Built Upon the Rock
by E.H. ‘Jack’ Sequeira

Chapter 17:  The Sabbath Rest
Fundamental Belief #20 The beneficent Creator, after the six days of Creation, rested on the seventh day and instituted the Sabbath for all people as a memorial of Creation.  The fourth commandment of God’s unchangeable law requires the observance of this seventh-day Sabbath as the day of rest, worship, and ministry in harmony with the teaching and practice of Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath.  The Sabbath is a day of delightful communion with God and one another.  It is a symbol of our redemption in Christ, a sign of our sanctification, a token of our allegiance, and a foretaste of our eternal future in God’s kingdom.  The Sabbath is God’s perpetual sign of His eternal covenant between Him and His people.  Joyful observance of this holy time from evening to evening, sunset to sunset, is a celebration of God’s creative and redemptive acts.
[Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:8-11; Luke 4:16; Isaiah 56:5-6; 58:13-14; Matthew 12:1-12; Exodus 31:13-17; Ezekiel 20:12, 20; Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Hebrews 4:1-11; Leviticus 23:32; Mark 1:32]

The Sabbath doctrine played a vital role quite early in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, as the pioneers came to see the sacredness of the fourth commandment of God’s moral law.  Early in her ministry, Ellen G. White received a vision in which she was shown that the Ten Commandments were eternal principles of God’s government and that “the holy Sabbath looked glorious, a halo of glory was all around it” (Early Writings, p. 33).  Not only is the Sabbath one of Adventism’s unique doctrines, in fact, but the pioneers felt that its significance was so important that it was incorporated into the denominational name itself, “Seventh-day Adventist Church” (emphasis mine).

Yet, after proclaiming the seventh-day Sabbath for some 150 years, it has made no real impact on the Christian church as a whole, no matter how correctly it has been presented.  Why is this so?  I believe it is because we have failed to apply a fundamental principle that the apostle Paul used in his evangelistic ministry:

1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.  To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.  To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.  To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.  I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

We must keep in mind that most Christians today are Dispensationalists who believe the law is no longer binding on Christians, since it was nailed on the cross.  So, no matter how correctly we present the Sabbath in the context of the fourth commandment, we are immediately branded as being legalistic under the Old Covenant.

As I mentioned in an earlier chapter, a theological seminary was located not far from a church I pastored in Washington, D.C.  This Protestant seminary teaches a class on the four major American cults, Seventh-day Adventists among them, and recently, one of my members handed me a recorded lecture on Seventh-day Adventists, given by one of the professors.  His key argument against the Sabbath doctrine was, indeed, that observing the seventh day was a Jewish practice from the Old Covenant.  His is a typical argument, often used against the Sabbath doctrine and cited as grounds for excluding Adventists from consideration as a “Christian” denomination.  This problem makes it even more important that the Sabbath be presented with a redemptive application, as it is in the fundamental belief.

Adventists rightly insist, however, that the Bible nowhere substantiates a change from keeping the seventh-day Sabbath to observing Sunday, the first day of the week.  But then they often take things a step further and accuse Sunday-keeping Christians of intentionally observing the day established by Papal Rome.  When I was first introduced to Adventism, for example, I was told that, if I continued to keep Sunday as a Roman Catholic, I would receive the mark of the beast when the Sunday law was passed and would be eternally lost.

Seventh-day Adventists tend to make it an issue between “us” and “them,” that is, between Sabbath- (Saturday) keeping Christians and Sunday-keeping Christians.  But let’s be honest, the great majority of believers who will make it to heaven most likely will be Sunday-keeping Christians.  After all, Sunday-keeping was first introduced as early as the Second Century A.D. and, since the Fourth Century, the majority of sincere, dedicated Christians have been Sunday-keeping Christians — including the reformers of the Sixteenth Century.  They kept the wrong day, but they kept it for the right reason — to honor the resurrected Christ.

As we have already established, salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in what Christ has already obtained for the entire human race by His birth, life, death, and resurrection.  Then why do Adventists make such a big issue over the Sabbath/Sunday dispute?  The whole purpose of this chapter is to show how the Sabbath doctrine is vitally linked to the gospel of grace, the New Covenant.  The real Sabbath/Sunday controversy is not over the two days themselves, but what they represent.

