A clear understanding of the origin and purpose of the seventh-day Sabbath and the part it occupies in the lives of God’s faithful people is necessary in the closing scenes of the great controversy between Christ and Satan.
The Sabbath was set apart on the seventh day of creation and is also the fourth commandment, which is evidence that the law of God was given to Adam and Eve on the very day of creation and was in effect at creation. The seventh-day Sabbath has also been a very prominent commandment all through the history of the controversy between Christ and Satan. It says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 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. 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.” Exodus 20:8–11 NAS.
The sojourner and the Gentile are also advocated to keep the commandments, and if they are in your home, they are to keep the Sabbath with you. All ten commandments are for everybody, not just the Jews.
The Sabbath was introduced at creation. It has been in effect and will be in effect throughout eternity, “from one new moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before Me, saith the Lord.” Isaiah 66:23. All will gather from one new moon to another in the new earth, from one Sabbath to another.
The only ones that do not want to keep the Sabbath are the rebellious of this earth who are the minority in this universe. Sabbath keepers belong to the great majority of people in the universe. On this earth it looks like you are the outcasts, but in comparison to the whole universe and with God and with His Son, we are the great majority of Sabbath keepers. So be of good courage.
In Genesis 2:2 we are told that God rested on the seventh day. “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made.”
In Patriarchs and Prophets, 47, it says, “The great Jehovah had laid the foundations of the earth; He had dressed the whole world in the garb of beauty and had filled it with things useful to man; He had created all the wonders of the land and of the sea. In six days the great work of creation had been accomplished. And God ‘rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made’ (Genesis 2:2, 3). God looked with satisfaction upon the work of His hands. All was perfect, worthy of its divine Author, and He rested, not as one weary, but as well pleased with the fruits of His wisdom and goodness and the manifestations of His glory.”
This is a very clear statement of where the Sabbath came from and its purpose. So it was on the seventh day of creation that He set aside the Sabbath day as a day of rest.
We are told in Genesis 2:3 there were three things that God did for the seventh-day Sabbath that He did not do for the other six days. It says, “And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made.”
God blessed the seventh day; He sanctified it and then He rested on it.
Often some people will say that they worship every day of the week, or they keep every day holy. Nobody can keep a day holy that God has not sanctified or made holy. But the seventh-day Sabbath He sanctified and therefore you can keep it holy because it is a holy day. The other six days do not have that blessing; they were not made holy. You cannot keep holy something that is not holy.
Many people recognize the association of the seventh day with the seventh-day Sabbath, but to avoid it they worship on Sunday in honor of the resurrection as justification. It is up to us to strive for holiness each and every day of the week, but there is only one Sabbath day. We are preparing for heaven, and in heaven the occupants keep the seventh-day Sabbath, and we want to fit into that heavenly environment. We need to understand the depth of meaning in the Sabbath.
God told us to remember. It is man’s duty to rest on the seventh-day Sabbath; he is to reflect upon God’s great work of creation and to behold the evidences of God’s wisdom and goodness. As we do this, we will be filled with love and reverence for our Maker. By observing the seventh-day Sabbath we acknowledge that God is our Creator and that we are the work of His hands and are subject to His authority.
The fourth commandment points to God as the Maker of the heavens and the earth, and it also gives the law its authenticity and binding force because it contains the seal of God which shows His authority as Creator and His claim to reverence and worship above all others. This seal gives the name of the Lawgiver, which is the Creator, and it identifies His territory, which is the heavens and the earth.
In Patriarchs and Prophets, 307, we are told: “God has given men six days wherein to labor, and He requires that their own work be done in the six working days. Acts of necessity and mercy are permitted on the Sabbath, the sick and suffering are at all times to be cared for; but unnecessary labor is to be strictly avoided. ‘Turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and … honor Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure.’ Nor does the prohibition end here. ‘Nor speaking thine own words’ (Isaiah 58:13), says the prophet. Those who discuss business matters or lay plans on the Sabbath are regarded by God as though engaged in the actual transaction of business. To keep the Sabbath holy, we should not even allow our minds to dwell upon things of a worldly character. And the commandment includes all within our gates. The inmates of the house are to lay aside their worldly business during the sacred hours. All should unite to honor God by willing service upon His holy day.”
We find specific principles showing us that we are not to get involved in things that involve our worldly needs. We are to turn our thoughts heavenward.
- We are not to do our own ways.
- We are not to find our own pleasure; this includes sports and things like that.
- Man’s own work is not to be done on the seventh-day Sabbath.
