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Does Hebrews 4:9 establish that NT Churches need to assemble for worship on Saturday, as Seventh Day Adventism contends?



1 Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. 3 For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. 5 And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. 6 Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: 7 Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. 8 For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. 11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. (Hebrews 4:1-11)

What is the significance of sabbatismos (“rest”) in Hebrews 4:9?

1.) The word appears to have been coined by Paul under inspiration;  it is not found elsewhere in the NT, or in previous writings such as the LXX.

2.) It refers to the spiritual rest of salvation in the kingdom of God, not to worship on a particular day of the week;  it certainly does not prove that NT Gentile Christians in churches need to gather for worship on Saturday.

a.) If we were to say that the “rest” of v. 9, and the context, referred to a particular day of worship, it would not establish Saturday worship for NT churches, because:

i.) The rest for the saints of this dispensation is set in contrast to the rest of OT Israel, v. 6.  If OT Israel worshipped on Saturday, and the NT sabbatismos is set in contrast to what the nation practiced then, reference to a particular day would establish that NT worship is not for Saturday, but for another day.

ii.) If a particular day of the week is in view in v. 9, it is “another day” (v. 8) than that which was practiced in the OT worship under Joshua (v. 8, Jesus is the Greek form of the name Joshua;  this is not to neglect that Joshua was a servant of the God of Israel, Jesus Christ, the ultimate Giver of rest, whose rest was not yet at hand in the OT dispensation), which the entire thrust of the book of Hebrews, as well as the immediate context of Hebrews 4:9, demonstrates to have been superceded;  so if the sabbatismos of v. 9 refers to a particular day of worship, whatever day it would be, it would NOT be Saturday.

iii.) The rest was yet future in the days of king David, v. 7, when many were worshipping on the Saturday Sabbath.

iv.) “But is not Saturday worship a creation ordinance, Genesis 2:2-3, Hebrews 4:4?”  While the fact of Genesis 2:2-3 was not written down, as far as we know, until Moses’ day, the church is not an institution that pertains to this world and the old creation, but to the new creation, the New Jerusalem, the world to come.  It is natural, then, that it worships on “another day” than the day that pertains to this world and this creation.  Besides, Hebrews 4 tells us that Genesis 2:2-3, which is quoted in v. 4, relates to the promise of salvation-rest in Christ.  The inspired interpretation of the apostle Paul in the book of Hebrews is normative for our interpretation of the passage in Genesis.

Conclusion: If the sabbatismos “rest” of v. 9 were a particular day of the week set apart for worship in the church of Christ, the one day it could NOT be would be Saturday.  It would have to be “another day,” one different from that of OT Israel.  This passage would prove that Sunday is the Sabbath before it would prove that NT Christians in churches need to worship on Saturday.

b.) However, the passage does not speak of a particular day of worship, but of entrance into the spiritual and eternal kingdom of God by faith without works (v. 10) in Jesus Christ.

i.) The word “rest” in v. 9 is not sabbaton, “Sabbath,” but sabbatismos.  Paul could have said “There remaineth the Sabbath to the people of God,” but he said, under inspiration, “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.”  The word sabbaton, Sabbath, is used 68 times in the New Testament.  The Holy Spirit deliberately did NOT use that word here, because He intended to convey something different.

ii.) The rest spoken of was not entered into by unsaved Jews who kept the Sabbath in the wilderness, v. 5, cf. Psalm 95:7-11.  God swore in His wrath that they would not enter into His rest, Psalm 95:11, v. 5 (The “if they shall enter” in Hebrews 4:5 is an idiomatic way of saying “they shall not enter”;  note the Hebrews 3:11 translates Greek identical to Hebrews 4:5 as “they shall not enter,” etc.)

iii.) Unbelief is the reason the rest is not entered into, v. 6.  One who has entered into that rest has ceased to trust in works for salvation, v. 10;  one enters into the rest, the sabbatismos, of v. 9 by renouncing works, including the law of Moses, to trust only in Christ for salvation.  How does one enter into the rest under consideration?  By worshipping on Satuday?  No—“we which have believed do enter into rest,” v. 3. All those who truly believe in Jesus Christ have this rest as their inheritance, whether they are saved on their deathbeds, or while being executed (Luke 23:43) and never worship in the church of God one day in their lives, while many who worship in both real Christian churches, and almost all who worship in its heretical counterfeits, never enter into that rest, regardless of what they do or do not do on the Lord’s day, even as most of the OT Israelites kept the Sabbath but never entered into rest.

iv.) One who has a hard heart that keeps him from believing in Jesus Christ alone without works for salvation does not enter into the rest, v. 7.  One can rest on Saturday, Sunday, or any other day of the week but still have a hard heart.

v.) The unconverted Jews who had knowledge of truths about Jesus Christ, but were considering turning from Him back to the OT system, who were the subject of this warning passage in Hebrews (3:7-4:13) and the other warning passages (Hebrews 2:1-4; 6:4-12; 10:26-39; 12:25-29) needed to “labour” to enter into that rest (cf. “strive to enter in at the strait gate,” Luke 13:24, that is, do what it takes to understand the gospel and then receive Jesus Christ), and cease from their own works (v. 10), and were in danger of damnation on the basis of unbelief, v. 11, cf. v. 6.  If they returned to Judaism they would be keeping the Sabbath with the other Jews.  A warning to not return to Judaism but to believe in Jesus Christ and so enter into His salvation-rest, of which the OT Sabbath was a type and promise (even as the rest of God in creation set forth the coming of an eternal rest for those chosen in Christ for salvation from before the foundation of the world), fits the context of Hebrews 4 and makes clear sense of v. 11.  There is no way to make v. 11 intelligible on the notion that the rest under discussion is a continued worship on Saturday, in common with the Jews who Paul in Hebrews is seeking to separate the audience of the epistle from.

vi.) One could “seem to come short of” the promise of “entering into his rest” (v. 1).  The “entering” is an aorist Greek form, indicating the one-time action of coming to faith in Christ.  The verse makes sense if the question under consideration is the possession of genuine saving faith versus mere profession of Christianity, but how can this possibly fit into worshipping Saturday?

vii.) The passage explicitly says how one enters into the rest under consideration:  by means of “the gospel preached” being “mixed with faith,” “we which have believed do enter into rest” (v. 2-3).  What more needs to be said?  The rest under consideration is salvation-rest through faith in Christ.  Hebrews 4:9, in context, gives zero support to Saturday NT worship.

Conclusion:  The sabbatismos, “rest,” of v. 9 is salvation-rest in Jesus Christ, which is entered into by being born again through faith, and of which the OT Sabbath was merely a “shadow of things to come” (Colossians 2:16-17).  For the Seventh Day Adventist movement to seize upon Hebrews 4:9 to attempt to prove that the Jewish Sabbath is binding on NT Christians and churches demonstrates a radical, severe misinterpretation of the passage.  Seventh Day Adventism practices Saturday worship because of the “inspired” writings of Ellen White, not because of the Bible.

More Resources on Seventh-day or Saturday Sabbath-keeping and Seventh-Day Adventism

More Resources on Ecclesiology: The Doctrine of the Church