Who Changed the Sabbath Day to Sunday
by Tony Warren
There are some religious groups today who spend a considerable amount of time insisting that the Christian Church should observe the Old Testament seventh day (Saturday) Sabbath. Then there are those who maintain that it was the Roman Catholics who changed the Sabbath day to Sunday. Still others insist that the Sabbath law was only given to the Jews, not the Gentiles. As a result of these conflicting ideas, there are many Christians who become somewhat confused about the true reason the Church doesn't worship on Saturday as Old Testament Israel did. These dear Christians are not so much dissuaded by those questioning a Sunday Sabbath as they are sincerely seeking the biblical justification for having the Sabbath day observed on Sunday. They simply want to know, "why is there a different New Testament Sabbath," and "who changed the Saturday Sabbath to Sunday." These are very good questions, and so deserve a good answer.
There are two important things to consider. First, the Sabbath was given to Israel as the "sign" or "token" of the everlasting Covenant between God and His people. This in itself means that the sign is inextricably connected with Christ. This sign was instituted that God's people would remember that it was not themselves, but the Lord who made them a righteous (Exodus 31:13-16) people and brought them out of the bondage of Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:13-15). Second, the Sabbath was instituted for God's people as a Holy day of rest from their labors (Exodus 31:17), to commemorate God's rest from His work of creation. In this sign, they were to know that all their works and labors were to cease.
God's people were not to work as a day of remembrance of the bondage that they were delivered from (Egypt), and that it was not by their own labors, but the Lord God who made them holy. This is why God instituted the Sabbath Rest. And we keep this remembrance today as surely as God's people kept it in the Old Testament. For ultimately, the essence of the New Testament Sabbath hasn't changed anymore than the essence of the Old Testament Passover feast has. In other words, the essence of the Passover feast continues for us today in our observance of the Lord's supper where we eat of the Passover Lamb. The days of observance changed and the mode changed, but the essence remains the same. i.e., it is the body of Christ. While the observance of the "sign" may have changed from the Old Testament to the New, the Covenant that the sign was a "figure" of continues in the New Testament sign. This is part of the many examples in scripture of the Covenant continuity. And likewise the sign of the Sabbath continues in the New Testament observance of Rest on Sunday. Because in Christ is works completed. When we were raised up with Christ on Sunday, we entered into His finished and perfect work (Rest or Sabbath). The authority over the Sabbath is His, not Israel's or those caught up in Old Testament types and shadows.
- "Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work:
- But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, 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."
The Disciples could work on the Sabbath in the cornfield because Christ, as high Priest and Lord of the Sabbath, fulfilled the law of rest for them. He is the "true" Sabbath wherein they would find rest from the works of the law. All of the Old Testament signs and ceremonial laws and ordinances were fulfilled (completed) in Christ's death and resurrection. For they were merely types of the actual things which were to come with Christ. The Holy canon speaks of them as [skia], meaning that they were merely outlines or shadows prefiguring the reality which was coming. The problem for many Christians is that they do not fully understand these shadows or types, nor their relationship to true Bible prophesy. But God used these days and ceremonies as signs (significations) illustrating what was to come. In this way the seventh day Sabbath was a sign or token of the "true" rest from our labors that we could only have in the coming Messiah.
- "How he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone?
- And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath."
As a practical example of what God means by [skia], if you are outside after dark and there is not much light, you will often see the "shadow" of a man, car, or other objects approaching before you see the actual man or car. That's because the little light behind the image casts a shadow or outline of it ahead of it. So that shadow that you see ahead of the actual thing, gives you a little idea of what is coming. In other words by it's shadowy form, you can generally tell whether it will be a car, a dog, or a man. But it's not the real or the true thing you see ahead of time, it is just an outline prefiguring what is coming. It gives you a preview of that thing that is to come. When the true actually comes into view, you see that it is much more detailed, defined and understandable, than the shadow preceding it. So now you know a lot more about it than you knew when you just saw the shadow. The Sabbath as a sign is like that.
Of course, that is an imperfect analogy, but in the same way, God used His directed light of scripture to show the Saints shadows of things that were to come. These are spoken of as "examples, figures, signs or tokens." They are the images outlining the true things that God had in view from the very beginning. The shadows of these things "forecast" what was to come in God's plan of Salvation. And in this way the Sabbath was a sign forecasting the coming of Christ, our real rest wherein we would cease from our labors. He was the true, the fulfillment of that seventh day Sabbath sign. It is only in "this Sabbath" that any of us can see rest from our labors.
The same principle in the Old Testament law that commanded the sacrifice of the Passover lamb was to be kept "forever." Are God's people keeping that law today? Well, yes they are. Because the sign Old Testament Israel kept was not the real or true, it was the token of the true. Again, only in Christ could this law truly be kept forever. By using these Old Testament laws as shadows prefiguring Christ, God was demonstrating in imagery prophesy of the true Lamb that would have God's judgements pass over us. So when Christ gave His life, the prophesy of the sacrifice Passover Lamb being kept forever was fulfilled or completed. And the practice of observing the Old Testament shadow (sign) was passed away. God's people no longer have to sacrifice many Lambs, Christ is sacrificed once for all. So that the everlasting law wasn't done away with, it was completed, fulfilled or "come to fruition" in the body of Christ.
