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REMEMBER TO KEEP THE SABBATH DAY HOLY

The Old Testament scriptures speak of man’s requirement to keep the Sabbath Day holy.  We can see just how important it was to God for His people to observe that day in how much is written about it in scripture.  It was commandment number four in the list of old covenant Ten Commandments.  

God said, "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.   For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11)

The Sabbath Day was the seventh day of the week.  It was holy because God did all of His creation work during the first six days and then He rested on that seventh day. 

Scripture says that God had completed His work, “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” (Genesis 2:3)  

Speaking of God’s creation work, John tells us how Christ existed from the beginning as the Word and as the Creator (John 1:1-3).  He is speaking the Father’s word through all of the scriptures and He does all of the Father’s creation work.  That included God’s original creation that ended with the creation of man in the image of God but His work has been ongoing. 

Paul spoke of Christ’s creation works and said, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities --all things have been created through Him and for Him.”  (Colossians 1:16) 

If Christ existed from the beginning as the Word and as the Creator and if His creation work included selecting all rulers and authorities then all of those Hebrew tribal leaders and the Pharaoh who ruled over Egypt when Israel was in slavery there were a part of Christ’s creation work. 

Was He creating a copy of how He would bring His spiritual Israel out of slavery to sin in this world so that He could lead them to their heavenly land?  If their earthly salvation story was caused to happen as an earthly copy of our spiritual salvation story, was their covenant Law a part of that earthly copy?  The Law of the Sabbath was a part of their Law. 

Everything about that story appears to be an earthly copy of our spiritual story.  Was Christ causing it all to come about for our instruction just as He spoke in parables for our instruction?  The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are hidden in Christ’s parables (Matthew 13:10-11). 

We can only come to know those mysteries by listening to the Spirit of Christ as He speaks through the New Testament scriptures to explain the spiritual meaning to us. 

If that old Law commandment to keep the Sabbath Day holy was one of the earthly copies then Christ will be explaining the spiritual meaning to His disciples in the New Testament scriptures. 

He said some things in the Old Testament scriptures that may be telling us how the Sabbath Day applies to us.  God was speaking ahead to us when He told Israel, “- -You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you.  Therefore you are to observe the sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people.” (Exodus 31:13-14)

He told them they were, to celebrate the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.’  It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed.” (Verses 16-17)   

If it was a perpetual covenant, it was to last forever.  If so, then it applies to Christians and it extends beyond life on this earth. 

God told them it was a sign to let God’s people know that He is the LORD who sanctifies them but it was also to be a sign of how the LORD made the heaven and the earth in six days but on the seventh day He stopped working and was refreshed.

The Sabbath observance was a sign of how He rested from His original works of creation but was it also a sign of how He would be resting from His new creation work?  He told them that anyone who did work on that day was to be put to death.  

All of those old covenant laws and commandments ended at the cross and that included the law of the Sabbath Day.  Paul spoke of that the old Law and its decrees and said that Christ, “having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”  (Colossians 2:14)  

He then tells us, “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day--  things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17)

Jesus nailed the old Law commandments to the cross.  The command to keep the Sabbath Day holy was one of those requirements.  Paul said we are no longer under those new moons and Sabbath day things because they were “a mere shadow”. 

The Law of the Sabbath Day was just an earthly copy of the spiritual that belongs to Christ.  The Hebrew writer said the same thing about that old Law and its requirement.  

He writes, “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.” (Hebrews 10:1) 

If the Law of Moses commandments were a mere shadow, that sounds like the Lord is speaking in parables. 

It appears that the old Law included things that were just earthly copies of the spiritual reality that was to come to us under the new covenant.  What would be our new covenant Sabbath?

If we must observe a spiritual Sabbath Day, what day is that?  Some believers consider Sunday to be our new covenant Sabbath.  Many believe it is both a day of worship and a day of rest. 

Sunday would not seem to fit as being our Sabbath because the Sabbath Day of rest was the seventh day and Sunday is the first day of the week. 

