The Sabbath was established at the end of the creation week—the seventh day—after God created the heavens, the earth, and the first humans. He “blessed the seventh day and made it holy” because He rested from all His work (Genesis 2:2-3, ESV).
We find the Sabbath referenced again in Exodus 20, when God writes the Ten Commandments. He asks us to remember this sacred day to keep it holy, ceasing from the work of the week and reflecting on what He has done for us.
To fully understand the meaning and significance of the Sabbath, let’s learn more about:
- What is the Sabbath and where it came from
- Why God made the Sabbath
- The Sabbath as the Fourth Commandment
- On what day to celebrate the Sabbath
- The Sabbath’s significance in the formation of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination
Belief 20: The Sabbath
The gracious Creator, after the six days of Creation, rested on the seventh day and instituted the Sabbath for all people as a memorial of Creation. The fourth commandment of God’s unchangeable law requires the observance of this seventh-day Sabbath as the day of rest, worship, and ministry in harmony with the teaching and practice of Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a day of delightful communion with God and one another. It is a symbol of our redemption in Christ, a sign of our sanctification, a token of our allegiance, and a foretaste of our eternal future in God’s kingdom. The Sabbath is God’s perpetual sign of His eternal covenant between Him and His people. Joyful observance of this holy time from evening to evening, sunset to sunset, is a celebration of God’s creative and redemptive acts. (Gen. 2:1-3; Exod. 20:8-11; 31:13-17; Lev. 23:32; Deut. 5:12-15; Isa. 56:5, 6; 58:13, 14; Ezek. 20:12, 20; Matt. 12:1-12; Mark 1:32; Luke 4:16; Heb. 4:1-11.)
What is the Sabbath?
The Sabbath is a day of rest, reflection, enjoyment and worship for God’s people. It dates back to the seventh day of the creation week, when God stopped His work and took time to rest and savor it.
In six days He created the world we live in (Genesis 1:1-26). From the blue sky to the fluffy white clouds to the food we eat…He created this world with each of us in mind.
It was on the sixth day of creation that God formed man and woman in His own image.
“Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7, ESV).
Then God looked around at all He had made and saw that it was “very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day” (Genesis 1:31, ESV).
He had made everything necessary for humans to live and thrive here on this earth. But He wasn’t quite finished with the whole creation process.
On the seventh day God created the Sabbath. His last act of creation was to sanctify this day and make it holy. Then He rested.
“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:1-3, ESV).
Why did God rest on the Sabbath?
While the Bible tells us God “rested” on the Sabbath day, it doesn’t say that He rested because He was tired. (God does not “faint or grow weary”, as Isaiah 40:28, ESV tells us.) He rested to look over what He created and enjoy it.
Let’s look at the root word for Sabbath. The word “sabbath” comes from the Hebrew word shabbat, which means “to cease” or stop.
Even in our human lives, it’s not uncommon to stop and take a day off after a large project or a great accomplishment. Yes, we do get tired, unlike God. But after finishing something meaningful and beautiful, we don’t stop afterward just to rest. We stop to reflect upon and enjoy what was just accomplished!
On the Sabbath day, we rest to celebrate God’s accomplishment of creating the world, and creating humanity to live in it and take care of it. We pause to take notice, learn more, and express gratitude to our Creator.
When God rested on the seventh day, He set for us an example. He gave the weekly Sabbath as a day of rest and worship for all of mankind. The Sabbath is a memorial, a day when we remember God’s creative power.
He alone is worthy of our worship, as beautifully described by Ellen White, one of the founders of the Adventist Church:
“Because He had rested upon the Sabbath, ‘God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it,”’—set it apart to a holy use. He gave it to Adam as a day of rest. It was a memorial of the work of creation, and thus a sign of God’s power and His love.”
God Wants Us to Rest as Part of the Remembrance
Similar to memorial type holidays, the Sabbath is a day we can rest in remembrance of God. Just like we get a day off from work on memorial type holidays to remember a person or commemorate an event, the Sabbath is a day we can rest and remember. It’s a day to pause from our work, reflect, and rejuvenate.
When we rest we put aside the cares of the world and it allows us to focus on our relationship with Him. Just like any meaningful relationship, it’s important to spend time together, talk together, and get to know one another.
Sabbath rest gives us the perfect opportunity to connect with God.
Trusting God with our time also demonstrates our total dependence on God to provide for our needs.
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, ESV).
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6, 7, ESV).
Keeping the Sabbath allows us to rest our physical bodies. God didn’t need to rest, but He knows human beings do. It’s important for our mental and physical health to take time to rest and refresh. Studies have shown that people who take time to rest from their labors are healthier and more productive.
