IN THE BEGINNING
In the beginning the Lord "ended his work" and "rested on the seventh day" and sanctified (made it holy) and blessed it (Gen 2:1-3). The Hebrew word "rested" in that verse means to cease or to stop working. So, the Lord "ceased from all his work."
We cannot apply the word "rested" to the Lord as if He is weary and needs some relaxation, like we get tired from work and have to take a break or nap. Because, the Bible says the Lord never gets weary (Isa 40:28). So, the correct application of the word "ceased" is what God did on the seventh day. It just means He ended his creation and hollowed it.
There is some debate as to whether this "seventh day" of creation is when the sabbath started. Since there are no commands or anyone who practiced the sabbath until the time of Moses and the law, we have to conclude that it doesn't apply as a sabbath until Moses law. However, we will see later that the "ceasing" (rest) is a principle that applies to an actual sabbath day in the Old Testament, and then a principle of a spiritual rest in the New Testament.
THE SABBATH IN THE WILDERNESS
After leaving Egypt, Moses commands them to gather manna for six days and not to gather it on the seventh sabbath day (Exo 16:26-30). This is the first time that Israel keeps the sabbath, but some of them disobeyed.
Verse 30 says they "rested on the sabbath day." Again, the word "rested" means to cease or rest from working. However, this time, we can apply the meaning of "resting" to mankind because mankind does and was created to get weary, unlike God who doesn't need to rest, mankind has to sleep or relax to get refreshed.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
Here are the actual commandments Moses told Israel...
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 the LORD thy God: 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: 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. (Exo 20:8-11)
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. 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. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. 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. (Exo 31:14-17)
The sabbath was unto the Lord, and it was a very dangerous thing if a person did not keep the sabbath. They could be cut off from the people or even die. The sabbath was a very holy thing to God. They were told to keep the sabbath throughout their generations for a perpetual covenant. This sabbath was a covenant between God and the children of Israel. However, that covenant was changed when the New Testament covenant came into being later on.
THE MEANING OF "SABBATH"
A primitive root; to repose, that is, desist from exertion; used in many implied relations (causatively, figuratively or specifically): - (cause to, let, make to) cease, celebrate, cause (make) to fail, keep (sabbath), suffer to be lacking, leave, put away (down), (make to) rest, rid, still, take away.
This is a very broad definition. It means to cease as well as to take rest. Throughout the entire Bible, ceasing and resting can be applied separately or both of them are used together. There was a rest for the land of Israel. There were also other types of "sabbaths" that are not covered in this study.
THE SABBATH IN THE PROMISE LAND
The sabbath was also a time to come and worship before the Lord (Isa 66:23). We will see later how this has become a spiritual fulfillment.
After Israel's constant back-and-forth backsliding; the Lord became fed up with Israel's sin and the way they worshipped on the sabbath. God did eventually let Israel fall into captivity and He destroyed Jerusalem. He also got sick of their sabbaths and caused them to cease.
But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched. (Jer 17:27)
I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts. (Hos 2:11)
The above verse is the last mention of the sabbath in the Old Testament writings. God had enough of their sin and He caused it all to cease. Shortly after this, the written part of the Old Testament ended and there was 400 years of total silence. There was no prophets or any word from God during this time.
We must interpret the proper principle of sabbath in the life of Israel during the time of the Law. It wasn't that Israel didn't observe the sabbath, it was the fact they did sinful things during the sabbath that they were forbidden to do. God was more angry at their works then the actual sabbath day.
THE TIME OF JESUS
There are several examples in scripture (ex. Mat 12:2-8) where the Pharisees challenged Jesus about the sabbath. Their intent was to accuse Jesus and his disciples. However, Jesus seems to point out things, that looks on the surface like He is ignoring the commandments and their questions. However, He, being the Lord of the sabbath, placed more importance on who "He was", and the fact that they had no mercy and was condemning people, even while they were sinning themselves.
And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: (Mar 2:27)
The scripture above is important because the Lord is telling them why the sabbath was made. God had setup the sabbath as a means for people to rest and worship. The biggest problem Jesus had with the Pharisees was they were so "sabbath" minded (the law of the sabbath) that when Jesus healed on the sabbath they were angry at Him. They placed more emphasis on the "sabbath day" than obeying God and doing right.
Because Jesus was still under the law, He still physically observed the sabbath because, often in scripture we find Him in the temple on the sabbath day. However, He never demanded any obedience to the sabbath day. As a matter of fact, to the Pharisees and Scribes He was a sabbath breaker.
