of death implied its positive reward of eternal life, i.e., eternal rest with God (cf. 4th); its Author's authority was to be respected (5th); it threatened death (6th); its breach was marked by disunity between man and wife and shame in their nakedness (7th); it warned against the theft involved in its transgression (8th); its breach was occasioned by accepting the false witness about it from the serpent (9th); and its breach was immediately caused by desire of that which was forbidden and the tragic consequences of that covetousness (10th Commandment)134.
Finally, what was the sign of the Adamic covenant? This will be gone into in greater detail below (e), but here enough will be stated to show the intimate connection between the sabbath and the covenant of works.
For like the test prohibition, the sabbath is intimately related to the moral law in that it was instituted by the one true God, the Creator of heaven and earth (cf. 1st Commandment); it provided the way in which God was to be worshipped — on one day in seven (2nd); it was sanctified by God under oath, Heb. 3:11; 4:4-5 (3rd); it prophesied eternal rest, Heb. 4:4-11 (4th); its observance respected God's authority (5th); it prophesied eternal life, Heb. 4:4-11 (6th); its observance by man and wife together promoted their joint loyalty towards God and hence towards one another (7th); it regulated labour (8th); its use bore out the true witness of God's promise of life (9th); and finally, its regular use increased desire for the things of God and promoted contentment with the things of this world (10th Commandment).
In the Ten Commandments, the sabbath bridges the two tables, respectively dealing with one's duty towards God and man135. In the Deuteronomy Decalogue, it is the commandment which describes one's duties towards both God and man. And in Colossians, it is described as a shadow of Christ Who was to come, Who is both God and man. When on earth, He kept the sabbath by worshipping God in the synagogues and performing works of mercy for man, hence using it in the service of both God and man. On Calvary, He fulfilled the sabbath, reconciling God and man. And on the new earth, the sabbath will culminate, signifying the full entrance of the eternal rest of God by man. As Ezekiel correctly points out then, the sabbath is a sign between God and man136.
sabbath and the covenant with the Second Adam.
For firstly, God the Father made an eternal covenant with the Second Adam to stand surety in the place of the first Adam, should he fall — nay more, when he fell, for his fall was clearly foreseen by God. This covenant between the several Persons of the Triune God, involving the incarnation of the Second Person of the Godhead as the second person of humanity, i.e., as the Second Adam, was eternal, certain of execution, personal, legally binding and substitutionary139.
Secondly, God made a covenant with the Second Adam against Satan, to break the covenant made by the first Adam with Satan and death and hell and against God, by rising from the dead in triumph on the first day of the week, thereby being transformed from the Stone which the builders rejected (in His death) to the chief Corner Stone of men's faith (in His resurrection) (cf. Ps. 118:22f and Acts 4:11f). Concerning this, Isaiah writes140 of the scoffers who ruled the people in Jerusalem: "Because ye have said, 'We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement', . . . therefore, thus saith the Lord God, 'Behold, I lay in Zion for a Foundation a Stone, a tried Stone, a precious Corner Stone, a sure Foundation: He that believeth shall not make haste'. . . And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand . . . For the Lord will rise up (the resurrection! — N.L.) that He may do His work — His strange work! — and bring to pass His act (fulfil the covenant of works! — N.L.) — His strange act! (strange, because it should have been the first Adam's work, not Christ's! — N.L.) ... This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts. . ."
When this remarkable passage is compared with Ps. 118, where the same phrases occur ("the chief Corner Stone", "This is the Lord's doing"), and which is clearly Messianic, dealing with the triumph of the Messiah over death in resurrection victory, it takes on new meaning in respect of the sabbath day, when it is remembered that the Lord started to enter into His rest141 for man on Resurrection Sunday, the first day of God's new week.142.
Thirdly, God's covenant with the Second Adam involved the promise of eternal life for the first Adam and his elect descendants143. "I am the resurrection and the life", declared the Lord Jesus Christ; and Paul, writing to the church of Corinth on this very subject of the resurrection and eternal life, insisted, "If Christ be not raised, your faith is in vain; ye are yet in your sins", and, having assured them "but now is Christ risen from the dead . . . as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive", he presently goes on — a most significant point! — to direct that same church of Corinth to put something aside and store it up on the first day of the week (the day of our Lord's resurrection) as a gift to the poor Christians of Jerusalem. It is as though Paul, after speaking at length of the resurrection of the Second Adam and His gift of life eternal to his brethren in I Corinthians 15, immediately goes on at the beginning of chapter 16 to enjoin the churches, already resurrected in principle, to make provision for their gift unto life temporal to their brethren, on the (resurrection) first day of the week — surely a most significant point, in that this New Testament first day of the week is here brought into connection with the resurrection and eternal life, just as the Old Testament seventh day sabbath is brought into connection with eternal life in the Epistle to the Hebrews144.
Fourthly, God's covenant with the Second Adam involved the penalty of death for the latter, who voluntarily suffered in the stead of the first Adam and his descendants, so that they may be liberated. "I the Lord have called Thee and given Thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles", said God the Father of His Son through Isaiah145, "to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness". For Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, Son of the first Adam and Seed of the woman Eve, paid the penalty for their transgression of the covenant by suffering the death penalty prescribed for the breach of that covenant, which penalty He suffered on Calvary at the hands of the serpent's seed, that generation of vipers, the Scribes and Pharisees, who were instrumentally used by their father the devil, that old serpent, to bruise the heel of the Seed of the woman, the Saviour Jesus Christ, even unto the penalty of death146.
Fifthly, the covenant between the Father and the Son was universal in its scope. Just as in Adam all men died, "so also in Christ shall all be made alive". It being the will of the Lord to bruise Him, when Jesus made Himself an offering for sin, He saw His offspring (His elect descendants) . . . He saw the fruit of the travail of His soul . . . , He made many to be accounted righteous, and He bore their iniquities147. This being the case, with the internationalization of the covenant by the Great Commission given by the risen Christ, the sabbath day as a sign of the covenant would thenceforth have to meet the requirements of universality (Matt. 28:19; cf. John 20:19f.). This would particularly involve a change in the mode of computation of the beginning and end of the sabbath, but this will be discussed at length later (chapter VI, A (b) ff. infra).
Sixthly, God's covenant with the Second Adam was legal in nature. "When the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law" (Gal. 4:4-6). Paul argues here in Galatians that Christ was made under the law to redeem the Christians, but that they are not under the law, but in the Spirit. The Apostle illustrates this in the allegory of the two women Sarah and Hagar, who bore Isaac and Ishmael respectively to Abraham, where Paul compares Isaac to Mt. Zion (or Jerusalem) and Ishmael to Mt. Sinai, where the ceremonial law was first given, and where the moral law too was first given in that particular form known as the Ten Commandments although the substance of the moral law had, of course, been inwardly revealed to man from the very beginning, vide (c)). Paul points out that Christians are not born under the law, that they are not like the slave child Ishmael of the slave woman Hagar, not like Mt. Sinai in Arabia, which was not the promised land; but they are children of God by adoption, like the free child Isaac of the free woman Sarah, like Mt. Zion above, the heavenly Jerusalem, the true sabbath rest148 of the true Canaan.
Seventhly, God's covenant with the Second Adam involved the sabbath as a condition of the covenant. After labouring in creation, the Triune God entered into His eternal sabbath and rested therefrom. But in terms of the covenant in respect of the Second Adam, the eternal Intratrinatarian covenant of re-creation or redemption, the Second Person of the Triune God voluntarily left His glory and that creation rest via His incarnation, to fulfil the condition of that covenant, namely to keep the Ten Commandments by performing His labours of redemption as man here on earth, which labours included His ministry of labouring on week days, and culminating at the end of His life's work in respect of which He exclaimed "It is finished" as Friday evening drew on, and resting in His grave on that last Saturday sabbath as the Fulfilment thereof, as the incarnated Eternal Rest which remains for the people of God149. On the first day of the week, Christ was "declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead", on which day He again started to enter into His glory and His creation rest (which now in addition became His re-creation rest too), having ceased from His labours of re-creation, "for he (including the Son of man, Heb. 3:1; 4:14-16! — N.L.) that is entered into His rest, he also hath ceased from his labours, as God did from His". Jesus thereby fulfilled the condition of the covenant, having like the first Adam "taste(d) death for every man". By His accepting crucifixion on the tree of death on Calvary, and by His resursection, He makes elect mankind anew partakers of the tree of life in Paradise150.
