Is the Sabbath really a set day?
The Sabbath was instituted by God Himself after the first six days of creation. This was just after creating the world in six days, when all was pronounced to be “very good”.
Genesis 2 Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. 2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
Please note that “the seventh day” is mentioned three times in the passage, which means that the specific day is important. It also says that God did three things on this day, He rested, He blessed it and He sanctified it (made it holy). This is the only day that God ever treated in this way, so it is important for us to make sure that we know which day it is, and treat it in the way God wants us to.
Let’s have a look at how God wants us to treat the Sabbath. These are the words God Himself wrote on the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments:
Exodus 20 8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”
Isaiah 58 13 “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, 14 Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth …”
So then, if the Sabbath is this important to God, which day of the week is the seventh day?
Let’s see what the encyclopaedia says about which of the days of the week is the seventh day. The Encyclopaedia Britannica for students (Ages 11 and up), has the following to say:
Saturday: seventh day of the week; different theories explain name, including that it comes from the Latin “Saturni dies”, or day of the god Saturn, and that it was named Saturn’s-day by Babylonians after Saturn, one of the 5 planetary bodies known to them; Jewish Sabbath, or holy day; Thomas Burke wrote a popular essay on Saturday called ’An Uncle of a Day’.
Saturday is the seventh day, and therefore the Sabbath, of that there is no question! Ask the Jews and they will tell you that they have been keeping it for millennia, since they became a nation after they left Egypt. We also find that the people of Israel were fed with manna for 40 years in the desert. During those forty years the manna never fell on the Sabbath, and they had to gather a double portion on the day before Sabbath. (Read Exodus 16 and Joshua 5, especially verse 12). God was obviously in charge of the manna and the Sabbath. Around fifteen hundred years later Jesus walked the earth and kept the same Sabbath, on the same day. During all that time the Jews had not lost track of the correct day, even when taken captive to Babylon for seventy years. God would have told Jesus very quickly that He was not keeping the correct day if a change had slipped in!
If you spoke Portuguese, or Spanish, Italian, Greek, Hebrew, Russian (or about 100 other languages of the world!), you would not be asking which day was the Sabbath, because the name for Saturday in these languages is Sabbath. Sunday in Portuguese is called “First day” and Saturday is called “Sabado” (Sabbath). In Spanish it is also Sabado, in Italian it is Sabato, in Greek Sabbato, etc, etc. So, the fourth commandment, found in Exodus 20:8-11, starts out like this in those languages, “Remember Saturday, to keep it holy …”
Also, most importantly, the Bible makes it very clear which day the Sabbath is. Take a look at what Luke has to say about the weekend when Jesus died and was resurrected. The day He died we call Good Friday, and the day He was resurrected we call Easter Sunday. And while Jesus was in the tomb, His followers kept the seventh day Sabbath – Saturday.
Luke 23 50 Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. 51 He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before. 54 That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near.
55 And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.
And throughout the next two thousand years the days of the week have kept their same sequence, as the languages of the earth testify. The only problem is that most people in the world have grown used to Sunday as the main day of worship, even to the extent of calling it the Sabbath. So how did this happen? Did God change His mind? The Bible tells us that God does not change, and nowhere in the Bible can we find any statement that tells us that God changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday!
Malachi 3:6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change …”
Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
The fact is that the change from Saturday to Sunday was a human one. Because there had always been great strife between the Romans and the Jews, the Christian church was often persecuted because they worshipped on the same day as the Jews, and were therefore seen as Jews. The church therefore, over several centuries, started to worship both on Saturday and Sunday, with Sunday becoming more popular because it was different from the “Jewish Sabbath”, Saturday. When the Emperor Constantine became a Christian in the fourth century after Christ, he wanted to consolidate the religions of the time. Pagans worshipped the sun, on “the day of the sun”, Sunday. Constantine saw an opportunity to “Christianize” the pagans by making it easy for them to join Christianity, if they all worshipped on the same day, so he pushed for legislation to pressure all Christians to stop working on Sunday and to make it the official Sabbath. The church of the time was happy with this compromise and began to legislate Sunday sacredness at every following church council. That is why most Christian denominations today keep Sunday, following the Catholic Church, who changed it.
People say that Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, but Adam and Eve were not Jews. Jesus kept the Sabbath, and when He told his disciples that Jerusalem would be overthrown, He said that they should pray that their flight out of Jerusalem should not be on the Sabbath. The siege and conquest of Jerusalem took place in 70 AD, almost 40 years after Jesus died, yet Jesus still expected His people to be keeping the Sabbath. His disciples kept the Sabbath after He returned to heaven, and the prophet Isaiah tells us that the Sabbath will be kept in heaven. The passages below confirm all of this.
Luke 4:16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.
Matthew 24 16 “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.17 Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. 19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.”
Acts 13 14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down.
42 So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath.
44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God.
Acts 15:21 For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.
Acts 16:13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there.
Acts 17:2 Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures,
Acts 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.
Isaiah 66 22 “ For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before Me,” says the LORD, “ So shall your descendants and your name remain.
23 And it shall come to pass that from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the LORD.
So, there you have it. Is it right to keep Sunday as the Sabbath, because the majority of Christians keep it, even though God did not sanction the change? That is the question every Christian has to answer for themselves. Who do we obey, God or man? God gives each of us the free choice, so it is up to every Christian to make their own decision. The apostle Peter, when confronted with the authorities’ order to stop preaching that Jesus was the Messiah, said the following:
Acts 5:29 29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
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