As we studied last chapter, we can look at the law of God two ways.  First, we can see it as a means of salvation.  Paul defines this with the phrase “works of the law.”  Judaism mistakenly saw the law in these terms, though God never gave His law as a means or method of salvation:

Romans 9:31-33
...But the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal.  Why not?  Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.  They stumbled over the stumbling stone.  As it is written:  “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.”
Galatians 2:16
...Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

The second way is to see the law is as a standard of Christian living.  This is indeed biblical and, in this context alone, we must consider the fourth commandment and the Sabbath.

Romans 13:8-10
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.  The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command:  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no harm to a neighbor.  Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Galatians 5:13-14
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command:  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The Sabbath/Sunday Issue

Why did God specify the seventh day of the week (Saturday) as His holy day?  Or, how can Sunday, the first day of the week, fulfill the purpose for which God’s Sabbath was established?  Christendom today is divided over the day of worship and rest, and both groups sincerely believe in Christ and come under His banner.  Sunday-keeping Christians should be treated as brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter how much we may disagree with them regarding the true New Testament Sabbath.  Taking this approach will make it much easier to dialogue with them, as they learn of its vital link to the everlasting gospel and the doctrine of justification by faith alone — truths they, too, hold dear.

Then, in the very last days, when this gospel of the kingdom will have been preached in all the world for a witness, and human probation will be closing, the Sabbath will become God’s seal of justification, or righteousness by faith:

Matthew 24:14
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Exodus 31:13, 16
“Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths.  This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.  ...The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant.’”

But, for this to occur, a clear connection between the seventh-day Sabbath and the everlasting gospel must emerge in the church.  Traditionally, the church has hinged its presentations about the Sabbath on the law and the fourth commandment.  But, as already mentioned, Christians who believe in the doctrine of Dispensationalism are not persuaded, and consider Adventists to be a legalistic people who are still living under the Old Covenant of salvation by works of the law.

The Sabbath and the Fall

To appreciate the important connection between the Sabbath and the everlasting gospel, we need to go back in time to the Fall.  At Creation, God gave our first parents, Adam and Eve, dominion over all creation:

Genesis 1:26
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
Psalm 8:3-8
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?  You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.  You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet:  all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.

But, at the Fall, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command not to eat of the forbidden tree, Satan snatched this dominion from them and became the ruler of this world:

Luke 4:5-6
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.  And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.”
John 14:30
I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming.  He has no hold over me....

Thus the entire human race came under the dominion of God’s archenemy, and the great controversy between God and Satan, which began in heaven, was transferred to earth:

Revelation 12:7-9
Then war broke out in heaven.  Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.  But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.  The great dragon was hurled down — that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.  He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

Lucifer and the angels who fell for his lies had rebelled in heaven over the issue of the nature of God’s agape-love, the love that:

1 Corinthians 13:5
It [Love] does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Agape-love is God’s personality, by nature, and forms the basis for His government:

1 John 4:8, 16
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  ...And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

Lucifer, turned Satan, insisted that such a principle stood in the way of human happiness and self-fulfillment and that true joy could be found only under a system based on self-first:

Ezekiel 28:15
You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.
Isaiah 14:12-14
How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn!  You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!  You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.  I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

Once Satan assumed dominion on earth, he set out to govern humanity under the fundamental principle of self-first (the underlying principle of all sin), and today governs human affairs in politics, commerce, education, sports, and everything else:

Isaiah 53:6
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Philippians 2:21
For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

Satan’s principle of “self,” including self-righteousness, contradicts everything about God.  Note the words of the apostle John:

1 John 2:16
For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world.

Through the centuries, this principle has led to war, crime, and atrocities of every kind.

Christ came some 2,000 ago to redeem mankind from this predicament and to establish His own kingdom of grace:

Luke 11:21-23
“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe.  But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.  Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

At the cross, Satan’s accusations against God were unmasked as absolute lies, and the human race was bought back (the meaning of redeemed) by the precious blood of Jesus Christ:

John 12:31-33
“Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”  He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
1 Peter 1:18-19
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

So now every human being can escape the tyranny of Satan’s dominion and come under the banner of Christ.  But the choice is made individually, and those decisions ultimately divide humanity into two distinct groups — those who by faith receive the gift of salvation in Christ, and those who reject Him by unbelief.  As John wrote to the believers of his day:

1 John 5:19
We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.

What, then, does this all have to do with the Sabbath/Sunday controversy?  A great deal, as we shall see.  At Creation, God sanctified the seventh day (set it aside for holy use) because it represented His perfect and finished work for humanity:

Genesis 1:31; 2:1-3
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the sixth day.  ...Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.  By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Adam and Eve could add nothing to God’s creation; they could simply receive it with joy by entering into God’s rest.  Even the Garden of Eden was planted by God Himself:

Genesis 2:8
Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.

