May 2011

Preaching Christ From The Old Testament-Jesus And The Law Of Moses-pt.4

One topic that needs more explanation in the popular realm is that of the Sabbath. There are a number of perspectives on the Sabbath and those that I have investigated have been found to be incorrect. Why does this matter? It matters because what you believe or don’t believe about anything in the Scripture determines how you live. And how you live determines the degree that God is glorified or not. God is not glorified in rules that originate from the flesh (Matthew 9:13), but rather in behavior that stems from a heart that is regenerate and is conformed to His Word (Mark 7:6-13). This issue of the Sabbath is a seemingly mysterious subject and appears to create in the hearts of many a tension that does not need to be there. Some might say, “We should not drive cars on the Sabbath.” Others may say, “We should not work at our jobs on the Sabbath.” Still others may equate Sunday, The Lord’s Day, with the Sabbath. Some even are self-serving in that they see the Sabbath that they have formulated in their imaginations as a kind of cultic mantra wherein they achieve oneness with the universe from their supposed rest. None of these really hit the mark concerning what is revealed in the Scripture about the Sabbath. Since one of the bones of contention between the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and the Jews was Jesus’ behavior during the Sabbath, I thought it would be appropriate to cover that in this series on Jesus Christ and the Old Testament.

 

Strictly speaking, the Sabbath is no other day than the seventh day of the week. It is not one day in seven, but rather the seventh day. This is clear from the very first usage of the term ‘Sabbath’ in the Old Testament (OT). In Exodus 16:23-30 the regulation or pattern of the seventh day as a day from which to refrain from labor is set in motion, although the commandment for it was not revealed for another two weeks (Exodus 16:1; 19:1). The newly formed nation of Jews, the House of Israel, has left Egypt in an astounding display of the power of YHWH’s power to subdue the earth to make it do what He wants it to do, i.e. to move the waters aside for the sake of the Israelite’s escape. This display leads to a song of triumph (Exodus 15:1-21). However, the walking in the desert also brings out the grumbling in their hearts as well (Exodus 16:1-7). God then promises to provide a food for them, quail in the evening and “manna” in the morning. In providing this, they would have to gather it and prepare it as it becomes available, every evening and every morning. However, God’s people Israel are called upon to observe that one day which God pronounced blessing and sanctification (Genesis 2:1-3). It was an eternal day, so to speak because there is not the typical refrain, “there was evening and there was morning, a seventh day.” The “very good” condition (1:31) would be the condition of life on earth forever and ever. Thus, eternal life.

In that day, all Israel was to cease from going out in the morning for manna and going out that evening for quail. Instead, they were to gather enough on the sixth day for the seventh too. God would make sure that the food would not rot or decay in any way. At this time, Israel would be introduced to that day in which God rested from His magnificent work. This would become the regulated Sabbath which was introduced as legislation in Exodus 20:8. The day in which all work ceased and all production stopped in honor of God’s rest is inserted in the Law as a mandatory rest day. How good of God! But notice that nowhere in this passage does it indicate that the Sabbath can be any day but the seventh.

Further, there were other ‘Sabbaths’ as well. There was a Sabbath on the seventh month (Leviticus 23:26-32). There was also a Sabbath to be observed in the seventh year (Leviticus 25:1-7). Also, every 49 years, on the tenth day of the seventh month (the Day of Atonement), Israel was to inaugurate the subsequent 50th year of rest (Leviticus 25:8-12). So, Israel was at all times to be circulating in the midst of many different kinds of Sabbaths. All of this was to remind them of God’s rest in which all was very good and the need for a return back to that condition. Of course, a return was impossible. However, although impossible, God would one day return all creation back to its rightful owner and under that sovereignty, with the Last Adam, it will all be “very good” once again.

Although the Sabbath day for Israel is a particular day and, indeed, one to which all of Israel would be working toward each week, there are a couple realities associated with that day that need to be explained. The priests were not permitted to stop working on the Sabbath. Leviticus 16 give procedures for the priest to perform the ceremony related to the Atonement sacrifices. The work listed here is done on the Sabbath regulated for that day. However, the priest seems to be exempt from rest on that day. This is very interesting. Are the priests somehow above Sabbath regulations? Do they not do ‘work’ when they offer the sacrifices? How is it that God commands Israel to remember the Sabbath, and yet it is not remembered by the priests? Jesus confirmed the fact that the priests were exempt from resting on the Sabbath and are innocent in Matthew 12:5. The ‘work’ which the priest performed was not only prescribed by God, but is also not contrary to the Sabbath itself. This will be explained more in the subsequent post. The point is, the Sabbath as it stood was largely misconstrued for most of Israel’s existence. Not because of God’s lack of explanation. But, simply because of a faithless heart that led to disobedience (Romans 9:30-33). A clear example of this reality is the Babylonian exile which was the result of a refusal to recognize God’s Sabbath regulation (Leviticus 26:34-35, 43; cf. 2 Chronicles 36:21; Jeremiah 25:1; Daniel 9:2; Zechariah 7:5).

