“My poor child, you didn’t have to keep the Sabbath anymore. Why, you’ve carried a burden which I had come to ease! You made it difficult not only for yourself; you hindered others from accepting My gospel because your Sabbath-keeping was a stumbling block to them.”
That’s how, more or less, some would imagine Jesus Christ, on Judgment Day, as saying to His follower who insists on keeping the seventh-day Sabbath, now that Jesus has already, supposedly, “fulfilled” it by being our “Sabbath” — our rest.
Sabbath-keeping, according to this thinking, is a burden which Jesus came to unload from us so we can “rest” (a spin on Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light,” NKJV).
But isn’t it amazing — an oxymoron, in fact? How can a holy day of rest be a burden? Isn’t the very idea of the Sabbath that of resting from one’s labor and burdens?
From the very start God has intended that the Sabbath be a blessing (not a burden or, worse, a curse) to mankind (all nations, not just Israel) — as are the rest of God’s creation. God, in fact, “blessed the seventh day and sanctified it [set it apart and made it holy]” (Genesis 2:3) — long, long before the nation of Israel was established!
So, how has it happened that people would consider the Sabbath a burden instead of a blessing?
How the Sabbath has become a burden
There are at least two ways in which, to many, the Sabbath has become burdensome — or, more properly, has been perceived as — burdensome.
One: when a person would rather do something else than what God’s Sabbath law commands or allows. If one is inclined, for example, to work on the Sabbath in order to augment one’s income, or to play a hard game of basketball, then certainly the Sabbath could be perceived as a hindrance and, therefore, a burden — something that restrains one from doing what one really wants to do. This was precisely the attitude of many in Israel down through that nation’s history. And God showed His displeasure with all this.
For example, in Exodus 16:25-30, we have an account of some Israelites going out to gather manna on the Sabbath (this despite the fact that they had already been given twice the usual supply of manna on the sixth day, verse 22). What did Moses tell them? “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? See! For the LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place on the seventh day” (verses 28-29).
To the mind of some of these Israelites, God’s command for them not to gather manna on the Sabbath was hindering them from acquiring more manna. Isn’t this an indictment on Sabbath-breakers today who, lacking faith, work on the Sabbath in order to have more and more “bread” (money)? As God used manna to test whether the Israelites would “walk in My law or not” (verse 4) — the Sabbath command being the example here — so God also uses our livelihood (where we get our daily “bread”) to test whether we will walk in His law or not.
Numbers 15:32-36 also gives an account of an Israelite who gathered sticks (presumably for firewood) on the Sabbath. God’s judgment on the man was to stone him — which the congregation did. Some people might consider that a harsh and unmerciful punishment. But who are we human beings made of the dust of this earth, to question the will of a holy, all-wise and almighty God (Romans 9:20)? As the Creator who gave us life, God alone has the supreme prerogative to take life (Deuteronomy 32:39; Job 1:21, 10) according to His purpose. Instead of judging God, why not look at this incident as showing us how serious God regards Sabbath-breaking? [See: The Divine Prerogatives.]
After the southern kingdom of Judah was also taken away captive to Babylon, as the northern kingdom of Israel had earlier been taken away captive to Assyria and beyond, God revealed why, among other reasons, He allowed this national tragedy: their profaning of God’s holy Sabbath (Nehemiah 9:13-16, 34-35; 10:28-31).
It is a sad commentary that, when the children of Israel forsook God’s Sabbath, they also fell into idolatry and other sins. So it has been with the rest of mankind!
Aggravating this human bent to sin is a society that’s not set up to keep the seventh-day Sabbath holy. For example, a company or business that requires an employee to work Saturdays can make it difficult for one who wants to keep the Sabbath holy. Nevertheless, many sincere believers can testify to experiencing God’s grace and mercy to provide sufficiently for them despite the disadvantage which their Sabbath-keeping may pose. Isn’t this a lesson in faith which the manna God gave Israel in the wilderness should teach us Christians today (1 Corinthians 10:1-11)?
Another reason why the Sabbath has become, for many, or is perceived by many as, a burden is what man has done with the Sabbath. Understandably, as an over-reaction to God’s punishing Israel for profaning the Sabbath, Jewish leaders (especially after the Babylonian captivity) put up many rules and regulations to try to “protect” the Sabbath from being profaned again by the Jews.