Finally, attention is drawn to the sabbath as the sign of the covenant between God and the Second Adam. Possibly, here the prophecy of Hosea points to the Messianic covenantal significance of Resurrection Sunday, the first day of the New Testament week. Immediately preceding Hosea's solemn indictment of Ephraim and Judah noted above (namely that "they like Adam have transgressed the covenant"), is his appeal for their conversion, and the promised grounds therefor, namely the atonement and resurrection of God the Son and the refreshing arrival of the Holy Spirit: "Come", declares Hosea, "and let us return unto the Lord; for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: His going forth is prepared as the morning; and He shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth" (Hos. 6:1-3; cf. n. 111 on p. 184 below).
The prophecy has, possibly, at least five distinct fulfilments: firstly, an immediate fulfilment in respect of Ephraim and Judah, who were here promised restoration on condition of their repentance; secondly, a distant fulfilment, in that God's people were waiting and longing for the coming Messiah down through the centuries; thirdly, a Messianic fulfilment in Jesus Christ Himself, Who was "torn" and "stricken" on Calvary, "revived" after two days in the grave, "raised" upon "the third day" (Sunday) that He might "live"; fourthly, a Pneumatic fulfilment pertaining to the Holy Spirit, Who did "come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain" on the (Sunday) day of Pentecost; and finally, an ecclesiastical fulfilment in that the Church is in Christ and in the Spirit on the Lord's day151.
Summarizing, it was seen above that the sabbath day was the sign of God's covenant with the first Adam. But in the last paragraph and the texts therein referred to, it is clear that the first day of the week is of considerable significance in the New Testament (and therefore throughout the Church age) in respect of God's covenant with the Second Adam (whereas the New Testament is silent on the significance of the Saturday sabbath in this respect, except perhaps to imply its substitution by Sunday, "for if Joshua had given them rest, then would He not afterward have spoken of another day"152). The conclusion, then, is that Sunday is the sign of the New Covenant, and further, that, at the Lord's Resurrection, Sunday replaced Saturday, and was henceforth to be kept as the new day of rest. Indeed, even in the New Testament dispensation, God's unchangeable moral law requires the dedication of one day of restful worship in every seven to the worship of the Creator and Re-creator; and of all the days of the week, only Sunday, the beginning of the new week, can be substituted for Saturday, the last day of the old week, without breaking the weekly cycle. As the New Testament suggests, primarily in respect of the eternal rest, yet secondarily no doubt also in respect of the weekly day of rest which marks out human progress towards the former ultimate destination, "there remaineth therefore a keeping of a sabbath to the people of God; for he that is entered into His rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His", Heb. 4:9-10 marg.; and, be it noted, God rested from all His works on the sabbath day after six days of labour, Heb. 4:3-4. Hence, the believer too is to rest in a like manner from his works "as God did from His", "not forsaking the assembly of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another" (Heb. 10:25) that the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will . . ." (Heb. 13:20).
sabbath and God's moral law.
The blessings of the covenant of grace, then, are nothing more than the blessings of the covenant of works gratuitously bestowed on believers by virtue of Christ having earned the fruits of that covenant of works for them by His perfect active and passive obedience in keeping the moral law of God153. For although Adam, who was a type of Christ, transgressed the covenant, bringing sin and death into the world and spreading it to all men, the Second Adam was brought back from the dead by the blood of the eternal covenant as a life-giving Spirit, so that as in Adam all died, so also in Christ shall all be made alive (thus Kuyper; E. F.[isher], Bavinck and Kelman154).
As Christ saves man by His obedience to the moral law, such popular texts155 as "not under law, but under grace" and "free from the law" etc. require careful qualification, lest they should lead to a radical contradistinction between the covenants of law and grace, as in Antinomianism. The close nexus may best be illustrated by giving to the question, "What is the Gospel of grace?", the answer, "That Jesus Christ has kept fulfilled the law in the believers' stead".
But this can only mean that the weekly sabbath must apply just as much in the Gospel dispensation of the covenant as it applied in that first Edenic dispensation of that same covenant. In other words, there is something of an essentially permanent or moral nature in the institution of the weekly sabbath [Thus Barth and Van Selms156].
Seeing, therefore, that the law remains even under the covenant of grace, the role and significance of the sabbath as part of the law and the rest which it signifies in the covenant of works with the first Adam and in the covenant of works with the Second Adam, whereby its benefits come to us by way of the covenant of grace, must next be determined.
The moral law is an essential characteristic of the relationship between the two parties to the Adamic covenant, namely God and His image, man. Hence the moral law has its ontical and historical source in God, the absolute GOOD. Historically, God next embodied His moral law in the inward conscience157 of His image, namely unfallen man, writing it on the tables of his heart. The moral law as Adam knew it was undoubtedly like the Ten Commandments, yet its form was different. For the moral law in its present form presupposes a knowledge of sin, and is therefore primarily negative; but in Adam's heart, the law must necessarily have had a positive character158. Necessarily so, because adultery (for example) was impossible as long as there was only one man and one woman In the world; theft was meaningless, as long as there was no one to steal from. Dishonour to parents was impossible before Adam and Eve had become parents159. Hence the law written on the tables of Adam's heart was not so much in the form "thou shalt not kill", "thou shalt not steal", "thou shalt not commit adultery", etc., but rather the affirmative "thou shalt let live" (the plants and animals in Eden) "thou shalt labour"; "thou shalt cleave to thy wife (singular) and become one flesh with her". etc.
After the fall, the moral law remained in the heart of man, even in respect of the heathen157, but was more and more repressed and effaced by sin, requiring its authoritative repromulgation anew at Sinai in the form of the Ten Commandments; and after a further period of sin and indifference and still later even of casuistry and externalization, it was incarnated in the Person of Christ ("The covenant" — Isa. 42:6) and His teachings, and written on the tables of His regenerated bride's heart by His Spirit through His Word to the Church, to be consummated in the eternal moral beauty of her heavenly life, in contradistinction to the immoral nature of the unsaved.
Thus the essential moral nature of the everlasting covenant, despite differences in outward administration, remains the same at all the particular points in history. This may be abulated briefly as in Diag IV. (q.v.).
From the above explanation, then, it is clear that the law of the covenant is the eternal moral law of God.
But even though the law of the covenant is eternally moral and unchangeable as regards its substance, it differs in outward form from time to time accordingly as it is progressively revealed in greater measure and detail to Adam, Moses and the Church respectively throughout the course of history160.
It has already been seen above, for example, that the moral law was given internally to Adam, yet externally to Moses. Again, with progressive universalization and spiritualization of the form of the moral law, it is given in the Spirit to the Church. Yet it is essentially the same law.
The Adamic duty to look after the garden and not partake of the forbidden fruit, the Mosaic injunction not to kill, and the warning of the Lord not to harm one's fellow man, all constitute a version of the Law of God in respect of what might be called the Sixth Commandment. Hence one must be careful to distinguish the substance of the moral law as such from the outward form of its fullest statement as found in Exodus 20.
Again, many of the Commandments, taken strictly literally in their outward wording (e.g., the Second Commandment which literally prohibits physical worship of graven images) might appear to be almost unnecessary in a modern Christian country. But when it is seen that the moral substance behind the literal words of these Commandments must be obeyed, then it is realized the Second Commandment substantially prohibits the inward worship of false gods too, such as money, pleasure, security, etc. etc. Similarly the Tenth Commandment literally prohibits desiring (amongst other things) one's neighbour's ox or ass, etc., which the modern urban sinner would hardly be tempted to desire, although he may very well be tempted to desire his neighbour's motor car or radiogram; but the desiring of even such articles (though yet unnamed) is already prohibited, as belonging to the moral substance of the Tenth Commandment.
In one word, one must carefully distinguish the eternally valid moral substance of each Commandment from the contemporary external wording.
Even the Seventh-day Adventists (except as
regards their literalistic interpretation of "the seventh
day" in the Fourth Commandment!), seem to realize that
the eternal moral law as originally given to Adam, cannot be
precisely identical to the outward form of the Ten Commandments
(although that eternal moral law is, of course, sufficiently
illustrated and promulgated by the latter). This must necessarily
be the case when it is remembered that eight of the Ten Commandments
are framed in negative terms, in terms which could thus never
have been grasped by the sinless Adam before the fall. Hence
the Seventh Day Adventist Yost161
too has drawn up a table of "the law of God in positive
terms" which he (correctly) considers to be the essence
of the eternal moral law of God. His table runs as follows:—
The moral law of God then, is SPECIFICALLY, unalterably moral. But the Ten Commandments, as only one particular form of expressing the essence of that moral law — albeit the best and most convenient infralapsarian form — are only GENERALLY moral, moral only to the extent that they outwardly express the inward essence of God's unchanging moral law162.
