3 When John is speaking of the Law in general or the ten commandments in particular, he always uses the word for law in the Greek which is "nomos". When John uses "entole’" he does so in conjunction with the instructions of Jesus for practical love of one another. So the verse Revelation 12:17 translates into English (in harmony with John's use of entole’) “those who truly love one another, and are telling the world about Jesus. This fits perfectly with the Seal of God motif in Revelation as well. The Holy Spirit according to John 13-16 is another Comforter. He lives in us and guides us. He is the INDWELLING JESUS in our lives. The Seal of God in the last days represents those who have a daily personal walk with Jesus through the agency of the Holy Spirit. This is what it means to be sealed. It is the same message as Hebrews 3-4. When we are resting in Jesus today and every day, He is our Sabbath. The Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance! (Eph. 4:14). In short, the seal of God is Jesus living in us through the agency of the Holy Spirit. The Mark of the Beast, in turn, would be those who choose to NOT believe, who refuse to accept the gift of grace, who refuse to rest in Jesus, and choose rather to depend on another way. Those who choose to depend on their own works instead of trusting in God’s only son, have the Mark of the Beast.
I spent a great deal of time in the application section (the Epistles) of the New Testament. It became clear that there is not a continued binding requirement for keeping the seventh-day Sabbath. What comes through loud and clear in the New Testament epistles is that Jesus fulfilled the Sabbath. The day-ness has been, at the very least, de-emphasized. It is NOT to be used as a dividing issue or binding command for gentile Christians. It is not to be seen as a test of loyalty. Instead, a daily walk with Jesus through the agency of the Holy Spirit is the new SEAL or TEST.
The next question I needed to ask was, " What did Jesus teach and what significance did He place on the Sabbath?" I remembered that Jesus came as one under the law to perfectly obey the law. (Gal. 4:4-5) so He had to live under all of the law’s requirements. At the same time, I needed to see whether he taught and lived in such a way as to set the stage for a fulfillment motif, or taught a continuance theology.4 I began in Matthew 5:17. Jesus says,
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one title will by no means pass from the Law till all is fulfilled”
At first glance this text seems to indicate that the continuance theory is correct in Jesus teaching. But a closer examination reveals otherwise. First, I noticed the phrase, "Law and Prophets". Jesus is not referring to the 10 commandment Law here specifically. He is using the word "nomos" to refer to the entire first five books of Moses. “The Prophets” refers to the rest of the Old Testament. If one "jot" or one "tittle" cannot pass from the law, we must not mix one type of cloth with another, we must execute Sabbath breakers, we must not have relations with our spouses until at least seven days after the woman’s period ends. We must sacrifice animals, and all the rest. By the way for you non-vegetarians, you must not mix milk products with beef. (a big Mac is a sin). If you touch a dead carcass you must be quarantined. All of the religious feasts still apply. Is that what Jesus is saying? NO! The key word to understanding this passage, I discovered, is the word "FULFILLED". Jesus is saying that no part of the law can be ignored, not even the least stroke of a pen, even if heaven and earth pass away. You can’t do it yourself or teach others to do so, until all is FULFILLED.
. If you read on in the book of Matthew and the other Gospels the word "fulfilled" is repeated over and over. Get an exhaustive concordance and check it out. Here are a few examples. Mt 1:22 -23 refers to the fulfillment of the prophecy about the virgin being with child. Mt. 2:15 discusses the prophecy that he would be called out of Egypt. Mt. 8:17 is about the fulfilled prophecy concerning His healing ministry. The list goes on and on. Finally, in John 19:28 we find these words,
“After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled said, ‘I thirst!’ Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there and they filled a sponge with sour wine and put it on hyssop and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said,’It is finished’ and bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.”
