New Testament Sabbath Keeping

How do we enter the sabbath rest? Is it found in the seventh day, or elsewhere?Sabbath Rest – Analysis of Hebrews 3 and 4
Page Created: March 15, 1996

The Message of Hebrews 3&4:is this:

“The Sabbath Day without the Christian Rest is nothing. The Christian Rest, with or without the Sabbath Day, is everything.”

It is amazing how one set of verses seem to prove opposite sides of an argument. In my discussions with Sabbath Day keepers, I find the text of Hebrews chapters 3 &4 to be such a passage. I once viewed these verses as “proofs” of a 7th Day observance in the New Testament Church. Now I view them otherwise. Here is why.

Hebrews 3&4 are written, not with the purpose of proving a day, but with the divine purpose of propounding the saving virtue of faith. Why don’t you read chapters 3&4 before we begin….

Have you read them?… Okay, here are some points that jump out at me.

The beginning of Chapter 3 is the declaration of the supremacy of Christ vs. Moses. The WCG in times past limited that supremacy to say Christ had the right to do away with the sacrificial and ceremonial laws. Well, I hope we can agree that Christ also had the right to do away with the 10 commandments, because II Cor 3 clearly states that is what He did.

Some will “panic” and say “but if He did away with the 10 commandments, you’re saying He did away with the law and so you’re saying we can commit adultery and murder now too.” Those attributing this reasoning to those who “do away with the Sabbath” are as incorrect in their conclusions as are those , lets say, who insist a Sabbath keeper is denying faith in Christ.

But allow me to get back to the point for a moment. Hebrews 3&4 are addressing the item of saving faith, not the 7th day Sabbath. One would do well to read through them in entirety as they read this so they can see the consistency of what I’m saying here.

3:19 states clearly “So we see that they could not enter in BECAUSE OF UN-belief.” Lack of faith prevented them from receiving the gracious promise of God.

The statement in 4:1 which says, “Therefore, since a promise of rest (Katapausis) remains…” shows us that the Katapausis spoken here is not the Holy Land — since later Israel did receive that promise. As a matter of fact, at the time of the authorship of Hebrews they were still there.

4:2 Points us back to Faith as the issue of discourse. “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as them; but the word which they heard DID NOT PROFIT them, NOT BEING MIXED WITH FAITH in those who heard it.” This is the point of contrast being made with OT types and the NT reality — One era had faith granted to it, the other did not.

4:4 Reads “God did Katapauo on the seventh day…”. This indicates the actual act of God as katapauo. The writer is discerning that the importance of the act of God is to be found in Katapuo, not in the act of “sabbatismos” or “sabbaton”. In times past we attributed the sabbath to the creation rest as though they are equals. Yet is it not plausible to consider that the
katapauo is greater than the “sabbaton”? Here, the writer is fixed on expounding the katapausis, not giving serious concern to the “sabbaton”.

We now come to the scriptures in question in Sabbath debates, Hebrews 4:8 says “For if Joshua had given them rest (Katapauo), then he would not have afterward spoken of another day.”

Here is a thought I find interesting: “Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua…”(Josh 24:31). This tells us that the “Sabbaton” was kept under Joshua, but yet Hebrews tells us the Israelites still had not entered into that Rest (Katapausis) which God is desirous that we enter into. It becomes apparent that the creation rest was not fulfilled in the Sabbath Day.

So we must note:

The Sabbath Day did not fulfill the Katapausis Rest ordained from creation, and, The entrance into the Holy Land did not fulfill the Katapausis of creation.

4:9 “There remains therefore a REST for the people of God.” (Strong’s – 4520 – Sabbatismos — “the repose of Christianity,rest.” NOTE: “SABBATH DAY” is “Sabbaton” in Greek. Yet this term was NOT used. No where does the Writer place a plug here for the 7th DAY. If he wanted to say “there remains a sabbath DAY” he would have used “Sabbaton”) Also, in light of his assertion that the sabbaton did not fulfill the katapuasis, it seems unlikely that the writer is saying we are to keep the sabbath to gain entrance into the katapausis. They are not synonymous ideals and nowhere is there reference to indicate one is dependent on the other. After all, God was able to katapauo without a Sabbath Day.

The Sabbatismos is the Christian’s rest in Christ, not his rest in a day. It takes diligence to kill the old man, daily mortifying the deeds of the flesh. Hence verse 11, “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest”. Only through faith in Christ do we have the mastery over the flesh. This is totally substantiated in Romans 5-8.

The Sabbath Day DID NOT fulfill the requirement of FAITH needed to enter into the Katapausis. God wants us to enter into His Katapausis, the Sabbath DAY was to facilitate that, not to replace it.

4:10 “For he (the person) who has entered into God’s Rest (Katapausis — the very word used at creation, that KATAPAUSIS was sanctified in the 7th day, now it is sanctified in Christ) has himself also ceased from his works (of the flesh) as God did from His work (of creation). This verse shows the creation rest is to be viewed as a type, not as a commandment. We rest not
“because” God rested, but “AS” God rested.

4:11 “Let us be diligent to enter THAT Rest (Katapausis, not Sabbatismos), lest anyone fall after the same example of disobedience” Note: The Sabbath Day was kept in the wilderness, and in Joshua’s time. Remember they killed Sabbath breakers under Moses? Israel was obedient under Joshua. They inhabited the promised land.

The only thing they lacked which prevented them from entering the KATAPAUSIS ordained at creation was FAITH!

Practical Results of Seventh Day Theology

Sabbatarians seem to place a higher emphasis on the Sabbaton than God displays in His NT writings. It is NOT the defining issue of true Christianity in the NT, yet most sabbatarians indeed have it in their minds that a “True” Christian will stand out by virtue of Sabbath DAY Keeping. Whereas Jesus said “BY THIS they shall know you are my disciples, if you have love one for another”.

I found myself evaluating who is a “TRUE CHRISTIAN” by “who keeps the Sabbaths, tithes, meats, etc”. It was a small thing to see someone pour out their life in love and service and then say “Jesus, love isn’t a good enough criteria for me to tell who is TRUE, he/she doesn’t keep the Sabbath, so they cannot fully be your disciple.” In this we TRANSGRESS OUR LORD. Where is our FAITH??

I no longer view the Sabbath DAY as holy because to do so contradicts the word of our Lord. “By THIS shall all men know you are my disciples if you have love one for another…” Do you find yourself saying Jesus’ criteria is NOT enough? Are you lacking the FAITH in His Word to enter into His Rest??

The Sabbath Day without the Katapausis Rest is nothing. The Katapausis Rest, with or without the Sabbath Day, is everything. Faith leads us to fulfill the Katapausis Rest, This is the message of Hebrews 3&4 as I see it.

Please, send me your view! That is what discussions are all about!

Author’s Note – 2/22/09: It was later that year that the Lord healed my wife through the power of deliverance and the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit manifest in the church today. When that happened, I saw the ‘motor’ that drove the engine. The power of deliverance takes us back to the age of innocence of the original sabbath rest and also delivers us from the power of the Pharoah, Satan, who has held humanity in bondage. The true Sabbath is kept when the burden of sin is not carried by us 7 days a week – even if we are ‘resting’ on one of them specifically.

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