In the process these leaders only succeeded in making the Sabbath (as well as God’s other commandments) a burden instead of a delight as God intended His commandments to be (see, for example, Psalm 119:16, 24, 35, 47-48, 70, 72, 77, 92, 97, 111-113, 145, 174; 1 John 5:3). This was the situation Jesus confronted in His day. He summarized it by saying of these leaders: “They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers [that is, help them carry or lighten these burdens]” (Matthew 23:4). [See: Barking Up the Wrong Tree.]
As “Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8), Jesus showed the Jews how the Sabbath is to be kept as God intended: to worship and honor God. One way is to do good on the Sabbath day, by showing mercy and compassion (Verse 12). That is why Jesus healed on the Sabbath — an act which the scribes and Pharisees wrongly condemned based on their man-made rules (John 9:13; Luke 6:6-11).
Because of their man-made rules concerning the Sabbath, the Jews were actually not really observing the Sabbath as God commands. For instance, one of these rules states that a Jew may not travel on the Sabbath beyond “a Sabbath-day’s journey” — the distance only as far as one can throw his shoe to. Thus, if a synagogue happens to be beyond that distance, the observant Jew would not attend a Sabbath assembly. This clearly sets aside, and therefore violates, God’s higher command that the Sabbath be a day of holy assembly with God’s people, where possible (Leviticus 23:3).
In quite strong terms Jesus condemned these Jewish leaders for their blind obedience to this and others of their many traditions, which thereby disregard God’s commandments (Matthew 15:3-9; Mark 7:6-13). Instead of repenting of their hypocrisy and sin, in their anger the Jews had Jesus crucified.
Is Jesus now our Sabbath?
As mentioned earlier, many Bible students point to Matthew 11:28-30 as “proof” that Jesus has already replaced the Sabbath rest with “resting” in Him. That is, according to this reasoning, a Christian who has been saved by grace through Christ is now at rest from sin, is at peace with God, and therefore does not need to keep a seventh-day rest or Sabbath.
True, in Christ we have rest, and peace (Ephesians 2:14; Matthew 11:28-30; John 14:27). But where is the scripture that directly says that what Jesus meant by the rest He is offering was to make Sabbath-keeping no longer necessary for Christians? On the contrary, Jesus plainly said that He did not come to abolish the law (Matthew 5:17), which, of course, includes Sabbath-keeping.
A far-fetched argument
The argument is even extended to the new heaven and the new earth, where there is no longer any night (Revelation 21:15; 22:5). Since the keeping of the Sabbath is based on reckoning days from sunset to sunset (Genesis 1:4, 8, 13, etc.), the keeping of the seventh-day Sabbath — goes the argument — is no longer applicable in that new earth, where there is no more sunset to speak of.
Therefore, according to this reasoning, today a Christian who has now found rest (or Sabbath) in Christ does not need to keep a literal seventh-day Sabbath. In Christ, a believer is now supposedly enjoying an “eternal Sabbath,” and he is now free to worship on any day of the week — or even all week — as he chooses.
This conclusion often comes from a faulty spin on Romans 14:5-6. In this particular scripture, Paul is talking about “One man [who] esteems one day above another, another [who] esteems every day alike….He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord, and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it.”
When we come to consider this Scripture passage honestly, and for practical reasons, Paul couldn’t have made this judgment if it was going to involve the administration of what day a Church or congregation is to worship on. Paul is here talking about an individual’s choice of esteeming or regarding a day to the Lord for whatever personal purpose . It could be for personal fasting or extra time for Bible study and prayer or any form of service to others, etc.
Just think about this for a moment! Suppose you are a church leader and you have church members who esteem one day or all days of the week for the church to hold its worship service. You would have to have worship services every single day of the week!
In any case, since when did the Bible allow an individual — or even a group of men — to decide which day of the week is “holy” or is for “a holy convocation?” Only God decides what truly is holy and what is not (Genesis 2:1-3; Leviticus 11:44-47)! In Leviticus 23:3, God tells us: “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.”
