By Emil Swift and Michele Swift
People often ask if the numbers found in Scripture have any special significance. My response: maybe they do, maybe they don't -- but it's Scripture that should define the difference.
For example: When Joseph interpreted Pharaoh's dream of the seven well-fattened cattle being swallowed by the seven desiccated ears of corn, Scripture records that the number "seven" stood precisely for the number of years of abundance followed by drought that came upon the known world in that day. There's no question as to the significance of the number seven in this story.
And when you read that God created the world in 6 days and on the seventh He rested -- even setting the seventh day aside for humankind as a day of rest -- it's not hard to accept that "seven" can symbolically refer to "rest" or even to "completion" (i.e., the length of time in which some event is completed.) If you look elsewhere in the Bible and find seven used in relation to "peace" or "completion", it strengthens that connection.
Such as in Genesis -- God told Noah to start loading the ark with designated animals and on the seventh day following, He'd begin a forty day rain that would flood the entire earth. Jacob served his father-in-law Laban for seven years (apiece) to "earn" his two wives; Moses turned the river Nile into blood for seven days, and in Exodus, God declared repeatedly that the "seventh day" was the Sabbath -- the day of rest or peace.
Throughout the Old Testament, the seventh day, Sabbath, stood as a divine reminder that not only did God rest on the seventh day, but He required all those who were His people to do so as well. Work from Sunday through Friday, but stop work Friday night and rest from sundown to sundown on Saturday.
Something drastically changed though, when Jesus died -- and nailed along with Him were all the requirements of the Law. (Col 2.14) The apostle Paul declares that all the requirements of the Old Testament Law were "blotted out", they were "nailed to the Cross" with Jesus. Paul goes on to say that -- as were are now free in Christ -- we are to refuse to be bound any longer by Old Testament rules such as obeying "any questions of food or drink or feast days or new moons or Sabbaths". These, says Paul, were only shadows of a greater Reality that was coming, and indeed had already come in the Person of Jesus Christ. These regulations of the Law had only pointed to the coming King, Jesus, and with His Coming, we had no need to pursue mere "shadows" any longer!
For centuries, Christians who understood our freedom from the Law -- and thereby freedom from feasts, Sabbaths, etc. -- dismissed Sabbath observance and replaced it with a similar "Sunday observance". In fact, for centuries, many Christians have taken to calling "Sunday" the "Sabbath". Which it isn't and never has been.
In fact, even though Believers were told by Paul to not allow themselves to be trapped into obeying the regulations of the Law, church after church did exactly that. They switched the Law of Sabbath observance for the Law of Sunday observance -- thereby negating the spiritual freedom brought by Jesus' death on the Cross.
Occasionally, there have been those who have understood that we're no longer under the Law and aren't required to set one day aside for "worship" or "rest" or whatever creative ideas church elders dream up. These laws regarding observing special days are nailed to the Cross and apply to us no longer.
But what does apply is far stricter than any Sabbath observance ever pretended to be. What applies to us today is that -- instead of observing the Sabbath one day every week -- all who are in Christ have entered into His Sabbath Rest, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We don't observe one day out of seven as a day of rest -- we observe the Sabbath Rest of God every moment of every day of our lives.
We see this in Hebrews 3 & 4. In contrast to the Children of God today, we're shown the example of the faith-less-ness of the Children of Israel, wandering in the Wilderness. God swore that because they constantly rebelled against Him and did not learn the ways of God, that the Israelites would never enter into God's rest. (Heb 2.11)
There's a warning here, for all Christians today. Just like the Israelites failed to enter into God's rest because of their unbelief, so also you and I may fail to enter into God's Rest today, due to unbelief. In fact, we're told to be fearful that we may fail to enter into the Rest that God has provided for us. (Heb 4.1)
In the original Greek in which these verses were written, the word used in this passage in Heb 3 74 is katapausis, which is literally "a calming of the winds" or "stopping the struggle to do something". But it's clear that this "rest" and the Sabbath "rest" are being paralleled here, since in verse 9, the word "rest" is (in Greek) "sabbatismos", our word for "keeping the Sabbath".
Now -- let's get to the heart of our Sabbath Rest today. In verses 9-11, we are promised that for all of God's people, there exists a place of Rest today. And this Rest is the same Rest as in Genesis, when God completed all His works and rested. So also, today, we are to stop working so hard with our own efforts and instead, work hard to enter into the Rest God has provided, a "rest" in which "we cease our own works", and become participants in God's completed works.
What does it look like -- this "ceasing our own works" and "living in the Rest of God"? It means the end of all our religious labors. It means
Have you ever tried to build a local church? Ever try to teach a Sunday School class? Ever try to change a bad behavior into a good one by making a strong effort to do so? Ever try to win someone to the Lord? The success of any "spiritual labors" depends on your not working at it. Success depends on your discovering what work God has already accomplished and then resting in it. We don't have to chalk up good works for God's approval. It means that we "work" on the same basis of how Jesus worked, Who only did what He saw His Father doing".
But how is this possible? How can you do this? Entering into God's Rest is a fruit -- it's the fruit of faith and the fruit of relationship. No Christian can ever enter into the Rest of God (and into His completed work) without direction from God's Spirit. So the very next verse assures us that the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword, bringing deeply into us the discernment necessary for us to walk in Rest instead of in the strength of our flesh. And the next verses show us the other element -- intimate relationship with God, in which our Brother Jesus has opened the way for us to enter into the Throne of Grace... an opportunity which we are to boldly grasp.
Here's the Sum of the Sabbath issue: We are free from a legalistic observance of any "day of rest", but instead are called into an Eternal Sabbath, an ongoing Sabbath, in which we Rest 24/7 in the completed Work of God. And entering into this Rest is the object of our spiritual labors, accomplished by trusting God to bring us into that Rest, and trusting His Spirit and His close Presence to keep us there.
Labor, then, by faith, to enter into the Sabbath Rest of God, doing those things which you see your Father doing. Walk as He is walking, speak what He speaks... Love as He loves. Rest in what He does and not what you do.
© 2008 by Emil B. Swift
"KingdomScribes" is a ministry led by Emil and Michele Swift. For further teachings concerning the spiritual Reformation sweeping through the world today and how to position ourselves to participate, go to KingdomScribes.net/
The Swifts have been called by God to minister together uniquely to the Body of Christ and share a revelatory teaching ministry - gifted in the Spirit to teach mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven in a simple, direct fashion. Emil and Michele are "Kingdom Scribes" whose hearts are to raise every Believer into living and ministering in the power of the Spirit and the Word as "scribes of the Kingdom". A passion to engage the hearts, souls and spirits of their listeners has led the Swifts into a teaching style characterized by its lack of religion, rituals and church jargon. They minister in words easily understood by those to whom they speak.