Relevant Passages: Genesis 2; Exodus 16; Nehemiah 13; Matthew 12; John 5; Isaiah 66
Sabbath: From Creation to Restoration. From a biblical perspective, the Sabbath is a feature of human existence from Creation to Restoration.
1. The historical perspective. What insights can be helpful to us as we consider each era in which the Sabbath appears?
- Creation: Genesis 2:2-3. God rests on the day and blesses it.
- Exodus: Exodus 16. God uses the miracle of the manna to teach Israel about the Sabbath.
- Post-exilic restoration: Nehemiah 13. Nehemiah gets tough in reminding the people of the day God blessed.
- A day and a house for all peoples: Isaiah 56:1-7. Isaiah envisions a time when all nations will honor the Sabbath and the Lord’s house.
- Jesus: Matthew 12, John 5. Jesus makes the Sabbath a day for miracles.
- Heavenly Sanctuary and the Adventist experience: Revelation 11:19. After the Great Disappointment, the heavenly sanctuary focused the attention of the early Adventists on the ark, the decalogue, and thus on the Sabbath.
- Restored Earth. Isaiah 66:22-23. The prophetic vision of the restored earth included a promise that the Sabbath would be part of its rhythm of life.
2. Loss of the Sabbath. Given this rather comprehensive presence of the Sabbath throughout the biblical period and after, what are the dominant reasons for turning away from the Sabbath?
- The experience of the Sabbath as an oppressive day?
- The subtle pressures of secularization?
- The substitution of another “sacred” day?
- The attempt to make every day sacred or no day sacred?
3. Recovering the Sabbath. Currently a number of thoughtful Christians are making a serious effort to recover a Sabbath — not necessarily the seventh-day Sabbath (Saturday), but a Sabbath. What are the reasons behind this yearning for a Sabbath? How likely is it to be successful?
c. 1 Thess. 5:1-11: After renewing the promise of the second coming and the resurrection which would take place at that time, Paul bluntly addresses the issue of signs and times: “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” He goes on to say that since they don’t live in darkness that day won’t surprise them like a thief. Keep awake, be sober, and encourage one another. In short, always be alert because you don’t know when it will happen.
3. The Frenzy and the Fade. In light of the above passages, what is the best way to avoid the two great dangers: frenzy and fade? Do some need signs more than others? Do we really know that we are in the time of the end?
4. Purpose of Prophecy. In the Old Testament, Jeremiah 26 and Jonah are excellent passages for illustrating that God is quite willing to trade a failed prediction for a fulfilled prophecy, and from the standpoint of the Old Testament prophets, the purpose of prophecy is repentance and transformed behavior. How would this relate to our understanding of the end of time? Clearly the fact of the Coming is not conditional, though the events leading up to it may be. The point of the signs to remind us that the end is near; but perhaps the most deadly of signs is one engineered by the devil, namely, a time of relative peace and quiet, when people will be “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” (Matt. 24:38), or will be saying “There is peace and security” (1 Thess. 5:3), or “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since our ancestors died, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation!” (2 Peter 3:4). That’s the deadliest of signs. And that’s when the end will come.
5. Advance Warning? Speaking very specifically of his upcoming betrayal by one of the twelve, Jesus told the disciples in the upper room: “I tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am he” (John 13:19). One can generalize from this statement and apply it to all prophecy of the future. A more careful study of prophecy throughout Scripture, however, would suggest that we really know very little about times, dates, and seasons. Our calling is simply to be ready.
6. An Illustration of Preparedness. Someone once asked Thomas Merton how the Shakers could build such marvelous furniture when they believed the world could end immediately. Merton replied: “When you believe the world will end at any moment, you know there is no need to hurry. You take your time; you do your work well.” Is that a model for Adventists living in 2001?