In my first post in this series, I talked about the background and importance of the Sabbath day—that, in the story of God’s people, time is sanctified long before any space is declared holy. The seventh day is a day for the people to remember the great things God has done for them, and to celebrate the good gifts he has given them.
The second post defined and unpacked the divine imperative to rest. Resting doesn’t mean shooting off fireworks or playing touch football in the backyard; rest is finding comfort from your labor, finding pleasure in the good things God gives us, and ultimately delighting in God.
Now we’ll talk about some typological aspects of the Sabbath. Why did Christians move their day of rest to Sunday? What is the Sabbath ultimately pointing to? To do so, it’ll be helpful to turn to a book I find myself going back to over and over again: Alexander Schmemann’s For the Life of the World.
Schmemann tells us that the Sabbath day points to the end of all labor, an ultimate resting in God. But this final rest is impossible without the hope that Christians have in the risen Christ! I’m sure you know that our moving of the Sabbath to Sunday is due to the resurrection, and this is because it’s the most important event in human history. Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension make it possible for us to find the eternal life and the perfect rest that God has wanted us to experience from the beginning.
This is why a celebration on the seventh day isn’t appropriate anymore. The seventh day is still a part of the normal week—still stuck within the confines of the fallen world. Schmemann describes the day of the resurrection in two ways: It is both a first day and an eighth day.
It is an eighth day because we have entered a new world. We are no longer slaves to the fruitless toil with which Adam is cursed in Genesis 3. No longer do we have to be at odds with God, with each other, with ourselves, and with the creation. The old has passed away, and in Christ we are brought out of the destruction and death of this world into the world to come.
And so the eighth day is a first day. The old has passed, and the new has come! Christ exited the tomb, leading Adam out by the hand and into eternal resurrection life. Of course we don’t see the final manifestation of the kingdom of God yet. But in Christ we have, in a very real sense, been led into the world to come—the world of peace that passes all understanding, the world in which we are more than glad to lay down our lives for one another, the world in which every tear is being wiped away from our eyes. Jesus has trampled death and emerged victorious, and because he is alive we can also live.
So our Sundays are far more important than we thought, right? Every Sunday is a tangible sign of the new life we’ve been given, of the kingdom that is coming, of the restoration that was hard-won at the cross. How do we celebrate that?
By resting. We celebrate by resting, because we trust that Christ has done it all. We celebrate by enjoying God’s good gifts, by sitting around the table with friends and family, by sitting in God’s presence and reading from his Scriptures. We invite our neighbors over and enjoy their company. We sing together, laugh together, and remember together.
So this Sunday, take a Sabbath. I know we’re all busy, but this is far too important to be sacrificed on the altar of productivity. This is the day where we get a taste of the world to come, the day that helps us remember and live into the victory and restoration that Christ garnered for us at the cross, the day where we can look back at the dying sinners we all used to be and be reassured that we are now sons and daughters of the Most High. If you think about it, there aren’t many better ways to experience the fullness of the gospel.