The Sabbath

One of the most common questions that a Christian eventually finds themselves asking is how the Sabbath commands of the Old Testament apply to them today. Many Christians teach that we are called to keep the Sabbath as the Old Covenant commands by doing no work on the seventh day of the week (Saturday). The two greatest arguments for their position appeal to the seventh day of rest that God took in the creation process and the Sabbath law being the fourth commandment of the 10 Commandments, the other nine of which are still binding today.

Seventh Day Adventists argue that the Sabbath law was given to Adam and Eve and is eternally binding on all believers. However, this cannot be demonstrated in Scripture, especially in light of ceremonial law such as circumcision taking precedence over Sabbath observance. Jesus said:

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? (John 7:22,23)

Therefore, it must be first established here that the Sabbath law cannot be a moral command but a ceremonial command since circumcision, another ceremonial law, took precedence over it and has been abolished (Galatians 5:2). For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love (Galatians 5:6). Both animal sacrifices and circumcision were commanded by God in OT times, but are no longer binding to the Christian. God rested on the Sabbath (Genesis 2:2,3), but nowhere is it stated that Adam and Eve were commanded to observe the Sabbath, nor was it binding on any of God’s people prior to God’s giving of the covenant to Israel. It wasn’t until Exodus 20:8 that God said:

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 (Exodus 20:8-11).

Recorded in Exodus 20:8-11, God gave the fourth commandment concerning the Sabbath, unlike the other nine commandments in that it was a ceremonial law rather than a moral law. “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Perhaps He says, “remember” based on their already having received the command not to gather manna on the Sabbath (Exodus 19:21-26). This Sabbath commandment called Israel to remember God’s rest on the seventh day after creation whereas Deuteronomy 5:15 appeals to the Israelites freedom from bondage in Egypt:

“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” (Deuteronomy 5:15).

And yet, hundreds of years later, through the prophet Isaiah the Lord of the Sabbath declared that He hated the Jews’ Sabbaths:

Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them (Isaiah 1:13,14).

Did Jesus keep the Sabbath or teach Christians to keep the Sabbath? To the Lord of the Sabbath we must look:

Jesus began to say unto the multitudes . . . Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:7,28).

“Heavy laden” is a reference to spiritual burden and “rest” is a spiritual rest in Christ. It is “a rest to your souls” (Matthew 11:29). Spiritual rest is what Jesus is offering and must be alluding to the Sabbath day of physical rest prescribed in the fourth commandment (Exodus 20:11). In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament), the word rest or anapausis was often associated with Shabbat (Sabbath). Jesus is referring to the true Sabbath rest, abstaining from your own work to do the work of God. That this is the meaning of the verse is based on the next two incidents in the proceeding chapter of Matthew’s Gospel which deal with the true meaning and use of the Sabbath in contrast to the traditions.

At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; 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 (Matthew 12:1-8).

These accounts of the Sabbath have been strategically placed in Matthew after Jesus’ invitation for rest, and in Mark and Luke immediately after the parable of the new wineskins (Mark 2:18-3:5; Luke 5:33-6:11), a parable that refers to the New Covenant life in Christ.

Jesus and His disciples began to casually pluck the ears of corn and to eat in another’s field according to the provision in Deuteronomy 23:25. It was perfectly lawful for hungry people to help themselves to as much of their neighbor’s growing grain as they wished for food. They were not allowed to cut any, but would simply gather as much as was needed, “rubbing them in their hands” (Luke 6:1). The rubbing of the corn in their hands was considered harvesting by some Jews. Apparently, the Lord Jesus had no problem with the disciples doing this on the Sabbath day seeing that they were in His presence. The Sabbath commandments in the Torah were quite brief with little explanation in contrast to the scrupulous ordinances having to do with sacrifices and the building of the tabernacle.