And let’s not forget: it was God — not man — who made the Sabbath holy, in the first place! “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). To “sanctify” is to set apart [from the rest of the days of the week] a day as holy or for a holy purpose.
In Ezekiel 22:26, God speaks out against erring church leaders: “Her [Israel’s] priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them.”
What about marriage?
If we go along with this argument (from future fulfillment of prophecies) about the Sabbath, what should keep us from also invoking the church’s ultimate destiny as the “bride of the Lamb [Jesus]” (Revelation 19:7; Ephesians 5:25-32; Romans 7:4; 2 Corinthians 11:2)? Since Jesus will ultimately become the church’s husband, should we Christians therefore — following the logic of the preceding argument on the Sabbath — also no longer marry in this physical life?
“Forbidding to marry,” by the way, is one of the “doctrines of demons” which Paul said would proliferate during the last days of this dying world (1 Timothy 4:13). While we are in this fleshly form, we are free to marry (1 Corinthians 7:36), but not in the resurrection (Luke 20:34-36). Not until then will there be no more marriages as we have them today.
May not the teaching that in this life — while we are still in this fleshly frame and while there is still day and night — we are no longer to keep the seventh-day Sabbath, just as well be one among such “doctrines of demons?”
What if the Sabbath were no longer required?
Let’s suppose that God no longer requires His people to keep the Sabbath in this life, or that God had never commanded Sabbath observance to begin with. Would God take it against a person — or even a whole congregation or nation — if they were to do something (as long as it is not unlawful or wicked) which God’s law does not require or stipulate? Most likely not! And we have a number of Bible examples to prove this.
1. Extra celebrations other than those commanded by God
- 1 Kings 8:65-66; 2 Chronicles 7:8-10. The Israelites had kept a feast of seven days to dedicate the temple which King Solomon built, before they proceeded to keep the commanded eight days of the Feast of Tabernacles — for a total of 14 days, plus one day. They came away (on “the twenty-third day of the seventh month” — the last day of the eight-day Feast of Tabernacles and the ‘Last Great Day’) “joyful and glad of heart for all the good that the LORD had done for His servant David, and for Israel His people.”
- 2 Chronicles 30:23. Under King Hezekiah, Judah and some from Israel kept the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the second month (as God’s law mercifully allows, for those unable to keep Passover in the first month, Numbers 9:9-11). They were so inspired that they kept an extra seven days more! And God heard their praises and prayers then (verse 27). They kept those extra days out of joy, not as some kind of burden!
- Esther 9:20-28. Up to this day the Jews have kept their festival or holiday “Purim” in commemoration of God’s timely deliverance of the Jews from what could have been total annihilation in the hands of wicked Haman. God can’t fault the Jews for thanking Him for their survival as a people!
- John 10:22. The Jews observe their “Feast of Dedication” (Hebrew Hanukkah) to commemorate the cleansing of the temple in Jerusalem after Antiochus Epiphanes II had desecrated it. John notes no negative remarks on this observance — and rightly so! For how can celebrating the restoration of proper temple worship in Jerusalem be displeasing to God?
There is, however, one big difference between keeping these man-instituted festivals and keeping God’s feasts: it is a sin not to observe God’s commanded feasts or holy days, whereas it is not a sin — in God’s eyes — for a person to fail to observe these man-ordained festivals or national observances. Neither is it a sin to observe these national festivals. Today we might compare these to national holidays which celebrate important events ( such as America’s “Thanksgiving Day” and “Independence Day” which find parallels in various other countries). [While these holidays — what we might call “neutral” observances — are not God-commanded, God commands us to “submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake” (1 Peter 2:13) in this matter.]
Now, it should also be made clear that human traditions which are based on some idolatrous worship are unacceptable — abominable — to God (Deuteronomy 12:29-31), and are sinful. Jesus spoke strongly against observing human traditions that thereby lay aside, even transgress, God’s commandments (Matthew 15:3-9; Mark 7:6-13). [See: Did Christ Cleanse All Meats? and True Worship.]
Christians are commanded to “…not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? What communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?…” (2 Corinthians 6:14-16). Paul also admonishes Christians: “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons” (1 Corinthians 10:21).