The Old Testament signs and ceremonial laws being completed or fulfilled in Christ is what so many theologians today do not fully understand. Christ didn't do away with the old testament precepts, in actuality He was that true to which those laws pointed.
- "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil."
Fulfilling these Old Covenant laws means that we now celebrate Christ (the Passover Lamb) by the New Covenant sign, which is the communion service. We do this in remembrance of his broken body. In other words, we now recognize that the law of Moses commanding the actual sacrifice of an animal, was merely a temporary Old Testament sign pointing to the real shedding of blood and the true sacrifice of God's Lamb. So with the coming of the real, our eyes are upon Him and not any longer upon the sign preceding Him. The communion is a sign now looking backward to the broken body of Christ. The Old Testament sign of the Passover sacrifice looked forward to the broken body of Christ. The method of observance has changed, but the true observance has not.
- "And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me."
Likewise the law of the Gifts, the Temple, the Scapegoat, the Altar, the High Priest, the Sabbath, the Atonement, etc., they were all mere shadows of the true. They were not the true, but were shadow thereof. Some people want to cling to the shadow, not discerning the difference. But we can see this difference illustrated in the book of Hebrews:
- A Minister of the Sanctuary, and of the True Tabernacle, which the Lord pitched and not man.
- For every High Priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.
- For if He were on earth, He should not be a Priest, seeing that there are Priests that offer gifts according to the law:
- Who serve unto the Example and a Shadow of heavenly things."
The Old Testament Sabbath law was a shadow, [skia], of good things to come in Christ, and were not the true or the real. Yes, they were God's laws that stand forever, but only in Christ can anyone keep them according to what was/is required. These passages in the book of Hebrews reveal to us just how the various signs and ceremonial laws of the Old Testament system of worship merely reflected a greater spiritual (and yet actual) fulfillment or completion in the coming Christ.
- "for the LAW having a Shadow of good things to come, and not the
- Very Image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect."
The law of the Sabbath fulfilled in Christ also reveals that through Him alone, there is a greater and consummated rest (Sabbath) which awaits the Church. At the end of the world we will receive the consummation of that rest, which we have already been given in Christ Jesus. These things are often intellectually discerned, but the real truth of them is spiritually discerned. God used examples illustrating these things, and they are the mainstays of scripture. The literal Temple was a sign, token or type of Christ, who is the true Temple wherein we dwell with God on earth. And yet the true Temple or Tabernacle will be revealed and opened in heaven. Just as the veil of the literal earthly Temple was a token of Christ's flesh (Hebrews 9:3, 10:20), the High Priests making an offering was a token of Christ's offering. He is the true High Priest who makes intercession for us. The sacrifice Lamb was a token illustrating that Christ would be the true sacrifice for man's sins. The Lamps commanded to burn continually were a token prefiguring Christ as the light of the world. And the seventh day Sabbath was a sign of the Covenant of rest that the people of God would have in Christ. For in Him our works were completed that we can stand Holy and unblamable before God.
It was a Covenant "sign" or signification between God and His children that they know they are sanctified (made Holy), by the operation of God. A sign is something that points to, or is a representation of something else.
- "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."
The Sabbath was a "sign" of the perpetual Covenant between God and His people, which obviously could only be confirmed in Christ Jesus. There is no everlasting covenant with man without Christ. And His people remember the creation Sabbath in the institution of the new creation in Christ, and it is "only" through Him that we keep the Sabbath Holy.
- "Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.
- It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed."
We see in this law that there is a divine relationship in the Sabbath ordinance between the creation, and the redemption in Christ. Even before the creation of man, God was illustrating in the language of Genesis chapter one an outline of the whole plan of salvation in creation. In bringing light to the darkness that was on the face of the deep, or abyss, God is illustrating this ordinance. This is the language of hell, and how there was no hope or form. And yet God brought purpose to the confusion, and instituted harmony and light, all that the purpose of God might be revealed in His creation. It is signified "spiritually" as the Spirit of God moved upon the waters to work a new creation. And after all "His work" was completed, God blessed the Sabbath as His day of rest. And in this is revealed that Christ is His Day of Rest wherein our works are finished. The creation ordinance of the Sabbath was a law that looked forward to the Covenant Sabbath of rest that could only occur in Christ. That is how the children of Israel are truly sanctified. Therefore the LORD had blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.
- "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
- Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
- But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
- For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it."
The sign of the Sabbath was that Israel would remember that it was the Lord that made them Holy. That is why the sabbath was hallowed through Christ's broken body. Israel was not a Holy Nation of themselves, it is only in the faith of Christ that Israel is Holy. Likewise in Deuteronomy God says the Sabbath sign was given that they would remember God's work in bringing them "out of the bondage" of Egypt.
- "In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:"
Therefore, the Sabbath day was a Covenant sign that they would remember their deliverance by God. It is all related to the finished work of Christ on the cross, which the seventh day Sabbath Covenant prefigured. This is the true deliverance from spiritual bondage to sin. God's people are set free from the law of works in the Rest of Christ.
- "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."
