Resources

The Sabbath

By R. J. Rushdoony
April 01, 1997

Such confused thinking prevails concerning the Sabbath, which is commonly identified with Saturday. The day of Israel's redemption from Egypt was the Passover, and all Sabbaths dated from that event. The seventh day of creation was the pattern, but the day of observance was in terms of God's summons through Moses to separate the people from Egypt unto the Lord by observances culminating in the Passover. The Old Testament Sabbath was on particular dates of the month, not on the seventh day of the week, even as one's birthday is always on the same date but on a different day from year to year. After the fall of Jerusalem, some generations later when a return to Jerusalem was unlikely, the Jewish Sabbath was made to be the seventh day of the Roman calendar. Because the old Jewish calendar is still used to mark the day of resurrection, the date of Resurrection Day, or Easter, is variable from year to year in terms of the Roman calendar.

Our central concern must be with the meaning thereof, the meaning of the Sabbath for Christians. Our day of salvation is not the death of the firstborn of Egypt and the exodus but Christ's resurrection, His atoning death and triumph over sin and death.

Paul tells us that Jesus Christ is the first fruits of the dead and the beginning of the resurrection and the new creation (1 Cor. 15:20,23). This means that the Christian Sabbath, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the first day of the week, is directed, not to a past event, but to a future one. It celebrates the deliverance of Christ's people from sin and death, and it looks ahead to the new creation. Older hymns celebrated the Sabbath as a type of Christ's victory over this world, His Kingdom triumphs here, and for eternity. The Sabbath is a rest from the war to "put all enemies under his feet," after which the last enemy, death, is destroyed (1 Cor. 15:24-26). This means that the Christian Sabbath is eschatological in its meaning, and that meaning is postmillennial.

To celebrate the Sabbath is thus to herald Christ's resurrection and our hope, His victory and ours.

In Exodus 20:8-11, the commandment concerning the Sabbath cites the pattern it follows, God's rest on the conclusion of the creation week. In Deuteronomy 5:12-15, the reason for Israel's Sabbbath observance is given, their mighty deliverance from Egypt. In the New Testament the day of resurrection, on the first day of the week, becomes the ground for the Christian Sabbath. This points ahead to the conquest of the world for Christ in terms of the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20). We observe the Sabbath best as we extend Christ's Kingdom and dominion. The future orientation of strong Christianity is faithfulness to the meaning of the Sabbath.

Deuteronomy 5:15 tells us that because God delivered Israel out of bondage to Egypt, "therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day." Gratitude is the mark of Sabbath observance. It is to be a day of holiness, a day of sanctification, meaning set apart for the Lord. This means essentially sanctifying ourselves so that every day we can serve Him with all our heart, mind, and being. Our deliverance requires our total dedication.

The test as to whether or not the Sabbath has been kept is not what goes on each Sunday as much as what happens during the week. If there is no holiness during the week, it means that there really was none on the Lord's Day. The true observance of the Christian Sabbath means that all of life is renewed and altered.

On a true Sabbath, there is a confrontation of the people by God's blessing, healing, strengthening, over-powering, and commanding word. The word of God gives us our marching orders. It is not a place where the drop-outs of life are comforted but where men gain strength for the wars of the Lord. The meaning of the Lord's Day is postmillennial in all its implications.


Topics: R. J. Rushdoony, Eschatology, Church, The

R. J. Rushdoony

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965.  His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.”  He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.

More by R. J. Rushdoony