For Biblical insights into this subject, click on this link: http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, choose “Books & Booklets” and scroll down to the booklet titled “Pagan Holidays or God’s Holy Days — Which?”]
Is it a sin to ever hold a religious meeting on Sunday?
Acts 20:7-12 is an account of the apostle Paul having supper with a group of disciples in Troas, and afterward giving a message to them during “the first [day] of the week”. The Bible consistently reckons a day from sunset to sunset (Genesis 1:5, etc.). Therefore, this evening part of the “first” or beginning of the week would have been what we would today call Saturday evening, going into Sunday morning. Paul’s discourse lasted till midnight that Saturday evening, which would actually be the night part of the first day of the week. That’s how the Bible calls that time. According to the Roman (or Julian) calendar, however, “Sunday” as the “first day” of the week begins at midnight following Saturday night. While this shows that it is permissible to hold a religious meeting beyond or after a Sabbath, it is no proof that God has already changed the sacred day of worship from the seventh-day Sabbath [or Saturday] to the first day of the week!
When we come to understand about the true day of God’s commanded observance of the Day of Pentecost (or “Feast of Firstfruits” or “Feast of Weeks”), we will see that this feast is always to be observed on “the day after the seventh Sabbath” (Leviticus 23:15-16) — which is the first day of the week (or Sunday in the Roman calendar). This, however, does not prove that God has thus made every Sunday holy, or that Sunday has now replaced the seventh-day Sabbath as God’s holy day of worship.
God has other annual holy days or feasts that are reckoned by specific days in a month, instead of specific days in a week (see list in Leviticus 23). This being the case, in some years some of the holy days (or annual Sabbaths) could fall on a Sunday. Again, this is no proof that God has already made every Sunday holy in place of the seventh-day Sabbath.
As church history will show, the institution of Sunday as a “holy” day of worship in place of, and even in opposition to, the seventh-day Sabbath is the work of man — not God! And that day having the stamp or “mark” of man, God will recompense with His wrath those who bear that mark, at the return of Christ (Revelation 13:11-18; 14:9-13). [For more details on the subject, click on this link: http://www.herbert-armstrong.com, click on ENTER HERE then choose “Books & Booklets” and scroll down to the booklets titled “The Mark of the Beast” and “Who Is the Beast?” After ENTER HERE, you may also choose “Reference Material” and scroll the index down to the article titled “Roman Catholic & Protestant Confessions About Sunday” and “Rome’sChallenge — Why Do P:rotestants Keep Sunday?”]
2. Extra ordinances by an ancestor
Here is a remarkable case of the “house of the Rechabites” (Jeremiah 35:1-19). Evidently these were people who came from Moses’ brother-in-law Hobab (Numbers 10:29-32; Judges 1:16; 4:11; 1 Samuel 15:6; 1 Chronicles 2:55). Moses had prevailed on Hobab, who knew well the terrain through which Israel would journey into the Promised Land, to go with them and receive whatever good things God promised His people.
Thus the Rechabites lived among the people of Israel. In this account of the prophet Jeremiah, God used them as an example for Judah to learn from. The Rechabites’ ancestor Jonadab had commanded them to “…drink no wine…not build a house, sow seed, plant a vineyard…but all your days… dwell in tents” (Jeremiah 35:6-7). Although not commanded by God, these instructions were not sinful in themselves.
God contrasted the Rechabites with the Jews: “Surely the sons of Jonadab the sons of Rechab have performed the commandment of their father which he commanded them, but this people (“the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem,” verse 13) has not obeyed Me” (verse 16).
Because of their obedience to their ancestor’s command, although not commanded by God, the Rechabites received this reward from God: “Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not lack a man to stand before Me forever” (verse 19).
But what if the Sabbath is still holy?
Given the preceding examples from the Bible, wouldn’t it be “safer” if one kept the Sabbath anyway? What harm would it do a person? Perhaps one might lose some income or a job promotion, some fun activities. But, spiritually, would God charge one with sin for keeping the Sabbath — if indeed He has now removed the “holiness” of the day from the seventh day and transferred it to the first day (Sunday)? Not at all!
