31. What about the Bible texts saying Christians are free from the seventh-day Sabbath day?
The most commonly cited proof-texts used against Sabbath-keeping (Rom 14:5-6;
2:9-17) in fact appear to be references to Jewish feast-days, which were considered ceremonial ‘Sabbaths’ (Lev 26:32, 37-39). These feast-Sabbaths are distinguished from the seventh-day Sabbath, established at creation (Gen 2:2-3) and later enshrined in the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:8-11). Col
Christians commonly forget the existence of these Jewish ceremonial Sabbaths. Because they are based on the lunar calander, they can fall on any day of the week. For example, Leviticus 16:23-31 (see also Lev 23:32) makes it clear that Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) is considered a ‘Sabbath’, regardless of what day it falls on:
“This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work—whether native-born or a foreigner residing among you— because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins. It is a day of sabbath rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance.” (emphasis added)
Likewise, other feast days are specifically designated a Sabbath (i.e literally Hebrew for ‘rest’ or ‘cessation’). Furthermore, Shavuot (Feast of Weeks or First fruits) is specifically described as a Sabbath (Lev 23:10-11 – i.e. ‘rest’ in NIV whilst ‘Sabbath’ in KJV). Rosh Ha-shanah (Feast of Trumpets) is also specifically described as a Sabbath (Lev 23:24). Sukkoth (Feast of Tabernacles) is also specifically described as a Sabbath (Lev 23:39-42). Erev Pesah (Passover) is not described as a ‘Sabbath’, although on the first and seventh days of the festival no regular work is permitted, and considered a day of sacred assembly (holy convocation), in a manner similar to the other feast-Sabbaths.
These Jewish feasts pointed forward to Christ’s life, death and resurrection, the most obvious example being Christ’s death being a fulfillment of Passover, where Jesus was the true Passover-lamb (Jhn 1:29; Jhn 19:31; Heb 10:1-4). Moreover, the Jewish Day of Atonement merely pointed to Christ’s role as High Priest in the true heavenly tabernacle (Heb 4:14-16; 8:1-5).
The primary point to make is that these feasts are in addition to, and separate from, the Lord’s seventh-day Sabbath (Lev 23:37,38). Consider for example:
· Yom Kippur will fall on Wednesday 26 September 2012;
· Shavuot will fall on Wednesday 8 June 2011;
· Rosh Ha-shanah will fall on Wednesday 28 September 2011;
· Sukkoth will fall from Thursday 13 to Saturday 15 October 2011; and
· During Passover, no work is permitted on Tuesday 19 April and Monday 25 April 2011.
Finally, there were also Jewish ceremonial Schmita (Sabbath-years), which occurred every 7 and 50 years. For example, in Leviticus 25:2-4 it says:
“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the LORD. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. (emphasis added)
Therefore, when Paul specifically mentions in Colossians 2:16 ‘religious festivals’, ‘New Moons celebrations’ or ‘a Sabbath day’, this appears to be a direct correlation to these Jewish feast-Sabbaths, not the seventh-day Sabbath. Paul also mentions that these things are mere ‘shadows of the things to come’, which is the same language he also uses to describe the Jewish ceremonial sacrificial service (Hen 8:5 and 10:1). One should remember Paul is principally arguing that gentiles should not be bound by Jewish rituals found in the Mosaic Law, such as circumission and these Jewish holidays, as distinct from the Moral Law enshrined in the Ten Commandments.
Thus, Paul obviously cannot be referring to the seventh-day Sabbath as a mere ‘shadow’ found within the context of the Jewish sacrificial system, as the weekly Sabbath was instituted before sin even existed in Eden (Gen 2:2-3). Whilst the Jewish ceremonial system, which included the feast-Sabbaths, pointed forward to Christ’s future life, death and resurrection, the seventh-day Sabbath was always part of God’s original, sin-free plan for all of mankind. For this reason, the Sabbath will also continue in heaven (Is 66:22).
As with circumcision, Adventists agree with other Christians that these ceremonial Sabbath days, based on lunar and yearly calendars were done away with at the Cross (Dan 9:27; Matt 27:51). However, had Paul been advocating the abolition for part of the Moral Law as found in the Decalogue, rather than the mere Ceremonial Law, he would most certainly have faced stronger opposition by the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem.
For a further exploration on the difference between the seventh-day Sabbath and ceremonial Sabbaths and Jewish festivals:
At the end of the day, critics can make all sorts of claims: that there is no definite proof that these texts are talking about ceremonial Sabbaths rather than the seventh-day Sabbath; or that the weekly Sabbath was never categorically re-affirmed in the New Testament (although arguably it is in Heb 4 whilst the third commandment against blasphemy is also never categorically reaffirmed).
However, the Bible establishes a clear system of Biblical precedents, which operate to distinguish new but true revelation from a new but false gospel (Deut 18:20; Matt 5:17-19; Luk 24:44; Gal 1:6-9). Thus, given the seventh-day Sabbath was without doubt established at creation and enshrined in the Decalogue, the onus of proof rests with those who say these clear Biblical precedents no longer apply.
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