And as long as our first parents rested in God, He provided all their needs.  This is the meaning of the Sabbath (Sabbath, in the original, simply means rest).

But the Fall changed things.  When Adam and Eve sinned, they broke the commandment and, in doing so, became self-dependent rather than God-dependent.  God recognized this change when He told Adam:

Genesis 3:19
“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

Since the Fall, mankind has had to survive by the sweat of his brow, and needs a day of rest from physical labor and, for all practical purposes, that day has become Sunday, as proclaimed by the International Labor Union.

Furthermore, the vast majority of Christendom today keeps Sunday as a day of worship, remembrance, and rest to commemorate the resurrection of Christ.  They refer to Sunday as “the Lord’s Day.”  However, non-Christians keep Sunday as a day of rest from their personal labor, which is neither perfect nor finished.  The real issue, therefore, regarding Sabbath and Sunday is not between Sabbath-keeping and Sunday-keeping Christians, for both groups belong to Christ.  The real issue is between God’s people who are resting exclusively in Christ and those in the world who prefer total self-dependence.

Matthew 6:24-34
“No one can serve two masters.  Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.  Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
“And why do you worry about clothes?  See how the flowers of the field grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you — you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.

The Sabbath/Sunday Controversy

The lines in the Sabbath/Sunday controversy will be drawn only when this gospel of the kingdom has been preached, and every accountable person has made his or her ultimate choice — for or against Christ.  At that time, Sunday will become the Mark of the Beast, representing self-righteousness; the Sabbath will represent God’s day of rest, the seal of righteousness by faith alone.

Ever since the Fall, the fundamental controversy in the world has been between two opposing methods for salvation — Satan’s method of salvation by works and human effort, set against God’s salvation by faith alone in the righteousness of Christ:

Romans 10:4-5
Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.  Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law:  “The person who does these things will live by them.”

In other words, the Old versus the New Covenant.  It began when Adam and Eve first sinned and, prompted by Satan, tried to cover their nakedness with fig leaf aprons they made themselves:

Genesis 3:7
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

This illustrates humanity’s attempts to cover its sin with self-righteousness.  But the fig leaves withered and fell away.

In contrast, God covered their nakedness with sins of sacrificed animals, representing the righteousness of Christ obtained through His life and death:

Genesis 3:21
The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

The same controversy can be seen in the sacrifices offered by Cain and Abel — one given to appease God, the other given out of faith in the promised Messiah:

Genesis 4:3-5
In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord.  And Abel also brought an offering — fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.  The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.  So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

With these facts in mind, let’s now consider the importance of the Sabbath as it points to the truth of righteousness by faith alone, our total dependence on God’s perfect and finished work of redemption in Christ.  Of course, this understanding of the Sabbath does not negate the fact that the Sabbath is also a memorial of Creation, as pointed out in the fourth commandment.  It also points forward to a perfect restoration of Creation:

Isaiah 66:22-23
“As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure.  From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the Lord.

The Sabbath and the Gospel

However, before examining the Sabbath in the light of the everlasting gospel, it would be well for us to note a few Old Testament texts that give the Sabbath a redemptive application.  The first is found in Exodus:

Exodus 31:13, 16
“Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths.  This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.  ...The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting [or everlasting] covenant.

The second is also found in the book of the law:

Deuteronomy 5:15
Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.  Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

According to the apostle Paul, the Exodus was a type of salvation:

1 Corinthians 10:1-4
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.  They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.  They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.

Finally, consider what the gospel prophet of the Old Testament has to say about the Sabbath:

Isaiah 58:13-14
“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”  For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Clearly, the Jews were given the Sabbath as a sign of redemption that pointed them to Christ and His Righteousness.

God’s Sabbath Versus Man’s Sabbath

The first thing to recognize about the true meaning of the Sabbath, in the light of the everlasting gospel, is that the Sabbath does not belong to man, but to God Himself.  As Jesus pointed out, the Sabbath was made for mankind (the human race), but it does not belon to humanity:

Mark 2:27
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
Luke 6:5
Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath because all things were created by Him:

John 1:3
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

Scripture nowhere indicates that the Sabbath belongs to, or was made specifically for, the Jews.