It also does not fit because the Sabbath was a day of rest, not necessarily a day of worship. The word, “Sabbath”, means “to cease” or “stop”. 

Most Christians observe Sunday as a day of worship but not a day of rest.  They may not do their normal work but they do many things that require physical activity (Fish, golf etc).  

The old covenant Sabbath Day was a day of “complete” rest.  They were not even allowed to go to worship if they had to travel more than that short distance allowed (About half a mile).

Only a few strict Jews observe their Sabbath Day with complete rest.  Almost no one keeps it as a day of complete rest and they certainly do not obey all of God’s commands regarding the Sabbath because the penalty for anyone who worked on the Sabbath was to be put to death. 

What did first century Christians believe with regard to keeping the Sabbath Day and how did it fit in with assembling for worship on the first day of the week?  There are no scriptures with examples to show us anything about their observance of Sunday as their Sabbath.

In reality it is very likely that many of those early Christian had no choice but to work on Sunday because that was the first day of the week and it was a day of work for Jews.  Only the seventh day was a day of rest. 

We know that the church began with the gospel only being preached to the Jews.  There were no Gentiles (Except proselytes) in the church in the early days after the gospel began to be preached on Pentecost. 

Those early Christian Jews continued to keep the Law of Moses, which included the Sabbath Day, even after the new covenant became effective.  Even the apostles continued to keep that Law for a time after the church came into being.  It was not required of them but many (If not most) of the Jewish Christians kept the Law of Moses anyway. 

There were thousands of new Jewish Christians within the first few weeks and it was very likely that many of those early Christians were servants of Jewish masters who had not become Christians.  Their unbelieving Jewish masters would have observed the seventh day Sabbath but Sunday was a work day for them and their servants. 

Those Jewish masters would not have observed Sunday as a day of rest or as a special day for worship.  They would have expected their servants to work on Sunday. 

If many of those Jewish Christians had to work on the first day of the week but they also assembled for worship on that day, then they would have needed to meet either before or after work.  Their days ended at sundown and went until sundown the next day.  The only time available for worship on the first day of the week would have been between sundown on Saturday and daylight on Sunday morning.  

We can see examples of them doing that both in recorded history (Pliny the Younger's letter to the Roman emperor) and in scripture.  We can see it in what happened when Paul and some others came to Troas in Acts, chapter 20. 

Scripture says they, “- came to them at Troas within five days; and there we stayed seven days.  On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.” (Acts 20:6-7) 

They were there for seven days before they assembled for worship on the first day of the week.  They gathered together to break bread on the first day of the week and Paul spoke to them during the dark hours until midnight. 

During Paul’s long message, a young man who was sitting in a window went to sleep and fell out of the window and was killed.  Paul brought him back to life.  We then read where Paul, “When he had gone back up and had broken the bread and eaten, he talked with them a long while until daybreak, and then left.” 

They would never forsake the assembly for worship and to partake of the Lord’s Supper, so that assembly on the first day of the week must have been their specified time to assemble for worship.

We are still searching to see how we are to observe our spiritual Sabbath.  Sunday is obviously not that day.  If that old Sabbath was a sign then it was pointing ahead to our Sabbath. 

We read where that old Sabbath was a sign between God and His people to let them know how God would rest from all His creation work but it was also a sign that we may know that He is the LORD who sanctifies us. 

We know that only the blood of Christ can sanctify God’s people.  Scripture says, For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp.  Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.” (Hebrews 13:11-12)

Is that telling us how Jesus did God’s new creation work that sanctified us with His blood and how He would then rest from that work?  He did that work on the cross on that Friday and then He rested from that work. 

The greatest work ever done was the work that Jesus did for us in the new creation that created man in the true image of God.  That work was done when Jesus lived a perfect life in the flesh and then offered His perfect sacrifice on the cross to sanctify and redeem us from our sin.  

When did He rest from that work?  Remember, it was past the ninth hour (After 3 PM) on the Friday afternoon of that Passover weekend that He made the statement "it is finished" and then He died.  Joseph of Arimathea took His body and, with the help of Nicodemus, prepared it and put it in a nearby tomb. 

