Fulfilled in Jesus

Our pilgrimage with our Beloved in Japan -- Yoko & Ramone on the journey with Jesus!

Monday, May 04, 2009

The Adventist Sabbath

Inner Cry

This is a picture that came as I was praying about an understanding the Lord had given me regarding the Sabbath in Adventism. It's taken me awhile to post this picture up because I don't want to be offensive, and I don't know exactly how to summarize this yet. You can read some of the story of how this picture came about here on the FAF forum: The Adventist Sabbath

The few times I had visited a synagogue for a Friday evening Shabbat service, I was struck by how joyful everything was. People were having fun. There was a sense of family, of kinship, of enjoyment. It was completely different than what I had observed or experienced in Adventism -- and I've seen more than a fair share of the Adventist spectrum.

The Jews celebrate Shabbat because they feel God gave it to them. They recognize that God didn't give it to the whole world. When they get together it is a celebration of who they are, of community, and of belief in Jehovah. Incidentally, the symbol of Shabbat seems to be the lighting of the Shabbat candles -- something almost unknown in Adventism.

With Adventism, we tried to make the holiday joyful. We tried to feel rested. A lot of us felt like we succeeded. But there was a certain added weight to it. We didn't keep Sabbath simply because it was our culture. There was something salvational to it. "It makes Jesus happy" is how many of us rationalized it when others confronted us with the gospel of God's grace. Deep underneath, we were terribly afraid that we would make Him unhappy if we didn't keep Sabbath. Like the president of the General Conference of SDA articulated not many years ago, there is a fear that being Adventist has a direct bearing on our salvation.

One day I felt the Lord say to me:

"The Adventist 'Sabbath' is not the Sabbath I gave My Israelite children. The Adventist Sabbath is not rooted in representing Jesus Christ, as is the Sabbath that I gave to the Israelites. Rather, the Adventist Sabbath is rooted in the Investigative Judgment."

The foundation of Adventism had already been laid in the Sanctuary (Investigative Judgment) doctrine, which had come by rejecting the sufficiency of gospel of grace that Christian churches believed in, and establishing new criteria for salvation that depended on the "present truths" of Adventism. "The Sabbath" was added to this package a few years later. Sabbath thus became rooted not in the Bible, but in being a necessity that you had to do in order to make it through "the investigative judgment".

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

- John 5:24

Christ came to give us rest in Him, in Him Himself. "Come to Me and I will give you rest" is how He said it. Paul wrote that the Sabbath days and all other festivals were shadows of Jesus Christ. Like the sacrificial lambs, the Sabbath was a shadow of the rest for our souls in Jesus. We lay down our works, and enter into His rest. And as Hebrews 4 says, we enter this rest by faith, and we may enter it today -- any day. It is not limited. This is a rest that trusts in the merit of Jesus Christ. It trusts in His work instead of in our works.

Sadly, it is the complete opposite of the Investigative Judgment. The Investigative Judgment declares that our works are what God looks at, and that we must conform to Christ's perfection in order to "pass" the judgment and be saved. Christianity, in contrast, declares that God will conform us to Christ's image because He has already saved us. But Adventism and Ellen White had declared we were not to say we were saved... because after all, the "investigative judgment" had not been finished yet.

Christ came to give us rest. He is the Shepherd with the sheep in the background of this picture. In the 1840s, Adventism left the flock to find its own rest. It left the true Pasture, and when it embraced "Sabbath", it embraced the 'good work' believing that without it, one could not be saved or pleasing in God's sight. Such a belief is a place of unrest. This picture shows what many Adventist children and adults have felt like inside when they had to conform to "the Sabbath" because they were told they couldn't be saved or pleasing to God without it. We were led astray, away from our true Rest. And a part of us cried out in pain inside.

