In this study we will consider six facets about the Sabbath: (1) its origin; (2) the sign of the Sabbath; (3) its meaning; (4) why this day is still valid; (5) examples of this day in the New Testament; and (6) examples of the Sabbath being observed in the Coming Kingdom.
Where do we find the first mention of the Sabbath? The command goes all the way back to the beginning of Creation. In Genesis 2:1 we read, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day Elohim ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And Elohim blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which Elohim created and made.”
We see that Yahweh, our Father in heaven, rested on the seventh day following the six days of creation. We also see that He blessed and sanctified this day. As believers in the Word, we are to follow this example and do as He did. He rested for a reason, which was to give us a pattern to follow.
Now what does it mean when it says He “blessed” and “sanctified” the seventh day?
The word “blessed” comes from the Hebrew word barak. This is a primitive root in the Hebrew language and literally means, “to kneel; by implication to bless Elohim” (as an act of adoration). The word sanctified comes from the Hebrew qadash, which again is a primitive root meaning, “to pronounce as clean.”
We find first that the Sabbath is the seventh day, which corresponds to our Saturday. Second, our Father in Heaven set the example by resting, blessing, and sanctifying this day.
This day is filled with importance. Yahweh told Moses in Exodus 31:13: “Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am Yahweh that doth sanctify you.”
What did He mean by “sign”? It comes from the Hebrew word owth and refers to a signal as in a flag, beacon, monument, or evidence. So through this word we find that the Sabbath provides a sign or evidence of His people.
This passage also says that Yahweh sanctifies us. Sanctify is to set something apart as holy. We must understand that no other command is called a sign in the Word. It is unique to the Sabbath.
How do we observe the Sabbath? To begin with, the Sabbath is a day of rest. We find this in the Fourth Commandment, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of Yahweh thy Elohim: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates” (Ex. 20:8-11).
We learn that the Sabbath is a day of solemn rest and is mandated to all within our household. This restriction is embedded in the meaning of the word Sabbath. The primitive root is shabath, meaning, “to repose” or “to cease from exertion or labor.” On this day our labor or work is to be suspended and we are to allow ourselves to rest. This was and is the main purpose for the Sabbath.
Our great Creator and Designer understood the need for the human body to rest one day out of seven. Science is now finding a seven-day cycle within nature and the need for the human body to rest, confirming what our Father in Heaven established some 6,000 years ago. Everything in Yahweh’s Word has meaning and purpose. Yahweh gave this special time for our own benefit. Therefore Yahshua said the Sabbath was made for man, Mark 2:27.
Problematic Passages Explained
Let’s look at a few of the reasons some believe that the seventh-day Sabbath is no longer necessary in the New Testament. The most common case made against this time is the belief that Yahshua’s resurrection supposedly changed the day of worship. Many theologians believe that our Savior rose early Sunday morning.
What if I told you that Yahshua did not rise Sunday morning but late on the Sabbath?
According to Matthew 12:40, Yahshua said that He would be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the fish’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Tradition says that He was buried Friday evening and resurrected Sunday morning. In this time span there is only one day and two nights. Have you ever wondered why? Clearly this is not when He was in the tomb!
If you study the evangels you’ll find that He was placed in the tomb Wednesday before sunset and then resurrected late on the Sabbath, as we find in Matthew 28:1. “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.”
Notice the resurrection occurred at the end of the Sabbath. In ancient times the Sabbath was from sunset Friday through sunset Saturday, which continues to this day in the true biblical calendar. It says that the women came to the tomb as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week. At first glance it certainly sounds like Sunday morning. However, we find an eye-opening truth in the Greek of the passage.
The phrase “as it began to dawn” is from Greek epiphosko and can be rendered, “to draw on.” It occurs only twice in the New Testament. The other instance of this Greek word is found in Luke 23:54: “And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.” The phrase “drew on” here is from the Greek epiphosko.
Based on this we find that the first day of the week was drawing on, but had not yet come. The women came to the tomb late on the Sabbath or near Saturday sunset.
Where’s the Authorized Change?
For a moment let’s just assume that the Messiah rose early Sunday morning. Is there any passage commanding us to change the Sabbath to the day of our Savior’s resurrection? To the surprise of many, there’s not one verse in the New Testament providing such a command. The Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature verifies with this startling statement, “….it must be confessed that there is no law in the New Testament concerning the first day.”
