Remember the Sabbath day: What the Bible Says about the Sabbath Rest
By Betty Miller
“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.” Exodus 20:8-11
This is the fourth Commandment out of the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai, and has caused a lot of controversy in the Body of Christ. What is God commanding here? Some people have very strong feelings about what this commandment means. Others are not sure. None of us want to be guilty of breaking this commandment.
The first thing we must remember is that the commands in the Old Testament have been raised to a higher degree in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, the emphasis was on the outward keeping of the law. All along, what God really wanted was the principle of that law to be within the hearts of His people. So when Jesus came, He expanded on the laws of the Old Testament, and showed what the Lord was really looking for within us. It is within the heart of man where He most desires to see holiness and obedience.
For every outward command there is an internal principal; a spiritual illustration. With this in mind, let us look at what it means to keep the Sabbath under the New Covenant.
The Rest of God
The word for sabbath in Hebrew is “shabbath” which means “intermission” It is closely related to another Hebrew word, “shabath” which means “to repose or to desist from exertion.” After six days of working, God took an intermission on the seventh day. He desisted from His labor and rejoiced in the good works that His hands had created.
There is a principle here that is very important, if we are to understand the true meaning of the Sabbath. This principle of rest is the purpose for the Sabbath. If God Himself took a break from His labors, how much more should we?
Under the New Covenant, the old keeping the Sabbath day is not done away with. Instead, we are called into a higher law. This may be a surprise to some, but the Sabbath is not actually on Sunday. The Jewish Sabbath is on Saturday, and it did not change to Sunday because Jesus went to the cross. So why do most of us now worship the Lord on Sunday? I will address this issue later in the teaching because there is a beautiful truth in it, but first I want us to understand the necessity of rest on a practical level.
The Benefit of Rest
Keeping the Sabbath rest pertains not only to resting our own bodies, but the land we live in as well.
“But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.” Leviticus 25:4
All of creation needs to rest. Both quality and length of life are deteriorated when there is no rest. I believe that we all need to take a day of rest once a week. We also need to get that rhythm of rest into our spirit, so that our land, ministries, and other things that God has entrusted us with can rest as well. If we do not let our bodies rest, they will not last as long. In nations that do not keep a day of rest, we find that the life expectancy is very low. There may be other factors contributing to this, but certainly one of them is that they work continually.
Many years ago I visited a poverty-stricken country. I saw a little horse that was tied up to a cart that was absolutely loaded to the hilt. This horse was so skinny you could see every rib in him and the load was too big for him to pull. Though his owner whipped and beat him, he could only struggle with the load he was pulling. Because he was starving, he didn’t have any energy. The bit in his mouth had rubbed him raw and his open wounds were full of flies. It was obvious that he was near death, and yet his owner continued to beat him. That horse had no rest. Just go, go, go! I thought about what a curse it is to be under constant work, trying to pull a load that we are not strong enough to bear. That poor suffering horse is a perfect illustration of what Satan does to those who are not resting in God. No wonder Jesus says to us:
“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.” Matthew 11:28-30
The Bible tells us that even our animals should be allowed to rest. “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, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou” (Deuteronomy 5:14).
The United States has become a workaholic nation. We have more leisure time than ever, but very little rest. There is a big difference between not working, and actually resting.
The first commandment in regard to the Sabbath, is that we are not to work on that day (Exodus 20:8-11). God tells us what we are not to do. However, He also gives a second central commandment in regard to the Sabbath, telling us what we are to do. The second is a positive action command to rest on the Sabbath. “And on the seventh day you shall rest” (Exodus 23:12). It is easier to stop working than it is to actually rest. We may stop our physical work, but be mentally just as stressed out and busy as we were the day before.
The Sabbath is a day to stop from our endeavors of creation and to thank God for what we were able to accomplish and create in six days. Doing this, forces us to release the sometimes overwhelming sense of responsibility that builds up in our daily lives. The reason that so many of us (including Christians) are so stressed out, is because we are not honoring the Sabbath. Even just one day a week of real quality time with God, would strengthen us spiritually far beyond where most of us are now, and help us have a better perspective on the works that God has called us to do. We might even realize that we are not God! The Sabbath helps us to remember who we are, as we rest in Him and cease from our works.