In both the Old and New Testaments, Scripture identifies the Sabbath as God’s day of rest.  The fourth commandment says, “The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God”:

Exodus 20:10
...But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God.  On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.

And, later in the book of Exodus, Moses records God’s command:

Exodus 31:13 [Emphasis Added]
“Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths.  This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.’”

Paul uses the Exodus from Egypt to represent salvation from the bondage to sin:

1 Corinthians 10:1-11
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.  They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.  They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.  Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.  Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.  Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written:  “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.”  We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did — and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died.  We should not test Christ, as some of them did — and were killed by snakes.  And do not grumble, as some of them did — and were killed by the destroying angel.  These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.

Moses stands for Christ, and crossing the Red Sea represents baptism into Christ (verses 1-4).  Extending that analogy, Egypt is the world, and Pharaoh its satanic prince, the enemy of God’s people.

Because the Exodus symbolizes salvation from sin, Moses can link the Sabbath rest to God’s act of deliverance.  Note his conclusion when he later repeats the fourth commandment to Israel:

Deuteronomy 5:15
Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.  Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

This is God’s seventh day, not man’s — actually, it’s man’s first day.  Genesis records that God created mankind, in Adam (the word Adam in Hebrew means mankind), at the end of the sixth day of Creation week:

Genesis 1:26-31
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it.  They will be yours for food.  And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground — everything that has the breath of life in it — I give every green plant for food.”  And it was so.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.  And there was evening, and there was morning — the sixth day.

So the seventh day of Creation week, God’s Sabbath, was really Adam’s and Eve’s first whole day.

This naturally raises the question, Why did mankind’s first parents rest on God’s day of rest, the seventh-day Sabbath, when they had done nothing yet to deserve such a rest?  They rested on the seventh day of Creation week, apparently because God had made it holy — that is, He had set it aside as a gift for humanity:

Genesis 2:3
Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Jesus plainly told His contemporaries:

Mark 2:27
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man [mankind, in Greek], not man for the Sabbath.”

Adam and Eve entered into God’s rest on that first Sabbath.

All this leads us to some very important conclusions:  From God’s point of view, the Sabbath is His day of rest, His seventh day.  But from man’s viewpoint, the Sabbath rest was given before humanity had accomplished any work.

Why did God make things this way?  First, when God created the world, He worked first and then rested.  In contrast, mankind, in Adam, began by resting in God’s provision of a perfect and finished Creation.  Then Adam and Eve spent the next six days working — work that was neither intensive nor stressful, as they tended God’s perfect and finished Creation.

Thus we find that the Sabbath teaches eternal truths about salvation.  Our first parents depended totally on God for all their needs, entering into His seventh-day Sabbath as their first act of participation in the Creation process.

So it is for those who today depend totally on God’s perfect and finished work of redemption.  They do not work for their salvation; they receive it for free, as a gift, by entering into God’s rest, of which the Sabbath is a sign:

Exodus 31:13
“Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths.  This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.’”

Only after being justified by faith and attaining peace with God do they begin working out their salvation during the next “six” days, expressing in their lives the fruits of salvation:

Romans 5:1
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ....
Philippians 2:5-16
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.  Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”  Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.  And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.

The Sabbath and Redemption

At the cross, Christ proclaimed the completion of humanity’s redemption:

John 19:30
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”  With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

And just as God’s original Creation was perfect and finished at the end of the six days, so mankind’s redemption was perfect and finished on that sixth day, Friday, when Jesus died on the eve of the Sabbath.  Mankind can add nothing, through work, to this perfect and finished redemption.  All that remains is for the children of Adam to accept the spiritual rest so amply provided, in Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath.

But, just as Adam and Eve worked the six days after the Sabbath rest, Christ’s followers today are enabled to reflect Christ’s righteousness by their works.  Their rest on Sabbath is in Christ’s righteousness.

Matthew 5:14-16
“You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

The word you in verse 14 is in the plural, applying to the whole body of believers.  But the word light is in the singular, applying to Christ, the light of the world:

John 8:12
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Colossians 1:27
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Clearly the Sabbath is linked to the gospel of the Lord, Jesus Christ, and the writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews brings this out:

Hebrews 4:2-3
For we [the Jews of the New Testament times] also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did [the Israelites of the Exodus]; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed.  Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”  And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world.

He then links this rest with the seventh-day Sabbath:

Hebrews 4:4
For somewhere he [God] has spoken about the seventh day in these words:  “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.”