As we’ll see, not only is there no command, but we also have many examples of the Apostle Paul and others still worshiping on the seventh-day Sabbath.
One passage often used as an attempt to prove that the apostles worshiped on Sunday is Acts 20:7. It says, “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.”
It is not hard to see how some can read this passage and believe that it refers to Sunday worship. But again, as we saw inMatthew 28:1, we must look beneath the surface to uncover the truth. So let’s do that now. The word “week” here is from the GreekSabbaton and refers to the weekly Sabbath or the time between two Sabbaths. Also, the word “day” here was added by the translators, meaning that it’s absent in the Greek text.
With this in mind, this passage literally reads, “and upon the first of the weeks.” The other fact about this passage is that it falls chronologically between the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost, as found in verses 6 and 20.
For this reason some scholars believe that this passage refers to the first week of the count to Pentecost, including E. W. Bullinger in his Companion Bible. He states: “…the first day for reckoning the seven Sabbaths to Pentecost. It depended upon the harvest (Deut. 16:9), and was always from the morrow after the weekly sabbath when the wave sheaf was presented (Lev. 23:15).”
Pentecost was determined by counting seven complete weeks or Sabbaths from the firstfruits of the barley harvest during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Based on this evidence, this passage likely refers to the count to Pentecost and not to the first day of the week.
A Day Regarded
Another passage that is frequently used to support Sunday worship is Romans 14:5. Paul says there, “One man esteems one day above another: another esteems every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”
Is Paul saying that we have the authority to choose any day for worship and that it doesn’t matter which? This is how many interpret this passage. With Yahweh’s Word it’s always important that we consider the context of the passage. In this case if we simply continue reading we’ll find that this passage has nothing to do with a day of worship.
Verse 6 reads, “He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto Yahweh; and he that regardeth not the day, to Yahweh he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to Yahweh, for he giveth Elohim thanks; and he that eateth not, to Yahweh he eateth not, and giveth Elohim thanks.”
The context shows that this passage is referring to fasting. What is fasting? It’s going without food and drink to show one’s devotion and sacrifice to the one worshiped.
As with the previous passage, this one has absolutely no connection with Sunday worship. Paul was simply making the statement that fasting was a personal conviction and should not be restricted to a specific day. In other words, it doesn’t matter which day a person may fast. It is a personal conviction. Nothing is said about a day of worship.
Another passage that’s often misunder-stood as referring to Sunday worship is 1Corinthians 16:2. It reads, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.”
Paul tells the Corinthian assembly here to collect something on the first day of the week. Many think he means tithes and offerings for the Sunday offering plate at church. Let’s again look beyond the surface and decipher the true meaning of this passage.
The word “day” here again was added and is not in the Greek text. This passage actually reads, “upon the first of the week,” a non-specific time. For this reason this passage may not refer to Sunday at all, but to the second or even third day of the week. So if this passage is not referring to Sunday worship, to what then is it referring?
At the time this epistle was written there was a great famine in the land of Judea, as we find in Acts 11:27-30: “And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.”
In 1Corinthians 16 Paul was organizing a relief effort in response to the famine. He was gathering food items for his fellow believers in the land of Judea. So once more this passage has no correlation with the first day of the week as a day of worship; instead the Apostle Paul was gathering supplies in advance for those suffering in Judea.
Matthew Henry notes in his commentary, “He begins with directing them about a charitable collection on a particular occasion, the distresses and poverty of [believers] in Judea, which at this time were extraordinary, partly through the general calamities of that nation and partly through the particular sufferings to which they were exposed.” Matthew Henry is also addressing the famine.
‘Day of Yahweh’ Is Not Sunday
Consider another passage that many use to support Sunday worship. In Revelation 1:10 we find, “I was in the Spirit on Yahweh’s day….” You may know this as the “L-rd’s Day.”
What day is it? Is it referring to a day of worship? Actually this passage has been twisted from its original intent! It is describing the day of our Savior’s Second Coming, when He will pass judgment upon mankind. How do we know this? It can be verified from several Old Testament prophecies. Here are just a few:
● “Woe unto you that desire the day of Yahweh! to what end is it for you? the day of Yahweh is darkness, and not light” (Amos 5:18).