It used to be that Sunday forced everyone to rest, because most stores and businesses were closed. Now, we have the option of continuing our work. When I was a young girl, nothing was open on Sunday. We honored that day as a day of rest. The only things you might find open on a Sunday were what were called the necessary things like a hospital, or a service station.
Today, since life goes on as normal on Sundays, we have to be far more deliberate in taking a Sabbath. It will not happen automatically. Sundays are often so busy, that one who truly wants to incorporate this sense of keeping a weekly Sabbath into their lifestyle might consider choosing another day for rest, such as Saturday, the original Sabbath day. On our day of rest, we should be doing restful things.
“The Ox In The Ditch”
Of course, it is possible to hold an extreme view of the Sabbath that does not allow any activity to happen at all. Jesus faced constant opposition from the Pharisees in this regard. Legalistic teaching of the day prevented even good things from taking place on the Sabbath. The Lord gave instructions about what could and could not be done on the Sabbath, as He knew our tendency to be legalistic. One of the exceptions that God gave, was if one’s ox should fall in a ditch on the Sabbath, one should pull the ox out. “Thou shalt not see thy brother’s ass or his ox fall down by the way, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt surely help him to lift them up again” (Deuteronomy 22:4). (If the Lord had not specified this instruction, I wonder how many families would have lost their oxen due to strict observance of the Sabbath!)
I remember my Aunt who was a wonderful Christian lady. Whenever she did any work on Sunday she would say “Well, my ox was in the ditch.”
Jesus was constantly rebuked by the religious leaders for healing on the Sabbath, as the following story illustrates.
“And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?” Luke 13:10-16
Jesus showed clearly that the Sabbath was not about religious ritual, but about resting in God and doing His works. According to Jesus, the Sabbath was created for the sake of man, to ease his burdens and not add to them.
“And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27-28
God created the Sabbath for the sake of rest. It is meant to be a blessing. Nevertheless, for many of those who seek to properly observe the Sabbath, it is a source of confusion. Just as the Sabbath was one of the main points of conflict in Jesus’ day, so it still is today. There are some groups that teach that if one does not observe Saturday as the true Sabbath, they are receiving the Mark of the Beast. Many sincere Christians are in a great deal of turmoil over this issue.
Saturday or Sunday?
So, what is the right day to worship the Lord – Saturday or Sunday? The answer is both! Actually, the answer is that we are to worship the Lord every day! We are to rest in Him every day according to Scripture.
First, let us look at the example of Jesus. It was obvious from Scripture that Jesus kept the Sabbath.
“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day.” Luke 4:16
The Bible also records that in the earliest days of the Church, the Apostles and the local believers met on the Sabbath. Christianity was birthed within the structure of Judaism, and was considered a Jewish sect. Therefore, it was natural that the early Christians followed the patterns already established within the Jewish religious structure. As Paul and others went forth on missionary journeys, they also met in the local synagogues on the Sabbath.
“Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.” Acts 13:43-44
“And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures.” Acts 17:2
Therefore, we can see that there is obvious New Testament precedence for meeting on Saturday, in the Jewish tradition.
However, the New Testament has much more to say on this issue. The following scene is a key illustration in understanding the Sabbath issue. Paul is in Corinth, and as usual, begins his habit of visiting the local synagogue:
“And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.” Acts 18:4-6
Let me make a very important point here: After Paul declares that he will henceforth take the message of Christ to the Gentiles, the Sabbath is never again mentioned in the book of Acts!
In fact, it is interesting to note that after the above occurrence, the Sabbath is only mentioned one other time in the entire New Testament. What is the Bible’s last statement on the Sabbath?
