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The Sabbath

Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. 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 1:31-2:3)

The Sabbath, the seventh day (Saturday, not Sunday), was blessed and sanctified from the very beginning, before there was ever a fall (Genesis 3:1-6) and before the ground was ever cursed (Genesis 3:17-19). The Lord rested from all His works on the seventh day (Hebrews 4:3-4) and was refreshed (Exodus 31:17); although, "the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary" (Isaiah 40:28).

The Sabbath, which means "rest" (Hebrew, שׁבָּת [shabbât]), was made for man (Mark 2:27). Although it was blessed and sanctified from the very beginning, it was never commanded by God until the law of Moses (Exodus 12:16; 16:23; 20:8-11). In the Ten Commandments the Israelites were instructed to,

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 20:8-11; see also Deuteronomy 5:12-15)

This fourth commandment of the Ten Commandments was no small trivial suggestion. Those who disobeyed this commandment were to be killed (Exodus 31:12-15; 35:2; Numbers 15:32-36). The Israelites were instructed by God to rest every seventh day. If they didn't, they were to be put to death. Nevertheless, sad to say, despite this serious charge, the Israelites did not obey the Lord on this matter as well (2 Chronicles 36:21; Nehemiah 13:15-18; Jeremiah 17:19-27; Ezekiel 20:12-24; 22:8). If they had obeyed, Jerusalem would not have been destroyed, but would have remained forever (Jeremiah 17:25). In fact, for those who kept the Sabbath in righteousness, the Lord promised salvation for them (Isaiah 56:1-7; 58:13).

The Sabbath was not only a command from God, but it was and is a perpetual sign between God and His people (Exodus 31:16-17); and it still has its place in the future. As it is written,

"For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before Me," says the Lord, "So shall your descendants and your name remain. And it shall come to pass that from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me," says the Lord. (Isaiah 66:22-23; see also Ezekiel 44:24; 45:17; 46:1, 3-4, 12; Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 10:1).

Presently, the Sabbath rest is still kept by the people of God. Whether they work on the seventh day (Saturday) or not (Romans 14:5-6), those who set their hope completely on the grace to be brought to them at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13) enter a Sabbath rest. As it is written,

There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. (Hebrews 4:9-10)

Those who abandon hope in themselves (Matthew 5:3; Romans 9:30-32) and rest their hope on Christ (Hebrews 6:18; 7:25) have entered "His rest" (Hebrews 4:1). As Hebrews 4:10 says, they have ceased from their works as God did from His. God ceased from His works by resting on the seventh day. Those who totally stop every work of their own righteousness (Psalm 16:2; Romans 4:5, "does not work") and believe on Him who justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5), these are those who fulfill the law (Romans 8:4) and keep a perpetual Sabbath (Hebrews 4:3-4, 9-10).

Even under the old covenant, there were those who worked on the Sabbath and were blameless (Numbers 28:9; 2 Kings 11:5-9; Matthew 12:5). So it is today. Those who walk by faith are blameless before God (Colossians 1:22; 1 John 1:9; 3:2-3), whether they physically work on the seventh day or not. Because,

Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4; for more on the law, see our report, The Law)

Believers are to,

let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths. (Colossians 2:16)

Food, drink, festivals, new moons, or sabbaths mean nothing in regards to righteous living (Romans 10:4; 14:14). A Christian is free to eat, not eat, drink, or not drink, keep an Old Testament festival, or new moon, or not keep them (Romans 14:5-6). A godly man may keep the Sabbath and do no physical labor, or not keep it and work (Romans 14:5-6). A believer should not heed anyone who might tell them otherwise (Galatians 4:10). And, although there are indeed sabbaths other than the weekly Sabbath (Exodus 23:10-11; Leviticus 23:23, 27, 34, 39; 25:2-11), "sabbaths" (Colossians 2:16) nonetheless include the seventh day Sabbath (Leviticus 19:3, 30; 23:37-38; 26:2; Exodus 31:13-14; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 8:12-13; 31:3; Nehemiah 10:33; Isaiah 1:13; Lamentations 2:6; Luke 4:31; Acts 17:2). It is absolute folly and against the Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8) to say otherwise.

Moreover, the Greek New Testament bears witness to the plural term "sabbaths" being used for the weekly Sabbath. The following passages are typically translated in the singular, but they are actually plural in the Greek. For example, Matthew 12 more literally reads,

At that time Jesus walked through the grain fields on the sabbaths. And his disciples were hungry, and they began to pick the heads and eat. (Matthew 12:1, τοις σαββασιν [tois sabbasin], the Sabbaths)

Or, did you not read in the law that on the sabbaths the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are innocent? (Matthew 12:5, τοις σαββασιν [tois sabbasin], the Sabbaths)

And behold, a man was there who had a withered hand. And they asked him saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the sabbaths?" that they might accuse him. And he said to them, "What man is there out of you who, having one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the sabbaths, will not grab it and raise it up? How different then is a man from a sheep! Therefore, it is lawful to do good on the sabbaths." (Matthew 12:10-12, τοις σαββασιν [tois sabbasin], the Sabbaths [3x])

Luke 4:16 more literally reads,

And He came into Nazareth, where He was brought up. And He went in, according to His custom, on the day of the sabbaths, to the synagogue, and stood up to read. (εν τη ημερα των σαββατων [en tê hêmera tôn sabbatôn], on the day of the sabbaths)

Acts 13:14 more literally reads,

But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the day of the sabbaths and sat down. (τη ημερα των σαββατων [tê hêmera tôn sabbatôn], on the day of the sabbaths)

Acts 16:13 more literally reads,

And on the day of the sabbaths we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. (τη τε ημερα των σαββατων [tê te hêmera tôn sabbatôn], and on the day of the sabbaths)

"Sabbaths" are also found in Mark 1:21; 2:23-24; 3:2, 4; and Luke 6:2. Luke 6:9 for the Majority and Received Texts has “the sabbaths," τοις σαββασιν (tois sabbasin). The Critical Text has the Sabbath," τω σαββατω (tôn sabbatô).

Finally, for those who are in Christ Jesus, today is the Sabbath.

3 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: "So I swore in My wrath,`They shall not enter My rest,'" although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
4 For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: "And God rested on the seventh day from all His works";
5 and again in this place: "They shall not enter My rest."
6 Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience,
7 again He designates a certain day, saying in David, "Today," after such a long time, as it has been said: "Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts."
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day.
9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.
10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.
(Hebrews 4:3-10)

Psalm 92 is apropos.

A Psalm. A Song for the Sabbath day.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High, to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness every night, on an instrument of ten strings, on the lute, and on the harp, with harmonious sound. For You, Lord, have made me glad through Your work. I will triumph in the works of Your hands. O Lord, how great are Your works! Your thoughts are very deep. A senseless man does not know, nor does a fool understand this. When the wicked spring up like grass, and when all the workers of iniquity flourish, it is that they may be destroyed forever. But You, Lord, are on high forevermore. For behold, Your enemies, O Lord, for behold, Your enemies shall perish. All the workers of iniquity shall be scattered. But my horn You have exalted like a wild ox. I have been anointed with fresh oil. My eye also has seen my desire on my enemies. My ears hear my desire on the wicked who rise up against me. The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree. He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age. They shall be fresh and flourishing, to declare that the Lord is upright. He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

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