He then concludes:

Hebrews 4:9-10
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God [the Jewish nation]; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.

The New Testament clearly teaches that Christ is the One who created this world:

John 1:3
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
Ephesians 3:9
...And to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.
Colossians 1:16
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.
Revelation 3:14
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:  These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.”

This is what enables Him to claim to be “Lord of the Sabbath”:

Mark 2:28
“So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Luke 6:5
Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

This same Christ, the One who fashioned a perfect creation, in the beginning, came to this earth some 2,000 years ago to redeem it from the terminal problem of sin.  How fitting, then, that, just as Christ finished Creation on the sixth day of the week and rested on the seventh, so He finished the process of redemption on the sixth day of the week (Friday) and rested in the tomb from all His work on the seventh day (Saturday).

Through Christ’s work of redemption, the Sabbath rest has not only been restored, it has gained a new, redemptive significance.  Rather than the cross doing away with the Sabbath, as some teach, it restores true Sabbath rest, which the Fall had defaced.  As the writer of Hebrews says, we who believe in the gospel enter into God’s rest, of which the Sabbath is a sign:

Hebrews 4:2-9
For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed.  Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world.  For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words:  “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.”  And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”
Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.”  This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted:  “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”  For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.  There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God....

Paradoxically, the unbelieving Jews of New Testament times claimed to keep the Sabbath of the Fourth Commandment, but did so in an effort to earn salvation:

Romans 9:30-33
What then shall we say?  That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal.  Why not?  Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.  They stumbled over the stumbling stone.  As it is written:  “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.”

They refused to rest in Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath, and more than once accused Him of Sabbath-breaking, for He did not accept their legalistic rules.

One of the first great invitations Jesus extended to the Jews of His day appears in Matthew:

Matthew 11:28
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Many were discouraged, and He, the Lord of the Sabbath, wanted them to find rest for their souls.  In Him there was salvation, full and complete.

The fact that one does, or does not engage in labor on the Sabbath has no merit, in and of itself; otherwise, Sabbath-keeping would become a means of salvation by works.  The whole purpose of resting on the Sabbath is to remind the Christian that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ’s finished work on the cross.  As we have already read:

Hebrews 4:10
...For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.

How, then, should we keep Sabbath today?  Much controversy has focused on which 24-hour period is the true day of Christian worship.  But the Sabbath itself has always focused primarily on rest, secondarily on worship.  The word Sabbath literally means rest.  Notice that, when God first introduced the Israelites to the Sabbath, He did not mention worship at all:

Exodus 16:29-30 [Emphasis Added]
“Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days.  Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.”  So the people rested on the seventh day.

Those Israelites of the early Exodus simply remained in their tents to rest:

Exodus 23:12
“Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed.”

Only later on, in Leviticus, is the Sabbath mentioned as a day for “holy convocation” (or “sacred assembly”) and, when the Jews settled in Canaan, the Sabbath did become the day for corporate worship in their synagogues:

Leviticus 23:3
“There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly [or “holy convocation”].  You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a sabbath to the Lord.”

But attending services was never the primary purpose of Sabbath.  Even today, the average Sabbath-keeper spends at most three to four hours on the Sabbath in worship gatherings.  For the Sabbath is primarily a time for spiritual reflection on the joy of salvation, of which it is a sign.  It is this that makes the Sabbath a delight:

Isaiah 58:13-14
“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”  For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

I bring this point here, for I know that many sincere Sabbath-keeping Christians in many parts of the world keep the seventh-day Sabbath (Saturday) as a day of rest, but attend services on Sunday.  I applaud them!  They may be coming closer to the true meaning of the Sabbath than those who insist on going to Sabbath church, as a requirement for salvation.

The Sabbath and Self-Righteousness

Because fallen human nature is self-centered, people tend to prefer a course of action known as legalism, or righteousness by works.  I once had a church member, a victim of legalism, who asked me, “I have to work for everything I want in this world; so why should salvation be any different?”  I replied that God’s ways are the very opposite of man’s ways, and that we must never project our ways onto Him:

Isaiah 55:6-9
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.  Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.  Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

As we have seen repeatedly in this book, the basic issue in the great controversy between God and Satan is whether salvation comes through works, or by faith in Christ.  Ever since the fall, all man-made religions, including pseudo-Christianity, have built on a concept of salvation by works.  By contrast, genuine Christianity offers salvation as a gift, by grace alone, through faith alone in what Christ alone accomplished through His life and death.