Though there was a provision for this kind of plucking, the Pharisees complained that it was gathered on the Sabbath. The Pharisees accused Jesus by accusing His disciples of doing that which is not lawful to do on the Sabbath. It has been argued that the disciples were only breaking a tradition of men. Plucking grain was considered harvesting when the OT commanded, “Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest” (Exodus 34:21). Furthermore, Jesus did not say that they weren’t breaking the Sabbath. If the disciples weren’t really breaking the Sabbath, Jesus could have said so and that would have been the end of the argument, but He makes another defense by appealing to David who broke the Law because he was hungry. Based on Jesus’ response alone, it seems that the disciples were indeed breaking the Sabbath.

Also, if it were merely a tradition of men being violated by the disciples, we would expect a similar argument as that found in Matthew 15:6: “Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition,” but Jesus uses a different argument here. Based on Jesus’ response detailing how David also broke the law yet remained blameless, “Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him” (Matthew 12:3), it is evident by the parallel that the disciples were also breaking the Law. Both David and the disciples were hungry and both broke the Law because of obedience to their Master.

God permitted a more serious violation of ritual law on this occasion when David was fleeing from Saul and ate the shewbread which is only lawful for priests to eat (1 Samuel 21:3-6). This breaking of a ritual of God by David was equivalent to what the disciples of Jesus were doing. Much like David eating the shewbread meant for priests, the priests of the temple worked on the Sabbath days but were blameless (Matthew 12:5). Offering sacrifices for the atonement of sins had to be done every day, thus the priests could continue their work without desecrating the Sabbath or treating it as a common work day.

Jesus anticipated the Pharisees to make an exception for the priests work in the temple. Therefore, He said that He was greater than the temple (Matthew 12:6). Not only did the Levites do work in the temple on the Sabbath, but there work was increased on that day (Numbers 28:1-10). Jesus Himself was greater than the temple in terms of importance, significance and authority. If the Pharisees excused the priests for doing the ministry of God on the Sabbath day, then they should have excused Jesus and His disciples as well for doing the Lord’s work on the Sabbath. If doing the work of the temple superseded the ordinances of Sabbath, surely the ministry of the true sanctuary which the Lord pitched, and not man (Hebrews 8:2) supersedes the ordinances of Sabbath. Jesus is greater than the earthly temple because He is the “living stone” (1 Peter 2:4) and “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). All believers in Christ are a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9) and as such, are exempt from keeping the Sabbath.

Jesus appeals to His own authority over the Mosaic Law. The Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day (Matthew 12:8), not just common days. Mark 2:27,28 adds an additional saying: “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.” The Sabbath does not exceed the importance of the Lord who made the Sabbath. Temple service made it lawful for the priests to do what was unlawful for others to do. The temple work must continue on the Sabbath days, so the work of Christ must continue on every day including the Sabbath. The Lordship of Jesus abides every day because He is the Lord of every day. To live under the Lordship of Christ is just as important on the Sabbath as it is throughout the rest of the week. To modern Christians, Sunday worship should not stand out amongst the other days of the week because God’s commands and Lordship abide every day, not just Sunday.

And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days (Matthew 12:10-12).

According to Rabbinic tradition, a physician could only tend to a sickness or injury on the Sabbath day if it was life-threatening. This man did not have a life-threatening condition so they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days?” seeking to accuse Him and find fault with Him. He asks them a question in return to their question and thus put them in a greater dilemma. In Mark’s account, He asks them, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace” (Mark 3:4). They give no answer because certainly it is never lawful to do evil, but to say that the good in healing this man was lawful on the Sabbath would force them to humble themselves. “But they held their peace. And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other” (Mark 3:4,5). The principle of doing good on the Sabbath cuts through all human tradition and legalism. A Christian is to live a seamless lifestyle of good works. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Pulling a lamb out of a ditch is a good thing, even on the Sabbath. “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).

