What the Bible Says About Sabbath—Then, Now, and Beyond
Many people have lots of questions about the Sabbath in the Bible. If that’s you, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s look at the Sabbath throughout the Bible and end times.
Why was the Sabbath Created?
First, why was the Sabbath created in the beginning?
To answer that question, we need to go all the way back in time to the very beginning. The Bible says:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth.” Genesis 1:1
In fact, He thought of everything. Over the course of six days the world was created.
- First day: God made light.
- Second day: God made the firmament and the atmosphere.
- Third day: God made the dry ground and plants.
- Fourth day: God made the sun, moon, and stars.
- Fifth day: God made the birds and sea animals.
- Sixth day: God made the land animals and humans.
God’s creation was perfect!
“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” Genesis 1:31
In six days, God created everything around you. But He wasn’t quite done creating. In fact, He had one more good gift in mind.
Sabbath is God’s Gift to Us
Every other act of creation was a gift of space: the things we find in our physical world. But on the seventh day he created a gift of time. He created the Sabbath.
“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
If we look at the original Hebrew translation, we find the word rest means “Shabbat” or Sabbath. The word Sabbath means to cease or stop. So basically, God stopped His work of creation and rested.
But that’s not all He did. Look at Genesis 2:3 again.
“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 2:3
God blessed the seventh day! He made it holy. He set it apart. The Sabbath day was to be different from the other days of the week.
The Webster 1828 dictionary1 defines the word holy as:
hallowed; consecrated or set apart to a sacred use, or to the service or worship of God
The very first Sabbath was celebrated in the Garden of Eden with the very first humans. Adam and Eve were the pinnacle of God’s creation. Just like a good parent enjoys spending time with his children, God delighted in time spent with Adam and Eve.
Later, in the book of Exodus, God reminded His people to keep the Sabbath day. Let’s look at how the children of Israel observed the Sabbath.
How the Sabbath Was Observed in the Old Testament
God performed many miracles to rescue the Israelites from under the terrible rule of Pharaoh. They had spent generations in the bondage of slavery.
These miracles included:
- The Ten Plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7 through Exodus 11)
- Parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-29)
- A Pillar of Cloud and Fire (Exodus 13:21-22 and Exodus 14:19)
God was so faithful to bring them out of the land where they were oppressed! He showed them time and time again that He would take care of them.
Following God’s direction, Moses led the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt. They found themselves in the wilderness. Despite the many miracles they had already witnessed, the Jewish people began to doubt God’s provision.
It might be hard to believe they could be so discouraged after everything they had witnessed. Unfortunately, people tend to doubt God when they feel scared or discouraged.
That’s exactly how they were feeling when God reminded them of the gift of rest. You see, they were hungry. They were discouraged. They were tired.
Have you felt this way recently?
Instead of trusting God they grumbled and complained. In fact, they wanted to go back to Egypt!
Can you imagine?!
“And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.” Exodus 16:2
But God had mercy on them once again. He not only provided food to ease their hunger – He provided them rest.
How God prepared the Israelites for the Sabbath
Each morning manna rained down from heaven. It covered the ground like the dew. As the sun grew hot, whatever had not been gathered would melt away.
God gave the Israelites specific instructions on how, and when, to gather the manna. Each day they were to collect just enough so everyone had their fill, and no one was hungry. If they gathered more than they could eat in one day, it would spoil overnight and be filled with worms.
But on the sixth day they were to gather twice as much manna – enough to eat on the sixth day and the seventh day, which God said was the Sabbath. Miraculously on the seventh day the manna they gathered the day before would remain fresh!
Gathering their daily bread was a lot of work. That’s why God told them to gather twice as much manna on the sixth day so they could fully rest on the Sabbath day of the Lord.
“‘The Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day. ‘So the people rested on the seventh day.” Exodus 16:29
The Jewish people began keeping the Sabbath holy each week. Later, Moses received the Ten Commandments on top of Mount Sinai, written on tablets of stone by God’s own finger!
The fourth commandment says:
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 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. 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.” Exodus 20:8-11 NKJV
In the Sabbath commandment, God reminded the people of Israel the seventh day was holy. He also reminded them He created the Sabbath during the first week of creation!
They were to observe the Sabbath each week and everyone in their household was to observe the Sabbath too – even if they were strangers or “gentiles.”
Some of the things the Israelites were not permitted to do on the Sabbath were:
- Gathering food
- Lighting a fire
Because the seventh day was holy, God’s people were to rest from their work just as God did on the very first Sabbath at the time of creation. What a sweet gift!
God, in His infinite wisdom, knew His people would need the gift of rest way back in the beginning of time. 24 hours to rest from their labor from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.
Under the rule of Pharaoh, the Jewish people were overworked and so very weary.
