Recently, I spoke with a Messianic regarding the Sabbath. It was in this conversation in which I realized why I left Messianic Judaism seventeen years ago. That seems like a strange thing to say because surely, I knew seventeen years ago. Yes, I did, but there was a paradigmatic shift that I didn’t recognize then but do now.
I have discussed paradigms in this blog several times. It’s even in the name. So, I won’t go into details here except to say that all our beliefs are shaped by something else, whether it be a philosophical concept, background knowledge, or a paradigm. I contend that in most cases, it’s probably all three, at least in part.
Understanding of the 8th Day Sabbath
Just as with many things in the OT, the 7th day Sabbath was a type and shadow of what was to come. It was the picture of the true rest we would have in Christ. God established the pattern in Genesis 2 of working for six days and resting on the 7th because God Himself rested, and the first Adam was to continue this practice, which establishes the Sabbath as a creation mandate and part of the moral law. This was reiterated in the Mosaic covenant to teach God’s people that they couldn’t fulfill this obligation and to look forward to grace and rest in the coming Messiah. In addition to the 7th day Sabbath, God, on special occasions, gave the Israelites an 8th day rest.
One example is First Fruits, which is the day after the Sabbath after Passover. This is the day Jesus rose from the grave. Another example is Shavuot, which starts after Passover and lasts for 50 days (seven weeks plus an 8th day) and ends at the day of Pentecost, which was when we were given the Holy Spirit and the Millennial reign began. Because God gave us the 8th day of rest in Jesus Christ, people who worship on Saturday instead of Sunday symbolically (though maybe not literally) put themselves under the first Adam rather than recognize their liberty and rest in the second Adam.
Further, working first and resting after exemplifies working for righteousness, while resting before working (resting on the first day and working the rest of the week) testifies to the doctrine of salvation because we don’t earn our rest.
Also, because the 1st (or 8th) day Sabbath is a reflection of salvation, the focus should not be legalistic rules of what should and should not be done on the Sabbath. Rather, it should be a joyful rest and a glimpse into the kingdom of heaven because after everything is complete and this world falls away, we will rest with God forever in the everlasting 8th day.
Cyprian wrote, “For because the eighth day, that is, the first day after the Sabbath, was to be that on which the Lord should rise again, and should quicken us, and give us circumcision of the spirit, the eighth day, that is, the first day after the Sabbath, and the Lord’s day, went before in the figure; which figure ceased when by and by the truth came, and spiritual circumcision was given to us.”
(Epistle LVIII.2 To Fidus, on the Baptism of Infants. 4)
The Messianic gave me a confused look and called it mental gymnastics. Since he is familiar with the feasts and the importance of the 8th day, I couldn’t figure out how he viewed the coming of the Lord of the Sabbath bringing a fulfillment to the Law and establishing His rest to be mental gymnastics. After all, Hebrews 4 talks about our entering into God’s Sabbath rest through our high priest, Jesus Christ.
Then I remembered. Messianics are dispensationalists. They don’t recognize that the Kingdom of God is now and that we are in the Millennial reign. As a new convert to Christianity with a dispensational background (I grew up in a Charismatic mega church), the rabbi’s discussion of covenants within a dispensational framework made sense to me. But two years into my Christian faith, God guided me to the understanding that Christ reigns now, that His kingdom is now, and that the thousand-year Millennium is symbolic for a long period of time. Through this paradigm shift, I read the Bible in a covenantal structure rather than a dispensational one, and I saw that my rabbi’s continual discussion of covenants to be correct in many ways but completely incompatible with the dispensational hermeneutic.
No wonder this gentleman I spoke with was confused and believed I swung through some mental gymnastics! If Christ’s reign and His Kingdom is future, then the understanding of the 8th day Sabbath I laid out would be incomprehensible. Further, if Christ’s Kingdom is future, the Sabbath should never have been changed to Sunday.
It is not within the purview of this post to lay out the biblical understanding of amillennialism. Doing so would make a single post way too long. However, I use this conversation I had as an example of the importance of understanding one another’s philosophical assumptions. It is nearly impossible to convince anyone of your viewpoint if the argument is over a surface-level topic. Understand their background assumptions and philosophical structures first. This takes time and work, but any attempt to change another’s mind is fruitless otherwise.