A number of Christians claim that the Sabbath day was nailed to the cross, and that it served as a shadow of things to come. Is it true?
Let’s see what the Bible says. The passage we are talking about is found in Colossians 2:14-17:
”having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”
The handwriting of requirements that was against us
What is this handwriting of requirements that was against us? Some quickly assume that this was the ten commandments. Let’s see what the Bible says.
Deuteronomy is giving us the answer: “Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there as a witness against you. (Deut. 31:26)
So what law is this?
The different Laws
In the Old Testament you’ll find different kinds of laws:
- Civil laws (an eye for an eye)
- Health laws (diet and hygiene)
- Moral laws (The ten commandments)
- Ceremonial laws (the sacrificial system and feast days)
The moral laws, or the ten commandments, were written in stone by the finger of God, and placed inside the ark of the covenant (See Exodus 25, Hebrews 9:4). You’ll not find any event recorded in the Bible like his one. God wrote by His own finger, in stone! It is very significant.
On the side of the ark, God instructed Moses to place the ceremonial laws, written by the finger of man (See Deut. 31:26). This book contained the law of sabbaths, new moons, and offerings. Were they important and significant? Yes! They were inspired by God. These laws pointed forward to something. Yet they were different from the ten commandments.
Let’s look at a few verses on these ceremonial laws:
“and at every presentation of a burnt offering to the Lord on the Sabbaths and on the New Moons and on the set feasts, by number according to the ordinance governing them, regularly before the Lord” (1 Chronicles 23:31)
These were feast days that were called sabbaths, as they were going to have a sabbath rest on them. Contrary to the weekly sabbaths, they were kept at appointed times (Leviticus 23:4, 24-25).
Those feast days and ceremonial laws pointed to a coming Redeemer, and were nailed to the cross.
God inspired Isaiah to write that these sabbaths and new moon feasts would be done away with (Isaiah 1:13). The same man, under the inspiration of God, also wrote about the other Sabbaths that would continue through eternity (Isaiah 66:22, 23).
The Origin of the Sabbath
God created the weekly Sabbath before the fall of man.
“Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” (Genesis 2:1-3)
The Sabbath would exist, regardless of whether man would sin or not. Right after the fall of man, God revealed the plan of Salvation, and a system of sacrifices started. This system of offerings and feasts were shadows pointing toward an important event in the future – A coming Saviour. The seventh day Sabbath however, points backwards to creation.
When Jesus died, what exactly was nailed to the Cross?
It was prophesied that the Messiah would make an end of offerings and sacrifices:
”Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.” (Daniel 9:27)
To confirm that this system of sacrifices ended, the veil in the temple was ripped in two parts when Jesus died. (Matthew 27:51, 52)
Because these ceremonial laws were done away with at the cross, Paul said to let no one judge you in food or in drink or regarding a festival, new moon or sabbaths. Why? Because these feasts were “a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” (Colossians 2:17)
While the seventh-day Sabbath was a holy day already from creation when there was no sin, the ceremonial sabbaths recognized man’s guilt, and pointed to Christ – the Saviour. They were shadows of things to come, while the Seventh day Sabbath is a memorial of things past.
One points backward to creation, the other pointed forward to the redemption. Thus they point in opposite directions.
When God spoke of the seventh day, He called it His Sabbath; but in speaking to Israel of those sabbath feasts, he called it “your sabbath.” (Lev. 23:32)
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17)
The Sabbath was already in place, long before the Jews existed, that’s why Jesus said:
“The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28)
The Sabbath is to be kept also today. Looking into the future, Jesus said: “And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.” (Matthew 24:20)
Toward the end of the great controversy between good and evil, Jesus has told us: ”Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” (Revelation 14:12)
The ten commandments that God wrote in stone still stands today, and forever. The shadows of things to come that were written on paper however, are already fulfilled.