Chapter 19: THE SABBATH

Seventh-day Adventists Believe...

The beneficent Creator, after the six days of Creation,

rested on the seventh day and instituted the Sabbath for all

people as a memorial of Creation. The fourth commandment of

God's unchangeable law requires the observance of this

seventh-day Sabbath as the day of rest, worship, and

ministry in harmony with the teaching and practice of Jesus,

the Lord of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a day of delightful

communion with God and one another. It is a symbol of our

redemption in Christ, a sign of our sanctification, a token

of our allegiance, and a foretaste of our eternal future in

God's kingdom. The Sabbath is God's perpetual sign of His

eternal covenant between Him and His people. Joyful

observance of this holy time from evening to evening, sunset

to sunset, is a celebration of God's creative and redemptive

acts.--Fundamental Beliefs, l9.



With God, Adam and Eve explored their paradise home. The

scenery was breathtaking, beyond description. As the sun

slowly set on that Friday, the sixth day of Creation, and

the stars began to appear, "God saw everything that He had

made, and indeed it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). Thus God

finished His creation of "the heavens and the earth, and all

the host of them" (Gen. 2:1).

But as beautiful as was the world He had just completed,

the greatest gift God could give to the newly created couple

was the privilege of a personal relationship with Him. So He

gave them the Sabbath, a day of special blessing,

fellowship, and communion with their Creator.

The Sabbath Throughout the Bible

The Sabbath is central to our worship of God. The

memorial of Creation, it reveals the reason why God is to be

worshiped: He is the Creator, and we are His creatures. "The

Sabbath, therefore, lies at the very foundation of divine

worship, for it teaches this great truth in the most

impressive manner, and no other institution does this. The

true ground of divine worship, not of that on the seventh

day merely, but of all worship, is found in the distinction

between the Creator and His creatures. This great fact can

never become obsolete, and must never be forgotten."(*1) It

was to keep this truth forever before the human race that

God instituted the Sabbath.

The Sabbath at Creation

The Sabbath comes to us from a sinless world. It is God's

special gift, enabling the human race to experience the

reality of heaven on earth. Three distinct divine acts

established the Sabbath:

1. God rested on the Sabbath.

On the seventh day God "rested and was refreshed"

(Ex. 31:17), yet He did not rest because He needed it (Isa.

40:28). The verb "rested," shabath, means literally "to

cease" from labor or activity (cf. Gen. 8:22). "God's rest

was the result of neither exhaustion nor fatigue, but a

cessation from previous occupation."(*2)

God rested because He expected humans to rest; He set an

example for human beings to follow (Ex. 20-11).

If God finished the Creation on the sixth day (Gen. 2:1),

what does Scripture mean when it says that He "ended His

work" on the seventh day (Gen. 2:2)? God had finished the

creation of the heavens and the earth in those six days, but

He had yet to make the Sabbath. It was by resting on the

Sabbath that He made it. The Sabbath was His finishing

touch, ending His work.

2. God blessed the Sabbath.

God not only made the Sabbath, He blessed it. "The

blessing on the seventh day implied that it was thereby

declared to be a special object of divine favor and a day

that would bring blessing to His creatures."(*3)

3. God sanctified the Sabbath.

To sanctify something means to make it sacred or holy, or

to set it apart as holy and for holy use; to consecrate it.

People, places (such as a sanctuary, temple, or church), and

time (holy days) can be sanctified. The fact that God

sanctified the seventh day means that this day is holy, that

He set it apart for the lofty purpose of enriching the

divine-human relationship.

God blessed and sanctified the seventh-day Sabbath

because He rested on this day from all His works. He blessed

and sanctified it for humanity, not for Himself. It is His

personal presence that brings to the Sabbath God's blessing

and sanctification.

The Sabbath at Sinai

The events following the Israelites' departure from Egypt

show that they had largely lost sight of the Sabbath. The

rigorous requirements of slavery seem to have made Sabbath

observance very difficult. Soon after they gained their

freedom, God strongly reminded them, through the miracle of

the manna and the proclamation of the Ten Commandments, of

their obligation to observe the seventh-day Sabbath.

1. The Sabbath and the manna.

One month before He proclaimed the law from Sinai, God

promised the people protection against disease if they would

diligently give attention to "His commandments and keep all

His statutes" (Ex. 15:26; cf. Gen. 26:5). Soon after making

this promise God reminded the Israelites of the sacredness

of the Sabbath. Through the miracle of the manna He taught

them in concrete terms how important He considered their

resting on the seventh day.

Each weekday God gave to the Israelites enough manna to

meet their needs for that day. They were not to save any

till the next day, for it would spoil if they did (Ex. 16:4,

16-19). On the sixth day they were to gather twice as much

as usual so that they would have enough for their needs on

both that day and the Sabbath. Teaching that the sixth day

was to be a day of preparation and also how the Sabbath was

to be kept, God said, "`Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a

holy Sabbath to the Lord. So bake what you want to bake and

boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep

it until morning'" (Ex. 16:23, NIV). Only on the seventh day

could the manna be kept without spoiling (Ex. 16:24). In

language similar to that of the fourth commandment, Moses

said, "`Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh

day, which is the Sabbath, there will be none'" (Ex. 16:26).

For the forty years, or more than 2,000 successive weekly

Sabbaths, that the Israelites were in the wilderness, the

miracle of the manna reminded them of this pattern of six

days of work and the seventh day of rest.

2. The Sabbath and the law.

God placed the Sabbath command in the center of the

Decalogue. It reads as follows:

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you

shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the

Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work:

you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant,

nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who

is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the

heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and

rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the

Sabbath day and hallowed it" (Ex. 20:8:11).

All of the commandments of the Decalogue are vital, and

none are to be neglected (James 2:10), yet God distinguished

the Sabbath command from all others. Regarding it, He

commanded, "Remember," alerting humanity to the danger of

forgetting its importance.

