All of God's Holy Days, commanded Holy convocations, festivals, are mentioned in order in Lev 23 and the very first in the order of Holy convocations is the seventh day Sabbath. Accordingly, we shall place it first in order of discussion and address it in this article, while the remainder shall follow in separate articles.
Lev 23:2-3 (NRSV)
"Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: These are the appointed festivals of the LORD that you shall proclaim as holy convocations, my appointed festivals. Six days shall work be done; but the seventh day is a Sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation; you shall do no work: it is a Sabbath to the LORD throughout your settlements."
It is recorded in Genesis that God established the seventh day Sabbath after His recreation of Earth and there has never been any change to that Sabbath – there is no Biblical authority to justify changing the Sabbath from the seventh day to Sunday.
Gen 2:2-3 (NKJV)
“And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”
God established the seventh day Sabbath as a day of rest after His work of physical recreation of Earth. When it is said that God “rested” it means He ceased from His work, because He did not need to recuperate as we do after we work. God ceasing from work on the seventh day was also an example for us in order that we could be refreshed as well as being provided an opportunity to study its deeper meaning along with studying and contemplating other spiritual matters.
No Change to the Seventh Day Sabbath Law
The command to keep the seventh day as a Sabbath is given in Lev 23:3 (NKJV),
“Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.”
God blessed and sanctified this one day – the sanctification making it Holy. The seventh day Sabbath is a Holy Day to be observed every week, as commanded in Lev 23:3 and there has never been any change to that Sabbath – there is no Biblical authority to justify changing the Sabbath from the seventh day to Sunday, the first day of the week. Many Christian organizations apply the reasoning that changing the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first day of the week was in honour and remembrance of the resurrection. However, there is no command in the Bible to set aside any day as a resurrection memorial, let alone use such a day to replace a commanded day for holy convocation. Jesus observed the seventh day Sabbath, not Sunday. Had Jesus wanted to change the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first day of the week he had ample opportunity tell the general Jewish populace, because it was his custom to go into the synagogue and speak on the seventh day Sabbath.
“So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.”
Jesus did not change the seventh day Sabbath and for three hundred years the early Christians faithfully kept the seventh day Sabbath until the politician Constantine, a sun-worshipper, passed an edict in 325 AD forbidding people to do so – "you shall not Judaize by resting on the Sabbath, rather you shall rest on the venerable day of the sun.” It was a pagan sun-worshipper who changed the Sabbath from the seventh day to Sunday, not God or Jesus, therefore the command of God stands.
The Sabbath is Eternal
Now that we know, from the Word of God, the seventh day of the week is the Sabbath of God and has not changed since creation to this day, we can take a look at the bigger picture – the deeper meaning of the Sabbath. In this case the bigger picture is the Kingdom of God. The Sabbath, this one day, actually pictures not only the completion of God’s plan of salvation, but the unending Kingdom of God upon completion of that plan.
Let us now take a closer look and see what God says about the meaning of the day.
“13 Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you.
14 ‘You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, 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.
15 ‘Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.
16 ‘Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.”
The word “perpetual” is interesting, because although the original Hebrew has been translated into many different English words, it seems to have one dominant meaning, being never-ending:
1) futurity, for ever, ever, everlasting, evermore
2) continuous existence, perpetual
3) everlasting, indefinite or unending future, eternity
We know that humanity is not going to live for eternity, so we can only conclude that these verses must also be prophetic and be referring to a spiritual Israel in a time yet future. So, lets see if the New Testament mentions anything about children of Israel keeping the Sabbath for eternity.
“For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.”
The rest to which we look forward is not the promised land into which Joshua led the Israelites and nor is it the Millennium, because those are times when people were and will be human. The rest to which we look forward, an eternal rest, is the Kingdom of God. Clearly, the Sabbath pictures the Kingdom of God. God also said that it is a sign between Him and the children of Israel for ever. These are spiritual Israelites, referred to earlier and identified in Galatians:
“And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
The promise referred to here is the Kingdom which God has promised and that is affirmed in James Chapter 2:5,
“Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?”
The fact that the seventh day Sabbath pictures the eternal Kingdom of God is first given to us as a clue when the recreation days are described in Genesis. Each of the first six days has a beginning and an end, which description is identical for all six days –
"And the evening and the morning were the first day”....(also second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth days)
However, when we come to the description of the seventh day we find that there is no beginning and no end – it is simply a period of time symbolizing God's Kingdom, which had no beginning and shall have no end. This is part of the description of the seventh day Sabbath that almost everyone has overlooked and puts it in stark contrast to the other days of the week. This symbolism was given in the description of the seventh day, not any other day. The seventh day was the only day to be blessed and sanctified by God, not any other day of the week.
Here we have verification of the big picture – that the Sabbath is so important because it not only pictures the completion of God’s plan of salvation, it pictures His ongoing Kingdom, to which there will be no end (Isa 9:7) and it tells us that His Kingdom has been from eternity. Those who attain this final Sabbath rest will be spiritual Israelites and they will be observing that Sabbath for all eternity simply by being in the Kingdom of God - the final Sabbath rest.
The above shows the importance and real meaning of the Sabbath and why
1 it cannot be done away;
2 it cannot be change to a different day of the week; and
3 it must be observed.
Doing away with it by working and doing our own thing is the same as telling God we don’t want to be a part of the reward after completion of His plan of salvation. However, by observing the Sabbath we are saying to God that we do agree with Him and we do want to be have a part in His Kingdom.
The Sabbath, originally instituted for man at his creation, is a permanent obligation. The physical necessities of man require a Sabbath of rest.
“I am more and more sure by experience that the reason for the observance of the Sabbath lies deep in the everlasting necessities of human nature, and that as long as man is man the blessedness of keeping it, not as a day of rest only, but as a day of spiritual rest, will never be annulled. I certainly do feel by experience the eternal obligation, because of the eternal necessity, of the Sabbath. The soul withers without it. It thrives in proportion to its observance. The Sabbath was made for man. God made it for men in a certain spiritual state because they needed it. The need, therefore, is deeply hidden in human nature. He who can dispense with it must be holy and spiritual indeed. And he who, still unholy and unspiritual, would yet dispense with it is a man that would feign be wiser than his Maker” (F. W. Robertson).
References in Scripture
Genesis 2:1-3; 26:1-5;
Exodus 16:4-30; 20:8-11; 31:13;
Ezekiel 20:12-16, 20, 24;
Mark 2:27-28; Luke 4:16;
Acts 17:2; 18:4, 11;
Isaiah 58:13-14; 66:22-23;
Ezekiel 45:17; 47:3-4, 12.