This issue has been a sticking point between sabbatarians and the rest of the Body of Christ for some time…but it shouldn’t be. The Bible is very clear on this subject. Let’s forget for a moment about Constantine, or that the Sabbath was a sign between God and the Israelites of their covenant (and so completely out of date) and focus on God’s purpose for the Sabbath.
Let’s start in Genesis…
The word “sabbath” means “rest”. This isn’t the kind of rest we need after a good workout. The word literally means ‘the ending of activity’. God didn’t rest on the seventh day because He was tired. God had finished creating the world, and so He stopped. He didn’t pick up where He left off when the weekend was over…He was done.
Let’s move to Exodus…
God’s covenant with the children of Israel included a lot of religious activity, including the creation of a tabernacle, sacrifices of animals, and so on. This activity only stopped on the Sabbath. Now, remember: the Sabbath isn’t about being tired…it’s about being finished with your work. The priests couldn’t stop working the way that God did in Genesis. They took a day off and went right back to it the next day. Why? Because the work wasn’t finished. They did the same things day after day, year after year. They were even forbidden to have chairs in the tabernacle because sitting down would suggest that their work was done!
Let’s keep going to the New Testament…
The Exodus Sabbath was a symbol of God’s rest in Genesis. It told the children of Israel that they would someday be able to stop working…to stop sacrificing for their own sins. When Jesus died and rose again, that day had finally come. In Hebrews 10:11-12 we see the comparison between the Jewish priests and Jesus:
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.
Jesus finished His work and rested, just as we see God doing in Genesis.
What about us?
How then should we view the Sabbath? God rested when His work was done, and Jesus rested when His work was done. The ancient Jews never enjoyed that rest, but it’s available to us today, as Hebrews 4:9-10 tell us:
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.
Let’s look at Colossians 2:16-17, which should erase any doubt about the nature of the Sabbath:
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
From all of these verses we can see that the Sabbath clearly isn’t a day of the week. It’s neither Saturday nor Sunday! We enter into the Sabbath rest when we stop working, and that only happens when we accept that Jesus’ sacrifice was for each of us. His work is done, and He invites us to join Him.