After writing the article about Our Weekly Sabbath Rest: A Reminder of Our Rest from Sin (Jul/Aug 1999), I have understood more about this subject and would like to share it with you.
My personal belief is that the Sabbath day has two sides just like the Ten Commandments have two sides. One is the physical side and the other is the spiritual side. For example, we are commanded not to physically kill (Ex 20:13), and not to hate (Matt 5:22). Another example is that we are commanded not to physically commit adultery (Ex 20:14), not to lust (Matt 5:28).
Concerning the Sabbath Day, there is also a physical and spiritual keeping of this commandment. We physically keep it by resting from our labors, and by doing this we are also spiritually keeping it as a “shadow” of Jesus Christ living in us and giving us eternal rest from sin (Col 2:16-17 and Heb 4:9). Some people think when you keep the Sabbath Day that it is a picture or “shadow” of the 1,000-year rule of Christ on Earth. I believe the Feast of Tabernacles pictures the 1000-year rule of Christ, so there must be a different spiritual meaning for the Sabbath Day. It is not very logical that God would have two important Holy Days (Lev 23), the Feast of Tabernacles and the weekly Sabbath Day, picturing the same thing. Even though the 1,000-year rule of Christ in some respects is a type of a Sabbath Day, or has some relationship to the Sabbath Day, I believe the main meaning of the Sabbath Day has to do with Christ living in us and giving us rest from sin.
After Christ died for us (as pictured by Passover), He knew that unless we received help from Him, we would continue to sin. We would continue to need a savior and He knew that the Father and Himself were the only Ones that had the power to destroy the works of Satan. Through God’s Spirit, we need Christ in us, creating God’s righteousness in us, so we will become the express image of God. This is what I believe the Sabbath is really about.
Although all of the Ten Commandments are commanded by God, some people try to leave out the Sabbath commandment by saying that those who keep it are trying to gain salvation by keeping it. This reasoning is incorrect. Nearly all Christians refrain from murdering—not to earn salvation, but because they believe Christ in them would refrain from murder. So it is with the Sabbath. I personally believe that keeping the Sabbath shows our faith in Christ dwelling in us and giving us rest from sin, which is the spiritual side of the Sabbath. Th physical keeping of the Sabbath Day, resting from our labor, is a “work of faith”. We need “faith with works”, which is living faith (Jms 2:17-21). This is the faith in Christ that He gives to us. Physically keeping the Sabbath day is really our “works” that reveal our faith in God’s gift of salvation. (It does not gain salvation for us!)
These two aspects of the Sabbath are also illustrated by the “two Adams” mentioned in the Bible. “And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual (1Cor 15:45-46). The Sabbath represents our two creations, the physical rest from our physical creation and a spiritual rest from sin through our spiritual creation in Jesus Christ. Just as we are physically created from the first Adam, we are also spiritually created through the Second Adam, Jesus Christ.
Through the physical Adam, we were born into sin and sin brings death, now through the Spiritual Adam, Jesus Christ, we are born into God’s righteousness, which brings eternal life and eternal rest from sin. “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all died, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1Cor 15:21-22). The Sabbath Day pictures our physical and spiritual rest and our creation through the physical and spiritual Adams. Therefore, the Sabbath Day has two sides, our physical rest from our labors and our spiritual rest from our sin.