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Genesis 2 and the Decalogue: Proof that a Saturday Sabbath is Required of the Church in the New Testament?



            Does Genesis 2:1-3 prove that the church must celebrate a Saturday Sabbath? Seventh-Day Adventists, and others who affirm that they are Christians and practice Saturday Sabbath worship, argue that Genesis 2:1-3 establishes that the Sabbath was commanded for all men to practice from the time of creation onward. Furthermore, the Saturday Sabbath is said to be binding today as an inalterable moral law in the Ten Commandments. Ellen White stated:

The Sabbath was hallowed at the creation. . . . [God] gave it to Adam as a day of rest. . . . The Sabbath was embodied in the law given from Sinai; but it was not then first made known as a day of rest. . . . The Sabbath was not for Israel merely, but for the world. It had been made known to man in Eden, and, like the other precepts of the Decalogue, it is of imperishable obligation. . . . So long as the heavens and earth endure, the Sabbath will continue.[2]

Does Genesis 2:1-3, or the reference to the Sabbath in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5), establish the Seventh-Day Adventist doctrine? Does Scripture teach that the Sabbath was binding on all men from the time of creation onwards, so that the entire human race was required to observe it and the godly did observe it in the ages before Jehovah brought Israel out of Egypt and gave her the Mosaic covenant at Sinai? Positive arguments for this position, in order from what is likely the weakest to what is likely the strongest, include:[3] 1.) Genesis hints at the observance of the Sabbath before Moses in the mention of seven-day weeks (Genesis 7:4; 8:10, 12). 2.) Exodus 20:8 states that the Sabbath is to be “remembered,” so it must have been instituted and practiced by men centuries or millennia earlier and was now simply to be recalled. It could not have been newly instituted.[4] 3.) Genesis 2:1-3 records a blessing and sanctification that pertained to man. Therefore, man was bound to observe the Sabbath from creation onwards. 4.) The Ten Commandments are not ceremonial or civil law, but universal moral law that is unchanging in all dispensations. The Decalogue includes the Sabbath commandment; therefore the Sabbath is a universal moral law that is unchanging for all time. These arguments will be examined in order. The first two arguments will be dealt with briefly, while the latter two will receive an extended examination.

  1. The Arguments for a Universally Binding Saturday Sabbath

Examined and Found Wanting

1.) The Argument from Seven-Day Weeks

            The Scriptural testimony that men did not observe the Sabbath before the days of Moses is strong. Furthermore, the Biblical evidence is against a required observance of a Saturday Sabbath in the church age is conclusive.

            It is true that several references to periods of seven days appear in Genesis (7:4; 8:10, 12; 31:23; 50:10). Even certain worshippers of idols speak of a period of seven days (29:27-28; 31:30). However, it is not clear why references to seven days establish pre-Mosaic Sabbath-keeping while references in Genesis to forty days (7:4, 12, 17), one-hundred and fifty days, (7:24), the seventeenth day (8:4), the twenty-seventh day (8:14), the eighth day (17:12; 21:4), one day (33:13), the third day (22:4; 30:36; 31:22; 34:25; 40:12-13, 18-20; 42:17-18), and ten days (24:55), do not establish patriarchal festivals every seventeen, three, twenty-seven, or ten days. Indeed, references to periods of three days outnumber those to periods of seven days, but this fact establishes nothing in terms of patriarchal recognition of religious festivals every three days. Occasional references to periods of seven days are by no means sufficient evidence to prove pre-Mosaic Sabbath keeping.

2.) The Argument from “Remember” in Exodus 20:8

            Furthermore, the word “remember” in Exodus 20:8 by no means proves that men from creation onward were celebrating the Sabbath. First of all, the Decalogue was to be a key element of Israel’s rule of life for many centuries after the events of Sinai, so the command to “remember the Sabbath day” would be something from the past that would need to be recalled for many generations. Second, in anticipation of the events of Exodus 20, the Sabbath was instituted for Israel in Exodus 16, so the Sabbath was a festival that could be recalled as already commanded at the time the words of Exodus 20 were spoken at Sinai. Third, the verb zakar, rendered “remember” in Exodus 20:8, can simply have the idea of and be translated as “make mention” (Jeremiah 20:9), to “call to mind”[5] without any emphasis upon remembering something from the distant past. Indeed, the thing “remembered” does not have to be in the past at all—it can be something that has not already taken place but is yet future (Ecclesiastes 11:8). Finally, the use of “remember” in Exodus 20:8 by no means requires a reference to an event instituted in the past which was at the time only to be recalled because of a consideration of the book context of Exodus. Exodus 13:3 contains the appearance of the verb immediately preceding Exodus 20:8. Exodus 13, speaking on the very day that the Passover was first instituted, “the selfsame day” (12:51) or “this day” (13:4), notes that God commanded: “Remember [zakar][6] this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (13:3). Clearly the Passover festival and Israel’s deliverance from Egypt after the death of the Egyptian firstborn was not an event recalled from the distant past; on the very day of the event, the command “remember” is employed. While future generations of Israelites were to think on the past events of Passover, redemption from Egypt, and Sinai, and were to keep the Passover and the Sabbath on that account, the “remember” of Exodus 20:8 no more proves that the Sabbath was commanded for man to observe from the time of creation than the “remember” of Exodus 13:3 proves that the Passover and Israel’s deliverance from Egypt took place during the creation week.

3.) The Argument from Genesis 2:1-3:

Was the Sabbath Binding on Men Before the Exodus?

            Was the Sabbath binding on men before the first mention of the actual noun shabbath[7] in Exodus 16 in conjunction with Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and constitution as a redeemed people? Clearly, in the dispensation when Moses wrote the Pentateuch all men, including Gentiles, who wished to truly honor the true God were to trust in Jehovah, unite themselves with Israel, receive circumcision, and keep the Sabbath and the rest of the covenant revealed at Sinai. But is the practice of the Sabbath specifically for the nation of Israel or is the Seventh-Day Adventist position valid that all men, from creation to new creation, are bound to keep the Sabbath on Saturday as the Jews were bound to at Sinai?

First, while it may be conceded the sanctification of the day in Genesis 2:1-3 does not pertain to God alone, but is intended to instruct mankind, the fact remains that there is no command to anyone to observe the Sabbath before the days of Moses. Genesis has no lack of Divine commands to man, including in 1:1-2:3 (1:28; cf. 2:16-17; 3:17, etc.), but there is no command to keep the Sabbath. While God’s example certainly is to teach man something, Scripture itself, not extrascriptural assumptions, must regulate the normativity of examples. Scripture itself never draws the conclusion that the Sabbath is binding on all men from God’s rest in Genesis 2:1-3; on the contrary, it draws the conclusion that Israel is to keep the Sabbath, and the Sabbath is a sign for that specific nation, from God’s post-creation rest:

1   And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. . . . 8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 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: 11 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 20:1-2, 8-11)

12   And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 13 Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you. 14 Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. 16 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. 17 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 31:12-17)[8]

12 Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee. 13 Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: 14 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. 15 And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:12-15)

Furthermore, while Sabbath-breaking is prominently mentioned as a sin that brought Israel under judgment (Leviticus 26:34-35; Nehemiah 13:17-18; Jeremiah 17:21-27; 2 Chronicles 36:21), no catalog of sins anywhere in Scripture condemns Gentiles for not keeping the Sabbath. Within Genesis itself, the Flood destroyed the ungodly world in Noah’s day, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire from heaven, and other judgments were laid upon the wicked. Within the Pentateuch, judgments from the plagues on Egypt to the extermination of the Canaanites are executed, but Sabbath violation is never mentioned as a reason to punish a non-Jew. Furthermore, various sins of the godly before the Sinai covenant are recorded in Genesis, from Noah’s drunkenness to Abraham’s lying to Lot’s immorality, but not a trace or hint appears of the sin of Sabbath violation. It is true that evidence derived from examples has its limits. However, should not whatever limits are placed upon the negative evidence from the absence of Sabbath keeping in the patriarchal period likewise be placed upon the evidence from the example in Genesis 2:1-3?[9] It is difficult to see the hermeneutical justification for placing tremendous weight upon one non-commanded example but placing extremely little weight on contrary evidence from other examples. What is more, in other instances where examples carry doctrinal weight, such as Christ’s appeal to the Genesis pattern of monogamous, life-long marriage (Mark 10:2-9; Genesis 2:24), examples provide evidence of God’s displeasure for violations of the pattern. For example, Genesis indicates that polygamy was instituted by a wicked man (Genesis 4:19), and not a single example of a happy and harmonious polygamous family appears anywhere in Genesis or the rest of Scripture; even godly men who entered into polygamy universally had family troubles. Furthermore, God’s hatred of divorce is specifically stated (Malachi 2:16) and remarriage is specifically identified as defiling one who engages in it (Deuteronomy 24:4). Nothing at all comparable appears as evidence for pre-Mosaic Sabbath keeping. In Exodus 31:12-17, Scripture draws the conclusion that God’s actions in Genesis 2:1-3 prove Israel should keep the Sabbath. Consequently, one ought to conclude from Genesis 2:1-3 that Israel should keep the Sabbath. Scripture never draws the conclusion from Genesis 2:1-3 that all men at all times, or the church in the New Testament, must keep the Sabbath. Consequently, one ought not to draw the conclusion Scripture does not draw, but the one it does draw.

            Second, evidence from other things God sanctifies or sets apart validates the fact that God’s sanctification of the seventh day in Genesis 2:3 does not prove that men were immediately bound to celebrate a seventh-day Sabbath. God at times sets apart or sanctifies someone or something for a use far before that sanctification is manifested or involves human action. For example, the land of Canaan was set apart for the children of Israel many centuries before they possessed that land (Genesis 12:7; 13:15), in accordance with God’s eternal plan for Israel (Romans 11:25-29; Ephesians 1:11). Christ was sanctified or set apart to be the Redeemer of His people far before the Father sent Him into the world (John 10:36), and His elect were likewise set apart in Christ from the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-6). The strong preponderance of evidence supports the position that God set apart the seventh day immediately after the creation week but only required Sabbath-observance of Israel after He brought the nation out of Egypt.

