The Seventh Day Sabbath– The Elephant in the Room of Theonomy / Reconstructionism – And Futurism
Preliminary note: I am currently working on a major book on the issue of the seventh day Sabbath. The working title is Celebrating the Eighth Day: Shemini Atzerat! Lord willing, that book will be published sometime next year, so be looking for it!
The theological movement of Dominionism insists that the Law of Moses remains in effect today, and in the future kingdom it will be enforced as the law of the land. Violators will suffer severe legal penalties for violation. Appeal is made to Matthew 5:17-18 where Jesus emphatically said that not one jot or one tittle of the Law (the Law of Moses) would pass away until it was all fulfilled. Since the literal heaven and earth have not passed away, this means that every mandate, even the minutia of the Law remains valid and binding. Well, not really, we are told, but yea, really, sorta, kinda, according to which ever law they want to enforce.
Interestingly enough, in 1997, the late David Chilton, once a strong advocate of the Dominionist and futurist view, presented a lesson at a prophecy conference that I helped organize. In his lesson, Chilton gave his reasons for becoming a full preterist. In that lesson he stated that one of the things that pushed him to the full preterist view, and away from Dominionism, is the reality that the very verses that Dominionists appeal to for their doctrine destroys their doctrine! While Dominionists say that not one jot or one tittle has passed from the Law of Moses, they then turn around and insist that in fact, many of -(in fact, most) – the jots and many tittles of the Law have passed away! Not only that, they tell us that many of those jots and tittles that have passed away have never been fulfilled, in direct opposition to the explicit words of Jesus. Needless to say, this is troublesome for that paradigm. (Audio CDs of that 1997 Conference are available from me).
The purpose of this investigation is to focus on the issue of the seventh day Sabbath. Let me state clearly and as powerfully as possible that the doctrine of the seventh day Sabbath is an Achilles Heel for Dominionism. Their attempts to deal with this issue fail badly and expose the total inconsistency of the Postmillennial / Dominionist doctrine. Strangely enough, while the Sabbath is a huge issue I find few commentators discuss the issue (actually, I have not found a single one). Let me illustrate the problem for the Dominionist camp, although what I will share has equal impact on virtually all futurist views of eschatology.
In July, 2012, I engaged in a formal debate with Joel McDurmon, now president of American Vision in Powder Springs, Georgia. In my first affirmative presentation, I took note of the critical, but mostly overlooked, importance of the Sabbath to the study of eschatology.. I observed that the Sabbath was a distinctive covenantal sign between God and Israel, a sign both of creation and of deliverance from Egyptian bondage and death. (Exodus 31; Deuteronomy 5). (A book of that debate as well as DVDs and MP3s are available from my websites).
(Interestingly, I have raised the issue of the Sabbath in at least four formal debates and in numerous written debates. Not one of my futurist opponents has been willing to discuss the subject, almost flippantly casting it aside, or totally ignoring it, even when pressured to address it).
Not only was the seventh day Sabbath a covenantal sign between YHVH and Israel, it was a prophetic foreshadowing of the end of the millennium (final) salvation and resurrection.
My argument was that Jesus said not one jot or one tittle would pass from Torah, the Law of Moses, until it was all completely accomplished, brought to reality (Matthew 5:17-18). (See my book, From Torah To Telos, The Passing of the Law of Moses, Vol. I, (Ardmore, Ok.; JaDon Management Inc., 2012) for an extensive exegesis of Matthew 5:17-18. That book is available from my websites).
This means that until what the seventh day Sabbath foreshadowed and predicted came into reality, i.e. until the end of the millennium resurrection was fulfilled, not one jot or one tittle of the Law of Moses would pass away.
McDurmon initially ignored this argument, so I repeated it and pressed it. He then admitted that he believes that the seventh day Sabbath, with its ceremonial ordinances, i.e the sacrifices, have passed away. Of course, per Joel, the end of the millennium resurrection which was foreshadowed by the seventh day Sabbath has not come to reality. (In the view of most Dominionist / Postmillennialists today, we supposedly have the “Christian Sabbath” as Sunday is often called. Sunday has replaced the typological seventh day Sabbath with the foreshadowing Sunday Sabbath)! This was the view of the late Greg Bahnsen who wrote:
“Although ceremonial days are no longer to be distinguished, the NT does distinguish the first day of the week from the other six (1 Cor. 16:2; Acts 20:7) and denominates it “the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:20).” (Greg Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics, (Nagadoches, Tx., Covenant Media Press, 2002)226).
He also wrote:
“The Sabbath was a shadow of coming salvation under Torah– Sabbath is now a shadow of coming salvation now. (227). “As Christ provides for entrance into eternal Sabbath rest of God by His substitutionary death upon the cross, He makes the typological elements (e.g. the offerings) of the Sabbath system irrelevant (things which were a shadow of the coming substance according to Colossians 2:157; Hebrews 10:1,8). By accomplishing our redemption Christ also binds us to the observance of that weekly Sabbath which prefigures our eternal Sabbath (cf. Hebrews 4).” (P. 227).
On page 227 he also states that Sabbath is now Sunday, i.e. the Christian Sabbath.
So, according to Bahnsen, the seventh day Sabbath foreshadowed the ultimate salvation.
But, the seventh day Sabbath was annulled without being fulfilled. You must catch the power of this view!
The “ceremonial” and cultic praxis of the seventh day Sabbath were purged from it.
The seventh day Sabbath passed away and was changed to Sunday!
Sunday has replaced the unfulfilled typological and foreshadowing seventh day and has become the typological foreshadowing of the yet future salvation!