But if the Sabbath is still holy for Christians today, would we not be profaning and defiling it by our non-observance of it? Would we not, in fact, be sinning? And would we not thus be suffering the consequence of such a sin? “For the wages of sin is death,” says Paul (Romans 6:23). Should we not rather fear to profane what God has declared to be a holy day?
The Sabbath is still holy!
There is more evidence in Scripture that God would be displeased, rather than not, if we didn’t keep His holy Sabbath in this age. That His Sabbath is still holy even now!
In the Ten Commandments (which includes the Sabbath command) we have God’s terms for what mankind (not just Israel) is to do in relation to God and one’s fellowmen. These commandments are the basis for judging what sin is in God’s sight. As Paul put it, “I would not have known sin except through the law” (Romans 7:7). And 1 John 3:4 affirms it: “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.” (The King James Version renders this verse thus: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law.”)
While there are flesh and blood human beings who marry, and while the sun rises and sets on our planet, God’s commandments are in force! “For assuredly,” Jesus tells us with authority, “Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). Well, our present “heaven and earth” are still here!
In a setting that is well into the far future, Isaiah 66:23 says, “‘And it shall come to pass that from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh [not just Israel] shall come to worship before Me,’ says the LORD.” [Here we need to remember that Jesus said He did not come to abolish the law or the prophets (Matthew 5:17). Thus this prophecy in Isaiah 66:23, quoted above, is still to be fulfilled in the future. This prophecy would not make sense if, as some have taught wrongly, Jesus had declared the seventh-day Sabbath no longer holy or to be observed.]
Isaiah 66:15-16 shows that this event will happen after Jesus returns in great power to judge sinners. Verse 24 shows God’s judgment upon those who transgress His law. On the heels of verse 23, concerning all human beings coming to worship the LORD on the Sabbath, isn’t it obvious that it would be transgressing against the LORD not to keep the Sabbath by worshiping before Him on that day?
This shows that the Sabbath was meant by God to be kept by “all flesh” — all human beings, not just Israel. Jesus confirms this in His words to the Pharisees: “The Sabbath was made for man [to benefit and bless mankind — not just Israel — and not against man, not to oppress man or to put an unbearable burden on man], and not man for the Sabbath [that is, man is not to serve the Sabbath like some idol, as the Pharisees did with their man-made burdensome rules and restrictions on the Sabbath]” (Mark 2:27). [See: Barking Up the Wrong Tree.]
God pronounces His blessing upon a man [not just an Israelite or Jew] who keeps the Sabbath holy: “Blessed is the man who does this [keeping justice and doing righteousness, verse 1], and the son of man who lays hold of it; who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil” (Isaiah 56:1). “Also the sons of the foreigner [a non-Israelite or a non-Jew] who join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants — everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant — even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer” (Verses 6-7).
Is the Sabbath “ceremonial”?
Some have concluded, without clear Bible proof, that the Sabbath falls under “ceremonial” law rather than spiritual or moral law. And since the ceremonial law has already been fulfilled by Jesus, the Sabbath, they say, is now no longer required of Christians.
We need to distinguish between God’s law which defines sin and what righteous living is, on the one hand, and what is regarded as “ceremonial” law, on the other hand. It would help us here to understand well what Paul wrote in Galatians 3:19, where he talks about the purpose of the law [referring to ceremonial law]: it was “added because of transgressions.” Unless we understand this, Paul would seem to be a confused and inconsistent apostle [a “muddle-head,” as some teachers who don’t know better (2 Peter 3:14-16) have accused]. [See: Law Added to Law Transgressed and The Two Laws in Hebrews 10.]
If by “law” (Galatians 3:19) Paul meant the entire Law of Moses being added to Israel’s national way of life because of their sins or transgressions, then where do we place the law that tells us what sin is — what some have called the “moral” law? Paul distinguishes this law from ceremonial law by saying of this moral law: “I would not have known sin except through the law” (Romans 7:7). He affirmed that faith in Christ does not void that law (Romans 3:31), which he says is “holy, and just and good” and “spiritual” (Romans 7:12, 14). [See: Freed From Bondage.]
To lump the Sabbath commandment under “ceremonial” law is thus a grave error in judgment — a misreading of the Scriptures. [See: Spiritual Dyslexia.]
