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Sabbaths and Ages

Jul 13, 2011

For those who are still hesitant that the "God of the Ages" puts no limitation on God, the same might be said of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Does that limit God to those three men, or perhaps to their descendants only? Is He not also "the God of the whole earth," as Isaiah 54:5 says?

Being the God of the Ages is no more limiting than being the God of Abraham. It simply focuses our attention to a particular aspect of God's character or being. In this case, He is the God of Time as well as the God of eternity. To put it another way, He is the Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:8), because the Sabbath laws are really about His use and regulation of Time.

In fact, His sovereignty over Time indicates sovereignty over history and all that has gone on in the earth since the beginning. He created Time to limit the duration of sin and death for all who have entered that realm. He has retained the right to say, "Enough! It is finished! It is done!" He has retained the right to declare a Jubilee that cancels all debt (sin), whether or not there is still more debt to pay.

Time is not a limitation on God. It is a limitation on sin and death. Mortality is the first-born son of death, whose job is to limit time spent under the burden of Adam's sin. God denied men access to the Tree of Life in Gen. 3:22, so that they would not live as immortal sinners who continue in sin forever. Our flesh, however, has a survival instinct and chafes at such limitations. But God, who knows the end from the beginning, and who loves His creation, has built limitations into the universe as a Mercy Factor.

A Sabbath is a brief cessation in the overall labor mandate. Every seventh year there was to be a greater Sabbath, where the land itself rested from its labor. Every 49 years a Jubilee was declared, where the rest-principle reached its apex and all debtors were able to get a new start by entering God's rest.

So also did God divide Time into ages, based in various ways upon His Sabbath revelation. We see this manifested in the life of Jacob, who was born in the 43rd Jubilee year from Adam. He went to labor for Laban when he was 77, after a Sabbath year. He labored three Sabbath cycles, the first two of them to obtain his wives. When he left Laban's house in the third Sabbath year (after 20 years of labor), he wrestled with the angel at the age of 98. It was his second Jubilee since his birth and the 45th Jubilee from Adam. He died at the age of 147 (Gen. 47:28) in the 46th Jubilee from Adam.

It was commonly believed in Hebrew circles that the seven days of creation prophesied of 7,000 years of history according to the Great Sabbath--where a day was as a thousand years (Psalm 90:4). We see this mentioned also in 2 Peter 3:8 in connection to "the day of the Lord" and the "elements" being dissolved.

Peter was not expressing a new idea. He was actually refuting Epicurus, the Greek philosopher, who taught that "the universe has always been the same as it now is, and always will be the same." Peter denies this, saying that God has established a Great Sabbath system of Time in order that the imperfect world order may come to an end.

Out of that foundational revelation in Psalm 90:4, where a day is as a thousand years, came the idea of the Messianic Age, often called "The Age" or "The Age to come." Not only Peter but also Barnabas writes in chapter 15,

"Attend, my children, to the meaning of this expression, 'He finished it [creation] in six days.' This implieth that the Lord will finish all things in six thousand years, for a day is with Him a thousand years. Therefore, my children, in six days, that is, in six thousand years, all things will be finished. 'And He rested on the seventh day.' This meaneth: when His Son, coming [again], shall destroy the wicked man, and judge the ungodly, and change the sun, and the moon, and the stars, then shall He truly rest on the seventh day."

Barnabas contemplated a great Sabbath Millennium, wherein the earth would receive its rest by the law of the Lord of Time. Likewise, others in those early days understood this concept of the Sabbath Millennium. He is mentioned by Anastasius Sinaita, who writes:

"Taking occasion from Papias of Hierapolis, the illustrious, a disciple of the apostle who leaned on the bosom of Christ, and Clemens, andPantaenus the priest of [the church] of the Alexandrians, and the wiseAmmonius, the ancient and first expositors, who agreed with each other, who understood the work of the six days as referring to Christ and the whole Church."

After them came Irenaeus (120-203 A.D.), bishop of what is now Lyons, France, wrote a book about 180 A.D. called Against Heresies, where he said:

"and the number is six hundred and sixty-six, that is, six times a hundred, six times ten, and six units. [He gives this] as a summing up of the whole of that apostasy which has taken place during six thousand years."

"For in as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded..."

"For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years; it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end at the sixth thousand year." (Book V, xxviii, 2, 3)

Gradually, however, the Greek allegorical method of interpretation replaced Hebrew thought patterns as the Gospel spread into Greek culture. The concept of the Sabbath Millennium was spiritualized and allegorized in such a way that the Sabbath law no longer applied to history or to the end of the age.

One of the main arguments against the idea of the Millennial Age is based upon the fact that chilia, the word for "thousand," is technically plural. Hence, they say, the saints of the first resurrection will reign with Christ for "thousands" of years (Rev. 20:4-6). However, Greek grammar demands that the adjective must agree with the noun that it describes. Hence, in the phrase "thousand years," the word "years" is plural, and so demands a plural adjective "thousands."

For this reason also,1 Peter 3:8 says "one day is as a thousand [chilia] years, and a thousand [chilia] years as one day." The same is true in Rev. 11:3 (the 1,260 days) and in Rev. 7, where we see the number of the tribes of Israel by 144 "thousands" [chilia]. Hence, when we go from Greek to English, it is not proper to translate it by the same rules of grammar. That is why Bible translators do not translate chilia in the plural in the above passages.

The rabbis in Jesus' day were scrupulous about studying the Sabbath, but they had yet to observe a Jubilee. In their course of study, they came to see a Sabbath Millennium after 6,000 years, but they did not appear to extend this to the great Jubilee after 49,000 years.

The Sabbath DAY was only a temporary rest period until labor continued on the eighth day. Likewise, the Sabbath YEAR was a temporary land rest, wherein also debtors were released from making payments on debt (Deut. 15:1-3). Yet in the eighth year, when they again had incomes, they had to continue paying debts. The Jubilee year, however, cancelled all remaining debt.

Applying this to prophetic history, the Millennium of Revelation 20 is a Sabbath year, but after it comes another age in which the "fiery law" requires unbelievers to pay restitution--until the Creation Jubilee sets them free.


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Dr. Stephen Jones


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