Tonight, a dear sister in Christ was asking a question that I think many of us, as followers of Jesus Christ, have asked ourselves. Is Saturday or Sunday the Sabbath and are Christians required to Keep the Sabbath? While detailing my own journey of understanding on the Sabbath, the Holy Spirit revealed something to me tonight that shook me to the core, and quite frankly, is still shaking me.
First, let’s begin by explaining a little bit about the Sabbath. The principle of the Sabbath was established in the Garden of Eden. After creating mankind on the 6th day, God established the principle of the Sabbath.
Genesis 1:31: God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Genesis 2:1: Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. 2 By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
God worked to create the Heavens, the earth, the animals, the plants, and mankind all in six days. God then RESTED on the 7th day, BLESSING it, and sanctifying it. To sanctify means to set apart as separate and Holy. Why did God rest? Was God tired? No…God was establishing the principle of the Sabbath from the very beginning. Why? Because of God’s GREAT LOVE for mankind.
As we move ahead in time (about 2,500 years), God re-established the principle of the Sabbath with the Nation of Israel through His prophet Moses. At this point, the Israelites had hardened hearts, so God gave them the LAW (10 Commandments) to show them their sin so that they could repent and follow God. We’ve said this before, the law cannot save anyone because it is impossible for mankind, wrapped in sinful human flesh, to perfectly obey. God’s standard of Holiness is so much higher than we can even fathom, that it is ludicrous for us to think we can “work” our way to Righteousness (right standing with God) through “law-keeping”. But still, God was TEACHING mankind His ways, His Laws, which ARE Holy and Good.
One of the ten Commandments for God’s people (not suggestions..but commandments) is to REMEMBER the Sabbath Day and keep it HOLY, set it aside as something special.
Exodus 20: 8: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
The Israelites were commanded to REST and NOT WORK on the Sabbath. Later, we see that there were even consequences for breaking this Commandment.
Exodus 31:14: ‘Therefore you are to observe the sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people.
Wow, this sounds pretty serious! God told the people that if they WORKED on the Sabbath, they would be put to death, and cut off from among God’s people. But He also promised the Israelites there would be blessings for remembering to KEEP the Sabbath day Holy (to set it aside as special, as Holy, as different then the rest of the week).
Isaiah 56:2: “How blessed is the man who does this,
And the son of man who takes hold of it;
Who keeps from profaning the sabbath,
And keeps his hand from doing any evil.”
God set apart the 7th day of the week for REST and commanded that mankind follow His Lead. The 7th day of the week is Saturday, not Sunday. When I was attending a local Christian church, I once heard the Pastor’s wife say that Saturday was “The Jewish Sabbath” and Sunday was “The Christian Sabbath”….Why did she say that? Did God change the Sabbath? Did God really establish “separate Sabbaths” , one for the Jew and one for the Christian? Let’s explore this.
After doing a good deal of research on this topic, I discovered there are a few reasons why many Christians consider Sunday to be the “Christian Sabbath”. There is evidence in the New Testament that the Disciples gathered together on that day, took up an offering and “broke bread” together. Also, the Catholic Church, desiring to completely divorce Christianity from Judaism, rejected the 7th day Sabbath, and established Sunday worship.
Acts 20:7: On the first day of the week (Sunday), when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.
1 Corinthians 16:2: On the first day of every week (Sunday), each of you should set aside a portion of his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will be needed.
John 20: 1: Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene *came early to the tomb, while it *was still dark, and *saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.
Revelation 1:10: On the Lord’s day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet
Many scholars believe that the Apostle John was referring to Sunday when he wrote “on the Lord’s day” in Revelation 1:10. Are we to then assume, as the bulk of Mainstream Christianity has maintained, that the 7th Day Sabbath that God set aside as HOLY was changed to Sunday? If it was changed, why did God not SPECIFICALLY call that out in the Bible? Hmm…This has led to some confusion within the Church as there are different “sects” within the Church (7th Day Adventists, Church of God) who STRICTLY adhere to the 7th Day Sabbath. Is this strict adherence to the 7th day Sabbath necessary? Is it necessary for salvation, as some teach?
What does the New Testament teach us about the Sabbath? What did Jesus teach us about the Sabbath?
First of all, we have to explain that by the time Jesus walked the earth, the Jewish Pharisees and Sadducee’s had tacked on all kinds of MANMADE rituals to the ten commandments. The Pharisees and Sadducees were the Priests and Scribes, the “religious” experts of Jesus’ day. The Pharisees had taken the principle of the Sabbath and made it a burden by “defining” what they considered to be “work”.
For instance, they came up with 39 prohibited activities such as sowing, plowing, reaping, binding, threshing, winnowing, building, tearing, baking, kneading, kindling a fire, tying, etc. They came up with a very long list of dos and don’ts. As I understand it, even today in certain Jewish circles, it’s not okay to tear toilet paper or to cook on the Sabbath because they believe that is breaking the “rules”. Hmm..is that breaking God’s law? Really?
