Gospel Issues in Adventism
by E.H. Jack Sequeira

#13 – The Sabbath/Sunday Issue
(Exodus 31:13-17)

My first introduction to Adventism was anything but good news. I was told quite emphatically that if I, a Roman Catholic, did not change my day of worship from Sunday to Saturday, I would receive the Mark of the Beast and be eternally lost. To me this made no sense. I could not see why a loving God would make such a big issue over which day I worshipped Him and condemn me, and millions others, just for worshipping Him on Sunday.

Even today, when the Sabbath/Sunday issue comes up we tend to make it an issue between Sabbath-keeping Christians, i.e., us, versus Sunday-keeping Christian, i.e., them. But is this the real issue? Let’s be honest: the majority of believers who will make it to heaven will have probably been Sunday keeping Christians, since the change took place about 200 A.D.

If salvation is through faith alone in Jesus Christ, what then is the real Sabbath/Sunday issue? It is only in the context of the gospel this issue makes sense. That is what I would like us to consider here. We are going to examine why Sabbath-keeping will become the seal of God when probation closes while the universal Sunday law will become the Mark of the Beast.

To understand this issue, in the light of the gospel, we begin with the Fall. At creation, God gave our first parents, Adam and Eve, dominion over all of creation [Gen. 1:26]. But, at the Fall, this dominion was snatched by Satan and he became lord or prince of this earth [Lk. 4:5,6; Jn. 14:30]. As a result of the Fall, the entire human race came under the dominion of Satan. And the great controversy between God and Satan was now transferred from heaven to this earth with the human race became the issue [Rev. 12:7-9].

In heaven, Lucifer, who became Satan, had rebelled against God and His government over the issue of agape love which, according to Paul, “seeketh not its own” [1 Cor. 13:5]. Satan insisted that such selfless love, that leaves no room for self, deprives one of happiness [Isa. 14:12-14]. So, once Satan took over dominion of this earth, he used the human race to develop this world on the principle of self: politics, education, sports, commerce, etc.

All went well for him until Christ came to this world to redeem mankind and establish His own kingdom on earth [Lk. 11:21-23]. At the cross, Satan was totally defeated and the human race was bought back by the precious blood of Jesus Christ [Jn. 12:31-33; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19].

While this is the good news of the gospel, unfortunately, because mankind was created with the freedom of choice, the gospel has divided the human race into two camps: those who have accepted Christ as their Saviour and come under His banner, and those who have rejected Him and remained under the banner of Satan [Matt. 10:34-39 1 Jn. 5:19].

To the world still under Satan, Sunday represents rest in man’s unfinished imperfect work. To believers, Sabbath represents God’s finished and perfect work [Gen. 2:1-3]. Just as Christ finished creation on the sixth day and rested on the seventh, so also He finished redemption on the sixth day and rested on the seventh day (Sabbath) [Jn. 19:30].

Ever since the Fall, all religions have belonged to one of these two camps. True Christianity is built on the foundation of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone; while all other religions, including false-Christianity, is based on salvation by works. i.e., self-righteousness, the principle of Satan’s government.

In the final showdown between Christ and Satan, Sabbath and Sunday will represent these two opposite systems of salvation. That is why, on the Day of Atonement, any who refuse to keep the Sabbath will be lost [Lev. 23:26-32].

Therefore, we must never make the Sabbath/Sunday issue an issue between Sabbath-keeping Christians (US) versus Sunday-keeping Christians (THEM). Today, we may disagree as to which day is the true Sabbath, but the fact is we both are believers in Christ and, therefore, belong to God’s kingdom. Only when the Sabbath is vitally linked to salvation through faith alone in Jesus Christ and Sunday linked to salvation through human works will these two days become an issue. That is what will happen in the future.

Ever since the Fall, the real issue has been between these two methods of salvation: God’s righteousness versus man’s righteousness, or the Old Covenant versus the New Covenant (such as Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, etc.). This will be the final showdown between God’s people, the Church, and Satan’s people, the world, when Matt. 24:14 is fulfilled and probation closes.

To appreciate this, we must consider the true significance of the Sabbath (which means rest) and its connection to our salvation by grace alone through faith alone in what Christ accomplished some 2,000 years ago by His birth, life, death, and resurrection, i.e., the everlasting gospel.

Fact #1 – The Sabbath is God’s day of Rest, not Man’s

All through Scripture, both the Old and the New Testaments, the Sabbath is designated as God’s day of rest, not man’s. That is what the fourth commandment declares [Ex. 20:10]. While Jesus did state to the Jews that the Sabbath rest was made for mankind (not just them), He made it absolutely clear that He was the lord of it [Mk. 2:27, 28; Lk. 6:9].

And the reason why Christ could claim to be the lord of the Sabbath is because He was God’s spokesman. He was the one who by His Word brought into existence this world of ours. And when He had created a perfect and finished world (nothing could be improved or added), He rested on the seventh day from all His work [Jn. 1:3; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:16; Rev. 3:14].

Fact #2 – The Sabbath is God’s Seventh Day but Man’s First Day

When we look at the Sabbath from God’s point of view, since it is His day of rest, it is His seventh day [Gen. 2:1-3]. But when we look at the Sabbath day of rest from man’s point of view (since God did sanctify or set it aside for mankind) it is man’s first day of rest.

 GOD    MAN 
6 days of Creation 7th day   
  1st day 6 days of work
   SABBATH    

Fact #3 – The Sabbath is Vitally Linked to the Gospel

Ever since the Fall, the Sabbath has been vitally linked to our salvation in Christ. Why is this so? Because sin has brought guilt, robbing mankind of mental and spiritual rest. When God restored the Sabbath rest to the Jewish nation, He gave it a redemption significance [Ex. 31:13, 16, 17; Deut. 5:15 (1 Cor. 10:1-11); Isa. 58:13, 14].

The fulfillment of this rest is Jesus Christ [Matt. 11:28]. But the Jews had missed the whole point of the Sabbath rest and gave it a very legalistic application. Therefore, the writer of Hebrews had to correct them [Heb. 4:1-10].

When Matt. 24:14 will finally become a reality, the human race will be polarized into only two groups — believers and unbelievers. At that time, the Sabbath will become the seal of God just as circumcision was to Abraham [Rom. 4:11]. And Sunday will become the Mark of the Beast [Rev. 14:9,10 (12:9-12; 13:4)].


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