Jesus did not come to destroy but to "FULFILL". This fulfillment motif fit perfectly with what I had learned so far in the application section of the New Testament. So I went on to the next section. Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus where Jesus calls Himself the rest provider. “Come to ME all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” Immediately after this statement we get into the Sabbath debates. Read Mt 12 1-8 and then notice the following points. Jesus is with his disciples walking though the grain fields eating some of the heads of grain and they get stopped by the religious patrol for working on the Sabbath. This was not an infraction of the Mosaic code, only of some of the rabbinic traditions, but it is interesting to see how Jesus answers the accusations. First He tells the story of David and how he, the anointed king to be, asked for Showbread to eat from the sanctuary. Not a lawful thing to do, but since he was on king’s business he did so without being guilty. The question I asked myself was, “What type of law was David breaking? A moral law, or a ceremonial law?” The ceremonial of course. David was not exempt from moral laws. We know that when he broke the 7th commandment, there was a severe price to pay. Next, in verse 5, Jesus reminds the Pharisees that the priests in the temple can break Sabbath while doing their priestly duties. Now I asked again, which category of commandments does this priestly office fall under? The priestly system is clearly under the ceremonial system. Were the priests exempt from the moral commands? Could they lie, cheat, steal, commit adultery? No. of course not. Finally, I jumped over to John 7:22-23 for a second. There Jesus says to his accusers that the law of Moses regarding circumcision takes precedence over the Sabbath. If the day to be circumcised happened to be the Sabbath, the circumcision was carried out. Now I asked myself again, “What category of law is the Sabbath placed in each of these scenarios?” The ceremonial! The Sabbath is “trumped” by the ceremonial every time. What category does this place Sabbath in then? Ceremonial of course! Jesus is saying to the accusers, “If David could eat showbread (breaking a ceremonial law), if the priests could do work in the temple on sabbath, if circumcision could be carried out on the sabbath, then the Anointed one, the Son of Man, surely is Lord of the Sabbath. He is over and above these ceremonial regulations.
I must admit that this discovery affected me deeply. Jesus clearly lumped the Sabbath with the things that we know now were shadows of what was to come. He lumped Sabbath with the ceremonial system. He set the stage for Colossians 2:16-17. He called himself the REST PROVIDER, and the LORD OF THE SABBATH. This fits exactly with what we find in Colossians 2:16-17. Mark in Mark 2:27 adds one statement to this. “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.” Some Adventist scholars say this means that it was established at creation and therefore a moral ought and binding for all time. But the problem with that interpretation is the linguistics do not bear this out. Jesus is not making a universal statement here. He is basically saying that the Sabbath was made for the man, not the other way around. The context clearly teaches that Sabbath is not in the category of moral oughts. It is lumped in with the temporary or ceremonial system. This truth, right from the heart of Jesus Sabbath teachings, truly opened up to me a new paradigm. I had always studied these passages with the agenda of showing that Sabbath must be the Lord’s Day. ( therefore the Revelation 1:10 statement about the Lord’s day must be referring to the seventh-day Sabbath and not to Sunday). While doing that, I had missed the clear message from the passage. Jesus was plainly setting the stage for a fulfilment theology.
One more observation. The passage in Matthew begins with Jesus calling Himself the Rest Provider. Mark’s account starts with this statement in Mk 2:22. “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.” In Luke’s account of the same story, the same introduction is used. (Lk. 5:36-39) Jesus is saying, and the Gospel writers understood it, that it is not possible to hang onto the old system and at the same time make room for the true Sabbath, Jesus Christ. One or the other will have to give. No, Jesus does not directly say that the Sabbath will no longer be a binding issue in the new era, but He does endorse it fully by what He taught and modeled. He clearly points to Himself as the fulfillment and warns against letting the form cause us to miss the true Sabbath, Himself.