“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
This statement appears to be the conclusion of the early church on this matter, as never again is the controversy even addressed in Scripture, except in the broad sense that Gentile believers are not to be put under the Jewish law. The Bible teaches that every belief should be established in the mouth of two or three witnesses. Do we have another witness from Scripture, regarding the Sabbath law? In Romans, we see that Paul’s conclusion is the same as above:
“One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” Romans 14:5
Therefore, the Scripture clearly establishes that we are to be given the freedom to follow our own consciences in this matter. If a group of believers prefers to meet on Saturday, they are free to do so to the glory of God. If a different group would rather meet on Sunday, they are also free under the law to do so. Others may set aside another day for rest and worship. If that is the case, they should not feel condemnation. The New Testament has clearly established that meeting on a certain day is no longer the issue. Rather, the issue becomes keeping the spiritual principle of the Sabbath.
The Apostle Paul has probably had the best grasp on what it means to be a Christian, and what the New Covenant is all about. Therefore, if this former Pharisee no longer kept the Sabbath in an outward manner, we can be sure that the principles of keeping it changed. The Sabbath is not done away with, as it is an eternal principle. Resting one day a week is a commandment from God. However, under the new covenant, the underlying spiritual truth of the Sabbath is what becomes important.
“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.” Exodus 31:16-17
The Birth of Christianity
For those who would still insist that one must keep the Sabbath on Saturday, let me point out a few more factors established in the early church that did away with a Saturday Sabbath.
The book of Acts (and indeed all the New Testament letters) record a time of great transition, showing how the New Covenant was beginning to be worked out in the lives of those who followed Christ. With both devout Jews and newly converted pagans meeting together, there was a great deal of turmoil in finding middle ground. The Apostle Paul approached this issue with nothing less that divine revelation given to him by the Holy Spirit. He was very careful to keep both Gentile converts and traditional Jewish converts from looking to Jewish law and custom as their source of salvation.
Probably the most important reason that Christians eventually abandoned the regular Sabbath held by the Jews, is because the majority of those in attendance at a local synagogue were not followers of Christ. If a Christian went to the Temple or local Synagogue on a Saturday to worship God, he or she would have had to do it the old Jewish way–sacrifice animals, and go to God through a priest, etc. The Christian knew that these things were no longer necessary. Therefore, if they wanted to continue with God they would have to abandon meeting in the Temple, thinking of the seventh day as more holy than the others, and the Jews as more holy than other people. Why? Because they knew that all of these principles within the Old Testament law and thought had been fulfilled in Christ.
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” Romans 10:9
Of course, several hundred years later, there were political reasons for officially changing the “day of rest” from Saturday to Sunday. That is a whole new study that we do not have the time to delve into within this writing. Politics aside however, what we really need to question is whether Scripture itself supports meeting on Sunday or any other day of the week. The other thing we need to understand is the principle of the spiritual Sabbath, which I will address later in this article.
The Temple of God
Some believe that the New Testament teaches that Saturday was exchanged for Sunday, and the first day of the week is now to be “the day of rest.” I do not believe that the Bible gives conclusive evidence for this. There was a revolution in the early church, but it has far greater implications than merely exchanging one sacred day for another. There seems to be very little point in such an exchange, unless one wanted to focus on the symbolic “new beginning” of the first day of the week in memorial to the day that Christ rose from the dead. There is some Scripture that indicates the early church met on Sunday (at least occasionally) but I do not think that it is enough to conclude that Sunday is the “new Sabbath.” The true Sabbath is a way of life, not a day of “going to church.” In fact, one of the foundations to this revolution is the understanding that we do not need to be in a designated building to honor the Sabbath.
Under the Old Covenant, the Temple was where the presence of God dwelled. The concept of the Temple was instigated by God Himself. Why then would He do away with it? The answer is that He never did away with it, even as he never did away with the Sabbath. He kept the principle, but He changed the outward structure.
In John 4, Jesus was questioned by a Samaritan woman as to the correct place to worship God. “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain” she said, “and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus’ answer shows us the true principle of worship that God desires of us:
“Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” John 4:21-23
Jesus told her that the place of worship is no longer important. He came to make His resting place among men, not among buildings. When Jesus drew His last breath on the cross, He shouted out “It is finished.” At that moment the veil in the Temple that separated the Holy of Holies (where God’s presence dwelt) from the rest of the Temple was supernaturally rent in two, from top to bottom. “And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent” (Matthew 27:51). At that moment, God let it be known that His presence would no longer be contained within a certain building.