            The eternal personal election of believers in the New Testament (Ephesians 1:4; Romans 16:13) demonstrates that the Lord set His love on every one of His saints from the bowels of eternity. All the everlasting elective benefits for the saints derive from Christ, who was set up as Mediator from eternity past (2 Peter 1:20), with His redemptive death and its application to His saints so certain that Scripture can speak of “the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8) and identify the saints as receiving grace “in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Timothy 1:9). Similarly, God’s eternal corporate election of the church (Ephesians 3:9-11) demonstrates that He has had from everlasting His new covenant assembly in His glorious eternal plan. In like manner, Genesis 2:1-3 would have taught Israel that her Creator-Redeemer had her calling as a nation, redemption from Egypt, consecration to Himself, and eternal purpose on His heart from the foundation of the world (Jeremiah 31:3). Israel was the apple of Jehovah’s eye (Deuteronomy 32:10; Zechariah 2:8). As the Lord directed the course of all nations of the world for the sake of His chosen nation, Israel (Deuteronomy 32:8), so He even created the world in seven days with His redemptive purpose for Israel and Israel’s worship of Him in mind, represented by the proleptic references in Genesis 1:1-2:3 to Israel’s preeminent covenant sign, the Sabbath, as well as Israel’s other holy festival days.[10] Since Genesis lays the groundwork in the Pentateuch for Israel’s exodus and establishment as a nation, a reference to her post-Passover Sabbath and other festival days in Genesis 1:1-2:3 should not be not more surprising than the numerous predictions in Genesis of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and service of God in Canaan (Genesis 12:1-7; 13:14-15; 15:12-21; 17:7-14; 24:7; 26:3-4). The appearance of God’s seventh-day rest in Genesis 1:1-2:3, the prologue to the entire book of Genesis, taught the Israelite reader that the remainder of Genesis and the Pentateuch details the dealings of his God to bring His chosen, covenant people, and the world through them, to that salvation-rest in Himself that He establishes in the promised Seed, the Messiah (Genesis 3:15)—a rest He has prepared for His people even from the foundation of the world. Israel would see Genesis 2:1-3 as evidence of the eternal plan of God to bring His people into redemptive rest, and the exodus as a prominent stage of that eternal plan in time. Indeed, later Biblical texts that refer to salvific election are in a line of continuity with Genesis 2, for God’s establishment at creation of a rest for His people evidences His settled purpose of rest for them before creation and before time. What is more, God’s purpose for Israel did not limit itself to that nation alone—the Lord elected her to be a blessing to all nations,[11] both in her national capacity in the legal dispensation inaugurated at Sinai and ultimately in Christ, the second Adam, ultimate Seed of Abraham, and true Israel.[12] Consequently, God’s rest in Genesis 2:1-3 did not just point to the sign of Israel’s Sabbath, but to the eschatological rest designed for man in Genesis 1:24-2:3, into which all the elect people of God, Jews and Gentiles, enter into by faith in the Messiah. The sanctification of the seventh day in Genesis 2:1-3 demonstrates God’s eternal purpose for His elect nation, Israel, as well as pointing to the eschatological rest prepared for all of His saints. The passage teaches these glorious truths, but it does not demonstrate that a seventh-day festival is binding in all ages on all men.

            Third, every reference in the Pentateuch to the verb qadash, translated “sanctified” in Genesis 2:3, relates to Israel after the nation’s redemption from Egypt.[13] Were Genesis 2:3 a reference to a binding practice on the entire human race from creation onwards, it would constitute the sole exception, the only text where the verb refers to something binding on Gentiles or something pre-Mosaic, out of its seventy-five uses in the books of Moses. Every other use clearly refers to redeemed, post-Passover Israel. It is not a sufficient counterargument to aver that most of the Pentateuch is written for Israel, so one would expect most uses of qadash to speak of that nation. Indeed, not most, but the whole of the Pentateuch, including Genesis 1:1-2:3 and the rest of Genesis, has Israel as its audience, not Gentiles. Genesis is written to teach Israel her background, the origin of her customs, God’s dealings with her, and so on. The verb qadash appears in Genesis 2:3 and then disappears totally until Exodus 13, immediately after God sets apart or sanctifies Israel to Himself and redeems the nation through the Passover Lamb. From Exodus 13 onwards, qadash explodes into extremely frequent usage in the rest of Exodus and Leviticus, the two books that contain the verb more than any other books in the Old Testament. These facts support the view that Genesis 2:3 is explaining why Israel is to keep the Sabbath; God, the Creator, blessed and set apart the seventh day for His chosen nation in association with His sanctifying and setting apart the nation to Himself. His loving purpose for them was firm even at creation, and was revealed to them when He brought them out of Egypt to be their God (Deuteronomy 5:15). That is the conclusion supported by the usage of the words in Genesis 2:3. The view that Genesis 2:3 refers to a blessing and sanctifying of the seventh day that constitutes a binding pattern for the Gentiles or the entire world for all time is not supported by the immediate or broader context or the words employed in the verse.

            Fourth, Hebrew word usage demonstrates that the Sabbath was not observed before the days of Moses. The actual Hebrew word for Sabbath, shabbath,[14] only appears in conjunction with Israel after the exodus from Egypt and in association with the constellation of events culminating at Sinai. Genesis 2:1-3 does not state that God blessed the “sabbath” day, but the “seventh” day, because the “Sabbath” was not observed among mankind until the days of Moses. The word Sabbath never appears in Genesis, nor before the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. The Sabbath was not celebrated before the appearance of Sabbath in the Bible.

            Fifth, the consistent use of the Hebrew phrase ‘al ken proves the Mosaic origin of the Sabbath.[15] The phrase is translated as “therefore” or “wherefore” and is employed regularly of the origin of customs in the Pentateuch, always connecting two clauses that speak of things that are initially simultaneous in time. That is, the event in the first clause results in (“therefore”) a consequence originating at the very time of the initial event. Consider the following examples where “therefore” represents the Hebrew ‘al ken:

Gen. 2:23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. As the Lord Jesus clearly indicated (Matthew 19:3-9), the pattern for marriage was established immediately after the first marriage took place between Adam and Eve. The result of v. 24 began at the same time as the event of v. 23.

Gen. 32:31 And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh. 32 Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew that shrank. From the very day that v. 31 happened, the custom of v. 32 was initiated.

Num. 18:23 But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they have no inheritance. 24 But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. The Divine ordination of the lack of inheritance for the Levites and their receiving the tithes from the other tribes were contemporaneous events.

Many other examples in the Pentateuch validate this pattern of simultaneous clauses connected with ‘al ken.[16] This pattern is significant because two uses of ‘al ken or “therefore,” that in Exodus 16:28-29 and that in Deuteronomy 5:14-15, demonstrate that the Sabbath originated in Moses’ day. The texts read as follows:

Ex. 16:28 And the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? 29 See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.

Deut. 5:14 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. 15 And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.

In Exodus 16:28-29, the action of giving twice the amount of bread on the sixth day took place because Jehovah had given redeemed Israel the Sabbath. This verse, the first instance of the noun “Sabbath” in Scripture and written in anticipation of the events of Sinai in Exodus 20 (the very next passage where “Sabbath” appears), is the first time that Israel received food for two days on the sixth day. Something new is taking place in Exodus 16:29. In every other parallel instance in the Pentateuch, the “therefore” or ‘al ken clause specifies something that started from the very time of what is previously mentioned. Consequently, Exodus 16:28-29 teaches that the giving of the bread for two days on the sixth day began from the very time that Israel was given the Sabbath. Since this Saturday was the first time that Israel received bread for two days on the sixth day, this was the first time Israel had received the Sabbath. What is more, on the assumption that the Sabbath was particularly for Israel, it was necessary for God to make it clear which day was the seventh, because nothing in nature would give any indication whatsoever about which was the correct day. Exodus 16:29 specifies that the Sabbath originated the day double manna was first given in the wilderness. It is noteworthy that this Saturday was not the first one since the nation left Egypt—the force of the ‘al ken and the first provision of double manna[17] consequently indicates that not only did nobody keep the Sabbath in patriarchal days, but Israel herself did not celebrate the Sabbath for an entire month even after the nation left Egypt (Exodus 12:2, 6, 51; 16:1). Exodus 16:28-29 demonstrates that the Sabbath was not commanded for men at creation, but in the days of Moses.

            Deuteronomy 5:14-15 teaches the same thing as Exodus 16:28-29. Redemption from bondage in Egypt is the stated reason for Israel’s keeping of the Sabbath. Deuteronomy 5:15 indicates that at the specific time when Jehovah God brought Israel out of Egypt He “therefore,” at that time, commanded Israel to keep the Sabbath. As Exodus 16:28-29 specifies the first time anyone kept the Sabbath as the day when the Lord provided double manna in the wilderness after the Exodus, so Deuteronomy 5:14-15 likewise indicates that the Sabbath was first commanded after Israel was brought out of Egypt. The fact that ‘al ken connects temporally simultaneous clauses in the Pentateuch provides very strong evidence for the post-Passover origin of the Sabbath festival day. Indeed, Deuteronomy 5:3 explicitly states that the covenant that includes the Sabbath commandment was not made with the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,[18] but with Israel in the wilderness alone. Both the usage of ‘al ken in the first passage with the word Sabbath, Exodus 16:28-29, and the usage in Deuteronomy 5:14-15 prove that the Sabbath is an institution given to Israel and first practiced by members of the human race after God brought the Jews out of Egypt.

            Sixth, a number of passages plainly state that the Sabbath was first made known to Israel after the nation was saved from Egypt:[19]

2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3 The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day. . . .6 I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. . . . 12 Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee. . . . 15 And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:2-3, 6, 12, 15)

13 Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments: 14 And madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant: 15 And gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which thou hadst sworn to give them. (Nehemiah 9:13-15)

10 Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness. 11 And I gave them my statutes, and shewed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them. 12 Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them. (Ezekiel 20:10-12)

The plain conclusion from these passages is that men did not celebrate the Sabbath before the days of Moses.