“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places” (Leviticus 23:3, ESV).
“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul” (Psalm 23:2,3a, ESV).
The Sabbath is part of the 10 Commandments
God gave Moses the Ten Commandments after the Exodus when the Israelites were freed from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. They fled into the wilderness for 40 years. During that time, God wrote the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone with His finger.
The fourth commandment reminded the people to keep the Sabbath day holy. You can read all of the commandments in Exodus 20 and in Deuteronomy 5.
God didn’t give us these commandments because He wanted us to follow a bunch of hard rules. He gave us the Ten Commandments for our own good, that we may live peacefully. He wants us to live practical and enjoyable lives, maintaining uplifting relationships with one another and with Him.
The Sabbath was made for mankind for our own good. God wants you to experience thankfulness and joy on the Sabbath day! Observing the Sabbath can be something we look forward to each week.
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3, ESV).
God wanted to show us how important the Sabbath was to Him and how important it is for our own well being. The least we can do is take one day a week off from work and secular activities to focus on our Creator and the world He created for us.
The Bible tells us that the Sabbath isn’t just any day off. We are asked to refrain from pursuing our own business or our own interests and instead look toward the joys we can find in God and the world He created for us.
When we call the Sabbath “a delight,” He will make us ride on the heights of the earth! He will bless us when we keep the Sabbath holy.
“If you call the Sabbath a delight, and the holy day of the LORD honorable… then you will delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride over the heights of the land…” (Isaiah 58:13,14, CSB).
What day is the Sabbath?
If we follow exactly what the Bible specifies several times, the Sabbath is the 7th day of the week.
It started when God sanctified the seventh day in Genesis 2, after He finished creating the world. Later, God’s Word confirms the Saturday Sabbath in Exodus 16, even before the Ten Commandments were written.
When the Israelites were gathering food, God commanded them to gather for six days, “but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none” (Exodus 16:26, CSB).
When discussing the Sabbath, the Bible never assigns any other day to this title. Nowhere in the Bible does it say the Sabbath day was changed.
While there are many Christian denominations that decided to make Sunday, the “Lord’s Day” (honoring Christ’s resurrection), the weekly time to go to church and spend time with family, there was no command in Scripture to do as such.
Keeping the Sabbath is the 4th commandment found in God’s eternal moral law. This change of the Sabbath was foretold in the Bible by the prophet Daniel.
“He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law…” Daniel 7:25
When Jesus lived here on earth He kept the seventh day Sabbath. However, just a few hundred years after His death and resurrection, early Christians began keeping Sunday as their day of worship just as Daniel foretold.
The change of the Sabbath as the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday happened in the year 321 A.D. The Roman Emperor Constantine issued a decree that all Christians were to begin observing Sunday as a day of rest.
In the verse above, Daniel was saying there would be a kingdom who would try to change God’s law. But God’s law is eternal. And the Sabbath was made for all mankind for all eternity.
“And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27 ESV
Anyone can keep Sabbath by refraining from work and focusing on God. That also makes it a fitting time to go to church. We find in the Bible that Jesus typically went to the synagogue on Sabbath.
“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read” (Luke 4:16, ESV).
“And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished…” (Mark 6:2, ESV).
The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, according to the Bible. We can follow Jesus’ example by refraining from our regular daily work to focus on Him and His creation.
The Sabbath and the Adventist church
In the 1800’s there was a religious revival among protestant Christians. This movement was led by a group of Baptist and Methodist ministers. They proclaimed the soon coming of Jesus and the message quickly spread through their congregations.
These Christians believed Jesus would return in 1844 and when that did not happen they were greatly saddened. This left them searching their Bibles for answers. They began to study the Bible for themselves instead of leaving all interpretation to the clergy,
These Advent Movement Christians noticed the emphasis on the seventh-day Sabbath in the Bible. They had a desire to keep all of God’s commandments.
These Christians decided they would begin to keep the biblical Sabbath even though most churches worshipped on Sunday. Keeping the 4th commandment became a distinctive part of their worship.
The name of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church was chosen because of their belief in keeping the seventh day, as well as their belief in the literal second coming of Christ.
As Sabbath keepers today, we can make the most of this the sacred day of rest each week with our family, friends, and other believers by:
- worshiping in church
- rejuvenating our souls through quiet reflection
- Finding refreshment through time spent in nature
- Deepening our relationship with Christ through Bible study
- Strengthening our relationships through time spent with family and friends
- Resting our weary bodies
The Sabbath is cherished by Adventist Christians around the world. Adventists believe the Sabbath is a blessing for every created person, and it reminds us that we each have a powerful Creator and a loving Savior.