The words with which the commandment begins--"Remember

the Sabbath day, to keep it holy"--show that the Sabbath was

not first instituted at Sinai. Those words indicate that it

was originated earlier--in fact, at Creation, as the rest of

the commandment reveals. God intended that we observe the

Sabbath as His memorial of Creation. It defines the time for

rest and worship, directing us to contemplate God and His


As the memorial of Creation, Sabbath observance is an

antidote for idolatry. By reminding us that God created

heaven and earth, it distinguishes Him from all false gods.

Keeping the Sabbath, then, becomes the sign of our

allegiance to the true God--a sign that we acknowledge His

Sovereignty as Creator and King.

The Sabbath commandment functions as the seal of God's

law.(*4) Generally, seals contain three elements: the name

of the owner of the seal, his title, and jurisdiction.

Official seals are used to validate documents of great

import. The document takes on the authority of the official

whose seal is placed upon it. The seal implies that the

official himself approved of the legislation and that all

the power of his office stands behind it.

Among the Ten Commandments, it is the Sabbath command

that contains the vital elements of a seal. It is the only

one of the ten that identifies the true God by giving His

name: "the Lord your God;" His title: the One who made--the

Creator; and His territory: "the heavens and the earth" (Ex.

20:10,11). Since only the fourth commandment shows by whose

authority the Ten Commandments were given, it therefore

"contains the seal of God," attached to His law as evidence

of its authenticity and binding force.(*5)

Indeed, God made the Sabbath as "a reminder or sign of

His power and authority in a world unspotted by sin and

rebellion. It was to be an institution of perpetual personal

obligation enjoined by the admonition `remember the sabbath

day, to keep it holy' (Ex. 20:8)."(*6)

This commandment divides the week into two parts. God

gave humanity six days in which to "labor and do all your

work," but the seventh day "you shall do no work"

(Ex. 20:9,10). "`Six days,' says the command, are work days,

but `the seventh day' is a rest day. That `the seventh day'

is uniquely God's rest day is made evident in the opening

words of the command: `Remember the sabbath [rest] day, to

keep it holy.'"(*7)

Although human beings require physical rest to refresh

their bodies, God bases His command that we rest on the

Sabbath on His example. Since He rested from His activities

of the world's first week, so we are to rest.

3. The Sabbath and the covenant.

As God's law was central to the covenant (Ex. 34:27), so

the Sabbath, located in the heart of that law, is prominent

in His covenant. God declared the Sabbath a "sign

between...[you] and Me, that...[you] may know that I am the

Lord who sanctifies...[you]" (Eze. 20:12; cf. Eze. 20:20;

Ex. 31:17). Therefore, He said, Sabbathkeeping is a

"perpetual covenant" (Ex. 31:16). "Just as the covenant is

based on God's love for His people (Deut. 7:7,8), so the

Sabbath, as the sign of that covenant, is a sign of divine


4. The annual sabbaths.

In addition to the weekly Sabbaths (Lev. 23:3), there

were seven annual, ceremonial sabbaths scattered through

Israel's religious calendar. These yearly sabbaths were not

directly related to the seventh-day Sabbath or the weekly

cycle. These sabbaths, "beside the Sabbaths of the Lord"

(Lev. 23:38), were the first and last days of the Feast of

Unleavened Bread, the Day of Pentecost, the Feast of

Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the first and last days

of the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. Lev. 23:7,8,21,24,25,27,28,


Because the reckoning of these sabbaths depended on the

beginning of the sacred year, which was based on the lunar

calendar, they could fall on any day of the week. When they

coincided with the weekly Sabbath, they were called "high

days" (cf. John 19:31). "While the weekly Sabbath was

ordained at the close of Creation week for all mankind, the

annual sabbaths were an integral part of the Jewish system

of rites and ceremonies instituted at Mount Sinai,...which

pointed forward to the coming of the Messiah, and the

observance of which terminated with His death on the cross."


The Sabbath and Christ

Scripture reveals that, as truly as the Father, Christ

was the Creator (see 1 Cor. 8:6; Heb. 1:1,2; John 1:3). So

He was the One who set the seventh day apart as a day of

rest for humanity.

In time Christ associated the Sabbath with His redemptive

as well as His creative work. As the great "I AM" (John

8:58; Ex. 3:14) He incorporated the Sabbath in the Decalogue

as a forceful reminder of this weekly worship appointment

with the Creator. And He added another reason for the

observance of the Sabbath: The redemption of His people

(Deut. 5:14,15). So the Sabbath marks those who have

accepted Jesus as Creator and Saviour.

Christ's twofold role as Creator and Redeemer makes it

obvious why He claimed that as the Son of Man, He "is also

Lord of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:28). With such authority, He

could have disposed of the Sabbath if He had wanted to, but

He did not. On the contrary He applied it to all human

beings, saying, "The Sabbath was made for man" (verse 27).

Throughout His earthly ministry Christ exemplified for us

faithful Sabbathkeeping. It was "His custom" to worship on

the Sabbath (Luke 4:16). His participation in Sabbath

services reveals that He endorsed it as a day of worship.

So concerned was Christ for the sacredness of the Sabbath

that when He spoke about the persecution to take place after

His ascension, He counseled His disciples regarding it.

"Pray," He said, "that your flight may not be in winter or

on the Sabbath" (Matt. 24:20). This clearly implied, as

Jonathan Edwards noted, "that even then Christians were

bound to a strict observation of the Sabbath."(*10)

When Christ finished His work of Creation--His first

great act in world history--He rested on the seventh day.

