FROM SABBATH TO SUNDAY
Samuele Bacchiocchi PhD on Hebrews 4 and Matt.24:20
The Sabbath in the Letter to the Hebrews
The echo of this redemptive meaning of the Sabbath is found
in Hebrews, to which we alluded earlier, where God's people are
reassured of the permanence of the blessings of the "Sabbath
rest" - "Greek" (4:9) and are exhorted to accept them (4:11). 121
The author of Hebrews is laboring with a community of Jewish
Christians who apparently shared the conviction that the
blessings of Sabbath-keeping were tied to the Jewish national
covenant. Sabbath observance was associated in fact with the
material prosperity which only the members of the covenant
community would enjoy in a state of political peace. 122 To wean
these Jewish-Christians away from such an exclusive and material
view of the Sabbath and to establish
121 By emphasizing that the creation Sabbath rest of God still
remains (Greek) for the people of God (Heb.4:6,9), the author of
Hebrews testifies to the fundamental and indissoluble unity of
God's work in creation and redemption. Karl Barth, "Church
Dogmatics," ET 1958, 111, p.257: "From creation - preceding and
superseding every human decision of obedience or disobedience -
there remains (apoleipetai) for the people of God the Sabbath
rest (sabbatismos), the divinely willed and ordered fellowship,
relationship and agreement between His own and human freedom";
cf. C. Spicq, "L'Epitre aux Hebreux," 1953, 11, p.83.
122 Isaiah 58:13-14 reflects the concept that genuine Sabbath
observance guarantees the blessings of the covenant. By arguing
that another Sabbath rest remains for God's people besides the
one given by Joshua to the Israelites, Hebrews 4 appears to
refute a prevailing view that the blessings of Sabbath-keeping
were tied to the Jewish national covenant. For the development of
this idea see G. von Rad and Ernst Jenni (cited above, fn. 23).
Alexander Balmain Bruce, "The Epistle to the Hebrews," 1899, p.
162 suggests that the author of Hebrews endeavors "to wean the
Hebrews from its external observance by pointing out its
spiritual end." Francis S. Sampson, "A Critical Commentary on the
Epistle to the Hebrews," 1866, p.156, also sees in Hebrews 4 a
refutation of a prevailing "exclusive view" of the blessings of
the Sabbath covenant.
its universal, redemptive and spiritual nature, the author welds
together two Old Testament texts, namely Genesis 2:2 and Psalm
95:11. By the former, he traces the origin of the Sabbath rest
back to the time of creation when "God rested on the seventh day
from all His works" (Heb.4:4; of. Gen.2:2-3; Ex.20:11; 31:17).
The fact that the Sabbath rest originated with God gives to it
universal and eternal validity. "This Sabbath of God," as well
stated by Adolph Saphir, "is the substratum and basis of all
peace and rest - the pledge of an ultimate and satisfactory
purpose in creation." 123 By the latter (Psalm 95:11) he
explains the scope of this "Sabbath rest" which includes the
blessings of salvation to be found by entering personally into
"God's rest" (4:10,3,5).
To demonstrate this universal redemptive scope of the "good
news" (4:2) of the Sabbath rest which "came to us just as to them
[i.e. the Israelites)" (4:2) and which can be appropriated
personally by "faith" (4:2), the author of Hebrews draws several
remarkable conclusions from Psalm 95.
First, he reasons that God's swearing in Psalm 95:11 that
the Israelites should not enter into His rest indicates that God
has promised a Sabbath rest, which, however the wilderness
generation "failed to enter [i.e. in the promised land of rest]
because of disobedience" (4:6; cf. 3:16-19). 124 "Therefore," he
argues, "it remains for some to enter it" (4:6).
Secondly, he proceeds to show that God's Sabbath rest was
not exhausted even in the following generation when the
Israelites under Joshua did enter the land of rest, since "David
so long afterward" (4:7) says "Today, when you hear his voice, do
not harden your hearts" (Heb.4:7, cf. Ps.95:7). The fact that
long after the original proclamation of the good news of the
Sabbath rest, even in David's time, God "again" renews His
promise by saying "today," indicates that the promise of entry
into God's Sabbath rest (Greek) still "remains ... for the people
of God" (4:9). Lastly, the writer implies that, as well stated
123 Adolph Saphir, "The Epistle to the Hebrews," 1946, p.184.
124 G. von Rad (fn. 23), p.95 argues that the concept of the
Sabbath rest understood not simply as peace of mind but as
"altogether tangible peace granted to a nation plagued by enemies
and weary of wandering," originated in Deuteronomy (12:9f.;
25:19). The theme is adopted and developed subsequently (cf. Jos.
