‘Sabbath: a token of eternity’ by Bernard Bell

The Garden of Eden from Wikimedia

The Garden of Eden by Thomas Cole (1801-1848).

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” (Genesis 2.1-3).

Bernard Bell explores the theology of the Sabbath from Genesis to Revelation – in the creation account; in the Old Testament era; for Jesus, during His earthly ministry; for us as God’s New Testament people; and in the new creation. He writes: “On this seventh day [of creation], four verbs are predicated of God: he completed, he rested, he blessed, and he sanctified.”

Bell comments, “The climax of creation is the consecration of time.” God called His people Israel to observe the sabbath. Bell writes, “The Sabbath was given to Israel as a picture of the seventh day. On the Sabbath, Israel was to fall into the pattern established by God when he completed his work and rested. This established a rhythm to the week: for six days the Israelites labored, then for one day they rested. Each week, the Israelites took a journey through time. The Sabbath was the goal of the week, the day that gave meaning to other six days. But after each Sabbath they had to start the journey over again. This rhythm that Israel observed each week was itself contained within two larger rhythms. Every seventh year, Israel was to give her land a sabbatical year, a year of rest from being cultivated (Leviticus 25.1-7). After every seventh sabbatical year, i.e., every fiftieth year, Israel was to celebrate a Jubilee Year in which slaves were set free and land restored to its rightful owner (Leviticus 25.8-55). These cycles of a week, of seven years, and of fifty years, were powerful reminders that there lay something beyond the mundane life of the daily routine. Beyond the common lay the sacred, the holy. Beyond the six days lay the seventh. Beyond the six years lay the seventh. Beyond the forty-nine years lay the fiftieth.”

He asks, “Why did Jesus choose the Sabbath for so many of his healing miracles, such as the one in Mark 2.23-3.6? . . . . The seventh day was the goal toward which God moved his Creation, the day in which God brought creation into completion. The Sabbath was his gift to Israel, the goal towards which both creation and redemption moved. Surely then, Sabbath is the most appropriate day for Jesus to heal people, . . . . Sabbath was the day for being made whole, made complete so that one could enter into rest.”

But what does the Sabbath mean for us now? Should we observe it – and, if so, how? Bell writes, “The first Christians recognized that with the death and resurrection of Jesus, something dramatic had happened to Sabbath. These Jewish Christians quickly moved their assemblies to the first day of the week. Paul, formerly the most fanatical of Pharisees, and therefore punctilious about Sabbath observance, came to realize that Sabbath was just a shadow of a reality that had now arrived.” He concludes, “Today [Sunday] is not Sabbath; it is what Sabbath pointed to. In turn, both Sabbath and Today point towards the Seventh Day that will fill all of time. Both are tokens of eternity. Sabbath was one day in seven. Today is seven days in seven. Go out today and live it as a token of eternity, but then carry on living that way on Monday and on through the week. Improvise however you see fit, but do so within the framework established by the rest of the plot. Then it will be a day of completion, of rest, of blessing, and of holiness. Sabbath is not the place we’re not allowed to play football, but the place where we enter God’s teleological rest through Christ, and live a foretaste of eternity. ”

The sermon is available as an audio file and a PDF HERE.

CREDITS Scripture citations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

‘Even Better than Eden’ video series by Nancy Guthrie

In her book, Even Better than Eden, (which I review HERE), Nancy Guthrie traces nine themes through the Bible – the wilderness, the tree, God’s image, clothing, the Bridegroom, the Sabbath, the offspring, the dwelling place, and the city. Essentially, what she gives us is a series of nine mini-overviews of the Bible story, each one tracing the story from the point of view of one of these key themes. Guthrie has now produced this same material in a series of nine videos. Session 8 – The Story of a Dwelling Place – can be watched free of charge on Vimeo, above. The complete set can be purchased as digital downloads HERE or on a flash drive HERE.

