Chapter 16: “Pray that your flight will not take place…”
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CHAPTER 16

 “Pray that your flight will not take place in winter
or on the Sabbath.”
{Matthew 24:20 NIV}

 

Before I begin to consider this chapter’s title passage I think it would be helpful to remind you of chapter 14’s title passage:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law… I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”  {Matthew 5:17-19 NIV, KJV}

Now to our title passage: I’m sure there are more, but two questions immediately present themselves. #1: Who was Jesus speaking to in those words? And #2: What “flight” was He referring to when He said, “Pray that your flight will not take place on the Sabbath?” Of course, the obvious and all-important underlying questions are: What bearing, if any, does this passage have on you and me today? And ultimately: should Christians still be keeping the Sabbath? I think finding the answers to those first two questions will be a step toward finding the answers to those second two questions, and then we’ll continue on from there.

To begin to answer those first two questions we’ll go back to verse two of Matthew 24, where Jesus makes a devastating prediction to His disciples as they’re leaving the temple:

“Jesus said unto them, “Do you see all these buildings? I assure you, they will be so completely demolished that not one stone will be left on top of another!”  {Matthew 24:2 KJV, NLT}

The next verse finds them sitting on the Mount of Olives where the disciples question Jesus concerning what He had said to them concerning the temple being demolished:

“Later, as he sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen? And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the world?”  {Matthew 24:3 NLT, NIV}

It’s in this setting, alone with His disciples, and in response to those two questions, that Jesus then went on to speak those words, “pray that your flight will not take place on the Sabbath.” So clearly, it was to the twelve disciples that Jesus spoke those words.

Let me give you something to think about before we continue on: The four Gospels record many instances where Jesus says things while alone with His disciples. Of how many of those instances do we take the position that because He said it to the disciples alone it doesn’t apply to us today? And if we do take that position how do we decide which instances apply to us and which ones don’t? I hope you can see that that’s a very dangerous road to head down. It’s also an unbiblical one. Remember, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us.”

Now we come to our second question: what flight was Jesus referring to when He said, “pray that your flight will not take place on the Sabbath?” I’ll let you read about it in its setting:

“The time will come when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about: the abomination of desolation, standing in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand). Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for mothers nursing their babies in those days. And pray that your flight will not take place in the winter or on the Sabbath.”  {Matthew 24:15-20 NLT, KJV}

Before I say anything about that passage, let me share just a bit of the parallel passage from Luke:

“When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”  {Luke 21:20, 21 NIV}

Trying to keep this as brief and as simple as possible: while there’s some question as to whether the “desolation” Jesus spoke of refers to the entire city of Jerusalem, or just to the temple itself, there’s pretty much universal agreement that the siege of the Roman army in 70 A.D. fulfilled the prophecy (without question, that’s when the temple was destroyed), and that it was then that those words were fulfilled: “Then let them which be in Judea flee… And pray that your flight will not take place in the winter or on the Sabbath.” This means that from the time Christ spoke those words shortly before His death, which was approximately A.D. 33, until the time of their fulfillment, which was A.D. 70—a period of almost forty years—the disciples were to pray that their flight wouldn’t be on the Sabbath. I know it’s done (although there’s no Biblical support to do it), but I can’t see how anyone can get around what this clearly implies: that the disciples would still be keeping the Sabbath long after Christ’s death.

Without spending any more time on our title passage, and before I start to look at this question of the Sabbath in the New Testament, I think it’s important that we first turn our attention to the Old Testament for a few minutes. And as we do I at the same time want to touch on a couple of the arguments that are used today against Sabbath keeping.

One of the first arguments that I almost always hear, and it’s one that will lead us to our first passage, is that the Sabbath was made for the Jews. Let me try to show you how unbiblical that argument is.

Do you know when the Jews came into existence? Everyone agrees that the Jewish nation began with Abraham, and Biblical historians place the calling of Abraham somewhere in the neighborhood of nineteen hundred years after creation, which of course means that the Jewish nation didn’t come into existence until almost two thousand years after creation. Now let me show you when the Sabbath came into existence:

“So the sky, the earth and all that filled them were finished. On the seventh day, having finished his task, God rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day, and made it a holy day. He made it holy because it was the day when he rested from his work of creation.”  {Genesis 2:1-3 NCV, NLT} 

Think about it a minute: the very first thing God did after creating the world was to “bless the seventh day, and to make it a holy day.”

