The Dynamics of the
Everlasting Gospel

By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

Chapter 11 – The Sabbath Rest

The good news of salvation, realized in the holy history of Jesus Christ, is often described in the New Testament by the word ďrestĒ [Matthew 11:28; Hebrews 4:2-3]. Since the Fall, this promised rest in Christ has been linked with the Sabbath. For this reason, the major feast days in the Old Testament, pointing to the Messiah and His redemptive activities, was designated a Sabbath day of rest. The Sabbath, therefore, is more than a day of rest or even worship, but has definitely a redemptive significance. Hence, it becomes obvious that the recovery of the full gospel necessitates the restoration of the Sabbath doctrine.

In this final study of the dynamics of the everlasting gospel, we shall first attempt to discover the significance of the Sabbath to God; then its relevance to mankind, in the context of the plan of redemption.

Once this is established, we will proceed to see the place and importance of the Sabbath in the law of God, as part of the new covenant promise [Hebrews 8:10-13], and finally, we will conclude with the end-time conflict of the last days, when the Sabbath will represent Godís seal of righteousness by faith in contrast with and in opposition to Sunday symbolizing Satanís mark of the beast, representing self-righteousness or salvation by works [Revelation 7:2-4; 14:9-11].

Significance of the Sabbath to God

The word Sabbath means rest and the first thing we discover about it, in the Old Testament, is that it belongs to God: ďthe seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy GodĒ [Exodus 20:10]; ďmy Sabbaths ye shall keepĒ [Exodus 31:13]; ďmy holy day . . . the holy of the LordĒ [Isaiah 58:13]. In view of this truth, that the Sabbath belongs only to God, it is unscriptural to label it as the Jewish Sabbath, as some Christians do. Yes, the Sabbath was made for man [Mark 2:27], but it does not belong to man, Jew or Gentile.

Having established this fact, that the Sabbath is Godís rest day; why, we must ask, does an almighty and an all powerful God, who obviously needs no rest day, set aside the seventh day as His special day of rest? The answer we get from the Word of God is because the Sabbath was to signify His perfect and finished work [Genesis 1:31; 2:1-3; Hebrews 4:4]. This fact is extremely important to our understanding of the Gospel and the doctrine of Righteousness by Faith, as the next point brings out.

The next thing we must keep in mind about Godís Sabbath is that it is His seventh day and not ours. According to the Biblical record, God took six days in creating all that constitutes this planet earth and then set aside (sanctified) the seventh day as His Sabbath [Exodus 20:11]. Man was created at the very end of the sixth day [Genesis 1:26-31] and, therefore, Godís seventh day Sabbath was actually Manís first whole day. This is a most important distinction, especially when we consider the Sabbath in the light of our redemption in Christ. Let me explain.

God first worked six days in creating this world, and only when His work was perfect and finished did He rest from all His work [Genesis 2:1-3]. Adam and Eve, on the other hand, did not begin by working but resting on Godís Sabbath, which was their first whole day, and then followed it with six days of work. The significance and importance of this distinction is that mankind, in Adam, began by first receiving Godís handiwork as an entirely free gift, and then only could they enjoy it during the rest of the week.

In setting aside or sanctification the Sabbath [Genesis 2:3], God was entering into an everlasting covenant relationship with man — that he was always to be God-dependent. Hence, when Adam sinned and turned from God-dependence to self-dependence, he actually broke this God-dependent covenant, symbolized by the Sabbath. The result was: ďIn the sweat of thy face shall thou eat breadĒ [Genesis 3:19].

Today, history has proved that when man lives without God things get worse [Romans 1:18-28]. But Jesus Christ came into this world for the express purpose of restoring this rest which mankind lost at the fall [Matthew 11:28]. In doing this, He restored the significance of the Sabbath and we will discover that, in receiving the good news of salvation, we must return to this fundamental principal given to our first parents.

Salvation, like creation, begins not by doing something but by resting in the perfect and finished work realized in the doing and dying of our Lord Jesus Christ. Only then can we enjoy the benefits and blessings of salvation. In view of this, the Sabbath rest becomes the very foundation of the glorious truth of Justification or Righteousness by Faith alone.