Nancy’s website page for this book is available HERE. Reproducible personal Bible study questions for personal or small group use (not the same as the discussion guide in the book itself) and a leader’s guide are available for purchase as downloads from this page.

This workshop on Even Better Than Eden: How the Bible’s Story Changes Everything About Your Story with Nancy Guthrie was recorded at The Gospel Coalition’s 2018 Women’s Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana:

Nancy Guthrie teaches the Bible at her church, Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee, and at conferences worldwide. She is the author or editor of a number of books, together with some video resources. She is also the host of Help Me Teach the Bible, a podcast of the Gospel Coalition.

‘Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything About Your Story’ by Nancy Guthrie

In her new book, Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything About Your Story, Nancy Guthrie traces nine themes through the Bible – the wilderness, the tree, God’s image, clothing, the Bridegroom, the Sabbath, the offspring, the dwelling place, and the city. Essentially, what she gives us is a series of nine mini-overviews of the Bible story, each one tracing the story from the point of view of one of these key themes. Each of these nine mini-overviews is just a chapter in length (in fact, the main text of the book is only 150 pages in length). Guthrie succeeds in her task brilliantly. Her writing is clear and engaging. Yet the book – despite the fact that it’s so accessible and easy to read – is also theologically rich.

Guthrie’s overall thrust is that God’s plan for His world is not simply to restore what was lost in Eden before the Fall. The new creation we read about on the final two chapters of Revelation will be far more glorious than the creation we see in the opening chapters of Genesis.

There’s a discussion guide at the end of the book, which gives questions for discussing the themes presented in each chapter. There are also endnotes to explain further and to support some of what she writes.

In the introduction, after talking a little about her own personal story, Guthrie writes, “There’s another story, a story that is found in the pages of the Bible—from the book of Genesis through the book of Revelation—that shapes and defines where I came from, why I am the way I am, what my life is like day to day, and what is ahead for me in the future. It is this story that explains my deepest joys as well as the empty places where contentment can be elusive. It is this story that explains my drive to be somebody and my sensitivity to feeling like a nobody. It explains what makes me cry and why I can laugh. This story explains my desire to look good, my craving for the good life, my longing for home and security, and much more.”Guthrie continues: “And whether you know it or not, this same grand story—the story found in the sixty-six books of the Bible—shapes the world you live in, who you are, and what you want too. That’s why you and I need to know this story. It is where we find the answers to our questions about what really matters now and into eternity. This story has the power to change everything about our stories.”

Scott R. Swain, President and James Woodrow Hassell Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, writes, “One of the weaknesses of much popular Christian teaching on the Bible is the tendency to read the story of the Bible in a circular manner, as if Jesus Christ came into the world to bring us back to Eden. Nancy Guthrie charts a better course in her book. In a manner that is profoundly biblical and deeply practical, she traces nine biblical themes along a common trajectory, from their beginning in God’s good creation, through their destruction and devastation by Adam’s sin, to the ways Christ perfects, consummates, and crowns each theme by means of his suffering and glory. Let Guthrie take you by the hand and lead you through the Bible to Jesus Christ, in whom we find a better provision, a better life, a better identity, a better rest, a better wardrobe, a better spouse, a better savior, a better sanctuary, and a better city than this world in its present state could or would afford.”

Read the publisher’s description HERE. Download an excerpt HERE.

Nancy’s website page for this book is available HERE. Reproducible personal Bible study questions for personal or small group use (not the same as the discussion guide in the book itself) and a leader’s guide are available for purchase as downloads from this page.

A nine-session video version of Even Better Than Eden is also available – click HERE for more information and to view one of the sessions free of charge.

This workshop on Even Better Than Eden: How the Bible’s Story Changes Everything About Your Story with Nancy Guthrie was recorded at The Gospel Coalition’s 2018 Women’s Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana:

Nancy Guthrie teaches the Bible at her church, Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee, and at conferences worldwide. She is the author or editor of a number of books, together with some video resources. She is also the host of Help Me Teach the Bible, a podcast of the Gospel Coalition.