Having dealt with the moral nature of the Ten Commandments in general, the moral nature of the Fourth Commandment in particular must now be studied. This is not to question that the celebration of the institution of the weekly sabbath is obligatory to all men of all times, for it will be demonstrated presently that the sabbath was given in Eden thousands of years before the Fourth Commandment was given on Sinai. But here it is only enquired whether the outward wording of the sabbath institution as it appears in the Fourth Commandment belongs to the perpetual essence of the sabbath or only to its temporary Sinaitic form.
One of the first things noticed in this investigation is that the Deuteronomy Decalogue, which agrees with the Exodus Decalogue practically verbally as to almost all the other Commandments, is very considerably different in form as regards the Fourth Commandment governing sabbath observance.
In Exodus 20:8-11, sabbath observance is enjoined because: "in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it". But in the fuller and later version of Deuteronomy (5:l-3f; 16:12), God's people are told to observe the sabbath day (because): "thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day" (5:15).
Now it is true that the Exodus version records the actual words as they were spoken to Moses and the people at the time at which they were given on Sinai, whereas the Deuteronomy version constitutes Moses' repetition thereof to the people in the Arabah, in the plains of Moab, some thirty-nine years later163. Hence it is sometimes claimed that the Exodus version constitutes the precise words of God in the form in which they were written on the tables of stone by the finger of God164, whereas the Deuteronomy Decalogue is Moses' own later version thereof, and was likewise expounded as that.
But this view is clearly untenable. For firstly, Moses' Deuteronomy account was given under the organic inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and every word came clothed with divine authority; and secondly, Moses ends his repetition of the Decalogue there with the postscript: "These words the Lord spoke unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and He added no more.. And He wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me"165.
Now these inspired words of Moses: "These words the LORD spake . . . and He added no more. And He wrote them upon two tables of stone", cannot mean that God spoke in the giving of the Ten Commandments exactly and only as Moses rendered them in the plains of Moab, for the verbal differences between the Exodus and Deuteronomy Decalogues belie that theory. The words: "These words the LORD spake . . . and He added no more", can only mean that the word "words" is here equivalent to the word "commandments", and that God, having given Ten Words, Ten Commandments on Sinai, added no more, even as we read in Ex. 34:28: "And He wrote upon the tables the Words of the covenant, the ten commandments".
What are the precise words then, which God wrote on the tables of stone in respect of the sabbath? In other words, what are the precise words of the Fourth Commandment recorded in writing by God Himself?
It is possible that God spoke all the words of Ex. 20:8-11 as well as all the words of Deut. 5:15 and the few additional words of vv. 12-14, and committed all these words to writing on the tables of stone. This is quite possible, but it is also possible that He only spoke the words of Ex. 20:8-11, but commanded Moses to supply the Deuteronomy additions at a later time and of his own accord — under guidance of the Holy Spirit. But even if God did so speak all these words, it is unlikely that He committed them all in the precise words of the Fourth Commandment on the tables of stone. For if so, Moses would surely have recorded Deut. 5 :15 (the reason of redemption) and the additional words of vv. 12-14 in the Exodus account; and he would never have dared to omit Ex. 20:11 (the reason of creation) from the Deuteronomy account, if Ex. 20:11 had really been engraved by God in the tables of stone, as Ex. 20:8-10 undoubtedly was, which two verses Moses thus cites in Deut. 5.
Hence it seems probable that the precise words written by the finger of God on the tables of stone were Ex. 20:8-10 (cf. Deut. 5:12-14), or perhaps even some smaller part of it, such as Ex. 20:8 (cf. Deut. 5:12), though this is probably less likely. The additional information of Ex. 20:11 and Deut. 5:15, the reasons for respectively keeping the sabbath oneself and permitting one's servants to keep the sabbath, were either jointly or severally spoken by God or Moses, but in all probability they were not written by the finger of God on the tables of stone. Consequently, consideration of the moral nature of the sabbath institution in the Fourth Commandment as strictly written by God in its normative sense, must be limited to Ex. 20:8-10 and Deut. 5:12-14 minus the additional words of the latter not found in the former. In other words, both the REASONS of creation and re-creation (i.e., redemption), as given in the Exodus and Deuteronomy Decalogues respectively, although they enrich and concretize the sabbath, are not inherently moral in the sabbath institution.
The second thing which appears from the Fourth Commandment as given in Ex. 20:8-10 and Deut. 5:12-14 (or indeed anywhere else), is that God's people were not told that "the seventh day of the week is a sabbath unto the LORD", etc., but "Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God", etc. The notion that "the seventh day" must fall on the seventh day "of the week" (i.e. Saturday) is an idea with no authority in Scripture whatsoever (see text after n. 92 supra), neither here in Ex. 20 and Deut. 5 nor anywhere else (cf. Josh. 6:3, 4; Lev. 23:7, 8).
But, on the other hand, Ex. 20:8-10 and Deut. 5:12-14 did not enjoin God's people merely to set aside "one day in seven", any one of those seven days, but to remember a specific day, "the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt do no work", etc. "The Fourth Commandment", writes Kelman166, "tells us that we must keep holy to God that seventh day which is the Sabbath of the Lord our God, but does not inform us which day of the week is the Sabbath of the Lord our God".
That the sabbath day must be remembered, then, is morally required by the Fourth Commandment. But the matter as to which day of the week might be that sabbath day (either at Sinai or today) is not morally decided in the Fourth Commandment itself, and its determination and alterability must hence depend on other factors (e.g., such as creation, Exod. 20:11; or re-creation or redemption, Deut. 5:15), which factors we will consider elsewhere167.
sabbath as such and the Mosaic sabbaths.
Quite apart from the Sinaitic Fourth Commandment, the sabbath institution is of Edenic antiquity, inhering in the very nature of man, and is therefore of perpetual obligation. For the sabbath was made for man, not merely for the Jew. (Thus Hodge, Kuyper and Noël168).
It requires no argument to prove the essential moral nature of the weekly sabbath between Sinai and the resurrection of Christ, for all conservative theological parties are agreed that this was the case on the strength of the Fourth Commandment169.
When one comes to the New Testament dispensation, inaugurated by the death and resurrection of the Lord, however, a remarkable fact is noticed. For there is no mention of God's people keeping the Saturday sabbath as a weekly ordinance after the resurrection (Acts 13:14 etc. only indicating evangelistic work amongst Jews and their proselytes on that day), but considerable evidence of the first day of the week, i.e. Sunday, being kept, thus preserving the sevenfold weekly cycle170.
It is useless for the Saturday-keeper to argue that there is no specific mention of the institution of Sunday-keeping for Christians in the New Testament. For that matter, the same applies in respect of the institution of the Edenic sabbath. Nevertheless, God instituted both the Edenic sabbath and the New Testament sabbath for man at the time of creation and re-creation respectively, by His own specific example. If God did not indicate Sunday as the regular sabbath of the weekly cycle thenceforth (by the example of the appearances of God the Son on Resurrection Sunday and again eight days later, and by the descent of God the Holy Spirit on the Church on the day of Pentecost, all of which took place on the first day of the week), then neither did He indicate the seventh creation day and its weekly successors as the regular sabbath thenceforth for Edenic man (by His example in resting thereon). If God did not by His example through Christ and the Holy Spirit indicate Sunday as the new sabbath of the new creation for the New dispensation, then it is clear that the weekly sabbath and indeed the week itself no longer obtains, as a superficial reading of Col. 2:16 might conceivably appear to suggest.
But this would imply that God's moral law as such had changed and that God had completely removed that part of His unchangeable law known as the sabbath ordinance, or otherwise that the sabbath idea as such forms no part of God's moral law, both of which conflict with the Scriptural teaching of God's unchanging moral law throughout all ages. This would be dogmatically absurd.
But it is clear that such an antinomian view as regards the sabbath would also be historically absurd — for the continuance of the week throughout all ages up to the present, with the sabbath day of rest as its constant demarcator, conclusively establishes that the week and the weekly sabbath belong to God's unchangeable law; and furthermore it is clear that Sunday, the New Testament demarcating day, is now the sabbath day, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ the Messiah.