Another illustration from the Gospels that just blew me away because I had never seen it before, comes in Luke 4:16. To set the background, a knowledge of the Sabbath system in the Old Testament is essential. Starting in Leviticus 23 the system is laid out. It starts with the weekly Sabbaths that point forward to the monthly and yearly festivals, that in turn point forward to the Sabbatical years, which point forward to the ultimate Sabbath, the year of Jubilee. After the seventh sabbatical was celebrated, on the 50th year there was to be a year of Jubilee when all the land was to be returned to original owners, all the slaves were to be freed, all the indentured servants were considered debt free. It was a year of freedom. It was this Jubilee that was referred to in Isaiah 61:1-2 in reference to the coming Messiah. He was to usher in the ultimate Jubilee. Now with that backdrop notice what Luke 4:16ff says;
“So he came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. And He took the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.’ Then He closed the book and gave it to the attendant sat down, and the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’”
Jesus not only claimed to be the Messiah in this statement, but He called himself JUBILEE! Jesus called himself the ULTIMATE SABBATH! He was claiming to be the Messiah and the Sabbath personified. The people knew exactly what He was claiming! They tried to kill Him for it. Can Jesus be any more clear about who He is? The Sabbath is a Person!
I became even more excited as I read the verses and the chapters that followed. Jesus casts out demons, heals sick, cleanses lepers, and forgives sins, all Jubilee activities! Finally, on the second Sabbath, He is going through the grainfields plucking and eating grain when the Pharisees show up. Jesus is doing what is part of the instruction for how people were to eat during the year of Jubilee! Eat out of the fields! As I read all of these things it was like the blinders were falling off of my eyes. I was seeing a Jesus who was clearly claiming to be the Sabbath personified, the Rest Provider, the one who came to fulfill the law.
Finally the story of the transfiguration began to have new significance to me. You remember how Moses and Elijah appeared on top of the mountain with Jesus and He was transfigured. I always thought that this was a little picture of the kingdom, but I missed an important statement being made by God. Moses, to the people of that day, represented the Law, the first five books. Often the law was just referred to as Moses. The ultimate prophet in the old testament era according to the Jews was Elijah. He represented the prophets to them. Then Peter suggests that they all stay there and build shelters to hang out together. He is in essence saying that Elijah and Moses and Jesus are all on the same level. Suddenly “a bright cloud overshadowed them... A voice from the cloud saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, Hear Him!” (Mt 17:5) The disciples are terrified of course, but after a bit look up and what do they see? ONLY JESUS. I had never seen the significance of this before. Jesus and the Law and the Prophets standing side by side. God says, Listen to My Son! It is not the Law and the Prophets AND Jesus. For the Christian era, it is ONLY JESUS. Jesus is in a league all by himself. He is the clearest revelation of God. The Law and the Prophets have their place, but fade into insignificance next to Jesus. This verse helped to underscore in my mind the teaching of Galatians, Romans, and the rest of the epistles, the final authority now is not law or prophets, but Jesus. (See Heb. 1:1-3)
Now, after thorough study in the New Testament I was ready to go back to the Old Testament in my study. I had always thought that Sabbath was established at creation. Since Sabbath was a creation ordinance, then it must be pre-law, and should have a universal significance. So I went to Genesis 2:1-3, where the end of creation is recorded. V.2 says, “and on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”
“There it is!” I thought to myself. “Sabbath was established at creation. Since that is true, it must be a forever institution!” The problem that soon became apparent with that quick conclusion was that it jumps to too many assumptions. First, there is no evening and morning mentioned here. All the other creation days had the evening and morning connected to them. Not that this was not a literal day, but there is a continuing aspect of this day that is implied. God intended that the rest He had established would have a continuing quality. It would have remained as a daily experience had it not been for the incursion of sin. Rest would have been a perpetual reality. Second, the word Sabbath is not mentioned. There is no mention of this being a Sabbath. Third, there was no need for Adam and Eve to rest yet because they had not worked. Finally, there is no record that anyone ever kept the Sabbath from that time until God taught the people about it through the manna episode and, of course, Mount Sinai. The marriage institution, on the other hand in Genesis 2:24 clearly establishes marriage as a continuing ordinance. There is much evidence of it being part of the way of life in all the years following. But for the Sabbath there is no mention for 2500 years! What I learned is that the creation ordinance idea has some serious weaknesses. So if I was going to be faithful to what the text actually says, I had to admit that two interpretations are allowed: 1) a creation ordinance of a seventh-day Sabbath, or 2) a completed work and celebration that was intended to effect the world for every day thereafter.
