Jesus and His Eternal Rest

Hebrews 4:1-10

May 14, 2017

Did you know that the word “rest” shows up over 300 times in the English Bible? And your response, I am sure, is to say, “yippie!” Okay, maybe not… You know, what amazes me is that while I can do things like this with a couple keystrokes on a computer, in times past, people would count these things up manually, making a record of instances of words throughout the scriptures. That, to me, is Amazing.

What is most important, though, is that of the many uses of the word, “rest,” in most cases, I don’t think that the word is used in the way that most often we think of the word being used. Let me explain…

When I think of resting, the first thing that comes to my mind is a nap, or sitting with a good book, or perhaps watching a movie or playing a game with my family. Yet, when we encounter a word like “rest,” our first question should be to ask, “rest from what?” For example, a number of you have commented about seeing me out splitting firewood in the evenings. When splitting firewood, there are different tools for different size logs. For the larger ones, I use a sledgehammer and wedges; smaller ones, I use an axe. Swinging a sledgehammer wears me out but I can swing an axe almost all day long. So, when splitting wood, and working with large pieces, I often take a rest…which means I break from splitting big pieces and work on smaller pieces with an axe. Rest from what? Rest from swinging the sledge by swinging something lighter.

So, what happens when you ask the question, “from what” when you see the language of “rest” in the Bible? And that is where things get interesting, for while “rest” sometimes means from one’s physical labors, most commonly, it refers to rest from the effects of sin (war, idolatry, etc…).

Now I want you to hold onto that idea, because there are many Christians who take this passage to imply that the Sabbath command has been done away with and replaced by an anticipation of an eternal sabbath to come. But, that is not what this passage is stating. We will get to that idea more when we arrive at those verses, but for now, let me clarify just for the record that the Law is a unified law and thus the Fourth Commandment is an eternal and immovable aspect of that law. It is binding in this life as it always was and it is such for our benefit.

Now, before we get to the text, there is one more idea that I want to remind you of. And that is the idea of Typology of which we spoke last week — of things in the Old Testament foreshadowing things in the New (typically with a greater fulfillment in Christ). And thus, like Israel in the wilderness, we the church are in a wilderness of this world — an in-between time where there is a redemption that has already been purchased but that is not yet realized in full. As I described it last week — we are in the “In-Between-land” or as CS Lewis would call it, “The Shadowlands.” We are between what is already and what is not yet.

A clear understanding of these concepts is helpful in understanding our passage this morning. So, let’s go to the text…

It begins in verses 1-2:

“Therefore, let us be fearful, lest you consider it probable to fall short, forsaking the promise to enter his rest, for the good news came likewise to them also, but the word they heard did not benefit them because they were not united in faith to the ones who heard.”

First, there is a comparison being made: Old Testament Israel had the word of the Good news preached and taught to them by Moses, but it did not benefit them as they died in the wilderness. That’s the type.

The application of the type, then is found in the Christian church and therefore, as the author says, we must be “fearful”… we must tread with caution lest one of us in the church fall short of faith, forsaking the promises of God and not enter into his rest.

This sets before us an unpleasant truth. Just as all of national Israel was led out of Egypt and entered into the covenant community of God through Moses….and many were not believers and died in the wilderness under God’s judgment…we should not be surprised to see that the same is true in the Christian Church.

In other words, just because someone is a member of our covenant body does not mean that they will go to heaven when they die. We’ve heard that, but sometimes we are tempted to think, “well, pastor is speaking about someone else than me…” do not be content in your personal state of affairs; the scriptures may be speaking of you.

We do not earn the salvation that is offered in Christ and we do not deserve it when given. Yet, having received salvation, we demonstrate our gratitude to God as we live out our lives — our outward lives being a testimony of an inward reality.

And just as the litmus paper does not make a solution acidic or alkaline, but indicates that it is acidic or alkaline, our lifestyles do the same thing. They simply reflect what is our inner nature.

So, what does one say of the inward reality if the outward life does not truly reflect a life of gratitude, obedience, and faith?