The controversy about the nature of salvation is seen in the account of a dialogue Jesus has with a rich, young Jewish ruler:

Matthew 19:16
Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

The man is already rich and can expect a long and comfortable life; but he wants more — eternal riches, eternal life.  Jesus responds:

Matthew 19:17a
“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied.  “There is only One who is good.”

The young man does not acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, but only as “Good Teacher.”  So Jesus quotes Ecclesiastes, to remind him that no human being is truly “good,” only God:

Ecclesiastes 7:20
Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.

Jesus is saying that, for one to truly do good, one must first be good.  But since the young man had been raised in Judaism and believes in salvation by works, Jesus addresses salvation from the law’s point of view, and adds:

Matthew 19:17b
“If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

To this young man, the “commandments” means the five books of the Old Testament (the Torah, or Pentateuch).  So he naturally wants to know:

Matthew 19:18a
“Which ones?” he inquired.

Which good things in particular?  Jesus responds by quoting the six commandments of the Decalogue that deal with relationships, and summarizes them with the words, “love your neighbor as yourself”:

Matthew 19:18b-19
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

The young man replies:

Matthew 19:20
“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

He (like many Adventists) has been taught very carefully to observe the letter of the law — the do’s and the don’ts, he has memorized!

But Jesus knows his motivation is self — self-interest — and that he neither loves God with all his heart, nor cares for his neighbors as himself.  So the Master calls his bluff and says plainly:

Matthew 19:21-22
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect [a perfect law-keeper], go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

The young man had kept the law so that God would make him rich and give him long — if possible, eternal — life.  To give away his wealth to undeserving sinners makes no sense at all!  He had hoped for better from Jesus, and goes away sorrowful.

So Jesus turns to those disciples who have witnessed the scene, and says:

Matthew 19:23-24
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle [referring to the small door in the city gate kept open after dark] than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

From the disciples’ point of view, Jesus is contradicting the bedrock teaching of the best rabbis:

Matthew 19:25 [Emphasis Added]
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

The disciples are products of Judaism and, like the young ruler, believe that if one is faithful to God and keeps all His commandments, God, in turn, will bless with great riches.  Likewise, some today believe that if they faithfully return tithe, God will bless them with overflowing bank accounts.

So let us apply this story to the Sabbath.  Notice Jesus’ reply to the disciples’ question:

Matthew 19:26
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

The gospel formula is always, “Not I, but Christ.”  The Sabbath reminds us that God does the work of salvation; His invitation to His followers is to rest in Him, then to go forth to reflect His goodness to the world.

The Sabbath and the New Covenant

The Sabbath rest belongs to God, but He set it aside, or sanctified it, for human beings:

Mark 2:27
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

He gave the Sabbath as a covenant agreement between Himself, the provider, and humanity to constantly remind us that we are God-dependent.  At the Fall, Adam and Eve turned against this covenant and became self-dependent (the Old Covenant).  But through the gospel, this Sabbath covenant is restored.

Only as Sabbath-keeping is linked to the finished work of redemption does it become a sign:

Exodus 31:13
“Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths.  This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.’”

That is why the writer of Hebrews declares:

Hebrews 10:14
For by one sacrifice [the cross] he [Jesus Christ] has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

The apostle Paul pointed out the Corinthians’ sinful past, then assured them:

1 Corinthians 6:11
And that is what some of you were.  But you were washed [past tense], you were sanctified [past tense], you were justified [past tense] in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

He is telling them that their salvation was obtained entirely at the cross and that, as they rest in this salvation, their lives will grow to be more like the Savior’s.  On one hand, the Sabbath rest symbolizes the perfect, finished salvation in Christ; on the other, it reminds the believer that sanctified living is the fruit of salvation.

Even before the Fall, God established the Sabbath covenant to point to Adam and Eve’s total dependence on Him.  That this Sabbath covenant was made with them before the Fall implies that it had a permanent significance, and that, even in the absence of sin, the Sabbath would have been kept throughout eternity.  But after the Fall, the Sabbath was given a redemptive significance, for the Lord of the Sabbath is both Creator and Redeemer:

Deuteronomy 5:15
Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.  Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
Hebrews 4:1-10
Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.  For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed.  Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world.  For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words:  “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.”  And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”
Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.”  This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted:  “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.  There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.