Now, as for the Sabbath being made for the Jews: Can you really believe that God would immediately “bless the seventh day, and make it a holy day,” and then wait for almost two thousand years to have His people treat it like it was a holy day? Surely, on the surface at least, that doesn’t make a bit of sense. But if that’s not enough to convince you that the Sabbath wasn’t “made” only for the Jews maybe this next passage will help change your mind:

“He said unto them, The Sabbath was made for man.”  {Mark 2:27 KJV}
“He said to them, “Shabbat was made for mankind.”  {Mark 2:27 CJB}
“He said to them, “The Sabbath was made to benefit people.”  {Mark 2:27 NLT}
“Jesus said to the Pharisees, “The Sabbath day was made to help people.”  {Mark 2:27 NCV}

First off, I don’t believe there’s a translation on earth that has Jesus saying, “The Sabbath was made for the Jews.” (Even the Complete Jewish Bible, which is the second translation I quoted from, doesn’t say the Sabbath was made for the Jews.) Now let me ask you a few questions: Do you see anything in any of those translations that would give you any indication that the Sabbath was made only for the Jews? Do you see anything in them that would give you the idea the Sabbath was made for more than just the Jews? And: Do you think that when God made the Sabbath He only wanted to “benefit” and “help” the Jews? That’s not the God that I know; and it’s not the God of the Bible:

“My blessings are for Gentiles, too, when they commit themselves to the LORD… I will also bless the Gentiles who commit themselves to the LORD and serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day.”  {Isaiah 56:3, 6 NLT}

(That passage seems to make it pretty clear that the Sabbath wasn’t just for the Jews.)

Let me quickly interject something here. In the book of Romans Paul tells us: “Being a Jew has many advantages. First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God.” (Romans 3:1, 2 NLT, NIV) Clearly, God’s word was initially given to the Jews. But that certainly doesn’t mean it was only for them; likewise with the Sabbath.

Let me ask you another question: If the Sabbath was “made to help people,” and was “made to benefit people,” which is what Jesus said, why would God abolish it?

Now I want to touch on another argument that I often hear: that it doesn’t really matter which day we keep holy, or that it’s really not important which day we keep. The first thing I would say to that is, and I believe this is hugely important, and something that comes in to play in a multitude of other issues: Who decides what’s important and what’s not important? Surely if we believe in God at all, the answer has to be that God does! Our job is simply to find out what’s important to Him; and then if we love Him and trust Him and serve Him, what’s important to Him will become important to us also.

Having said all that let me remind you once more that the very first thing God did after creating the world was to “bless the seventh day, and make it holy?” But if that isn’t enough to convince you how important the Sabbath is, maybe this next point will help:

“Then as the LORD finished speaking with Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant, written by the finger of God… These stone tablets were God’s work; the words on them were written by God himself.”  {Exodus 31:18; 32:16 NLT}

Do you realize that in all the history of the world, that in all the recored revelations of what the Almighty, all-wise, and all-loving God of the universe has done for the blessing and salvation of the beings He has created and loves so much, those words, “written by the finger of God,” and “written by God himself,” are spoken in reference to one thing and one thing only: the Ten Commandments. What does that tell us in regard to how important the Ten Commandments are to God?

Now, because “the heart of man is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9 KJV), I’m forced to ask what should in truth be a foolish and unnecessary question: Do you think that God made a mistake when He made the Sabbath one of the Ten Commandments?

I want to point out one more thing before we turn our attention to the New Testament. It has to do with why “God blessed the seventh day.” We already read that “God made it holy because it was the day when he rested from his work of creation.” (Genesis 2:3) Now I want you to see how the fourth commandment basically reiterates that same truth:

“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy… In six days the LORD made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; then he rested on the seventh day. That is why the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.”  {Exodus 20:8-11 NLT}

I don’t believe I could ever emphasize enough how important it is, and how much blessing there is in it, to remember that God is our creator. And it’s simply a Biblical fact, that from the very beginning of the world God saw fit to link the truth of Him being our creator with the Sabbath; and then to make the Sabbath, because it contained that truth, one of the Ten Commandments. And rather than say more about that, I’ll just share with you two passages—out of the many that could be shared:

“Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves.”  {Psalms 100:3 KJV}

“The twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives forever and ever. And they lay their crowns before the throne and say: ‘You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created everything.’”  {Revelation 4:10, 11 NLT}

Let me say one more thing before I leave this point: Communists, atheists, and the ungodly are trying with all their might to take God out of this country (and they’re having alarming success); and one of their first and greatest successes has been in taking creation out of our schools and thereby out of the hearts and minds of millions of young people.