This is why the author said in the previous chapter that we are to examine ourselves and here he is telling us to be fearful. In my words…”to tread carefully.”

George Whitefield, the great 18th century evangelist observed that the disciples at the last meal, when Jesus stated, “One of you will betray me” did not respond initially by pointing fingers at Judas or at each other. They asked themselves, “is it I?”

So, if it was the first instinct of these men of faith to ask, “could it be me?” should that not be our first response as well when the Scriptures give us warnings?

This does not deny the doctrine of Assurance, but I believe bolsters our assurance when we ask questions such as this and spend time in introspection and repentance of indwelling sin. Paul tells us in Romans 8:16 that the Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are sons of God. So, I charge you this morning to ask yourself this question…”Is it I, Lord? Am I rebelling in the wilderness against you?” And then look to your life for the evidence of the work of faith.

Yet, if we stop there, we miss a critical aspect of these two verses: “But the word they heard did not benefit them because they were not united in faith to the ones who heard.”

Paul writes in Romans 10:17 that faith comes by hearing and hearing through the Word of Christ. Yet, to have hears to hear, the Holy Spirit must give you spiritual rebirth. Without that work of the Spirit, you will remain deaf to the things of the Word and faith will not be a reality. You will hear with earthly ears, not spiritual ones.

There is also a communal aspect mentioned. They did not hear because they were not united in faith to the ones who did hear. When you are born again and brought to faith and repentance in Jesus Christ, you become part of the body of Christ. There is no such thing as a “Lone-Ranger-Christian,” — we are not out on our own — but we are part of one body and as such we are called to gather at God’s command as one body for worship — united in faith.

Verse 3

“For we who believe” (insert here: those united in faith, who hear) “will enter into the rest, in the same way as he said , “As I swore in my wrath, they will never enter my rest.” We covered this language last week, but notice what is added: “Yet the work was done from the foundation of the cosmos.”

But wait, wasn’t this work completed on the cross? Indeed, the work was fulfilled or consummated on the cross, but the sending of the Son to redeem the elect was part of an inter-Trinitarian Covenant of Life made between the Father and the Son before Time began. This is language that can only be understood in the light of election, foreordination, and predestination. No other explanation makes sense.

Verses 4-7

“For he spoke somewhere about the seventh” (‘day’ is inserted here for context) “in this way, And God rested on the seventh day from all his work. And in the same way again, ‘They will never enter my rest. Therefore, because it remains in place for some to enter into it and those who formerly received the Good News but did not enter because of disobedience, again, one sets apart a day, ‘Today,” he says by David so great a time after, it was foretold, ‘Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart’

— Why? Those whose hearts are hardened are those who fall away and do not enter into God’s rest.

That leads us into verse 8…

“For if Joshua gave them rest, he would never have spoken about a day after this.”

If some of you are reading the older King James version, you may be scratching your head at this translation because your Bible reads, “Jesus” not “Joshua.” Is this a contradiction? No.

The Hebrew name, “Joshua,” or “Yeshua” in Hebrew, is translated into Greek, it is written as Iasus…or Jesus. Jesus and Joshua are the same name, in other words and where you see the word written, the context tells you which of these men it is referring to. In this case, Joshua led the people into the Promised Land so most modern translations, including the NKJV, choose to translate it as Joshua.

But don’t go discarding your King James all at once. For, let me remind you that in Jude 5, Jude states that Jesus led the people out of Egypt and destroyed those who did not believe. So, the KJV translators are trying to capture this truth and create a link between these two passages in our minds.

Anyway, the thrust of the verse has to do with this idea of rest. And again, most often in scripture, the rest is from the effects of sin in the land and amongst the people (see for example, Deuteronomy 3:20, 12:10; 25:19; Joshua 1:13; 22:4). Yet the author is pointing out that there is “another” rest after this — a more permanent one.

Notice how this works itself out in the scriptures…

For example, Isaiah writes (30:15)

“For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, in repenting and rest, you shall be saved; quietness and trust shall be your strength, but you were unwilling.”