Now, under the New Covenant, the Temple is not a building, but a Believer in Christ. Therefore, we do not necessarily need to go anywhere to find God’s presence. He already dwells within those who belong to Him. The word for church in Greek, is “ekklesia” which literally means, “a meeting or community of called-out ones.” It is not a building, but rather it is the people within the building who are the true church.
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” 1 Corinthians 3:16-17
When any group of believers are assembled together, we find that the Temple of God is being built right in our midst. We become “living stones” when we come together in love and unity to worship our God.
“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:5
Therefore, it is clear from Scripture that the Temple of God is not a building or a place. Let me say here, that having a designated spot for meeting and worship is not wrong. It honors the Lord to have a building set apart for the purpose of gathering in His name, and we are in no way attempting to destroy the structure of Christianity, which includes meeting in a certain building on Sunday. This has been the system of the Church for most of its history and it is helpful to have a central location that is large enough to hold everyone. However, there is nothing more sacred about Sunday than any other day of the week.. The one who worships the Lord in “spirit and in truth” will worship Him everyday, making the whole week sacred to Him.
We would caution some who might read this and now assume that they no longer need to go to church on Sunday. As we stated above, the “spiritual revolution” of the New Covenant creates both greater freedom and greater responsibility. If your heart is truly for the Lord, you will want to gather with other believers as much as possible. Sunday is usually the main day that this happens. The early church met together far more than most fellowships today (Acts 20:7, Acts 2:46, Acts 5:42, Acts 20:20, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Acts 28:30-31). The Body of Christ needs each other and the Bible is very clear on this point. If our hearts are for God, they will also be for His people, and we will want to fellowship with them.
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25
“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Acts 2:42
“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many…And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary.” 1 Corinthians 12:13-14, 21-22
“If therefore the whole church be come together into one place…When ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.” 1 Corinthians 14:23a,26
Therefore, a Christian meeting is not so much about being in a certain building, as it is being with other believers. Jesus said that whenever two or three are gathered together in His Name that He is there with them. “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” Matthew 18:20.
In addition to the Sabbath, there were also other outward traditions of Judaism that were done away with at the advent of Christianity, such as circumcision. Both circumcision and observing the Sabbath were ceremonies that God said should be observed “forever.” Today we observe them by circumcising our hearts and honoring the Sabbath rest of God in our lifestyles. These commands are not done away with–rather, they are emphasized spiritually. Under the New Covenant, the outward observance of these precepts can do absolutely nothing to save someone. The Bible is very clear that we are no longer bound to or justified by the ceremony of the Law.
This is where we must decide if either Paul was a heretic or if he was hearing from the Holy Spirit. Is the New Testament the Word of God or not? If you find that you are offended by these ideas, you may still be living under an Old Covenant mentality.
The Original Sabbath
In my opinion we have now come to the most exciting and significant part of this study. So far, we have discussed what keeping the Sabbath may or may not necessarily entail. Now, let us look at the true meaning of the Sabbath and how we might keep it in a way that honors the Lord of the Sabbath.
Before the Sabbath was ever a law, the principal of rest was already established during the first week of creation.
“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. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” Genesis 2:1-2
On the sixth day, God made man; the crowning glory of His creation and the thing dearest to His heart. God finally had someone that He could walk with in the cool of the day; someone who bore His image, who He could relate to in an intimate level. Therefore, after the creation of man, there was nothing left for God to make. His highest purpose had been achieved. He finally had a “resting place.” Thus, He rested the next day.
Lest one might view this argument as stripping away the awesome self-sufficiency of God, let me also say that God does not need anything. He is absolutely complete within Himself. He desires that man should be His resting place, not because we have anything He needs, but because that is the way that He ordained it. He has chosen to dwell with us out of His own wisdom and love, but not because He is deficient in any way.
