|When some read in the
New Testament about
sabbath days that were shadows of the body of Christ and that passed away at the cross, they become confused and declare they mean the weekly Sabbath. They do greatly err and lead many uninformed people into error. Let us turn to Colossians 2:14-17 and read about the abolition of these sabbath days that were in the law and that enjoined meat offerings, drink offerings, new moons, and festivals: "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; ... let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holyday [a feast day, A.S.V.], or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days, which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ."
There was nothing in the
Ten Commandment law about meats, drinks, new moons, sabbath days (plural), or feast days. All these were in the law which the Lord told Moses to command to the people. The weekly Sabbath is not mentioned in these texts. Paul says plainly that he is speaking of "sabbath days which are a shadow of things to come," and not of the weekly Sabbath which was a memorial of something that happened in the past at creation.
fourth commandment does not tell us to keep the
seventh day as a type of something to come. It says: "
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. ... For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it."
There is all the difference in the world between a typical shadow and a memorial. A shadow points forward, and a memorial points backward. The contrast is as distinct as that between night and day. And to show that He never had the
weekly Sabbath in mind, the Holy Spirit distinctly mentioned "sabbath days which are a shadow of things to come." Of course the word "days" in this text (Colossians 2:14-17) is supplied, but this is justified by the fact that the word "sabbath" in the Greek is in the plural. Anyone may confirm this by consulting any Greek lexicon.
The King James Version uses the word "holyday," and some may content that it means "the weekly Sabbath" and the expression "sabbath days" means "the yearly sabbaths." The American Standard Version uses "feast day" instead of "holyday." This is correct. For the word translated "holyday" here is from the Greek hoerte, and in John 5:1 this word is used to designate one of the yearly festivals of the Jews: "After this there was a feast [hoerte] of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem."
This is one of the holy days that Paul spoke of as having been abolished. Thus do the evidences multiply that it is absolutely wrong to tell people that these verse prove that the weekly Sabbath was abolished. We should further observe that "shadows" point to Jesus as a Saviour from sin and we observed with that in mind. But the weekly Sabbath was made for man before sin ever entered into the world. The shadows pointing forward to His death as an atonement for sin certainly were not instituted until after sin. But the Lord's rest day existed before man needed atoning blood to save him from his guilt. Now since the weekly Sabbath was instituted before sin, just as was the marriage institution, it was not a shadow of Christ's death as a Saviour from sin; and His death never brought it to an end any more than it brought the marriage institution to an end. Both institutions came to us from the sinless Garden of Eden.
Paul's very language to the Christians at Colosse proves he had reference to the shadowy ceremonies which pointed forward to and ended at the cross. Notice carefully his words in Colossians 2:14: "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross."
As plain as he can make it, Paul declares they were "ordinances" that were nailed to the cross. They were ordinances that would be "contrary" to the faith of Christians to observe. In fact he declares that the observance of these would be "against us." Now for the use of some good common sense. Would it be contrary to Christian faith and practice and against Christian principle to refrain from idolatry, profanity, Sabbath desecration, dishonoring parents, murder, theft, adultery, lying, and coveting? How could it be "contrary" to Christian principle and "against us" to refrain from the immoralities and vices condemned by the Ten Commandments? How unreasonable to think that Paul was arguing thus! He was talking of another law which enjoined meat offerings, drink offerings, the observance of feasts, new moons, and yearly sabbaths.
Ceremonies Cease at Calvary
Why would the observance of these ceremonies after the death of Christ be contrary to Christian faith and teachings? The answer is easy. Take the Passover sabbath that came during the first month every year. The killing of the Passover lamb typified the death of the Lamb of God. To offer it after His death would be saying, in figure, that Jesus had not died. It would be a repudiation of His death and atoning blood. Surely such an observance would be contrary to the teachings of Christianity. The apostle Paul declares, "For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us" (1 Corinthians 5:7). All the other typical ordinances in this law pointed to the death of Jesus on the cross, too. All these feasts, meat and drink offerings, and sabbaths that were nailed to the cross, Paul declares, were "a shadow of things to come"; and then he adds, "But the body is of Christ." That is, the body, or substance, that casts these shadows was Christ's body on the cross.
Now even a child knows that late in the afternoon when a tall tree casts its shadow eastward, one can begin at the farthest end of the shadow and follow it until he gets to the tree, or body, that casts it, and there it ceases. Just so, we may go back to the time when "by one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death by sin," and there a merciful God promised to send a Redeemer (Genesis 3:15), a Substitute, to die in man's place. To keep man continually reminded of this fact and to supply him with a means of expressing his faith in the coming sacrifice, God instituted these ceremonies. Most of them were given to man immediately after the fall; later several others were added, and all were included in the law which was not written on tables of stone.
Follow these shadowy ceremonies all the way from Eden to the time of Moses, and from then through the wilderness journey, and then on for hundreds of years after the settlement of Canaan, and at last to Calvary; there they cease. So it would be "against us" and "contrary" to our faith to observe these ceremonies after Jesus' death. To do so would be to deny that He had died. Not so with the other law. It is just as necessary to refrain from idolatry, profanity, Sabbath desecration, murder, adultery, and theft after the cross as before. In fact it was the violation of these principles that caused the death of Christ. Could they have been set aside or changed to accommodate the carnal mind, Jesus need not have died.
Now with these truths before us, let us again read Colossians 2:14-17 and see how plainly Paul reveals that he had not reference to the Ten Commandments: "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ."
The Law and the Sabbath, Allen Walker, p. 113-116