Moreover, that the sabbath idea continues in the New Testament after the resurrection of Christ is probably attested to by the Lord's own words in His prophetic oration in Matt. 24:20, where He warns: "Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a sabbath", which certainly referred to an event at least thirty-five years after the resurrection, namely the destruction of Jerusalem, 70 A.D., if not to the end-time. For concerning this text and its bearing on the sabbath, Thomas Boston171 writes: " . . . Jesus Christ speaks of it as a thing perpetually to endure, even after the Jewish Sabbath was over and gone, Matth. xxiv. 20. And so, although the Sabbath of the 7th day in order from creation was changed into the 1st day, yet still it was kept a seventh day".
In Hebrews 4, the impression is also created that the weekly sabbath continues in this New Testament dispensation. In verse 4 it is stated: " . . . God did rest on the seventh day from all His works", and in verses 9 to 11: "There remaineth therefore a rest (margin — "a keeping of a sabbath") to the people of God. For he that is entered into His rest hath himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest". Now this rest, of course, is not primarily the weekly sabbath, but that (eternal) rest which the weekly sabbath signified in Old Testament times, which Adam was to have ultimately entered on condition of perfect compliance with the obligations of his covenant with God. But Adam's passage through time towards this eternal rest was demarcated by the weekly advent of the sabbath day, which latter was consequently "a bit of heaven", as the Seventh Day Adventist Andreasen171a so justly describes it. Hence too, the substitutionary Second Adam's passage through time towards His rest (Heb. 4:10, 14; Luke 24:1, 26), was also demarcated by the weekly sabbath (Luke 4:16). And now that that Second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, has as man Himself entered that (eternal) sabbath rest prepared for the people of God, Heb. 4 :9, God's people are also enjoined to follow that Second Adam into His rest. "Let us THEREFORE labour to enter into that rest", Heb. 4:11; whence it seems that our passage through time towards that rest, must also be demarcated by the weekly sabbath.
Hence it seems that Hebrews 4 implies that the first Adam was to have entered God's rest via the weekly sabbath; that the Second Adam entered God's rest via the weekly sabbath; that God's people, the seed of the first and Second Adam, should also enter God's rest via the weekly sabbath; and hence that the weekly sabbath is still in force today for the demarcation through time of the journey of the people of God on their way to their (eternal) sabbath rest.
Summarizing, then, it is clear that the weekly sabbath is essentially moral, and, unlike the Mosaic sabbath, is still in force today.
Distinction must next be made between the permanent moral weekly sabbath and the temporary ceremonial non-weekly sabbaths.
The weekly sabbath dates from Eden172, but the ceremonial non-weekly sabbaths only from Sinai173. The relationship between the "moral" sabbath and the ceremonial sabbaths is analogous to that between the moral law and the ceremonial law or "Law of ordinances". The distinction between these two kinds of law has been questioned by some, but the distinction is Scriptural (cf. Belgic Confession Art. 25), as has been clearly shown by the Seventh-day Adventist Yost (see Appendix V): and, as Thomas Boston174 writes of the weekly sabbath, "It was appointed and given of God to Adam in innocency, before there was any ceremony to be taken away by the coming of Christ, Gen. 2:3".
Now these ceremonial sabbaths, listed in Leviticus 23 together with the Israelitic Sinaitic weekly sabbath, are all called "feasts" of holy convocation of "holy days"; and all involve the keeping of a "sabbath" day or a "day of holy convocation" on which "no servile work is to be done", or a "day of solemn rest". They were all a shadow of the things to come, namely the benefits of the New Testament in Christ; and they were all blotted out and nailed to His cross. Hence Christians are consequently now enjoined: "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days" (Col. 2:9-16). Hence, no one is to judge Christians in respect of an holy day [that is, in respect of any of the ceremonial sabbatical feasts of Lev. 23, including the Israelitic Sinaitic weekly sabbath, which is also called a "feast" (Septuagint — "heorte") in Lev. 23:2-3, even though the "sabbaths of the LORD" are distinguished from the "feasts" in Lev. 23:37-8. Hence, although the weekly Sinaitic sabbath of Israel has (in a sense — cf. Lev. 23:2-3) already been covered by the term "holy day" ("heorte") in Col. 2:16, as if to avoid all possibility of misunderstanding, St. Paul goes on to say: "Let no man judge you . . . in respect of . . . the sabbath (days)".
St. Paul means exactly what he says. It is useless to argue (as S.D. Adventists do) that St. Paul here means the ceremonial sabbaths by his words "or the sabbath (days)", for St. Paul has just a few words beforehand (in the very same verse) dealt with such ceremonial sabbaths under the blanket term "holy day"— the same term (heortai) used in the Septuagint of Lev. 23 to refer to all the (Sinaitic) sabbaths — both the ceremonial sabbaths and the "weekly" sabbaths of Israel. Lev. 23:2-3. But apart from the clear language of Lev. 23, it may still be asked: which "holy days" is Paul referring to in Col. 2:16?
If it is argued that Paul means (only) the ceremonial sabbaths in Col. 2:16 where he refers to the sabbath day(s), then which days is he referring to under the blanket term holy days just mentioned previously in the very same verse?
The two can hardly be synonymous, for Paul would then be repeating himself, saying in effect: "Let no man therefore judge you . . . in respect of a ceremonial sabbath or a new moon or a ceremonial sabbath", when the latter phrase would simply be idle repetition.
It is unlikely yet just possible, of course, that the (Sinaitic) weekly sabbath of Israel in Lev. 23:2 & 3 is not at all to be distinguished from the "sabbath of the Lord" in Lev. 23:37 & 38. If this is the case, it is submitted that in Col. 2:16 Paul can only in effect be saying: "Let no man therefore judge you in respect of a holy day (all the ceremonial and weekly sabbaths of Israel) or a new moon or a sabbath day (i.e., any and every kind of sabbath day, including the pre-Sinaitic Edenic weekly sabbath)". But if (as seems more likely) this is not the case, then Paul means: "Let no man therefore judge you . . . in respect of an holy day [which, I know, does, strictly speaking, include the (Sinaitic) weekly sabbath of Israel, Lev. 23:2-3, but I mean here only the non-weekly sabbatical festivals, Lev. 23:4-37, 39-44], or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days [by this latter I only mean the (Sinaitic) weekly sabbath of Israel of Lev. 23:2-3 and 37, and not, of course, the pre-Sinaitic, Edenic weekly sabbath of the Lord of Lev. 23:38, which is naturally still in force in the New Testament dispensation]". But regardless which of these two possibilities is the case here, it is clear that by the words "the sabbath days" in Col. 2:16, Paul means at least the Sinaitic weekly sabbath of Israel (and perhaps, though not very likely, even all weekly sabbaths whatsoever). On no account does he mean by these words a non-weekly ceremonial sabbath, Lev. 23:4-37, 39-44, as the Seventh Day Adventists so incorrectly infer175.
Hence Col. 2:16 can only mean one of two things: either that there is now in this New Testament dispensation no weekly sabbath day whatsoever, or that God's people are still required to keep a weekly sabbath day — which day is, however, to be distinguished from the (Sinaitic) weekly sabbath day of Israel, which latter has now (together with all the non-weekly ceremonial sabbaths or "holy days") been nailed to the cross and blotted out as a shadow of Christ Who has now come.
But it has been seen above that the weekly sabbath day is a creation ordinance and part of God's eternal moral law. Therefore it must still be in force now. Hence the first (Antinomian) interpretation of Col. 2:16 that there is now no weekly sabbath day whatsoever cannot possibly be correct. The only alternative then, is the second possibility, which requiries one to distinguish not merely between the (Sinaitic) weekly sabbath and the non-weekly ceremonial sabbatical festivals, as has been done above, but also to distinguish between the permanent pre- and post-Sinaitic weekly sabbath of all mankind on the one hand, and the temporary Sinaitic weekly sabbath of Israel on the other. It is this distinction, then, which must now be studied. In other words, in contradistinction to the permanent weekly sabbath which is wholly moral, is the Sinaitic weekly sabbath of Israel also wholly moral, or is it chiefly moral, but also partially ceremonial; and, if so, in what respect?
Firstly, it is clear from Scripture that the ordinance of the sabbath as such, which has been seen to have been instituted for man at creation for all time and which consequently still obtains now in this New Testament dispensation, pre-existed its promulgation in the specific form at Sinai known as the "Fourth Commandment" by a period of at least 2,000 years. Hence, though adequately promulgated by the Fourth Commandment, the sabbath ordinance as such preceded and is hence distinguishable from the Fourth Commandment, and (properly understood) even independent of the Fourth Commandment.