And in Jeremiah 6:16

“Thus says the Lord: stand by the roads and look and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it and find rest for your souls. But they said, we will not walk in it.

But it has its culmination in Matthew 11:28-29, when Jesus says,

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls.”

Notice, none of this is about physical rest, it is a matter of spiritual rest and the rest that Jesus was offering was spiritual and notice the parallel between rest and walking in the paths of God. We find rest in Christ but that requires our obedience amongst other things. This is the only place we will find rest for our sin weary souls.

And thus, we say with the author of Hebrews (verse 9),

“Therefore there remains in place a Sabbath for the people of God.”

And this is where people sometimes go astray. They say, “Look, the Old Testament Sabbath anticipates this later, eternal Sabbath for the people of God which is in heaven  (and the new Creation).”

So far, so good…but their conclusion is erroneous: “so the 4th commandment is no longer binding on us; we await that Sabbath in the time to come.”

And no. While it is true, we await a full and eternal Sabbath, we who are in the “in-between” still practice the 4th Commandment for it anticipates that eternal Sabbath to come  — a Sabbath where our souls will find perfect rest and freedom from the effects of sin.

We should also note that the 10 Commandments are not a bunch of individual parts, but a singular whole with ten different aspects. When one breaks an aspect, one breaks the whole, that at least is the language of James.

But notice the parallel. The Israelites did not wait until they were in the promised land to practice worship and thankfulness to God for their deliverance; neither should we wait.

I want to take you back to Deuteronomy 12:8-9 — part of a section of scripture that is entirely directed toward the worship of God’s people:

“You shall not do according to do all we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes, for you have not yet come to the rest and to the inheritance that the Lord your God is giving you…”

Do you see the connection? God is saying through Moses that the people’s worship in the wilderness was a mess. And the people need to straighten up and get it right before they enter the Promised Land. This is the regulative principle of worship (we only include what God prescribes for worship, not whatever we want) but it also is a reminder of the connection between the inheritance, rest, and worship — that our worship is governed by God so that it can anticipate heaven — an eternal Rest or Sabbath for the people of God.

Verse 10.

“For the one entering into His rest has also rested from his work in the same way as God.”

Have you ever considered how God rested in Genesis 2:2? What God did to rest on the Sabbath? It wasn’t to take a nap, though there is nothing wrong with physical rest, but God is Spirit and without a physical body. What we are told that God did was to cease from his work of creation and to set the day apart as holy, a Sabbath to the Lord and a day for our whole being to worship. The day is set apart to focus on God’s purposes, not man’s.

And then, in the new Creation, all earthly work will turn toward worship, an ongoing Sabbath, free from sin and the distractions of its effects — eternally.

Mark Twain wrote a little book entitled Letters from Mother Earth. One of the observations that he makes in the book is of Christians who claim to be looking forward to eternal worship in heaven but who dread to spend an hour or two in worship here on earth. Or if they do not dread it, it is not their passion or priority. How odd a contrast, is it not? But it speaks to us, does it not?

One more thing before I close this morning. Whenever I teach on the Sabbath day, one of the questions I almost always get afterwards is, “can I do this in the Sabbath?”

My conviction, though, is that if you are inclined to ask, you probably already know the answer to the question on that one. More importantly, when we find ourselves embroiled in the “do’s” and “don’t’s” of the Sabbath, we become legalistic and create a hierarchy within the church. Plus we rub ourselves of the delight the Sabbath (Isaiah 58:13-14).

Instead, I simply prefer to ask the question, does this activity glorify God or man? If it glorifies God, then by all means, do it. If it glorifies man, then there are six other days of the week; use them.

But I will remind you of one more thing. The things of God will last forever; the things of man will pass away swiftly. So, which are your works? What do you dedicate yourself toward?