This rest signified completion and accomplishment. He did

much the same at the end of His earthly ministry, when He

completed His second great act in history. On Friday

afternoon, the sixth day of the week, Christ finished His

redemptive mission on earth. His last words were "`It is

finished!'" (John 19:30). Scripture emphasizes that when He

died, "it was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to

begin" (Luke 23:54, NIV). Following His death, He rested in

a tomb, thus symbolizing that He had accomplished the

redemption of the human race.(*11)

So the Sabbath testifies to Christ's works of Creation

and redemption. Through observing it His followers rejoice

with Him over His accomplishments for humanity.(*12)

The Sabbath and the Apostles

The disciples greatly respected the Sabbath. This was

evident at the time of Christ's death. When the Sabbath

arrived, they interrupted their burial preparations and

"rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment," with

plans to continue this work on Sunday, "the first day of the

week" (Luke 23:56; 24:1).

As had Christ, the apostles worshiped on the seventh-day

Sabbath. In his evangelistic travels Paul attended the

synagogue on the Sabbath, and preached Christ (Acts 13:14;

17:1,2; 18:4). Even the Gentiles invited him to preach the

word of God on the Sabbath (Acts 13:42,44). In localities

where there was no synagogue, he searched for the place

customary for Sabbath worship (Acts 16:13). As Christ's

participation in Sabbath services indicated His acceptance

of the seventh day as the special day for worship, so did


This apostle's faithful observance of the weekly Sabbath

stood in sharp contrast to his attitude towards the annual

ceremonial sabbaths. He made it clear that Christians were

under no obligation to keep these yearly rest days because

Christ had nailed the ceremonial laws to the cross (see

Chapter 18 of this book). Said he, "Therefore let no one

judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a

new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come,

but the substance is of Christ" (Col. 2:16,17). Since "the

context [of this passage] deals with ritual matters, the

sabbaths here referred to are the ceremonial sabbaths of the

Jewish annual festivals `which are a shadow,' or type, of

which the fulfillments were to come in Christ."(*13)

Likewise, in Galatians Paul remonstrated against the

observing of the requirements of the ceremonial law. He

said, "You observe days, and months, and seasons, and years!

I am afraid I have labored over you in vain"

(Gal. 4:10,11, RSV).

Many are under the impression that John was referring to

Sunday when he stated he was "in the Spirit on the Lord's

day" (Rev. 1:10). In the Bible, however, the only day

referred to as the Lord's special possession is the Sabbath.

Christ stated, "The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord

your God" (Ex. 20:10); later calling it "My holy day" (Isa.

58:13). And Christ called Himself "Lord of the Sabbath"

(Mark 2:28). Since, in the Scripture, the only day the Lord

calls His own is the seventh-day Sabbath, it seems logical

to conclude that it was the Sabbath to which John was

referring. Certainly there is no Biblical precedent to

indicate he would apply that term to the first day of the

week, or Sunday.(*14)

Nowhere does the Bible command us to observe any weekly

day other than the Sabbath. It declares no other weekly day

blessed or holy. Nor does the New Testament indicate that

God has changed the Sabbath to any other day of the week.

On the contrary, Scripture reveals that God intended that

His people should observe the Sabbath throughout eternity:

"`As the new heavens and the new earth which I will make

will remain before me,' says the Lord, `so shall your

descendants and your name remain....From one New Moon to

another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall

come to worship before Me,' says the Lord" (Isa. 66:22,23).

The Meaning of the Sabbath

The Sabbath has broad significance and is filled with

deep and rich spirituality.

1. A perpetual memorial of Creation.

As we have seen, the fundamental significance the Ten

Commandments attach to the Sabbath is that it memorializes

the creation of the world (Ex. 20:11,12). The command to

observe the seventh day as the Sabbath is "linked

inseparably to the act of Creation, the institution of the

Sabbath and the command to observe it being a direct

consequence of the act of Creation. Furthermore, the entire

human family owes its existence to the divine act of

Creation thus memorialized; accordingly, the obligation to

comply with the Sabbath command as a memorial of the

creative power of God devolves upon the entire human

race."(*15) Strong calls the Sabbath "a perpetual obligation

as God's appointed memorial of his creating activity."(*16)

Those who observed it as a memorial of Creation would be

doing so as a grateful acknowledgment "that God was their

Creator and their rightful Sovereign; that they were the

works of His hands, and the subjects of His authority. Thus

the institution was wholly commemorative, and given to all

mankind. There was nothing in it shadowy, or of restricted

application to any people."(*17) And as long as we worship

God because He is our Creator, so long will the Sabbath

function as the sign and memorial of Creation.

2. A symbol of redemption.

When God delivered Israel from bondage in Egypt, the

Sabbath, which was already the memorial of Creation, became

a memorial of deliverance as well (Deut. 5:15). "The Lord

intended that the weekly Sabbath rest, if properly observed,

would constantly release man from the bondage of an Egypt

not limited to any country or century but which includes

every land and every age. Man today needs escape from the

bondage that comes from greediness, from gain and power,

from social inequality, and from sin and selfishness."(*18)

It is when we view the cross that the Sabbath rest stands

out as a special symbol of redemption. "It is the memorial

of the exodus from the bondage of sin under the leadership

of Emmanuel. The greatest burden we carry is the guilt of

our disobedience. The Sabbath rest, by pointing back to

Christ's rest in the tomb, the rest of victory over sin,

offers to the Christian a tangible opportunity to accept and

experience Christ's forgiveness, peace, and rest."(*19)

3. A sign of sanctification.

The Sabbath is a sign of God's transforming power, a sign

of holiness or sanctification. The Lord declared, "Surely My

Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you

throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the

Lord who sanctifies you" (Ex. 31:13; cf. Eze. 20:20). The

Sabbath, therefore, also is a sign of God as the Sanctifier.

As people are sanctified by Christ's blood (Heb. 13:12), the

Sabbath is also a sign of the believer's acceptance of His

blood for the forgiveness of sins.

Just as God has set the Sabbath aside for a holy purpose,

so He has set His people apart for a holy purpose--to be His

special witnesses. Their communion with Him on that day

leads to holiness; they learn to depend not on their own

resources but on the God who sanctifies them.