Secondly, although the sabbath Commandment does not appear to have been Specifically quoted by the Apostles or referred to by them as a Church ordinance — yet cf. Heb. 4! — it is evident that Christ at least implicitly referred to it (cf. Mark 2:27-28 etc.), and that the sabbath ordinance was not abolished in respect of the New Testament dispensation which began at the resurrection of Christ. Taking these two points together, the argument can perhaps be represented diagrammatically as follows: —
DIAG. V — THE PERMANENT SABBATH ORDINANCE
From the above then, it is clear that the permanent weekly sabbath ordinance is coupled to the outward form of the Fourth Commandment between Sinai and the resurrection of Christ, but exists independently thereof before and after those two points.
Thirdly, investigation reveals that the permanent moral essence of the sabbath ordinance is not only coupled to the outward form of the Fourth Commandment during the period between Sinai and Christ's resurrection, but is also (a) itself subjected to certain temporary modifications, and (b) subjected to the whole sabbatical festive system of Israel. Just as pre-Mosaic circumcision (Gen. 15, 17) was coupled to the Mosaic Law (Deut. 10:6; John 7:22, 23 etc.), so too was the pre-Mosaic sabbath (Gen. 2:1-3) coupled to the Mosaic Law (Ex. 31:12-17).
De Heer176 correctly remarks of the pre-Mosaic sabbath that it was not commanded in the form and subject to the limitations prescribed to Israel. What, then, were these Mosaic limitations?
Right at Sinai, practically simultaneously with the giving of the Fourth Commandment, the sabbath was given a new national significance as the covenantal sign of the children of Israel throughout all generations, Exodus 31:12-17. Not long after that, the Lord announced through Moses to the Israelites the death-penalty for work on the sabbath and a prohibition against lighting fires on that day, Exodus 35:2-3. In Leviticus 24:8, it was announced that the table of shewbread had to be renewed in the tabernacle every sabbath day, and in Nu. 28:9-10 weekly sabbath offerings were ordained; whereas in Nu. 15:32-36 it is recorded that the children of Israel imprisoned and were later required by God to stone a man to death because he had gathered wood on the sabbath day.
It is important to realize that these aspects of the weekly sabbath, even though they were ordained by God, were only of temporary ceremonial and/or political significance, and were not intrinsically normative for the permanent weekly sabbath as such, although they were certainly temporarily normative for the Sinaitic weekly sabbath of Israel from Sinai up to the death and resurrection of Christ in which events all these aspects were fulfilled.
However, not only was the permanent sabbath ordinance subjected to certain temporary Israelitic modifications, but it was also temporarily subjected to the whole sabbatical festive system of Israel.
In connection with the remarks on Col. 2:16 and Lev. 23 above (d), it must here be stressed again that the text Lev. 23:2-3 specifically regards the (Sinaitic) weekly sabbath as one of the "feasts" of the children of Israel, and that even these weekly sabbaths of Israel were nailed to the cross together with the other non-weekly ceremonial sabbatical festivals of Lev. 23.
What then has become of the permanent pre- and post-Sinaitic sabbath?
It would seem that the answer lies in Lev. 23:37-38, which specifically distinguishes "the sabbaths of the LORD" from "the feasts".
Now seeing that Lev. 23:2-3 has already declared that the (Sinaitic) weekly sabbath is also included in the "set feasts", it seems that the only solution here is to distinguish between the (Sinaitic) weekly sabbath of Lev. 23:2-3 which is a "set feast", and the "sabbath of the Lord" of Lev. 23 :37-38 which is not a "set feast".
Clearly, the distinction cannot lie in that the two weekly sabbath ordinances do not coincide in point of simultaneous celebration. They do. Both are held every seventh day, and it is one and the same festival. It seems, then, that the distinction must lie in the fact that the permanent pre-Sinaitic weekly sabbath is not a ceremonial set-feast, whereas the temporary Sinaitic weekly form thereof, is a ceremonial feast.
In other words, one must distinguish in point of permanence between the pre-Sinaitic moral weekly sabbath on the one hand, and the Sinaitic ceremonial weekly form of that permanent and purely moral weekly sabbath on the other.
Going back to Col. 2:16, it is now clear what Paul means by: "Let no man therefore judge you . . . in respect of . . . the sabbath days". He means that the Sinaitic weekly sabbath, that temporary ceremonial weekly form of the permanent moral weekly sabbath (like the non-weekly other ceremonial sabbatical feasts or "holy days"), was a shadow of Christ, and was nailed to His cross. The Sinaitic sabbath day was our schoolmaster unto Christ, but, Christ having come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster177. It was ceremonial in that respect.
But not so the permanent moral weekly sabbath itself, of which the Sinaitic weekly sabbath of Israel was only the temporary form. That permanent weekly sabbath has continued on for many centuries after the shadowy Sinaitic dispensation has ceased in Christ's death, even as it preceded the advent of the Sinaitic dispensation for many centuries too. And as it has continued from the beginning of man's earthly time, so will it continue to the end of that time, for it is the microscopic weekly miniature picture of God's great creation sabbath rest, which in the life of this world is co-extensive with this human earthly time itself.
Summarizing this whole section then, it may be said that there is in the sabbath of Sinai a contemporary form and a moral essence. The contemporary form was the rigid rest every seventh day of the week (Saturday) imposed especially on the Jewish people. The moral element lies in the fact that a certain definite day must be dedicated each week for religion, and that as much rest as is needful for religion and its hallowed contemplation is demanded. The (Saturday) sabbath of the Jews having been abolished in the New Testament, Sunday or the Lord's day must now be solemnly hallowed by all Christians178.
sabbath as the sign of the covenant.
Hence the sabbath as the sign of the covenant must now be investigated. It is fatuous to argue that God's covenants with Adam, Noah, Moses, Abraham (and the Church) are totally unrelated to one another and unimportant to the Christian; for firstly, these covenants were all similar in that they were covenants of grace, covenants between God and man, and covenants promising man life; and Secondly, because (unlike man) God does not transgress His covenant, but keeps it faithfully. Wherefore, irrespective of Adam's breach of his old covenant with God and entering into his new covenant with Satan, God does not consider Adam's covenant with Him to be void, but will remain true to His promise to protect Adam and his descendants (to such as keep God's covenant against Satan), and thereby will He carry out His divine promise to give man eternal life when man enters into the sabbath rest of God. So all the covenants root in that with Adam.
Many have unfortunately and inexactly spoken of "sacraments" or "seals" of this Adamic covenant, opinions179 as to their number ranging from one to six (tree of life, tree of the knowledge of good and evil, paradise itself, the garments of skins, marriage and the sabbath). In the interests of clarification, we deem it essential to distinguish between at least four basic kinds of tokens (which shall be called "sign", "institution", "seal" and "sacrament" respectively) before proceeding further.
By "sign" is to be understood a visible token which reminds one of an invisible reality or promise180. By "institution" is meant an original ordinance which God designed to be of perpetual obligation for the duration of this earthly time [which institution may be either general, i.e. for all men irrespective of their faith, e.g. marriage and government181, or particularized, e.g., the sabbath182]. By "seal" is signified an act or the result of that act whereby God's unchangeable counsel is solemnly underwritten by Him183, and by "sacrament" is to be understood a sign which seals and which is given by God Himself to be used by His special covenant people to join them to the Saviour. As such, a sacrament presupposes184 the fall and the Old Testament future certainty or New Testament historical facts of the incarnation and death and resurrection of the Redeemer185.
From the distinctions drawn above, it is difficult to see how the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, although a touchstone of obedience to the covenant, can be regarded as a "sacrament", seeing that it was forbidden, and therefore not enjoined to be (sacramentally) used! Far sooner may it be regarded as a "sacrament" of Adam's covenant with Satan, a kind of devilish baptism into the new, evil covenant which Adam entered into with the serpent, death and hell, when he transgressed his first covenant with God precisely in respect of the forbidden tree. But even if the forbidden tree was a negative unused seal of God's covenant with Adam before the fall, it ceased to be such thereafter, its very use constituting the fall itself, i.e., constituting the breach of Adam's old covenant with God against Satan and the sealing of his new covenant with Satan against God.
"Some have suggested the garments of skins of Adam and Eve as sacraments; but that cannot be the case", writes Kuyper186 "It is true that in the covering with skins of a slaughtered animal, there lies an idea which would indeed have occurred to the sacrificing Israelite. Again, as far as Christ is concerned, there is indeed an analogy in the covering with the cloak of righteousness. But this analogy exists between all facts of the Revelation. The sacramental character is wholly missing. We are not even told that these aprons were a sign". In any case, the garments of skins were only instituted after the fall, and so could not have been the sign of the supralapsarian covenant of works.