What did Jesus teach us about the Sabbath?
First of all, the Gospels paint a picture for us of a loving God and prideful, hair-splitting group of Pharisees. When Jesus, the Messiah, showed up on the scene, the Pharisees and Scribes felt very threatened. They were used to being the “big man on campus” and didn’t want their power and authority questioned. The thought of some Carpenter from Galilee being an expert on Jewish law really did not sit well with them. I mean, let’s face it, they had trained under the most elite, educated RABBI’s (teachers). Who was this Jesus? Then, when Jesus claimed to be the prophesied Messiah, they nearly lost their minds. Consumed with hatred and jealousy, mixed with a little fear, they were continually trying to trap Jesus into saying or doing something that would prove him to be a “lawbreaker”. Their plot was really to have an innocent man MURDERED. Jesus was “stirring the pot” too much with His teachings, His Miracles, and His Wisdom. They liked the status-quo, even though the Jewish people were under the yoke of the Romans. The Scribes and Pharisees had “cozied up” with the Roman leaders who had allowed them to have some measure of autonomy and power, while permitting their Temple worship. For all of the evils of the Roman empire, they were somewhat tolerant of the Jewish religion, at least for awhile.
The Scribes and Pharisees, afraid that Jesus would tip their comfy apple-cart, worked very hard to trap Jesus into saying or doing something so that they could accuse Him of blasphemy and have Him put to death. They were literally trying to accuse the Son of God, God Himself wrapped in human flesh, of Blasphemy. Can you even imagine how ridiculous this really is? There is truly nothing new under the sun. The enemy continues to use this same “method of operation” today. When power structure is threatened, work very hard to find something, ANYTHING, to accuse and to, if possible, to MURDER.
One of the schemes used by the Scribes and Pharisees was to catch Jesus healing on the Sabbath. They had added so many “rules” to God’s commandment to REST and Keep the Sabbath Holy, that it had become a burden to mankind. They, themselves, did not keep the Sabbath Holy. They had no problem USING the Sabbath to try to TRAP JESUS, so that they could have Him Murdered.
Matthew 12: At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.” 3 But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, 4 how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? 5 Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? 6 But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.
Jesus had just pointed out their HYPOCRISY. Hypocrisy is another method of operation that the enemy REGULARLY employs, even today against the people of God. ACCUSE the innocent man of doing something that they, themselves are doing. Jesus noted that the priests found THEMSELVES innocent when THEY broke the Sabbath.
Then Jesus made a very BOLD claim...He is LORD of the Sabbath. Do you think this stirred up the Pharisees? Oh yea!
Lord… kyrios in the Greek
- the possessor and disposer of a thing
- the owner; one who has control of the person, the master
- in the state: the sovereign, prince, chief, the Roman emperor
- is a title of honour expressive of respect and reverence, with which servants greet their master
- this title is given to: God, the Messiah
Matthew 12: 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
Mark 3:3: He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. 2 They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. 3 He *said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” 4 And He *said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. 5 After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He *said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.
We see in this passage of Mark 3, that the Pharisees hearts were wicked, with NO LOVE or COMPASSION. They were using the Sabbath as a weapon to trap Jesus so that they might destroy Him. And what would have been Jesus’ “crime”? Healing a broken man on the Sabbath. Jesus was GRIEVED and ANGRY at the hardness of their hearts.
Mark 2:27: Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
The Holy Spirit is our teacher and our Guide who has been given to ALL Believers in Christ to guide us into ALL TRUTH. While detailing my journey in understanding the Sabbath to my sister in Christ, the Lord opened my eyes with this verse “The Sabbath was made for man”. Immediately after reading this verse, Holy Spirit brought to my mind another verse with similar wording (John 1:14)…
John 1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
John 1 describes the Word of God, the Logos of God, His “Revelatory thought” or the Mind of God being both with God and being God in the very beginning. Jesus has always been a part of the Father. Everything that we see, and even that which we cannot see, came into being THROUGH the Logos, the WORD OF GOD (Jesus Christ). In the Beginning (Bereshit), before mankind fell into sin, God established the 7 day week picturing the Redemption and RESTORATION of mankind. Before the fall, Adam and Eve walked alongside God in the cool of the day till the shadows flee away. There was no sin, so man could walk DIRECTLY with God. However, even in the very beginning of Creation, God KNEW mankind would fall into sin, so HE ESTABLISHED and drew a PICTURE of the ONLY Road to RedemptioN through the 7 day week of HIS CREATION.
Because of our sin, God could not walk with people the way that He had in the Garden of Eden. However, God ALREADY had a plan of Redemption and RESTORATION that HE BUILT into HIS VERY CREATION through His Son, Pictured in the 7 Day week. God’s PLAN from the very beginning, because HE KNEW what mankind would do, would be for HE HIMSELF (THROUGH HIS WORD, HIS LOGOS), to take on HUMAN FLESH and TABERNACLE (temporarily dwell) with mankind on the earth. The Word WAS MADE FLESH so that GOD could once again dwell among us. This truly is a Miracle! Now, what does this have to do with the Sabbath?