Jesus and the apostles kept the Sabbath
Jesus kept the seventh-day Sabbath, not just because He was born a Jew, but because He came to do His Father’s will (John 5:30, etc.) — which, of course, included observing the weekly Sabbath as holy time. He did it as His custom or habit was (Luke 4:16, etc.).
Following Christ’s example, Paul and the other apostles also observed the seventh-day Sabbath (1 Corinthians 11:1; Acts 13:14-48; 17:1-4; 18:1-4, etc.).
Shouldn’t all true Christians be following in their footsteps too? We are admonished: “…but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12).
Why does the New Testament seem not to command Sabbath observance?
The Fourth Commandment (“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy…,” Exodus 20:8), as such, is, admittedly, not found in the New Testament. But is the mere absence of mention of this commandment in the New Testament proof that the Sabbath is no longer to be observed by Christians?
If we are to take a cue from the early gospel preaching by the apostle to the Gentiles (Paul), we will see that he began his ministry by visiting Jewish congregations, where devout Gentile proselytes (called “God-fearing” elsewhere) were also in attendance. Acts 13:13-14 narrates Paul’s visit to a Jewish synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia on a Sabbath day. Paul spoke there, and those Gentile proselytes who heard his message “begged” that he preached to them further “the next Sabbath.”
Paul’s work of building up the Church of God started with these Jews and Gentiles who believed the gospel which Paul preached — people who were already observing the seventh-day Sabbath.
It is more likely than not that these new Christians — and others who came to faith in Christ later — continued to observe the Sabbath commandment.
With his thorough knowledge of Old Testament prophecy, Paul would have understood — and taught — the prophecy in Isaiah 66:23, which is set at a time after Christ will have returned and ruled on earth. In this verse God says, “And from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship Me.” That includes both Israelites and Gentiles.
The Sabbath and the gospel of Christ
The gospel is essentially about the kingdom of God — the coming reign of God through Jesus Christ and His saints on this earth (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Acts 28:31; Revelation 5:10, etc.). That reign is also referred to symbolically as God’s “rest” (Greek, sabbatismos), of which Israel’s entering into the Promised Land was a mere type or forerunner (Hebrews 4:23-5, 8-9).
Because of their lack of faith (their unbelief), the Israelites who disobeyed God (those who did not keep His law, including Sabbath-keeping) failed to enter God’s “rest.” They missed out on the blessing of coming into and settling in the land God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants. So also today, those who disobey God by not honoring His Sabbath day will not enter God’s “rest” — God’s kingdom, where God and mankind can rest from sin, and from all the trouble, pain, sorrow, suffering and death which sin has brought upon all of mankind and this “good earth.”
An essential part of the gospel of Jesus Christ is, of course, belief or faith in Him as our Savior from sin and our Lord and Master who will soon return to this earth as King of kings and Lord of lords to establish God’s kingdom here. [For more on true faith, click on this link: http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, choose “Books and Booklets” and scroll down to the booklet titled “What Kind of Faith Is Required for Salvation?]
Is the Sabbath a stumbling block?
The thinking that the Sabbath could be a stumbling block for hearers of the gospel of Christ is simply ridiculous! So could anything else that God commands be a stumbling block to anyone who chooses not to believe — whether it is God’s law about idolatry, taking God’s name in vain, dishonoring parents, killing, committing adultery, stealing, lying or coveting, etc. Why single out the Sabbath?
Many who heard Jesus’ teachings about God and His kingdom were offended at His words (Matthew 13:57; 15:12, etc.). One who is not willing to obey any or all aspects of God’s Word will stumble at anything God says or commands! But Jesus said, “…blessed is he who is not offended because of Me” (Matthew 11:6) — both by His actions and His words.
Offended and incensed by God’s law
Who hasn’t heard about the serious confrontation John the Baptist [or the Baptizer] had with Herod the tetrarch? This eventually cost the prophet’s head! The story is told in Matthew 14. But before his beheading, John had been put in prison. For what reason?
It was because John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have her [that is, Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife (Verse 3)]” (Verse 4). The law which John based his judgment on is found in Leviticus 18:16; 20:21 — which prohibits one from having sexual relations with the wife of one’s brother. What Herod did was likewise an act of adultery — which is against the seventh of God’s Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:14; etc.).