The Sabbath, also, was a sign to Israel that they were God’s people. In Exodus 31:12-18, God makes it clear that this Sabbath observance, as defined by Genesis 2:1-3, is the sign of the nation as God’s people. This sign was for the purpose of Israel’s own sanctification (v.13). It was a sign, an indicator of relationship, to Israel of who God is. Thus, it was very important.

So, Sabbath was an integral part of Israel’s life and for good reason. It was the day of recognition of not only God’s work from which He ceased, but also of the very character and nature of God Himself as sanctifier. Thus, this day was like no other.

In the next post, we will see what Jesus has to do with the Sabbath. We will answer the question that is often asked by people, “Should we, as Christians, observe the Sabbath?” Also, many Christians believe that the Sabbath transitioned into the Lord’s Day and as such the Lord’s Day became the Christian’s Sabbath. Is that true? Does the Bible teach that? We will see.

The Believer’s Reward

In Matthew 19:28, Peter asks a question related to rewards for following Christ:

Then Peter said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. “But many who are first will be last; and the last, first. ” (Matthew 19:27–30, NASB95)

Peter essentially asks the Lord, “What will be the reward for all this sacrifice? I have left my home, my family and my livelihood. What will I get in return?” This question is right after the discussion between the rich, young man and the Lord. The young man was not willing to leave all these things, especially his wealth, and follow Christ. Peter is now thinking about what the Lord said about leaving all you have and following Him. He now questions, “So, what is the benefit?”

That is a fair question and notice that Jesus did not shy away from answering it. But the answer may not have been what he expected.

Jesus answered by saying, “…in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also will sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” What a statement! We need to look at this carefully in order to understand what Jesus is saying, as well as what it has to do with us.

Jesus Christ is Lord. In fact, He was “made” Lord by the Father (Acts 2:36). As a Man, He conquered sin, death, and Satan, the ‘lord’ of this earth. Thus, He has conquered all of these things as a Man and regained lordship over the universe. The prophets prophesied that a King will come who will sit on the throne covenanted to David (2 Samuel 7:16; see especially Psalm 89:30-37) and from there judge the nations (Jeremiah 3:17; Matthew 25:31-33). That time when Jesus Christ sits upon that throne, is here called the “regeneration.” We call this return of Christ His Second Coming because that is in opposition to His first coming. He is coming back to His planet and He will rule it according to the promises God made to Abraham and David. The basis of this ruling is the mandate given to Adam in the garden to “rule…over all the earth” (Genesis 1:26). When Jesus comes back He will sit upon a throne and from that throne He will judge the nations. He will either accuse them or acquit them. Interestingly, prior to this glorious coming, is the seven-year Tribulation. This time is such because of the wrath that is poured out upon the earth for their rebellion. However, it is primarily a time for God’s chastening of Israel and her apostasy over the centuries (Jeremiah 30:1-7). During that time, as promised in Jeremiah 30:7b, God will deliver Israel and, as Paul states, “All Israel will be saved.” (Romans 11:25-26). In Revelation, John writes that during the Tribulation 144,000 Jews are “sealed” and “hav[e] His name and name of His Father written on their foreheads.” (Revelation 7:4-8; 14:1-5). This is the remnant that Paul writes about in Romans 11. During this reign of Christ, there is unprecedented peace. Isaiah prophesied that during that time, there will be peace and war will never again appear (Isaiah 2:2-4; 32:15-20). This is the time when God’s Law is supreme and Israel will finally worship according to the Law of Moses (Ezekiel 43-45; Zechariah 14:16-21).

What does this have to do with the believer’s reward? Jesus said that “in the regeneration” the apostles will sit on their own thrones ruling with Christ over the nations and Israel! And guess who else will be there. The saints who have been raptured and who have returned with Christ from heaven (Revelation 19:1-14; 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10; Daniel 7:14, 27). The saints will have jurisdiction on behalf of the Lord over the nations of the earth and thus carry out His ruling. We will have judgment handed to us wherein we execute His righteous commandments throughout the world. In addition to this, we will have a relationship with the King to the degree that we actually sit at a table and eat with Him (Luke 22:30). This is why Paul asks why a brother would be so willing to sue a brother via the civil law courts of Corinth when in the future the saints will be responsible for the conditions of angels and exercising Jesus’ authority over the nations (1 Corinthians 6:1-6).

Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. ” (Revelation 22:12) When will believers be rewarded? When He sits upon His throne, their thrones will be “set up” (Daniel 7:9a; Revelation 20:4) and from there they will rule over the earth with Christ, the last Adam. At that time, their jurisdiction will be handed to them and that is their reward. Thus, they will serve and reign with Christ forever and ever (Revelation 22:1-5). The more faithful we are here to Christ and His Word, the greater the reward of jurisdiction there will be in the ‘regeneration’ (Matthew 25:14-30).

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