            Seventh and last, the view that the rest of God on the eighth day was not an indication that the Sabbath was universally binding on Gentiles, but that Sabbath obligation was incumbent only upon the children of Israel, appears in the most ancient extra-biblical Jewish sources. The Jews, studying their own Hebrew Scriptures, believed the Sabbath was binding on their nation alone. For example, the author of Jubilees, somewhere between the early third century and the middle second century B. C.,[20] stated:

1 And the angel of the presence spake to Moses according to the word of the Lord, saying: Write the complete history of the creation, how in six days the Lord God finished all His works and all that He created, and kept Sabbath on the seventh day and hallowed it for all ages, and appointed it as a sign for all His works. . . . And on the fourth day He created the sun and the moon and the stars, and set them in the firmament of the heaven, to give light upon all the earth, and to rule over the day and the night, and divide the light from the darkness. 9 And God appointed the sun to be a great sign on the earth for days and for sabbaths and for months and for feasts and for years and for sabbaths of years and for jubilees and for all seasons of the years. . . . 16 And He finished all his work on the sixth day—all that is in the heavens and on the earth, and in the seas and in the abysses, and in the light and in the darkness, and in everything. 17 And He gave us a great sign, the Sabbath day, that we should work six days, but keep Sabbath on the seventh day from all work. . . . And He said unto us: “Behold, I will separate unto Myself a people from among all the peoples, and these shall keep the Sabbath day, and I will sanctify them unto Myself as My people, and will bless them; as I have sanctified the Sabbath day and do sanctify (it) unto Myself, even so will I bless them, and they shall be My people and I will be their God. 20 And I have chosen the seed of Jacob from amongst all that I have seen, and have written him down as My first-born son, and have sanctified him unto Myself for ever and ever; and I will teach them the Sabbath day, that they may keep Sabbath thereon from all work.” 21 And thus He created therein a sign in accordance with which they should keep Sabbath with us on the seventh day, to eat and to drink, and to bless Him who has created all things as He has blessed and sanctified unto Himself a peculiar people above all peoples, and that they should keep Sabbath together with us. . . . 25 He created heaven and earth and everything that He created in six days, and God made the seventh day holy, for all His works; therefore He commanded on its behalf that, whoever does any work thereon shall die, and that he who defiles it shall surely die. 26 Wherefore do thou command the children of Israel to observe this day that they may keep it holy and not do thereon any work, and not to defile it, as it is holier than all other days. . . . 31 And the Creator of all things blessed it, but he did not sanctify all peoples and nations to keep Sabbath thereon, but Israel alone: them alone he permitted to eat and drink and to keep Sabbath thereon on the earth. 32 And the Creator of all things blessed this day which He had created for blessing and holiness and glory above all days. 33 This law and testimony was given to the children of Israel as a law for ever unto their generations. (Jubilees 2:1, 8-9, 16-17, 19-21, 25-26, 31-32)[21]

Jubilees recognized the teaching of Genesis 1:1-2:3 that God put the lights in heaven on the fourth day to mark out Israel’s mo’adim (Genesis 1:14),[22] her appointed ceremonial festivals or sacred seasons such as Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:2, 4, 37, 44), and that He likewise rested the seventh day as a sign that Israel was to keep the Sabbath day. Both the events of the fourth and the seventh day were considered to have special respect to Israel, and the fact that they took place during the creation week was not deemed to prove that the Gentiles were also bound to keep Israel’s weekly Sabbath or other ceremonial seasons or mo’adim.[23] This ancient Jewish interpretation fits the view of the Sabbath given in Exodus 31:13-17 that “the children of Israel” specifically, as a “sign” of God’s covenant with that elect nation, rather than all peoples at all times, were bound to keep the Sabbath, because “in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.” Similarly, the Jewish translator of the Pentateuch of the LXX, writing at the very latest in the third century B. C. and very possibly quite some time earlier, supported the initial observance of the Sabbath by Israel in Exodus 16, rather than by all men or by the patriarchs, by adding to the Hebrew text’s “for that the LORD hath given you the Sabbath” in Exodus 16:29 the words “this day,” affirming, “the Lord has given you this day the Sabbath.” As pre-Christian Judaism limited the Sabbath to Israel, so this view was prominent in both the Judaism contemporary with Christ and in post-Christian Judaism. The Talmud testifies that the “Israelites were given . . . Sabbath observance” only after the exodus from Egypt in the wilderness[24] and went so far as to make the extravagant claim: “A Gentile observing the Sabbath deserves death,” because “the Sabbath is a sign between God and Israel alone.”[25]   Thus, “Judaism as a whole considered the Sabbath to be binding on Israel alone. It was not a matter for Gentiles[.]”[26] The Biblical evidence that the Sabbath was not observed before Exodus 16, nor was binding on Gentiles or any other people than the Jews, is strong, and this evidence was recognized by Israel in its interpretation of the Pentateuch.

            Lastly, consistency with the argument that God’s rest or shavath on the seventh day proves obligatory Sabbath observance for all men at all times would also require the conclusion that Israel’s other ceremonial festivals were binding on all men at all times all ages. Just like the Lord’s rest on the seventh day pointed to Israel’s Sabbath, so God’s creation of the sun and moon on the fourth day pointed to Israel’s sacred seasons or mo’adim. If the one festival is required of all because of its mention in Genesis 1:1-2:3, so must the others be. On the other hand, recognizing a proleptic reference to the sacred seasons ordained for Israel alone on the fourth day of creation, in a book composed for Israel by Moses’ pen that decrees and regulates those very festivals for the newly redeemed nation, also allows for a proleptic reference on the seventh day to the specific Jewish festival of the Sabbath. Just as individual believers were elected from the foundation of the world (Psalm 103:17; Romans 8:30; Ephesians 1:3-5), so the nation of Israel was chosen in eternity past (Jeremiah 31:3-4; Romans 11:28), “being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11). Since God elected Israel in eternity past, a reference to her Sabbaths, and beyond them to the antitypical eschatological rest to which they pointed, is entirely reasonable in the record of the creation week penned by Moses in Genesis, the book of Israel’s origins. A consideration of Israel’s place in Jehovah’s comprehensive promise-plan[27] and the eschatological significance of God’s post-creation rest makes such a reference entirely reasonable. Such a reference, however, by no means proves that anyone celebrated the Sabbath before the days of Moses.

4.) The argument from the Character of the Ten Commandments:

Does Everything in the Decalogue Unchangeably and Eternally Bind the Church

As it Bound Israel under Moses?

            If Genesis 2:1-3 does not establish that the Sabbath festival practiced by Israel was also binding on all nations in the antediluvian and patriarchal periods, much less does the passage establish that the Sabbath is binding in the church age in which the new creation has been inaugurated through Jesus Christ. First, Old Testament prophetic typology predicted first day rest in the post-resurrection Messianic age. “Christ risen from the dead” is “the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20), and His resurrection is typified in the feast of the firstfruits in Leviticus 23. The wave offering is offered on “the morrow after the Sabbath,” that is, the first day of the week (Leviticus 23:11), and the meal offering on Pentecost is likewise offered “the morrow after the . . . sabbath” (Leviticus 23:16), on the first day of the week. The Feast of Tabernacles also always featured a “first day” and “eighth day . . . holy convocation,” so that “the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath” (Leviticus 23:35, 39). These first-day celebrations are “holy convocation[s] . . . solemn assembl[ies] . . . in which ye shall do no servile work” (Leviticus 23:7-8, 21, 25, 35, 36), that is, they are days of rest that followed the pattern of the seventh-day “Sabbath[,] [which] was observed by strict cessation of servile work,”[28] only here the rest was observed on the first day of the week. Frame explains:

The Old Testament . . . contains much symbolism concerning the first day, which the New Testament fulfills. . . . Pentecost wave and meal offerings occur on days “after the Sabbath” (Lev. 23:11, 16), that is, on first days of the week. The day of the meal offering is itself a Sabbath, though it is not called that. Israel is to hold a holy convocation on that day and is not to do “any ordinary work” (v. 21). So on this feast of the firstfruits, we are reminded of Jesus, the firstfruits of the dead (1 Cor. 15:20, 23). Like the Lord’s Day, Pentecost celebrates resurrection. . . . In the Feast of Tabernacles as well, there are first- and eighth-day Sabbaths (Lev. 23:35, 39). . . . Now, since Pentecost and Tabernacles each includes two first-day Sabbaths, it is likely that the two Sabbaths in the Passover feast are also on the first day (vv. 6–8). So all three of the annual feasts which look forward to the redemption of Christ feature first-day Sabbaths. . . . The Jubilee is [also] a year following a Sabbath year, culminating the system of years with a first-year symbol: a Sabbath after a Sabbath. . . . The Old Testament symbolism, therefore, tells us that when God fulfills his redemptive purpose, the first day will have some special significance. It will mark a new beginning, a new creation, new life from the dead. When redemption is accomplished, there will be an emphasis on looking back, not only on looking forward.[29]

Old Testament typology supports the presence of first day rest in the Messianic age inaugurated by the resurrection of the prophesied Redeemer.

            Second, while the literal content of the other nine commandments in the Decalogue is repeated in specific statements directed to New Testament churches, the Sabbath commandment is not repeated,[30] for it is fulfilled in Christ (Colossians 2:16-17). Nothing at all in the New Testament states or implies that the Sabbath is binding in the church age. Nor is it surprising that there are no examples in the New Testament anywhere of churches meeting for worship specifically on Saturday. Indeed, the fact that Paul and his company regularly took the opportunity on the Sabbath to go to the synagogues to evangelize unbelieving Jews and Gentiles there (Acts 13:13-14, 44; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4) shows that the churches did not meet on Saturday. Godly leaders in the apostolic churches did not skip church week after week to go to synagogues instead. They evangelized in the synagogues on Saturday and assembled for Christian worship on the first day of the week. Indeed, of all the days of the week, the first day, when Christ arose, was clearly the most appropriate, while Saturday, the day Christ was dead, was the least appropriate for the church to regularly assemble for joyous worship:

The sabbath was a day of rejoicing [for Israel]; for it was kept in commemoration of God’s glorious and gracious works of creation and the redemption out of Egypt. Therefore [Israel was] directed to call the sabbath a delight. But it is not a proper day for the church, Christ’s spouse, to rejoice, when Christ the bridegroom lies buried in the grave, as Christ says, Matt. 9:15. “That the children of the bride-chamber cannot mourn, while the bridegroom is with them. But the time will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them; then shall they mourn.”—While Christ was holden under the chains of death, then the bridegroom was taken from them; then it was a proper time for the spouse to mourn and not rejoice. But when Christ rose again, then it was a day of joy, because we are begotten again to a living hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.[31]

Consequently, while on occasion churches in the New Testament era met every day of the week (Acts 2:47), apart from such special times, every single example in the New Testament of church worship[32] was on the first day of the week (Matthew 28:8-10; Mark 16:1-2, 10-11; Luke 24:33-34; John 20:19-26; Acts 2; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). “[T]he first day of the week” was “when the disciples came together to break bread” in the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7).[33] On the first day of the week, following the Apostolic “order,” and command, not suggestion,[34] the churches in different areas assembled week by week and took up the monetary “collection” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2),[35] because the first day of the week, when Christ rose from the grave (Mark 16:9), is the “Lord’s day” (Revelation 1:10).[36] It was consequently fitting that at the conclusion of the work of redemption, after Christ cried “It is finished!” on Friday,[37] He rested in the tomb on the Sabbath, and rose on the first day of the week, inaugurating the first day of the new creation, as in Genesis the original first day inaugurated the first day of the old creation.