Nevertheless, in all our talk about man finding a resting place, we have occasionally overlooked the fact that God Himself is also seeking a resting place. He will not “rest” until man is rightly related to Him, and all of creation is redeemed and comes into its rest. In the millennium, which is the time when the Earth shall rest and God and man will be resting in each other, all of creation will then be at rest. We might also say that all dysfunction within creation is due to the fact that the spiritual principle found within the Fourth Commandment (which is really just an extension of the first three) has been broken. If man is not resting in God, God is deprived of His favorite resting place as well – and all creation suffers with a lack of rest because of it.
The first “Sabbath” lasted until the fall of man. Who knows how long that period of time may have been, as Adam and Eve lived in bliss within the Garden of Eden, in perfect harmony with their Creator and all of Creation. After sin entered the world, the Sabbath ceased, and sin destroyed that beautiful rest.
The result of sin is not only death, but also hard labor and stress.
“…Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread…” Genesis 3:17-19
“…Neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin.” Psalm 38:3
“But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” Isaiah 57:20-21
Entering Into His Rest
The goal of becoming a Christian is to enter into the rest of God. This rest is composed of keeping the first four commandments, from which all the rest flow.
Throughout scripture, God constantly entreats us to rest in Him. The Old Testament is symbolic of the Christian life. God led the Israelites into the Promised Land, which is a “type” of His rest. The Christian often views the Promised Land as a symbol of Heaven, but this cannot be the case, as the Israelites still faced many giants and enemies to overcome while conquering and living in that land. The Promised Land is actually the type of a higher Christian life that God wants us to enter into while on this earth and possess the farthest reaches of it into eternity. This higher life is nothing more than observing the true Sabbath of God.
“But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Therefore since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith….For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains therefore 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 us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” Hebrews 3:17-19, 4:1-2,8-10 NIV
The Lord is calling for us to rest in Him. Yet, like Israel, many of us are consumed with our own works, and too full of doubt, fear and grumbling to respond to His call.
“Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.” Jeremiah 6:16
“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.” Isaiah 28:12
“For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.” Isaiah 30:15
We know that Christ is the fulfillment of the Law. He is also the very Person in Whom we rest, and He Himself is the door (the narrow gate) to enter into that rest. There is neither rest, nor any way to find it apart from Him. He truly is our All in All!
“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” John 10:9
“Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” Luke 13:24
Christ was the first to enter into the full Sabbath rest of God. He is the “firstfruits” of God’s harvest of righteousness on the earth (1 Corinthians 15:20). We who have our hope in Him are following the path that He forged for us by laying down His life. Jesus dwelled perfectly with God, just as Adam did in that long-ago Sabbath before the fall of man.
Those who are in strife and legalism over the Sabbath cannot keep it properly – indeed they usually misunderstand and persecute those who are attempting to do so. It is ironic that the One who kept the Sabbath perfectly was more harassed by His seeming failure to keep it, than about any other issue. Though the Pharisees prided themselves on observing the Sabbath, they actually had no concept of what it really meant. Their understanding of the Sabbath rest was so elementary and unspiritual that they actually were convinced that the One who invented the Sabbath was breaking it!
“Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day.” John 9:16
“And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days?” Luke 6:2
“And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.” John 5:16-18
Despite the opposition, Jesus continued to do the work of the Father on the Sabbath, and as He worked, He relied on the power of God to do the works of God. “Of my own self“ said Jesus, “I can do nothing” (John 5:30). He relied on the Father for everything, and therefore rested in Him even as He worked.
The rest of God that Jesus entered into should be our goal as well. It is available to us through Christ. In Christ, we see that not only did He rest perfectly in God, but that God also rested perfectly in Him!
“And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.” Isaiah 11:2
“And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.” John 1:32
The habitation that God has been looking for among men, He found in Christ. Through Christ, God’s greatest desire will be fulfilled – that He may dwell with man in perfect harmony once again. This is why we must be in Christ to be properly related to God. Those who are outside of Christ cannot enter into the true rest of God, nor can He rest in them.
God’s Resting Place
“Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?” Isaiah 66:1
Scripture is clear that God never wanted to dwell in a building. All along, His desire was to have a resting place in man! In the beginning, this is why we were created. His desire has been to dwell within a “called-out” people in the spiritual location of Zion. Though a literal place, Zion is also a type of the New Jerusalem – which is composed of all those throughout history who have overcome. Zion represents the overcomers. The body of Christ is the true “Israel of God.”