Of course they would rescue their livestock if it fell in a pit on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:11). Livestock has financial value, but of how much more worth is a man than a beast.Those that show compassion to their livestock should have no objection to show compassion to a man. Notice how Jesus and His contemporaries take for granted the value of human life above that of beasts. Jesus also healed a crippled woman on the Sabbath and “all his adversaries were ashamed” (Luke 13:17) because He said, “Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?” (Luke 13:15,16). Likewise, Jesus said, “Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31). But in today’s society, some have placed the value of animal life above that of human life, perverting God’s natural order. In doing so, they protect endangered wildlife but justify the killing of unborn babies in abortion. Jesus also appeals to a proper understanding of the Law itself by suggesting it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath just like any other day. A servant of Jesus is expected to be submitted to His Lordship every day of the week.

It appears as if Jesus deliberately performed parts of His ministry on the Sabbath rather than on the other common days of the week so as to provide opportunity to teach on the subject and keep with the theme of deliverance from bondage associated with the Sabbath in Deuteronomy 5:15: “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.”

Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole. 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” (John 5:14-18).

John makes it clear in his gospel that Jesus broke the Sabbath saying, “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” (John 5:18). Some Sabbath keepers argue that Jesus was only accused of breaking the Sabbath, not that He actually broke the Sabbath. But the allegation is accompanied with “making himself equal with God” which was indeed true. John did not record that he was accused of breaking the Sabbath or accused of making Himself equal with God, but that they sought to kill him because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

In contrast to the Mosaic command: “Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings” (Leviticus 23:3), The OT law was rather vague forbidding no work in general but Jesus deliberately said, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17). To Christians, there is no longer a single day of the week that belongs to God but all days must be set apart for the work of the Father because the Father is always working.

But how could Jesus break the Law if He came to fulfill it and live a perfect life? Jesus indeed lived a perfect life without sin and indeed fulfilled the Law. Consider how King David also broke the Law but was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). When Jesus says, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17), the antithesis is not between “abolish” and “keep” but between “abolish” and “fulfill.” Typical interpretations suggest Jesus’ intention in saying that He would fulfill the law and the prophets was limited to the predictions of the prophets concerning the future and Messiah. While this is true, it seems Jesus is conveying something much more than fulfilled prophecy and something other than keeping the Law. It was the goal of every rabbi in Judaism to “fulfill” the law in the sense of explaining its true meaning. “Fulfill” or pleroo in Greek means to cause God’s will (as made known in the Law) to be obeyed as it should be. Jesus has not destroyed the law, but He has not perpetuated the law either. While the moral implications of the OT still stand true today and are reaffirmed in the NT teachings of Jesus Christ, the civil ordinances and ceremonial laws (such as keeping the Sabbath, circumcision, offering animal sacrifices, atonement, ritual cleansing, priesthood, tabernacle/temple) are no longer binding to the Christian because Jesus fulfilled their true meaning which was in Himself and His teachings being the Messiah.

The purpose of the Law is best understood if one considers that what God wanted from the beginning was genuine faith (Galatians 3:24). The fulfillment of the Law and the prophets together is this: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12). In similar words: “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law (Romans 13:8-10).

“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. . . love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:8,10). Paul uses the word pleroma or fulfillment (Romans 13:10) which is the noun form of the verb pleroo or to fulfill. “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Galatians 5:14). Not only did Jesus fulfill the Law and prophets but also gives us the power to do the same by the Holy Ghost: “the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:4).

“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31). Love fulfills the Law. It is very important to not that the fulfilling of the Law does not require the keeping of the Law. Not by keeping of the Law, but by love for God and neighbor do we fulfill and establish the righteousness of the Law.

Sabbath-keepers’ perpetual observance of the Sabbath is heavily based upon the fact that the command appears in the Decalogue as the fourth commandment. But notice how Paul quotes from the ten commandments as part of the Law in verse 9. He goes on to say that all of the Law, which includes the ten commandments, is fulfilled in loving one’s neighbor as oneself. This conclusion excludes the rigid observance of the Sabbath. Thus the Holy Ghost in Christ and the Apostle Paul has nullified Sabbath-keeping by an imperative of love.