Now I’d like to start looking at this question of the Sabbath in the New Testament. (Surely no one believes the Old Testament teaches the abolishment or changing of the Sabbath.)

The word “Sabbath” is found fifty-five times in the New Testament. (That’s almost as many times as in the Old.) It’s found forty-five times in the four Gospels, nine times in the book of Acts, and once in the book of Colossians. Of those forty-five passages in the Gospels not a single one gives even the slightest hint that the Sabbath has been either changed or abolished. That means we have four different writers—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—all writing their Gospels anywhere from twenty to sixty years after the death of Christ, and yet not one of them says a single thing about the Sabbath being either changed or abolished. Seeing as it was, and still is, one of the Ten Commandments, and seeing that it had been such a distinguishing feature of God’s people for hundreds and hundreds of years, doesn’t it seem at least a little bit significant that not one of those four Gospel writers says a single thing informing us that the Sabbath has either been changed or abolished?

Not surprisingly we do find passages like these next ones:

“When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath… Then Jesus went to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and taught there in the synagogue every Sabbath.”  {Luke 4:16, 31 NLT}

There’s one other point in the Gospels that I think deserves some consideration before we move on to the book of Acts. It concerns the account of what transpired in that brief period of time between Christ’s death and His resurrection. And because I think it’s so important, I’m going to share it from all four Gospels:

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.”  {Matthew 28:1 NIV}

“And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.”  {Mark 16:1, 2 KJV}

“The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment. On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.”  {Luke 23:55, 56; 24:1 NIV}

“On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark.”  {John 20:1 HCSB}

I just want to point out a few things from those passages before we move on:

#1—Apparently, up to the time of His death Jesus hadn’t told His closest friends and followers that they no longer needed to keep the Sabbath. As a matter of fact, so important was keeping the Sabbath still to them, that even though they were so anxious to go to the tomb that they went there “while it was still dark,” they nonetheless “rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment,” and waited till “the Sabbath was past” to go.

#2—Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all writing thirty to fifty years after the resurrection of Christ, and all speaking of both “the Sabbath” and “the first day of the week,” don’t give any indication whatsoever that the Sabbath has been either changed or abolished; neither do they say a single thing about the first day of the week now being any kind of special religious day. Actually, the whole context of the three passages strongly implies just the opposite—the Sabbath is still spoken of as being a holy day and the first day of the week is only brought in because it’s the day they went to the tomb; and they only went on that day because they couldn’t go on the Sabbath.

#3—Since both “the Sabbath” and “the first day of the week” are brought up by Matthew, Mark, and Luke in those passages, and since all three of the passages are at the very end of their Gospels and it’s their last chance to inform us that the Sabbath has been either changed or abolished and the first day of the week has now become the day which God’s people are to meet together to worship Him, it seems like this would have been the perfect time for them to inform us of it. Yet none of them say a single word in that direction. Doesn’t that seem at least a little bit significant?

Next we move on to the book of Acts, which contains the history of the Christian church beginning at Christ’s ascension to heaven and telling of its development and spread throughout the various regions in that part of the world during the next approximately thirty years. Now to me, and hopefully to you, seeing that the Sabbath was such an important and distinguishing part of the religious practices of God’s people for hundreds and hundreds of years, and seeing that it’s one of the Ten Commandments, it seems rather inconceivable that had God abolished it, or changed the day in which it was to be observed, this book chronicling the history of the early Christian church would fail to inform us of it. Yet once again, as with the four Gospels, we don’t read a single word telling us that the Sabbath has been either changed or abolished. (So that you can check for yourself, here’s a list of all nine passages that speak of the Sabbath—Acts 1:12; 13:14, 27, 42, & 44; 15:21; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4)

There are two of the nine, Acts 13:42 & 44, that I’d like to take a brief look at:

“Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles… When the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath… On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.”  {Acts 13:26, 42, 44 NIV, KJV}

So here we have “God-fearing Gentiles” asking Paul to “preach to them the next Sabbath.” Why not the next Sunday? And what I think is even more significant is that nowhere in this chapter do we find Paul taking advantage of this opportunity to inform these Gentiles that God’s true people were now worshipping on Sunday instead of Saturday and that they could come hear him preach at some Christian church the following Sunday morning.

