The Shadow Sabbaths of Colossians 2:17

Col 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
Col 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
Col 2:15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
Col 2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
Col 2:17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

What was nailed to the cross? Verse 13 states that those dead in their sinful flesh have been made alive by Christ who forgives all their sins. So in that context, verse 14 is clearly saying that the list of our trespasses, our sins, our breaking of the Ten Commandments is nailed to the cross. We are forgiven of all our sins at the cross. Verse 15 declares victory over the works of Satan and his fallen angels at the cross.

There are some who would point to Colossians 2:16 as evidence that today the Christian is released by God from observing any holy day what-so-ever, that the 10 Commandments themselves were nailed to the cross. The main reason they cite this verse is to show that there is no need for the "New Testament" Christian to observe the biblical Sabbath day (Saturday), and that anyone who does advocate Sabbath keeping is a legalist and an enemy of salvation by grace alone. Usually though, they do not quote verse 17, and rarely if ever do the explain the relevance of verse 17.

The passage should be considered as a complete sentence as follows:

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

The Prophetic Shadow Sabbaths

Verse 17 is saying that the sabbath days referred to in verse 16 were "shadows" of things to come. So what does that mean?

Heb 8:1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;
Heb 8:2 A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.
Heb 8:3 For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.
Heb 8:4 For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:
Heb 8:5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount.

Heb 9:8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:
Heb 9:9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;
Heb 9:10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
Heb 9:11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;
Heb 9:12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

Heb 10:1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
Heb 10:2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.
Heb 10:3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.
Heb 10:4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
Heb 10:5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:
Heb 10:6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.
Heb 10:7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.
Heb 10:8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law;
Heb 10:9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.
Heb 10:10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

The law spoken of there is the ceremonial law, the yearly calendar connected with the symbolic sacrificial system of animal sacrifices, and offerings of food and drink at the Temple. As Heb 10:4 states, the animal sacrifices were incapable of taking away sins, and those sacrifices were offered repeatedly year by year (v. 1), according to the ceremonial law. These powerless sacrifices could only remind the sinner of their sin (v. 3). But the body of Christ is introduced in verse 5, which would be offered once to take away sins (v. 10). As verse 9 states, the first (ceremonial animal sacrifices) were taken away by the second, the sacrifice of Christ. So it is the ceremonial system of animal sacrifices and their associated shadow sabbaths that ended at the cross. That is also what Hebrews 9, cited above, is saying, that this reformation happened with the shedding of Christ's blood, providing the eternal redemption that was not possible by the animal sacrifices of the earthly (first) tabernacle.

Ezekiel refers to the ceremonial sacrificial offerings to be made at the tabernacle in a way nearly identical to Colossians:

Ezek 45:17 And it shall be the prince's part to give burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and drink offerings, in the feasts, and in the new moons, and in the sabbaths, in all solemnities of the house of Israel: he shall prepare the sin offering, and the meat offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, to make reconciliation for the house of Israel.

Scripture makes a distinction between the ten commandments and ceremonial law, and speaks of the ceremonial law in the same way that Colossians 2:14 does:

Deu 4:13 And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.
Deu 4:14 And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it.

Deu 31:9 And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and unto all the elders of Israel.
Deu 31:10 And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles,
Deu 31:11 When all Israel is come to appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing.
Deu 31:24 And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished,
Deu 31:25 That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying,
Deu 31:26 Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.

2 Chr 33:8 Neither will I any more remove the foot of Israel from out of the land which I have appointed for your fathers; so that they will take heed to do all that I have commanded them, according to the whole law and the statutes and the ordinances by the hand of Moses.

Note that the yearly ceremonial days are ordinances (statutes):

Num 9:12 They shall leave none of it unto the morning, nor break any bone of it: according to all the ordinances [H2708. chuqqah] of the passover they shall keep it.
Num 9:14 And if a stranger shall sojourn among you, and will keep the passover unto the LORD; according to the ordinance [H2708. chuqqah] of the passover, and according to the manner thereof, so shall he do: ye shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger, and for him that was born in the land.

Lev 16:29 And this shall be a statute [H2708. chuqqah] for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you:
Lev 16:34 And this shall be an everlasting statute [H2708. chuqqah] unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year. And he did as the LORD commanded Moses.

Lev 23:39 Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath.
Lev 23:40 And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.
Lev 23:41 And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a statute [H2708. chuqqah] for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month.

The ceremonial law, the ordinances written by the hand of Moses in a book, was clearly distinct from the Ten Commandments, which were written by the finger of God on tables of stone. In Leviticus, Moses makes note of the fact that the yearly ceremonial sabbaths, instituted for the purpose of offerings and sacrifices, were separate and distinct from the weekly Sabbath:

Lev 23:37 These are the [yearly] feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations [sabbaths], to offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD, a burnt offering, and a meat offering, a sacrifice, and drink offerings, every thing upon his day: [referred to in Col. 2:16-17]
Lev 23:38 Beside the [weekly seventh day] sabbaths of the LORD, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your freewill offerings, which ye give unto the LORD.