But now God is calling us back. He is showing us that the Adventist Sabbath is not what He gave to Israel. It is not rooted in showing who Jesus Christ is. It is not rooted in "rest for our souls", but rather is rooted in salvation by works, which inherently brings unrest and inner distress. He's calling us back to Him Himself, back to the simple gospel, the simple good news that our spiritual forefathers rejected as insufficient to save. He's calling us to lay down the pride of "how far we've come" -- because really it's only how far we've strayed. He's calling us to repent and rest in Him alone, in the merit of His work, trusting Him to be our perfection and righteousness.

"In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength."

- Isaiah 30:15


  • At March 01, 2011 10:21 AM, Anonymous Nicole said…

    I fully agree Christ alone and faith in Him is what Saves us. Saved not by works. That said, you no longer believe, though, that a way to live out this faith is by following His commands? By commands, I mean the commands that He and His father laid throughout scripture. He came not to abolish the law - but to fufill.(give further meaning/clarity of)(Matt 5:17-18, Luke 16:17) If you love Him - you obey what He says. (Ex 30:6, Deut 5:10, Psalm 119, John 14:15,John 14:21, 1 John 5:2, 1 John 1:6) Even paul, when questioned about changing the Laws proved that was not what he was saying. (Acts 21:21-26, Acts 18:18 Romans 3:31)The law was never (EVER) meant to save. (Romans 4:2-3 for one, can give more) If it was God would never have cared about the heart of Israel performing the laws. It was to be Holy as He is Holy. (Lev 19:2 for one) The Egyptians/Hebrews were saved by following God out of Egypt - only after that walk of Faith did He say what a Holy life looked like on Mt. Sinai. I also agree - they are shadows of Christ. Which is the exact reason (beyond God saying they were ordinances until Heaven and Earth pass away) why I choose to follow them. Shadows are the outline of the reality they are cast from. Once you see the reality - that doesn't change the guidelines, right? Christ never said to stop adulterating - He just clarified that you should not even lust in your heart. He colored in the lines of the Shadow. What is your current view? Where are you in Japan? We are thinking of moving to Atsugi with the military.

  • At March 01, 2011 4:33 PM, Anonymous Ramone said…

    Hi Nicole,

    Thanks for your nice comment! Right now I'm having computer trouble so my responses may be short and infrequent. A couple quick comments...

    "Following His commands" is a crucial hingepoint. It's one thing to say that God laid out "commands" throughout scripture, but none of us offer sacrifices of bulls and goats or pigeons or heifers. Some things were fulfilled, and so we don't need to go on keeping them anymore.

    Your mention of Matthew 5:17 is a good case-in-point here. Matthew 5 speaks of "The Law and Prophets", which basically means the whole Old Testament. This would include not only the Ten Commandments, but everything in the 5 books of Moses (which is what "Law" means most of the time in the New Testament).

    Before I go further on that, however, a simple thing you can do is go to a Bible search engine (like at biblegateway.com) and look up all the times the word "fulfill" is used in the book of Matthew. The way that Matthew used "fulfill" is 9 times out of 10 not in the sense of "keeping" (on-going) but rather in the sense of something having been completed, like prophecies being fulfilled, etc. Of course one can choose to make Matthew 5:17 the exception, however, it is also good to consider how Jesus' words perpetually offended the Pharisees & Sadducees. If He had been talking about "keeping" Moses unstead of "fulfilling" Moses (bringing Moses to completion) then His words would not have been so shocking. But if you look even in the Beatitudes, He did say some pretty shocking things. The Beatitudes make quite an amazing contrast when compared with the blessings & curses Moses pronounced at the end of Deuteronomy (for example, Moses' blessings come dependent on the commands being obeyed first, while Christ's beatitudes [blessings] are given before any commands are spoken). Then, in the Beatitudes, Jesus equated Himself with "righteousness". Add it together and you have some out-of-town Rabbi coming in proclaiming that He is righteousness itself, and that He will complete and fulfill Moses' Law... well, you've got the makings of something that is going to really make the religious institution pretty upset!

    Now about the Law, are you familiar with the Old Covenant versus the New Covenant? It's one of the central themes of the book of Hebrews, as well as 2nd Corinthians chapter 3. The main crux of what will cause an earthquake in our understanding of "Law" is when we happen upon verses like Exodus 34:28, Deuteronomy 4:13, Hebrews 9:4 and the whole of 2 Corinthians 3. These passages state that the Ten Commandments are the Old Covenant.