Now, and I hope you find this as interesting and as significant as I do: I want to share with you a little of what the book of Acts reveals to us concerning a different “Old Testament,” “Jewish” requirement—circumcision.

First, a quick look at how important circumcision once was:

“Anyone who refuses to be circumcised will be cut off from the covenant family.”  {Genesis 17:14 NLT}

Now I want to share with you what the book of Acts has to say concerning the question of circumcision. Not only do I want you to see how thoroughly the leaders in the church dealt with this question, but the controversy that ensued because of its abolishment:

“Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question… Some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.” The apostles and elders met to consider this question.”  {Acts 15:1-6 NIV}

(Verses seven through twenty-one then briefly tell of the meeting.)

Obviously Paul and Barnabas already knew the answer to this question concerning circumcision before they even went up to Jerusalem. It’s also pretty clear that Peter and James, the only ones besides Paul and Barnabas that are recorded as speaking at this meeting, either already knew the answer to this question also, or quickly saw that Paul and Barnabas were right. So the meeting was most likely more a matter of the apostles trying to convince those “believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees” that God no longer required His people to be circumcised. (You’ll remember our passage from the last two chapters: “It makes no difference whether or not a man has been circumcised.”) At the conclusion of the meeting we’re then told:

“Then the apostles and elders and the whole church in Jerusalem chose delegates, and they sent them to Antioch of Syria with Paul and Barnabas to report on this decision… This is the letter they took along with them. “This letter is from the apostles and elders, your brothers in Jerusalem. It is written to the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. Greetings! Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment.”  {Acts 15:22-24 NLT, KJV}

So we see that not only does the book of Acts make it clear that circumcision is no longer required of God’s people, but it also informs us that “the apostles and elders and the whole church” sent out delegates to inform the Gentiles of this fact. Yet we don’t find a single word in the book of Acts along these lines in regard to the Sabbath.

(As for that statement: “…saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law.” Remember, the “law” that circumcision was a part of was the ceremonial law, not the moral law of Ten Commandments.)

Before I leave this subject of circumcision, I want to spend a little more time looking at the controversy that doing away with it caused and how that even though the apostles clearly dealt with the issue and tried to put it to rest, the controversy still persisted:

“There be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ… Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all… Dear brothers and sisters, if I were still preaching that you must be circumcised—as some say I do—why would the Jews persecute me?… Some men are trying to force you to be circumcised.”  {Galatians 1:6; 5:2 NIV; 5:11 NLT; 6:12 NCV}

“There are many who rebel against right teaching; they engage in useless talk and deceive people. This is especially true of those who insist on circumcision for salvation.”  {Titus 1:10 NLT}

Now, and I think this is immensely important, having seen the controversy that arose over the abolishment of circumcision, which was nowhere near as important or as conspicuous as the Sabbath, are we to believe that God’s people stopped keeping the Sabbath, something they’d been doing for hundreds and hundreds of years, started worshipping on an entirely different day, and yet we don’t read a single thing in the book of Acts, or any other book in the New Testament, about there being a controversy over it. I don’t know about you, but I find that impossible to believe.

We’re now down to one remaining passage, and admittedly, it’s the big one. And admittedly, a casual surface reading of it, without comparing it with other related passages, would tend to lead one to believe that the Sabbath has been abolished.

As we begin looking at this last critical passage let me just say that this will take some time. Considering the fact that this last passage is not only the main pillar, but the only pillar, for the belief that the Sabbath has been abolished, along with the fact that what I’m teaching is out of harmony with the great majority of Christianity, hopefully you agree that it’s a necessity. I’ll try to keep it as short and as simple as I possibly can, and hopefully by the time I’m done it will all fit together and make perfect sense. But before I begin I’d like to share a passage with you:

“They read from the Book of the Law of God and clearly explained the meaning of what was being read, helping the people understand each passage.”  {Nehemiah 8:8 NLT}

What Nehemiah said in that verse always has been, and always will be, the job of anyone who’s teaching God’s word. And not only do I believe it’s needed today as much as ever, but that it’s needed for this passage as much as any. Having said that, I pray that God will help me to “clearly explain” it.