21:43-45; 1 King 8:56; 1 Chron.22:9; 23:25; 2 Chron.15:15; 20:30;
125 This point is well made by John Brown, Hebrews, "The Banner
of Truth," 1862, p.208.
G. von Rad, "the 'today' in which the Psalm renews God's offer of
rest has dawned with the coming of Christ" (4:7). 126 By this
line of reasoning he is able to demonstrate that the Sabbath has
a three-dimensional meaning.
It commemorates first the completion of creation. Later it
came to symbolize the promise of entry into the land of rest and
its temporal realization. Lastly, "these two meanings," which, as
noted by J. Danielou., were "the prefiguration and the prophecy
of another sabbatismos, of a seventh day, which had not yet come
about," have been fulfilled and become a reality for the people
of God through Christ. 127 By the juxtaposition of the two texts
(Gen.2:2; Ps.95:11), the writer of Hebrews provides unshakable
assurance that God's people through Jesus Christ shares at
length in the whole purpose of creation and redemption epitomized
by the Sabbath rest.
It may be argued that since the author of the Epistle is not
discussing the actual observance of the Sabbath but rather
the permanence and fulfillment of its blessings, no inference
can be drawn regardling its literal observance. Such observation
is hardly justified since the Epistle is addresd to a Jewish-
Christian community that highly regarded Jewish observances
such as Sabbath-keepng. 126 The fact that the author is not
engaged in a polemic defense of the validity of Sabbath
observance, but rather in an exhortation to experience its
blessing which "remains ... for the people of God" (4:9), makes
his testimony all the more valuable, since it takes its
observance for granted. What the recipients of the Epistle needed
to know was not the binding obligation of the Sabbath commandment
but rather its true meaning in the light of the coming of Christ.
The majority of commentators by interpreting the "sabbath
rest (or the keeping of a Sabbath) that remains for the people of
God" (4:9) as an exclusive future realization, have failed
to grasp the implication of the exhortation for its present
observance. Samuel T. Lowrie suggests a plausible explanation for
the prevailing misunderstanding of the teaching of the
126 G. von Rad (fn. 23); p.99.
127 J. Danielou, "Bible and Liturgy," p.299; W. Robertson Nicoll,
"The Expositor's Greek Testament," 1956, p.279: "Under the
promise of a land in which to rest, the Israelites who came out
of Egypt were brought in contact with the redeeming grace and
favour of God."
128 This is implied in the effort made by the author of Hebrews
to assert the superiority of the Christian dispensation over that
of the Old Covenant as well as by his thorough familiarity with
Epistle concerning Sabbath-keeping. The Epistle won canonical
recognition (in the West in about the 4th century) only long
after the existence of "churches made up of converted Hebrews."
The result has been that Gentile interpreters, unfamiliar with
the circumstances of the original readers of the Epistle, have
missed the points that would be apprehended by primitive Jewish
(The canonization of the New Testament was done by the first
century apostles themselves NOT by the "churches of the West" or
any Roman Catholic stamp of approval - see the studies
"Canonization of the New Testament" on this Website - Keith Hunt)
It should be noted that while the reassurance of a "Sabath
rest 'that' remains ... for the people of God" (4:9) and the
exhortation "to enter that rest" (4:11) can suggest a future
realization of its blessings, the whole passage also contains
several significant indications of a present Sabbath-keeping
experience. In verse 3, for instance, the writer emphatically
states, "for we who have believed are entering (Greek) into the
rest." The present tense here, as noted by R.C.H. Lenski, is not
expressing an abstract universality, for then it should read
"they enter." 130 The personal form "we enter" refers to the
writer and readers who "having believed" (4:3) enter in the
present into the "rest" which is qualified in the following verse
as being God's Sabbath rest available since the creation of the
world (4:3-4). Similarly the verb "remains--Greek" (4:6,9) which
literally means "to leave behind," is a present passive and
therefore does not necessarily imply a future prospect. Verse 9
can be literally translated, "Then a Sabbath rest is left behind
for the people of God" since Joshua's generation did not exhaust
its promises (v.8). The present tense emphasizes its present
permanence rather than its future possibility.