In the early church a certain sect of the Pharisees believed it was needful for the Gentile Christians to be circumcised and to keep the Law of Moses (Acts 15:5) at which time the Holy Ghost inspired James to say:

But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day (Acts:15:20,21).

This would have been a great opportunity to declare also the observance of Sabbath upon Gentile Christians, but James and the other apostles gave no command concerning Sabbath. Sabbath observance found in the 10 commandments was part of the Old Covenant. But the writer of Hebrews makes it very clear: “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” (Hebrews 8:13). Sinai is fulfilled and abolished. “For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished” (2 Corinthians 3:11,13). Thus, the Old Covenant was ready to vanish at the declaration of a New in Jeremiah 31:31 and is abolished at the establishment of the New through the Person and work of Messiah.

“Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace” (Ephesians 2:15). Those commandments of the Old were added because of the transgressions of Israel until the seed should come to whom the promise was made (Galatians 3:19). Now that Jesus has come, we are no longer under the tutor of commandments but are justified by faith (Galatians 3:24). There was no need of circumcision before Abraham, nor was there need of observing Sabbaths or feasts or sacrifices before Moses. Accordingly, once faith has come, there is no need of shadows anymore.

We are not required to please or submit to a dead husband (the Old Covenant) because we have been married to Another. “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” (Romans 7:4). With the exception of the fourth commandment of Sabbath observance, nine of the ten commandments have been re-affirmed in the NT. The Sabbath is not like adultery, for instance. Though both of them appear in the ten commandments, Sabbath observance is not a moral obligation. It is not that the Sabbath has been diminished but rather that the other days of the week have been elevated to where the Jews had only one holy day every week and the Christian has seven.

The new law requires us to keep a perpetual Sabbath by keeping our eyes fixed upon Jesus by grace through faith. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:3,4).

Some will argue that the Apostles kept the Sabbath because, for instance, Acts 17:2 says,

And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures (Acts 17:2).

However, going into the synagogue was not Sabbath law. The synagogues were simply popular places for the apostles to evangelize. The apostles didn’t single out one day but they, “continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart” (Acts 2:46). They did not meet on only Saturday or only Sunday or only one day a week but every day.

The fact that the Christian is no longer bound to observe Sabbath is further testified in Paul’s letters. Keep in mind that prior to becoming one of the greatest apostles Paul was a zealous Pharisee that outperformed the most zealous Law and Sabbath keepers. Yet in his office as an Apostle of Christ, he leaves Sabbath observance to the individual choice of Christians:

One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks (Romans 14:5,6).

Rather than causing division, Paul gave liberty in this matter because it’s not based upon morality. Clearly, a Christian who esteems every day alike does not keep the Sabbath and Paul gives allowance for this. If Paul wanted to bind mandatory Sabbath observance for Christians, this was the perfect place to do so. Therefore, the burden of proof lies upon those who would try to enforce Sabbath observance.

Though Sabbath-keepers are entitled to observe the day unto the Lord, they are also required not to enforce that observance upon or judge other Christians who may not regard the same daily or dietary restrictions. We as Christians should not join ourselves with those who will try to persuade others to keep the ceremonial laws of Moses such as Sabbath observance. But if some Christians wish to keep such “weak and beggarly elements” and ordinances without requiring them of other Gentile Christians, then we do not have to be concerned. Let every man be persuaded in his own mind says Paul.

Yet some still suggest that the Sabbath has been moved from the Jewish seventh day (Saturday) Sabbath to a Christian Lord’s Day (Sunday) Sabbath in light of Jesus’ resurrection. But this text (Romans 14:5,6) also implies that there is no mandatory Sunday keeping. There is no binding command in the New Testament for believers to worship on a specific day. The early Christians met daily (Acts 2:46).

But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain (Galatians 4:9-11).