I’ll begin by quoting the passage (I’ll be leaving out verse fifteen because it doesn’t have any bearing on our subject):

“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross… Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.”  {Colossians 2:14-17 KJV}

Now, let me re-quote for you the portion that’s usually focused on:

“Blotting out… took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross… the sabbath.”  {Colossians 2:14, 16 KJV}

If what you just read was the passage in its entirety, and if there was nothing else in the Bible shedding light on this passage, then yes, one would certainly be justified in believing that the Sabbath has been abolished. But obviously what you just read wasn’t the passage in its entirety, and just as truly, there are other places in the Bible that shed light on this passage. So we’ll begin by taking a closer look at the passage itself and when we’re done doing that we’ll compare it with two others portions of the Bible, ones that I have no doubt you’ll agree shed light on this one.

Here once again is the first verse of the passage:

“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.”  {Colossians 2:14 KJV}

What exactly does the verse say was “blotted out”, “taken out of the way,” and “nailed to his cross?” Clearly, it was “the handwriting of ordinances;” which of course means it’s the “ordinances” that have been abolished. Now, and this is the first important piece of the puzzle: The word “ordinance,” in its singular and plural forms combined, is used in the Bible a total of fifty-four times. In those other fifty-three passages in which the word ordinance(s) is used, would you like to guess how many times it’s used in reference to any of the Ten Commandments? That’s right, not one single time! So, if not once in fifty-three uses is the word ordinance used in reference to any of the Ten Commandments, what’s the likelihood it’s being used in reference to any of them in our Colossians passage? It doesn’t seem very likely does it?

Now let me share with you the portion of the passage that explains to us why those ordinances have been blotted out:

“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances… Which are a shadow of things to come.”  {Vs. 14, 17 KJV}

Do you know what it means when it says those ordinances are “a shadow of things to come?” Let me re-quote that verse from a couple of modern translations that I think will help make it clearer. This time I’ll include the remaining portion of the verse.

“These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”  {Colossians 2:17 NIV}
“These rules were only shadows of the real thing, Christ himself.”  {Colossians 2:17 NLT}

Those ordinances, which are listed in verse sixteen, of which “the sabbath days” forms a part of, and that were blotted out, are said in verse seventeen to be “only shadows of the real thing,” or “shadows of things that were to come,” which means they weren’t the real thing—clearly, “the real thing” was “Christ himself”—which means those ordinances were only symbols (or symbolic) that pointed forward to the real thing, and that when the real thing came those symbols were blotted out, or done away with. And where have we read about symbolic things that have been done away with? Of course, when we considered the ceremonial law in contrast with the moral law. And by the time we’re done looking at this I believe it’ll be crystal clear that the ordinances that Paul in this passage tells us were blotted out, were all part of the ceremonial laws that have been abolished, and that “the sabbath days” mentioned in this passage are not the Sabbath day of the Ten Commandments, but special Sabbaths that were part of those ceremonial laws. (Remember: nowhere else in the Bible is the word ordinance used in reference to the Ten Commandments.)

Obviously I just made a hugely important statement that I need to be able to prove. But before I do: Did you know, or has anyone ever told you, that the seventh-day Sabbath of the fourth commandment isn’t the only Sabbath in the Bible? Let me show you:

“The LORD told Moses to give these instructions to the Israelites: In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a Sabbath… Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: gather for a sacred assembly… Do no work during that entire day… It shall be unto you a Sabbath…”  {Leviticus 23:23-32 NLT, KJV}

Obviously the first day of the month and the tenth day of the same month can’t possibly fall on the same day of the week, which means that at least one of those “Sabbaths” mentioned in that passage wasn’t the seventh-day Sabbath of the fourth commandment. Now a few more verses from the same chapter:

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Give the Israelites instructions regarding the Lord’s appointed festivals…In addition to the Sabbath, the Lord has established festivals, the holy occasions to be observed at the proper time each year…These festivals must be observed in addition to the Lord’s regular Sabbath days.”  {Leviticus 23:1-4 & 38 NLT}

Clearly, there were “regular Sabbath days,” which were the seventh-day Sabbath of the fourth commandment, and there were special “festivals,” or “holy occasions,” when they were to “gather for sacred assemblies,” in which they were to “do no work,” and which were therefore called “Sabbaths.” (The word Sabbath simply means rest, or ceasing from labor; and for both kinds of Sabbaths God instructed His people to cease from labor so that they could devote the day to spiritual activities.) So obviously, the big question is: are “the sabbath days” of Colossians 2, that were blotted out, the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, or are they part of those special Sabbaths? And is there a way that we can figure that out? There most certainly is.