            Third, while Sabbatarians often allege that Mark 2:27 provides New Testament evidence that the Sabbath is binding in the church age, the passage does nothing of the kind. Feinberg notes:

Another passage that is often misapplied is that in Mark 2:27, 28 where Christ says: “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.” It is contended that this surely proves that the Sabbath is for all mankind. But does it? “Man” here is used in a specific sense for Israel, just as “man” refers only to believers when Paul states: “Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble” [1 Corinthians 3:12]. That there was a need for the Lord to remind the Pharisees that the Sabbath was for man and not vice versa, can be seen from some of their regulations concerning the Sabbath. The Talmud teaches that Rabbi Jehudah said: “If a man stepped into loam, he should wipe his feet on the ground and not on a wall.” But Rabha said: “Why should he not do that, because it might be presumed that he plasters the wall and is engaged in building? Nay; this is not ordinary building (but more like field-work). On the contrary: If he wipe his feet on the ground he may perchance smoothen out an incavation, hence he should rather wipe his feet on the wall. For the same reason, he should not wipe his feet on the side of an incavation, lest he smoothen it out.” The rabbis taught that a small man should not wear a large shoe, lest it fall off and he be compelled to carry it on the Sabbath. He may, however, wear a large shirt, since there is no fear of his taking that off and carrying it. A woman should not go out with a torn shoe on the Sabbath, lest she be laughed at and carry the shoe. She also must not accept Chalitza (Deut 25:5–10) in such a shoe; but if she did so, the Chalitza is valid. If a person were in one place, and his hand filled with fruit put forth into another, and the Sabbath overtook him in this position, he would have to drop the fruit, since if he withdrew his full hand from one place to another, he would be carrying a burden on the Sabbath. Women are forbidden to look into a mirror on the Sabbath, because they might discover a white hair and try to pull it out, which act would be a grievous sin. A radish may be dipped into salt, but not left in it too long, since this would be similar to making a pickle. If on the Sabbath a wall had fallen on a person, and it were doubtful whether he were under the ruins, whether he were alive or dead, a Jew or Gentile, it would be duty to clear away the rubbish sufficiently to find the body. If the person were not dead, the labor would have to be continued; but if he were dead, nothing further should be done to extricate the body. And so we could go on (for this is not even one-one thousandth part of the Sabbath regulations), but do not these examples suffice to reveal the urgent reason Christ said the Sabbath was for Israel and not Israel for the Sabbath, as the rabbinical regulations had actually ordained? From the earthly life and ministry of Christ, then, even though He kept the Sabbath, we cannot find proof that it is binding upon us. In short, what He really did was to keep it, so that it would no longer need to be in force.[38]

Furthermore, the “for” (dia) in Mark 2:27, “the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath,” does not mean “binding upon” or “authoritative for” but “for the benefit of.” Indeed, the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains[39] specifically illustrates the sense dia as of “a marker of a participant who is benefited by an event or for whom an event occurs — ‘for the sake of, for, on behalf of, for the benefit of,’” with Mark 2:27; the lexicon renders the verse, “the Sabbath was made for the benefit of mankind and not mankind for the benefit of the Sabbath.” This understanding of dia fits the context perfectly (Mark 2:23-26, 28, 3:1-6). Verse 28 (“therefore”) draws a conclusion from v. 27: “The Son of man, because He is Lord of mankind, has the authority to determine the laws and use of the Sabbath which was made to benefit mankind.” Such an understand makes sense of the verse, but “The Son of man has authority over the Sabbath because the Sabbath is binding on all men” does not.[40] The Sabbatarian declaration that Mark 2:27 requires submission to the Sabbath on the part of every member of the human race actually reverses the point the Lord Jesus made to the Pharisees—He taught man’s priority over the Sabbath, while Sabbatarians make the Sabbath over man. What is more, “man” is used elsewhere in Scripture for particular categories of men, rather than consistently referring to each and every human,[41] and the Pharisaic regulations imposed on Israelite “man” are clearly under consideration in Mark 2. In addition, the fact that something benefits mankind does not mean that each and every man must participate in it. For example, chemotherapy was invented for the benefit of man, but it certainly is not for every member of the race. Snowplows are for the benefit of man but not relevant to those living in the tropics. For that matter, the very Judaism that affirmed that the Sabbath was for Israel alone likewise stated that “the Sabbath was given to man, not man to the Sabbath;”[42] “The Sabbath is delivered to you [Israel], and not you to the Sabbath.”[43] Christ taught that man, who was created long before the Sabbath’s appointment for Israel, was not to be enslaved to that ordinance. Mark 2:27 should be understood as affirming that the Sabbath was made for the benefit of members of the category man—namely, those in that category who were Israelites—rather than as an affirmation that the Sabbath is binding upon every single individual in the category man. Modern Sabbatarians must impose the latter conclusion upon the verse, since neither the grammar nor the context of Mark 2:27 affirm it.

            Fourth, considering the specific question of the Law’s continuity and discontinuity for the church after the coming of Christ, one notes that not a single one of the 2,300 references to the word Israel in the Old and New Testaments equate Israel with the church, while the Jewish people are specifically distinguished from the church as an entirely different entity (1 Corinthians 10:32). Therefore, there is no valid basis for concluding that a sign given to Israel is binding on the church. The church is not a new Israel, and sound hermeneutics does not allow for the assumption that everything commanded Israel is automatically binding on the church also.

            Fifth, the presence of the Sabbath ordinance in the Ten Commandments also does not automatically prove that Israel’s Saturday worship festival is binding on the church. Ceremonial elements that pertained specifically to Israel alone are clearly present in the Ten Commandments. Israel only was brought out of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 20:1; Deuteronomy 5:15) and was present at Horeb (Deuteronomy 5:2). Israel only received a promise of a long life in Canaan for obedience to the fifth commandment (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16); the literal application of the text cannot possibly apply to Gentiles who neither live in that country nor have even visited it. Indeed, the Sabbath commandment was intimately connected with regulations clearly pertinent only to Israel, from Sabbath sacrifices to the civil penalty of death for Sabbath violations.[44] This entire package was involved in the understanding of the original Jewish audience in the wilderness when they considered the command to keep the Sabbath, and there is no solid exegetical basis to divide it into an eternal moral portion pertinent to all men and a temporally bounded portion limited to Israel alone. What is more, a consideration of ancient Near-Eastern treaty formats explains the presence of the ceremonial ordinance of the Sabbath within the Ten Commandments:

Archaeology helps us to understand why in the midst of the covenant Decalogue [one] find[s] a ceremonial law. In the covenant treaties of the Great Kings in the Ancient Near East, a ceremony would be given in the midst of the treaty to act as a sign of covenantal obedience and submissiveness by the vassal slave to the conquering king. . . . The structure of the Decalogue is like the treaties of the Great Kings.[45] The Sabbath was the sign of Israel’s covenantal obedience and submission (Exodus 31:12–17; Isaiah 56:4–[7]).[46]

God, the suzerain or Great King, established the Sabbath at Sinai as a sign of covenantal obedience for His vassal, Israel. Such a sign for Israel is by no means automatically binding on non-Israelites. The simple presence of the Sabbath within the Ten Commandments does not establish its binding character on all people of all time.

            Finally, and most fundamentally, not the prophets only, but the law also prophesied of the Messiah, Jesus, and not prophetic predictions only, but the law also was fulfilled in Him (Matthew 5:17; Luke 24:44; John 1:45). Rather than dividing the law into moral, ceremonial, and civil portions, an idea that is by no means clearly laid out in Scripture itself, however pedagogically useful it may be, saints in the church age are to recognize the entire law as pointing to and fulfilled in Christ.[47] The New Testament nowhere exempts the Ten Commandments as a portion of law distinguished from the rest which is not fulfilled in Christ. On the contrary, the New Testament is so far from stating that those laws “written and engraven in stones” are immutable and unchanged by the coming of Christ that they are specifically called a “ministration of death” that is “done away” and “abolished,” only the life-giving “spirit” of which remains; “tables of stone” are set aside, “fleshy tables of the heart” alone remain (2 Corinthians 3). The Ten Commandments were not given to the Gentiles (Ephesians 2:12; Deuteronomy 4:13), and Christians are explicitly said to not pertain to Mount Sinai and the covenant given there (Exodus 19:12-19; Deuteronomy 4:10-13; 5:22-26; Hebrews 12:18-25). The manner in which anything in the Old Testament is considered binding on the New Testament Christian must be determined by the grid of fulfillment in Christ;[48] the new era of the new creation in Christ results in a radical re-visioning of the revelation of the old covenant around the culminating entrance into history of Christ and the inauguration of the Messianic age. The new creation will climax in the eternal eschatological new heaven, new earth, and new Jerusalem in which those who receive a new birth and new heart will dwell eternally. This new creation was inaugurated in the incarnation of Christ, the second Adam and new man. In Christ’s human nature the first sinless creation entered the old fallen world, and the New Covenant saints united to Christ through regeneration belong to the new eschatological creation. Thus, Scripture delineates distinct eras in which the manner of God’s relation to men undergoes striking changes. At the least, striking changes pertain to the cessation of God’s working when creation was complete (Genesis 2:1-3), the “it is finished” when redemption was complete and salvation promised moved to salvation accomplished (John 19:30), and the “it is done” when the new heavens and new earth are complete, history ends, and eternity begins (Revelation 21:6).[49] The church does not pertain to the old creation, but to the new creation (Colossians 3:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Revelation 21:1; Titus 3:5 & Matthew 19:28). Thus, even if one were to grant for the sake of argument that the Sabbath was binding, not on Israel alone, but also on Gentiles or on all men from the time of the first creation onward, it would not prove that observance of the festival of seventh-day rest remained binding on the church in which has come the second or new creation in Christ. Circumcision was clearly pre-Mosaic, clearly practiced by the patriarchs, and even called for a death penalty for its neglect (Genesis 17:9-14), but in the new age in Christ being spiritually circumcised (Romans 2:28-29; 1 Corinthians 7:18-19) through union with Christ (Colossians 2:11) is what counts; requiring the Divinely ordained and key patriarchal ordinance of physical circumcision is a “yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1-6) and those who still affirm its binding character are “dogs,” “evil workers,” and the “concision” or mutilation (Philippians 3:1-3). Similarly, the distinction between clean and unclean animals was known even in the days of Noah (Genesis 7:2, 8; 8:20) and was strictly enforced in the law (Leviticus 11), but in Christ for those who have entered the new age through union with Him all foods are clean (Mark 7:17-19; 1 Corinthians 10:27; Acts 10:13-15), and imposing the dietary restrictions incumbent from hoary antiquity is to “depart from the faith” following “doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1-5). Both circumcision and the distinction between clean and unclean animals are fulfilled in Christ despite their pre-Sinai origin and patriarchal practice. They are not binding in the way they were in pre-Christian dispensations, but are authoritative for Christian practice only in the sense the New Testament says that they are so—that is, they present the need to become a new creation through receiving a circumcised heart and they show the need to be holy and separate from all that is morally unclean. Likewise, in the new creation in Christ the Sabbath ordinance, even if one granted that it was not for Israel only but was an integral part of the old creation itself, is nevertheless fulfilled in the One who has brought in true salvation-rest in Himself so that pre-Christian Sabbath practice is no longer binding on Christ’s church. The Sabbath is explicitly called a shadow that is fulfilled in the Lord Jesus (Colossians 2:16-17),[50] and its celebration is not required (Romans 14:5-6) because it points to the salvation-rest in Jesus Christ entered into by those who believe, not those who assemble for worship on Saturday (Hebrews 3:7-4:13). Paul feared that people were not truly saved when they started keeping the sabbath and other Jewish festivals (Galatians 4:10-11). Since the Sabbath was a type of Christ, it has been fulfilled and does not continue in the church age.[51] The Lord’s Day is not the Sabbath transferred from Saturday to Sunday, because all types were restricted to the Old Testament, and none are initiated or continue in the New Testament church. Not the prophets only, but the law also prophesied of Christ (Matthew 11:13), and not the prophets only, but the law also is fulfilled as a whole in Him (Matthew 5:17). In the era of fulfillment the only binding aspect of the Sabbath ordinance is that which the Redeemer has commanded for His church in the New Testament, namely, the need to enter into God’s rest by faith (Hebrews 3:7-4:13).

