Sabbath Typology and Eschatological Rest


*This post is the latest in a series looking at the Sabbath. Previous posts include:Paul and the Sabbath,  Jesus and the Sabbath,  The Sabbath and the Decalogue in the OT, a look at God’s Rest as Prescriptive, an examination of the Sabbath as a Creation Ordinance.

Now that a brief survey of Sabbath throughout the canon has been made, a word may be said regarding typology. Many anti-sabbatarians want to argue that the Sabbath has been fulfilled in Christ, and is thus no longer binding. However, I want to argue that the Sabbath is typological of a future rest to come, and thus is still valuable today for its typological significance.

It is clear from scripture that the Sabbath was typological of the rest that is found in Jesus (Hebrews 3-4). However, the Sabbath was a picture of several other rests in scripture as well. The rest was a reminder of God’s rest after creation. The Sabbath rest symbolized the promised land that was to be given to Israel. The Sabbath rest is also typological of the future rest of all believers in the new heavens and new earth. Turretin describes the Sabbath as, “A type of the eternal Sabbath to be spent in Heaven; in which the saints, happy in souls and body, will rest in God from the sins, calamities, and miseries of this life.”[1]This is taught in Hebrews as well: “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God” (4:9), a rest upon which the hope of believers today is built.

The Sabbath certainly looked forward to the coming rest found in Christ alone; but the type also is a foretaste of the future rest to come. Ryken puts it well: “We no longer look back to the old exodus for our salvation’ we look to Jesus Christ, who accomplished a greater exodus by dying for our sins and rising again.”[2] We also look forward to the future exodus, when our bodies are renewed threw the waters of death, and we can walk on dry ground into our glorified promised land. This is picture, along with Christ’s rest, are what is typified by Sabbath keeping today.

Geerhardus Vos

Vos captures well the role of the Sabbath, particularly its eschatological impact, in the lives of believers:

The Sabbath brings this principle of the eschatological structure of history to bear upon the mind of man after a symbolical and typical fashion. It teaches its lesson through the rhythmical succession of six days of labour and one ensuing day of rest in each successive week. Man is reminded in this way that life is not an aimless existence, that a goal lies beyond. That was true before, and apart from redemption. The eschatological is an older strand in revelation than the soteric.[3]

The Sabbath served, and serves, believers by pointing out the eschatological orientation of creation. This orientation was present from the beginning, and will continue until the ultimate consummation of history.

Those who object by saying that the type cannot extend past Christ are left with a puzzle. If all types end in Christ, how do they make sense of other types that scripture teaches are still ongoing (e.g., marriage, future promised land). While it is tempting to make the statement that all types end in Christ and then blame inconsistencies on inaugurated eschatology, the biblical picture of types extends also beyond Christ, to the ultimate conclusion of His purposes: eternal rest found in a glorified promised land.

In the coming posts I plan to take a look at the theological implications of accepting or denying the abiding sabbath principle found in scripture, plus a few historical teachings on the sabbath (including a prominent Southern Baptist!).

Jon English Lee


[1] Francis Turretin, Eighteenth through Twentieth Topics, vol. 3 of Institutes of Elenctic Theology (New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 1997), 616.

[2] Ryken, Written in Stone, 110.

[3]Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Edinburgh; Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 1975), 140.

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9 Responses to “Sabbath Typology and Eschatological Rest”

  1. James Hammack

    How true! I agree completely in regards to typology extended beyond Christ. Too many are quick to dismiss the Sabbath institution. Thank you for the much needed posting on this issue, looking forward to seeing what comes next, brother!

  2. But I doubt not but that the Apostle designedly alluded to the Sabbath in order to reclaim the Jews from its external observances; for in no other way could its abrogation be understood, except by the knowledge of its spiritual design. He then treats of two things together; for by extolling the excellency of grace, he stimulates us to receive it by faith, and in the meantime he shows us in passing what is the true design of the Sabbath, lest the Jews should be foolishly attached to the outward rite. Of its abrogation indeed he does expressly speak, for this is not his subject, but by teaching them that the rite had a reference to something else, he gradually withdraws them from their superstitious notions. For he who understands that the main object of the precept was not external rest or earthly worship, immediately perceives, by looking on Christ, that the external rite was abolished by his coming; for when the body appears, the shadows immediately vanish away. Then our first business always is, to teach that Christ is the end of the Law.

  3. Bob Browning

    Since I grew up just outside of Selma, AL it’s great to hear of another Alabama guy wrestling with such weighty matters as this. I’m looking forward to reading the whole series on this as I’ve been thinking through issues on the Sabbath for quite some time and am still trying to firm up where I stand.

    Since you (Jon) are up at Southern, I’d be curious what your take is on the hotly debated new book “Kingdom through Covenant.” I’ve read it fairly carefully and easily agreed with the bulk of it, so I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts if you have the time.

    Either way, this was a good article. Good luck with your studies.

    • Jon English Lee
      Jon English Lee

      Thanks for your comment Bob! I hope this series is helpful in your formulation of a sabbath theology.

      Regarding Kingdom Through Covenant, I read it last semester (for a seminar with Wellum!), so I have done quite a bit of thinking about it. I agree with almost everything in the book, and I found much of it quite helpful. In fact, you can see that I cite the book several times throughout this series. While I disagree with them on a few small conclusions, I think it is quite well done and would recommend it to every theologically-minded (and perseverant) person. I have thought about doing a thorough review of the book for the blog; perhaps that will be an upcoming post.



      • Bob Browning

        Yes, perseverance is definitely a prerequisite for reading Kingdom through Covenant – especially if you’re a lowly engineer like myself and have never had Hebrew! 😀

        My two biggest complaints about the book actually have nothing to do with theology: 1) they do not transliterate a lot of the Hebrew and 2) the material they used for the cover of the book collects dust really bad and gets all sticky.

        The only other major issue I thought was lacking is that Gentry did not deal with Genesis 3:15 at all in his chapters on the individual covenants – so the covenant with creation seemed like it needed to be fleshed out more. However, Wellum definitely gives it a good treatment in his closing chapters, which I thought were excellent. I also thought his defense of particular redemption was very solid.

        I’d definitely encourage you to do a review of it. I think that would be very helpful as some folks (that I greatly respect) have seemed overly skeptical of it.


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