8 Comments

  1. amyleebell

    Your explanation is so clear. I might reblog it sometime, if that’s okay with you. I am meeting more and more people all the time who are questioning traditional Sunday-worship, folks who are beginning to realize that God’s Way has not changed throughout the ages. Something that I will mention, since it looks like you enjoy languages, is that the Hebrew word for “seven” and “sabbath” seem to be closely related. It’s like God is preventing people from being able to successfully twist scripture into saying that the sabbath is now on Sunday. (Not that those arguments hold water anyway.) Another thing that has inspired me lately is that the rest comes at the END of the week, AFTER the troubles and tribulations of this life are over.

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    1. preacherwin

      AmyLee, thank you for the kind words and please feel free to reblog anything that others might find useful. And sadly, you are right, people are drifting away from the church for a lot of reasons, but none of them good. We need the body and we need to worship as part of the body. It is commanded and it is also needed for the wellbeing of our souls.

      As to the languages; yes I do spend a good bit of time with the original languages as I prepare sermons and as I write. I find them both useful and fascinating…devotional even, at times. Anyway, you are right that a lot of people make a lot more than they should about the change from Saturday to Sunday worship. To start with, Hebrew is essentially a “trip-consonantal” language, meaning that most words have a three-consonant root (and the vowels are indicated through a system of accents invented in the 7th century AD. The consonants for Sabbath are Sh-B-T. The consonants for seven are Sh-B-‘ the final consonant being an “Ayin” which is a place-holder for a vowel sound and carries with it (at least some scholars argue) a guttural “g” sound in the back of the throat — for example, “Gaza” begins with the letter “Ayin.”

      While to our western eyes, they do look similar, the one letter does make a major difference and so, they are not as closely connected as some would like to suggest. I mean, think how many words in English can have entirely different meanings if just one letter is changed. The change, of course, is based on the day of Jesus’ resurrection and since we see the Apostle Paul meeting with the Gentile church on Sunday to collect the offering, I think it can safely be presented that this change from Sabbath to Lord’s Day was an apostolic change, not something made later by the church.

      Our problem as a society is that we debate the day so much that we lose sight of what it is meant to be — that rest at the end of the week we need, to look back and give God thanks for the things that were able to be accomplished during that week’s time.

      Thanks for the kind words! God bless you,

      win

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  2. amyleebell

    I am so intrigued by your answer! It seems that when I initially read your blog post, I misunderstood your intent. I had pegged you for a Torah-observant believer because I am one, and I agree with almost every single word in your original post. You talk about God’s permanent Law, you speak about obedience, and you insist that the Sabbath should still be kept because it foreshadows the rest that remains for us. I agree whole-heartedly with each of these ideas!

    The funny thing is, you may have misunderstood my response as well. I think we SHOULD make a big deal out of the fact that the Catholic church “changed” the day of worship to Sunday, lol. They don’t even deny it;
    you can search their literature and see that they take full credit for the switch. The apologetics for Sunday sabbath that we see today, such as the one you mentioned, were put in place to justify the change. (There are many more instances of the apostles meeting on the Sabbath day than on Sunday, and if God were going to change one of His perfect laws, I believe He would have told us, instead of allowing us to infer it.)

    I think we should worship Him in the way He prescribed, and I believe you mentioned that too. Deuteronomy 4:2, Deuteronomy 12:28-32 (one of the best arguments against “sun”-day worship), and Jeremiah 6:16 begs us to do things God’s way. The old way. The only good way. Just as you quoted above:

    “Thus says the Lord: stand by the roads and look and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it and find rest for your souls. But they said, we will not walk in it.”

    Anyway, as far as the Hebrew language goes, I didn’t want you to think that I was basing my reasoning on the letter construction alone. In English, I agree that it would be foolish to believe that “cat” and “car” had anything to do with each other, merely because the first two letters are the same. I already believe that the Sabbath day is the seventh day, and I believe that the written language merely supports that belief.

