The Sabbath – Why it’s true time is important

According to Bible prophecy the seventh day Sabbath is to be observed among the Gentile peoples of the earth in the last days. Isaiah declared: “Also the sons of the stranger [Gentiles], that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer. . .for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people” (Isaiah 56:6,7).

As a part of its program of restoration, The Church of God recognizes Saturday to be the true Sabbath of the Lord. The church commemorates the Sabbath in remembrance of the fact that God set the Sabbath apart following his six days of creation, in honor of the spiritual Sabbath which Jesus brought when He delivered the believer from works of righteousness into the liberty of the righteousness of faith, and in expectation of the Sabbatical Millennium when both God and man will rest from six thousand years of labor in the kingdom of God. The Church of God remembers the Sabbath day to keep it set apart to God by conducting religious services on this day and by observing it as a day of rest from secular labors and a time of laboring for God in His work of helping others.

God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it for all mankind long before Israel was called His people. Exodus 20:11 declares: “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”

The observance of the Sabbath in New Testament order must be approached from a prophetic perspective rather than from a legalistic command. Under the law of Moses, the Israelites could keep the Sabbath only by meeting the following requirements: doing no work, kindling no fire, doing no baking or boiling, bearing no burden, and offering two lambs. All this was done as a part of their works of righteousness. Under the New Testament, however, Christ has become our righteousness, and we are no longer under the law. In New Testament order we are instructed regarding sabbaths and other holy days: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ” (Colossians 2: 16,17).

The Old Testament observance and its requirements were nailed to the cross as a part of the ceremonial system of works of righteousness. When we continue to remember the Sabbath day in New Testament order, we demonstrate that we accept the object lesson of which the Sabbath day is a type and shadow—the truth that Jesus has given us true rest in the Spirit.

As the reformer of Judaism, Jesus changed the motive for and method of observance of the Sabbath. He declared to the Jewish people that He was the Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:5), and He proclaimed that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:28). He also emphasized the fact that it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath day (Mark 3:4) and demonstrated what He meant by that emphasis by healing, preaching, and working the works of God on the Sabbath day. He declared that it was necessary to work when the Father worked and not to be bound by legalistic restrictions (John 5:17).

Jesus did not come to change the Sabbath from the seventh day of the week to the first day of the week. That change came in subsequent generations of the Christian church. He did come to fulfill the Sabbath as a part of the law of God (Matthew 5:17,18). To His own generation and to all those who were to follow, Jesus declared, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus predicted that He would give the Jewish people, who were burdened down with legalistic restrictions concerning the Sabbath, a true Sabbath (rest) for their souls.

The Sabbath rest that Christ came to bring to believers in Him is explained further in Hebrews 4: ”Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest” (Hebrews 4:1-3). “For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:10). This is indicative of the fact that those who have believed in Christ have ceased from works of righteousness, accepting the faith righteousness of Christ instead: “For by grace are ye saved through faith. . .not of works” (Ephesians 2:8,9). Hebrews concludes the subject of the New Testament rest (Sabbath) with this statement: “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Hebrews 4:9.11).

Another part of the spiritual experience of rest that is a blessing to those believers who receive it is the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking with tongues. This is in fulfillment of the promise of Jesus: “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). On the day of Pentecost they were all “filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). They knew that they had received the spiritual experience that the Lord had promised to them because they spoke with tongues as the word of prophecy had declared: “For this is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing.. .for with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people” (Isaiah 28:11,12).

The ultimate Sabbath for man will take place when Jesus Christ, the spiritual Sabbath, returns to rule over the whole earth for a thousand years. This will be the Sabbatical Millennium of peace and rest when all the world will be subjected to the righteous reign of the Son of God. The earth will then experience a thousand-year sabbath.

The Church of God takes no legalistic stance on the observance of the Sabbath, While it emphasizes the importance of rest and worship on the Sabbath as a part of God’s continuing system of New Testament Judaism, it does not enjoin physical rest or required worship on the Sabbath upon its members. In its relationship with other believers in the Christian community, The Church of God follows the instruction of Paul in Romans 14:5: “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” The church, therefore, does not restrict its members or condemn others for worship on Sunday or any other day of the week. The church does not take a uniform approach to required times of worship, choosing to permit worship in its churches at times that are more effective in each local circumstance.

To The Church of God, the Sabbath day is a blessing in many dimensions. It brings to remembrance the wondrous works of creation that the Eternal God accomplished in six days followed by His day of rest. It provides a time for relaxation and rest for the human body. It is a time set apart for worship and service to God in doing good works for God and man. It calls to remembrance the eternal rest of spirit and soul which Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, brought to the believer in a spiritual and eternal dimension. It emphasizes the importance of the mulling of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. And, it foretells the coming event of the ages when Jesus Christ returns to rule over the earth for the Sabbatical Millennium.