"The power that created all things is the power that

re-creates the soul in His own likeness. To those who keep

holy the Sabbath day it is the sign of sanctification. True

sanctification is harmony with God, oneness with Him in

character. It is received through obedience to those

principles that are the transcript of His character. And the

Sabbath is the sign of obedience. He who from the heart

obeys the fourth commandment will obey the whole law. He is

sanctified through obedience."(*20)

4. A sign of loyalty.

As Adam and Eve's loyalty was tested by the tree of the

knowledge of good and evil placed in the midst of the garden

of Eden, so every human being's loyalty to God will be

tested by the Sabbath command placed in the midst of the


Scripture reveals that before the Second Advent the whole

world will be divided into two classes: those who are loyal

and "keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus,"

and those who worship "the beast and his image" (Rev.

14:12,9). At that time God's truth will be magnified before

the world and it will be clear to all that the obedient

observance of the seventh-day Sabbath of Scripture gives

evidence of loyalty to the Creator.

5. A time of fellowship.

God created the animals to be humanity's companions

(Gen. 1:24,25). And for a higher level of companionship God

gave the man and woman to each other (Gen. 2:18-25). But in

the Sabbath God gave humanity a gift offering the highest

form of companionship--companionship with Him. Human beings

were not made just to associate with the animals, nor even

with other humans. They were made for God.

It is on the Sabbath that we can especially experience

God's presence among us. Without the Sabbath all would be

labor and sweat without end. Every day would be alike,

devoted to secular pursuits. The arrival of the Sabbath,

however, brings hope, joy, meaning, and courage. It provides

time to commune with God through worship, prayer, song, the

study of and meditation on the Word, and through sharing the

gospel with others. The Sabbath is our opportunity to

experience God's presence.

6. A sign of righteousness by faith.

Christians recognize that through the guidance of an

enlightened conscience non-Christians who honestly search

for truth can be led by the Holy Spirit to an understanding

of the general principles of God's law (Rom. 2:14-16). This

explains why the nine commandments other than the fourth

have been, to a degree, practiced outside of Christianity.

But that is not the case with the Sabbath commandment.

Many people can see the reason for a weekly day of rest,

but they often have a difficult time understanding why work

that, when done on any other day of the week would be right

and commendable, is a sin when done on the seventh day.

Nature does not offer any ground for keeping the seventh

day. Planets move in their respective orbits, vegetation

grows, rain and sunshine alternate, and beasts carry on as

if every day were the same. Why, then, should humans keep

the seventh-day Sabbath? "To the Christian there is only one

reason, and no other; but that reason is enough: God has


It is only on the basis of God's special revelation that

people understand the reasonableness of observing the

seventh day. Those who keep the seventh day, then, do so out

of faith and implicit trust in Christ, who has enjoined its

observance. By observing the Sabbath, believers reveal a

willingness to accept God's will for their lives instead of

depending on their own judgment.

In keeping the seventh day, believers are not trying to

make themselves righteous. Rather, they observe the Sabbath

as the result of their relationship with Christ the Creator

and Redeemer.(*22) Sabbathkeeping is the product of His

righteousness in justification and sanctification,

signifying, that they have been delivered from the bondage

of sin and have received His perfect righteousness.

"An apple tree does not become an apple tree by bearing

apples. It first has to be an apple tree. Then the apples

come as a natural fruitage. So the true Christian does not

keep the Sabbath or the other nine precepts to make himself

righteous. Rather, this is the natural fruitage of the

righteousness Christ shares with him. He who keeps the

Sabbath in this way is not a legalist, for the outward

keeping of the seventh day betokens the believer's inner

experience in justification and sanctification. Hence, the

true Sabbathkeeper does not refrain from forbidden actions

on the Sabbath in order to win God's favor but because he

loves God and wants to make the Sabbath count for the most

for closer fellowship with [Him]."(*23)

Sabbathkeeping reveals that we have ceased depending on

our own works, that we realize that only Christ the Creator

can save us. Indeed, "the spirit of true Sabbathkeeping

reveals a supreme love for Jesus Christ, the Creator and

Saviour, who is making us into new persons. It makes the

keeping of the right day in the right way a sign of

righteousness by faith."(*24)

7. A symbol of resting in Christ.

The Sabbath, a memorial of God's delivering Israel from

Egypt to the rest of the earthly Canaan, distinguished the

redeemed of that time from the surrounding nations. In a

similar way the Sabbath is a sign of the deliverance from

sin to God's rest, setting the redeemed apart from the


All who enter into the rest to which God invites them

"have ceased from...[their] works as God did from His" (Heb.

4:10). "This rest is a spiritual rest, a rest from our `own

works,' a ceasing from sin. It is into this rest that God

calls His people, and it is of this rest that both the

Sabbath and Canaan are symbols."(*25)

When God completed His work of Creation and rested on the

seventh day, He provided Adam and Eve, in the Sabbath, an

opportunity to rest in Him. Though they failed, God's

original purpose of offering that rest to humanity remains

unchanged. After the Fall the Sabbath continued as a

reminder of that rest. "The observance of the seventh-day

Sabbath thus testifies not only to faith in God as the

Creator of all things, but also to faith in His power to

transform the life and qualify men and women for entering

that eternal `rest' He originally intended for the

inhabitants of this earth."(*26)

God had promised this spiritual rest to literal Israel.

Despite their failure to enter it, God's invitation still

stands: "There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people

of God" (Heb. 4:9, NIV). All who desire to enter that rest

"must first enter, by faith, into His spiritual `rest,' the

rest of the soul from sin and from its own efforts at


The New Testament appeals for the Christian not to wait

to experience this rest of grace and faith, for "today" is

the opportune time to enter it (Heb. 4:7; 3:13). All who

have entered this rest--the saving grace received by faith

in Jesus Christ--have ceased every effort to achieve

righteousness by their own works. In this way, observing the

seventh-day Sabbath is a symbol of the believer's entering

into the gospel rest.