But just as there are theologians today who don't want to give up the old Judaic beliefs in earthly kingdoms, ceremonies, governments, temples and many of other Old Testament types that pointed to Christ. So there are also those who don't want to give up the Old Testament seventh day Sabbath. They either don't understand signs, or are indoctrinated into believing that we should still be under bondage of Old Testament shadows. Nevertheless, Christ is our New Testament Sabbath of Rest, and observing an Old Testament Sabbath would be the same as going back to the Passover observance from the Communion observance. The Sunday Sabbath illustrates a move from the Old Covenant (representing law) to the New Covenant (representing Grace).
The Old Testament day has been changed, but the Sabbath is preserved unchanged in the New Testament day. For when Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead on Sunday, this became the New Covenant sign of the Sabbath. It is the day of our resurrection, the end of the new creation in Christ. The wicked destroyed the Temple and in three days Christ was risen unto Salvation, His 'work' being completed. He is Lord of our New Covenant Sabbath or rest, and this is His day.
- "In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away."
This is the origin of the term "the Lords day" used in reference to this Psalms chapter 118. On this day The Lord was risen and sent forth salvation and prosperity. In fact Peter referenced this verse in Acts when speaking of the end of the Old Covenant dispensation, and the beginning of the New.
- "I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation.
- The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
- This is the LORD'S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.
- This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
- Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity."
The day of Christ's resurrection...instituted a New Covenant, through a new creation. This is what the creation ordinance prefigured. It is resurrection Sunday, a day of great rejoicing for the rest wherein we are no longer under works. This day is the Lord in whom we are delivered from working in bondage. We rest from our labors in Him. When Christ rose on the New Testament Sabbath, He brought Grace and Peace from God the father, to replace works. That Old Covenant sign fulfilled, the kingdom come, Christ brought peace and prosperity to men. Sunday became our New Testament 'sign' just as God ended His work of creation (Genesis 2:2) and rested on Saturday in the beginning. Christ ended His work of a New Creation and we find rest in His resurrection on Sunday.
- "This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
- Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
These scriptures teach of the new Sabbath Rest from creation in Christ mirroring the Old Covenant Sabbath rest from works after creation. Christ is the beginning of the creation of God, the first born from the dead. The First Resurrection! In Him the old has past away and this is the beginning of a new day. i.e., the Sabbath or rest was created for man, not man for the Sabbath.
- "And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;"
2nd Corinthians 5:17
That word creature is [ktisis] meaning creation, and this mirrors God's rest on the Sabbath in the creation ordinance. Again, not merely by coincidence, but by divine fiat. We no longer are to rest on the Old Testament Sabbath sign, for that would effectively put us under the old Testament law. But we now rest on the New Testament Sabbath, illustrating our Sabbath (rest) from work is in Christ's resurrection, the sign being completed or fulfilled. We are under a new dispensation and a new era of eating of the sacrifice Lamb. And a new era of Covenant signs. And a new era of Sabbaths.
- "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
It was the end of the old testament Sabbaths, and the dawning of the new testament Sabbaths. In the 'translation' of your Bible it may read first day of the "week," but that is an unfortunate translation. That's why the word day is italicized in the KJV. It means the actual word day is not in God's Word. And the actual word there translated week is Sabbaths or [sabbaton]. You should note carefully that in that verse of Matthew 28:1, the two words (one translated 'week' and the other 'Sabbath'), are the exact same identical words. It is the plural of sabbath, [sabbaton]. i.e., in the first or beginning of Sabbaths. It may not have seemed correct to the translators to say, "in the end of the Sabbaths (plural), as it began to dawn towards the first of the Sabbaths (plural)," and they decided to translate it another way. But that is exactly what the original text says. And I might add, exactly what it means! When we understand that it was speaking of an end to the Old Testament era of Sabbaths, and the beginning (dawn) of a New Testament era of Sabbaths, it makes perfect sense. We can readily understand this mistranslation, though not condone it. Translating one instance of sabbaton "week," and the other identical sabbaton as "Sabbath" (singular) in the same context and tense, is incorrect. By the way, all scholars confirm that in the original Greek, both words are the identical plural word for "Sabbaths." Mistranslating this:
- "In the end of the Sabbaths, as it began to dawn towards the First of the Sabbaths, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the Sepulchre."
This is another example of commentary rather than translation. As stated, it's also very important to note the word "day" is not in the original text. Again, it was added by translators because they believed they should translate the word "Sabbaths," as "of the week" here. But there is nothing in the text itself which would justify the translating this plural Greek word [sabbaton] as "of the Sabbath" in one instance, and "of the week" in another instance in the very same sentence and structure.
- "In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre."
Unfortunately, translators make mistakes sometimes. For we all have feet of clay, thus we are all finite beings. But marvelously, God has preserved the Greek from which the translations were made so that we can check every translation and every new version of the Bible, that we may 'test' it's accuracy. We can test any translation with the Greek and Hebrew from which it is taken to make sure the translation is accurate and justified. So consider wisely what God is actually saying there. Because this is not 'incidental' language. God has inspired every single Word of Holy canon. As the old adage:
"God knows what He is doing, even when we do not!"