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.” Psalm 132:13-14
“But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” Psalm 22:3
“In Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Zion.” Psalm 76:2
“May Christ through your faith (actually) dwell–settle down, abide, make His permanent home–in your hearts!” Ephesians 3:17 (Amplified)
“In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Ephesians 4:22
The Sabbath as a Lifestyle
As we make the Sabbath our lifestyle, we create a habitation for the Lord. The greatest desire of every Christian should be that the fullness of the Lord dwells continually within them.
Therefore, let us be aware of things that hinder us from entering into His Sabbath. One of the strongest deterrents to entering into His rest is being strong in our own flesh and works. That is why it says that he who enters into the rest of God has ceased from his own works (Hebrews 4:9).
“Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.” Jeremiah 17:5
The Apostle Paul understood this concept, which is why he gloried in his weaknesses, knowing that the power of Christ would rest in him more fully.
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 2:9
For those who are weak in themselves, the message of Christ is the greatest news ever heard. On the other hand, for those who are strong and full, the message of Christ is bad news. This is why Jesus said, “blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Jesus Himself was “poor in spirit” and that is why the kingdom of heaven belongs primarily to Him.
“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9
Entering into the Sabbath rest can only be achieved by walking down the path of humility, just as Jesus did. We all struggle with pride and laboring in our own works rather than resting in God. However, we should be comforted by Jesus, who faced the same temptation to be prideful just as we face. In fact, Jesus had far more reason to be prideful than you or I! Therefore, it stands that His temptation against pride was an even greater struggle than ours, and yet He resisted it. In fact, He overcame to such an extent that He was the most humble man who ever walked the earth! Therefore, if the One who had more reason than any of us to be strong in His own works, made himself totally dependant upon God, so can we. He made it possible for us to do so, as we yield to His life within us.
“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:6 -11
Another factor that prevents us from entering into His rest, is unbelief. Most Christians will concede that the power of Christ is available to all who call on His name. However, many of us add the unspoken clause “except for me.” That kind of unbelief is deadly to a life of faith. If we do not believe that God will give us the power to overcome sin and have an intimate relationship with Him, we will not recognize His love and power when they are made available to us. However, it is not because He has withheld them from us! Rather, it is our own unbelief that keeps us from seeing and receiving.
“And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. ” Hebrews 3:18,19
There are many other ways in which we may honor and keep the Sabbath, but I will address only one more in this article, and that is to “abide in Christ.” As we abide in Him, (through meditating on Him, reading His word, praying, and worshiping Him) we find that we enter into His rest and that the works of God begin to flow through us without great effort on our part.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” John 15:4-5
The key phrase to honoring the Sabbath is to abide in Christ. The more we realize that without Him we can do nothing, the more we will strive to abide in Him and know His rest. It is Christ who gives not only a place for God to rest, but for the nations to rest as well. It is only through Christ that the bridge between God and man can be crossed. Christ is our meeting place. Both God and man rest in Christ, and it is in Him where mercy and truth kiss one another.
We see that a key to world revival is simply when God is resting in His people the way that He rested in Christ! When the Spirit of God is fully resting upon us, the nations of the Earth will notice. They will see God as He really is and they will come streaming to Zion to be taught of the Lord.
“…For the earth will be full of the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea. In that day, the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him and his place of rest shall be glorious.” Isaiah 11:9b-10 NIV
We can expect this to be literally manifested on the earth in the seventh millennium (which is soon approaching). The seventh millennium prophetically corresponds to the seventh day of the creation week, and it will be a time of rest and refreshment for the earth.
The Book of Revelation shows the final outcome and triumph of God’s plans and desires. The Sabbath that was ordained at the dawn of creation will again be the standard of living on Earth.
“And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.” Revelation 21:2-5
Bottom line – In the meantime, the day we rest and remember a corporate Sabbath is not as important as entering into the rest of God with a thankful and committed heart to God. Our relationship with god is more important than a day in the week that we meet. Jesus said in Matthew 15:7-9, “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
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Topic: What the Bible Says About the Sabbath
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