Attempts to Change the Day of Worship

Since the Sabbath plays a vital role in the worship of

God as Creator and Redeemer, it should not be surprising

that Satan has waged an all-out war to over-throw this

sacred institution.

Nowhere does the Bible authorize a change from the day of

worship God made in Eden and restated on Sinai. Other

Christians, Sundaykeepers themselves, have recognized this.

Catholic Cardinal James Gibbons once wrote, "You may read

the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find

a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The

Scriptures enforce the religious observance of


A.T. Lincoln, a Protestant, admitted that "it cannot be

argued that the New Testament itself provides warrant for

the belief that since the Resurrection God appointed the

first day to be observed as the Sabbath."(*29) He

acknowledged: "To become a seventh-day Sabbatarian is the

only consistent course of action for any one who holds that

the whole Decalogue is binding as moral law."(*30)

If there is no Biblical evidence that Christ or His

disciples changed the day of worship from the seventh day,

then how did so many Christians come to accept Sunday in its


The Rise of Sunday Observance

The change from Sabbath to Sunday worship came gradually.

There is no evidence of Christian weekly Sunday worship

before the second century, but the evidence indicates that

by the middle of that century some Christians were

voluntarily observing Sunday as a day of worship, not a day

of rest.(*31)

The church of Rome, largely made up of Gentile believers

(Rom. 11:13), led in the trend toward Sunday worship. In

Rome, the capital of the empire, strong anti-Jewish

sentiments arose, becoming even stronger as time passed.

Reacting to these sentiments, the Christians in that city

attempted to distinguish themselves from the Jews. They

dropped some practices held in common with the Jews and

initiated a trend away from the veneration of the Sabbath,

moving toward the exclusive observance of Sunday.(*32)

From the second to the fifth centuries, while Sunday was

rising in influence, Christians continued to observe the

seventh-day Sabbath nearly everywhere throughout the Roman

Empire. The fifth-century historian Socrates wrote: "Almost

all the churches throughout the world celebrate the sacred

mysteries on the sabbath of every week, yet the Christians

of Alexandria and at Rome, on account of some ancient

tradition, have ceased to do this."(*33)

In the fourth and fifth centuries many Christians

worshiped on both Sabbath and Sunday. Sozomen, another

historian of that period, wrote, "The people of

Constantinople, and almost everywhere, assemble together on

the Sabbath, as well as on the first day of the week, which

custom is never observed at Rome or at Alexandria."(*34)

These references demonstrate Rome's leading role in

disregarding Sabbath observance.

Why did those who were turning from worship on the

seventh day choose Sunday and not another day of the week? A

major reason was that Christ was resurrected on Sunday; in

fact, it was alleged that He had authorized worship on that

day. "But, strange as it may seem, not one writer of the

second and third centuries ever cited a single Bible verse

as authority for the observance of Sunday in the place of

the Sabbath. Neither Barnabas, nor Ignatius, nor Justin, nor

Irenaeus, nor Tertullian, nor Clement of Rome, nor Clement

of Alexandria, nor Origen, nor Cyprian, nor Victorinus, nor

any other author who lived near to the time when Jesus lived

knew of any such instruction from Jesus or from any part of

the Bible."(*35)

The popularity and influence that the sun worship of the

pagan Romans accorded Sunday undoubtedly contributed to its

growing acceptance as a day of worship. Sun worship played

an important role throughout the ancient world. It was "one

of the oldest components of the Roman religion." Because of

Eastern sun cults, "from the early part of the second

century A.D., the cult of Sol Invictus was dominant in Rome

and in other parts of the Empire."(*36)

This popular religion made its impact on the early church

through the new converts. "Christian converts from paganism

were constantly attracted toward the veneration of the Sun.

This is indicated not only by the frequent condemnation of

this practice by the [Church] Fathers but also by

significant reflexes of Sun worship in the Christian


The fourth century saw the introduction of Sunday laws.

First Sunday laws of a civil nature were issued, then came

Sunday laws of a religious character. The emperor

Constantine decreed the first civil Sunday law on March 7,

A.D. 321. In view of Sunday's popularity among the pagan sun

worshipers and the esteem with which many Christians

regarded it, Constantine hoped that, by making Sunday a

holiday, he could ensure the support of these two

constituencies for his government.(*38)

Constantine's Sunday law reflected his background as sun

worshiper. It read: "On the venerable Day of the Sun

[venerabili die Solis] 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."(39)

Several decades later the church followed his example.

The Council of Laodicea (c. A.D. 364), which was not a

universal council but a Roman Catholic one, issued the first

ecclesiastical Sunday law. In canon 29 the church stipulated

that Christians should honor Sunday and "if possible, do no

work on that day," while it denounced the practice of

resting on the Sabbath, instructing that Christians should

not "be idle on Saturday [Greek sabbaton, "the Sabbath"],

but shall work on that day."(*40)

In A.D. 538, the year marked as the beginning of the

1260-year prophecy (see chapter 12 of this book), the Roman

Catholic Third Council of Orleans issued a law even more

severe than that of Constantine. Canon 28 of that council

says that on Sunday even "agricultural labor ought to be

laid aside, in order that the people may not be prevented

from attending church."(*41)

The Change Prophesied

The Bible reveals that the observance of Sunday as a

Christian institution had its origin in "the mystery of

lawlessness" (2 Thess. 2:7), which was already at work in

Paul's day (see chapter 12 of this book). Through the

prophecy of Daniel 7 God revealed His foreknowledge of the

change of the day of worship.

Daniel's vision depicts an attack on God's people and on

His law. The attacking power, represented by a little horn

(and by a beast in Revelation 13:1-10), brings about the

great apostasy within the Christian church (see chapter 12

of this book). Arising from the fourth beast and becoming a

major persecuting power after the fall of Rome (see chapter

18), the little horn attempts to "change the times and law"

(Dan. 7:25). This apostate power is very successful at

deceiving most of the world, but at the end the judgment

will decide against it (Dan. 7:11,22,26). During the final

tribulation God will intervene on behalf of His people and

deliver them (Dan. 12:1-3).