            When the New Testament hermeneutical grid of fulfillment in Christ is employed in deriving ethical obligations from the Old Testament, what are some of the results? “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17) requires that the Christian not even be angry unjustly or hateful (Matthew 5:21-22). “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18) requires that he not have even a lustful thought (Matthew 5:27-28). The law about cities of refuge for murders (Numbers 35:6-15) calls on men in the dispensation of grace to find refuge in Christ from eternal death (Hebrews 6:18). The law about not muzzling oxen requires churches to provide financially for their ministers (Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Corinthians 9:9-10; 1 Timothy 5:17-18). The Passover ceremony (Exodus 12) calls men to salvation through Christ’s blood, a holy life, and to support for a holy church, separated from iniquity and the unrepentant and ungodly (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). What about “Remember the sabbath day” and God’s creation rest (Exodus 20:8-11; Genesis 2:1-3)? They call men in the church age to enter into salvation-rest by persevering faith in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 3:7-4:13).

            Thus, the New Testament is clear that God’s rest on the seventh day of creation points forward to that rest in Christ entered into by faith and prepared for the elect people of God from the foundation of the world—that salvation-rest that is the true Sabbath-observance or sabbatismos[52] of New Testament saints (Hebrews 4:9). This is the rest which all who trust in Christ alone enter into (Hebrews 4:3), while those who rest every Saturday, but do not trust in the Messiah,[53] have never and will never enter into that rest but will suffer everlastingly under God’s wrath (Hebrews 4:7-8). The death penalty prescribed in the Old Testament for not keeping the Sabbath (Exodus 31:14-15; 35:2) in the Messianic New Testament era of fulfillment represents the everlasting spiritual death of those who fail to believe on Christ and so come short of His promised rest (Hebrews 4:1-11; cf. Matthew 11:28-30). Genesis 2:1-3, for those partaking of the inaugurated although not fully realized new creation in Christ, binds Christian practice not in the manner the Old Testament connected it with the practice of Israel but in the way the New Testament connects it to the practice of the church. The New Testament, in its only quotation from Genesis 2:1-3 in Hebrews 4:4,[54] affirms that the creation rest of God and the Sabbath rest of the Old Testament point to the eschatological salvation-rest Christian saints have in union with Jesus Christ. Therefore, the abiding binding significance of the Old Testament Sabbath ordinance in the New Testament age is to rest in Christ for salvation and so enter into the rest of His coming earthly kingdom and His eternal rest in the New Jerusalem following the Millennium. The requirement to celebrate a seventh-day holy festival is gone, swallowed up with the old age through the coming of Christ.

            Clearly, the New Testament explicates in Hebrews 3-4[55] a theme already found in the Old Testament theme of rest—God’s rest in Genesis 2:1-3 points forward to the eschatological rest He has prepared for His people.[56] The Sabbath was an eschatological, proleptic sign of future rest; God’s creative activities flowed into a universal rest period.   Man was the climactic creation on day six, and the rest of the seventh day was God’s rest, a rest in which He intended man to participate. God did not rest on the seventh day for His own benefit (cf. John 5:17), but to offer man His own rest, a rest the race possessed before the Fall, lost through Adam’s transgression, and has restored to it through Christ’s redemption. Through Christ believers enter into rest now by coming into saving union with Him, and through Christ their ultimate entry is secured into the eternal rest of the people of God. Israel was to learn from the fact that the seventh day of creation does not have an “evening and morning” attached to it that God’s promise of rest is perpetually offered to men through the Messiah. God created man the sixth day, gave him specific commands in 1:28, but did not command man to enter into His rest on the seventh day because, in his unfallen condition, he already participated in that Divine rest. The purpose of God’s perfect creation, described in days one through six, is for that creation to possess rest in fellowship with God its Creator. Redeemed creation will do so eternally, and saints possess that rest in part now in Christ, and will possess it in full in the consummated new creation. Furthermore, since the seventh-day rest of God at the end of the completed creation was designed for man, even after the Fall God would work for man to be able to participate in it; hence the book of Hebrews draws the conclusion that from the foundation of the world God’s rest was offered to men (Hebrews 4:4-10). Before Christ the saints had that rest secured to them by faith (Hebrews 4:4-7; 11), and so in the dispensation of grace those who believe, not those who turn from Christ back to Judaism and take the yoke of bondage of the Sabbath and the law, are those who enter into God’s eschatological rest.

            Israel recognized “the world that is to come” as “wholly Sabbath rest for eternity,”[57] the “Sabbath of the future bliss,”[58] “the day which is wholly Sabbath (rest), in which there is no eating or drinking, buying or selling; but the righteous will sit there with crowns on their heads and delight in the radiance of the shekhina [glory of God].”[59] Westcott notes:

The Jewish teachers dwelt much upon the symbolical meaning of the Sabbath as prefiguring “the world to come.” . . . [For example]: “The people of Israel said: Lord of the whole world, shew us the world to come. God, blessed be He, answered: Such a pattern is the Sabbath” (Jalk. Rub. p. 95, 4). In this connexion the double ground which is given for the observance of the Sabbath, the rest of God (Ex. 20:11) and the deliverance from Egypt (Deut. 5:15), finds its spiritual confirmation. The final rest of man answers to the idea of Creation realized after the Fall by Redemption.[60]

Paul identifies God’s rest eschatologically in Hebrews 3-4 in keeping with this correct interpretation of the Old Testament data regarding God’s rest. The sabbatismos that remains for the people of God is the salvation-rest that is entered into by those who believe. They currently by faith have rest in Jesus Christ, having come to Him and received rest from Him (Matthew 11:28-30),[61] and they have a certain future rest when the kingdom of God is ultimately established at Christ’s second coming, after which they will possess millennial and then eternal rest in the New Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22-24) with the Old Testament saints who believed to the saving of their souls and consequently manifested their faith by perseverance (Hebrews 10:38-12:2). That is, the Apostle’s point in Hebrews 3:7-4:13 is that “we which have believed do enter into rest” (Hebrews 4:3), that rest that remains to the people of God (Hebrews 4:9). Genesis 2:1-3, as interpreted by the infallible text of the book of Hebrews, teaches that people in the church age need to enter into God’s rest by believing on Jesus Christ.

            Consequently, the sabbatismos for the church in the Messianic age is not Saturday worship but “the eternal sabbath celebration of salvation.”[62] To conclude from Hebrews 4:9 that the Jewish Saturday Sabbath festival is binding on the New Testament church is to radically misread the passage, which does not have a specific day in view.[63] First, if Paul had intended to say that the Sabbath festival remained for the church to observe, he would have used the actual Greek word Sabbath. By either newly coining or adopting the extremely rare word sabbatismos instead and identifying the sabbatismos with God’s “rest” (katapausis)[64] into which believers enter by faith, the Apostle clearly indicated that an antitypical salvation-rest, not a Saturday festival day, remained for the New Testament church. The actual word Sabbath appears sixty-eight times in the New Testament.[65] Paul could have easily stated: “The Sabbath festival remains for the people of God,” but he did not. On the contrary, he specified that the Sabbath was a “shadow” and a type of Christ that is now done away (Colossians 2:16-17). Second, the “rest,” the katapausis or sabbatismos that Paul speaks of in Hebrews 3:7-4:13, was not entered into by unsaved Jews who kept the Sabbath in the wilderness (Hebrews 4:5; Psalm 95:7-11). If people who kept the Jewish Sabbath nevertheless never entered into the rest or sabbatismos of which Paul speaks, clearly the sabbatismos is not the celebration of the Saturday holy day. Third, having a hard heart keeps one from entering into the “rest” under consideration (Hebrews 4:7-8). Many Jews keep the Sabbath and many in Christendom worship on the Lord’s Day while still possessing hard hearts, so the adoption of a specific day of worship cannot be the rest in question. Fourth, the sabbatismos is not entered into by bringing Judaism’s Sabbath into the church, but by believing the preached gospel: “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. For we which have believed do enter into rest” (Hebrews 4:2-3). On the other hand, “they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief” (4:6), despite celebrating the Saturday Sabbath. Since one enters into the sabbatismos “rest” in Hebrews 3-4 by faith, and one fails to enter into it by unbelief, the sabbatismos is self-evidently the salvation-rest possessed by all the true people of God, not a Jewish festival transferred into the church age. Fifth, the use of the Greek aorist tense for those who “have believed . . . entering” the rest (Hebrews 4:1, 3)[66] demonstrates that the rest is entered at one point in time.[67] The eschatological rest is entered into at the point of faith, and its final consummation is entered into at the point of eternal glory. The point action described is not what one would expect were the rest that is to be entered a recurring festival-day that one is to practice over and over again on successive weeks.[68] Sixth, a warning that one can “seem to come short” of “entering into [God’s] rest” (Hebrews 4:1) is reasonable if salvation-rest is in view, and professing Hebrew Christians needed to examine themselves to be sure that they were genuinely converted and were manifesting perseverance in the faith. It is difficult to make Hebrews 4:1 mean anything that fits the context if the rest is forced to refer to the Saturday Sabbath. Seventh, Jews who had knowledge of truths about Jesus Christ, but were considering turning from Him back to Judaism, which would manifest an unregenerate state, were the subject of this warning passage in Hebrews (3:7-4:13), along with the other warning passages in the epistle (Hebrews 2:1-4; 6:4-12; 10:26-39; 12:25-29). These Jews were exhorted to diligent care[69] to truly believe and persevere (Hebrews 4:11), to “take pains” and “make every effort,”[70] to “give diligence[71] to make [their] calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10) in order that they might enter God’s presence and eternal rest rather than “fall[ing] after the . . . example of unbelief” manifested by the wilderness generation in Moses’ day (Hebrews 4:11). They needed to be sure to “believe to the saving of the soul” instead of “draw[ing] back unto perdition” (Hebrews 10:39). If they apostatized and returned to post-Christian Judaism they would be keeping the Sabbath with the other Jews. A warning to not return to Judaism but to cleave to Christ in persevering faith and so enter into His salvation-rest, the antitype of the Old Testament Sabbath type, clearly fits the context and makes sense of the passage. The Christian Hebrews were not to reject the antitype of Christ’s salvation-rest for the Saturday Sabbath type and the remainder of the Law that had passed away. Hebrews 4:11 is unintelligible on the notion that the Apostle is exhorting the audience of Hebrews to maintain Saturday worship in common with the Jews to whom Paul is exhorting them not to return. The conclusion is clear: Hebrews 3:7-4:13 by no means establishes that the Jewish Sabbath festival is binding for the New Testament church. On the contrary, the passage indicates that the Sabbath was a type fulfilled in Christ, and now the antitype, salvation-rest in union with the Lord Jesus, must be entered into by faith, not by practicing the ceremonies of a Judaism that is no longer pleasing to God.

