[On Sabbath] The Sabbath at the End of the Universe (Hebrews)

Bible opened to Hebrews 4 with Lily's 55% Cocoa Almond Dark Chocolate on white plate

Today’s Chocolate: Lily’s 55% Cocoa Almond Dark Chocolate

Today’s PassageHebrews 4

Some mentions of the Sabbath in the Bible won’t tell you much of anything about how to keep the Sabbath because they’re too literal. Remember all those times the Sabbath comes up in Acts that we skipped over because it’s just “on the Sabbath this thing happened?” Well, the fourth chapter of Hebrews is almost on the opposite side of the spectrum: you’ll barely find any guidelines or pointers on keeping the Sabbath because the chapter’s so metaphorical. …Or will you?

I kind of gave it away, didn’t I. Yes. Yes, you will.

There’s some dispute among scholars over whether or not Paul wrote the letter to the Hebrews. But even if Paul didn’t write it, the author echoes an idea that we saw yesterday in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Paul refers to the festivals, new moons, and Sabbaths as “a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col. 2:17). Just like a shadow suggests the presence of an object even if you can’t see the object, the Sabbath suggests something bigger and more solid than itself. The author of Hebrews puts it this way: “There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God” (Heb. 4:9). He argues that God has prepared a rest up ahead for those who receive his promises in faith. He notes that “it remains for some to enter [God’s rest]” (4:6), including his readers, and urges them: “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest” (4:11). God’s creative work during the first six days of creation are taken as a parallel to our own journey to enter the ultimate Sabbath rest. It’s not that our works save us or earn us a place in God’s rest rather than God’s wrath. It’s that faith–trust in God–requires diligence and must be shown in practice. After all, as another guy said in a different letter, faith without works is dead.

But if the whole universe is undergoing a giant cosmic week culminating in an everlasting Sabbath, what does this tell us about keeping Sabbath here and now? It’s meant to be a foretaste of God’s rest for those who follow him in faith and trust. Remember how the Hebrew verb shabbath basically means “stopping?” When we rest from our work on the seventh day, we look forward to a time when evil and pain and the burden of heavy labor will cease. Our Sabbaths with God on this side of the grave are just an appetizer. The culmination of time and space, the supreme rest for all of God’s creation? That’s the main course.

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