The contention that the tree of life and/or Paradise itself was or were the sign(s) or sacrament(s) of the covenant, is also highly questionable, in that if they were, God, having foreseen the fall from all eternity and His consequent denial of them both to man thereafter, left fallen man without any sign of the covenant (of works) for well over a thousand years until He gave Noah the rainbow as a sign of the covenant with all living creatures, if not for yet hundreds of years even later when He gave Abraham circumcision as a sign of the covenant of grace. Of course, if the fall was not to have taken place, the position would be different, particularly in respect of the tree of life, for man would then no doubt ultimately have entered God's rest, i.e., eternal life, by obedience and by partaking of this tree187. However, "known unto God are all His works from all eternity" (Acts. 15:18), and hence even the machinations of Satan (such as the fall) form part of God's eternal counsel, which God employs — nay designs for the greater glorification of His Sovereign Name188. This being the clear teaching of Scripture, it necessarily follows that if only Paradise and the tree of life were sacraments or signs of God's covenant with man, then that covenant was without a sign at least until after the flood.
The case of marriage stands somewhat stronger. Like the sabbath, it is an Edenic institution, an original ordinance designed to obtain throughout all ages until the end of time, but it cannot be the necessary sign of the covenant, for not all are required to marry.
The sabbath, however, in addition to its sharing the above characteristics of marriage, differs in that it is universally necessary (for the demarcation of time, for time must pass for all men, yet not all men marry); but moreover, the sabbath is a religious obligation to all men, whereas marriage, however commendable to most, is not. Then again, the sabbath is specifically described as a sign between God and His covenant people189, whereas marriage is nowhere described as a sign at all, although to the believer it does indeed mystically symbolize his union with Christ (Eph. 5 : 22f).
Hence then, of all the above objects and institutions in Eden, the sabbath alone is a universal, obligatory, perpetual institution, later particularized as a sign of the everlasting covenant between God and His people189. For this reason the sabbath alone can be regarded as the only enduring sign of God's covenant with man.
True, the imposition on the sixth day of creation of the test commandment not to eat of the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil marked the inauguration of the covenant190 but God's entry into His rest on the seventh day, and Adam's inward awareness (as he kept that day) that he too was ultimately to enter that sabbath rest, mark the formal confirmation of that covenant of which the weekly sabbath was hence the sign. It may even be that Adam transgressed the covenant on that first or on a subsequent sabbath191, thus necessitating the Second Adam's appointment of the first day of the week in the place of the last, thenceforth to signify His fulfilment of that Adamic covenant by renewing it (first day = day of newness192) in respect of its day-sign.
True, Paradise and particularly the tree of life may not have been without temporary covenantal significance whilst man was still in Eden before the fall, but of all the above-mentioned phenomena of Eden regarded by same as possible "sacraments" or signs of the covenant, the sabbath and the sabbath alone has endured as a sign in the lives of all the people of God.
True, God has introduced other signs after the fall such as the rainbow, and later still even sacraments such as circumcision and the Passover, and finally baptism and the Lord's Supper; but the sign of the sabbath was before them all and will endure throughout all earthly time into (aev)eternity. The sabbath has survived — survived the Fall, survived the Flood, survived slavery in Egypt and exile in Babylon, and it is the only phenomenon of all those mentioned which is later called a sign between God and His people; it is in a sense, as Pope maintains, the "sacrament of time"193, and, like the test prohibition, it is intimately related to and reflects the whole moral law (vide D, (a), supra).
That the sabbath is the sign of the Edenic covenant is affirmed by De Quervain and Berkouwer194, De Graaff195, Schilder196, Bavinck197, and even by Karl Barth198; that it is also the sign of the temporary Sinaitic covenant is claimed by Buksbazen199, Dreyer200 and Eloff'201 that Sunday is now the sign of the Edenic covenant is argued by Kuyper202, Barth203, Schilder204, Groenman-Deinum205 and Pope206, and even the S.D. Adventists Price207, Lickey208 and Haynes209, and their standard work Questions on Doctrine210, all admit that the sabbath is now a sign of re-creation as well as of creation.
The Edenic sabbath then, is a sign of the covenant — past, present and future. It looks backward to creation, forward to the re-creation, and upward to the Creator and Re-creator, Jesus Christ, Who is the same, yesterday and today and for ever (Heb. 13:8).
So because the sabbath is the sign of the covenant, there must always be a sabbath rest for as long as earthly time endures, for the Adamic covenant of which the weekly sabbath is the sign, is co-extensive with the history of this world itself, i.e., with God's Seventh "Day" of which man's weekly sabbath is the microscopic miniature.
The question now arises: If the same Adamic covenant is still in operation, why is the seventh day of the week no longer in operation? Why do Christians now keep the first day of the week, and not the seventh day of the week, as was perhaps already the case at Sinai?
The answer has already been touched on above, namely that the unfallen Adam kept the first full day of his week as his first sabbath, and was to have kept it as his weekly sabbath each successive seventh day: that is, he was to have kept consistently week by week the same first day as that first day of his week on which he kept his first sabbath.
But when Adam broke the covenant of works (perhaps by desecrating the then sabbath day?! — thus Tostatus, Luther, etc.191), he lost his sabbath rest in God which he then in principle enjoyed in some measure, and to which he ultimately aspired in full measure. But immediately after the fall, God promised in the covenant of grace (Gen. 3:15) that the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, would come and fulfil that Adamic covenant in the stead of the first Adam and his descendants.
Before the fall, then, Adam aspired to the full measure of God's sabbath rest, and already possessed it in some measure at his creation. He started his life in the enjoyment of a measure of that rest, and hence he started his life with a microscopic miniature of that rest of God, with a first weekly sabbath foretaste thereof on the first full day of his life, to be tasted again on that same day of the week precisely seven days later, and so on, successively week by week.
After the fall, Adam totally lost even that "some measure" of the rest of God which he had previously enjoyed; but immediately after that loss he received the promise of the covenant of grace and then looked forward down through the centuries towards the future restoration of that rest by the Second Adam. As the restoration of fallen Adam's forfeited rest was only to be expected at the end of many centuries, so too was fallen Adam thenceforth to expect his weekly sabbath at the end of the week, as something not to be started with in his weekly life as before the fall, but as something to finish the week with, something waiting for him only at the end of his life by weeks (and hence, microscopically, of his weekly life), something yet future and not as then possessed.
But centuries after Adam, when the Second Adam (Jesus Christ) came and kept the covenant even unto His death, since He has now entered His rest, and thereby brought and still brings that rest to His descendants, His people, those people now experience some measure of that rest here and now, on the weekly memorial of that very day of their re-creation through the "re-creation (according to His humanity) of their federal Head the Second Adam Jesus Christ on the day of His resurrection, that is, the day of His "re-creation" from the dead, the first day of the week. Hence, on that first day of the week, and on that same day precisely seven days later of each successive week until the end of history, Christians now start their new creation weeks with their rest in Christ, their risen Sabbath Lord. As even the S.D. Adventist Arthur E. Lickey correctly declares: "Not only is the Sabbath the memorial of the original creation, but it is God's own appointed sign of redemption and sanctification. It is the symbol of the new birth, the spiritual creation"208.
In C (d) above, it was noted that the numbers one, three and seven, were the characteristic numbers of the Creator, creation and re-creation. In respect of re-creation, it was pointed out that the incarnated Second Person of the Triune Creator was the last to keep the seventh-day (Saturday) sabbath, entering into it in His death on the cross, the pangs of which God rent asunder when He raised Him up on the third day in newness of life on the first day of the New Testament week, which cycle of seven-day weeks continued as before, except that the day of demarcation was henceforth the first instead of the last day of the week. Now in respect of the first sabbath day in Eden, it is interesting to note that these three key figures (one, three and seven) occur in the description of the institution itself in Gen. 2:1-3, it being stated once (1) that God created "the heavens and the earth ... and all the host of them", [cf. the once and for all (Heb. 8-10) act of re-creation of all things in heaven and earth by God the Son (Col. 1:20)]. Thrice (3) in Gen. 2:1-3 one reads of the plural name of God "'Elôhim" [suggesting the Triune God — the Father, Who commenced formation of the earth on the first day of creation week: the Son, Who was declared to be such with power by the resurrection on the first day of re-creation week; and the Holy Spirit, Who descended into His New Creation, the Church. on the day of Pentecost, the first day of the week]. Similarly, there was a threefold action of the Triune God, Who "rested" on that first seventh day and "blessed" and "hallowed" it. And each of the several expressions "the seventh day", "work", "done" and "all" appear exactly three times. In all, then, one reads of six triads in respect of the seventh day. Finally, the expression "the seventh day" appears thrice in the passage (7+7+7), thus indicating the perfect completeness of the number seven in respect of the weekly cycle.