III. Conclusion

            A careful examination of the Biblical teaching on the Sabbath demonstrates that it is a specifically Jewish festival God gave to Israel in the days of Moses. The Sabbath was not celebrated before Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage. Nor is the Saturday Sabbath festival binding on the New Testament church. On the contrary, the Sabbath was a type, pointing forward to the eternal rest in Christ prepared for all believers, and fulfilled through Jesus Christ. Rather than seeking to observe the shadow of the Jewish Sabbath festival, people living today, after the coming of Christ, ought to take heed to the inspired command of the New Testament to enter God’s rest by faith alone in the Lord Jesus, “for we which have believed do enter into rest” (Hebrews 4:3).

[1]           Note: This entire study is an abridgment of the analysis at Those who wish to investigate the matters discussed below in more depth are encouraged to analyze the exegesis there.

[2]           Pgs. 281-289, The Desire of Ages, Ellen White. Other Adventist doctrines on the Sabbath, such as the teaching that the Sabbath, not the Holy Spirit, is the seal of God, that the Sabbath is greater than any other of the Ten Commandments, and that Saturday Sabbath-keeping is essential for salvation, will not be examined here. See Bible Truths for Seventh-Day Adventist Friends at for more information.

[3]           The Seventh-Day Adventist cult also affirms the binding obligation of the seventh-day Sabbath on all men at all times based on the allegedly inspired and infallible writings of their woman preacher and prophetess, Ellen G. White. Since the canon of Scripture is properly the sole authority for the Christian’s faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:16) and Mrs. White was a false prophet, not a true one (see Bible Truths for Seventh-Day Adventist Friends at, her writings must receive no consideration whatsoever in determining the truth on this subject.

[4]           E. g.: “The use of ‘remember,’ in connection with the fourth commandment, implies that the weekly rest day was not a new institution. It was observed before Sinai was reached” (pg. 462, Source Book for Bible Students, Ellen White, in part quoting Trumbull (quotation marks removed)).

[5]           Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill, 1999), 270.

[6]           Consider also that both Exodus 13:3 and 20:8 contain the identical form of the verb zakar, the infinitive absolute.

[7]           Note the complete list of texts with the word: Ex 16:29; 20:8, 11; 31:14–16; 35:3; Lev 23:11, 15–16; 24:8; Num 15:32; 28:9; Deut 5:12, 15; 2 Kings 11:5, 7, 9; 16:18; Jer 17:21–22, 24, 27; Ezek 46:1, 4, 12; Amos 8:5; Psa 92:1; Neh 10:32, 34; 13:15, 17–19, 22; 2 Chr 23:4, 8.

[8]           Note that in the context of the book of Exodus the reiteration of the Sabbath command in Exodus 31:13-17 concludes the lawgiving event on Sinai. Therefore, the passage fits not only into the immediate context but also into the wider context of the Mosaic covenant, which God made with the people of Israel, and which was summarized on the stone tablets containing the Decalogue. Exodus 31:13-17 specifies that the Sabbath was inaugurated for the people of Israel to be celebrated as a weekly sign of God’s covenant with them. It is not viewed as a universal ordinance for all mankind but as a specific institution for Israel. As a sign of the covenant at Sinai it was to last as long as that covenant, that is, until the coming of Christ.

[9]           Seventh-Day Adventists are particularly inconsistent when they make much of the example in Genesis 2:1-3, despite the absence of a specific command, but downplay the many examples of church assembly on the first day of the week in the New Testament (Mt 28:8-10; Mr 16:1-2, 10-11; Lu 24:33-34; Jn 20:19-26; Ac 2; 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2) because many of these passages do not contain a command.

[10]         The mo’adim, the sacred worship seasons of Israel referenced on day four of creation (Genesis 1:14), as discussed below.

[11]         Compare, for instance, how Genesis records the establishment of the covenant with Abraham immediately after the judgment of the nations at Babel (Genesis 11-12), for through the seed of Abraham all nations would be blessed.

[12]         Compare the references in Isaiah to national Israel, spiritual Israel, and the Person of the Messiah as the Servant of the Lord, as well as texts such as Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:15 for Christ as the true Israel.

[13]         Gen 2:3; Ex 13:2; 19:10, 14, 22–23; 20:8, 11; 28:3, 38, 41; 29:1, 21, 27, 33, 36–37, 43–44; 30:29–30; 31:13; 40:9–11, 13; Lev 6:18, 27; 8:10–12, 15, 30; 10:3; 11:44; 16:19; 20:7–8; 21:8, 15, 23; 22:2–3, 9, 16, 32; 25:10; 27:14–19, 22, 26; Num 3:13; 6:11; 7:1; 8:17; 11:18; 16:37–38; 20:12–13; 27:14; Deut 5:12; 15:19; 22:9; 32:51.

[14]         Note the complete list of texts with the word: Ex 16:29; 20:8, 11; 31:14–16; 35:3; Lev 23:11, 15–16; 24:8; Num 15:32; 28:9; Deut 5:12, 15; 2 Kings 11:5, 7, 9; 16:18; Jer 17:21–22, 24, 27; Ezek 46:1, 4, 12; Amos 8:5; Psa 92:1; Neh 10:32, 34; 13:15, 17–19, 22; 2 Chr 23:4, 8.

[15]         Note the more detailed study of the phrase ‘al ken at

[16]         For example, see: Gen 10:8-9; 11:8-9; 16:13-14; 19:21-22; 25:29-30; 26:32-33; 31:47-49; 33:16-17; 47:21-22; 50:10-11; Ex 15:22-23; 16:28-29; 20:10-11; Lev 17:11-12; Num 18:23-24; 21:13-14, 26-27; Deut 5:14-15; 10:8-9; 15:14-15; 24:17-18, 21-22.

[17]         Israel survived without manna for the first month on food brought from Egypt (cf. Exodus 12:34).

[18]         As in every previous reference in Deuteronomy (1:8, 11, 21, 35; 4:1, 31, 37), so in 5:3 the “fathers” are not the immediate parents of the wilderness generation, but the nation’s patriarchs, their “fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (1:8).

[19] John Bunyan also notes:

[I]f the seventh day sabbath was taught to men . . . from the beginning . . . by a positive precept for to be kept. . . . [why then was] the punishment due to the breach of the seventh day sabbath . . . hid from men to the time of Moses; as is clear, for that it is said of the breaker of the sabbath, “They put him in ward, because it was not [as yet] declared what should be done to him” (Num 15:32–36).

But methinks, had this seventh day sabbath been imposed upon men from the beginning, the penalty or punishment due to the breach thereof had certainly been known before now.

When Adam was forbidden to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the penalty was then, if he disobeyed, annexed to the prohibition. So also it was as to circumcision, the passover, and other ordinances for worship. How then can it be thought, that the seventh day sabbath should be imposed upon men from the beginning; and that the punishment for the breach thereof, should be hid with God for the space of two thousand years! (Gen 2:16, 17; 17:13, 14; Exo 12:43–48, 19). (John Bunyan, Five Questions About the Nature and Perpetuity of the Seventh-Day Sabbath, vol. 2 [Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2006], 364.

[20]         Jacob Neusner, Alan J. Avery-Peck, and William Scott Green, eds., The Encyclopedia of Judaism (Leiden; Boston; Köln: Brill, 2000), 172.

[21]         Robert Henry Charles, ed., Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, vol. 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2004), 13–15.

[22]         That is, the word translated “seasons” in Genesis 1:14 is mo’adim, a term for Israel’s appointed feasts. Allusion to Israel’s festivals in the word is recognized by the standard Hebrew lexica; Brown-Driver-Briggs notes: “It is most probable that in Gn 1:14 . . . the reference is to the sacred seasons as fixed by the moon’s appearance” (Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 2000), 417). Similarly, the use in Genesis 1:14 is placed under the meaning “festival, time of festivity” on pg. 558 of Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill, 1999). Part of the reason “God made lights, i.e., sun and moon, and stars, in the expanse of the sky” was “as signs for the sacred calendar . . . Gen 1:14” (Willem VanGemeren, ed., New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997), 163). Note that the large majority of references in the Pentateuch to this Hebrew word refer to Israel’s festivals, although the other references in Genesis after 1:14 do not (Gen 1:14; 17:21; 18:14; 21:2; Ex 9:5; 13:10; 23:15; 27:21; 28:43; 29:4, 10–11, 30, 32, 42, 44; 30:16, 18, 20, 26, 36; 31:7; 33:7; 34:18; 35:21; 38:8, 30; 39:32, 40; 40:2, 6–7, 12, 22, 24, 26, 29–30, 32, 34–35; Lev 1:1, 3, 5; 3:2, 8, 13; 4:4–5, 7, 14, 16, 18; 6:9, 19, 23; 8:3–4, 31, 33, 35; 9:5, 23; 10:7, 9; 12:6; 14:11, 23; 15:14, 29; 16:7, 16–17, 20, 23, 33; 17:4–6, 9; 19:21; 23:2, 4, 37, 44; 24:3; Num 1:1; 2:2, 17; 3:7–8, 25, 38; 4:3–4, 15, 23, 25, 28, 30–31, 33, 35, 37, 39, 41, 43, 47; 6:10, 13, 18; 7:5, 89; 8:9, 15, 19, 22, 24, 26; 9:2–3, 7, 13; 10:3, 10; 11:16; 12:4; 14:10; 15:3; 16:2, 18–19; 17:7–8, 15, 19; 18:4, 6, 21–23, 31; 19:4; 20:6; 25:6; 27:2; 28:2; 29:39; 31:54; Deut 16:6; 31:10, 14). Similarly, a high proportion of references to the verb shavath, “to cease” or “to rest,” in the Pentateuch are associated with the Sabbath, but not in Genesis after 2:2-3 (Gen 2:2–3; 8:22; Ex 5:5; 12:15; 16:30; 23:12; 31:17; 34:21; Lev 2:13; 23:32; 25:2; 26:6, 34–35; Deut 32:26).