- Unnecessary labor is strictly forbidden.
- We are not to discuss business matters or lay plans.
- Our minds are not to dwell upon things of a worldly character.
One of the big snares that Satan has introduced into God’s remnant people is the Saturday night entertainment, because many times the thoughts, especially with young people, are, throughout the Sabbath hours focused on “What is going to happen tonight?” Having parties for children and showing films are the talk of the day, and it is very hard for them to keep their minds upon things of eternal value when those kinds of incentives or plans are made for their entertainment. This does much to desecrate the Sabbath in the lives of the youth and the adults.
Looking at the law of God in a positive manner is a blessing to us. If we followed His commandments we would have a very safe society; we would not need police or jails because society would be living at peace with everybody and respectful toward each other’s needs. The law of God is a blessing to us, and we need to approach it as God would like us to. It is a wonderful blessing for the people of God and to all who observe the seventh-day Sabbath.
In The Desire of Ages, 285, we are told: “Christ would teach His disciples and His enemies that the service of God is first of all. The object of God’s work in this world is the redemption of man; therefore that which is necessary to be done on the Sabbath in the accomplishment of this work is in accord with the Sabbath law. Jesus then crowned His argument by declaring Himself the ‘Lord of the Sabbath’—One above all question and above all law. This infinite Judge acquits the disciples of blame, appealing to the very statutes they are accused of violating.”
Looking at the positive side of the law, this is to be a blessing to the fallen race. The whole purpose of God is to restore man to freedom from sin and to restore him to the kingdom of glory. Anything that can further that objective is appropriate to do on the Sabbath. That is another principle, and God leaves it up to us to decide the actual things we should or shouldn’t do in light of that principle. The things necessary to be done on the Sabbath for the accomplishment of the redemption of man is in accord with the Sabbath law. The law is a positive blessing.
“They were performing those rites that pointed to the redeeming power of Christ, and their labor was in harmony with the object of the Sabbath. But now Christ Himself had come. The disciples, in doing the work of Christ, were engaged in God’s service, and that which was necessary for the accomplishment of this work it was right to do on the Sabbath day.” Ibid., 285.
Isaiah 58:13 tells us, “If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words.”
There are also several other things that are appropriate to do on the Sabbath.
- Acts of necessity and mercy. Ask yourself if this is something that is a necessity to help somebody in their physical needs, etc.
- The sick and suffering are at all times to be cared for.
- We are to call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and honor Him in His character, doing those things that He would like to see us doing to help in the plan of redemption.
- All should unite to honor God by willing service.
We do not want to get into the area of making statements for what to do and what not to do. The Jews got into that and became all mixed up and then missed the true meaning of the Sabbath. We need to look at the general principles and ask ourselves if this can help in the plan of redemption or help somebody in their necessity or needs. We need to understand what can be done on the Sabbath, because someday we will be tested. Many are watching us, and we may need to give a reason for the things we do and not do. We need to stand with the principle that it is lawful to do good and to promote the plan of redemption and to work with Jesus in the saving of souls.
God calls the Sabbath a “sign between me and you.” “Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily My sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.” Exodus 31:13.
Keeping the seventh-day Sabbath is a sign that we believe in the new covenant and that Jesus is ministering in the Most Holy Place of the sanctuary of the new covenant in heaven. Here is the reason this is true. To keep the Sabbath holy the individual must be holy himself. We are all sinners, unholy. To become holy we must have our sins removed. We can be freed from our sins in one way only. That way is to go to Jesus in the Most Holy Place, confess our sins and plead with our Redeemer to atone for these confessed sins with His blood. Jesus is just and will cleanse us from these sins and also give us strength to keep from committing sin. He then presents this humble one to the Father as if he had never sinned. God the Father now sees him as one “of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.” Revelation 14:12 NIV. The sinner is now free from sin and can keep the Sabbath holy because he is holy.
The Sabbath is a time to spend with the Lord. How are you going to know that He is the Lord and how are you to know that He is holy unless you spend time with Him in His word and keep your thoughts on things of eternal value? You will not know unless you observe the Sabbath.
Maurice Hoppe is Director of the Steps to Life training programs and a member of the Steps to Life Board. The Training Program for Ministers and Church Leaders is a correspondence course that prepares individuals to serve as a pastor or Bible worker. Preparing for the Final Conflict is a correspondence course for the laity. Both of these courses teach present truth that will be an anchor for the soul during the storm of opposition and persecution just ahead. He and his wife also have a correspondence course offered through Revelation Ministry. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.