This same Lord of the Sabbath, furthermore, will one day re-create us.  So the whole purpose of the Sabbath, from paradise lost to paradise restored, is to point to Christ who created, redeemed, and will one day restore humanity to its original perfection:

Isaiah 66:22-23
“As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure.  From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the Lord.

The Sabbath, as a day of rest in Christ’s salvation, ultimately points to a future when Christ will create “new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells”:

2 Peter 3:13
But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

The Origin of the Sabbath

Some argue that because the word “Sabbath” is not mentioned in the Genesis record of Creation, it was not actually instituted at that time.  The word “Sabbath” appears in Exodus 16 in connection with feeding the Israelites with manna, and some hold that the seventh-day Sabbath was instituted at that time exclusively for the Children of Israel.

True, the word “Sabbath” appears nowhere in the Genesis record of Creation, but the fourth commandment (Exodus 20:8-11) as well as Christ’s statement in Mark 2:27, clearly indicate that the rest instituted in Genesis 2:3 is synonymous with Sabbath rest.

Exodus 20:8-11
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God.  On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.  Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
Mark 2:27
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
Genesis 2:3
Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

If, indeed, the absence of the actual word “Sabbath” in Genesis is proof that it did not exist at Creation, we should be reminded that the word “substitute” never appears in the New Testament at all, nor does the word “Trinity.”  Yet, the truth of the Godhead is clearly taught throughout the Bible, and so it is with the Sabbath.  At Creation God did indeed sanctify the seventh day and rested from all His work on that day.  This provides the foundation for what the Sabbath has become.

The Sabbath and the Sanctuary Message

This brings us back to the Sabbath/Sunday issue, where we began.  When God asked the Israelites of the Exodus to build Him a Sanctuary so that He could dwell among them, He was providing a visual aid of the whole Plan of Salvation, as it would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ:

Exodus 25:8
“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.”

It was God’s “Show and Tell.”  The Sanctuary and its services revealed both Christ’s earthly mission as well as His heavenly ministry:

John 1:14; 2:19-22
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  ...Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?”  But the temple he had spoken of was his body.  After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said.  Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

Each year, the Sanctuary services all reached their climax with the Day of Atonement, which even today is the most sacred feast day on the Jewish calendar.  The Day of Atonement pointed to the culmination of the Plan of Salvation, when Christ, the Savior and Great High Priest, would eradicate sin and usher in everlasting righteousness, and God required its observance:

Leviticus 16:29-34; 23:26-32
“This is to be a lasting ordinance for you:  On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work — whether native-born or a foreigner residing among you — because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you.  Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins.  It is a day of sabbath rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance.  The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father as high priest is to make atonement.  He is to put on the sacred linen garments and make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the tent of meeting and the altar, and for the priests and all the members of the community.  “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you:  Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.”  And it was done, as the Lord commanded Moses.
...The Lord said to Moses, “The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement.  Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present a food offering to the Lord.  Do not do any work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the Lord your God.  Those who do not deny themselves on that day must be cut off from their people.  I will destroy from among their people anyone who does any work on that day.  You shall do no work at all.  This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.  It is a day of sabbath rest for you, and you must deny yourselves.  From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your sabbath.”

In this same context we must understand the revival of Sabbath observance in these last days.

On the Day of Atonement, the Jews were told to do two things, both essential to their ultimate salvation:  They were to deny self (“afflict their souls,” in the NKJV) and to refrain from work.  God’s words are clear:

Leviticus 23:27-32 [Emphasis Added]
“The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement.  Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present a food offering to the Lord.  Do not do any work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the Lord your God.  Those who do not deny themselves on that day must be cut off from their people [they will be lost].  I will destroy from among their people anyone who does any work on that day.  You shall do no work at all.  This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.  It is a day of sabbath rest for you, and you must deny yourselves.  From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your sabbath.”

Unfortunately, the Jews took these two requirements and gave them legalistic applications.  They denied themselves (which is what is meant by “afflict your souls” in some translations) by fasting, and kept the day as a solemn day of Sabbath rest.  But they did these things in order to pass God’s final judgment and receive salvation.  They failed to see that these requirements were not a means of salvation, but a symbol of the actual Plan of Redemption by grace.