The force of the two "Today -- Greek" in verse 7 is also
significant. The "today" of the Psalm in which God renews the
"good news" (4:6) of His rest, indicates to the writer that since
the gospel of the Sabbath rest was reoffered in the days of
David, 131 it does extend to Christian times. The condition
129 Samuel T. Lowrie, "An Explanation of the Epistle to the
Hebrews," 1884, p.114.
130 R.C.H. Lenski, "The Interpretation o f the Epistle to the
Hebrews and of the Epistle of James," 1946, p.130.
131 W. Rordorf, "Sunday," p.112, emphasizes the force of "Today"
"We shall misunderstand the burden of the passage if we do not
hear in it the decisive significance of the 'Today.' The new day
of the 'Today' has dawned in Christ (v.7). On this new day it is
possible to enter into the rest, and yet more: on this new day
this rest has become a reality for those who believe." Note the
similarity with the "today" of Luke 4:19 and John 9:4.
accepting it is the same: "Do not harden your hearts," "when you
hear his voice" (4:7). This is not a future but a present "today"
response to the "good news." This response well epitomizes the
meaning of Christian Sabbath-keeping. In verse 10 this concept is
further clarified by means of the analogy between the rest of God
and that of man, (literally) "for whoever entered God's rest also
rested from his works as God did from his." Both verbs "entered--
Greek" and "rested--Greek" are not future but aorist tense,
indicating therefore not a future experience but one which,
though it occurred in the past, continues in the present. In the
RSV both verbs are given in the present ("enters ... ceases")
apparently since the context underlines the present and timeless
quality of God's rest (4:1,3,6,9,11). The failure to see this has
misled some expositors to interpret this rest as the rest of
death" 132 or the future celestial inheritance of the believers.
This can hardly be the author's sole design, since he is laboring
to show that a Sabbath still remains in the present for the
people of God (4:9).
The point of the analogy in v.10 is not the works
themselves, since God's works are good while man's are evil (cf.
Heb.6:2 "dead works"); rather the analogy is made in terms of
man's imitation (Greek) of God's resting from work. This is a
simple statement of the nature of the Sabbath, since cessation
from work is its essential element, for it is written that "God
rested on the seventh day from all his works" (Heb.4:4). The
author therefore explains the nature of the Sabbath rest
--Greek--that remains for the people of God (4:9) by referring to
its basic characteristic, namely cessation from work (4:10). But
what does this mean? Is the author of Hebrews merely encouraging
his readers to interrupt their secular activities on the Sabbath?
Being Jewish-Christians, they hardly needed such a reminder.
Moreover this yields only a negative idea of rest, and the
blessings of the Sabbath rest can hardly be only a pure negation.
Obviously the author attributes a deeper meaning to the resting
on the Sabbath. This can be seen in the antithesis between those
who failed to enter into its rest because of "unbelief--Greek"
(4:6,11)--that is, faith-
132 The rest (Greek) of God (Heb.4:10) can hardly be the rest
(Greek) of the grave referred to in Rev. 14:13.
lessness which results in disobedience - and those who enter into
it by "faith--Greek" (4:2,3), that is, faithfulness that results
in obedience. The act of resting on the Sabbath represents then
the stopping of one's doing in order to be able to experience the
being saved by faith (4:2,3,11). Believers, as Calvin expresses
it, are "to cease from their work to allow God to work in them."
133 By resting on the Sabbath after the similitude of God (4:10),
the believer, as K. Barth puts it, "participates consciously in
the salvation provided by Him [God]. 134
The Sabbath rest that remains for the people of God (4:9) is
for the author of the Epistle not a mere day of idleness, but
rather an opportunity renewed every week to enter God's rest,
that is to say, to make oneself free from the cares of work in
order freely to accept by faith God's total blessings of
creation-redemption. It should be noted, however, that this
Sabbath experience of the blessings of salvation is not exhausted
in the present, since the passage goes on to say that we should
"strive to enter that rest" (4:11). This orientation toward the
future corresponds to, or even may be caused by, the anticipation
of the final redemption which the Sabbath epitomizes. Both in the
Old Testament and in rabbinical literature the Sabbath is viewed
also as a type of the world to come," 135 Thus in its own way
the Epistle to the Hebrews expresses the essence of
Sabbath-keeping (which is also the core of the Christian life),
namely, the tension between the experience in the present of the
blessing of salvation and the eschatological consummation in the
heavenly Canaan. 136
133 J. Calvin, "Institutes of the Christian Religion," 1972, II,
134 K. Barth, "Church Dogmatics," ET 1958, III, p.50; cf. C. K.
Barrett, "The Eschatology of the Epistle to the Hebrews," in "The
Background of the New Testament and its Eschatology," ed. W. D.