These verses actually say that, "at the end of the Sabbaths, as it began to dawn towards the FIRST of the Sabbaths.." And this explains why there would be a great earthquake and an angel ascending from heaven declaring to them that Christ has risen "precisely" at this time that God inspires written, "the end of the Sabbaths, as it dawns toward the FIRST of the Sabbaths." It's the beginning of a New era of Sabbaths. Ask yourself if God has ever used this particular language anywhere in the Bible? The answer is no! God had never said, "at the end of one weeks (plural) as it began to dawn towards the first of another weeks." Never! It doesn't make sense. Because never before had Christ been crucified, His new creation work finished, and the day signifying our rest, come in His resurrection. This truly was the 'dawn' or first of a New Sabbath DAY wherein our works have been completed. It is the sign of the institution of the New Testament day of rest. This is representing Christ entering His rest at His resurrection on Sunday, commonly known as the Lords day. It was the precisely why God says "at the end of the Sabbaths, as it began to dawn towards the first of the Sabbaths." Because one era of Sabbaths (7th day) representing the Old Testament law was ending, and another (8th day, Sunday) is the "FIRST," or the dawn of another era of Sabbaths representing the New Testament dispensation. But it's not a really new Sabbath, rather it is a "new sign" of the true Sabbath, which is Christ. So even though the Sabbath shifts from Saturday to Sunday in the New Testament, there is no essential change in it's meaning. The New Testament Sabbath is sign in remembrance of Christ's finished redemptive work, just as the Old Testament Sabbath was a sign looking forward to that redemptive work. In it we remember that it is the Lord who sanctifies or makes us holy. Our own works have nothing to do with it. Thus Sunday has the same meaning to God's people as Saturday did in the Old Covenant. And the exact same teaching about the New Sabbath is presented in the episode of Mary Magdalene, as she came to the sepulchre Sunday morning.
Once again we see the language of one Sabbath being past (Saturday), and they came to the tomb early in the morning of the FIRST of the Sabbaths (Sunday). Not the first day of the week as the translation may read. But the first of the Sabbaths. There is no word "day" in any manuscripts, and the word translated "of the week" is the exact same [sabbaton] construction translated of the sabbath, that we saw in Matthew chapter 28. In very plain language God is telling us that the old testament Sabbaths were "past," and with the resurrection of Christ, it was the start or the FIRST of the Sabbaths. What some theologians don't fully comprehend is that God has inspired to be written exactly what He wanted said. Every Word of God is deliberate, immutable, intentional, purposeful, and meaningful. And Sabbaths, being what is actually written here, is what is intended here.
- "And when the Sabbath was Past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had brought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint Him.
- and very early in the morning the first of the Sabbath, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.
Again, there is no word "day" and the word [sabbaton] there is the same word translated elsewhere, of the Sabbath. With the rising of Christ came the end of the law (works) for the elect, and this began the FIRST of the New Testament Sabbaths wherein they have their rest. And like all the Old Testament ceremonial laws, with it's fulfillment in Christ, it passed away in as far as observance in the Old Testament mode.
- "Now when Jesus was risen early the first of the Sabbaths, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils".
1st Chronicles 23:31
The Sabbaths are deliberately connected with the other ceremonial laws such as new moons, feast days, etc. This is done to illustrates the ceremonial nature of them. i.e., the are shadows pointing to a true or spiritual fulfillment.
- "And to offer all burnt sacrifices unto the LORD in the Sabbaths, in the new moons, and on the set feasts, by number, according to the order commanded unto them, continually before the LORD:"
God speaks here of his statutes, laws, judgements which man should keep faithfully. And in verse 12 God says His Sabbaths were a "sign" or a token that they would know that it was the Lord that made them Holy. It was a "sign" of Christ, who sanctifies them. And these things are made manifest in passages like Colossians.
- "Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness.
- And I gave them my statutes, and shewed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them.
- 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."
Here God tells us very plainly and "without ambiguity" that the old testament Sabbaths were a [skia] or shadow that prefigured a greater Sabbath that was to come, in the body of Christ. All those Old Testament laws that Moses instituted, like not eating unclean meats, the Holy days, the new moons, and the Sabbaths, were shadows looking forward to Christ, the true form. And right along with this list of ceremonial laws God puts the old testament Sabbaths, and says it was merely a 'sign' of things to come. And like all the other ceremonial signs, it would have it's substance, efficacy, and fulfillment in the body of Jesus Christ. We are not to be judged by any of these, as the law of keeping these is fulfilled in Christ. We would no more go back to observe the seventh day Sabbath today as we would go back to observing the Passover, the new moons, unclean meats, or of going to Jerusalem three times a year (Feast of Tabernacles, Passover, Weeks) to worship. Christ is that Sabbath of Rest that the children of God looked for, and He has come to give them that rest.
- "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an Holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath, which are a Shadow of things to come: but the body is of Christ!"
Our own labors are burdensome, but the work we receive from Christ is not burdensome, but light. Because Christ did all the labor for us, and we rest in Him. When we work six days and rest on the seventh (Sunday), we bear witness to the Sabbath cycle ordained by God. And yet there is a greater rest that is being prepared in heaven for those with Christ as their Sabbath. It is not observance of the seventh day Sabbath, but Christ alone who can give us this rest.
