The Portent of the Lord’s Day
By Fred O. Blakely
As the institutions and practices under the law foreshadowed those of grace, so the ones in the dispensation of grace appear to prefigure those to be experienced in glory. That is, of course, as would be expected, given the fact that the divine Father is progressively leading His chosen from the far country of alienation by sin to complete restoration to Himself through Christ His Son. A specific instance of the present witness to the things yet to come is that of the Lord’s Day, with its gathering of the saints to break bread in remembrance of and in fellowship with Christ.
The Previous Typology. The principle of such foreshadowing in the Mosaic era is well established and generally known. Moses himself, as lawgiver, was a type of Christ, through whom God gave His final message to man. Aaron adumbrated Him who is our great High Priest, now appearing in the presence of God. The animal sacrifices offered in token atonement for sin were typical of the better and efficacious blood of Christ, which alone could put it away. Portending the resurrection of Christ as “the Firstfruits” of all the dead’s rising (I Cor. 15:20) was the offering of the firstfruits of the wheat and barley harvests, and the other firstfruit offerings, under the law.
The sabbath, kept by Israel in commemoration of God’s resting on the seventh day after creation (Exod. 20:8-11) and of the nation’s deliverance from the Egyptian bondage (Deut. 5:12-15), prefigured the rest of faith under Christ (Heb. 4:3, 10) and the eternal rest that remains for God’s people (v. 9). The shewbread of the tabernacle and temple, which has also been called “the loaves of the presence,” foreshadowed “the bread which we break” at the Lord’s Table in the weekly communion (I Cor. 10:16).
The Lord’s Day Witness. It is against the background of this Divine procedure of prefigurement that we perceive the witness of the Lord’s Day to something of the glory reserved in Heaven for the faithful. Refreshing it is, of a truth, to the spirit and sustaining to the soul, in the struggles of the faith life, to contemplate that testimony.
On the Lord’s Day, as we gather at His table, we come “in the Spirit,” not merely in the flesh, since it is only in the Spirit that we can meet with God (Phil. 3:3; Rev. 1:10). In that capacity, we dissociate ourselves from the flesh with its infirmities, and corporately meet with Christ in the presence of God, the holy angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect. To the extent that we do this, we have a genuine foretaste of the heavenly life.
Even the outward circumstances associated with the assembly tend to corroborate the inward reality that attends it. The brethren are clad in their “Sunday best,” or ought to be. Everyone is on his very choicest behavior, and the prevailing spirit is one of good cheer and warm congeniality. (At least, that is the way it should be). Clearly, this is an earthly prefigurement of the way that it will be in Heaven. There, perfected saints will mingle in glorified society, with nothing at all to mar or disrupt their fellowship. The Lord’s Day assembly, thus portends that blessed experience.
The witness of the first day of the week, commemorating the resurrection of Christ, Head of the new and abiding creation, is also evident. Although, on the individual level, the brethren constantly experience the communion of the Holy Spirit, living in the fellowship of the Godhead, once every seven days they gather for the group experience as the body of Christ. Hence, once each week the individual pilgrims in the hostile world rally before God to corporately taste of His good Word and of the heavenly gift, partake of the Holy Spirit and of the powers of the world to come (cf. Heb. 6:4-5). So to they nourish and sustain their spirits for another week in the body of their humiliation, and in the world, by partaking, as it were, beforehand of the consummate joys that await them at their journey’s end.
The Compelling Prospect. It is in this view of the Lord’s Day assembly that Paul’s related appeal in the Thessalonian letter can be best appreciated. After describing Christ’s coming and our being “caught up” with the resurrected saints to meet Him “in the air,” he adds a word of great comfort and delight: “So shall we ever be with the Lord” (I Thess. 4:16-18). If we entered more into the intended spirit of the Lord’s Day assembly, we, having had a foretaste of that experience, would more eagerly desire and anticipate its full realization.
In the Second Thessalonian epistle, the Apostle makes the same appeal to the coming glory. Adjuring the church to steadfastness in the faith, he says, “We beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto Him” (2:1). Ah, that is fullness of glory held before us by both Christ and the Apostles—”our gathering together unto Him!” “Wherever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together” (Lk. 17:37).
As we gather weekly at the table of the Lord, let us recognize the occasion as the antepast of the coming fullness of joy and glory. So shall the assembly of the church have the ministry for its participants that is intended by God, and glorify the Son and Himself as it should. So also shall we be able to accord to the day, with the spirit and understanding, John Newton’s words of praise:
“Day of all the week the best,
Emblem of eternal rest.”