When we turn to the New Testament, we discover that both creation as well as redemption was accomplished by God through Jesus Christ [Creation – John 1:3; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16; Revelation 3:14. Redemption – John 3:16-17; Romans 3:24; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Galatians 3:13; Colossians 1:14; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:12; 1 Peter 1:18; Revelation 5:9]. Just as Christ finished creation at the end of the sixth day and rested the seventh day, likewise He finished redemption on the cross on the sixth day and rested in the tomb the seventh day [John 17:4; 19:30].

Further, Christís work of restoration [1 Corinthians 15:24-26; Hebrews 2:13], which will be realized at the end of His heavenly ministry, is also linked with the Sabbath [Isaiah 66:22-23]. This is because it will also be a perfect and finished work as was creation and redemption. Thus, to fallen man the Sabbath has a threefold significance — Creation, Redemption, and Restoration.

Since Christ is both our creator as well as our redeemer and restorer, He had the perfect right to claim to be the Lord of the Sabbath day [Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5; Revelation 1:10]. Therefore, when the Jewish nation rejected Christ as the Messiah, their Sabbath keeping became meaningless. It is for this reason the writer of Hebrews, referring to the Jewish nation, declared: ďthere still remains a keeping of the Sabbath (Gk. sabbatismos) for Godís peopleĒ [Hebrews 4:9]. Hence, any Sabbath keeping that is not motivated by a faith response to Christís perfect atonement on the cross is a sham and still belongs to the old covenant of salvation by works.

Significance of God’s Sabbath to Man

While the Sabbath belongs to God, both the Old and the New Testaments teach it was made for mankindís benefit [Exodus 31:13; Ezekiel 20:12; Mark 2:27]. As already indicated, God created the world through Christ for mankind [Genesis 1:26,28; Psalms 8:5; Hebrews 2:6-8]. However, mankind made no contribution to creation, but was only its recipient. Therefore, the Sabbath rest was set aside (sanctified) for mankind as a constant reminder that God is the loving provider and man must be solely dependent on Him for all his needs. Even the garden on Eden, for example, was planted by God for our first parents [Genesis 2:8].

It must be noted that this Sabbath covenant was made with mankind before the fall. Therefore, had there been no fall we would still be keeping Godís Sabbath as a day of rest. It is the entrance of sin that destroyed the significance of the Sabbath rest, since sin is rebellion against God, in exchange for self-dependence [Romans 1:21; Philippians 2:21]. Thus, when sin separated us from God [Isaiah 59:2], no longer did His Sabbath have any significance.

Man therefore, had to introduce His own rest day, which is Sunday, the day which is recognized today internationally as manís rest day. However, unlike Godís Sabbath, manís rest day does not point to a perfect or finished work. This, too, is of great importance when we come to the final showdown in that great controversy between salvation by faith, symbolized by Godís Sabbath, versus salvation by works, symbolized by manís Sunday, of which Godís Sabbath and manís Sunday will symbolize respectfully.

God knew that it was impossible for fallen mankind to save himself by His works [Romans 3:19-20; Galatians 2:16]. But because He is a God of love and did not desire that any perish, He sent His only begotten Son to redeem mankind and restore that rest which we were deprived of by the fall [Matthew 11:28; John 3:16-17; Galatians 3:13; 4:4-5; Hebrews 4:3]. At the cross, manís justification and reconciliation was completed and perfected [John 17:4; 19:31; Hebrews 10:14]. This perfect and finished redemption was realized at the end of the sixth day just as creation was [Luke 23:54]. Thus, the Sabbath rest was restored and all who by faith receive the good news of the gospel do enter into Godís rest [Hebrews 4:2-3]. Through the gospel, Godís new covenant, mankind can once again enter that rest of which the Sabbath is the sign [Exodus 31:13; Ezekiel 20:12; Isaiah 58:13-14].

In the sermon on the Mount, Christ taught clearly that if we first seek His kingdom and His righteousness, which is by faith, all our needs will be supplied; that is to say, the gospel has made for us a way of escape from self-dependence, which is the source of all our problems, to God-dependence, which is the source of all our joy and happiness. But one thing is clear, we cannot serve two masters — self and God [Matthew 6:24-34]. When we enter into Godís rest, His day of rest must become our day of rest; this is the outward sign that we have chosen to live by faith alone. Such motivation of keeping the Sabbath is true Sabbath keeping.