- "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
- Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
- For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
In other words, it is only in Christ, the Root of Jesse, that man will find his rest. This is the rest that we labor in Christ while in this world, to enter into. Although the works (labor) whereby we enter into that rest was finished before the foundation of the world, because it's efficacy was foreordained in Christ, and it's effectiveness reaches even back before the cross to save Old Covenant saints. Their actual work of accomplishment was also in Christ, and their faith established in His death and resurrection.
- "And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious."
1st Peter 1:20-21
Christ is why it was commanded that no work was to be done on the Sabbath day in the beginning. It was a sign of this Covenant relationship. It was to signify there is no work in the Sabbath. This is because man can only find His true rest in the coming Messiah. We would never be able to enter into rest by our own works, and anyone who attempts it will fall short. This is the example that the law illustrated. Like the man in the Old Testament who picked up sticks on the Sabbath, and was killed (Num. 15:32). God made an example of him as a sign signifying that he violated the Covenant. Through the faith of Christ we enter into rest, and work is antithetical to that grace. He who works will die, while He that rests in Christ will live.
- "Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
- Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God."
Working on the Sunday Sabbath is a sign that we think God is in debt to us, but he that doesn't work, is keeping the sign of the Covenant of Grace. In other words, a gospel of works means God "owes" you something for your good works. A gospel of grace is where God owes us nothing, because His was "unmerited" favor. We rest in His good works, not our own. And according to His divine schedule, this rest won't be "fully realized" until the end of the world when Christ comes again. But those who remain in unbelief shall never enter into that Sabbath of rest.
- "Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
- But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."
It was unbelief that kept them out of the true Sabbath Rest, and that Sabbath in view was Christ. Those old testament people did not become saved wherein they would have (by faith) been in Christ and able) to enter in. It was because of unbelief that man is unable to enter in. Hebrews chapter four is indicative of this.
- "So I Sware in My wrath, they shall not enter into my Rest."
This is as clear as can be. The seventh day Sabbath looked forward to Christ, the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world that our works are ended. For by Grace we are saved, through the works that Christ has done. He is the fulfillment of that Sabbath of rest. Old Testament saints before the cross could be saved because the works were finished from the foundation of the world. In other words, the 'efficacy' of Christ's death and resurrection was upon them, as well as those who come along after the cross. In fact the Old Testament circumcision was on the eighth day to illustrate the true cutting off of sin through the shedding of blood, was in Christ's resurrection.
- "For we which have believed do enter into rest, as He said, as I have sworn in My wrath, if they shall enter into My rest: although the Works were finished from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8).
- for He spake in a certain place on the SEVENTH day on this wise, And God did Rest the seventh day from all His works.
- "And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before He was conceived in the womb."
The circumcision on the eighth day was to signify that the shedding of blood in the "true" cutting off of the sins of the flesh, would be in the death and resurrection of Christ. i.e., circumcision of the heart in our Sabbath of Rest, on the eighth day.
- "And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs."
In the end of the 7th day Sabbaths (Saturday) in the beginning of the 8th day Sabbaths (Sunday) when Christ was resurrected, it signified New Testament Sabbath wherein our sins are cut off in the risen body of Christ. He is our consummation of the Rest where we are laboring to enter into. And when we leave this tabernacle of flesh, we will truly cease from our labors. But in the real sense, the works we do are the works Christ finished from the foundation of the world. As God declares, He worketh within us both to will and to do (1st Corinthians 15:10) of His good pleasure. And so because of His work in us, we labour to bring the gospel of salvation that many might enter into that realized Sabbath of rest, at Christ's coming.
- "In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
- Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead."
Here we see God using rest and labour as correlates, the one supposing the other. While the people of God are here on this earth, they have a job to do. And that job is the call to Christian service in laboring in bringing forth the gospel to the world. So in this sense we rest in Christ as we sojourn in this world. Thus we overcome, or prevail over all in Christ. The adversary cannot destroy our works in Christ, and we need not labor in fear of adversity or tribulation. For when we have rest in Christ, we can abide quiet under all trials and persecutions, knowing that our eternal end is secure.
- "There remaineth therefore a Rest to the people of God.
- for he that is entered into his Rest, he also hath ceased from his own work, as God did His.
- Let us labour therefore to enter into that Rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief."
True rest from the day of adversity can only come in the rest of Christ. It is a rest wherein we will never be conquered by the wicked, or come into condemnation because of our sins. We are laboring in this world to enter into the ultimate rest, which was explained in Hebrews chapter four. In Christ rising from the dead, He fulfilled the obligations of work and brought us this rest, and at His coming again is the consummation of this rest. So though He has purchased the rest we have in Christ now, we also will receive the purchased possession at the end of the world. Therefore, there still remains a rest for the children of God. So with respect to the Church in the world we labor under persecution against sin until we rest in heaven. But with respect of the Spirit we have entered into rest in Christ, in his love, favor, and grace. Our labour illustrates our rest spiritually, and our rest illustrates our labor evidentially. The example of unbelief that we saw in national Israel that they were not able to enter into the promised land, was evidence of a lack of spiritual rest in the Lord. Keeping the seventh day sabbath as a ceremony or law didn't save a single person of them. They may have ceased from work physically on the Old Testament Sabbath, but the law still spoke against them, as they were unable to keep the whole law. They didn't understand that our true Sabbath comes because of Christ's works.