● “The great day of Yahweh is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of Yahweh: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers. And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against Yahweh: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung” (Zephaniah 1:14-17).
● “And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of Yahweh come” (Joel 2:30-31).
From these passages we see that the day of Yahweh will not be a time to be desired; it will be a day full of darkness, desolation, wrath, trouble, and distress. It is, again, a prophecy of Yahshua’s return, when He will come to reap the wicked. So as we find, this day doesn’t describe a time of worship, but of anguish.
New Testament Sabbath Proof
Let’s now move on to the evidence we find in the New Testament for the seventh-day Sabbath.
Possibly, the biggest surprise to many Bible believers is the fact that the Apostle Paul faithfully observed the seventh-day Sabbath. One of the first accounts is in Acts 17:2: “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures.”
This is an important passage. Here Paul habitually worshiped on the seventh-day Sabbath. The word “manner” is the Greek ethos and refers to a habit or custom that is either a personal conviction or by command.
In this case we know it was both – Paul observed the Sabbath from both a personal conviction and from the fact that it was required in Yahweh’s Law.
This passage took place some 20 years after Yahshua’s death and ascension. Now you would have thought that after 20 years Paul would have received the memo about a change in worship, yet Paul continued to worship on the Sabbath as he always did.
We find here also that he reasoned in the synagogue for three Sabbath days. This phrase refers to three consecutive Sabbaths. There should be no question as to on which day the Apostle Paul worshiped.
But just in case doubts remain, we find another example in Acts 18:4. It reads, “And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.”
Not only was it Paul’s custom, but we find that he literally observed every Sabbath. What did he do on the Sabbath? Besides worshiping his Father in heaven, we see that he persuaded both Jews and Greeks. The word “Greeks” is from the Greek word hellenand refers to “a Greek-speaking person, especially a non-Jew.”
This confirms that Paul was persuading both Jews and Greeks on the Sabbath. Why were Greeks worshiping in the synagogue on the Sabbath? According to many theologians, the Sabbath is only for the Jews. They were all still worshiping on the Sabbath because the day of worship never changed.
Enter Mystery Worship
In addition to the New Testament, we also find evidence for the seventh-day Sabbath throughout the history of the “early church.” According to Dr. Augustus Neander in his book The History of the Christian Religion and Church: “The festival of Sunday, like all other festivals was always only a human ordinance, and it was far from the intentions of the apostles to establish a Divine com-mand in this respect, far from them, and from the early apostolic church, to transfer the laws of the Sabbath to Sunday” (1843, p. 186).
Dr. Neander, who’s birth name was David Mendel, was a protestant minister and professor. In his book he validates that the change to Sunday was not inspired by the apostles, but was established on the law of man. As we saw earlier, there is no law in the New Testament promoting Sunday worship. All examples expressly establish the seventh-day as the only inspired Sabbath.
In his book History of Romanism, John Dowling confirms that paganism entered the early church. He writes, “There is scarcely anything which strikes the mind of the careful student of ancient ecclesiastical history with greater surprise than the comparatively early period at which many of the corruptions of Christianity, which are embodied in the Roman system, took their rise; yet it is not to be supposed that when the first originators of many of these unscriptural notions and practices planted those germs of corruption, they anticipated or even imagined they would ever grow into such a vast and hideous system of superstition and error as is that of popery” (13th Edition, p. 65).
According to Dowling, the paganization of the church went far beyond the Sabbath. It touched almost every facet of the church and in so doing polluted what Yahshua and His apostles established in the New Testament. This included not only the Sabbath, but many of the popular holidays that are observed today, including Christmas and Easter. True to suspicions, we find an association between Sunday and Christmas. Both were connected with sun worship.
According to the Webster’s Dictionary, the word Sunday literally means, “day of the sun.” (1966, p. 1826). Sunday was the ancient day of sun worship. In like manner, Christmas was chosen because of its connection to a Roman cult known as Mithraism. This cult worshiped the sun deity Mithra, whose birth was on December 25. Once the church realized that they could not overcome the popularity of this pagan cult, they decided to adopt December 25 as a Christian day of worship.
Constantine Commands Sunday
Issuing the first civil edict making Sunday the day of worship for his Roman Empire was Constantine I, also known as Constantine the Great. He was emperor from 306 CE to 337 CE and according to history was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. However, prior to his conversion it is well documented that this man was a sun worshiper and only converted upon his death bed. This is the same king who required Sunday observance by civil command!