[23]         The Sabbath is clearly identified as one of the mo’adim in texts such as Ezekiel 45:17 and Hosea 2:11.

[24]         Sanhedrin 56b, in Jacob Neusner, The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary, vol. 16 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2011), 298.

[25]         Isidore Singer, ed., The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, 12 Volumes (New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls, 1901–1906), 623. See Jacob Neusner, The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary, vol. 16 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2011), 309.

[26]         From Sabbath to Lord’s Day: a biblical, historical, and theological investigation, ed. D. A. Carson. (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1999), 128. Compare Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988], 1877). John Gill explains:

[T]hat the observation of the seventh day, was only designed for the children of Israel, seems manifest from Exod. 31:16, 17 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; and not between him and the rest of the world: and in ver. 14 ye shall keep the sabbath, for it is holy unto you: on which the Jews [Zohar in Exod. fol. 26. 4] make this remark . . . to you, and not to the rest of the nations: nor did they ever think that the Gentiles were obliged to observe their sabbath, only such who became proselytes to their religion; even those who were proselytes of righteousness: for a proselyte of the gate, was not bound to observe it; for so says [Hilchot Sabbat, c 20. sect. 14] Maimonides, “those who take upon them the seven commandments of Noah only, lo! They are as a proselyte of the gate, and they are free to do work on the sabbath-day for themselves, openly, as an Israelite on a common day.” Yea, they not only say, they were not obliged to keep the sabbath, but that it was not lawful for them to observe it; and that it was even punishable with death for them to regard it; for so they say [Debarim Rabba, sect. 1. fol. 234. 4], “a Gentile that keeps the sabbath before he is circumcised, is guilty of death, because it is not commanded him.” They judged them unworthy of having this precept enjoined them, as being not men, but beasts, and worse than they, and had not the privilege the ass has: hence one of their commentators [Bartenora in Misn. Sabbat, c. 24. sect. 1] says, “concerning the rest of an ass, thou (O Israelite!) art commanded; but concerning the rest of a Gentile, thou art not commanded.” (John Gill, An Exposition of the New Testament, vol. 1, The Baptist Commentary Series [London: Mathews and Leigh, 1809], 392–393)

[27]         See Walter C. Kaiser Jr., The Promise-Plan of God: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).

[28]         “Feasts,” Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Merrill Tenney (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1975). During these festivals, “[n]o work was to be done . . . except what was necessary for the preparation of food; on the [regular seventh-day] Sabbath, even this was prohibited (Ex. 35:2, 3)” (Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 1 [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996], 333).

[29]         John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life, A Theology of Lordship (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2008), 567–568.

[30]         1st Commandment (1 Tim 2:5); 2nd (1 Cor 10:7); 3rd (Jam 5:12); 4th (nowhere); 5th (Eph 6:2); 6th (1 Jn 3:15); 7th (Heb 13:4); 8th (Eph 4:28); 9th (Col 3:9); 10th (Eph 5:3). Feinberg explains:

But our legalists protest that we must have some law. Surely you cannot expect us to believe that it is not wrong to steal, kill, or commit adultery in this age, they contend. We do not expect any such thing. God has taken care of this problem also. Every moral principle contained in the ten commandments has been reiterated under grace by the Spirit in the form of an exhortation with the single exception, Mirabile dictu, of the commandment to keep the Sabbath. The commandment to have but one God is reiterated in Paul’s statement: “There is one God” [1 Timothy 2:5]. The second commandment is found in the exhortation: “Neither be ye idolaters” [1 Corinthians 10:7]; the third: “But above all things, my brethren, swear not” [James 5:12]; the fourth is nowhere in the New Testament; the fifth: “Honour thy father and mother” [Ephesians 6:2]; the sixth: “no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him” [1 John 3:15]; the seventh: “whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” [Hebrews 13:4]; the eighth: “Let him that stole steal no more” [Ephesians 4:28]; the ninth: “Lie not one to another” [Colossians 3:9]; the tenth: “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you” [Ephesians 5:3]. Does it not show the perversion of thinking of some men that they should lay most stress on the fourth commandment when it is totally done away by God? . . . [One who has] undertaken to keep a part of the law, it being an integral whole . . . is of necessity a debtor to keep the whole law. To exhort Christians to keep the Sabbath . . . is a practice wholly foreign to grace. In short, it is to encourage Christians to fall from grace [Galatians 5:4]. (“The Sabbath and the Lord’s Day,” Charles Lee Feinberg, Bibliotheca Sacra 95:378 [April 1938] 186)

[31]         Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 99.

[32]         It should be noted that Christ started the church during His earthly ministry (Matthew 18:20); the church did not start at Pentecost. See A Word Study Demonstrating the Meaning of the Word Church (Ekklesia), and Consequently the Nature of the New Testament Church, by Thomas Ross (

[33]         For further examination of Acts 20:7, see “Acts 20:7 and Worship on the First Day of the Week” at

[34]         That is, in Greek both “do ye” in v. 1 and “lay by [in store]” in v. 2 are imperatives or commands. Furthermore, “given order” in v. 1 also indicates that an apostolic command that involves first day assembly is in view in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2.

[35]         For further examination of 1 Cor 16:1-2, see “1 Corinthians 16:2 and Church on the First Day of the Week” at

[36]         Considering “every ecclesiastical writer for the first five centuries . . . sabbaton [Sabbath] is never used by them for the first day, [and] Kuriake [the Lord’s Day] is never used by them for the seventh day” (pg. 505, Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, John McClintock & James Strong, vol. 5).

[37]         Concerning the day of the week of Christ’s crucifixion, see Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1977), 65-94.

[38]         “The Sabbath and the Lord’s Day,” Charles Lee Feinberg, Bibliotheca Sacra 95:378 [April 1938] 185-187.

[39]         Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 90:38.

[40]         Compare also “thank God for having created the world, with all things therein, for the sake of [dia] man” (Justin Martyr, “Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, a Jew,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers [Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885], 215), which clearly means “for the benefit of man,” but can hardly indicate that all things in the world are ordinances binding upon man to which he must submit. Or consider the Apocalypse of Sedrach: “Sedrach saith: And why didst Thou make the sea? . . . The Lord saith to him: For man’s sake” (Allan Menzies, ed., “The Apocalypse of Sedrach,” in The Gospel of Peter, the Diatessaron of Tatian, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Visio Pauli, the Apocalypses of the Virgil and Sedrach, the Testament of Abraham, the Acts of Xanthippe and Polyxena, the Narrative of Zosimus, the Apology of Aristides, the Epistles of Clement (Complete Text), Origen’s Commentary on John, Books I-X, and Commentary on Matthew, Books I, II, and X-XIV, trans. Andrew Rutherford, vol. 9, The Ante-Nicene Fathers [New York: Christian Literature Company, 1897], 177 [3:5-6]). The sea is hardly a binding authority over all men, but it does exist to benefit the part of the human race that gathers fish and other goods from it.

[41]         For example, Ezekiel 34:30-31 calls the nation of Israel “man,” the singular ‘adam being employed, as it is throughout the Old Testament, and John 7:51 speaks of judging “man” when a very particular man is in view. Note that both John 7:51 and Mark 2:27 employ the Greek generic article on anthropos, “man.”

[42]         Mek. Šabbata §1 [on Ex 31:14], cited in C. A. Evans, “Old Testament in the Gospels,” ed. Joel B. Green and Scot McKnight, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 580. Brackets in the source quotation have been removed, and the generic term “man” instead of the modern gender-neutral “people” has been employed.

[43]         R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2002), 147, citing b. Yom. 85b; see Jacob Neusner, The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary, vol. 5a (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2011), 333.

[44]         Feinburg notes:

Many in their zeal to keep the Sabbath forget that it is not an isolated factor in a religious code, but is an integral part of a legal system. The infringement of this law in any particular meant the penalty of death. In Numbers 15:32–36 we read of the incident where a man who gathered sticks on the Sabbath was stoned to death. This would have been the penalty for one lighting a fire on the Sabbath [Exodus 35:3]. Can modern Gentile Sabbath-keepers evade this issue and declare their innocence before the law? They do make a distinction between what is called the “moral law” and the “ceremonial law.” Suffice it to say that Scripture knows of no such distinction. Nor does this relieve them of their difficulty because, granted that the regulations for punishment were ceremonial, how about the sacrifices God commanded (Numbers 28:9, 10) to be brought on the Sabbath? If these are also declared to be ceremonial, then what was there left in the Sabbath observance to be called “moral”? (“The Sabbath and the Lord’s Day,” Charles Lee Feinberg. Bibliotheca Sacra 95:378 [April 1938] 183)

[45]         Meredith Kline, The Treaty of the Great King (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans: 1963), 27–44.

[46]         Robert A. Morey, Is the Sabbath for Today? (Orange, CA: Research/Education Foundation, 1995) 10.

[47]         An appeal to Christ’s keeping of the Sabbath during His earthly ministry does not establish its binding character for the New Testament church. Christ perfectly kept every aspect of Israel’s law, and if His pattern establishes the continuing authority of the Sabbath, it establishes the continuing authority of every last one of Israel’s ceremonial regulations also. Feinberg notes:

It is to the earthly life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ that many go for their proof that the law and its Sabbath are still in force today. Such a position fails to grasp the truth of the different dispensations, Jewish and Christian, the one on this side of the cross and the other on the other side. Besides, none of the New Testament had been written during the earthly life and ministry of Christ, so that the rule of life for the believer had not yet been given. This is later found in detail in the Epistles. Moreover, those who would keep the Sabbath fail to realize in what role, as it were, Christ ministered upon earth. Paul tells us plainly: “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers” [Romans 15:8]. So we see that we cannot find our rule of life under grace in Christ’s keeping of the law. He said: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” [Matthew 5:18-19]. These verses are often quoted to substantiate the keeping of the Sabbath. In the first place, it should be noted that Christ is here stating what He came to do and not what He would have us to do. He came to fulfill all the law, because carnal man could not. He came to pay the penalty of the law, so that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us by the Spirit [Romans 8:4], “for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” [Galatians 2:21]. Of what vital importance was the death of our precious Lord Jesus! (“The Sabbath and the Lord’s Day,” Charles Lee Feinberg, Bibliotheca Sacra 95:378 [April 1938] 184)

[48]         It is noteworthy that there are suggestions in Jewish tradition that the Messianic age would be one in which the Law would lose its central position, the Messiah becoming the center. Thus, following “two thousand years of Torah, two thousand years of the time of the Messiah” would come (b. Sanh. 97b, in Jacob Neusner, The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary, vol. 17b [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2011], 34). The “religious duties” of Israel’s ceremonies would be “nullified in the age to come” (b. Nid. 61b, in Jacob Neusner, The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary, vol. 22d (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2011), 296). Compare R. N. Longenecker, Paul: Apostle of Liberty (New York, NY: Harper, 1964) 131.