Davies and D. Daube, 19642, p.372: "[Heb.4:11] implies, to enter
into God's 'rest' is the opposite of unbelief and disobedience;
it means that man shares at length in the perfection of God's
ultimate purpose for mankind." F.F. Bruce, "The Epistle to the
Hebrews," 1964, pp.74,78, associates the Sabbath rest of God
referred to in Hebrews 4 with Christ's words in John 5:17,
arguing that it implies not primarily a future bliss, but the
blessings of salvation ever available by faith since creation
(see also above fn. 73).
135 See above fn. 20,21,22; "Epistle of Barnabas" 15:8.
136 This view is well expressed by Alexander Balmain Bruce (fn.
122), pp.160,161: "Sabbatism ... felicitously connects the end of
the world with the beginning, the consummation of all things with
the primal state of the creation. It denotes the ideal rest, and
so teaches by implication that Christians not only have an
interest in the gospel of rest, but for the first time enter into
a rest which is worthy of the name ... God rested on the seventh
day, and by the choice of this name the writer happily hints that
it is God's own rest into which Christians enter, .... Christ
discarded the rabbinized Sabbath, and put in its place a
humanized Sabbath, making man's good the law of observance,
declaring that it was always lawful to do well, and justifying
beneficent activity by representing Divine activity as incessant,
and Divine rest therefore as only relative."
This expanded interpretation of Sabbath-keeping was
apparently designed to wean Jewish Christians away from an
external and material conception of its observance. We do not
know how far our author was acquainted with the Sabbath material
of the Gospels, but we cannot fail to perceive in his
interpretation a reflection of Christ's redemptive view of the
Sabbath discussed earlier. The meaning of the permanence of God's
Sabbath rest of Hebrew 4 (cf. vv. 3,4,5,10) is for instance well
implied in the Lord's words in John 5:17, "My Father is working
still, and I am working." 137 The rest of God is indeed His
uninterrupted saving activity designed to restore fallen man to
Himself. Christ as the One sent by the Father to redeem and to
restore man, is the supreme manifestation of God's rest. Hence
Christ's great promise to give rest (Greek) unto all that come to
Him (Matt.11:28), is the core of the Sabbath rest Greek)
available to the people of God (Heb.4:1,3,6,9,11). These
blessings of salvation which we enjoy by faith even now on the
Sabbath, will be fully experienced at the end of our earthly
pilgrimage. The fact that in Hebrews 4 we find a reflection of
Christ's view of the Sabbath as the time to experience the
blessings of salvation, goes to prove that primitive Christians
(at least some) interpreted Christ's teachings as implying not
the literal abrogation but the spiritual valorization of the
137 F.F.Bruce (fn. 134) clearly recognizes that the redemptive
meaning of the Sabbath rest found in Hebrews 4 "is implied by our
Lord's words in John 5:17."
AN ADMONITION OF CHRIST REGARDING THE SABBATH
We shall conclude this survey of the Sabbath material of the
Gospels by considering briefly Christ's unique warning given to
His disciples, when predicting the destruction of Jerusalem:
"Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath --
Several explanations have been advanced to explain the
reason for Christ's singular admonition. The flight on a Sabbath
could be hindered, for instance, by closed city-gates, by a mood
psychologically adverse to fleeing, by the refusal on the part of
strict observers to help those in need, by the fear of breaking
rabbinical regulations which allowed only a short Sabbath-day's
journey of two-thirds of a mile, or by the rage of "fanatical
Jews who would become furious at a supposed desecration of the
Same argue, however, that since the words "neither on a Sab-
bath--Greek" are omitted in Mark 13:18, they repesent a later
Jewish-Christian interpolation. 139 Even granting such
possibility, the fact remains that the interpolator regarded the
Sabbath as binding at the time of his writing. Taking into
account, however, Matthew's respect for Jewish institutions, and
the Jewish-Christian composition of his readership, 140 there
appears no reason to question the authenticity of the phrase.
Mark's (13:18) omission could be explained by the fact that he
was writing to a different audience, not impeded by Jewish
restrictions, and therefore he did not have to retain Christ's
reference to traveling on the Sabbath.
Others believe that this passage reflects "the uncertainty
with regards to the Sabbath precept" of the Jewish-Christian
community which was endeavoring to solve the Sabbath problem but
had not yet abandoned its observance. 141 The text really offers
no reflection regarding the observance of the Sabbath, since it
deals exclusively with the future flight, and the winter and the
Sabbath are introduced incidentally only as possible obstacles.