I would cite Bahnsen’s own words here. Commenting on Matthew 5:17, Bahnsen said: “A Biblical Theology which contravenes the clear pronouncements of Scripture is not worthy of its name.” (Theonomy in Christian Ethics, (Nacadoches, Tx., Covenant Media Press, Third Edition, 2002)198).
One can hardly argue with the sentiment here, but, the indisputable reality is that Bahnsen and the Dominionists (as well as the Reformed Amillennial world) clearly “contravenes the clear pronouncements of Scripture” when it comes to the law and the Sabbath.
Nothing could be more evidently self-contradictory or in more overt violation of the text of scripture than the views expressed by Bahnsen and McDurmon. That is, unless it would be the claims of Gary North. Read his comments on Deuteronomy 8:
“This passage in Deuteronomy presents the biblical basis of progress in history.” He then added, “Any attempt to renounce this passage as no longer judicially binding in the New Covenant era is inescapably a denial of any biblical basis for God honoring cultural progress in history.” (Gary North, Millennialism and Social Theory, (Tyler, Tx., Institute For Christian Economics, 1990)52f).
So, in the view of North, the father-in-law of Joel McDurmon, and one of the leading voices in the Dominionist camp, Deuteronomy 8 is paradigmatic for life in the Christian age. To renounce it as annulled is to abandon Reconstructionism / Dominionism. The problem is Deuteronomy is not honored by the Reconstructionists themselves! They do not accept what the passage says! They distort what the text says. They do not practice what Deuteronomy demands of them! What does Deuteronomy 8 say that is so self-destructive to Reconstructionism?
The Seventh Day Sabbath and Reconstructionist Self-Contradictions
North quotes Deuteronomy 8:6-14a; 17-19. I will give here the entire text of chapter 8:1-19.
“Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers. 2 And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. 5 You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you. 6 “Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. 7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; 9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you. 11 “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, 12 lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; 13 and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; 14 when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; 15 who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end— 17 then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ 18 “And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the Lord your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish.”
I have highlighted two statements from the text to draw the reader’s attention to them. Moses told the children of Israel that they were to obey the words and commandments – everyone of them– “which I command you today.” The words that Moses was speaking that day were not the New Covenant. He was not delivered a modified Torah. He was giving the Second Giving of the Law of Moses – in its entirety! Thus, the entirety, every word that Moses spoke that day – if North, Bahnsen and the Dominionists are correct – is judicially binding on believers today.
Moses did not say, obey some, a little or most, of what I command you today. It is to be noted that this same command to observe all the words of Moses, not just some, is also found in chapter 5:33, as well as in 11:7. Thus, Deuteronomy 8 cannot be restricted. So, what were the words that Moses commanded them “that day”? What were “All” of those words?
Notice Deuteronomy 7:1-3– which is definitely part of the words that Moses spake to Israel that day:
“When the Lord your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, and when the Lord your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons.”
So, part of the words that Moses spake to Israel that very day commanded that Israel destroy – utterly destroy – her enemies. Are Christians bound to destroy our enemies? If not, why not?
The words that Moses spake that day forbad Israel – God’s people – from making covenants with the people of the land. Do Dominionists make “covenants” e.g. perhaps financial contracts when they buy houses, cars, etc.?
The words that Moses spake that day forbad Israel – God’s people – to intermarry anyone outside of Israel. Do Dominionists forbid their members from marrying non-Dominionists? If not, why not? Isn’t entering marriage making a covenant?
Notice now, in chapter 6:6-9, also part of “all the words” that Moses spake to Israel that very day, it says:
“These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Notice that Moses repeats that formulaic “The words that I command you this day.” And, in this segment, he commanded Israel to put the word on “frontals” (a phylactery) on their forehead, and write the word on the doorposts of their houses, as well as the gates of their cities.
Do Dominionists wear phylacteries today? If so, I am not aware of it. I have never seen Gentry, I did not see Bahnsen, I have never seen McDurmon or DeMar, or Mathison, etc. wearing a phylactery. Gary North, in Internet pictures of him, most assuredly is not shown wearing a phylactery. Not only that, I would venture to say that not one of these men have the words of Deuteronomy painted or inscribed on the side of the doors of their houses. Yet, North, Bahnsen and other Dominionists insist that Deuteronomy 8 is the magna carta of the Dominionist movement, all the while refusing to obey, “every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God,” and refusing to obey, “These words, which I am commanding you today.” (These were not suggestions – they were commands). Do these men actually believe that “the minutea of the Law,” as Bahnsen expressed it, are actually still binding? No, they are totally inconsistent in their application of what they choose to obey and what they choose to ignore. This is illustrated even more by continuing our look at Deuteronomy.
In chapter 5:1f, Moses summoned all Israel and said to them:
“Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully. 2 The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. 3 The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today…..
12 ‘Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day.”
Notice once again, how Moses emphasized Israel’s responsibility to keep the words that he spoke that day – that would be “all the words.” And then, Moses repeated the Decalogue covenant, which included the seventh day Sabbath mandate.
We will pick up this theme in our next installment. But, the reader can readily see already how totally inconsistent the Dominionist world is in its application of the Law of Moses. When we turn our attention to the observance – or non-observance as the case truly is – of the seventh day Sabbath, the self contractions and utter inconsistencies will become even more glaring, so stay tuned!
Be sure to get yourself a copy of my book, The End of the Law: From Torah To Telos, for a fantastic introductory study of the issue of the seventh day Sabbath and the passing of the Law. You will be amazed at the wealth of information in this book!