It is true that the general creative Name for God, "'Elôhim", is used in the institution of the Edenic sabbath, and not the particular redemptive or re-creative Name "Jehôvãh" or "Yãhvêh". However, it is significant to note that in all further references to the pre-Mosaic sabbath after the fall in which God is also mentioned, the Divine Name there used is either "Yãhvêh" or "Yãhvêh 'Elôhim", and this is also the ease in respect of the Mosaic sabbath. Indeed, as Oehler has remarked: "The full purpose, however, of the sabbatic idea, is not attained until that dominion of sin and death, which have entered into the development of mankind, is taken into account. It was after the curse of God was imposed upon the earth, and man condemned to labour in the sweat of his brow in the service of his perishable existence, that the desire for the rest of God took the form of a longing for redemption (Gen. v. 29)"211.
And that longed-for redemption came when Christ kept the covenant of works to the end of His human life, exclaiming in respect thereof "It is finished!" as He breathed His last; so that now, for all who believe in the Mediator of the covenant, the covenant of works is also finished, and the eternal rest to which Adam aspired, is immediately entered into in principle by the believer. For the voice of Christ is to be heard saying "Come unto Me, all ye who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest . . . and ye shall find rest for your souls" (Matt. 11:28-29).
On His resurrection, Christ entered His rest, not only returning to His divine sabbath rest of creation which He enjoyed prior to His incarnation, but also entering eternal rest according to His human nature, as the Second Adam, the rest which the first Adam would have entered but for disobedience, the rest that remains for the people of God, Heb. 4:9. Never again will the Second Adam and His descendants leave that sabbath peace, and just as the Lord Creator entered into His creation sabbath rest, maintaining His creation up to even this very moment, so too did the Lord Re-creator, the triumphant Christ, enter into His re-creation sabbath rest alongside His Father on high, whence He rests but is not idle, maintaining His re-creation by the power of His out-pouted Spirit, for "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work!" (John 5:17).
Although Christians have already entered the eternal sabbath rest of God in principle, trusting in the work of the Second Adam as principially embodied in His death and resurrection, nevertheless the full realization of that rest still awaits them in the future (cf. Matt. 25:21; II Tim. 4:7). Hence, even in the New Testament dispensation, the week and its demarcator must remain. As Kuyper212 remarks: "For this reason, even under the covenant of grace, the celebration of the sabbath finds a secure place for itself. The covenant of grace enters into our temporal life as well, and it would not be able to find a place of residence in our temporal life, unless the seven day division continued measuring life, and thereby impressed the stamp of eternity thereon". Indeed, the week must continue; the administration of the covenant and its benefits to us in the dimension of time here and now demands it [thus Kuyper213, Barth214 and Kelman215], quite apart from the fact that Saturday and its sabbath lost all its joy after the dead Saviour had spent it in His grave [thus Kelman216, Van der Walt217, Welch218, Edwards219, Geesink220, Eloff221 and Canright222].
But Sunday is also kept as the Christian sabbath today, not only because Christ as the Second Adam and Son of man has entered the eternal rest for His people, but also because He has successfully kept and fulfilled the Adamic covenant for us, so that in Him we now begin our week from our rest in the risen Saviour, and not vice versa, as before His coming. Yet even that is not all. Sunday is now the Christian sabbath, also because as the Son of God, as Lord of the sabbath, Christ took creation week a step further in His resurrection, His re-creation. For in the "re-creation" of the dead Christ according to His humanity, God terminated His seventh creation Day — the Day which never closed during creation week223 — in principle, and in principle also ushered in His Eighth Day. Then He started re-creating the heaven and earth. Then He commenced the work of His Eighth Day of creation week, His First and Eternal day of new creation, His Great Day, the Day of the Lord. And hence Christians must now keep the first day of the week, the Lord's day, as the microscopic miniature of this Day of the Lord.
Yet all this is only in principle. At the same time, Christians are not yet in actuality in God's Eighth Day, but still in His great Seventh Day, which will continue until this present earthly time ends in the advent of God's Eighth Day in actuality, the Day of the resurrection of all flesh, which Day has already commenced in principle with the resurrection of Christ as the Head of all flesh, as Head of the new creation.
So there are two points in time at which God's Seventh Day terminates — in principle, at Christ's resurrection; and in actuality, at the Day of resurrection of Christ's people (thus Geesink224, Guyot225, Taylor Lewis226 and Boston227).
How then is this twofold termination of God's Seventh Day to be understood?!
Firstly. In one sense the world is still in God's Seventh Day. His Eighth Day will only begin at Christ's second coming on the Day of the Lord. It is now God's Seventh Day — thus:
Secondly. In another sense, the redeemed world is now in God's Eighth Day. The Seventh Day of God's unredeemed world has terminated. "And the evening and the morning were the Seventh Day", as it were — its termination morning arrived with that morning of all mornings, on the first day of the new creation week, when the New Creator, the Sun of Righteousness, rose from the grave. It is now God's Eighth Day — thus:
Thirdly. God's Seventh Day and His Eighth Day overlap one another from the resurrection of Christ to the resurrection of all flesh. During this period, the evening shadows of God's Seventh Day deepen. The world gets darker as it approaches the midnight hour of its doom. But at the same time the morning light of Gods Eighth Day grows brighter as it approaches the midday hour of its eternal noon — thus:
Fourthly. God's children are now in the new earth time of God's Eighth Day. They have eternal life already, here and now. It is always the first day of new creation week. But there is an overlap. God's children are nevertheless still in the present earthly time of God's Seventh Day. They will still have to die, their days will be broken at the grave. Hence their days are broken in life, too. It is only the first day of the week once every seven days, and will remain so, until the weekly sabbath of "hebdomadal" time of this present earth yields to the "sabbath-without-end" time of the new earth. "For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before Me, . . . it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before Me, saith the Lord" (Isa. 66:22-23) — thus:
Hence right now, it is God's Eighth Day for the believer in principle every day, and a little bit of God's Eighth Day in actuality every week on the Christian sabbath. God's Eighth Day of (aev) eternity has broken through into hebdomadal time in the resurrection of the Lord. Hence Christians thenceforth keep the eighth day of the week as the Christian sabbath (and microscopic miniature of God's Eighth Day) every seventh day (and microscopic miniature of God's Seventh Day).
In this sense, Isa. 66:22-23 will only be fulfilled at the resurrection of Our Lord's children, when God's Eighth Day of sabbath-without-end will utterly supersede hebdomadal time. Then we will keep that Eighth Day itself throughout all (aev) eternity, i.e., all eternalized time.
But until then, until the sabbath-without-end supersedes the weekly sabbath, the latter must remain, Isa. 66:22-23.
In this sense. Isa. 66:22-23 is being fulfilled in this New Testament dispensation, right here and now, for as the new heavens and the new earth which the LORD hath made (through His Own resurrection), shall remain before Him, it has (already) come to pass that from one new moon to another and from one sabbath to another, all flesh (= all nations, cf. Isa. 56:4-8 with Matt. 21:13) does come (here and now) to worship before Him. Of course, these words also have ultimate eschatological significance, indeed in an even more general and even more figurative sense. For when the new earth and the New Jerusalem arrive, there will very probably be no intermittent new moons or sabbaths, but just one long continuous sabbath "Day", when the Lamb Himself will be the light. Cf. chapter V, B (c) and chapter VI n. 710, infra.
Eschatologically, this advent of God's Eighth Day would have occured after Adam's history had run its course even if sin had never entered into this world. Then, the first Adam would have progressed via the weekly sabbath from God's Seventh Day into Gods Eighth, whence Adam's weekly sabbath-keeping would probably have ceased and become transformed into the sabbath-without-end.
Whereas now, through sin, the Second Adam, God Himself, has brought His Eighth Day down into history right now in principle, and at the end of this present earthly time He will bring it into history in actuality. With sin, God (in the Second Adam) brings His rest down to the first Adam, to man; but without sin, Adam would have climbed up into God's rest [cf. thus Schilder228, Kuyper229, Barth230, Delleman231, Atkinson232, Van Selms233, Dijk234, á Marck235, Bavinck236, Berkouwer236a and Calvin237.
It is readily admitted that (at least in the time of the earthly life of Christ) the sabbath commenced amongst the Jews at evening. But it seems that the "sabbath" (meaning the first day of the week) from Jesus' resurrection reverts to what was probably the original order in Eden241. As Kuyper238 states: "The light still had to rise over Israel, but it has risen for us, and therefore Israel's Sabbath began in the evening, when the day still had to come, but for us it begins in the morning, when the light is there". Whence the progressive eschatological significance of this demarcation may be seen.