This prophecy fits only one power within Christianity.

There is but one religious organization that claims to

possess the prerogatives of modifying divine laws. Note

what, throughout history, Roman Catholic authorities have


About A.D. 1400 Petrus de Ancharano asserted that "the

pope can modify divine law, since his power is not of man,

but of God, and he acts in the place of God upon earth, with

the fullest power of binding and loosing his sheep."(*42)

The impact of this astonishing assertion was demonstrated

during the Reformation. Luther claimed that the Holy

Scripture and not the tradition of the church was his guide

in life. His slogan was sola scriptura--"The Bible and the

Bible only." John Eck, one of the foremost defenders of the

Roman Catholic faith, attacked Luther on this point by

claiming that the authority of the church was above the

Bible. He challenged Luther on the observance of Sunday in

place of the Bible Sabbath. Said Eck, "Scripture teaches:

`Remember to hallow the Sabbath day; six days shall you

labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the

Sabbath day of the Lord your God,' etc. Yet, the church has

changed the Sabbath into Sunday on its own authority, on

which you [Luther] have no Scripture."(*43)

At the Council of Trent (1545-1563), convened by the pope

to counter Protestanitism, Gaspare de Fosso, archbishop of

Reggio, brought the issue up again. "The authority of the

church," he said, "then, is illustrated most clearly by the

Scriptures; for while on the one hand she [the church]

recommends them, declares them to be divine, [and] offers

them to us to be read,...on the other hand, the legal

precepts in the Scriptures taught by the Lord have ceased by

virtue of the same authority [the church]. The Sabbath, the

most glorious day in the law, has been changed into the

Lord's day.... These and other similar matters have not

ceased by virtue of Christ's teaching (for He says He has

come to fulfill the law, not to destroy it), but they have

been changed by the authority of the church."(*44)

Does that church still maintain this position? The 1977

edition of The Convert's Catechism of Catholic Doctrine

contains this series of questions and answers:

"Q. Which is the Sabbath day?

"A. Saturday is the Sabbath day.

"Q. Why do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday?

"A. We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the

Catholic Church transferred the solemnity from Saturday to


In his best-seller, The Faith of Millions (1974), the

Roman Catholic scholar John A. O'Brien came to this

compelling conclusion: "Since Saturday, not Sunday, is

specified in the Bible, isn't it curious that non-Catholics

who profess to take their religion directly from the Bible

and not from the Church, observe Sunday instead of Saturday?

Yes, of course, it is inconsistent." The custom of Sunday

observance, he said, "rests upon the authority of the

Catholic Church and not upon an explicit text in the Bible.

That observance remains as a reminder of the Mother Church

from which the non-Catholic sects broke away--like a boy

running away from home but still carrying in his pocket a

picture of his mother or a lock of her hair."(*46)

The claims to these prerogatives fulfill prophecy and

contribute to the identification of the little-horn power.

The Restoration of the Sabbath

In Isaiah 56 and 58 God calls Israel to a Sabbath reform.

Revealing the glories of the future gathering of the

Gentiles into His fold (Isa. 56:8), He associates the

success of this mission of salvation with keeping the

Sabbath holy (Isa. 56:1,2,6,7).

He carefully outlines the specific work of His people.

Though their mission is worldwide, it is especially directed

to a class of people who profess to be believers but who

have in reality departed from His precepts (Isa. 58:1,2). He

expresses their mission to those professed believers in

these terms: "`You shall raise up the foundations of many

generations; and you shall be called the Repairer of the

Breach, the Restorer of Streets to Dwell In. If you turn

away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on

My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of

the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own

ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own

words, then you shall delight yourself in the Lord'"

(Isa. 58:12-14).

The mission of spiritual Israel parallels that of ancient

Israel. God's law was breached when the little-horn power

changed the Sabbath. Just as the downtrodden Sabbath was to

be restored in Israel, so in modern times the divine

institution of the Sabbath is to be restored and the breach

in the wall of God's law repaired.(*47)

It is the proclamation of the message of Revelation

14:6-12 in connection with the everlasting gospel that

accomplishes this work of restoring and magnifying the law.

And it is the proclaiming of this message that is the

mission of God's church at the time of the Second Advent

(see chapter 12 of this book). This message is to arouse the

world, inviting everyone to prepare for the judgment.

The wording of the summons to worship the Creator, "Him

who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water"

(Rev. 14:7), is a direct reference to the fourth commandment

of God's eternal law. Its inclusion in this final warning

confirms God's special concern to have His widely forgotten

Sabbath restored before the Second Advent.

The delivering of this message will precipitate a

conflict that will involve the whole world. The central

issue will be obedience to God's law and the observance of

the Sabbath. In the face of this conflict everyone must

decide whether to keep God's commandments or those of men.

This message will produce a people who keep the commandments

of God and the faith of Jesus. Those who reject it will

eventually receive the mark of the beast (Rev. 14:9,12; see

chapter 12 of this book).

To successfully accomplish this mission of magnifying

God's law and honoring His neglected Sabbath, God's people

must set a consistent, loving example of Sabbathkeeping.

The Observance of the Sabbath

To "remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Ex 20:8),

we must think of the Sabbath throughout the week and make

the preparations necessary to observe it in a manner

pleasing to God. We should be careful not to so exhaust our

energies during the week that we cannot engage in His

service on the Sabbath.

Because the Sabbath is a day of special communion with God

in which we are invited to joyously celebrate His gracious

activities in Creation and redemption, it is important that

we avoid anything that tends to diminish its sacred

atmosphere. The Bible specifies that on the Sabbath we

should cease our secular work (Ex. 20:10), avoiding all work

done to earn a living and all business transactions (Neh.