We do not find Sabbath mentioned again until Exodus 16:23. God explains the Sabbath concept to the people of Israel through the manna episode. As I studied, it became evident that the people were unaware of any Sabbath up to this time. They had been given some new commandments such as the sacrifice of the Lamb in Exodus 12, and the institution of the Passover feast in the same time period. They knew about circumcision, but they are now introduced to the Sabbath. The context is clear that the people had to be taught what a Sabbath was.
The Sabbath is later expanded in Exodus 20:8-11 as one of the Ten Commandments . There they were instructed to remember the Sabbath. Some have suggested that this refers to creation establishment. Others that it refers to the manna episode. Either translation is allowed in the text. Notice the ones who are obligated to rest include “the stranger within your gates”, a different group than the “stranger that sojourns among you” in Leviticus 17-18. This command was not for everyone as a creation ordinance might indicate. (See comments on Acts 15 page 19 above) Finally in verse 11 it says “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 made it Holy.” Now again at first glance this seems to indicate that this was a creation ordinance that had been established at creation. And the text definitely allows that. But it also allows for the other notion that since God is Creator you are to worship Him as such. His blessing and sanctification of the seventh day at creation is now, since the manna instruction, being called the Sabbath. The Sabbath part of the institution being later at the manna episode. God’s has the right to demand this of His followers because they are His created beings. Again, two possible interpretations are permissible here; a creation ordinance, or a later establishment by the same Creator in the manna incident.
Since either the creation ordinance of the Sabbath or the later ordinance honor the text, I needed to study further to see if the context of the Old Testament gives any clues as to which is correct. What blew me away was the clarity of the other texts on this subject. They state exactly which way to interpret these texts. There is no need for confusion. One thing I have found in my studies, on important issues, God always provides at least three scriptures or more to make sure we are not led astray.5 He does not leave us to guess work or to have to be super smart or gifted to understand what is really important. One text that brought clarification on the issue of whether the Sabbath was a creation ordinance for all mankind, or a specific law for Israel, was Exodus 31:12ff
“And the Lord spoke to Moses saying, Speak to the CHILDREN OF ISRAEL saying, ‘Surely my Sabbaths you shall keep. For it is a SIGN BETWEEN ME AND YOU throughout YOUR generations that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you. You shall keep my Sabbath therefore for it is HOLY TO YOU. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death... Therefore the CHILDREN OF ISRAEL shall keep the Sabbath to observe the Sabbath throughout THEIR generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign BETWEEN ME AND THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’ And when He had made an end of speaking with Him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the Two tables of the Testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.6
Notice how clear this is. The Sabbath was between God and Israel and was placed on the table of the covenant with that relationship in mind. Deuteronomy 5:2-3 makes the same point.
“The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb, The Lord DID NOT MAKE THIS COVENANT WITH OUR FATHERS BUT WITH US who are standing here today, all of us who are alive.”
The text goes on to reiterate the Ten Commandments including the 4th, but this time the reason for keeping the Sabbath is because God delivered them from the Egyptians. Clearly a reference to Israel only, and one that was not established before the Exodus, but was a sign of the rest provided by that event. Neh 9:13 says this,
“You came down also on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven, and gave them just ordinances and true laws, good statutes and commandments. YOU MADE KNOWN TO THEM YOUR HOLY SABBATH, and commanded them precepts statutes and laws, by the hand of Moses your servant.”
Ezekiel 20:10-12 says
“Therefore I made them go out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. And I gave them My statutes and SHOWED THEM MY JUDGMENTS. Which if a man does he shall live by them. Moreover I gave THEM My Sabbaths to be a SIGN BETWEEN THEM AND ME that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them.”