    I think it’s a very good support though, and here’s why: the Hebrew letters aren’t like our Roman letters, in that, the Roman letters themselves don’t have meanings, or at least they have not retained a meaning that carries over into the words spelled by them. But the ancient Hebrew letters are both phonetic and pictographic. You seem to know a lot more about the language than I do, so please correct me if I’m wrong. Every once in a while I get led astray by something silly, just because I am not educated enough to know the difference. I am blogging about these ideas today. (I had written the post last night, before hearing from you, otherwise I might have reworded a few things.) I don’t think I’m wrong about it though. Check out Jeff A. Benner’s website, specifically this page: http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/alphabet_early.html to see what I’m talking about, and please let me know your input.

    Thanks for taking time to converse with me! I want to learn as much as possible, and I just can’t do that if no one ever challenges my beliefs.

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    1. preacherwin

      Amylee, Thanks for the dialogue and for opening up some rabbit trails to follow. I live for that. So, here are a few thoughts.

      First of all, I do believe that the Moral Law (Ten Commandments) still remains in place and is binding. This is what Jesus is speaking about by not an iota or a keraia will fall away from the Law until the heavens and earth pass away…or, as some suggest, if Jesus were preaching in Aramaic…a yodh or a seraph. The ceremonial law is obviously fulfilled by Christ (Hebrews 10:10) and thus the sacrifices are done away with — in fact, God had the Romans destroy the Temple in 70 AD to ensure that there would be no more sacrifices made and now has permitted a Mosque on the temple mount for just the same reason. The civil law (which would include punishments for breaking the moral law) is open to a lot of debate. Some would say it still should be in place (Theonomy). I am not a theonomist and would argue that the civil law was for a time and for a season while national Israel was more or less synonymous with God’s covenantal people. I can defend that position sometime if you want to explore that rabbit trail as well.

      As to the Sabbath, then, from the decalogue teaches the principle of setting apart one day in seven as holy for rest and reverence as modeled by God in the creation week. Thus, the principle becomes the setting apart of one day in seven; the application would be the exact day itself. Remember Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath and insists that it was made for man’s benefit and not the other way around. So, I would posit that the principle is more important than the day itself. An example of this from Jewish priestly practice was that when Priests were required to do service in the Temple on Sabbath, they had the following day granted to them as a day of rest…just as many pastors (myself included) tend to take a “day off” during the week as our Sunday duties make the day a very full day.

      I will grant that it is true that Paul did present himself in the Synagogue to reason with the Jews in his travels, but he also met with the Gentile church on the Lord’s day…something we clearly see in the book of Acts. After the fall of Jerusalem, history records the two groups taking very different paths. And, while I have heard the arguments that Rome created the change (and takes credit for it), it is a big stretch to argue that from historical texts. Rome takes credit for a lot of things that do not and did not belong to it and feels free to make up lots of things to serve its own ends…if you haven’t figured it out, I’m not much a fan of Rome and would argue along with many of the Reformers that Rome is one of the beasts described in Revelation 13.

      If you go back to the late first century church (Rome does not rise to power really until closer to Constantine), you still find references to them worshipping on the Lord’s Day as commanded and practiced by the Apostles…remembering that some of these guys actually knew the Apostles firsthand — can you imagine what that must have been like! My point is that history and practice of a Sunday Sabbath is far more reliable than some would like to make it sound.

      As to Hebrew and Greek; I do believe that the languages are worthwhile and have even taught introductions to both as part of a pastor’s Sunday-evening Bible study (to brave but hungry folks in the congregation). A basic knowledge of the language and grammar along with a good interlinear can get someone very close to the original text, which is a wonderful thing. I also like what the Lexham Bible has done (online versions only) by making a fairly close to literal translation to work with. Again, the tools abound.

      I had the blessing of studying Hebrew under a gentleman whose dad was Jewish but whose mom was a Christian, so he grew up with both, eventually professing faith in Jesus Christ. My professors words were one of caution when it comes to the pictographic insights. While, yes, Hebrew (as did many languages) began as a kind of cuneiform where the shapes of the letters reflected sounds that were made by the letters (not unlike the way we learned the alphabet — “a is for apple”, etc…

      The thing is that Hebrew is a really, really old language. Well, it is the oldest language, and goes back to creation (yes, I agree with your assessment that seven-ordinary-day Creationism is a really important doctrine — fundamental to Christian doctrine, actually). That said, as language is used, meanings change and nuances are lost. So, even if the pictographs contained important roots behind words, by the time that Hebrew moved to the block script and especially by Jesus’ day, these nuances would have fallen away. So, just because a word is made up of various constituent parts does not mean that is how the word was being used.

