The Dais or “Judgment Seat”
of God and His Christ
ADAM, in Eden’s garden, observed every day, for he had no need to labor and toil and sweat for his living. But the entrance of sin changed all that. His own vitality was impaired by the operation of death, and the fertility of the cursed ground decreased so that it demanded a life of work and weariness, (Gen. 3:17-19). Yet sin is not eternal, nor are its effects final. It is only a temporary intruder. Indeed, through it, mankind will be brought to a place and position of felicity far beyond that enjoyed by Adam and his wife in Eden. Along with the abolition of death and dying (1 Cor.15:26) will come surcease from sorrow and slavery to the soil. Then, again, every day will be dedicated to the Deity.
In that glorious future, the very thought of toil and travail will vanish from our minds, for we will be endued with a vigor which will find no task too tiring and no work too wearisome. We will not need a period of rest for recuperation. In effect it will be a continual sabbath, not of cessation merely, but of freedom from everything that would impair our overflowing vitality. To put it another way, we will set aside no day for a sabbath, because we are at ease at all times. Enforced cessation would only irk us and be an intolerable hindrance to our tireless activities.
This is what all who have made Paul’s evangel theirs by faith already have in spirit. We look forward to the new creation, and attain it now by faith insofar as our flesh will allow. But the sabbath is only a shadow of things to come, in the regeneration, when Israel will cease their own works and rest in Jehovah’s salvation. It is limited to this creation. it will find its fulfillment in the millennium, when Israel, the nation to whom it was given, will cease to strive in their own strength for the blessings of God, after their week of weary work, seeking to earn their living by law-keeping and dead works.
It was exceedingly important that Israel keep the sabbath holy, because of the great necessity of enforcing the lesson it was designed to teach. Israel was confident that they could do all that Jehovah demanded, so had to be taught their own impotence. Hence Jehovah insisted on one day in which they should cease their doing. But, alas! they often did not even “do” this! Their utter failure in grasping the spirit of the sabbath-cessation was their undoing. Even today many imagine that it is only a wise and beneficial arrangement to give men a day of rest for recreation and recuperation in order to continue working. But sabbath, in Hebrew, does not mean rest, but cease. It does not foreshadow a period in which Israel will rest up for further effort, but a final cessation of all working for God’s favor.
Living in Jerusalem, one is impressed with the zeal with which the various religions keep their weekly holy day. The Mohammedans observe Friday, the Jews Saturday and the Christians Sunday. It is bewildering to those who consider such things seriously. Yet it is hardly less confusing to the infirm in faith in Christian lands, where the churches observe Sunday, the first day of the week, instead of Saturday, the last. To the intelligent student, this is incongruous, for the sabbath (as Sunday is called) does not come before, but after Israel has done its work. A cessation in working cannot come before work has begun. It must come after. Sunday cannot foreshadow the future sabbatism (Heb.4:9). Work cannot stop before it has begun. Sunday is a heathen holy day dedicated to the worship of the sun, and has no claim on Bible believers.
Although I have not done so for the most of my life, I imagine that a rest of one day in seven is beneficial. But that could be any day, whereas the law calls for the seventh, and not any other. From this, it is evident that the sabbath is not a mere humanitarian arrangement to mitigate the severities of the curse, but is definitely incorporated into God’s great curriculum to teach the blessedness of entire dependence on God for salvation apart from works, and to foreshadow the era when this will first find its fulfillment. It was a vital part of Israel’s religion, and had to be enforced, if the lesson it was to teach was to be learned.
WE OBSERVE EVERY DAY
But just the reverse is true in our case, if we are confirmed in the truth, and not infirm. If the epistle to the Romans has been believed, then our works have no place in our salvation. Our justification is by faith, apart from works. What need is there of a sabbath to teach us this? Especially when the experience of Israel for thousands of years failed to do so. Already, so far as salvation is concerned, we do not work on any day. We ceased work when we believed, and do not expect to resume. We have the reality, of which the sabbath is only a shadow. We cannot keep on ceasing each week, because we do not work on other days either. For us, every day is “Sunday” already.