Considering the time necessary to remove His body from the cross and the preparation time (Wrapping in Lenin with myrrh and aloes), that day would be almost over.  Their Sabbath began at sundown on that Friday evening and ran until sundown the next day, that Saturday evening. 

Jesus was placed in the tomb just before the beginning of that Sabbath Day.  He had completed His work on earth "AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS".  

Regarding His creation work on earth in the flesh, it was all finished.  It would be early on the first day of the week (That Sunday morning) before Jesus would arise from His earthly Sabbath rest.  He is now in that true land of rest but He left behind the house of God that would continue His work. 

As that holy day of rest ended, Jesus came up from the tomb that Sunday morning having defeated death for all who would come to God through Him, meaning through His church body.  

The victory over death has been given to us through our Lord Jesus Christ.  His resurrection will allow those who are created in His image to come into that eternal land of rest. 

When the ancient Jews observed the Sabbath Day, they were observing an earthly copy of the true Sabbath rest to come. 

Did God require those ancient Hebrews to remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy as a sign to honor the work that Jesus would be doing for them and to foretell of His rest from that work? 

God told them that the Sabbath Day was a "most holy day".  The most holy day that ever existed was the last day of work for Jesus on earth.  It was the day that Christ did His great work of creating man in the image of God.  

The next most holy day was the day that He observed the Sabbath Day and rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done in His body of flesh on earth but He is still working through His church body. 

Paul spoke of that work and said that we are not saved by our works; we are saved by grace, through faith but he also tells us that, "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." (Ephesians 2:8-10) 

Speaking of our new creation work Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father"  (John 14:12)

If we are faithful in doing the new creation work that we have been created to do, we will find rest for our souls some day.  Jesus said, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)  

When Jesus tells us to take His yoke upon us, will it be like taking up our cross and following Him?  It takes work to carry a cross.  We must not lay down our cross until we get home.  When we get home we can rest. 

Speaking of that rest to come for the faithful, John heard a voice from heaven saying, "Write, `Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!' " "Yes," says the Spirit, "so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them."  (Revelation 14:13) 

Christ did that original creation work and He is doing our new creation work.  Included in His new creation work is a place of rest for God’s people. 

He says, "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”  (John 14:2-3)  

Those who die in the Lord will rest from their labors in that place of rest.  They will rest from the good deeds that they will have done. 

Scripture refers to that place as God’s rest and says, “Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.  For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, "AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST," although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. (Hebrews 4:1-4)

That heavenly land is our place of rest just as that old covenant earthly land was their land of rest.  Therefore, there will be some who will believe the good news of that land of rest and they will enter into that rest.  

For some others God swore in His wrath that they will not enter His rest, although His works were finished from the foundation of the world.  

The Hebrew writer connects that story of those who would not enter His rest with the seventh day of rest. 

He says, For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: "AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS "; and again in this passage, "THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST." Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience” He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time - - ” (Hebrews 4:4-7).

He is speaking of our Sabbath rest when he says, For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that.  So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.  For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.  Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:8-11)

Christ is speaking through the inspired scriptures.  He says that we must be diligent to enter our rest so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience that is shown in that old Hebrew story. 

Jesus is now in our land of rest, the true Sabbath rest. Believers are following behind, doing His work, as Jesus continues His work in the Spirit through them.  He tells us that land of rest remains open to all who will believe and obey Him. 

We must follow in His footsteps and do the good works that we have been created to do.  Christ will be working through us.  If we are faithful in doing our work we will find rest for our souls on that day of rest. 

Remember, there will be no night in that land (Revelation 22:5).  There will only be one eternal day.  That day will be "a most holy day" for God’s people.  We must keep it holy by showing our belief in God’s word that promises to give us that land. 

God’s promise is to bring us out of slavery to sin so that He can lead us to that land of rest.  That promise can be seen when we hear Moses tell his people, You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day.”  (Deuteronomy 5:15)

They were to observe the Sabbath Day so they could remember how they were slaves in the land of Egypt but the LORD their God brought them out with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm so that He could lead them to their earthly land of rest. 