      There is another danger. Like in areas of Christianity, there are also mystics within Judaism along with Kabbalah. They insert all sorts of fantastic sounding things into the text that are supposed to be there — ultimately they are gnostic in nature: “if you really want the inside scoop, follow our teachings.” These folks are really persuasive sometimes, but always add to God’s Word and confound the text. They are just as dangerous as the Pharisees you spoke of in your blog this morning, who create a legalistic structure of extra-Biblical rules. Jewish Rabbinic writing already has a way of adding stories, myths, proverbs, etc… into their larger understanding — their theology is progressive (like Rome’s!), and so these gnostics find their way in pretty readily with all sorts of notions that draw people away from the church. So, be wise and prudent…wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove, I should perhaps say.

      So, the connection between Sh-B-T and Sh-B-‘ still is not as close (I think) as you are trying to make it. Interestingly, (back to Sabbath) the move within Christian circles to argue back to a Saturday Sabbath seems to be relatively recent and somewhat connected with Seventh Day Adventism, which is considered by many to be a cult. There are several SDA people in our community with whom I have interacted and in each case there is an utter close-minded attitude to conversation and these folks (at least those whom I have interacted with) have become militantly against the church and end up practicing a weird combination of Christianity along with Jewish rite. Paul seems to take a pretty strong stance against this in Galatians, where similar things were taking place. Please know that I haven’t seen the close-mindedness with you, so don’t take that as a criticism, I’m just saying, beware of some of the influences that are out there.

      One more thought, I love the language you use when you state that you are tired of basically being told what Christians should think and do, but want to see it in the Scriptures. Amen and Amen. Dig into the word of God! I wish more of God’s people would be more faithful in doing that and I wish more people would be like the Bereans and check everything they hear according to scripture. Yes! At the same time, don’t discard and throw to the wind some of the gifts that God has given to the church over the ages. Men like Clement of Rome, Irenaeus, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, etc… were committed to the Word as well and God used them to bring about revival and Truth in the lives of His people through their ages. We cannot rely solely on these teachers, but if we ignore them, we ignore one of God’s great gifts to us.

      Blessings, win

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      1. amyleebell

        Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I’m sure it took quite a bit of your time to pen it, and I really appreciate that!

        Again, I agree with almost everything you have to say. I just want to point out that using the phrase “The Lord’s Day” to prove that they were meeting on Sunday is circular reasoning. Sunday is only the Lord’s Day if He did change His day to Sunday. Otherwise, the Lord’s Day refers to Jehovah’s day, Saturday. (And I am under the distinct impression that His Law is perfect, and that He does not change, nor does His righteousness – Psalm 119:142, 172).

        The only other comment I have is that the ceremonial sacrifices will resume during the Millennial Reign. I think that all sacrifices point to Christ, past, present, and future. (Although I do agree with you that sacrifices are illegal today, for now. That is because they must be performed by the Levitical tribe in the temple.)

        Anyway, thanks again for the insight. I will really keep my eyes open for Kabbalistic teachings. I am aware that they exist, but I haven’t come across much of their material. In reference to the SDA folks, I have several casual friends, but I’ve only had one Bible study with one of them. It went okay, but I think I offended her in the end. That was an accident, because she has been a friend of my parents for a really long time. We agree on the doctrine of the Sabbath, but we differ in quite a few other areas.

        Thanks for the talk!

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      2. preacherwin

        Let me offer you one more challenge then…because I would argue that the position that the sacrifices resuming during the Millennial Kingdom is a teaching based in human ingenuity and not in the scriptures. I’m not aware of anywhere in the Bible where it would teach that and it presumes that Jesus’ sacrifice was not sufficient.