These scriptures made clear to me when the Sabbath was established. It placed the Sabbath right in the heart of the covenant with Israel and was to be between them and God. It was NOT a creation ordinance binding on all people for all time. This again agreed with what I had learned in the New testament. The entire message of the Bible fits together. The Sabbath was a day established by God as a covenant between Himself and Israel. Jesus came to fulfill the Law and to be our Sabbath . Christians rest in the finished work of Christ as their Sabbath rest. As Children of Abraham, Christians are counted righteous because of their faith like Abraham before the Law or circumcision. The entire biblical picture is in agreement from beginning to end.
Now that the message of the Bible on the Sabbath had been studied and the teaching clear to my mind, there were some sticking points that seemed to contradict this consistent theme. One example was the statement that in the new earth we will be keeping Sabbath. So I went to that passage to read it for myself and found out a few interesting things. One, it says that the celebrations will be “from one NEW MOON to another and from one Sabbath to another.” (Isa. 66:22-23) Does this mean that New Moon festivals should be kept today? Are they still binding? Then I noticed the next couple of verses talk about the inhabitants walking about and encountering the dead bodies of those who have rebelled against the Lord. That didn’t sound like the new earth. Then, in reading the larger context of the same vision, it says “for the child will die one hundred years old.” (Isa. 65:20) What a strange picture of heaven! The reason it sounds so strange is because the “New Heavens and New Earth” that Isaiah is talking about is not the New Earth of Revelation where “there will be no more death or sorrow or crying.” Instead, it is describing Isaiah’s picture of what the earth would be like if Israel had accepted the Messiah and become the center attraction of the world. People would have come to Israel to see what their God had done. They would have joined Israel in worship and God’s blessings would have made this “New Jerusalem” the center of the world. This prediction was one of those prophecies that was conditional on the acceptance of the Messiah. Since Israel rejected the Messiah, it was not fulfilled.
Another sticking question for me was Jesus statement telling his disciples to pray that their "flight be not in the winter or on the Sabbath," (Mt 24:20) Doesn't this indicate that the Sabbath was still to be binding? The answer to that question became clear to me in reading Nehemiah 13 where Nehemiah is instituting some regulations about the business that some were conducting on the Sabbath. Some of the surrounding gentiles were bringing in their wares to sell to the Israelites on the Sabbath. This had been a snare to Israel before, had caused them to turn away from God, and eventually be taken into captivity. So Nehemiah made this regulation that was still in effect in Jesus day: "So it was at the gates of Jerusalem, as it began to be dark before the Sabbath, that I commanded the gates to be shut and charged that they must not be opened 'till after the Sabbath."(Neh. 13:19) In Matthew 24 Jesus instruction was that the Christians were to be ready to make their escape as soon as they saw the Roman army pull back. This was to be their sign to escape. The Roman army would lift siege only for a short time. The rest of the inhabitants would be thinking that they had given up, and go back to business as usual. But the Christians were to see this as their Que to escape. But they were to pray that it not be winter for obvious reasons, and not on Sabbath, because why? Sabbath would still be a binding institution? No, it was not considered by the Jews that to run from danger or to fight in war was a breaking of the Sabbath command. That was not the issue. The issue was that the gates of the city would be shut for the Sabbath and it would make the Christian escape virtually impossible. Nehemiah's command helped me see how this fit together. Once again, the whole picture made sense.
Another question that I wrestled with concerned the moral requirements for Christians. It seemed to me that the rest of the commandments in the Decalogue are still applicable for Christians, even though Romans and Galatians and the rest of the epistles do teach that we are not under law. The New Testament does encourage morality. Most Christians do emphasize keeping the commandments, all except the fourth. That seemed a little inconsistent to me. But in studying further, the answer came clear as well. Throughout the New Testament application section (post cross) there are restatements of all of the moral oughts of the ten commandment law including some of the other Old Testament laws. However, these restatements NEVER appeal to the law as the reason to observe them, but in every situation the appeal is to Christ. In Corinthians 6:18-20 for example, there is a clear admonition to sexual purity. but it does NOT appeal to law as the reason for it, but rather that we are God's temple and the Spirit of Christ is in us. How could we join Jesus to a prostitute?