In his famous edict of 321 CE, Constantine declared, “On the Venerable Day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country, however, persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits; because it often happens that another day is not so suitable for grain-sowing or for vine-planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost.”
Think about this — a sun worshiper changed the day that our Father in heaven established in favor of a day that was being honored and observed to the sun. This edict undeniably verifies the paganism of Sunday worship. There is not a single verse in the New Testament confirming that the day of worship changed from the seventh to the first-day of the week. This change was only through the pen of man, not through the inspiration of Almighty Yahweh, the only One with whom we should be concerned.
At the Council of Laodicea in 325 CE, sixteen years after Constantine’s original edict, we find a second attempt to remove the Sabbath. In this decree the counsel of bishops declared, “Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday, but shall work on that day; but the Lord’s day they shall especially honour, and as being Christians, shall, if possible, do no work on that day. If, however, they are found Judaizing, they shall be shut out from Christ.”
Not only did the bishops state here that Sunday was to be observed in lieu of the seventh-day Sabbath, but we find that they also forbade Christians from Judaizing the Sabbath. This provides irrefutable evidence that for 300 years after the death of Yahshua there were still “Christians” observing the biblical Sabbath. It also shows the desire of the church to move away from its Jewish or Hebraic heritage.
In addition to absorbing pagan converts, antisemitism was a key reason the Church abandoned many of the beliefs taught by the Messiah and His apostles, including a rejection of the Passover and the acceptance of Easter, a day that originally honored Eostre, a Teutonic (Germanic) g-ddess of light and spring.
It is essential to note that Sunday observance was not left to man’s freedom, but was, again, enforced by strict command of the government. In essence, it was forced obedience to man’s dogma, i.e., man-made doctrine. Through this decree and others that would come afterward Sunday became the counterfeit Sabbath.
However, even with these efforts to criminalize those who would honor the true Sabbath, there are records showing that Sabbath observance was never completely removed.
For example, W.T. Skene writes in his book Adamnan Llife of St. Columbs about the Scottish church in the sixth century, “In this latter instance they seemed to have followed a custom of which we find traces in the early monastic church of Ireland by which they held Saturday to be the Sabbath on which they rested from all their labours” (1874, p.96).
As believers we must realize that our assurance is rooted in the Hebraic faith, the same faith given to Abraham. To deviate from this is to forsake the faith of the Messiah and the forefathers of the Old Testament. In expounding upon His own coming, Yahshua made the following statement in Luke 24:4: “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.” Nowhere in those Old Testament writings is there anything about Yahshua’s life or resurrection changing the Sabbath.
Sabbath in the Millennium
In addition to the scriptural and historical evidence, do we find evidence for the Sabbath in the coming Kingdom? In Isaiah 66:23 we read, “And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith Yahweh.”
In Yahweh’s very Kingdom everyone will worship Him from one new moon to another and from one Sabbath to another. At that time Yahshua will rule this earth for a thousand years. So in the coming Kingdom we find that all people everywhere will be required to observe Yahweh’s Sabbath.
We also see proof for the Sabbath in the coming millennial Kingdom in Ezekiel 46:1, 3: “Thus saith my Sovereign Yahweh; The gate of the inner court that looketh toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the sabbath it shall be opened, and in the day of the new moon it shall be opened…Likewise the people of the land shall worship at the door of this gate before Yahweh in the sabbaths and in the new moons.”
In the coming millennial Kingdom Yahshua and His saints will govern this world for 1000 years. The gates will be opened two special times – on the Sabbath and new moons. While the new moon is not a day of rest, it shares one requirement with the Sabbath: both are days of convocation and worship.
Knowing this, does it make sense to have the Sabbath observed in the Old Testament, kept by the Savior and His apostles in the New Testament and will be observed on into the Kingdom ‒ but is not necessary for those of us now in the New Testament? Such a question illustrates the inconsistency of stating that the seventh-day Sabbath is no longer required today.
With this being the case, should we not follow the Fourth Commandment today? Remember that it’s the only command called a sign of Yahweh’s people within the Word. No other command shares this same blessing. May you honor your Father in heaven through your faithful observance of His Sabbath.
Watch “Sabbath or Sunday” on Discover the Truth TV below.