There were several things in the law of Moses that Jesus does not seem to do. He even corrected the Pharisees when they asked Him why the disciples were eating corn out of a field. He then reminded them of what David did when he ate the Shewbread. Why does it seem the Lord himself allows these infractions on the sabbath?
Remember the writing at the end of the Old Testament where God was so sick of the sacrifices and sabbaths? The 400 years of silence was going to bring in Jesus and a new covenant of salvation. John the Baptist and Jesus never mentions any commandments to keep the sabbath.
Again, the proper principle of sabbath in the life of the Jews during Jesus' time was the same as Israel's time. It wasn't that the Pharisee's and Jews didn't observe the sabbath, it was the fact that they did things during the sabbath that were wrong and hypocritical. They even made up their own laws. Jesus was more against their works then the actual sabbath day. Since Jesus only replied to the Pharisee's hypocritical questions, and the fact He didn't teach the observance of the Sabbath, we can see by His teaching on salvation, peace and the Comforter that He was transitioning a phyiscal sabbath to a spiritual sabbath as we are about to find out.
JESUS TEACHES SALVATION & REST
Come unto me, all ye that labour 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. (Mat 11:28-30)
Well, what does this have to do with the sabbath? Glad you asked!! We have to look at what is changing from the old to the New Testament. Jesus came to die and bring us salvation, rest and peace. The Greek word "rest" in the above scripture means, intermission; to rest or have some refreshing. It is the same principle as a sabbath. The Lord urges us to bring our labor and burdens to Him and to rest in peace.
As relating to salvation, the only way a person can rest and have peace with God is to repent of their sins, be water baptized in Jesus name and baptized with the Holy Ghost (John 3:5, Acts 2:38). By repenting of their sins, they are "ceasing" from their own works and turning to God in worship. This process is done on a spiritual level compared to how Israel physically ceased from working, and resting on the sabbath.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (Joh 14:26-27)
This is a direct correlation between peace (rest) and the Comforter, because Jesus said the Comforter (the Holy Ghost) will be in you. This is the end results of what Jesus invited us to do... "Come unto me... and I will give you peace!" -- or in otherwards, rest from your labors and heavy burdens.
DEATH OF JESUS FULFILLS THE LAW
Scripture says that Jesus had to die being under the law (Gal 4:4-5). The death of Jesus ended a lot of the Old Testament rituals and laws, not by stopping them, but by FULFILLING THEM (Rom 7:1-6).
Well, what does "fulfilling” mean? "Fulfilling" means that He has made the law complete. The whole subject of being saved by grace and not by the works of the law would fall into this discussion. However, I will not be covering that here. Suffice to say... If we try to justify ourselves through the works of the law, then we are not justified by Christ.
Through Jesus and salvation, we can live godly from the heart and not just by the letter of the law. What that means is the actual killing of animals was replaced by the sacrifice of Jesus. The way sins were dealt with in the tabernacle was replaced by repentance, water baptism and the baptism of the Holy Ghost. As was so many other things, we will see that the sabbath was also replaced by spiritual rest through the Holy Ghost.
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN REST & THE SPIRIT
For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear. (Isa 28:10-12)
This is very important because this is a direct link between a prophecy of the Old Testament and the foretelling of the "stammering lips and another tongue" (speaking in tongues) in the New Testament. But, notice what the "tongues" are directly related to; A REST FOR THE WEARY! This is also a direct link between what Jesus said about rest (peace) and the Comforter as mentioned above.
WHAT ABOUT THE BOOK OF ACTS?
The New Testament dispensation didn't actually begin until after Jesus's death, his ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost (birth of the church). So, the time of the law was replaced (fulfilled) by the church age on the day of Pentecost.
When you read the book of Acts, you read about the Apostles preaching in the synagogues of the Jews. And since salvation was offered to the Jews first, they went to the synagogue on the sabbath days to preach. It wasn't until chapter 10, that the Gentiles got the Holy Ghost. And as the Gentile church grew and the Jews started realizing that they are saved by grace and not by the works of the law, confusion and trouble began within the church.
Peter was rebuked by Paul because he lived as a Gentile, but compelled the Gentiles to live like a Jew and follow some of the Law (Gal 2:11-16). Certain Jews from Judea started telling the Gentiles that except they be circumcised after the manner of Moses, they cannot be saved (Act 15:1). So, whichever Jews, who kept the sabbath, tried to teach the Gentiles to be circumcised and or keep the sabbath, it was out of ignorance.