The true Sabbath Day is the eternal day in that land of rest and we can only have that land because the LORD our God brought us out of slavery to sin with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.  He was willing to stretch out His arms on the cross and open His hands to the nails. Therefore, we are to remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.  

We must not forget the awesome things that He did to redeem us so that we could have our Sabbath rest.  We must not despise that pleasant land. 

Under that old earthly copy God created the heavens and the earth and completed all His work in six days and then He rested on the seventh day.  How will Christ be resting from all of His new creation work on the seventh day when He began His new creation after Adam sinned and messed up the first creation? 

He began that new creation work some six thousand years ago.  If God has been working on His new creation for nearly six thousand years, how does that compare to six days of work on His first creation?  Peter says there is a connection. 

He speaks of those mockers who make fun of the promise of Christ’s coming when they see everything continuing as it was from the beginning of creation.  Of God’s timing he says, But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. (2 Peter 3:8)

Peter is speaking of the day of Christ's return. Mockers say that has not happened and it will not happen. 

When Christ returns, His new creation work will have been completed.  Speaking of the timing of that work, Peter says that with God a thousand years is as a day. 

Are the six days of Christ working on that first creation like six thousand years of His working on this new creation?  If so, His new creation work is nearly over because it was nearly six thousand years ago that Adam sinned and messed up this first creation.  

If I am not doing the works of love that I have been created to do, I will not find rest for my soul.  If I will not rest will I be working?  Would it be very difficult work?  Would it be as difficult as the work Jesus did on the cross?

With regard to God’s requirement that His people keep that earthly Sabbath Day holy, there is one thing that lets us know that it does not apply to Christians.  It is found in something that Jesus told some Pharisees. 

They had seen His disciples picking grain from a field and eating it on the Sabbath Day.  They told Jesus that His disciples were guilty of breaking the Sabbath.  He responded by telling them that the priests in the temple break the Sabbath but they are innocent (Matthew 12:5). 

How could the priests in the temple break the law of the Sabbath and be innocent?  The commandment to not do any work on that day did not apply to those priests who were serving at the temple.  Under the Law of Moses, the priests who served in God's house were commanded to work on the Sabbath, not rest. 

They were commanded to serve daily in the outer tabernacle room tending the lamps and offering incense on the incense altar.  It was to be done seven days a week without breaks. 

God told Moses that Aaron was to burn incense on the incense altar every morning when he trims the lamps and, When Aaron trims the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense. There shall be perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations.” (Exodus 30:7-8)   

They were also required to offer burnt offerings before the doorway of that holy place every morning and evening, seven days a week. 

Speaking of their sacrifices before the tabernacle, God told Moses, “The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it.  It shall not go out, but the priest shall burn wood on it every morning; and he shall lay out the burnt offering on it, and offer up in smoke the fat portions of the peace offerings on it.  Fire shall be kept burning continually on the altar; it is not to go out.” (Leviticus 6:12-13) 

Jesus said that they were innocent even though they did not keep the Sabbath.  Those old covenant priests in the temple were exempt from keeping the commandment to stop work and rest on the Sabbath Day because they had been commanded to work every day, seven days a week. 

If those old Law priests were to work seven days a week, are God’s new covenant priests required to work seven days a week?  Under the new covenant Christians are God’s house and they are also the serving priests at God’s house. 

Peter told the early church that they were living stones being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices and they were a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5-9). 

God requires daily worship, seven days a week, from His serving priesthood.  Jesus was speaking of that worship service when He said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23) 

It requires work to carry a cross, even a spiritual cross.  Jesus did not say that we are to carry our cross six days a week.  Our spiritual sacrifice is to take up our cross and follow Jesus seven days a week offering our body as a living sacrifice.  

Paul tells us, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1)

God’s serving priests have no day of rest on this earth.  Our day of rest will come in that heavenly land of rest. 

Johnny Rogers 7/2/05

Revised 4/2/16  

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