When God created the Heavens and the earth HE RESTED on the 7th day from all of His Work. God did NOT rest because He was tired. God rested to TEACH mankind something very important. The Sabbath was MADE for mankind. The word “made” in the Hebrew is (ginomai), meaning to ” become, come into existence, come to pass, to arise, to come upon the stage, to appear in HIStory”. This same word Ginomai is used to describe the Word of God who was made (Ginomai) FLESH. The Word of God has existed forever, because HE is God; however, at a particular point in time, 2000 years ago, the WORD was MADE (Ginomai) FLESH. The Word of God took on the LIKENESS of human flesh (flesh with no sin) so that God could once again TABERNACLE with mankind, and ultimately build THE BRIDGE that would make it possible for God to again walk PERMANENTLY with mankind. The WORD OF GOD was MADE FLESH for us! He took on the likeness of human flesh…FOR US! He did it because GOD LOVES US!
Like the Son of Man who was MADE flesh (Jesus), the Sabbath came into being (was MADE) FOR US! The Sabbath points to the end of God’s Road of Redemption..our DESTINATION – THE KINGDOM OF GOD. Of course, the Sabbath is the 7th day, because the number 7 points to God’s perfection and completion. The Sabbath wouldn’t be the 1st day (Sunday) or the 6th day (Friday). God’s plan of Redemption is completed on the 7th day (Saturday). Understanding God’s Sabbath helps us to understand God’s plan of Redemption for mankind. God worked 6 days, rested on the 7th, setting the 7th day aside and blessing it and making it HOLY (set aside for the purposes of God). Jesus IS HOLY! He is UNIQUE! There is no one like JESUS! God then commanded Israel (His Covenant people), those who desire a RELATIONSHIP with Him, to do the same. God has given mankind 6000 years to go his own way, to “work”, but the 7000th year, is God’s REST for mankind. God, Himself, has “worked” for 6000 years to RESCUE mankind from the mess that we got ourselves into! God established this pattern in the 7 day week BEFORE mankind fell into sin! Jesus IS our Millennial (1000 YEARS) REST. The Sabbath was established by God to point us to JESUS and HIS KINGDOM.
Matthew 11:28: Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Hebrews 4: 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, “As I swore in My wrath, They shall not enter My rest,” although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; 5 and again in this passage, “They shall not enter My rest.” 6 Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, “Today if you hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that.
9 So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.
We have Jesus because of God’s LOVE. The Sabbath is a picture of Jesus and therefore a picture of God’s LOVE. This is why Jesus condemned hard-hearted Pharisees who did not want HIM to HEAL and show LOVE on the Sabbath. The Jewish Pharisees and Scribes had made the Sabbath a burdensome ritual of rules, using it to cement their power and “lordship” over the Jews. They even used the Sabbath, (originally made (ginomai) as a part of God’s plan to HEAL mankind by pointing us to our Savior Jesus (who IS our Sabbath’s Rest), to bring us back into a right relationship with God), to ‘catch’ Jesus as a “lawbreaker” so that they could have HIM MURDERED!!! They TOTALLY MISSED the whole point. The Sabbath is a PICTURE of JESUS..the very ONE they wanted to MURDER for ‘breaking the Sabbath!’ WOW!!!
God commanded His people to REMEMBER the Sabbath and keep it Holy. The Sabbath is a picture of His Beloved Son who gave His Life for mankind. He commanded His people to REST on that day. Keeping the 7th day Sabbath Holy is a Commandment, and yet it’s not a requirement for Salvation. The only requirement for salvation is to BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ and to confess with our mouths that jesus is LORD (Romans 10:9). But if we LOVE Jesus, then we will KEEP (revere, tuck into our hearts) His Commandments. There are BLESSINGS promised for Remembering the 7th day Sabbath, but it’s not and never was meant to be a burden! Why did God state to the Jewish people that those who did not keep the Sabbath would die? Because the Sabbath ultimately points to Jesus. Those who do not recognize Jesus as the only bridge back to God will eventually DIE the PERMANENT SPIRITUAL DEATH and be CUT OFF from God and God’s people…FOREVER. The punishment for breaking the Sabbath is a picture of this reality.
Worshiping God on Sunday is not a sin. Worshiping God on Wednesday is not a sin. But on Friday night, at sunset, perhaps look out at the BEAUTIFUL sunset and REMEMBER JESUS who is our Sabbath’s rest, and thank Him for REST. He has accomplished the impossible…bringing mankind back into a RIGHT RELATIONSHIP with GOD. He is coming again…soon, to establish HIS Millennial Kingdom, a time of GREAT REST for MANKIND on the earth! Keep oil in your lamps and pray to be counted worthy to escape the things that are coming upon the earth and stand before the Son of Man!
Hebrews 4:9: SO THERE REMAINS A SABBATH REST FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
Revelation 20:1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.
9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.