        Anyway, God’s law is perfect…I still hold that the application (i.e. the actual day of the week) is different from the principle itself established in the Law. Thus the day of rest stands, but the application to worship and rest on the day of the resurrection is the Christian application in contrast to the Jewish application.

        Blessings,

        win

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      3. amyleebell

        I’m afraid I may have misrepresented myself again, lol. That’s why I enjoyed reading your blog – you are so clear!

        Let me clarify what I believe: Jesus’ sacrifice was absolutely sufficient. It is the only sacrifice that has ever been sufficient. Sacrifices have never saved anyone from sin; they have only ever pointed to Christ. The sacrifices in the future will also point to Christ. They are a representation, not the thing itself.

        Communion is a good example of what I mean. The bread represents the body of Christ, and the wine represents His blood. Taking communion in no way nullifies the sacrifice He made for us – it serves as a reminder of it. The sacrifices during the Millennial Reign will serve that purpose as well. In addition, there were many types of sacrifices, not just sin offerings. A worship sacrifice would be incredibly legitimate in any age. However, we cannot offer anything right now because we do not have access to the temple and the Levitical ministration.

        The Levitical line will go on forever, and it will always serve the same purpose: “nor will the Levitical priests ever fail to have a man to stand before me continually to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to present sacrifices.” Jeremiah 33:18. (This is the verse immediately following a reminder of God’s promise to David, and we know that that verse is talking about the eternal reign of Christ.)

        Read Numbers 18:19 and 23 to see more of God’s unbreakable promises to the Levites.

        Moreover, Hebrews chapter 8 is Paul’s apology proving that it is legal (that it is not breaking God’s perfect Law) for Christ to be our high priest, even though He is not of the Levitical tribe. It would have been easier for Paul to say “the ceremonial law no longer applies,” but he couldn’t because that would be untrue. Everything that God ever said is true and has not changed (2 Timothy 3:16). The conclusion is that the Levites are the earthly ministers, but Melchizedek preceded them, and so did His office of High Priest. Again, the earthly priests are just a picture of the reality. But they are an eternal picture. The picture in no way takes away from the reality or makes it less valuable. It is an object lesson, a reminder. If Christ were still on the earth, He could not legally be our high priest, because the promise to the Levites is still in effect. A promise is a promise, and God’s promises are the most trustworthy of all things. “For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:” Hebrews 8:4

        BTW, I believe that there is no difference between the believing Jew and the believing Gentile. We are one body, one congregation, one church. If God gave them perpetual ordinances, and if we have joined ourselves to them to serve the God of Abraham, then we are responsible to behave as any believing Jew would behave. That’s the way God established it in the nation of Israel. “Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 24:22. And we know that all believers are the seed of Abraham – Galatians 3:29: “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” That means His statutes apply equally to us.

        One final thought. Ten of the tribes are lost. If God instructed the Israelites (not just the Jews) to keep His holy days forever, why aren’t we doing that? How do we know if we are truly Gentile or a member of one of the lost tribes? Should there even be a difference?

        Sorry I have so much to say. I have been thinking about this topic and researching it for a couple of years now, and I’m afraid that I’m highly opinionated, lol.

        I just want to apologize to you because I didn’t come to your blog to argue with you, although I do enjoy a good debate! Thank you for giving me one! But in the beginning, I thought we shared almost the same exact viewpoint. I never intended to be so contrary, lol.

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      4. preacherwin

        No harm done and no disrespect taken. I trust that it is mutual. I enjoy thoughtful discussions even if we do not find common ground; what I do not like is when folks turn to personal attacks rather than discussing the facts themselves. I don’t feel at all that you have done so and have enjoyed the conversation back and forth.