- "That thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit be digged for the wicked.
- For the LORD will not cast off his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance."
Christ was God, and the work that He did was God's work, which was lawful for the high Priest to do. And Christ is the ultimate high Priest, because being God, He was Lord of the Sabbath. He had authority over it, not vice-versa.
- "And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.
- But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.
- Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God."
The shewbread was a type of Christ, who is the bread and nourishment of the Christian, and the ultimate high Priest. Thus the work of Christ on the Sabbath as High Priest, was both lawful and righteous. And Christians, as kings and priests unto God, by faith feed upon this bread of the High Priest by Christ's propitiation and work. This scene illustrated that He was Lord, the one with rule and authority over the Sabbath or rest of God's people. For by His sacrifice are we made Priests, blameless before God. Israel didn't know that Christ was the ruler of the Sabbath in that He was the "authority" over it. He was the greater Sabbath than the figure, which merely pointed to His rest.
- "How he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone?
- And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath."
As Lord and authority over the Sabbath, Christ has every right to define the manner of its ultimate observance to the benefit of man. Indeed, concerning this principle the book of Mark adds:
- "How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?
- Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?
- But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.
- But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.
- For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day."
In other words, the true nature of the Sabbath day was for the welfare and benefit of man, not so that man would benefit the Sabbath. The Sabbath wasn't created first, and then man. Man was created, and then the Sabbath of rest was instituted as the sign of the Covenant. The law of the Sabbath looked forward to Christ, man's ultimate rest. It was always divinely designed and intended for the welfare, prosperity and relief of man. We go through a cycle of work and rest because God did so symbolizing our labors in this world on our way to enter into that "realized" ultimate Rest in the Kingdom. It is the consummation of the inheritance that we have ALREADY received in Christ. Thus, there still remains a rest for Christians, and whoever has Christ will find rest from his work, just as God rested from His. Let us then (as scripture prompts), labour to enter into that rest, so that not one of us will fail as they (the Israelites under Moses) did because of their lack of faith (Hebrews 4:9-11). ALL "true" Christians are given the gift of eternal life, and both have, and will enter into the rest of God.
- "And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:
- Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath."
We can pretty much conclude that in this world, we will always have groups who will want to judge men concerning the seventh day Sabbath (contrary to the Bible). When presented with the pertinent scriptures, they inevitably say things like, "..yes, but God commanded the Sabbath to be observed forever," or they'll retort that "..this was one of the ten commandments of God." But what they fail to understand is that all of the Bible (not just the 10 commandments) are the commandments of God, and we indeed (truly) do observe them forever. But we keep and observe them in Christ, not in legalism or Old Testament rituals and ceremonies. So those who say we are only keeping 9 commandments of the Decalogue and ignoring the Sabbath commandment, do not really understand that we can only keep all the commandments in Christ. Because if we should look upon a woman to lust after her, even for an instant, we have violated one of those 10 commandments. If we have an instant or mili-second where we have hated our brother without a cause, we have broken one of those 10 commandments. But we need not worry, "because" man can keep all the commandments perfectly, only in Christ. Contrary to popular belief, we keep both the moral and the ceremonial law "perfectly" in Christ. Because all our righteousness is as filthy rags without His rest. We keep the Sabbath sign perfectly and faithfully in Christ only. Not in ceremonial observance.
- "For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation.
- This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it."
The fact is, the 10 commandments are merely a synopsis or summary of all of God's laws, and they truly encapsulate all sin. For all sin is summed up in those ten commandments. From the sin of Adam to the sin that all of man knows intuitively or instinctively, it is summed up in those commandments. Because we were all created in the likeness of God that His laws are laid upon our hearts, that we have no excuse for our sin.
These laws, though clouded by our will, pride, and lusts of the flesh, are present with us and every man knows them intuitively from the beginning. This is why man is accountable for his sins even if he had never read a Bible. Because God's laws are known of him. Thus we keep all the commandments when we know Christ. And the fourth commandment is no exception. For He is our Covenant Sabbath of rest, the day whereof this commandment speaks. It is the Lord's Day, wherein God's people would rest from their labors. The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath, for Christ is Lord also of the Sabbath. Every institution (including the Sabbath) is brought under His lordship. It is the charitable design of the Sabbath, in that it was made for man, not man for it. In that statement, inherently there is reference to what man's very nature is, as well as his greatest need. Which is, a Sabbath of rest wherein his works are ended.
- "For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:"
The disciples were plucking and eating the ears of corn on the Sabbath day as an illustration that it is not in days, but in Christ that they have their rest. That is why Jesus gave the illustration of the Old Testament Priest who ate and gave to those who were with him. Because it was a 'type' of Christ, the Priest to whom it was lawful to eat, and why those with Him could eat also. Christ demonstrated by appeal to the Old Covenant itself (Matt. 12:4-5; Mark 2:25-26) that His disciples were no more in violation of the Old Covenant Sabbath law than these stalwarts of scripture were. For Christ was the Lord who made the Sabbath for man, not man for the Sabbath.