The Apostles had a meeting about this issue, and they, with direction from the Holy Ghost sent letters to the Gentiles telling them that they didn't have to keep the law, except they had to abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: (Act 15:27-29).
Now think back... Circumcision was instituted by God way back in Abraham’s time, even before the Law of Moses. Yet, in the New Testament, circumcision is not necessary to be saved. So, since the circumcision was replaced by water baptism, that law was fulfilled in Baptism.
The lesson we should see from Acts 15 is that certain Jews tried to make Gentiles observe some things of the Law in the flesh, but the Holy Ghost only forbid them things that was directly linked to sin. And the sabbath was not one of those things. So, now we will see how the sabbath was fulfilled.
ENTERING INTO REST BY CEASING FROM OUR WORKS
In Hebrews 2:1-11 is some teaching on the rest that the people of the Old Testament failed to enter because of unbelief. The context of the chapter is not directly about the sabbath, but a rest that believers get through the finished work of Calvary and the promises made to the New Testament believers.
There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. (Heb 4:2-11)
Earlier, we defined that rest means to cease as God did when he finished creation. There is a direct connection between the prophecy of Isaiah's rest (28:11-12), teachings of Jesus concerning salvation and rest (peace) and this scripture above. The key to the entire chapter is how a person finds this rest by "CEASING" from their own works as God did from His. Therefore, since the scriptures always speaks of the seventh day sabbath as a ceasing and rest, the New Testament "sabbath" is fulfilled when we enter into our rest through faith in Jesus Christ and the new birth plan of salvation. So, it is clear that entering a "rest" is directly linked to our salvation and how we are to "CEASE" from our own works as God did when He ceased from His when He created the earth in 7 days!!
THE SHADOWS HAVE COME
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. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? (Col 2:16-22)
If there was one scripture that could imply that we are not obligated to observe the actual sabbath day, it is the one above. However, you have to interpret it correctly because if you read it to fast you will miss why Paul is writing this.
The statement "Let no man therefore judge you in meat... or of the sabbath days", on the outside, looks like Paul is saying we should observe the sabbath day. However, look at the context of all those verses. He says, "Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind."
He is warning believers to not let outsiders (or false Christians) draw them away from the faith and the worship of God. He accuses the deceivers of not seeing the truth and judging them because they don't keep the sabbath.
He then asks us a question. If we are dead with Christ (saved), then why are we subject (observing) things of men; Touch not; taste not; handle not; after the commandments of men? Paul is telling us; don't let outsiders judge you because you are not keeping the law like they think you should. When we try to keep the letter of the law, without the Spirit of the law, we then are not justified by Christ.
This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Gal 3:2-3)
An important point in this entire study is found within these words at the beginning of (Col 2:16-22 - above)... "Which are a shadow of things to come;" The sabbath is referred to as shadow. Which means it is an example or allegory that ushers in the real thing.
For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. (Heb 10:1)
Since the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, it is also applicable that most of the Old Testament rituals and ordinances was just a shadow of things to come. What that means is a lot of the physical things done in the Old Testament is fulfilled spiritually and done only through Jesus Christ. Because we are not saved or justified by the law, keeping the letter of the law will do us no good. And since the verse specifically mentions the "sabbath day" as being one of those shadows, we can safely say that the physical sabbath day has been replaced with the spiritual rest we have through Jesus.
THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK
The only reference of the church gathering on the first day of the week is found in 1 Cor 16:2. This is the only passage that actually states Sunday (first day of week) as being a time to gather. If you were to look back at some history, you will read that Sunday was often the day they worshipped on as well. And since a Jewish sabbath was on Saturday, and if the church did hold services on Sunday, then we can conclude that they didn't oberserve the actual Sabbath day on Saturday.
Now, do we doctrinally consider Sunday as a sabbath day. No! (even though we do set this day aside). Since the Holy Ghost is our "sabbath" rest, it doesn't matter what day we have church. Even if we wanted to have it on Saturday, it doesn't matter to God because he is only interested in our "spiritual sabbath" (rest) between us and Him. All he cares about is if we are living in sin or not, no matter what day it is!
POINTS TO PONDER
The last point is...
DO WE KEEP A PHYSICAL SABBATH? ... NO
DO WE KEEP A SPRITIUAL SABBATH? ... YES!!!
IT'S A SPIRITAUL SABBATH OF REST WHEN WE ARE SAVED THROUGH JESUS CHRIST!