The same pattern is found throughout the epistles. Again, I needed to remember that this section of scripture is especially written to APPLY the message of the scriptures to Christians. I was blown away to discover that all of the other nine commandments are restated as important for Christians in relationship with Christ, except one. The Sabbath. The Sabbath is NEVER TAUGHT as a moral ought for Christians. Not once! Instead it is reinterpreted as a daily rest in Jesus as we have seen before. Notice the following summary of commandments restated in the New Testament:
1st Worship God only — at least 50 times
2nd No Idolatry — 12 times
3rd No profanity — 4 times
4th Remember Sabbath — not mentioned
5th Honor parents — 6 times
6th Don’t murder — 6 times
7th No Adultery — 12 times
8th No stealing — 4 times
9th No lying — 4 times
10th Don’t covet — 9 times
If the Adventist position, that the Sabbath will be the ultimate test of all time, that it will be the final test of loyalty, that all who are true followers will be keeping it, and to fail to do so will be to receive the "Mark of the Beast" is true, wouldn't it make sense that God would include it in his list of moral oughts for the Christians repeatedly throughout the New Testament? Wouldn't God warn and re-warn his disciples? Wouldn't Sabbath breaking be listed in the lists of sins that Paul and the others stated and restated so many times in their warnings to the new believers? Why are there no instructions to “Jonas” And “Janeius” Gentile about how to keep the Sabbath? Wouldn't there have been some questions about how to do so in the gentile world? In my many years as an Adventist pastor, one of the most common questions I have been asked by new believers and long term members alike is, “What is OK and what is not OK to do on Sabbath? How can we do this right?” I cannot fathom that there would be NO INSTRUCTION AT ALL on this issue during the Christian church era. The reason is clear. Jesus is our Sabbath. Rest in Him each day, as we come to Him in faith, IS THE SABBATH of the New Testament. There is no other reasonable explanation, in my opinion.7
Well, what about Sunday worship? Is this right, wrong, or not an issue? My understanding from my study is that it is not an issue. It is neither right or wrong. It is always right to worship God as often and with association with other believers as possible. In Acts 2:42-47 the early church was in worship everyday. If it were possible to do that such would be ideal. But we do have lives to lead and daily corporate worship becomes impractical. Yet we need to have times for corporate worship to supplement our daily experience. We must not neglect corporate worship. (Heb. 10:25) It is not wrong to worship on Saturday and neither is it wrong to worship on Sunday, or Wednesday or any other day! Keeping a Sabbath for reflection and spiritual growth is healthy and should be encouraged. But the message of the New Testament, and the rest of the Bible makes it clear that for Christians, the day of the week this takes place, if at all, should NOT be binding or mandated.
It was interesting for me to discover the early church process with this. In an exhaustive study on the issue of Sabbath to Sunday, D.A. Carson, edits a book called From Sabbath To The Lord's Day.8 This book is a highly technical work that examines the early church fathers and their views about Sabbath and Sunday. From 100 AD on, the earliest Christians were unanimously meeting on Sunday. This was a universal practice among Christians. No one considered it a Sabbath. But everyone met on that day. This is much earlier than Adventists have taught. What is more, this was unanimous among the disciples of the Apostles. It is unthinkable that this could have happened without having been the general practice during the Apostolic era. Again I want to say that the early Christians thought it was a good day to meet because of the resurrection, but they did NOT associate it with a change of the Sabbath. Some of these Christians continued meet on Sabbath. Mostly the Jewish ones. Others, mostly Gentiles, did not. They gave the reasons that we have discussed earlier. Clearly they understood the teachings of Paul and the rest of the Bible as we have just studied. The Sabbath was an OK option, but not binding on Christians. However, there was a need to gather for worship. Because many of the Jewish Christians would still attend synagogue on the Sabbath, there was a need to have another time when Christians could gather for their own private meetings. This became Sunday, which they began to call the Lord's Day. Our first record of this reference was in 107 AD. That is only 11 years from the time of John’s reference to the Lord's day in Revelation 1:10 It is quite probable that John was referring to Sunday when he mentioned that day. Not because of any sacredness attached to it, but because it was the common day of meeting for Christians.