Instead of admitting his sin and repenting of it, Herod had John imprisoned and beheaded. In God’s time, Herod will answer for his mistreatment and violence toward God’s servant! Hopefully, when that time comes, Herod will repent!
Centuries earlier, another king of Judah — King Uzziah — took offense when he was confronted by a priest, for having transgressed what seems to many to be one of the “least” of God’s commandments. The story is told in 2 Chronicles 26:16-23.
King Uzziah had been helped by God so much that he became “exceedingly strong” (Verse 8). “But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the LORD his God by entering the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. ” The priest Azariah confronted the king and reminded him about God’s law (or ordinance) that only the priests, the sons of Aaron [who Uzziah was not!], were “consecrated to burn incense” (Verse 18; based on God’s instruction in Numbers 16:39-40).
Instead of admitting his transgression and repenting of it, “…Uzziah became furious…angry with the priests” (Verse 19). For being offended at the priests who reminded him about God’s law, Uzziah suddenly became a leper, and remained so until the day of his death.
In contrast, those who are not offended by Christ’s word and Christ’s law [see: The Law of Christ] in this present age will be blessed with the opportunity to become a part of God’s “firstfruits” of salvation. [See: Predestination.] Otherwise, those who take offense at God’s law now will have to await a future day of their salvation, and miss out on this blessed opportunity!
The gospel of Christ is about repentance and forgiveness of sins [sin is transgressing God’s law (1 John 3:4)], and the promise of eternal life in God’s kingdom, for those who believe. Christ came to redeem those whom He has chosen, from Transgressions Under the First Covenant. And that first (or “old” covenant) certainly includes the commandment on the Sabbath!
Therefore, it is actually those who teach that the seventh-day Sabbath is now no longer holy, and thus profane it, who are causing the “little ones” coming to Christ to “stumble at God’s law” (Malachi 2:8) and to be offended! Jesus warns them of the dire consequence of doing this: “Woe to the world because of offenses…woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” (Matthew 18:6-7). “…it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea!”
Great reward for obedience
God dealt with the tendency of the people of Israel toward Sabbath-breaking, by reminding them of His gracious promise for obedience: “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight [not a burden or bondage], the holy day of the LORD honorable [not despicable], and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth [symbolizing preeminence over other nations] and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father [the same promise of blessings passed on from his father Isaac and earlier, originally, from his grandfather Abraham; full account in Genesis 12-35, particularly 12:1-3; 15:18-21; 17:5-8; 22:15-18; 25:11; 26:24; 27:27-29; 28:1-4, 13-15; 35:9-12]” (Isaiah 58:13-14).
God did not mean for this blessing to be Israel’s monopoly. Through faith in Christ, Gentiles (non-Israelites) become Abraham’s spiritual children and will also inherit Abraham’s blessing together with Israelites (Galatians 3:7, 9, 13-14, 29). [See: No Walls, No Ceiling? and The Children of Abraham.]
Our “eternal Sabbath” — our blessing of eternal “rest” — comes when God finally gives all of us (His true believers) everlasting life, and an eternal home in the New Jerusalem, the Holy City which will come down with the Father to this renewed earth (Revelation 21-22). In that City “…there shall be no night” (Revelation 21:25; 22:5) — no more sunrises and sunsets, which today mark the passing of days — including the seventh-day Sabbath.
Until then, let us keep God’s seventh-day Sabbath holy. Let us not despise it by calling it “Jewish,” for God calls it “My Sabbath,” holy to Him (Exodus 31:13, 15). Let us not fall into the same disobedience of the children of Israel which kept them out of the Promised Land. Let us keep God’s Sabbath — as Jesus and His faithful servants did — as the seal of our obedience to God and a sign that we are the true people of God (see Exodus 31:12-17 and God’s Kingdom and Israel), so we can enter His rest — His everlasting kingdom! “Let us fear, lest any of you seem to have come short of it” (Hebrews 4:1).
For more understanding on the Sabbath question, click on this link: http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE then choose “Books & Booklets” and scroll down to the booklet titled “Which Day is the Christian Sabbath?”
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.