In other words, the yearly ceremonial sabbaths set forth in Leviticus 23 were distinct from, and in addition to, the seventh day weekly Sabbath of the Lord, particularly with respect to the fact that sacrifices were necessary in order to observe the symbolic ceremonial days.

1 Chr 23:31 And to offer all burnt sacrifices unto the LORD in the sabbaths, in the new moons, and on the set feasts, by number, according to the order commanded unto them, continually before the LORD:

2 Chr 35:6 So kill the passover, and sanctify yourselves, and prepare your brethren, that they may do according to the word of the LORD by the hand of Moses.

The yearly sabbaths were all set according to the new moons, which marked the beginning of the month. They were observed in the order and on the dates set by God at Sinai for the purpose of making sacrifices. The weekly seventh day Sabbath commandment is distinctive, in that it does not have any intrinsic requirement for sacrifices or burnt offerings (Exo. 20:8-11, Deut 5:12-15), and it is not set by the new moon.

 Nehemiah also calls special attention to the seventh day Sabbath:

Neh 9:13 Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments:
Neh 9:14 And madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant:

The yearly ceremonial sabbaths that the Jews observed in connection with the Temple or Sanctuary were a shadow, or prophetic in nature, of future events. Every year the Jews were acting out the plan of salvation as demonstrated by the Temple sacrifices and ceremonies. The whole process was designed as a play of sorts, to explain to everyone the exact sequence of events in God's plan to redeem mankind. The focus of this plan, of course, is Jesus Christ in his role as the Lamb of God, as well as his role of High Priest or Mediator between God the Father and humanity. If you have not done so yet, please read:

The Hebrew Sanctuary and
The Biblical Feast Days.

It is essential that one have a basic understanding of the ceremonial calendar associated with the Hebrew Sanctuary. God intended the Sanctuary and it's services as an instructional tool to teach all people His plan of salvation, and I believe every Christian can benefit greatly from studying it. It has particular relevance near the end of time, because it lays out in detail the sequential process of events that God is using and will follow in the very near future.

In brief, these were the yearly ceremonial days observed and associated sabbaths.

Spring Calendar:

Fall Calendar:

Prior to the incarnation of Jesus and his crucifixion, all the above festivals awaited their fulfillment. They were what are called "types". They were symbolic of specific events yet to come. The event that is foretold is referred to as the "antitype". In the New Testament, the Greek words corresponding to type and antitype are:

G5179. tupos, too'-pos; from G5180; a die (as struck), i.e. (by impl.) a stamp or scar; by anal. a shape, i.e. a statue, (fig.) style or resemblance; spec. a sampler ("type"), i.e. a model (for imitation) or instance (for warning):--en- (ex-) ample, fashion, figure, form, manner, pattern, print.

G499. antitupon, an-teet'-oo-pon; neut. of a comp. of G473 and G5179; corresponding ["antitype"], i.e. a representative, counterpart:--(like) figure (whereunto).

The "shadow" or "type" itself had no substance, but rather pointed to a future event that would have substance, the "antitype". For example, slaying the Passover lamb is the type, the crucifixion of Jesus is the antitype.

The Memorial Seventh-day Sabbath

This is the distinction between the yearly ceremonial sabbaths and the Seventh-day Sabbath: obviously the Seventh-day Sabbath occurs on the last day of every week, but rather than being prophetic in nature, it is commemorative, a memorial to creation, established by God himself as scripture clearly tells us-

Exo 20:8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Exo 20:9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
Exo 20:10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
Exo 20:11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Because it is only commemorative, and not a shadow of things to come, the weekly Seventh-day Sabbath is really not part of the discussion in Colossians 2:17. When this is understood, the weekly seventh-day Sabbath is clearly not a part of the prophetic sequence of events in the plan of salvation that are portrayed by the yearly ceremonial Sabbaths.

Gal 3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
Gal 3:25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
Gal 3:26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

1 Cor 5:7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
1 Cor 5:8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Paul is saying that the believing Christian need not keep the ceremonial laws, the shadow sabbaths, because they find fulfillment in faith in Jesus Christ, the true passover lamb. The schoolmaster was the yearly ceremonial sabbaths associated with the Hebrew Temple, which taught the plan of salvation through a coming Messiah, the passover lamb of God. Now that salvation through Jesus of Nazareth is clear to the Gentile church, there is no further need of the schoolmaster (the earthly Temple, its ceremonies and shadow sabbaths) because that lesson has been learned by those with faith. However, nowhere does the Bible indicate that one of the Ten Commandments has been abrogated, or that the disciples or Jesus abandoned the weekly Seventh-day Sabbath for Sunday keeping. Indeed the Bible makes clear, that in the future all believers will keep the true Seventh-day Sabbath-

Isa 66:22 For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain.
Isa 66:23 And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD.

God's Sabbath (Saturday) was never rescinded. It is eternal, intended as a constant reminder that we are created beings, responsible to our creator at the end of time. The Seventh-day Sabbath will be kept in perpetuity by God's people because they are obedient and keep the commandments of God. This is particularly true as we near the end of time-

Rev 14:12 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.

The Hebrew Sanctuary
The Abomination That Makes Desolate.
A rebuttal that advocates the keeping of the yearly sabbaths, by Keneil Thomas.