I’ll begin by making a couple comparisons between the Sabbaths of Colossians 2 and the Sabbath of the fourth commandment and see how they line up.

                                                                          COMPARISON #1

The Sabbaths of Colossians 2
Were “a shadow of things to come” (vs.17)
                              (Pointed forward to Christ.)                                 

   The Sabbath of the Ten Commandments
“God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from his work of creation.” (Gen. 2)

“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy… For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth… then he rested on the seventh day. That is why the LORD blessed the seventh day and set it apart as being holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11)
(Pointed back to creation.)

                                                                      COMPARISON #2

The Sabbaths of Colossians 2                                       The Sabbath of the fourth commandment
“meat” [offerings]                                                                       “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
“drink” [offerings]                                                                                          “Thou shalt not kill.”
“an holy day”                                                                                    “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
“new moon”                                                                                              “Thou shalt not steal.”
“Sabbath days”                                                                                     “Remember the Sabbath day.”

I’d like to talk to you about those two comparisons for just a minute. I’ll start with the first one. Our Colossians passage clearly tells us that what was blotted out was the ordinances that were “a shadow of things to come.” Hopefully you agree with me that there’s nothing in the account of God blessing the seventh day and making it holy at the end of creation week that gives the idea that it was a shadow of something to come; and likewise with the account of God making it one of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20. Quite the contrary: instead of pointing forward to something, both accounts clearly point our minds back to creation. So, on this point the evidence seems to clearly point in the direction that the Sabbaths of Colossians 2 are not the Sabbath of the Ten Commandments.

Now for a quick look at the second comparison. I’d just like you to once more read through those two different lists of things that we find included with the two different Sabbaths. But before you do I’d like to stress one thing: Surely it’s God who put together the two lists; and personally, I can’t see how they could hardly be more different.

“meat” [offerings]                                         “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
“drink” [offerings]                                         “Thou shalt not kill.”
“an holy day”                                                 “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
“new moon”                                                   “Thou shalt not steal.”
“Sabbath days”                                              “Remember the Sabbath day.”

Hopefully I don’t need to convince you that the list on the right, of which the Sabbath of the fourth commandment is a part of, wasn’t a shadow of something to come, and hasn’t been blotted out. But I would like to take you back to Leviticus 23, and then to the book of Hebrews, and try to show you that the list on the left, of which those sabbath days are a part of, were precisely that: a “shadow of things to come,” and were “blotted out.”

The first two things on the list were “meat” and “drink.” Despite how most modern Bibles translate those two words, hopefully by the time we’re done with this you’ll be convinced that our Colossians passage is referring to “meat offerings” and “drink offerings,” and not to what we eat:

“…the meat offering… and the drink offering…”  {Leviticus 23:13 KJV}

“They shall be for a burnt offering unto the LORD, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings.”  {Leviticus 23:18 KJV}

“These are the LORD’s appointed annual festivals. Celebrate them by gathering in sacred assemblies to present all the various offerings to the LORD… a meat offering, a sacrifice, and drink offerings.”  {Leviticus 23:37 NLT, KJV}

Let’s see what we have so far with the two chapters:

Colossians 2                                   Leviticus 23
meat [offerings]                               meat offerings
drink [offerings]                               drink offerings
holy days                                           holy days
Sabbaths                                           Sabbath
ordinances
shadow of things to come

So far we see that Colossians 2 & Leviticus 23 both have “meat,” “drink,” “holy days,” and “Sabbaths.” We’ve already seen that Colossians 2 tells us that all those things are part of the “ordinances” that were “a shadow of the things that were to come, the reality, however, is found in Christ.” Now let me show you that that’s precisely what Leviticus 23 is all about:

“In addition to the Sabbath, the LORD has established festivals, the holy occasions to be observed at the proper time each year. First comes the LORD’s Passover.”  {Leviticus 23:4, 5, 7 NLT}

Was the Passover an “ordinance?” And was it “a shadow of something to come,” with that “something” being “Christ?” As you’re about to see, the answer to both of those questions is a definite yes:

“The LORD said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the Passover.”  {Exodus 12:43 KJV}
“Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us.”  {1 Corinthians 5:7 NLT}

It couldn’t be clearer or more basic: the Passover (which involved sacrificing a lamb) was an object lesson that was designed by God to point the minds of His people forward to Christ, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29), which is the same as saying it was “a shadow of something to come.” And when Christ offered Himself on the cross that “ordinance of the Passover,” with its symbolism pointing forward to Christ’s death, came to an end—had been “blotted out.” And it should be just as clear that when that “ordinance” of the Passover was “blotted out,” the “holy day” on which it was observed—which was one of those special Sabbaths—was blotted out along with it; all of which had nothing to do with “the LORD’s regular Sabbaths.”

Now let’s turn to the book of Hebrews, where we’ll see that the same connection to our Colossians passage is found there as well, and that the same truth is taught there also. First, another comparison:

COLOSSIANS 2                                                             HEBREWS 8-10
meat”                                                               “Which stood only in meats and
“drink”                                                                          and drinks...
“ordinances”                                                    
and ordinances… The old system…
“a shadow of things to  come”                    
was only a shadow of things to come.”

{Colossians 2:14-17 KJV}                                           {Hebrew 9:10 & 10:1 KJV,  NLT}

(Pretty interesting comparison isn’t it; and surely not a coincidence.)

Maybe you remember coming to this portion of the book of Hebrew once before. And when was it? That’s right: when we considered the ceremonial law and how it had been abolished. And as we see from our comparison up above, our Colossians passage, which includes its “sabbath days,” is dealing with precisely the same thing: those ceremonial laws that have been abolished; or to put it in the words of our Colossians passage: those “shadows of things to come” that were “blotted out,” when “the real thing, Christ Himself” came. And you’ll also remember from our earlier chapter, that while seeing that the one law—the ceremonial law—had been abolished, the other law—the moral law of Ten Commandments, of which the Sabbath of the fourth commandment is a part of—was written in our hearts and minds in the new covenant.

Well,  like I said when I started this section, I tried my best to keep it as short and as simple as possible; hopefully you think I’ve succeeded. And hopefully you can see that the way I’ve explained it is the only way that brings consistency within the passage itself and consistency with everything else we looked at before that.

So let me quickly review: There are fifty-five passages in the New Testament that contain the word Sabbath. Other than the Colossians passage, not a single one gives even the slightest hint that the Sabbath has been either changed or abolished. Not one of the four Gospel writers says a single word concerning its change or abolishment. Three of them, in talking about the Sabbath at the very end of their Gospels, clearly paint the picture that the Sabbath was still regarded and kept sacred. The book of Acts, which chronicles the first thirty years of the Christian church, doesn’t say a single word about the Sabbath being either changed or abolished, yet clearly tells us that another Old Testament law, circumcision, had been abolished, even telling us that the apostles wrote letters to the surrounding churches informing them that they no longer needed to be circumcised. (No less than six books of the New Testament inform us that circumcision has been abolished: Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, and Titus.) Along with that, we saw the ongoing controversy that its abolishment caused, yet we don’t read a single word anywhere in the New Testament concerning such a controversy over the Sabbath. All in all, to me the evidence is absolutely overwhelming.

Before moving on to the next chapter I’d like to share with you a quote that I think you’ll find interesting—especially the last paragraph:

“I honestly believe that this commandment is just as binding today as it ever was. I have talked with men who have said that it has been abrogated, but they have never been able to point to any place in the Bible where God repealed it. When Christ was on earth, He did nothing to set it aside; He freed it from the traces under which the scribes and Pharisees had put it, and gave it its true place. ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’ It is just as practicable and as necessary for men today as it ever was—in fact, more than ever, because we live in such an intense age.

“The Sabbath was binding in Eden, and it has been in force ever since. The fourth commandment begins with the word remember, showing that the Sabbath already existed when God wrote this law on the tables of stone at Sinai. How can men claim that this one commandment has been done away with when they will admit that the other nine are still binding?

“I believe that the Sabbath question today is a vital one for the whole country. It is the burning question of the present time.”  {The Ten Commandments, D. L. Moody}

Yes, I realize that D. L. Moody considered Sunday to be the Sabbath, but since this chapter is already longer than normal we’ll have to save that for the next chapter.