Seven / Seventy – Sabbath Rest and New Creation Motifs Found in the Beginnings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

Seven / Seventy Sabbath Rest and New Creation in the Beginnings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

By Michael J. Sullivan

The OT is filled with numerological significance pointing us back to the seven days of creation and Sabbath rest for the people of God.  The NT points us to a New Covenant (NC) New Creation rest for the people of God. 

Leviticus 26:43/2 Chronicles 36:21/Daniel 9:24-27

When Israel disobeyed the covenant it is said, “The land will be abandoned by them, and will make up for its Sabbaths while it is made desolate without them.” (Lev. 26:43).
In Second Chronicles we read, “All the days of its desolation, it kept Sabbath to fulfill Sabbath to fulfill seventy years” (2 Chron. 36:21 NSAB).  Some have pointed out that the seventy years is a rounded number and that the literal years were either 66-67.
As those 70 years of captivity were ending and the land had received its Sabbath rest, Daniel is given a prophetic time pointing to Messiah concerning a period of 70 weeks in which there would be a greater rest and restoration of Israel.  Jesus is the new Cyrus delivering from the bondage of sin and raising His people from the graves of sin-death.  And this partial restoration back into the land as typified through Nehemiah and Ezra, was a eschatological gathering “in Christ” at the end of the OC age in AD 70 (Matt. 13:39-43, 49; 24:30-31—25:31-46).  I believe it is a mistake for both futurists and preterists to take the 70 weeks of Daniel 9:24-27 literally to be 490 years.  Jesus posits the end to the seventy weeks and redemption at the fall of Jerusalem (Matt. 24:15/Dan. 9:27, Luke 21:27-32) and there is no way of having this working out to be a literal 490 years.
Lee Irons and Meredith Kline are correct on the points I quote here,
“The seventy “weeks” (literally “sevens”) comprise a definite period of time until the coming of the Messiah and the destruction of Jerusalem…a period that is actually longer than a literal 490 years.”
…the point of the seventy weeks is not to provide a precise chronological prediction but to make the profound theological point that the coming of Christ and the abrogation of the Old Covenant order will usher in the eschatological Sabbath rest for the people of God.”[1]
For those that would want to find a literal number or follow the recapitulation structure of Jesus as the new Israel fulfilling the OT promises, perhaps a rounded number of 70 years from Jesus’ birth as King in the fleshly world of the OC system and then Him being raised in the NC world in the Spirit can be seen whereby Jesus fulfills all of the promises of the Law and Prophets to His return in AD 70 (cf. Luke 21:20-22/1 Pet. 4:4-12/1 Cor. 10:11).  During these 70 years faith in Jesus as King and Messiah was restoring and transforming Israel into a spiritual heavenly country/land/rest or another “day approaching” of Sabbath rest connected to His imminent return in AD 70 (Heb. 3-4, 10:25-37).          

Matthew 1:1-17 The Sabbath Genealogy

Matthew’s audience is primarily Jewish and his mission is to prove that Jesus is the Messiah the OT Scriptures foretold would come and save Israel from her sins.  Once again Mr. Irons and Kline are helpful to understand the structure of Matthew’s genealogy,
“Similarly, in his genealogy of Christ, Matthew employs sabbatical theology to structure history.  He purposely dropped at least four names and counted David twice to construct a sabbatical structure of the history of redemption from Abraham to the Messiah.  He states that from Abraham to David is 14 generations; from David to the captivity is 14 generations; and from the captivity to Messiah, 14 generations (Matt.1:17).  This was intentional:  the author purposely wanted to stress this numerical system, primarily because of its sabbatical symbolism (3×14 = 6×7); the generations of the Messiah represents the seventh seven, thereby showing that it is He who inaugurates the ultimate Sabbath rest for the people of God, the eschatological age.  Matthew employs sabbatical symbolism to underscore one of his major themes:  the Messiah’s advent constitutes the apex and fulfillment of redemptive history.”[2]   

Mark 1-2 Lord of the Sabbath

G.K. Beale I think correctly connects the beginning of Matthew (and by extenstion Mark’s gospel) with a baptism by John in Jordan as not just a descriptions of the new exodus, but pointing us back to Genesis 1 as well,
“Just as Israel was led by Moses and had to go through the sea to enter the promised land, and just as the second generation had to do the same thing at the Jordan River under Joshua’s leadership, as a miniature second exodus, so again, now that Israel’s restoration is imminent through Jesus, true Israelites must again identify with the water and the Jordan and their prophetic leader in order to begin to experience true restoration.
This is also in fulfillment of the prophecies of Israel’s restoration as a second exodus through water (Isa. 11:15;43:2, 16-17; 44:27-28; 50:2; 51:9-11), especially through rivers (Isa. 11:15; 42:15; 43:2; 44:27; 50:2).  The picture of a separation of waters in conjunction with mention of God’s Spirit and of God placing people in a new land seems to go all the way back to Genesis.  Gen. 1:2 refers to “the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters,” and 1:9 says, “Then God said, ‘Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear’; and it was so.”  Then Adam and his wife are made in God’s image to rule over, multiply upon, and fill the dry land of the earth (Gen. 1:26-28).[3]
We are also quickly introduced in next chapter that Jesus is “Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mk. 2:27) and that in the miracle of the paralytic Jesus has the power to forgive sins (taking us back to overcoming “the sin” in Adam).  In Christ and His miracles (even those performe on the Sabbath as developed later), is found the true meaning and fulfillment of the Sabbath. 

Luke 1:35 New Creation / Last Adam

Jesus’ birth in Luke 1 with a description of the Holy Spirit “overshadowing” Marry in (Luke 1:35) takes us back to the Holy Spirit hovering over the waters in Genesis 1:2.  Unlike Matthew, Luke begins his genealogy connecting Jesus with Adam (Lk. 3:21-37). Thus, Jesus is the Last Adam in whom the New Creation promises found in the Law and Prophets are fulfilled – and likewise those united to Him in faith are also identified (Isa. 65-66/2 Cor. 5:17/Rev. 21-22).
In Psalm 90:2-3 man or Adam returning to dust points us back to the mortality of Adam.  The thousand years of God’s day depicts the opposite – God’s immortality and eternity.  Some of the numbers thrown out by the Jews to depict the “days of Messiah” were 40, 70 and 1,000.  The 40 for recapitulating the exodus under Moses.  The 70 perhaps to indicate a recapitulation of the Babylonian exile/restoration, a anti-type of King David (living to be 70 years; Isa. 23:15 LXX pointing to Ps. 90:10/Ps. 72)[4] and perhaps 70 in connection with a 1,000 to represent the years Adam failed in his probationary period to reach a 1,000 (930 + 70) = 1,000:
“The number one thousand is derived from Jub.4:29–30, which alludes to Isa. 65:22 LXX (“the days of my people will be as the days of the tree of life; they will long enjoy the fruits of their labors”): “Adam died … he lacked seventy years of one thousand years; for one thousand years are as one day [Ps. 90:4] in the testimony of the heavens, and therefore was it written concerning the tree of knowledge: ‘On the day you eat of it you will die.’ For this reason he did not complete the years of this day; for he died during it.” Jubilees understands that the ideal life of the probationary period (“day”) in Eden should have been one thousand years (so also Midr. Rab. Gen. 19.8; Midr. Rab. Num. 5.4; Midr. Ps. 25.8 on the basis of Psalm 90). The Jubilees text concludes that the future messianic reign must achieve what Adam did not because Adam did not live one thousand years, because Isa. 65:22 prophesied that the messianic age will last as long as the ideal meant for the first paradise (likewise Test. Levi18:8–13), and because of Ps. 90:4 (the Jubilees tradition of the ideal millennial span of the first paradise is reflected in Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 5.23:2). At least in part, Jub.23:27–30 was influenced to conceive of this millennium figuratively by the Psalm 90 formula, whereas early church fathers like Justin Martyr (Dialogue 81) used the same reasoning to formulate a literal premillennial perspective (cf. likewise Hippolytus, Commentary on Daniel 2.4–6, and possibly Methodius, Banquets of the Ten Virgins 9.1; Extracts from the Work on Things Created 9, though they may reflect a similar line of interpretation as in Barnabas15 or perhaps Irenaeus).[5] 
Again perhaps there is some providential and historical/numerological significance of Jesus’ birth to His parousia being roughly 70 years (AD 70). He is the Last Adam and completes what was lacking in Adam (930 Adam) + (70 Last Adam) = 1,000 representing eternal life/Sabbath rest at Christ’s Parousia at the end of the millennium with entrance into the New Creation being granted (1 Cor. 15/Heb. 3-4; 10:25-37/Rev. 20-22).           

John 1 – 4 Seven Days / New Creation Motif

While a postmillennial partial preterist, David Chilton observed that the Gospel of John begins declaring Christ and His followers to be the new-covenant creation foretold in the old-testament scriptures:
“In many more ways, Edenic imagery is taken up and expanded in the New Testament, which records the fulfillment of the promises of the New Creation in Christ.  An obvious passage, of course, is John’s prologue (John 1:1-18), which begins where Genesis does:  “In the beginning.”  We see the same concepts – the Word, creation, life, the light shining in darkness and overcoming it; and John says of Christ that He dwelt (literally, tabernacled) among us, and we beheld His glory” (John 1:14; cf. Ex. 40:34).  John’s point here is to demonstrate that Jesus Christ is the full revelation of God’s presence with His people (cf. Matt. 1:23). But John’s entire Gospel is built on Old Testament imagery.  For example, the passage following his Prologue (John 1:19-2:11) contains a subtle, seven-day structure that is meant to remind us of the original seven days of creation (as well as numerous other Old Testament parallels).  On the first day, John the Baptist appears as “a voice of one crying in the wilderness” (1:23; cf. Gen. 1:2-3).  The next day, as Jesus is baptized (baptism is a recapitulation of two Old Testament re-creation events:  the Flood [1Pet. 3:20-21] and the Red Sea crossing [1Cor. 10:1-2]), the Spirit descends with wings, hovering and fluttering over the waters of the New Creation – and He comes as a dove, the winged messenger that announced to Noah the re-creation of the world 91:32-33; cf. gen. 8:11).  The passage continues with other creation-images, and turning the water  (cf. Gen.1:2ff.) into wine – the best wine (John 2:1-11).  The blessing is superabundant, more than is necessary (about 150 gallons), as a forerunner of the promised blessings of the Garden which would come through Him (Gen. 49:10-12; Isa. 25:6; Amos 9:13-14; Jer.33:10-11).  Just before He does this, He mentions the hour of His Atonement.  And thus, by this miracle on the Seventh Day, Jesus “manifested His glory” (John 2:11) – just as God had done by His enthronement in the Cloud on the first Sabbath.  But when God is seated at rest upon His throne, He sits as Judge, examining His Creation-Temple; and when He first found wickedness therein, He cleansed it, banishing the offenders (Gen. 3:24).  Similarly, the next event in John’s Gospel shows the Lord assessing the Temple and coming in Judgment against those who defiled it (John 2:12-22).  (The Sabbath is when we appear before God’s throne of judgment to be examined; and if we are approved, we enter into His Rest [Heb. 3-4]).  The people in the Temple on this Sabbath were guilty, and He banished them in a terrifying- and noisy – manifestation of judgment; an image of the first and final Days of the Lord (see below, Chapter 15).  He then declared His body – Himself personally and His Body the Church – to be the true Temple (John 2:18-22), for the physical resurrection of Christ’s body is the foundation for His people’s being constituted as the Temple (Ephs. 1:20; 2:5-6, 19-22; 1Cor. 3:10-11, 16-17).  As God’s Temple, the Church is re-admitted to Eden and filled with the Spirit and glory of God (Ex. 40:34; Num. 9:15; Joel 2:28-31; Acts 2:1-4, 16-21).  The Church is God’s new Garden-Temple, restored to God’s original mandate for man:  to have dominion over the earth, expanding the Garden until it covers the whole earth.  In remaking us in His image, God has given us His presence.  He has taken up residence in His Temple, and has promised to be with us as we fulfill His command to the ends of the earth (Matt.28:18-20).”[6]
Those who believed in Jesus during His earthly ministry had the “already” aspect of “eternal life” but those who rejected Jesus, the wrath of God abided upon them verse 36.  There is also a corporate aspect to the OC kingdom needing to be born again or transformed into the New, of which Nicodemus whom was a teacher of Israel should have understood from the teachings of (Ezk.36-37; Isa.44:1-4).  Jesus Himself was not born again until His resurrection (Acts 13:33; Col.1:18).  The Church as a corporate body and the restored new Israel of God needed to recapitulate what Christ had undergone and “fill up what was lacking in the sufferings of Christ” and thus be raised, transformed, and born again as well – this occurring in A.D. 70.
In the beginnings of each of the gospels it is evident that Jesus is the fulfillment of and recapitulates Israel’s 40 years generation exodus, the 70 years of exile and Sabbath rest for the land raising Israel from the dead and placing God’s people “in Christ,” and fulfills the New Creation promises found in the Law and Prophets — from Genesis 1-Revelation 21-22.  We have entered Christ’s eschatological Sabbath Rest/Presence at His Return in AD 70 in the NC age and it is truly glorious!

[1] Lee Irons, Meredith Kline, J. Ligon Duncan, David W. Hall, Hugh Ross, Gleason L. Archer, THE GENESIS DEBATE Three Views on the Days of Creation, (Mission Viejo, CA:  Crux Press, Inc., 2001).
[2] Ibid. 227.
[4]  John Gill’s Commentary, Online Bible CD. “…or kingdom, the Babylonish kingdom, which lasted so long in Nebuchadnezzar’s family; whose family, he himself, his son, and son’s son, are here meant, as Aben Ezra thinks; and seems to be the more commonly received sense; though Kimchi and others understand it of the days of a man, which are seventy years, #Ps 90:10 and so it is added in the Septuagint version, “as the time of a man”; which perhaps was a marginal note, way of explanation, and crept into the text. Jarchi is of opinion King David is meant, whose age was seventy years, though he is at a loss to give a reason for this his opinion; but Kimchi suggests one, and that is, the covenant which was between Hiram king of Tyre and David; and this is mentioned to put the Tyrians in mind of the breach of it, which had brought desolation upon them; some understand this of the King Messiah {i}:  T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 99. 1. Yalkut Simeoni in Psal. lxxii. fol. 112. 2.
[5] Beale, G. K. (1999). The book of Revelation: A commentary on the Greek text. New International Greek Testament Commentary (1019). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.
[6] David Chilton, PARADISE RESTORED A BIBLICAL THEOLOGY OF DOMINION, (Ft. Worth, TX:  Dominion Press, 1985) bold emphasis added 61-63.