The Seventh Day: Strengthening Our Hope for the Eschaton

“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” (Gen. 2:1–3).

In the first six days of creation the Sovereign Lord combatted the primordial chaos and darkness over the earth (Gen. 1:2) by means of divine fiats: “Let there be…” In these six days God worked toward an appointed goal: rest. “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” (2:2). On the seventh day the creation account reaches its climax; it was to this end that God was working toward all along. This then sets the eschatological goal toward which all of creation was to arrive at under Adam’s representative rule as he carried out his dominion mandate (1:28). In other words, the consummation of creation will coincide with the entirety of creation under Adam’s headship entering into God’s rest.

In a previous article I argued that “the garden of Eden was not just some Mesopotamian farmland, but an archetypal sanctuary or a temple-garden.” To develop this further, we recognize that there is an inextricable relationship established in Genesis 1–2 between the temple and rest.[1] G. K. Beale fleshes this out,

Resting is best understood as the enjoyment of a position of sovereign rule in a cosmic temple, after the quelling of chaotic forces. … God has “blessed the seventh day and set it apart” so that his people would commemorate his assumption of kingship and beginning rule over the cosmic temple, which he had created.[2]

Rest will also come to be tethered to other Old Testament realities: the promised land of Canaan, the Davidic dynasty, and the city of Jerusalem.

Adam Called to Imitate God’s Seven-Day Pattern

Adam’s commission in Genesis 1:28 as the image of God clearly involved reflecting God’s activity narrated in Genesis 1 in at least two ways. First, just as God subdued and ruled over the chaos at the inception of creation, so Adam was to subdue and rule over the earth. Second, just as God created and filled the earth, so Adam was to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”[3] Meredith Kline writes,

The imitation-of-God principle was to find embodiment in the overall pattern of the history of man’s kingdom labor in that this history was stamped with and composed of seven-day cycles in which Adam was to imitate the pattern of God’s activities during the creation week.[4]

Geerhardus Vos draws out a complementary insight,

Man is reminded in this way that life is not an aimless existence, that a goal lies beyond. This was true before, and apart from, redemption. The eschatological is an older strand in revelation than the soteric.[5]

This implies that Adam’s work was to culminate in the same activity that God’s activity culminated in, namely, rest. “The principle underlying the Sabbath,” writes Vos, “consists in this, that man must copy God in his course of life. The divine creative work completed itself in six days, whereupon the seventh followed as a day of rest for God.”[6]

Just as God did not enter into perpetual boredom or idleness on the seventh day, the Sabbath

stands for consummation of a work accomplished and the joy and satisfaction attendant upon this. Such was its prototype in God. Mankind must copy this, and that not only in the sequence of daily existence as regards individuals; but in its collective capacity through a large historic movement. For mankind, too, a great task awaits to be accomplished, and at its close beckons a rest of joy and satisfaction that shall copy the rest of God.[7]

It could even be stated more impressively in light of Hebrews 3–4 that not only does man enjoy a copy or shadow of God’s rest, but he comes to enjoy God’s very own rest in Christ.

The rest of God, the consummation of redemption mentioned in Ps 95:11, of which the eventual possession of Canaan was only a shadow or type, and which the New Covenant people of God are presently seeking to enter—this rest is none other than the rest of God at creation. Eschatological redemption-rest is not merely an analogue of God’s creation-rest. … Rather, the writer knows of only one rest, “my rest,” entered by God at creation and by believers at the consummation. [8]

The observance of every seventh day was to recall God’s seventh day of resting, and this observance of every seventh day apparently was to remind humanity of a final, eternal Sabbath rest without morning or evening that would no longer need to be repeated. “That is, the ultimate goal of humanity was to enter into the kind of consummative rest into which God himself had entered (Gen. 2:2).”[9]

God Blessed the Seventh Day

In light of the above discussion, the insights of Gerard Van Groningen in his 3-volume work From Creation to Consummation on Genesis 2:3 are on point. He considers the two actions of God in blessing the seventh day and making it holy. So, first, what is the consequence of God blessing the seventh day?

By blessing the day [God] declared the day was not to be a mere token of work ceased and a time to be idle. Rather, God declared the day to be a time of expectation, of fruitfulness and assurance. The day was to give a grand perspective for the future. The day was to be a time of receiving benefits for life, physically, morally, spiritually, week by week. The day was to give assurance that it was a harbinger for the never-ending day of completion, the day of consummation for the cosmos. Thus, in the term “blessed,” as applied to the seventh day, we are given the great eschatological perspective and the assurance that the eschaton will be realized even as God’s seventh day was a reality after six days of creative activity. There should therefore be no doubt in anyone’s mind and heart that God’s creating work did not have the seventh day as a goal only for himself, nor that the seventh day is to be specifically for people to keep, as indeed they should. But, most important, there should be no doubt about God including the consummation in his overall plan when he planned and actually did his creating work. The eschaton (end) was included in the beginning. Eschatology commenced with creation.[10]

And Made it Holy

Second, what does it mean for the seventh day that God made it holy?

The seventh day as a holy day is a special day. It is not to be considered as any of the other six days of activities devoted to serving and honoring God. The seventh day is special particularly because it is the blessed day. People are commanded to keep this day special (Exod. 20:9–10) so that they can continuously concentrate on the wonderful goal God has determined for his people and the cosmos as a whole. The day is for regaining, if it was dimmed while working, and strengthening the hope for the eschaton.[11]

[1] Note the creation of the tabernacle also culminates in rest (Exod. 31:12–17).

[2] G. K. Beale, New Testament Biblical Theology, 796–97.

[3] Ibid., 776.

[4] Meredith Kline, Kingdom Prologue, 78.

[5] Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology, 140.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Gaffin, “A Sabbath Rest Still Awaits the People of God,” in Pressing Toward the Mark, 39.

[9] Beale, New Testament Biblical Theology, 781.

[10] Gerard Van Groningen, From Creation to Consummation, 36.

[11] Ibid., 37.

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