The uncertainty is not about the observance of the Sabbath, but
rather regarding the arrival of the great "tribulation" (Matt.
24:15, 21). The fact that the Sabbath is
138 The last explanation is by R.C.H. Lenski, "The Interpretation
of St.Matthew's Gospel," 1943, p.939; cf. J.C. Fenton (fn. 119),
p.387; Theodore H. Robinson, "The Gospel o f Matthew," 1928, p.
197; William Hendriksen (fn. 50), p.859; H.A.W. Meyer (fn. 85),
139 O. Cullmann, "Early Christian Worship," 1966, p.10; P.
Cotton, "From Sabbath to Sunday," 1933, pp.604; W. Rordorf,
"Sunday," p.68, conjectures that "the addition -- Greek --in
Matt.24:20 (or the whole verse?) derives from a late Jewish
(Maccabean?) milieu"; cf. E. Lohse (fn. 5), p.30.
140 Cf. for instance Matt.5:18; 10:6,23; 19:9; 23:3,23.
141 C.S.Mosna, "Storia della domenica," p.179; cf. E. Lohse (fn.
139), p.30; J. Schmid, "The Gospel according to Matthew," 1968,
mentioned not polemically but incidentally as an element
unfavorable to a flight, implies that Christ did not foresee its
substitution with another day of worship, but rather that he took
for granted its permanence after His departure.
It could be argued that the statement taken by itself hardly
reflects Christ's view of the Sabbath, since it is inconsistent
with the Savior's defense of use of the Sabbath to sustain life.
But is Christ, in this instance, actually prohibiting fleeing on
the Sabbath? His admonition is to pray for conditions favorable
to a flight. The winter and the Sabbath are introduced merely as
external circumstances that could interfere with a hasty flight.
Christ in no way implies that fleeing in winter or on a Sabbath
would be unlawful. He is solely expressing His sympathetic
concern for His followers, who might be hampered in their flight
by these adverse elements. The considerations for the plight of
women pregnant or with nursing babies (Matt.24:19) as well as for
the travel difficulties caused by the winter and by the Sabbath
(v. 20) are not judgmental values but only indications of
Christ's tender concern for human frailty. From the standpoint of
His disciples, Christ sees the Sabbath as a time inappropriate
for fleeing, since, being a day of rest, Christians would be
unprepared for flight and fanatical Jews would possibily hamper
their flight. 142
(I agree to a point with Bacciocchi, but I also see that true
Christians observing the Sabbath would be having their mind on
the worship of God, and fleeing on the Sabbath with armies around
Jerusalem would not be any situation for God's people to forget
about the Sabbath and put their mind on earthly cares and worries
and try to escape through the walls of a military power that has
your city surrounded - Luke 21:20-24 - Keith Hunt)
Christ, therefore, in this admonition is not defining
Sabbath behavior but merely exhorting His sidciples to pray for
favorable circumstances. The fact, however, that Sabbath-keeing
is taken for granted, presupposes, on the one hand, that Christ
forsaw the permanence of its observation and, on the other hand,
that, as stated by A.W. Argyle, "the Sabbath was still observed
by Jewish Christians when Matthew wrote." 143
142 William Hendriksen (fn. 5Q), p.859: "Christ's own teaching on
the subject of Sabbath observance (Matt.12:11; Mark 2:27) was
sufficiently generous to make allowance for escape on that day.
But the many man-made rules and regulations by means of which the
scribes and Pharisees had created the impression that man was
indeed made for the Sabbath would have resulted in refusals on
the part of many a strict observer to help those in need. So the
Lord urges his disciples to pray that they may not have to flee
in winter or on the Sabbath."
143 A.W. Argyle, "The Gospel according to Matthew," 1963, p.183;
W. Rordorf, "Sunday," p,120, also remarks: "The very fact,
however, that this saying was preserved among Jewish Christians
is sufficient proof of the high regard in which they held the
Sabbath"; E. Lohse (fn. 5), p.29: "Matt.24:20 offers an example
of the keeping of the Sabbath by Jewish Christians."