Likewise today, the gospel demands two things of those who fully experience the perfect salvation of Christ, obtained on the cross.  First, believers must deny themselves all self-righteousness, which they may have been depending on for their salvation.  This is the negative demand of the gospel.  Second, believers must rest entirely in the perfect righteousness Christ has obtained for mankind by His life and death.  This is the positive demand of the gospel:

Philippians 3:3-11
For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh — though I myself have reasons for such confidence.  If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:  circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.  I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Bringing these two demands together leaves a formula for what it means to be saved by grace alone, through faith alone.  This formula is expressed, “Not I, but Christ”:

Galatians 2:19-20
For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Read, for example, what Paul writes to the Philippians.  He wants to:

Philippians 3:9
...And be found in him [Christ], not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

The two requirements God demanded of the Jews on the Day of Atonement — denying self and keeping the day as a solemn day of Sabbath rest — are the same ones by which one experiences the righteousness of Christ.  God wanted the Jews to realize that only those who had lost all confidence in themselves and who were resting entirely in the righteousness of the promised Messiah would pass the final judgment and make it to heaven.  The Sabbath rest on the Day of Atonement was to be the seal of righteousness by faith.

The Sabbath, Seal of Righteousness by Faith

The Sabbath/Sunday issue in the end time will be about the same issue, when the Loud Cry of the Everlasting Gospel is proclaimed and the world receives one final chance to accept God’s gift of salvation in Christ:

Revelation 18:1-5
After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor.  With a mighty voice he shouted:  “‘Fallen!  Fallen is Babylon the Great!’  She has become a dwelling for demons and a haunt for every impure spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal.  For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries.  The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”
Then I heard another voice from heaven say:  “‘Come out of her, my people,’ so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.”

When “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations,” there will be no excuse for anyone to be lost:

Matthew 24:14
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

At that time, the human race will polarize into only two groups — believers and unbelievers, those who are resting entirely on Christ for their salvation and will keep His Sabbath as the outward sign, and those who have deliberately and ultimately rejected Christ as their Savior, depending on their own self-righteousness.

Those who turn their backs on the free gift of salvation in Christ and determine to follow the self-sufficient pathway of the dragon or Satan, will prefer to observe a day other than Saturday, as a token of their independence from the Plan of Salvation established from the foundation of the world:

Revelation 12:9; 13:4-8
The great dragon was hurled down — that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.  He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.  ...People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast?  Who can wage war against it?”  The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months.  It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven.  It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them.  And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.  All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast — all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.

At that time, then, Sunday observance will become the Mark of the Beast, signifying a deliberate rejection of the everlasting gospel as proclaimed by the three angels of Revelation 14.

Revelation 13:9-11
Whoever has ears, let them hear.  “If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity they will go.  If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword they will be killed.”
This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people.
Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth.  It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon.

In contrast, those who have given up all dependence on their own self-righteousness will be fully surrendered to the truth of Christ, our righteousness.  These will have come out of Babylon — that is, they will have abandoned their dependence on self:

Daniel 4:30
...He said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”

By resting on Saturday, the Lord’s Sabbath, they will receive the seal of God, the seal of righteousness by faith.

Romans 4:11
And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.  So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them.

The true significance of the Sabbath, in the light of the everlasting gospel, will have been presented, and all who take their stand on Christ’s side will then make their decision to join God’s commandment-keeping people:

Revelation 14:12
This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.

Such commitment will anger Satan:

Revelation 12:17
Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring — those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.

As he did in Jesus’ day, Satan will again use the civil powers to enforce his will, this time by compelling Sunday observance and persecuting those who resist:

John 8:44
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

This is the war of Armageddon, “the battle of that great day of God Almighty”:

Revelation 16:14
They are demonic spirits that perform signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.

In this final showdown between God and Satan — between the people of God under Christ’s banner and the world under the evil one.  The church will triumph, though the last generation of believers will feel forsaken of God:

Isaiah 54:5-8
For your Maker is your husband — the Lord Almighty is his name — the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.  The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit — a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God.  “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back.  In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord your Redeemer.

Yet, they will demonstrate the faith of Jesus and, thus, vindicate the power of the gospel.  Their faith is unshakable, for they will have been sealed with the sign of the Sabbath rest.

Then, in his anger, Satan will impress civil authorities to pass a decree that all Sabbath-keepers be put to death.  But Christ will intervene with the glory of His Second Coming, and the wicked will see Him as a consuming fire.

Revelation 6:15-17
Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.  They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!  For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”

But the saints will rejoice and worship the Lord of the Sabbath in the New Earth, throughout eternity:

Isaiah 66:22-23
“As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure.  From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the Lord.

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