The Sabbath Complete

Home » 2021 » June

Monthly Archives: June 2021

Book Review of “The Gospel of Genesis” by Warren Austin Gage

This was first published in 1984, so it has been around for a while. I read a 2001 reprint by Wipf and Stock, and I understand that there is a 2nd edition of 2010 available through Logos. It really is a timeless book, a book for new students of the Bible as well as young pastors preaching for the first time from Genesis. Because this book has persisted on the shelves of bookstores, many favorable reviews have already been written. I’ll especially give a nod to David Schrock for his 2011 review:  (https://davidschrock.com/2011/01/02/reading-genesis-1-11/). I will not summarize the book as others have done so well already.

Gage’s book was a new discovery for me. I’ve been collecting a number of commentaries on Genesis to evaluate their interpretation of the seventh day in the creation narrative. Gage’s thesis that the beginning of God’s revelation of His person and power sets up reverberations of thematic content that continues through the ages and finds its ultimate expression in the first and second advents of Christ. Thus, the things that came first (protology) anticipate things that are future (eschatology). This is not just a literary technique, but the outworking of God’s plan for the world revealed in type and antitype. This is not an entirely new idea, but the terseness and reverence of this book, along with a delightful writing style, makes this a superb introduction to the greatest themes of the Bible.

My interest, and the focus of this analysis, is on the author’s concept of the seventh day of the first week: God’s day of rest or ceasing from the act and process of creation. Notice that I did not call it a Sabbath. But Gage does on occasion. Commenting on Israel’s eventual occupation of Canaan as a place of rest following their inception out of the “chaos” of Egypt, he sees a correlation to the “creative sabbath,” the culmination of God’s power over chaos (p. 21, 67, 77, 84). The thematic correlation of work and rest is discernable and repetitive in Scripture, as the author of Hebrews demonstrates, but Gage’s word choice here is inaccurate. God did not observe the Sabbath. Hebrews correlates creation and Canaan but refers to God’s day of rest as “the seventh day,” a day of “ceasing from works,” or “my rest” (Heb 4:3-10), but not a “Sabbath.” Israel’s ritual of observing the Sabbath is patterned after the creation week, but the creation week was not patterned after the Sabbath. And the genesis of national Israel as a process leading to their Canaan rest was entirely the work of God and not of human effort. There is a significant difference between the divine rest of creation or redemption that man must enter into by faith, and the creaturely commemorative and repetitive sabbatism enjoined upon Israel. Yet Israel was commanded to observe a commemorative rest called the Sabbath, prior to entering Canaan. Of course, this redemptive theme of work and rest is iterated in the redemption of Jesus Christ, as Gage explains: “In conclusion, Christ, the last Adam, is the true image of God… who works redemption and who rests from work in victory” (p. 33).

The Sabbath was a law of the Mosaic covenant with Israel. Gage helpfully distinguishes the law of Moses and the law of Christ, or the relationship between the old and new covenants. He makes five assertions:

  • [The law of] Moses is not a covenant of promise.
  • [The law of] Moses was a covenant of bondage.
  • [The law of] Moses was not a covenant of rest.
  • [The law of] Moses was a covenant of condemnation.
  • [The law of] Moses was a covenant of shadow.

Gage explicitly emphasizes the futility of Sabbath observance due to its repetitive characteristic, the same feature of the sacrificial system. “It was likewise a great irony that the covenant of Moses, which taught so particularly about sabbath and sacrificial rest could realize neither” (p. 37). Following this admirable observation, Gage makes another inaccurate reference to the Sabbath. “It is instructive that Moses can only see from a distance the sabbath rest typified by Canaan. Moses leads the people to the land of promise but he himself cannot enter it.” If Gage meant “sabbath rest” as a metaphor for salvation rest, then I would that he put it in quotes or used “sabbatismos” for clarity. On the same page, Gage is quite precise: “The true Moses, however, is likewise the true Joshua, and Christ leads his people not only victoriously from bondage but also triumphantly into their consummatory rest in paradise” (p. 37). Noting the existence of an unrealized rest in Psalm 95, David does not allude to the weekly Sabbath, but to the Canaan rest that emulates God’s rest at creation. Canaan is frankly a better type of our final empyrean because it was meant to be a continuous (“Today”) and holistic experience of peace with God and freedom from enemies. The Sabbath was but a weekly taste of this as its own type of redemptive rest. Therefore, Canaan rest did not typify Sabbath rest, it typified redemptive or consummative rest. In the same way, Sabbath rest did not typify Canaan rest. All of the rituals and laws of the old covenant involving rest look back to the God’s rest at creation (an unrealized rest) and look forward to the promised rest with God at the consummation of the ages. Moses, who was supposed to lead Israel into rest, was disqualified and prevented from entering the typic Canaan rest. However, since neither Canaan occupancy nor Sabbath observance were the ultimate reality, but only shadows of it, this was no great loss to Moses. Instead, Moses was assured of God’s continuing presence that transcended the rest of Canaan (Ex 33:14). Moses was denied exposure to the face of God, though he knew it was glorious (Ex 33:20). Likewise, Moses could see the promised land but was denied entrance. Moses would die and then rest with the fathers (Deut 31:16). All this typifies the paradisiacal rest of redemption that we by faith have now while awaiting the final revelation of it (Heb 4:3).

One final inaccuracy to mention regards the final stages of the flood. The ark came to rest on Mount Ararat in the seventeenth day of the seventh month. After the waters declined over the next month and a half, mountain tops eventually became visible in the tenth month. Waiting another 40 days, he let a raven out and then a dove. The dove returned, having “found no resting place for her feet.” He waited seven more days before sending out the dove again, but this time the dove did not return to the ark. Noah and his cohabitants remained in the ark up to the first day of the first month of a new year.  But not until the twenty-seventh day of the second month did the Lord give Moses command to open the doors to the ark. There is no weekly pattern in this pericope. Commentators often remark about the fact that Noah waited seven days to send the dove out again, and Gage is no exception. “Noah’s sabbatical wait in the issue of the dove reveals his faith that God alone, who created the first world in six days, can deliver the earth from such an overflow” (p 130). Earlier, Gage sees in the Lord’s warning to Moses a correlation with creation. “God had established the old world in seven days. In seven days he will destroy it. This last sabbath will issue into the destruction of all terrestrial life, and the world will return to darkness and deep. Once again the earth will be waste and void” (p. 122). Just because something takes seven days, does not mean that it is sabbatical. And this does not imply that the seventh day was a Sabbath. There is a thematic correlation between the beginning of creation and the result of the flood, but the creation week was seven days long and the destruction of the earth coursed forty plus days.  

Notwithstanding the above remarks, Gage’s observations are a delight to take in. There are many notable insights and meditations on the text and it exalts the glory of God and His son, Jesus Christ. Make this a part of your library.

%d bloggers like this: