The Sabbath as an Eschatological Sign of the Covenant
Comparison with other positions
A. The Westminster Confession
The Westminster Confession XXI:7 states: As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord's day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian sabbath.
If the exegesis presented in this paper is correct, the statement that the Sabbath is "a positive, moral and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages" is not Scriptural. I am of the opinion that the Confession ought to be revised to bring it into line with the Scriptural teaching that the Sabbath is an eschatological sign for the covenant community.
The statement that "it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God" (WCF XXI:7) is true. But the observance of a weekly day of rest is not the same thing as the requirement to set aside time for the worship of God. A weekly day of rest may coincide with the appointed worship of the covenant community, but the Sabbath per se is an eschatological sign containing an express promise of rest to those who are given the sign (Heb. 4:9).
I have no problem with the second half of the above paragraph: "which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord's day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian sabbath." That is a very balanced and biblical statement it seems to me. However, I'm not in complete agreement with all of the exegesis that stands behind that statement. Consider Shorter Catechism question 58:
Q. What is required in the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment requireth the keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his Word; expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy sabbath to himself.
According to the Westminster divines, the fourth commandment only sets forth the ratio - "expressly one whole day in seven" is to be kept as a holy Sabbath unto the Lord. But Exodus 20:9-11 clearly requires seventh day observance. The seventh-day Sabbatarians are more faithful exegetes at this point. Although they miss the redemptive historical shift that occurred in the transition from the old covenant to the new, they correctly interpret the fourth commandment itself. The seventh-day Sabbatarians and the first-day Sabbatarians both err, however, in viewing the ten commandments as "a perfect rule of righteousness" binding on all men, including the new covenant people of God. The misguided attempt on the part of first-day Sabbatarians to avoid seventh-day observance in the new covenant age by re-interpreting the fourth commandment as merely setting forth the ratio ought to have pushed them to reconsider the premise that the ten commandments are a summary of the timeless moral law of God.
Perhaps the gravest error in the divines' handling of the fourth commandment is that they seem to suggest that it doesn't make much difference whether the Sabbath is observed on Saturday or Sunday. The implication seems to be that while the day may have changed, the nature of the Sabbath itself has not. The change of day is a superficial matter of outward administration, thus blurring the sharp contrast between the works principle inherent in the old covenant Sabbath (work, then rest) and the faith principle inherent in the new covenant Lord's Day (rest, then work).
In the Puritan view of the Sabbath there is nothing "new" about the new covenant day of rest. It is just the same, old covenant Sabbath, shifted to Sunday. As one who has come to appreciate the redemptive historical nature of the Scriptures, I believe this approach is deficient. A proper redemptive historical consideration of this subject demands that we consider the significance of the change in terms of the epochal transition from the old covenant to the new, from a covenant of works to be kept by Israel, to the covenant of works fulfilled by Christ.
In addition, the Confession tends to reduce the Sabbath command to the issue of the "when" of worship, thus ignoring or downplaying the eschatological significance of the Sabbath. I am not alone is detecting a weakness in the presentation of the Sabbath in the Westminster Standards.
美国正统长老会的总会（OPC General Assembly）安息日委员会的报告同样指出，威敏思特标准缺乏关于安息日之末世意义的教导：
The OPC General Assembly Report of the Committee on Sabbath Matters points out the lack of any teaching on the eschatological significance of the Sabbath:
The weekly Sabbath is an eschatological sign. This truth, central to the teaching of Hebrews 3:7- 4:13 as well as fundamental to the entire biblical revelation concerning the Sabbath, does not find expression in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. The reason for this would appear to be that the Standards mention the Sabbath commandment primarily in terms of its bearing on the more specific matter of public and private worship.
I suspect that this non-eschatological view of the Sabbath is part of the reason why the authors of the Confession thought that the Sabbath was applicable to the unbeliever. If you begin by defining the Sabbath as a day set aside for the worship of God, it makes sense to argue that, since all men are obligated to worship God, they are obligated also to set aside the day in order to fulfill that duty. The medieval, theocratic notion of Christendom that the divines inherited from the magisterial reformers undoubtedly played a role in this thinking. All of society has an obligation to attend public worship. The Sabbath is merely the day when all of society must "shut down" in order to ensure (by means of "blue law" legislation) that public worship is attended by all.
But if the Sabbath is fundamentally a sign of our eschatological rest, with worship being a realized dimension of that eschatological rest, it becomes clear that the Sabbath belongs only to those who are entering that rest by faith. This in turn sharpens our view of what is really taking place in the church's worship. Worship isn't a societal duty grounded in creation, but a covenant meeting of the whole church both militant and triumphant, accompanied by myriads of angels, with the Sabbath-enthroned Lord Jesus Christ in heaven. A sharper distinction between church and society, between the city of God and the city of man, leads to a much more exalted view both of worship and of the Sabbath. Indeed, the Sabbath then becomes a sign of the covenant which distinguishes God's people from the world, demonstrating that the church is a pilgrim people living not for this passing age, but for the glory of the age to come.