13:15-22). We are to honor God, "not doing your own ways,

nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words"

(Isa. 58:13). Devoting this day to pleasing ourselves, to

being involved in secular interests, conversations, and

thoughts or to be engaging in sports would detract from

communion with our Creator and violate the sacredness of the

Sabbath.(*48) Our concern for the Sabbath command should

extend to all who are under our jurisdiction--our children,

those who work for us, and even our visitors and animals

(Ex. 20:10), so that they also may enjoy the blessings of

the Sabbath.

The Sabbath begins at sunset on Friday evening and ends at

sunset Saturday evening (see Gen. 1:5; cf. Mark 1:32).(*49)

Scripture calls the day before the Sabbath (Friday)--the

preparation day--(Mark 15:42)--a day to prepare for the

Sabbath so that nothing will spoil its sacredness. On this

day those who make the family's meals should prepare food

for the Sabbath so that during its sacred hours they also

can rest from their labors (see Ex. 16:23; Num. 11:8).

When the holy hours of the Sabbath approach, it is well

for family members or groups of believers to gather together

just before the setting of the sun on Friday evening to

sing, pray, and read God's Word, thus inviting the Spirit of

Christ as a welcome guest. Similarly they should mark its

close by uniting in worship toward the close of the Sabbath

on Saturday evening, requesting God's presence and guidance

through the ensuing week.

The Lord calls upon His people to make the Sabbath a day

of delight (Isa. 58:13). How can they do this? Only as they

follow the example of Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath, can

they ever hope to experience the real joy, and satisfaction

that God has for them on this day.

Christ regularly worshiped on the Sabbath, took part in

the services, and gave religious instruction (Mark 1:21;

3:1-4; Luke 4:16-27; 13:10). But He did more than just

worship. He fellowshipped with others (Mark 1:29-31; Luke

14:1), spent time outdoors (Mark 2:23), and went about doing

holy deeds of mercy. Wherever He could, He healed the sick

and afflicted (Mark 1:21-31; 3:1-5; Luke 13:10-17; 14:2-4;

John 5:1-15; 9:1-14).

When criticized for His work of alleviating suffering,

Jesus replied, "It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath"

(Matt. 12:12). His healing activities neither broke the

Sabbath nor abolished it. But they did terminate the

burdensome regulations that had distorted the meaning of the

Sabbath as God's instrument of spiritual refreshment and

delight.(*50) God intended the Sabbath for humanity's

spiritual enrichment. Activities that enhance communication

with God are proper; those which distract from that purpose

and turn the Sabbath into a holiday are improper.

The Lord of the Sabbath invites all to follow His

example. Those who accept His call experience the Sabbath as

a delight and a spiritual feast--a foretaste of heaven. They

discover that "the Sabbath is designed by God to prevent

spiritual discouragement. Week by week the seventh day

comforts our conscience, assuring us that despite our

unfinished characters we stand complete in Christ. His

accomplishment at Calvary counts as our atonement. We enter

His rest."(*51)


1. John N. Andrews, History of the Sabbath, 2nd end., enl.

(Battle Creek, MI: Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Assn.,

1873), 3rd ed., enl., p. 575.

2. SDA Bible Commentary, rev. ed., vol. 1, p. 220.

3. Ibid.

4. J.L. Shuler, God's Everlasting Sign (Nashville: Southern

Pub. Assn., 1972), pp. 114-116; M.L. Andreason, The Sabbath

(Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1942), p. 248;

Wallenkampf, "The Baptism, Seal, and Fullness of the Holy

Spirit" (unpublished manuscript), p. 48; White, Patriarchs

and Prophets, p. 307; White, Great Controversy, pp. 613,


5. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 307.

6. Wallenkampf, "Baptism, Seal, and the Fullness of the

Holy Spirit," p. 48.

7. SDA Bible Commentary, rev. ed., vol. 1, p. 605.

8. "Sabbath," SDA Encyclopedia, rev. ed., p. 1239.

9. "Sabbath, Annual," ibid., p. 1265.

10.Jonathan Edwards, The Works of President Edwards (New

York: Leavitt && Allen, 1852 repr. of the Worcester ed.),

vol. 4, p. 622. The Puritans considered Sunday to be the

Christian Sabbath.

11.Interestingly, it was on a "high day" that Jesus rested

in the tomb-for that Sabbath was both the seventh day of the

week and the first sabbath of the Week of Unleavened Bread.

What a day to culminate redemption! The "it is good" of

Creation merges with the "it is finished" of redemption as

the Author and Finisher once again rests in completion.

12.Samuele Bacchiocchi, Rest for Modern Man (Nashville:

Southern Pub. Assn., 1976), pp. 8,9.

13."Sabbath," SDA Encyclopedia, rev. ed., p. 1244. See

also SDA Bible Commentary, rev. ed., vol. 7, pp. 205,206;

cf. White, "The Australia Camp Meeting," Review and Herald,

Jan. 7, 1896, p. 2.

14.See SDA Bible Commentary, rev. ed., vol. 7, pp. 735,736.

Cf. White, Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, CA: Pacific

Press, 1911), p. 581.

15."Sabbath," SDA Encyclopedia, p. 1237.

16.A.H. Strong, Systematic Theology, p. 408.

17.White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 48.

18.Bacchiocchi, Rest for Modern Man, p. 15.

19.Ibid., p. 19.

20.White, Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 350.

21.Andreasen, Sabbath, p. 25.

22.Legalism can be defined as "attempts to earn salvation

by individual effort. It is conforming to the law and

certain observances as a means of justification before God.

