by Shawn Brasseaux
Does God demand that we observe the Sabbath day? What about the “Lord’s day?” Does it matter whether you go to church on Saturday or Sunday? In order to make sense of the Sabbath day, we must set aside religious tradition, and study God’s Word for the answer. Using dispensational Bible study—“rightly dividing the word of truth” as 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV instructs—we can determine whether or not we are bound to observe the Sabbath day.
Before we begin, let me attempt to clear up the confusion that denominationalism has created. Firstly, according to the Bible, Saturday has been and always will be the Sabbath day. Jesus Christ rose from the dead on Sunday, the first day of the week (Mark 16:1-2; Luke 23:54–24:1). This would make the last day of the week, Saturday, the Sabbath day. Please understand that the Sabbath was never Sunday in the Bible!
A second point I want to clear up is in regards to Sunday. According to religious tradition, Sunday is “the Lord’s day” and “the Christian Sabbath.” This is due to a misinterpretation of Revelation 1:10, which is actually referring to “the day of the Lord,” the seven-year Tribulation. “The day of the Lord” (“the Lord’s day”) is neither Saturday nor Sunday. There is no such thing as “Lord’s Day observance” in the Bible—that is a religious teaching, not a Bible teaching.
SABBATH DAY KEEPING IN TIME PAST
With that confusion sorted out, now we can look at the Sabbath day in the Old Testament. The first reference to the Sabbath day is Genesis 2:1-3 KJV:
“1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
3And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.”
After the six days of creation, God rests on the seventh day and sets it apart from all the other days. Now, from this point until the Mosaic Law given 2,500 years later, there is no mention of Sabbath day keeping. In other words, Adam, Noah, and Abraham were never told to keep the Sabbath and the Bible never says they keep the Sabbath.
After Moses led the nation Israel out of Egypt, the LORD brought them to Mount Sinai, where they received the Mosaic Law (including the Ten Commandments). The fourth commandment given to Israel was, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11; cf. Deuteronomy 5:12-16). The Sabbath day was the sign of the Mosaic Covenant (Law), which is why Sabbath day keeping was the fourth commandment. Pay close attention to what the LORD told Moses in Exodus 31:12-18 KJV:
“12 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
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 the LORD that doth sanctify you.
14 Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
15 Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.
16 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.
17 It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.
18 And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.”
So, the Sabbath day was an ordinance given to Israel. Back in Exodus 19:3-6 KJV, God tells the Jews that He has set them apart from the world (the Gentiles):
“3 And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel;
4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.
5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.”
Turn to Psalm 132:13,14 KJV where the Bible says: “For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.”
Where has God chosen to dwell forever? Zion, King David’s throne in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital! At His Second Coming, the Lord Jesus Christ will set up His kingdom on earth, the sabbatical rest, the seventh 1,000-year period of time. During that millennial reign, the curse will be removed, Satan will be bound, and Christ will be reigning on earth as King of kings and Lord of lords! The weekly (Saturday) Sabbath day observance in Judaism was looking toward the day when the nation Israel would be the chief nation in the kingdom (the sabbatical rest of creation) (see Hebrews 3:7-19).
In Israel, the Sabbath was so special of a day, that if someone so much as picked up a few sticks on Saturday, the Lord commanded that this person be stoned to death (Numbers 15:32-36)! In Numbers 15:37-38, we see that the Lord also told Israel to fasten blue fringes on their garments to remind them of the Mosaic Law. These blue fringes helped remind Israel of their purpose in God’s plan.
SABBATH DAY KEEPING IN THE BUT NOW (PRESENT-DAY)
Sabbath day keeping was commanded in Israel’s program. As members of the Church the Body of Christ, we are not the nation Israel. We are not under the Mosaic Law either; rather, we are under grace (Romans 6:1,2,14,15). “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14). God through the Apostle Paul writes to us Gentiles in the Dispensation of Grace: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, 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). We are not bound by Sabbath day keeping today. The Apostle Paul further tells us that the Mosaic Law—especially the Ten Commandments—was put to death with Jesus Christ on the cross (Colossians 2:14).
In fact, Paul rebuked the Galatians who were polluted with legalism (Law-keeping) and who “observed days, and months, and times, and years” (Galatians 4:10). Furthermore, when Paul makes reference to the Ten Commandments, he never lists the Sabbath day (Romans 13:9). Going to church has nothing to do with Sabbath day keeping because, in the Bible, the Sabbath is always Saturday and never Sunday like religion teaches.
The Christian believers in the region of Galatia (present-day central Turkey) were being misled with the idea of Law-keeping, and Paul had to hurriedly write to them: “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain” (Galatians 4:9-11 KJV). The Apostle fussed these Galatian believers in love: stop Law-keeping (including the Sabbath day-keeping) because you are under grace and you are not Israel! You are not under Israel’s performance-based system of works-religion. Paul would tell you the same thing today—do not keep the Sabbath!
SABBATH DAY KEEPING IN THE AGES TO COME
If you go back to Exodus 31:16,17, you read that the Sabbath day is God’s “perpetual covenant” with Israel. When Paul writes that the Sabbath day is a “shadow of things to come” in Colossians 2:16, what he means is that Sabbath day-keeping in Israel will resume after the rapture (because the Sabbath day typifies/previews Israel’s future earthly kingdom). Israel will go back under Temple worship during the Tribulation, and even in the Millennial Kingdom, the nation Israel will observe the Sabbath day (see Isaiah 66:22-24). Israel will observe the Sabbath day forever. The Sabbath day of the Old Testament was a “shadow” (prophetic preview) of God’s dealings with the nation Israel and the restoration of His authority in the earth.
You should not observe the Sabbath day. In this Dispensation of Grace, we are not under the Mosaic Law and we are not the nation Israel. We have no need to observe Israel’s feast days, religious festivals, or Sabbath days. We are the Church the Body of Christ. Meeting on Sunday has nothing to do with keeping the Sabbath. Sunday, the first day of the week, was simply the day when the early Gentile churches chose to meet (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2).
Do not confuse today’s believers assembling on Sunday with Israel’s Sabbath day keeping. Sunday is not the Lord’s Day, and neither is Saturday—the Lord’s day (the day of the LORD) is the period of the Tribulation and beyond!