Do you feel weary?
God offers you the same gift of rest.
The fourth commandment is the only commandment that deals with time. Remember how during the creation week, God created the gifts of space?
- On the seventh day he created the gift of time.
What a good God we serve! He knew you would need time to step away from the cares of this world and rest. Just like the Israelites did in the wilderness.
But Sabbath observance was not just for rest. It was also a day for worship.
The fourth commandment reminds us the Sabbath is time set apart for rest and worship. The people of Israel would assemble much like we do when we go to church today. The Bible calls this a “holy convocation.”
“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
Keeping the Sabbath became a regular practice for the people of God as they began observing the Sabbath each week on the seventh day. The Sabbath was a “covenant” or a sign between God and His people!
“‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.'” Exodus 31:13
God’s eternal moral law was meant for all people for all time. The commandments of God, including the Sabbath law, were not just for the Jewish people.
The Sabbath in the New Testament
In fact, Jesus said the Sabbath was made for all mankind. Notice how he did not say the Sabbath was made only for the Jewish people:
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27
God created the Sabbath at the beginning of time during the creation week. The very first humans were not Jews! The idea that the seventh day is the Jewish Sabbath isn’t based on Scripture. The Sabbath was created for everyone throughout time.
When we study the Sabbath in the Bible, we understand that the day was never meant to be a burden. The Scripture tells us to call the Sabbath a delight!
“…call the Sabbath a delight…” Isaiah 58:13
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3
God gave us the Sabbath to be a blessing. He’s a good Father and He gives good gifts.
Did you know Jesus kept the Sabbath?
As a child, Jesus was raised in a Jewish home where Sabbath observance was the standard practice. He continued Sabbath keeping during His ministry on this earth as an adult.
“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 stood up to read.” Luke 4:16
Each week, Jesus observed the Sabbath commandment:
“And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching.” Mark 1:21 ESV
“And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?” Mark 6:2
Jesus had every opportunity to change the Sabbath commandment or do away with it. However, He did just the opposite. Jesus upheld the Sabbath commandment and all of God’s moral law.
In fact, Jesus declared that He was Lord of the Sabbath day!
“So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!” Mark 2:28
Was the Sabbath abolished?
No! Later Jesus said He did not come to “abolish” or destroy the law.
Jesus’ teachings were clear. The law of God is eternal. We are commanded to keep God’s law if we love Him.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17
“But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.” Luke 16:17
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15
Think about it.
If Jesus didn’t want us to continue keeping the seventh day Sabbath, wouldn’t he have said so?
“…if it were not so, I would have told you.” John 14:2 NKJV
Jesus spent three years teaching. He spent much of that time in close fellowship with His disciples.
In the New Testament, there is no indication Jesus wanted us to worship on the first day of the week – or any day, other than the seventh day.
When Jesus died, the law of Moses was done away with because it was a shadow of things to come. In other words, the Mosaic law was fulfilled when Jesus died and was resurrected.
“These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” Colossians 2:17
“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come… it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.” Hebrews 10:1
But God’s moral law, written with His own finger, is eternal.
Is the Sabbath still Important today?
After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, early Christians continued keeping the Sabbath. They understood that Jesus had not changed the day of worship to another day.
“As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told to them the next Sabbath.” Acts 13:42
“As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures…” Acts 17:2
“And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.” Acts 18:4
And in the book of Romans, Paul encourages us to uphold the moral law:
“Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” Romans 3:31 NKJV
Paul continued to keep the Sabbath, as did all early Christians.
The Sabbath in the End Times and Heaven
Just like other nine commandments, the 4th commandment is part of God’s eternal law. Most Christians agree the Ten Commandments are still binding.
After all, no one will argue that dishonoring your parents, lying, stealing, or committing adultery is okay. And it would seem silly for a Christian to have other gods, take the Lord’s name in vain, or worship idols!
However, when it comes to the fourth commandment, many Christians believe the Sabbath was only for the Jewish people.
But what does the Bible say? Remember, we can always find answers in the Word of God.
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3
Are you ready to follow Jesus’ footsteps and keep His commandments?
If so, the Bible tells us that there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.
“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” Hebrews 4:9-11 ESV
God’s people will keep all ten of His commandments at the end of time and for all eternity!
“Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” Revelation 14:12
Did you know we will keep the Sabbath in heaven and on the new earth?
“For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your offspring and your name remain. From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the Lord.” Isaiah 66:22,23
God’s people will worship before Him every Sabbath for all eternity. In other words, the Sabbath is still binding today and always will be.
Do you feel the Holy Spirit leading you to keep the Sabbath? Will you choose to keep all ten of God’s commandments?
Make a commitment today. You’ll never regret following Him.