        A couple brief notes. The testimony of the Christians meeting for the worship of Christ is uncontested in first and second century writings. The Didiche (a manual of preparation for communion), Ignatius of Antioch (a disciple of the Apostle John), Barnabus, and Justin Martyr (a second century Christian apologist) all testify that the Christians gathered on the first day of the week for rest and worship. We are agreed that Paul meets with the Jews on the Seventh day, but that is to engage with them in the synagogue when they would have been in the synagogue. After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the division between the two groups becomes more cemented. Even the Roman author, Pliny the Younger (a first century Roman official) writes of these Christians who are meeting for their worship and rest on the first day of the week. There are no documents from history that contest that this was the practice of the early church at the end of the Apostolic age and in the beginning of the second-generation church leadership (i.e. those who were taught by the Apostles themselves).

        This is also long before Rome becomes an institutionalized power and long before the Edict of Gratian where the church officially pronounces that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath Day (and by then, they were pronouncing all sorts of things and institutionalizing it all) — but that’s the fourth century; I am focusing on the first and second centuries.

        Given that we have oodles of records and sermons from this era that reflect debates that were being had — many of them hard-fought debates — it is also hard to argue (as the Seventh Day Adventists like to) that all of the dissenting documents were destroyed. For all of Rome’s evils, that is largely not one of them from that era; they saved everything for their records (they were early hoarders! lol!).

        The point is that it is really hard to argue that the first century church practiced the Jewish Sabbath as there are not the historical records to support that view. Further, given the unanimity on the position in the first century, the only explanation is that the Apostles taught on it…remembering that the first time that Jesus gathered with his Apostles was also on the first day of the week.

        Of all the arguments, the one I am most sympathetic to is that God’s word never changes. That might lead one to believe that the Sabbath is meant to be understood exactly in the New Testament as it was in the Old Testament. But harmony is not always parity. Thus, there are numerous rules around the tithe and first fruits in the Old Testament, but when the New Testament speaks of giving, it is always in terms of giving cheerfully and generously…which implies a far greater degree than was practiced by the Old Testament Tithe. The emphasis is on what is done… Think of it not so much as a matter of the day being changed, but that which the Old Testament Sabbath pointed to found its fulfillment in Christ’s resurrection from the dead. So Sabbath is an everlasting covenant…seventh day is not.

        It’s okay if you don’t fully agree; my only purpose is to challenge your argument from history and offer another explanation from scripture to reflect what the early church actually practiced.

        As to the Millennium, I don’t think that your argument follows. First, where in scripture does it teach that Sacrifices will be restored at some future time. Yes, we all offer ourselves as living sacrifices and to make a sacrifice of praise, but I know that is not what you are speaking of. And since Jesus (in Hebrews as you noted above) is the greater High Priest who need not sacrifice daily, but who made a sacrifice once and for all time (ephapax — the Greek word in Hebrews 10:10, means “once and for all time” or “once, never to be repeated.” It refers to a matter of chronology. Second, as we are agreed that Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient, why would there ever be a need for sacrifice? Sacrifices are a product of the Fall, not something for a restored Kingdom.

        Clearly we have different Millennial views…lots of folks do. Personally, I would argue that we are in the Millennium, but that takes us in a totally different direction. I am only hoping to show you that your Millennial view is causing you to make some assumptions about Biblical interpretation that are based more in the ideas of men than in scripture…something that you have been admittedly seeking to get away from in your own studies. Also, know that the view of the restoration of national Israel that usually goes along with the notion of a restored temple and sacrifices, is a pretty modern view (mid 19th century) and again is not witnessed in the early church. And the early church is the one who received the book of Revelation and was encouraged by it. Like you said above, I try and put my mind into the sandals of the original readers of the text as I wrestle with it; I just cannot imagine the first century church appealing to a restored temple, sacrifices, etc…

        Finally, how do we know that the ten tribes were truly lost? Dispersed yes, but not truly lost. The Danites maybe, but that is a different beast. A lot of the “Lost Ten Tribes” stuff is the stuff of legend, not so much of history as best as I understand it.

        So, my point is not to be a thorn in your side nor is it to drive you to consternation. It is just perhaps to make you rethink a few things…and for the joy of the conversation over matters of importance.

        God bless you!

        win

        Liked by 1 person

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