When I was in the Worldwide Church of God, I kept the Sabbath because it was commanded by God, and I felt like it was a family day that should be spent with God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son. I found myself wanting to say more positive things about the Sabbath day, but I couldn’t seem to explain it any further. When I left the membership of the Worldwide Church of God (although I kept the faith), I had friends try to convince me that you don’t have to keep the Sabbath at all. They would tell me that the Sabbath is not commanded because there is no specific “holy” time. They would also argue that the Sabbath day did not “fit” with the other nine commandments because it was not a moral law.
The following is some new information that I have come to understand about the Sabbath. My first understanding regards the word “rest” in Hebrews 3:11; 3:18; 4:1–3, 8, 10. These verses have the same word “rest” eight different times, which is defined in Strong’s Greek Dictionary as “a place of rest” (#2663 and #2664). However, in Hebrews 4:9 there is another and different word “rest”. Here the word “rest” is defined as “a Sabbath day rest” (#4520 and #4521). The verse reads, “there remains therefore a rest for the people of God”. I believe the true rendition of this verse is, “there remains therefore a Sabbath day rest for the people of God”. This distinction shows there is still a keeping of a Sabbath day for God’s people today.
For 27 years I felt the Sabbath had a richer and deeper meaning, but God had not yet revealed its full meaning to me until now. I did a further Bible study about the words “place of rest” and “Sabbath day rest”, and I discovered the true purpose of the Sabbath day. The words “rest” in Hebrews 3 and 4 mean a rest from sin through Jesus Christ in us, empowering us to stop sinning. As we physically keep the Sabbath day and as we allow Christ to dwell in us, we are resting from sin. Christ told his disciples in Matt 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”. King David wrote, “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him… and He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light… Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him” (Ps 37:5–7).
Just as the seven annual Feast Days are a shadow of God’s plan for salvation of mankind, the Sabbath day is a shadow of Christ living in us and giving us rest from sin. We keep the weekly Sabbath because we need a weekly reminder that Christ gives us rest from sin. When we rest on the Sabbath day from our physical works, we picture a rest in Jesus Christ from the works of the law. As we come to this new understanding, we rejoice in keeping the Sabbath because it means keeping the spirit of the Sabbath law and resting spiritually from the works of the law through Christ’s grace. “It shall come to pass in the day the Lord gives you rest from your sorrow, and from your fear and the hard bondage (bondage of sin) in which you were made to serve…” (Isa 14:3) God is more interested in our spiritual condition than our physical condition. God even mentions that if your hand or your eye causes you to sin, you are to remove them. Therefore, keeping the Sabbath day is much more than a physical rest, it is God’s command and desire that we rest spiritually from sin.
The Sabbath day is our work of faith (“faith without works is dead”, James 2:20) pointing to Christ in us and giving us this rest. In Heb 3 and 4, the Israelites did not go into the place of rest because they did not have the needed faith. We also need the faith of Christ so we can enter into His spiritual place of rest. God promises rest to those who are faithful, “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.’” (Rev 14:12–13). Resting from our labors is Christ giving us rest from sin, and the works are the fruits of God’s spirit. The Sabbath day was part of the physical law of the Old Covenant, but today we are in the New Covenant and under the “spirit of the law” (Christ’s laws are written in our hearts). This means that keeping the Sabbath day pictures Christ enabling us to keep the spiritual law of God.
In Heb 4:8, the Bible states, “For if Joshua had given them rest, then He (Jesus Christ) would not afterward have spoken of another day”. This means that when Joshua delivered the people to the promised land for physical rest, God still reserved for Himself another day for spiritual rest. What is this other day of rest? I believe Christ is this spiritual day of rest and that the Sabbath day pictures this. In Isa 11:10, the Bible states, “In that day there shall be a root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people, for the gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious”. The rest from sin that Jesus gives us is truly glorious. This verse describes the promised millenium found in Isa 11:1–10 and Rev 4:20. This 1,000 year millenium rest pictures a “day of rest” in Jesus Christ. Likewise, the Sabbath day pictures the 1,000 year millenium rest (2Pet 3:8, “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years”) when Christ offers spiritual and physical rest to the entire world. “For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, in returning and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (Isa 30:15). In Isaiah, God is offering rest in Christ and salvation to those who turn from their sins.
Although all the commandments are important and linked together, I would think the Sabbath day is the greatest because without the Sabbath day (which pictures Christ in us) you would not be able to keep the other Nine. When we rest on the Sabbath day, we are acting out Jesus Christ living in us and empowering us to keep all of God’s commands. The Sabbath day is our physical rest picturing Christ giving us spiritual rest from sin. Therefore, the Sabbath day is a shadow (Col. 2:16–17) that reveals the whole entire salvation of Jesus Christ. It portrays God the Father sending Christ to save us from sin, it is about grace, it is about faith, it is about salvation through Jesus Christ, it is about the whole gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Sabbath is a far greater, powerful, and inspiring commandment than I ever realized. The Sabbath pictures Christ living in us and giving us “rest” from our sins! In conclusion, let all of us give God thanks and praise for this wonderful and exciting understanding!
(For more information about which day God commands as His Sabbath day, read the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1–17.)