The Law and the Sabbath

Before we can consider the Sabbath in relationship to the law of God, we must first be clear about the distinction between the right and the wrong use of the law. God never gave the law as a means or method of salvation [Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16]. This is the error the Jews fell into, the error of the Old Covenant, which ended in miserable failure [Romans 9:30-33; Hebrews 8:7-11]. Therefore, anyone who keeps Godís Sabbath in order to be saved, is repeating the mistake of the Jews and, therefore, perverting the very purpose of the Sabbath rest.

When we make Sabbath keeping a requirement for salvation, we are not really entering into Godís rest, which points to a perfect and finished salvation, but have turned His Sabbath into salvation by works, the very opposite of what the Sabbath was intended for. And since by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight, such Sabbath keeping becomes meaningless. How, then, should a Christian, saved by grace through faith alone keep the Sabbath?

The New Testament, and especially the apostle Paul, clearly teaches that, while God never gave the law as a method of salvation, He certainly wants Christians to consider His law as a standard for Christian living [Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:13-14; 1 John 5:1-3; 2 John 6]. In fact, when the law was first given to the Jews at Mt. Sinai, it was for this very purpose. The preamble to the law clearly indicates this: ďI am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondageĒ [Exodus 20:2]. God first redeemed Israel and then gave them the law. Moses especially applied this principal to Sabbath keeping [Deuteronomy 5:15].

Jesus made it very clear that the true motivation for keeping His law was love [Matthew 22:36-40; John 14:15]. This was also clearly taught in the Old Testament [Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18]. Any law keeping, therefore, that is motivated by either fear of punishment or desire for reward belongs to paganism. But this love, that is the fulfillment of the law, we must be clear, is something sinful man cannot generate; for it is agape, the love that seeketh not its own (see Chapter 2 for a detailed study on agape).

However, Godís agape love is the supreme gift of the Holy Spirit to the believer [1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13]. And since there is no self in agape, God does not pour this agape love into the Christian in order that it may return back to Him (that would make God eros or self-centered). Rather, this love is given that it may be shed abroad towards our fellowmen, as evidence of the saving power of the gospel over self [John 13:34-35; Romans 5:5; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15]. This is what it means to have the law written on our hearts, the promise God made in the New Covenant [Hebrews 8:10].

This leads us to a very important consideration regarding the law as a standard of Christian living. You will notice, in examining Godís moral law, that the first four commandments have to do with our relationship with God, while the last six with our neighbor. Since agape seeketh not her own [1 Corinthians 13:5]; how does one obey the first four commands through Godís gift of agape without making God self-centered! It has already been pointed out that God does not pour His gift of agape into the believer in order that it may return back to Him, but that it may go out towards our neighbors. In view of this, the only way we can obey the first four commandments is through faith.

In 1 John 3:23 we read: ďAnd this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.Ē Genuine faith is synonymous with obeying the first four commandments; this, in turn, results in the new birth experience and with this experience comes the gift of agape. The result is love for our neighbor, which is synonymous with keeping the last six commandments [Romans 14:10].

The reason why the New Testament has very little to say about Christians obeying the first four commandments is because all that God wants from us, in regards to our relationship with Him, is faith [John 6:28-29; Hebrews 11:6], faith that is motivated by a heart appreciation for His supreme love gift, Jesus Christ [Galatians 5:6]. In view of this, the only acceptable way one can truly keep the fourth commandment, the Sabbath, is by a faith obedience or entering by faith into Godís rest. Hence the Sabbath, in this context, becomes the seal of righteousness by faith. With this clear insight, we can now turn to the end-time conflict between Sabbath and Sunday.