2nd Corinthians 4:15
God didn't create the Sabbath day just so it could be Glorified, but that through it we would realize Christ is our Sabbath that should be Glorified. That we would realize that it was for our sakes that the Sabbath was instituted, and it is only in Christ that our works are ended. Because He is the fulfillment of the Sabbath. Just as His miraculous works of healing on the sabbath signified He was Lord.
- "For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God."
It is for man that God made the Sabbath of rest, not for the Sabbath. Circumcision was but a 'type' of the shed blood of Christ, which would cut off our sins, and give us this true rest (Sabbath) from our works. Should then Christ not work on the Sabbath if Circumcision is done?
- "Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel.
- Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the Sabbath day circumcise a man.
- If a man on the Sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the Sabbath day?"
Sunday is truly a day of prayer and worship. It is our duty by Christ's institution of this day of the Lord's resurrection, to set this day apart for a special day of worship, rejuvenation, and seeking grace and blessing. The rationale for the Lord's day being the New Covenant Christian Sabbath is both Biblically grounded and logically established. For it is an inescapable Biblical reality that the resurrection illustrates the sacredness of the eighth day Sunday, in likeness as the deliverance from Egypt's bondage accorded its sanction to the Sabbath institution of the old covenant.
Many of the proponents of keeping a seventh day Sabbath lean upon it being called an everlasting law. Curiously enough, if you ask these people if they still keep the Old Testament Passover, they will usually say, "of course not." They arbitrarily and inconsistently seek to keep the Old Testament Sabbath. However, God also commanded the Passover to be a statute kept forever (Exodus 12:14). So why aren't they applying the same standard of keeping that Old Testament law that was required forever? Why aren't they hitting the posts of their house with the blood of a lamb? Do they keep the Candlesticks burning forever in the Temple? Because God commanded those to be statutes kept forever also (Exodus 27:20-21). Do they keep the law of circumcision still? Because God commanded that be a law kept forever also (Leviticus 6:18). Or how about the feast of Tabernacles? Because God commanded that this feast be a statute kept forever also. Do they go to Jerusalem three times a year? Because that was a command of God to be kept forever also. Inconsistency is the hallmark of error.
Of course, they don't keep any of these everlasting laws ceremonially. And the reason is that they accept (and understand intellectually) that these laws were all fulfilled in Christ. He is our Passover Lamb whose blood keeps death away from our door. He is the light of the candlestick that burns in the Temple forever. He is the one who has cut off our sin by circumcising our heart. He is the one who has brought us out of the spiritual bondage of Egypt, and in whom we keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And likewise, He is our Sabbath of rest in whom we enter into by His finished work (by Grace we are saved). Yes, they all are statutes kept forever, and true believers keep every last one of them in Christ. Not as they did on the Old Covenant with Israel (a shadow of the real), but by the New Covenant/Testament observances. The nation of Israel seeks to keep the Old Covenant Passover, feasts and Sabbaths, but in the New Covenant we worship God in Spirit and truth, not in meats and drinks.
The saints began keeping the New Testament Sabbaths "after the cross" by immediately beginning to gather together to break bread and fellowshipping on Sunday. The Old Testament Sabbaths had ended, and the Lord's Day was the beginning of the New Testament Sabbaths. Again, God's Word isn't simply incidental, or by mere chance, it is divinely inspired and God breathed. The fact is, no denominations, Constantine, or anyone else changed the Sabbath, Christians began meeting on Sundays from the very earliest record of history, both secular and Biblical. Surely the Apostles and early Church didn't start assembling on Sunday just because of whim. This was the divinely inspired passing of the old practices, and the institution of the new dispensation for the Church.
There was no word "day" in the original text, and the word translated "of the week" is again [sabbaton]. This reads, upon the first of the Sabbaths. It was Sunday, the day of assembling for the disciples. Paul stayed seven days with them so that he could be there on Sunday for Church services as the disciples assembled or congregated together. He wanted to have communion in breaking bread with them, and that was when he preached the gospel to them. It's not surprising that they would begin to meet on the New Testament Sabbath instead of the Old. Even though for a time Paul went to the Synagogues on the seventh day Sabbath to argue out of the scriptures for Christ in an attempt to persuade "the Jews" who worshipped on that day, the Church assembled to worship on Sunday. This was the day they congregated. When the Jewish Sabbath day is mentioned after the cross, it is always mentioned (during that transitional period) in connection with the "Jewish people" and their worship in the Temple or Synagogues. The only other places the word Sabbath is mentioned is in Colossians 2:16-17 where God instructs that no man judge in respect of the Sabbath days. We are free from the law (Romans 6:14, 15; 7:4; 10:4). And the word that is translated 'rest' in Hebrews 4:9, is [sabbatismos], meaning 'keeping of a Sabbath.' The Sabbath rest spoken of in this chapter is the rest of the faith in Christ (v. 3, 4, 9, 10), and the realized end in eternal glory (v. 11). So we see that the Old Covenant Sabbath sign is no longer a New Covenant observance. The Sabbath or rest cycle continues to be observed, but in the New Covenant sign of Sunday, which was the dawn of a new Sabbath in Christ. And the Church early on began to recognize this day as the day of congregation or assembling together to make oblation and to worship, instead of Saturday.
- "And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days.
- And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight."