Prior to his conversion, Paul was steeped in Jewish law, yet he forcefully opposes the Judaizers of the church in Galatia who were preaching “another gospel” (Galatians 1:6) and sought to “pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:7). All of these external, weak and beggarly elements of the Old Covenant were shadows of Christ. Now, Jesus, the Substance of those shadows has come and fulfilled the Law, so we dare not return to the bondage of these shadows. These aspects of the OT were all fulfilled in Christ and the believer is no longer bound to keep the Sabbath, the feasts or offer animal sacrifices.

And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ (Colossians 2:13-17).

Sabbath keepers and Seventh Day Adventists insist that “sabbath days” does not refer to the weekly Sabbath, but yearly sabbaths associated with holy days. However the Greek word sabbaton which is used here is translated 37 times elsewhere in the NT as “Sabbath Day.” It refers to the seventh day of each week on which the Israelites were required to abstain from all work. Notice, Paul includes holy days which were yearly festivals, new moons which were monthly, and sabbaths which were weekly. These holy days, new moons, and sabbath days also match the language of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT) in Numbers 28 and 29 which speaks of the weekly Sabbath along with these other ordinances.

By definition, these shadows were not eternal. The foreshadowing of these observances are no longer needed because there is no more anticipation. Christ has come. Paul was concerned about Gentile Christians feeling obligated to observing certain days and ceremonial ordinances of the Law such as the Sabbath.

According to the New Covenant, the Sabbath was a prophetic reminder of future rest. Like the Jewish feasts, it foreshadowed something future. The author of Hebrews also describes how the Sabbath was a prophetic type of the future rest for the people of God:

Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said:
“So I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest,’”
although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.”
Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said:
“Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts.”
For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. (Hebrews 4:1-10)

Long after Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land, King David was still looking forward to a rest in Psalm 95. There remained a future day of rest for God’s people. This is the rest spoken of by the author of Hebrews as the antitype to the weekly Sabbath rest.
This future rest was better than the observance of a seventh day Sabbath in the Old Covenant. Notice how the author of Hebrews speaks about the “betterness” of the New Covenant:

  • Better revelation (Hebrews 1:1-4)
  • Jesus is better than the angels (Hebrews 1:4)
  • Jesus is a better Priest (Hebrews 2:10-14)
  • Jesus is better than Moses (Hebrews 3:1-6)
  • Better Sabbath (Hebrews 4:1-10)
  • Jesus is a better High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-7:28)
  • Jesus is better than Aaron (Hebrews 5)
  • Better estimate (Hebrews 6:9-12)
  • Better priesthood (Hebrews 7:11-19)
  • Better law (Hebrews 7:12)
  • Better hope (Hebrews 7:19)
  • Better covenant (Hebrews 7:22; 8:1-13)
  • Better promises (Hebrews 8:6)
  • Better sanctuary (Hebrews 9:1-15)
  • Better sacrifices (Hebrews 9:23-28)
  • Better Atonement (Hebrews 10:1-5)
  • Better possessions (Hebrews 10:34)
  • Better country (Hebrews 11:16)
  • Better resurrection (Hebrews 11:35)
  • Better something thing for us (Hebrews 11:40)
  • Better blood (Hebrews 12:24)

But Sabbatrians want to hold on to their Old Covenant seventh day Sabbath as the one and only exception of all that is better in the New Covenant.

To Christians, there is no longer a single day of the week that belongs to God but all days must be set apart for the work of the Father because the Father is always working. We enter into supernatural and spiritual rest already in this life through faith in Jesus who said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). And there also remains a future rest for the people of God.

With the exception of the fourth commandment of Sabbath observance, nine of the ten commandments have been re-affirmed in the NT. The Sabbath is not like adultery, for instance. Though both of them appear in the Ten Commandments, Sabbath observance is not a moral obligation. It is not that the Sabbath has been diminished but rather that the other days of the week have been elevated to where the Jews had only one holy day every week and the Christian has seven.