Seventh-Day Adventists/The shadow of Colossians 2:16-17


Dear Sal:

In a previous answer you stated that the 7th day Sabbath was a shadow of salvation by grace through faith. You use Colossians 2:16-17 to support this. In Colossians 2:17 it says, "shadow of things to come" which is future tense. Since salvation had already come by the time Paul wrote the Sabbath could not be a shadow of salvation. Yet Paul says, "things to come" so he must be speaking of the other ceremonial Sabbaths of Leviticus 23 not the moral Sabbath of the Ten Commandments.

Have a nice day.

Dear Brother Charles:

Before I deal with your objection I would ask you to reread Leviticus 23:1-4 where the 7th day Sabbath is clearly mentioned along with and on equal terms with the other Sabbaths or appointed times. First we read of the weekly Sabbath and then the other appointed times which are associated with a particular date are listed.

The Lord spoke again to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord’s appointed times which you shall proclaim as holy convocations—My appointed times are these:

3 ‘For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation. You shall not do any work; it is a sabbath to the Lord in all your dwellings.

4 ‘These are the appointed times of the Lord, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at the times appointed for them" (NASB).

Now on to your objection. I appreciate your opinion here, as you rightly note v. 17 does say "things to come" which is future not "things that have come."

"So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ" (Colossians 2:16-17 NKJV).

However, I believe Paul is meaning "things to come" not from his time, but from the institution of the festivals, new moons, and Sabbaths. The yearly, monthly, and weekly special days of Israel were all shadows pointing to Christ. "For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near" (Hebrews 10:1 ESV). The substance of these shadows can only be realized through union with Christ.

"But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God" (Hebrews 9:11-14 ESV).

Paul learned from the Bible and from Jewish society the customary way to list all the holy days of Israel: the yearly festivals, the monthly new moons, and the weekly Sabbaths. There were two common ways to do this. One was to list them all in ascending order, for example:

"Behold, I am about to build a house for the name of the Lord my God and dedicate it to him for the burning of incense of sweet spices before him, and for the regular arrangement of the showbread, and for burnt offerings morning and evening, on the Sabbaths and the new moons and the appointed feasts of the Lord our God, as ordained forever for Israel" (2 Chronicles 2:4 ESV).

"He also appointed the king’s portion of his goods for the burnt offerings, namely, for the morning and evening burnt offerings, and the burnt offerings for the sabbaths and for the new moons and for the fixed festivals, as it is written in the law of the Lord" (2 Chronicles 31:3 NASB).

The other way, the way Paul chose, was to list them in descending order, for example:

"It shall be the prince's duty to furnish the burnt offerings, grain offerings, and drink offerings, at the feasts, the new moons, and the Sabbaths, all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel: he shall provide the sin offerings, grain offerings, burnt offerings, and peace offerings, to make atonement on behalf of the house of Israel" (Ezekiel 45:17 ESV).

"I will also cause all her mirth to cease,Her feast days, Her New Moons, Her Sabbaths—All her appointed feasts" (Hosea 2:11 NKJV).

Paul also learned from the Bible and from Jewish society that all these days stood or fell together because they were all part and parcel of the Old Covenant. Therefore, he calls them "a shadow" not "shadows". The Old Covenant Law was one unit that was nailed to the cross of Christ.

"And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,  having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross" (Colossians 2:13-14 NKJV).

The fact that the Old Covenant Law was ended by Christ's crucifixion Paul restated in a different way.

"But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace" (Ephesians 2:13-15 NASB).  

Further, that it was all that the Old Covenant contained including the 7th day Sabbath that ended at the cross was succinctly stated, "In that He says, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away" (Hebrews 8:13 NKJV). SDAs cannot accept the obvious because it conflicts with their belief. The progression of yearly, to monthly, to weekly proves that "sabbaths" refers to the 7th day Sabbath. In fact SDAs almost always agree with other Christians that Sabbath/Sabbaths in the New Testament refers to the 7th day Sabbath. Their one exception is in this one verse, Colossians 2:16. May I suggest that the reason for this is that SDAs feel they must defend their belief even in the face of the biblical evidence to the contrary?  I believe that Colossians 2:16-17 lends more support to my contention that the 7th day Sabbath is a shadow than to your contention that it is not.  

"So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ" (Colossians 2:16-17 NKJV).  

God Be With You,
Brother Sal  

Seventh-Day Adventists

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I am privileged to be able to offer an alternative insight into the complicated world of Seventh-Day Adventists (SDA) theology. I will rely heavily on the Bible, but will also consider history and use logic in exposing deficiencies in SDA teachings. I would ask anyone who is considering becoming a SDA or if you are already in the SDA church, but are searching for the truth, to please allow me to offer a different explanation for the claims of the SDA. Remember : "The truth will set you free" (John 8:32). I can answer your questions pertaining to the beliefs and history of the SDA. I am not able to answer questions concerning spirituality or church discipline.


I have extensively studied the theology of the Seventh-Day Adventists (SDA) for a number of years. I have many books and tape sets produced by experts in this field of study. I have debated current members of the SDA church. I have a great desire to help these people see the truth.

M.S. degree in Food, Nutrition, and Dietetics

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