The Sabbath-Sunday Controversy

Whenever the issue of the Sabbath-Sunday is brought into focus, oneís attention is immediately turned to the Sunday keeping Christians versus the Sabbath keepers. This, I believe, is not the real issue. There are today many sincere Christians who are fully resting in Christ for salvation but are Sunday keepers. They are keeping the wrong day for the right reason. Likewise, there are many sincere Sabbath keepers who believe their Sabbath keeping will save them. They are keeping the right day for the wrong reason. Both need correction and this the Holy Spirit, who is to lead us into all truth, will do.

When this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations [Matthew 24:14]; it will polarize or divide the human race into only two camps — believers and unbelievers [1 John 5:19], those who are fully resting in Christ and those who have ultimately rejected Christ. All who come under the banner of Christ will in the end-time worship the Lord of the Sabbath and their Sabbath keeping will be the outward sign or seal of the righteousness they have already received by faith, just as circumcision was to Abraham ďa seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcisedĒ [Romans 4:11].

Those who have deliberately and ultimately turned their backs to the free gift of salvation in Christ will all worship the dragon which gave power unto the beast [Revelation 13:3-4]. These will exalt Sunday as manís day of rest in defiance of the Sabbath, Godís rest day. The issue then in the final conflict will not be between two groups of Christians or even two rest days, but two opposing methods of salvation: the Sabbath, signifying salvation by faith alone, versus Sunday, signifying salvation by works or human effort.

When man turned from God-dependence, at the fall, and consequently had to eat his bread by the sweat of his brow [Genesis 3:19], a human rest day became necessary. Today, Sunday is that international day of rest, established by the world under Satan. Since man was also created a spiritual being, his departure from God-dependence to self-dependence also meant a departure from God-worship to subtle forms of self-worship [Romans 1:21-23; Isaiah 53:6; Philippians 2:21].

This spiritual departure led man from righteousness by faith to righteousness by works [self-righteousness – Genesis 3:7; 11:4-9]. The New Testament describes this as the religion of Babylon based on the claims of Nebuchadnezzar, the great king of ancient Babylon [Daniel 4:30,31; Revelation 14:6-11]. [It must be noted here that the word Babylon derived its name from the ill-fated tower of Babel, meaning Gate (Bab) of God (el), symbolizing man trying to reach heaven by works.] The fundamental issue is all of scripture is salvation by faith versus salvation by works. At the heart of the Bible message is salvation by grace made effective through faith alone [Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Hebrews 10:38-39; 11:1-40]. At the heart of every false religion is salvation by works.

In ancient times, Sunday not only became manís day of rest from physical and mental work but, above all, symbolized manís spiritual day of rest and worship based on the pagan belief that the sun was the god of gods. This became prominent in Christís day in the Roman Empire. Hence, at its very foundation, Sunday rest is a pagan institution representing self-righteousness; this is in complete contradiction to Godís Sabbath, His sign to man of righteousness by faith [Exodus 31:13, 16; Hebrews 10:14]. These two opposing concepts of salvation can never be reconciled and have been in conflict ever since the fall.

When the true gospel of righteousness by faith will be fully recovered and preached into all the world, every person will have to make the choice, either for or against Christ [Deuteronomy 30:19,20; Joshua 24:13-15; Romans 9:30-33; Philippians 3:3-9]. At that time, the Sabbath will become the seal of God, representing righteousness by faith. In contrast, Sunday will represent the Mark of the Beast, signifying manís rejection of Godís saving grace in Christ [Revelation 14:10-11]. Therefore, when the Sunday (blue) law will be legally established, it will indicate the worldís deliberate and ultimate rejection of Godís loving offer of salvation through His Son.

This is the ďabomination of desolationĒ Christ spoke about [Matthew 24:14-22]. Those who will then insist on Sunday rest, in willful opposition to Godís Sabbath rest, will receive the plagues, the wrath of God poured out without mixture [Revelation 14:9-11]. In contrast, those who will stubbornly keep the Seventh-day Sabbath will be manifesting a faith in God that is unshakeable. They will go through the great time of trouble and wash their robes white in the blood of the Lamb.

Because of the mixed, confused ideas of salvation, the true controversy between Godís Sabbath and manís Sunday is today still foggy and not clearly understood. But when the two opposing methods of salvation come into clear focus, then the true importance of the Sabbath will be seen clearly. May God give us, at that time, the grace and courage to stand for truth.

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