During the last several months, I have been contemplating the meaning of the Sabbath in relationship to the cross and the resurrection. Adventists have been accused of focusing on the Sabbath while ignoring the resurrection. One of the defenses that we give is that baptism represents the death and burial of the old life and the resurrection to newness of life. This is a biblical position, but there seems to be more that could be said in our defense. Some of these ideas I have not heard — at least for a long time.
The Jews have known Passover as The Festival of Freedom. The first Passover lambs were sacrificed the day before the Israelites marched out of Egypt (“the iron furnace” Deuteronomy 4:20; 1 Kings 8:51; Jeremiah 11:4). As far as we know, this could have been on any day of the week, but it is significant that the year Christ died, the Passover occurred on Friday (beginning Thursday night). The Passover lamb represented Christ’s sacrifice for us, with the very next day (Sabbath) the first day of freedom from sin. The words of Christ “It is finished” is a significant and meaningful phrase.
The first day of true freedom is the knowledge and assurance that we can rest from our labor under sin and accept the previous day’s provision. The Sabbath is a full day (of time) dedicated by the God who is not bound by time, with the promise that He will come and especially be with us during the time He has set aside for us to spend with Him. It is incredible to me that God — who is outside of time and not limited by it or to it — has bound Himself with a promise to spend special time regularly to be with humanity.
I have also been interested in the term “asunder,” which denotes a complete and never-to-be-recovered breach between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (the second death). It was demonstrated that Jesus was dead and lying in the tomb during the only time in eternity past or future when the Godhead has not been united. The Bible often gives small breadcrumb clues regarding additional layers of meaning to existing symbols. Is it possible that one of these is the attempt by the Jewish Sanhedrin to maneuver Pilate into placing a Roman seal over the tomb, through which Satan attempted to keep the Godhead eternally separated and “torn asunder”? This gives an important reason for Sabbath-keeping at the end of time — receiving the Seal of God.
It is a fact that because Christ lived a sinless life and answered all the false charges against God by Satan, that He (Christ) was raised to newness of life. Therefore, the first day of the week is our faith and trust that we too will be resurrected and changed “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52).
The Main Point
Because God’s death and resurrection bookend the Sabbath, it is our assurance, our surety, and our seal of salvation. Yes, the cross is essential — we could not be saved without it! Yes, the resurrection is essential — we would not have any assurance of our own resurrection without it! But it is the Sabbath when God himself was willing to be forever separated for the salvation of humanity, as well as to secure the universe from future defection (Nahum 1:9; Colossians 2:15; 1 Corinthians 4:9), that we have a full assurance that both salvation and resurrection are not only possible but will be fully realized in our own lives.
Dennis Hollingsead works in the Office of Development at Andrews University.
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