MORE ABOUT THE SABBATH
Throughout the Holy Land, the streets, the shops, and the marketplaces became quieter and quieter. The piercing, mournful sound of the ram's horn echoed down every street, every alleyway, and every corridor. By the time it blew the third time, the day of the Lord was just around the corner.
At sunset, the day came. The special day had come that the people had looked forward to for six days. In millions of homes mothers lit the wicks of their olive oil lamps, and flickering yellow flames leaped upward as symbols of light, of warmth, and of eternity.
In awe, reverence, and joy, the people of God prepared their hearts for the special day. A million whispers reverberated throughout the land saying, "The Sabbath has begun to shine." Fathers with their families around them, prayed with heartfelt gratitude, "Blessed art thou, O God, For the gift of the Sabbath." That is how the celebration of the Sabbath began in biblical times. It was observed with deep reverence, humility, and joy.
Can this Sabbath day have something special for you? As of old, can it be a day when the noise of the world is left behind, and you feel a special sense of peace descend upon your home? The Bible says yes! It can be a time of joy when you experience the refreshing rest God has promised. It can be a time when you find a special partnership with God, a foretaste of the communion you can have with him throughout eternity. That's why God gave the Sabbath to all mankind. He knew we needed it if we were to come close to him. Now as you explore the meaning and importance of this Sabbath day of rest, you too will discover God's special day.
Since the week of creation, the Sabbath has been with us. God made it and gave it to us. But it did not begin at midnight and end at midnight, for that system of reckoning days did not come until thousands of years later. Rather, God made his 24-hour day to begin at evening. This is the way the Bible describes it: "And the evening and the morning were the first day." (Genesis 1:5) Every day of creation God described as being made up of "evening and morning."
According to God's way of reckoning days, a new day begins at evening, and this is true of the Sabbath day as well. God directed his people that "from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath." (Leviticus 23:32) The evening is the time when the worries of the day are usually past, when the hush of the day comes, and when you can tell by the sky that a new day is beginning. "At even, when the sun did set," is the way the gospel writer Mark described a coming Sabbath. (Mark 1:32)
It might be startling to see how far the world has drifted from starting the Sabbath day when God meant it to start. Even more startling is another fact. Not only has the start of the Sabbathbeen changed from sunset to midnight, but the Sabbath seems to have been changed from the seventh day of the week to the first day, from Saturday to Sunday.
Who made this startling change? Did God himself? Did Jesus? Did the apostles? Who changed the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first? Is this change really valid in God's sight?
It is important to know, because the Sabbath commandment is one of God's Ten Commandments. The Fourth Commandment tells us that God created but one rest day, and it was established at creation. This was the only day he blessed and set apart as the rest day.
God made the seventh day to shine above all the others. The Sabbath is a day filled with extra spiritual blessings, for God promised it would be that way. From the time of Adam and Eve, the seventh- day Sabbath was designed to draw mankind closer to the Creator. If God made the Sabbath on the seventh day, the first question we naturally ask is, "Did God himself change the Sabbath day?" The question is appropriate, for it is his day. The Bible tells us that "the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God." (Exodus 20:10) He created all things by the word of his mouth, and he said that he would never change that word. "My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips." (Psalm 89:34) The simple fact is that God never mentioned that the Sabbath day was or would be changed. There is not a single Bible text to support such a change. "The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." (Romans 7:12)
Our next question is, "Did Jesus indicate any change in the Sabbath?" Being one with the Father, any change he made in the law would be equal to a change made by God the Father. But Jesus was quite clear that his stand was the same as that of his Father. Jesus declared, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." (Matthew 5:17)
Jesus Christ, who with the Father created our world and gave us the Sabbath, would not change God's eternal law. He came to show us the Father, not to destroy the Father's works.
Our next question is this: "Did the cross of Christ change the Sabbath?" To the contrary, the cross of Jesus Christ shows us that God's law cannot be changed. If God could have changed his Ten Commandments, then Christ need not have died for our sins. After all, "sin is the transgression of the law." (1 John 3:4) Change the law, and you have no clear indication of what sin is. No sin- -no need of a Savior.
But Christ died on the cross to pay the price of our sin. He showed us that the Ten Commandments couldn't be changed, because they arejust, holy, and perfect, like God himself. To change the law would be to say that God changes.
We have the example of Jesus himself that shows us the seventh-day Sabbath would still be in effect long after his crucifixion. While with his disciples one day, Jesus looked ahead to the years after his resurrection and ascension. He saw the time of trouble his disciples would face. He saw the siege of Jerusalem which would happen about 40 years after his ascension. He told his disciples, "Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day." (Matthew 24:20) We have no indication that Jesus changed the Sabbath day. In fact, we have clear references to show us that he did not change a single law of God the Father.
But did Jesus tell his apostles anything about changing the Sabbath? For if there was to be a change in God's law, surely there would have to be some clear record of that change. But nowhere in scripture is there any such record. In fact, we have clear examples of the apostles keeping the seventh-day Sabbath long after Christ's resurrection. The apostle Paul, for instance, kept the seventh- day Sabbath. "And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures." (Acts 17:2)
Paul kept the Sabbath everywhere he went, in the Jewish world and in the Gentile world. In Scripture we have record of 84 Sabbaths that Paul kept. Paul was accused by the Jews of many things: preaching a false Messiah, stirring up the people, and bringing Gentiles into the temple. But he was never accused of breaking the seventh-day Sabbath! Paul said, "For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God." (Acts 20:27) Apparently, if there was a change of the Sabbath day, it was not by the counsel of God.
No apostle ever mentioned any change in God's law. In fact, they clearly warned that there would be a falling away from the doctrines they taught converts. Paul said, "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." (Acts 20:29,30)
That is exactly what happened. After the apostles died, the church strayed from their teachings. Rites, ceremonies, and doctrines which Paul and Peter never condoned gradually crept into the church. It was as Paul had said, "There shall come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God." (2 Thessalonians 2:3,4)
The apostle Paul wasn't the only one to have this revelation of the future. Centuries earlier the prophet Daniel was given a visionof the history of the church. He saw a great apostasy coming. He saw a power arising that would oppose God and his people. He described that power this way: "He shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws." (Daniel 7:25)
In this prophecy we have a hint of who changed the Sabbath day to Sunday. It would be someone against true religion, against God himself. He would not only seek to change God's laws, but God's times also. . .even the very clockwork of God's universe. The only commandment of God that involves time is the Sabbath.
How did this change of the Sabbath occur? If Jesus had changed the day of worship, then naturally the change would have occurred rapidly. If the apostles had preached a new day, then the change would also have happened quickly. But history shows us that the Christians did not stop their seventh-day Sabbath observance all at once. In fact, it didn't even happen within a few years. The earliest authentic mention of Sunday observance by some Christians happened shortly after the middle of the second century, over 100 years after Christ's resurrection. It took centuries for the change to become firmly established throughout most of Christianity. Even up to the fourth century after Christ, we have clear references to Christians following the seventh-day Sabbath of the Lord.
History plainly shows that: one--the early Christians kept the seventh-day Sabbath; two--later on, after the apostles, some Christians gradually changed their day of worship to Sunday; three- -for many hundreds of years some Christians kept the seventh-day Sabbath.
At about the same time that the Sabbath was being changed, a new religious organization was coming into being. It was called the Roman Catholic Church. It is this organization which claims to have changed the Sabbath day. Here is just one of many quotes that support this:
Question--Which is the Sabbath day? Answer--Saturday is the Sabbath day. Question--Why do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday?
Answer--We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday.
-The Convert's Catechism of Catholic Doctrine (1957 Edition), p. 50-
A renowned Catholic leader and writer, James Cardinal Gibbons, wrote, "You may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify." This quote is from Gibbon's book, The Faith of Our Fathers, page 89.
Man claims he had the power to change God's law. But he does not. He cannot change the laws of God. He can only claim to do so. The law of God still stands. The seventh day is still the Sabbath of the Lord.
Whose law shall we follow? Should we observe the laws that man has written and rewritten, or should we obey the power that is higher than man? The answer, of course, is obvious. It is for our best welfare and happiness to obey God, who is just, holy, and good. We can depend on God's laws, for like him they are eternal. They come from a heart of love, for "God is love." (1 John 4:8)
The essential issue in the Sabbath question is not only the difference of a day. The issue is this: Will you obey God, or will you rather obey man? Peter and his fellow apostles stated the answer. They said, "We ought to obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29)
For hundreds of years during the dark ages, the truth of the seventh- day Sabbath was almost lost. It was kept by only a handful of Christians here and there, Christians often persecuted by the established church. But it would not remain this way. The book of Revelation tells us of three angels who would bring a special message to all the world. This message would again draw our eyes to the Creator and his Sabbath.
The first angel announced, "Fear God and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgement is come: and worship him that made heaven and earth." (Revelation 14:7) To show God our respect, to give glory to him, we must worship and obey him. We must acknowledge him as our Creator, and the Sabbath is a sign that we recognize him as Creator.
Then the second angel comes with what seems to be a terrifying message: "Babylon is fallen." (Revelation 14:8) Babylon in prophecy has always been the corrupt religious system that opposes God and his truth. About this Babylon, Jesus says, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins." (Revelation 18:4)
God is calling his people to come out of religious systems that do not uphold God's commandments. He wants his people to be separate from the corruption of Babylon. God's people will not follow the traditions and laws of men that are contrary to God's laws. The Bible says of them, "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." (Revelation 14:12)
What about the third angel? What is his message? It is this: "If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God." (Revelation 14:9,10)
As with Babylon, the beast in prophecy refers to apostate religion that opposes the truth of God and his followers. God's sign of allegiance is his Sabbath. The beast's image of that sign, or his counterfeit, is a false day of worship--Sunday. We are warned not to receive the sign of this beast. It is a serious warning.
An earthly power has, in effect, said to God, "You've put your blessing on the seventh day. I've put mine on the first day. Those who keep the first day are paying homage to me." But someday soon Jesus will return, and no church, no government, nor any power will be able to stand before him. Those who have opposed him will be destroyed by the brightness of his coming.
Of course you are not saved by keeping the seventh-day Sabbath. But the true follower of Jesus will want to show his Creator and Redeemer honor and respect in the manner God has ordained.
The Sabbath is the day that shines above all other days. There is only one Sabbath--the seventh day, the only day God made holy. It is a day of re-creation, of communion with our loving God. In full harmony with God's plan for your life, won't you determine to obey God by keeping the Sabbath day he has set aside for you?
As you do so, you will see the Sabbath as a special delight, the highest expression of your belief in God as your Creator and Redeemer. You will feel yourself drawn to him. This Sabbath day will become something out of the ordinary routine of living. It will become a time of rest and peace.
Friend, do you want a day like that, a day that shines with the brightness of God's love and blessing? You can have it. Go to Jesus now; ask him to give you the power to obey him in all things, including the keeping of his Sabbath.
Won't you take a moment now and ask Jesus to help you? Let us pray: Dear Father in heaven, you have done so much for me, given so much to me, including your Son, Jesus. You've told me that I can know more about you and become closer to you by keeping your Sabbath day holy. I would like to do that. Please give me strength to do so. I ask this in the name of my Creator and Redeemer, Jesus. Amen.
O day of rest and gladness,
O day of joy and light,
O balm of care and sadness,
Most beautiful, most bright;
On thee, the high and lowly,
Who bend before the throne,
Sing, holy, holy, holy,
To the Eternal One.
A day of sweet reflection
Thou art, a day of love;
A day to raise affection
From earth to things above.
New graces ever gaining
From this our day of rest
We seek the rest remaining
In mansions of the blest.
-Christopher Wordsworth- (1807-1885)