Table of Contents
The institution of the Sabbath at creation
God instituted the seventh day Sabbath at the very beginning – at creation. “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” (Genesis 2:2,3). The blessing on the seventh-day meant that God set it to be a special object of divine favor and a day that would bring blessing to His creatures. The act of sanctification was an announcement that the day was holy, or set aside for sacred purposes.
The seventh day Sabbath in the Ten Commandments
In Sinai, the Lord reaffirmed the sanctity of the seventh day Sabbath when He gave the Ten Commandments. The fourth commandment stated, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8). The word “remember” in the fourth commandment shows its earlier existence (Exodus 16:22–28).
The weekly seventh day Sabbath has often been taken as an institution of the Jewish dispensation, but the Bible declares that it was instituted more than two millenniums before the first Israelite was born. Jesus Himself declared, “The sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27), which indicates clearly that this institution was not ordained for the Jews only but for all mankind as well.
Eternal sign between God and man
The Lord said, “I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them” (Ezekiel 20:12). The observance of the Sabbath is then a mark, or sign, that he who honors the day acknowledges Jehovah as his God. The observance of the seventh day Sabbath thus testifies not only to faith in God as the Creator of all things, but also to faith in His power to transform the life and qualify men and women for entering into that eternal “rest” He originally intended for the inhabitants of this earth. The Sabbath thus bears witness both to the creative and to the sanctifying power of God.
The blessings of the Sabbath
People may reason that the benefits of the Sabbath could be reaped in another day. However, God has specified a specific day – the seventh day. He has commanded us to keep it holy, free from worldly pursuits and personal pleasures.
And the Lord promised, “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words” (Isaiah 58:13). Material as well as spiritual blessings are promised to those who enter fully into the spirit of the Sabbath (Matthew 6:33).
End time controversy
The prophecies of Revelation 12–14 tell us clearly that the seventh day Sabbath will be a subject of controversy in the end times. God’s remnant will be identified by their observance of the commandments of God (Revelation 12:17; 14:12), including the Sabbath commandment. At the same time the antichrist power will exalt a false sabbath and demand allegiance to it. Men will be called upon to decide between the Sabbath of the Lord and the substitute sabbath, or first day of the week. The keeping of the Sabbath will thus again become a distinguishing test and constitute a sign of God’s children.
In His service,