    This is the hardest point for those from an Adventist-background to accept, but it is the root of the matter. Various Adventist theologians have tried to work around this and explain it in various ways, which is why there are as many explanations to be found as there are hairs on my head. Every apologist goes the extra mile to avoid letting the scripture actually mean literally what it says. It can't mean what it says, it must mean something else. Otherwise the whole foundation of Adventism will collapse, because so much is built on and staked on "Sabbath". So as a result there are various explanations, and finally when unable to go further, Adventist pastors and theologians and laypeople will simply say, "Well, what it means to me is..." or "The way I look at it is...". We had to resort to these because what scripture said and what we were taught was truth didn't match up. We had to bridge the gap, and so we had a lot of really creative ways to explain why scripture didn't mean exactly what it said.


  • At April 23, 2011 5:40 PM, Blogger Ramone said…

    (continued from above)

    But if scripture means what it says about the 10 Commandments being the Old Covenant, and if we can actually (for example) take Paul literally when he talks about the law being finished in Christ (yes, fulfilled in Jesus!), and if we can take what the New Testament says about "Sabbath" literally (that it was a shadow of Christ, not the substance, and that we are not judged by it nor are we to judge others by it), well, then we have a whole different ballgame on our hands. Suddenly our measuring-stick is removed from us and nothing we do can give us assurance that we are going to be saved. We no longer have a yardstick in front of us that we can hold up to ourselves and say, "Here, I have a pretty good idea that I'm here." Suddenly our status before God is not based on our obedience anymore, not based on how well (or badly) we do things. In other words, it's suddenly out of our hands.

    And that is an absolutely frightful place to be at first! Especially coming from Adventism. But that is what "grace" means: we trust Him to save us, not us ourselves. Our Sabbath-keeping doesn't endear us to Him or distance us from Him. It's not part of His equation. Especially so since it has been fulfilled, having been a shadow just like the sacrifices were (compare Heb.10:1 with Colossians 2:16-17). That Sabbath was in the package of "the Ten" doesn't make it a "moral" command, since in fact "the Ten" were the tablets of the Old Covenant anyway (Ex.34:28, Dt.4:13, Heb.9:4, etc.). Ironically, the very antidote to the terrible fear when facing the truth about the Sabbath having been fulfilled (and salvation being out of our hands) is found in the meaning of the Sabbath shadow: rest in Jesus Christ. Our rest is not in a day, but in a Man, the Son of God. He Himself is the substance. Like He fulfilled the shadow of the sacrifice, He also fulfilled the shadow of the Sabbath. None of our "works" could return us to Eden -- our works were cursed in Eden. But the work Christ rendered and finished on our behalf (the atonement completed at Calvary) returns us to Eden, and dare I say, even closer to God than what Adam and Eve knew (did they have the Holy Spirit indwelling them?!). Just as people rested from their works on the Old Covenant Sabbath day, so God is telling us today that we must rest from our works (our hope of being accepted or making Him happy by our commandment keeping) and rest & trust in His work alone. Not His work in us, but His work done completely apart from us. Consider, did Adam & Eve have to do anything to enter that rest on the 7th day? Had they any "work" like the cursed toil after sin? Weren't they rather born into that rest? In the same way, just as Adam & Eve did nothing to enter God's rest, in the same way we are brought into the rest of Christ not by anything we do, but by what He has done completely apart from us. Our "work" is simply to believe in Him (John 6:29).

    And after the Law has been fulfilled, all that is left for us is incredibly simple but yet so profound that nothing is more piercing and far-reaching: Believe in Jesus Christ (love God) and love one another as He loved us (love our neighbors) -- see 1st John 3:23.

    Bless you in His rest!
    Feel free to drop another question if you like. =)

    P.S. By the way, I'm in Osaka. No bases around here. Too bad, I miss good Mexican food.


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