[49]         Compare Walter C. Kaiser Jr., The Promise-Plan of God: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 41.

[50]         Note the study on Colossians 2:16-17 at

[51]         See Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993), 308-309 for a concise overview of Biblical typology. The key New Testament words for the doctrine are tupos (tu/poß), antitupos (aÓnti÷tupoß), upodeigma (uJpo/deigma), deigma (dei√gma) and skia (skia¿). The three word groups are tied together in Hebrews 8:5’s association of tu/poß, uJpo/deigma, and skia¿. Types include persons such as Adam (Romans 5:14), things such as the tabernacle (Acts 7:43; Hebrews 9:23-24), regulations such as the dietary laws (Colossians 2:16-17), events such as the Flood of Noah (1 Peter 3:20-21), the destruction of Sodom (Jude 7), or the exodus from Egypt and the wilderness wanderings (1 Corinthians 10:1-11; Hebrews 4:11), festivals such as the new moons and Sabbaths (Colossians 2:16-17), and institutions such as the priestly orders of Melchizedek and Aaron, the sacrificial system, and the entire Old Covenant law (Hebrews 8:5; 10:1). All types are found in the Old Testament and are not practiced in the New Testament church; therefore the Sabbath, as a type, does not continue in the church. The objection that the Sabbath existed before the Fall, and therefore cannot be a type (e. g., J. H. Waggoner, The Truth Found [Battle Creek, MI: Steam Press, SDA Publishing Association, 1883] 11-12) fails, because Scripture clearly identifies the Sabbath as a type (Colossians 2:16-17), Scripture never limits types to after the Fall, and Scripture specifically states that Adam was a type, and he clearly existed before the Fall, as did other types such as the tree of life. Nor is it valid to argue that since the Sabbath is not totally fulfilled until the final rest of the New Jerusalem, a Sunday Sabbath continues in the church today (e. g., pg. 47, “A Sabbath Rest Still Awaits the People of God,” Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., in Pressing Toward the Mark. ed C. G. Dennison and R. C. Gamble. [Philadelphia, PA: The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1986] 33–51), for no Old Testament type whatever continues in the church, and other types which point to yet future events, such as the Feast of Tabernacles, which points forward to Millennial and ultimately eternal rest (Zechariah 14:16-19), are not celebrated in the new Testament church.

[52]         There is no extant evidence of pre-Christian use of the word sabbatismos. Paul specifically employs the word in Hebrews to make his point about the Sabbath being fulfilled in Christ. Compare the uses of the word below in early Christendom, which were almost certainly dependent on the use in Hebrews 4:9. Justin Martyr:

“But if we do not admit this, we shall be liable to fall into foolish opinions, as if it were not the same God who existed in the times of Enoch and all the rest, who neither were circumcised after the flesh, nor observed Sabbaths, nor any other rites, seeing that Moses enjoined such observances; or that God has not wished each race of mankind continually to perform the same righteous actions: to admit which, seems to be ridiculous and absurd. Therefore we must confess that He, who is ever the same, has commanded these and such like institutions on account of sinful men, and we must declare Him to be benevolent, foreknowing, needing nothing, righteous and good. But if this be not so, tell me, sir, what you think of those matters which we are investigating.” And when no one responded: “Wherefore, Trypho, I will proclaim to you, and to those who wish to become proselytes, the divine message which I heard from that man [a Christian who was encountered earlier by the sea shore]. Do you see that the elements are not idle, and keep no Sabbaths? Remain as you were born. For if there was no need of circumcision before Abraham, or of the observance of Sabbaths [sabbatismos], of feasts and sacrifices, before Moses; no more need is there of them now, after that, according to the will of God, Jesus Christ the Son of God has been born without sin, of a virgin sprung from the stock of Abraham. For when Abraham himself was in uncircumcision, he was justified and blessed by reason of the faith which he reposed in God, as the Scripture tells. Moreover, the Scriptures and the facts themselves compel us to admit that He received circumcision for a sign, and not for righteousness. So that it was justly recorded concerning the people, that the soul which shall not be circumcised on the eighth day shall be cut off from his family. And, furthermore, the inability of the female sex to receive fleshly circumcision, proves that this circumcision has been given for a sign, and not for a work of righteousness. For God has given likewise to women the ability to observe all things which are righteous and virtuous; but we see that the bodily form of the male has been made different from the bodily form of the female; yet we know that neither of them is righteous or unrighteous merely for this cause, but [is considered righteous] by reason of piety and righteousness. (Justin Martyr, “Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, a Jew,” ch. 23, in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers [Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885], 206)

Likewise, note the use in the Acts of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul:

The Jews . . . came . . . saying . . . Peter . . . has destroyed all the bulwarks of our law; for he has prevented the keeping of Sabbaths [sabbatismo/ß] and new moons, and the holidays appointed by the law. And Paul, answering, said to them . . . if his teaching be true, supported by the book and testimony of the Hebrews, it becomes all of us to submit to him. (Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., “Acts of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul,” in Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: The Twelve Patriarchs, Excerpts and Epistles, the Clementina, Apocrypha, Decretals, Memoirs of Edessa and Syriac Documents, Remains of the First Ages, trans. Alexander Walker, vol. 8, The Ante-Nicene Fathers [Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886], 478–479)

[53]         Such as those who believe in the false gospel of salvation by works taught by Ellen White and Seventh-Day Adventism; see

[54]         Consider also that shavath, found twice in Genesis 2:2-3 and translated “rest” each time in that passage, can equally be rendered as “cease,” as it is in Genesis 8:22 and in the majority of its appearances in the Old Testament. Thus, Genesis 2:2-3 could legitimately be rendered: “And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he ceased 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 ceased from all his work which God created and made.” Compare Genesis 2:2-3 with Hebrews 4:10: “For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased [katapauo, the verb translating shavath in Genesis 2:2-3, LXX] from his own works, as God did from his.”

[55]         The eschatological emphasis in the theme of Biblical rest is developed in other texts also. Since Hebrews 3-4 is the only passage quoting Genesis 2:1-3 in the New Testament, it receives the focus in the following analysis.

[56]         Concerning the broader Biblical theme of God’s rest, see Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., “The Promise Theme and the Theology of Rest,” Bibliotheca Sacra 130 (April-June 1973): 135-50, elec. acc. Alternatively, see Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The Uses of the Old Testament in the New (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1985) 153-175.

[57]         M. Tamid 7:4, in Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah: A New Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988), 873.

[58]         Gen. Rab.17:7.

[59]         Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–) 34, citing H. L. Strack and P. Billerbeck, Kommentar zum NT aus Talmud und Midrasch, 1922 ff.

[60]         Brooke Foss Westcott, ed., The Epistle to the Hebrews the Greek Text with Notes and Essays, 3d ed., Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament (London: Macmillan, 1903), 99–100.

[61]         Consider in the context of Matthew’s Gospel that Christ’s promise of rest for believers in Matthew 11:28-30 is placed immediately before the Lord’s conflict with the Pharisees over Sabbath practices in Matthew 12.

[62]         Horst Robert Balz and Gerhard Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990–), 219, art. sabbatismos.

[63]         If one were to (incorrectly) read the passage as a discussion of a day of worship, the one day that could not be mandated for the church would be Saturday. The rest of Hebrews 3:7-4:13 was yet future in the days of King David, when many were keeping the Saturday Sabbath (Hebrews 4:7). The rest pertains to “another day,” a different one from that practiced by Old Testament Israel under Joshua (Hebrews 4:7-10). The rest of the pericope in Hebrews has nothing to do with establishing a specific festival of weekly rest for the church, but if it did, Saturday would be excluded by necessity.

            Furthermore, an examination of the texts where the verb sabbatidzo appears in the LXX (Ex 16:30; Lev 23:32; 26:34–35; 2 Chr 36:21; 1 Esdr 1:55; 2 Mac 6:6) demonstrates that the verb is employed not only for the Saturday Sabbath (Exodus 16:30) but also for the yearly Sabbath associated with the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:32). If the use of the noun sabbatismos in Hebrews 4:9 is to prove the binding nature of the Saturday Sabbath in the dispensation of grace, it would also prove the binding character of the Sabbaths associated with ceremonial festivals such as Israel’s Day of Atonement.

[64]         The complete list of texts with the word is: Acts 7:49; Heb 3:11, 18; 4:1, 3, 5, 10–11. In each instance God’s rest is in view, a rest into which His people enter by faith.

[65]         Matt 12:1–2, 5, 8, 10–12; 24:20; 28:1; Mark 1:21; 2:23–24, 27–28; 3:2, 4; 6:2; 16:1–2, 9; Luke 4:16, 31; 6:1–2, 5–7, 9; 13:10, 14–16; 14:1, 3, 5; 18:12; 23:54, 56–24:1; John 5:9–10, 16, 18; 7:22–23; 9:14, 16; 19:31; 20:1, 19; Acts 1:12; 13:14, 27, 42, 44; 15:21; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4; 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2; Col 2:16.

[66]         Fobhqw◊men ou™n mh/ pote kataleipome÷nhß e˙paggeli÷aß ei˙selqei√n ei˙ß th\n kata¿pausin aujtouv, dokhØv tiß e˙x uJmw◊n uJsterhke÷nai. . . . ei˙serco/meqa ga»r ei˙ß th\n kata¿pausin oi˚ pisteu/santeß.

[67]         Consider also the perfect tense in Hebrews 4:1’s doke tis ex humon husterekenai; “any of you should seem to come short of it.” Were the recurring practice of Saturday Sabbath-keeping under consideration, a present tense verb would be expected; since the danger of never coming to a point of true conversion and consequently failing to enter God’s rest is in view, the perfect tense is natural.

[68]         The present tense of eiserchomai is certainly a live option in the New Testament, appearing in Matt 7:13; 10:12; 15:11; 23:13; Luke 10:5, 8, 10; 11:52; 17:12; 21:21; John 10:1–2; Heb 4:3; 6:19; 9:25; 10:5. Indeed, Paul in Hebrews 4:1 uses the aorist of eiserchomai to specify the definitive point of entering into God’s rest, while employing the present tense in 4:3 to illuminate the already/not yet tension of the believer’s present entrance into the eschatological rest that will not be fully consummated until the parousia, in keeping with the picture in Hebrews 3-4 of the church as a wilderness-congregation awaiting her entrance into the antitypical Canaan. Believers are entering God’s consummated rest now and will finally enter it at the end.

[69]         Spoudazo, rendered “let us labour” in the KJV. Consider its other appearances in the New Testament: Gal 2:10; Eph 4:3; 1 Th 2:17; 2 Tim 2:15; 4:9, 21; Titus 3:12; Heb 4:11; 2 Pet 1:10, 15; 3:14.

[70]         William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 939, art. spoudazo.

[71]         Spoudazo.

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