The Jewish Sabbath versus the Lord’s Day

In Exodus 31:12-13 God said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a SIGN between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.’” And in verse 16, “The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant,” and verse 17, “It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.”

The Sabbath was a sign to the Israelites every Saturday from their Creator that HE was making them holy. This was what resting on the Sabbath every week told them, that there was nothing they need do but simply trust God to provide. He’d done it already with the manna, and now he’d do it again with their holiness. That’s why the 7th day Sabbath is so important to Jews, because it’s the sign of THEIR covenant with God that he will provide for them and save them, both physically and spiritually.

But that’s NOT the sign for Christians because, Ephesians 2:12, “as Gentiles by birth” we are ”excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of promise.” The covenants and promises given to Israel were never meant for us, so they aren’t the sign that Christians look to for THEIR salvation. “BUT NOW IN CHRIST JESUS,” verse 13, “you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” It’s “IN HIM,” Ephesians 1:7, “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” The Jews, however, stumble over Jesus Christ, so their lifeline to God in the meantime is still the Sabbath Day – “UNTIL,” Romans 11:25, “the full number of the Gentiles has come in.”

For a while Christians also kept the Sabbath Day on Saturday, but then began celebrating “the Lord’s Day” on Sunday as well when it dawned on them how important Jesus’ resurrection was. When Jesus rose from the dead it was the dawn of a new day, a new creation, that would fill the whole world. The Lord’s Day, therefore, became a signpost pointing ahead to the time when heaven and earth would come together as one, at last. It was an encouraging reminder when times got tough that Jesus’ resurrection guaranteed the new creation was on its way, and one day it would be fulfilled completely.

The Lord’s Day was never a required sign like the Sabbath was for the Israelites. It was a useful signpost, though, that the new creation had begun.


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