But even geographical factors necessitate such demarcation today. While in the vicinity of EDEN, it was quite possible for fallen humans to watch the sun and moon rise and set together, and hold their sabbath observance accordingly. Thenceforth, up to the time of the tower of Babel, it was more difficult for the covenant-keeping believers to be quite so rigid in their computation, yet nonetheless quite possible to begin their sabbath all together, for it is clear that even in those times the "whole earth" (i.e. all its inhabitants) then dwelt together in the valley of SHINAR, and that it was only in the days of Peleg that the inhabitants of the earth were divided, presumably when the Lord came down to Babel, and "confused the language of all the earth: and from there scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth" (Gen. 11:1-9).
When ABRAHAM and his family left Ur of the Chaldees, perhaps two hundred years later, as a "New Covenant people" as it were, elected from all other members of mankind who had, generally speaking, fallen into complete heathendom again since the days of Noah (which had also been the general state before the latter's time, hence God's judgement thereon in the flood), the people of God were still insignificant in number, all together, and rigid sabbath observance still easy. From then onwards up to the time of the exile, God's people were practically all inhabitants of the same land, CANAAN, and it was still possible to observe the sabbath more or less together, and possibly according to the actual setting of the sun, from about this time onwards. At any rate, it was possible for all believers in the same village locality to observe sabbath simultaneously, and for all God's people throughout the Holy Land to observe it more or less simultaneously, with a minimum necessary adjustment on account of intervening mountains, etc., which affected the time of the sunset according to the position of the believers concerned in respect of the mountains, etc.
The EXILE, involving the geographical removal of some believers to Babylon, hundreds of miles away in an eastward direction from the bulk who remained in Judea, obviously necessitated greater adjustment, and, for the first time — on any appreciable scale — God's people had to vary their times of sabbath-keeping very considerably according to the specific locality where they happened to be resident. Proportionately speaking, only a few of the exiles returned, the others remaining in the Dispersion where they dwelt in colonies ranging from Egypt (Elephantine) to Persia.
After CHRIST rose from the dead on Resurrection Sunday, He gave His Great Commission to go into all the world and baptize all nations; but now the discrepancy involved in the time of sunset from place to place became so huge, that adjustment was out of the question. Henceforth, God's people would either have to observe the sunset precisely as it appeared in the exact spot where they happened to be at that very moment, and keep their sabbath accordingly, or observe the sabbath less rigidly in respect of its time of commencement and termination. The first possibility is totally impossible of fulfilment amongst Eskimoes and Laplanders and other people living within the Arctic (or Antarctic) circle, the sun only setting there once every six months, hence involving a year week and a sabbath six months long, if rigidly adhered to! The only alternative, then, is to fix the time of commencement and termination of the sabbath less rigidly, adopting a local time for purposes of demarcation.
This is generally done by those who observe the first day of the week as the New Testament sabbath, calculating the sabbath not from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday, as did the Jews in later Old Testament times, but rather from midnight Saturday to midnight Sunday, midnight Saturday being the midpoint between sunset Saturday and sunrise Sunday, at which latter event the full implications of Christ's resurrection and the Lord's day are seen. Christ Himself does not speak of the demarcation "evening and morning" (as in Gen. 1:5-31 etc.) but rather of the demarcation "night and day239 as referring to His death and new life, i.e. to His human "extinction" on the eve of the last Saturday sabbath when He rested in His finished work in the tomb, and His resurrection on the morning following that finished Saturday sabbath, on which resurrection morning He rose to eternal life, victoriously proclaiming His entry into His eternal sabbath rest, when that glorious day dawned from on high to give light to those that dwell in darkness (cf. Luke 1:78).
"Since the sabbath now commemorates Christ's resurrection from the dead", writes Kelman240, ". . . it is not suitable that a half of it should correspond to the time during which He lay in the grave. Consequently, it is very undesirable that it should be reckoned from sunset to sunset. Altogether, then, our present mode of counting, according to which the Sabbath day begins and ends at midnight, is the most satisfactory that can be adopted, and comes far nearer both to the original (Edenic) arrangement, and to the indications which are met with in the New Testament, than does the Jewish mode of reckoning the day from sunset to sunset". [Thus too Kuyper238, Konig241, Vincent242 and Boston243, and cf. Strong244 and Berkouwer244a].
It is also important for us to realize the spiritual nature of the Christian sabbath. The historical development of the permanent weekly sabbath is, of course, like every other Scriptural matter, subject to the laws of progressive revelation. Hence the Edenic sabbath primarily signified God's creative act, and man's progress towards God's eternal sabbath rest Gen. 2:1-3; Heb. 4:4, 9-11. The Sinaitic sabbath kept these meanings, but added a new one — a badge of Israelite nationality, Ex. 31. The Deuteronomic sabbath stressed the remembrance of slavery in Egypt as a ground for being required to permit one's servants to observe the institution, thus emphasizing the aspect of redemption in the sabbath. And the resurrection sabbath developed this idea still further, as well as announcing the passing of the old order and the principial arrival of God's Eighth Day, the new creation.
For this reason it is disastrous to be too rigid in stressing only one of these aspects at the expense of the others.
Too much rigidity in the precise demarcation of the duration of the weekly sabbath, which will invariably lead us into legalism, should also be guarded against. An excellent example of what may develop here is given by the ex-Seventh Day Adventist Johan de Heer245 in respect of the way Jews and S.D. Adventists rigidly demarcated their sabbath. Cf. chapter II, n. 136.
It is to be noted that Seventh-day Adventists are also chronologically less rigid than a literal interpretation of the "from sunset to sunset" demarcation would require, in that they do not commence their sabbath from the actual time of sunset, but from the mean time of sunset in a limited locality. Natural barriers, such as mountains etc., dividing one section of the same locality from the other, necessitate this their (S.D.A.'s) deliteralization, even in respect of the same locality! Furthermore, one is informed in respect of the prophetess of early Seventh-day Adventism that Mrs. White began by keeping the sabbath from six o'clock until the following day six p.m., and that S.D.A. practised this for ten long years246. All of which implies that the universalized sabbath (whether Saturday OR Sunday), is to be kept inwardly rather than outwardly, mystically rather than legalistically, and in the spirit rather than according to the letter.
It has been seen above that the weekly sabbath is the sign of the Edenic covenant between God and fallen man. Now if Adam had not fallen into sin, but had kept the covenant, he and all his descendants would have entered the eternal sabbath rest of God signified by the weekly sabbath. Adam having fallen, however, God was pleased to save a large part of mankind, namely many of those descendants of Adam (i.e., the elect), through the substitutionary obedience of Jesus Christ to the covenant as the Second Adam.
Now it is clear that, to the elect at least, the sign of the sabbath continues to guarantee their immediate inheritance of and ultimate actual partictpation in God's eternal sabbath rest. The question which now arises, however, is: What is the significance of the sabbath to all men after the fall — not only to the elect, but also to the damned? And this leads to an examination of the significance of the sabbath in the realm of common grace (gratia commonis), i.e., grace which is common to all men, including the non-elect.
Kuyper has shown how even the unbeliever is blessed by the institution of the sabbath. For "the institution of one of the seven days as (the) day of rest is thus no specifically Christian institution, but one of mankind in general, which falls not under particular grace but under general grace"247. Primarily the sabbath grants the unbeliever a much needed physical rest every week, but it also serves to demarcate his time. The beneficial restful examples of Israel, Christianity and Islam have permeated three entire continents, and the enlightened state at least makes it possible for the citizen to live according to the Fourth Commandment248.
Schilder249 emphasizes the nexus between the weekly sabbath, the eternal sabbath rest prepared for man, and the cultural mandate (given to Adam, Gen, 1:26f whereby man — all men — must unfold all history, science and culture; for in the unfolding of the fullness of creation, man attains to God's rest, to His sabbath.
So the sabbath is the sign not only of the
particular covenant of particular grace, but also (in a certain
sense) of the general Noachic covenant of common grace (cf.
the sign of the seven-coloured rainbow); for all men must and
cannot help but laboriously exploit the raw materials of the
earth on its way through history towards its sabbath
— the sabbath of cosmic rest, in which the God of the everlasting
covenant eschatologically knits together the Edenic, Noachic,
Abrahamic, Mosaic and Christian covenants into the eternal sabbath
rest of all reality.