1st Corinthians 16:1-2
Your translation may say first "day" of the week, but it is literally Sabbaths or [sabbaton]. And even from those who reject this should be translated sabbath, there is "no debate" that this certainly refers to Sunday. Everything in scripture points to the resurrection of Christ on Sunday, as this is written literally as the first of the Sabbaths. He was risen Lord of the Sabbath, His work having been finished, that man might be able to enter into His rest. The Apostle Paul began requesting the collection offering for the Church on this day because it was the usual day that believers gathered together (Churched). So this is not just some new Church tradition as has been hypothesized, it is the history of the earliest Church as God breathed and recorded in scripture. The Roman catholics didn't change the Saturday Sabbath to Sunday. This practice had gone on since the beginning of the Church, and this is evident even by secular records and writers who described ancient worship (as Justin Martyr) on Sunday. And sio the history of the Church on this matter is clear.
- "Now concerning the collection for the Saints, as I have given order to the Churches of Galatia, even so do ye.
- upon the first of the Sabbaths, let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gathering when I come."
Those who insist on keeping an Old Testament seventh day Sabbath believe that they are faithfully following God's Word, very literally. But is that really the truth? For if they are correct about Old Covenant law, then their own words must testify against their faithfulness. Because obviously they are "not really" faithfully following the Sabbath law. If they were, then they should also demand that all of the Sabbath breakers today be executed, as per God's law (which they claim to be keeping). If they are following the law, they should call for the execute of "most" of the Christian Church for breaking the Sabbath.
- "Six days may work be done, but in the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, Holy unto the Lord: Whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath day, He shall surely be put to Death,"
The law is commanded to be kept forever as they rightly declare. And the very same law that requires the observance of the seventh day Sabbath, also requires (surely) the death of "whosoever" violates this Sabbath. And God makes it clear there that it is a statute forever. So if these people want to live under the Old Covenant Sabbatical law, then they must be willing to also insist on putting to death "anyone" of the Church who would break the seventh day Sabbath and work on Saturday. This is what that law of God requires in order for them to be keeping it faithfully. Is there anyone claiming to be faithfully keeping the Sabbatical law today who keeps this Sabbath faithfully as God instructed there? Of course not. Not even the strictest seventh day advocate observes such a literal Sabbath day. The plain truth is, the only ones observing a Sabbath in "strict" relation to this "everlasting law" is those who understand that we keep the Sabbath in the body of Christ. Violators of not keeping "this Sabbath" in Christ shall indeed be put to death. ..at the Last Day! For all those not in Christ, are those 'Sabbath breakers' who have the sentence of death hanging over their heads. They are Covenant breakers who will have that judgement carried out. Those who are not under Grace are those who work on the Sabbath, and thus have no Rest. They will have to stand before the judge and give account. These things are spiritually discerned. The Holy Spirit of God brings the understanding of them to light, through the careful study of His Word. Let us not try to "keep the law" as Israel did, because like Israel, we will always fall short.
- It is a Sign between Me and the children of Israel forever:.."
In conclusion, Sunday should be a day reserved for service to God. It is not a day for our own indulgences, it is a day for the glory and worship of our Creator. A day when all our attention and focus should be on ministering, praying, and singing. A day of remembrance that it is He who brought us out of bondage and by no work of our own. But I'm sorry to say, many professing Christians today do not understands the Biblical character of the Sunday Sabbath. They no longer consider it a day to be kept Holy. They have no understanding of why the sign was instituted in the first place, and thus why we should continue to observe it. It is a sign of the covenant, which we should remember on the Lord's day.
- "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy."
Who changed the Sabbath to Sunday? If it was the Roman catholics as charged, that might explain why Catholics or maybe even Protestants worship on Sunday, but it would not explain why Orthodox Christians worship on Sunday. It would not explain why Armenian, Syriac, or Coptic Christians worship on Sunday. These people had very little contact with Roman catholicism until modern times. And it most certainly would not explain how it's recorded in the scriptures themselves how the Church began to congregate, give oblation, and worship on Sunday.
- "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."
So who changed the Sabbath Saturday to Sunday? It was the Lord Jesus Christ, who is Lord of the Sabbath. For the scriptures teach that the true Sabbitical Law is not in worshipping on any holy day, but was a pattern, a type signifying the rest in Christ, the day in which the Lord has made. Thus the Old covenant sign was abolished and the New Covenant sign of the fulfillment of His rest instituted. The New Testament Sabbath Day is Sunday.
May the Lord who is Gracious above all grant us the wisdom to discern His truth, and to understand that He is our real Lord of Sabbath. May many be granted the knowledge that the Old Testament ceremonial laws were just a shadow, painting a outline of the true Glory that was coming. By the Spirit of God alone man can come to comprehend that he should no more observe the seventh day Sabbath, than he would observe the Passover, or go to the Middle Eastern city of Jerusalem three times a year to worship. We must worship Him in Spirit and truth. And we worship Him on Sunday, the New Covenant/Testament observance of the Sabbath or rest cycle. We do this not to keep the law (we can't), but in respect, remembrance and recognition of the finished "work" that Christ accomplished for us. Let our souls rest in this Day that we get a glimpse of the rest that remains for us, in eternity.
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Copyright ©1996 Tony Warren
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