(I still maintain that the instruction from Jesus to pray that
His disciples will not have to contemplate fleeing on the Sabbath
is towards the very nature of Sabbath observance; that being
concerned about trying to flee from a city that is surrounded by
armies is not in the nature of physical and mental and emotional
Sabbath observing. The thought of having to flee a city
encompassed by armies on ANY day of the week is a problamatic
mind-twister; to contemplate such on the Sabbath is not the way
to observe and celebrate the Sabbath. Fleeing in the winter has
its own natural physical problems to contend with - Keith Hunt)
Several conclusions emerge from this analysis of the Sabbath
material of the Gospels. The ample report of the Gospel writers
of the conflicts between Christ and the Pharisees on the manner
of Sabbath observance, is indicative first of all of the serious
estimate in which the Sabbath was held both in Jewish circles and
in primitive Christianity. The extensive accounts of Christ's
Sabbath pronouncements and healing activities presuppose, in
fact, that primitive Christians were involved in debates
regarding the observance of the Sabbath. We found, however, that
they understood Jesus' attitude toward the Sabbath not as a
veiled forecast of a new day of worship, but rather as a new
perspective of Sabbath-keeping. This consisted both in a new
meaning and a new manner of observance of the Sabbath.
Concerning the latter, the Sabbath was viewed not as a time
of passive idleness but of active, loving service to needy souls
(Mark 3:4; Matt.12:7,12; John 9:4). This new understanding is
attested in as early a document as the "Epistle to Diognetus"
(dated between A.D.130-200). The Jews are here charged with
"speaking falsely of God" when claiming that "He [God] forbade us
to do what is good on the Sabbath-days - how is not this
We found this positive and fundamental value of Sabbath-
keeping to be forcefully established by Christ through His
program of Sabbath reforms. The Lord, we noticed, on the Sabbath
deliberately acted contrary to prevailing restrictions, in order
to liberate the day from the multitude of rabbinical limitations
and thereby restore it to its original divine intention, namely,
to be a day of physical and spiritual well-being for mankind. We
noted, however, that Christ presents the showing of love by acts
of kindness on the Sabbath to be not merely the fulfillment of
the humanitarian obligations of the commandment, but primarily
the expression of the believer's acceptance and experience of the
divine blessing of salvation (John 9:4; Matt.11:28).
This relationship between the Sabbath and redemption we
found brought out in the Gospels in several ways. God's Sabbath
rest, for instance, is presented by Christ, not as a time of
idleness, but as His "working until now" (John 5:17) for man's
salvation. Likewise the priests' legitimate use of the Sabbath
144 "Epistle to Diognetus"4, 3, ANF I, p.26; for further
references and discussion of the patristic interpretation of the
Sabbath see above, fn. go.
to minister to needy sinners (Matt.12:5; John 7:23) is presented
by Christ as an indication of the redemptive function of the
Sabbath. But we found the supreme revelation of its redemptive
meaning in the Messianic claims and Sabbath ministry of Christ.
The Saviour not only inaugurated (Luke 4:16) and closed (Luke
23:53-54) His ministry on a Sabbath but He also explicitly
announced His Messianic mission to be the fulfillment of the
promises of redemption and liberation of the sabbatical time
(Luke 4:18-21). Moreover on the Sabbath Christ intensified His
saving ministry (John 5:17; 9:4; Mark 3:4) so that sinners whom
"Satan bound" (Luke 13:16) might experience and remember the
Sabbath as the day of their salvation.
The Sabbath, then, in Christ's teaching and ministry was not
"pushed into the background" or "simply annulled" to make room
for a new day of worship, but rather was made by the Saviour the
fitting memorial of His salvation rest available to all who come
to Him in faith (Matt.11:28). 145
This redemptive meaning of the Sabbath we found exemplified
in the fourth chapter of the "Epistle to the Hebrews." Here the
"Sabbath rest" that "remains ... for the people of God" (4:9) is
explained to be not a material experience reserved exclusively
for the Jewish nation (4:2,8) but rather a permanent and
spiritual blessing available to all who enter by faith into God's
rest (4:2,3,11). By ceasing on the Sabbath from one's labor after
the similitude of God (4:10), the believer makes himself
available to receive by grace and not by works the foretaste of
the blessings of the final redemption which, through Christ, have
already become a certainty (4:7). This positive interpretation of
the Sabbath indicates that the primitive Church understood Jesus'
Messianic pronouncements (Mark 2:28; Matt.12:6; John 5:17) and
His healing activities, not as the supersession of the Sabbath by
a new day of worship, but as the true revelation of the meaning
of its observance: a time to experience God's salvation
accomplished through Jesus Christ.
145 W. Rordorf, "Sunday," p.70.
To be continued with "The Attitude of Christ Towards the