What did the Lord have in mind when He revealed His workmanship to Adam and Eve? Why did He choose to give the creation account in terms of a week of days? And why did He place such an importance on the seventh day, the one known as the Sabbath? We have seen from the Old Testament scriptures the supreme importance God placed on remembrance of the Sabbath. We have also seen our Lord’s attitude towards the Sabbath day during His earthly ministry, and how He referred to Himself as “the Lord of the Sabbath.” What then is it all about?
In Hebrews 4:3-4 we find the following – “The works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He said somewhere concerning the seventh day thus – And God rested [ceased] on the seventh day from all His works.” The completion of the programme of works is here emphasised. Therefore the spiritual meaning of the creation week is a revelation of God’s works in the earth over a period of six thousand years. As Peter pointed out in his second letter (3:8) “Beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Some of those in the early days of Christianity held to this understanding, as is evidenced by the Epistle of Barnabas, chapter XII. “The meaning of this [creation week] is that in six thousand years the Lord God will bring all things to an end. For with Him one day is a thousand years. . . . Therefore children, in six days, that is six thousand years, shall all things be accomplished. And when He says, He rested on the seventh day, He means this, that when His Son shall come and abolish the season of the Wicked One, and judge the ungodly, and shall change the sun and the moon and the stars, then He shall gloriously rest in that seventh day.”
What are the works that God has been doing throughout the years of history? What was Jesus referring to when He said, “My Father works until now, and I work.”? (John 5:17) A careful reading of the Scriptures reveals that God has been taking out a “people for His name”, “an elect remnant”, ” a peculiar treasure”, who will faithfully represent Him to the rest of the world during the thousand year period of Rest. As the writer to the Hebrews said, (4:9-11) “There remains therefore a Sabbatism to the people of God, for he who has entered into his rest has also ceased from his own works, as God did from His. Let us labour therefore to enter into that Rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief [as those in the wilderness].”
This Sabbatism, this Rest, is but another name for the Kingdom of Heaven which will be set up on earth, and which will be governed supremely by our Lord, but in all the many and multifarious outworkings, by His own elect company, trained, discipled, found to be faithful and trustworthy, and therefore placed in positions of responsibility, some over towns, others over villages, depending upon their several capacity for just rulership as is clearly taught in the parables of the Kingdom.
John saw the telescopic revelation of this at Patmos, when he spoke about “those who had not worshipped the beast or its image, neither received the mark upon their forehead or in their hands, and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” (Rev.20:4) Some have argued that the thousand years spoken of here is symbolic, inasmuch as most other numbers in Revelation are such. Without further substantiation, one might say that it is an indeterminate argument, but the Scriptures possess many allusions to the millennial principle, and because of this, it is quite reasonable to allow this number to remain, simply to mean what it says. Those who do not accept the literal period of years are known as Amillennialists, and they refer to the literalists as Chiliasts, a word derived from the Greek for 1,000. I believe we have sufficient evidence apart from Rev.20:4 to substantiate the literal interpretation, and therefore I suppose I am a Chiliast!
“Sabbatical typology” is a most interesting and informative subject, and one that deserves following up. It is the basis of the seven-thousand-years of world history. We have such evidence as –
- the word of the Lord to Adam and Eve, that if should they sin, “in that day” they would surely die. But the Lord was not just referring to a 24-hour period, in which they would become “dead in trespasses and sins.” He spoke also of one of His millennial days. In fact Adam’s literal death was at 930 years, a mere 70 short of his millennium.
- The Passover Lamb was to be chosen on the 10th day of Nisan, and slain on the 14th, a gap of 4 days. This was a veiled reference to the 4,000 years between the fall and the crucifixion. Jesus was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev.13:8) in the purposes of God, but fulfilled literally 4,000 years later. (Incidentally, this chronology only works by accepting the normal [Massoretic] Hebrew text of Genesis, NOT the spurious Septuagint version.)
- In Hosea 5:15-6:2 we read “I will go and return to my place, till they [Israel] have borne their guilt and seek my face. In their affliction they will seek me earnestly, saying, Come, let us return to the Lord, for He has torn and He will heal us; He has smitten, and He will bind us up. After TWO DAYS He will revive us, in the THIRD DAY He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight.” Many expositors have seen a veiled reference here to the 2,000 years between the crucifixion and the present day, and therefore wait with joyful anticipation the day when the Jewish people will have their eyes opened to receive their true Messiah, thus fulfilling Hosea’s word. Paul could have had this in mind when he spoke about the Jews in 2 Cor.3:14-16. “Until this day the same veil remains untaken away in the reading of the Old Covenant, which veil is done away in Christ. Even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless, when it (i.e., the heart of the Jewish people) shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.” We are living on the doorstep of that new world.
- Connected with this passage in Hosea is a verse in Isaiah (30:26) in which we find the following – “Moreover, the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be SEVENFOLD, AS THE LIGHT OF SEVEN DAYS, in the day that the Lord binds up the breach of His people, and heals the stroke of their wound.” The Millennial Kingdom shall be known for its blaze of glory, when both sun and moon shall emit a sevenfold light “as the light of seven days.” In other words, all the spiritual light that has been withheld during the six thousand years shall be made available to those who live in that Day of Rest.
- A reference of value may be found in 2 Chron.22-23, in the story of baby Joash, who was miraculously saved from the violence and murderous intent of Athaliah, the usurper queen. We are told that Joash was cared for by Jehoshabeath, the former king’s daughter, secreted away in the Temple. But in Joash’s seventh year he was brought forth and proclaimed king, and Athaliah was slain. The six years could represent the 6,000 years up to this present day, but we now confidently expect the “scarlet woman”, the antitype of Athaliah, to be slain, and the Lord Himself to appear at the start of His Millennial reign.
Bible chronology is a fascinating pursuit, but also one which is tantalising. No one is able to calculate the exact number of years from Adam to the crucifixion, though many have tried (myself included!). However, it is possible to see the great events which straddled the millennial boundary marks. At the end of the first millennium from the creation of man we find the death of Adam.
At the end of the second millennium was the birth of Abraham.
At the end of the third millennium was the building of Solomon’s Temple,
At the end of the fourth millennium was the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah.
We are now at the end of the sixth millennium. What has God in store for our generation? Shall we not adopt Daniel’s attitude? He said, (9:2-3) “In the first year of the reign [of Darius] I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting and sackcloth and ashes . . . .” Then follows that amazing prayer of confession for his people, at the end of which he says, “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and act; defer not for Thine own sake, O my God; for Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name.” And God answered. The people were allowed back to Jerusalem as we read in Ezra and Nehemiah.
Jesus said to His disciples, when they asked if He was about to set up His Kingdom, “It is not given you to know the times or the seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.” (Acts 1:7) They imagined it would be in their lifetime. But it wasn’t. In our own day, 2,000 years later, we can see and understand “by books” that six millennia of God’s work has transpired. How near is He to obtaining the full number of His elect? If the time has truly run its course, as with Daniel’s computation, shall we not give ourselves to prayer, confessing the sins of the church, and beseeching the Lord to set up His “Kingdom of Heaven” in our midst? This is just a thought, and I pass it on for consideration. Certainly we live at the cross-roads of history. God answered Daniel’s prayer. Should He not answer ours?
There will be just one further article on the Sabbath.