Consequently, outwardly we need not observe any day, but inwardly, in spirit, in reality, we must keep every day! And this corresponds to the blessed future for us, when, clothed with life and power, we will set aside every day to the Deity. In the midst of ceaseless activity, we can observe unceasing cessation, and utter idleness, as far as our salvation is concerned. Hardly a day passes in which I do not approach exhaustion of my physical strength, and yet I never move my finger in order to win salvation. Only on Sundays I reserve what strength I have for a talk to the saints, and relax as much as possible thereafter, lest I deplete my vitality to such a degree that I can do no work at all.
Those who strive to keep the law for salvation are really breaking the sabbath on seven days even while observing the sabbath or Sunday on one of them. That which was intended to teach cessation from dead works altogether, is itself made a lifeless effort. But it is not given to many to see the true spiritual import of the sabbath in the light of God’s ultimate, as shown in Paul’s writings, so it is not possible for them to act in accordance therewith. Judging will not help them now, in their ignorance and mortality. They need sympathetic nurture, that they may no longer be minors, but attain the maturity that is theirs in Christ. Then they will gladly, in spirit, devote every day to God, and, even on the sabbath or Sunday, worship Him with liberty and love, not in bondage and fear.
LIGHT WILL COME AT THE DAIS
The illumination and manifestation which will take place at the dais will play an important part in transforming us all. None of us will remain infirm in faith, because it will be replaced by sight. We will no longer be mortal minors, but become immortal and mature. It may be then that we will lose a measure of reward because of our failure to observe every day by resting in God, but our overwhelming joy in our immortality and future will be so great that no forfeit will be able to make any great diminution in our felicity.
Many of us would be glad if such a glorious condition were already the portion of the saints. But this is not the proper time. Now we play a part which is vital, not so much for us and our happiness, but for the whole creation. God’s grace is glorious when it saves sinners who have no deserts, but it is even more brilliant when it operates among saints who have some knowledge of God, and yet fail to live up to His gracious gratuities.
Our inward sabbatism leaves us much liberty. We may labor or loaf on any day, except when our conduct might injure others. In the darkness of our times, one who works on Sunday might stumble infirm saints, especially church-goers, and keep them from even considering the treasures we may wish to share with them. So it may be wisest to dedicate our efforts on that day to definite work in disseminating His Word, or other work of this kind, to which the religious have no objection, and a part of it to physical relaxation if our frames have need of it. Judging our brethren might offend them. Such a course may help them.
We should always consider our brethren, lest our liberties become liabilities. We should pursue peace and avoid strife. We should seek to build up, not to tear down. Preceding the dais, the saints are mortal and infirm, and easily stumbled and snared, even by that which is right and proper. We should never force conduct beyond the realm of faith. It has no value in God’s sight and is dangerous for mortals. In Paul’s epistles conduct is not inculcated until after the basis for it has been set forth. The first half of Ephesians is concerned with doctrine to be believed, and the latter part with precepts to be obeyed. Let us not push any saint beyond the pace of his faith. Let us wait, if need be, until the dais, when he will be immortal.
The faith which we have in God’s sight is the rule for our own behavior, not for others whose faith is infirm. Even correct conduct is a mistake if it is not rooted in faith. It is like the dead works of the Circumcision, the upright behavior of the religionist, who seeks to save himself by his flawless deportment. Only contact with God through His Word can give our actions that quality which is acceptable to God. For ourselves, may we enjoy the happiness of those who do not judge themselves in that which they do, and so keep our conscience clear; but for others, we must leave the judging to One Who is more competent to discern the heart and so deal with sympathy and appreciation.
This is especially incumbent on those who consider themselves among the able, and others as belonging to the infirm. What the weak need is strength, not criticism. They need help, not hindrance. They need edification, not destruction. To this end, those who are able are to consider the infirm rather than themselves, and to behave with a view to their edification, rather than their own pleasure. They observe every day as a sabbath in their spirits before God, even if they keep Sunday, a heathen holy day, outwardly, in view of religious Christendom.
A. E. Knoch
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