This is wrong, because `by the deeds of the law there shall

no flesh be justified in his sight' (Romans 3:20)" (Shuler,

God's Everlasting Sign, p. 90). Shuler continues, "Those who

denounce Sabbath observance as legalism need to consider

this: If a born-again Christian refrains from worshiping

false gods and maintains reverence as commanded by the first

and third precepts, is he opposed to salvation by grace? Are

purity, honesty, and truthfulness, as advocated by the

seventh, eighth, and ninth commandments opposed to free

grace? The answer is No to both questions. Even so, the

keeping of the seventh day by a renewed soul is not

legalism, nor is it contrary to salvation only by grace. In

fact, the Sabbath commandment is the only precept in the law

that stands as a sign of deliverance from sin and

sanctification by grace alone" (ibid.).

23.Ibid., p. 89.

24.Ibid., p. 94.

25.Andreasen, Sabbath, p. 105.

26.SDA Bible Commentary, rev. ed., vol. 7, p. 420.


28.James Gibbons, The Faith of Our Fathers, 47th rev. enl.

ed. (Baltimore: John Murphy && Co.,1895), pp. 111, 112. R.W.

Dale, a Congregationalist, said, "It is quite clear that

however rigidly or devoutly we may spend Sunday, we are not

keeping the Sabbath....The Sabbath was founded on a specific

divine command. We can plead no such command for the

obligation to observe Sunday" (R.W. Dale, The Ten

Commandments, 4th ed. [London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884],

p. 100.

29.Andrew T. Lincoln, "From Sabbath to Lord's Day: A

Biblical and Theological Perspective," in From Sabbath to

Lord's Day: A Biblical, Historical, and Theological

Investigation, ed., D.A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,

1982), p. 386.

30.Ibid., p. 392.

31.See Justin Martyr, First Apology, in Ante-Nicene Fathers

(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979), vol. 1, p. 186;

Maxwell, God Cares (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1981),

vol. 1, p. 130.

32.See, e.g., Bacchiocchi, "The Rise of Sunday Observance

in Early Christianity," in The Sabbath in Scripture and

History, ed. Kenneth A. Strand (Washington, D.C.: Review and

Herald, 1982), p. 137; Bacchiocchi, From Sabbath to Sunday

(Rome: Pontifical Gregorian University Press, 1977), pp.


33.Socrates, Ecclesiastical History, book 5, chap. 22,

trans. in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd series (Grand

Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979), vol. 2, p. 132.

34.Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History, book 7, chap. 19,

trans. in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd series,

vol. 2, p. 390.

35.Maxwell, God Cares, vol. 1, p. 131.

36.Gaston H. Halsberghe, The Cult of Sol Invictus (Leiden:

E.J. Brill, 1972), pp. 26, 44. See also Bacchiocchi, "Rise

of Sunday Observance," p. 139.

37.Bacchiocchi, "Rise of Sunday Observance," p. 140. See

also Bacchiocchi, From Sabbath to Sunday, pp. 252,253.

38.See e.g., Maxwell, God Cares, vol. 1, p. 129; H.G.

Heggtveit, Illustreret Kirkehistorie (Christiania [Oslo]:

Cammermeyers Boghandel, 1891-1895), p. 202, as trans. in SDA

Bible Students' Source Book, rev. ed., p. 1000.

39.Codex Justinianus, book 3, title 12,3, trans. in Schaff,

History of the Christian Church 5th ed. (New York: Charles

Scribner, 1902), vol. 3, p. 380, note 1.

40.Council of Laodicea, Canon 29, in Charles J. Hefele, A

History of the Councils of the Church From the Original

Documents, trans. and ed. by Henry N. Oxenham (Edinburgh: T

and T Clark, 1876), vol. 2, p. 316. See also SDA Bible

Students' Source Book, rev. ed., p. 885.

41.Giovanni Domenico Mansi, ed., Sacrorum Conciliorum, vol.

9, col. 919, as quoted by Maxwell, God Cares, vol. 1, p.

129. Cited in part in Andrews, History of the Sabbath and

First Day of the Week, p. 374.

42.Lucius Ferraris "Papa," art. 2, Prompta Bibliotheca

(Venetiis [Venice]: Caspa Storti, 1772), vol. 6, p. 29, as

trans. in SDA Bible Students' Source Book, rev. ed., p. 680.

43.John Eck, Enchiridion of Commonplaces Against Luther and

Other Enemies of the Church, trans. Ford L. Battles, 3rd ed.

(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), p. 13.

44.Gaspare [Ricciulli] de Fosso, Address in the 17th

Session of the Council of Trent, Jan. 18, 1562, in Mansi,

Sacrorum Conciliorum, vol. 33, cols. 529,530, as trans. in

SDA Bible Students' Source Book, rev. ed., p. 887.

45.Peter Geiermann, The Convert's Catechism of Catholic

Doctrine (Rockford, IL: Tan Books and Publishers, 1977),

p. 50.

46.John A. O'Brien, The Faith of Millions, rev. ed.

(Huntinton, IN: Our Sunday Visitor Inc., 1974), pp. 400,401.

47.Cf. White, Great Controversy, pp. 451-453.

48.White, Selected Messages, book 3, p. 258.

49.In Scripture, as the Creation story makes clear, days

were marked from sunset to sunset. See also Lev. 23:32.

50.Does Christ's example mandate that Christian hospitals

should stay open for seven days without providing any

Sabbath rest for their staff? Realizing the needs of

hospital personnel, White said, "The Saviour has shown us by

His example that it is right to relieve suffering on this

day; but physicians and nurses should do no unnecessary

work. Ordinary treatment, and operations that can wait,

should be deferred till the next day. Let the patients know

that physicians must have one day for rest" (Medical

Ministry [Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1963], p. 214).

The fees for these medical services on the Sabbath are to

be put aside for charity work. White wrote, "It may be

necessary to devote even the hours of the holy Sabbath to

the relief of suffering humanity. But the fee for such

labor should be put into the treasury of the Lord, to be

used for the worthy poor, who need medical skill but cannot

afford to pay for it" (ibid., p. 216).

51.George E. Vandeman, When God Made Rest (Boise, ID:

Pacific Press, 1987), p. 21.