The early Christians had some sentimental attachment to the first day of the week as well. Not only did the Lord rise on that day, but of the seven appearances of Jesus to his disciples, five of these were on the first day, and in the other appearances, there is not a specific mention of which day. Also that year, the feast of Pentecost was on the first day of the week. The Christian church was born on a Sunday. But this did NOT mean they attached sacredness or Sabbath qualities to that day. There were no appeals to the Ten Commandments attached to Sunday. Even much later when Constantine made the first Sunday Law, it was just a law to forbid work on that day. It was welcomed by Christians and Pagans alike as a break from work. It made worship more convenient, but it was not a law based on Sabbath law at all. In fact, the farmers were exempt. They could continue their work. This of course was not allowed in Sabbath law of the Old Testament.
There was some anti-Jewish sentiment at that time. Some have suggested that since the Jews were in trouble with the government, the Christians tried to distance themselves from the Jews by getting away from Sabbath so as to avoid persecution. But the records from that era do not indicate a people who did anything because they were trying to avoid persecution for the cause of Christ. The examples are myriad of Christians standing boldly for their faith in spite of the threat of death. If this had been a conviction for them they would have stood for it. But they were NOT convicted about the Sabbath as is clearly seen in their literature.
It was not until Augustine in the fifth century that some connection began to be made between the Ten Commandments and Sunday. Even then the connection was loose. The day-ness of Sabbath was considered ceremonial. This view was made more prominent by Thomas Aquinas in the later centuries. The reformers, Calvin and Luther, were careful to state that the Sabbath was not binding on Christians, but they saw merit in taking a day for rest and worship. It was not until the English reformation that the Decalogue Sabbath began to truly be pushed. The chief proponents of this were the Puritans. They began to teach the Sabbath (Although they called Sunday the Sabbath) was not abolished and they made strict rules to follow according to the Old Testament regulations. This of course affected the other English groups like the Methodists, and the Baptists. Many of these groups came to America and New England became noted for strict Sabbath (Sunday) observance. It was there, that one group, the Seventh-day Baptists took it a step further and started keeping Saturday as the Sabbath. If the Old Testament Sabbath is binding on Christians, they reasoned, we had better keep the right day also. It was the Seventh-day Baptists that influenced Joseph Bates, who in turn influenced E. G. White, and Seventh-day Adventism was born. Adventists are still primarily arguing with the "Puritans" over which day is the real Sabbath, rather than whether or not this is an issue in the New Testament for Christians. In arguing about which day is the Sabbath, the message of scripture and the message the early church had clearly in mind, has been missed altogether.
I continued to pray in earnest about these things. Paula and I made this a subject of great soul searching and continued research. The whole study hit me so hard that I would wake up in the middle of the night and call out to God. “Lord, please do not let me be deceived. I want to be your faithful follower.” Every time, after much prayer and wrestling with God, the scriptures would come to my mind with even greater clarity. I would hang onto Luke 11:11-13 over and over, day after day. Jesus says when we ask for the Holy Spirit He will give Him to us, not deception. Many times I would agonize with God and pray that He would lay me to rest rather than let me be deceived or let me dishonor His cause. But The Lord would keep sending me reassurance through His promises and His word. Galatians 5:1 would come to my mind with great clarity, “Stand firm therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” I would come out of those times refreshed, filled with the Spirit of God, and resting in Jesus my Sabbath. The words of the Bible came to life for me. I understood those sections of the Bible that I had always had to explain away. The veil had fallen from my eyes.
Meanwhile Paula was coming to the same conclusions on her own. We knew that God was calling us to a deeper walk with Him that could involve stepping out of all that means security for us. We’d thought at first that God might want us to remain in the church and work for change. However, as we prayed more and more we became uncomfortable with that option. We are a team that God has uniquely gifted to reach the unchurched. In addition we have been given leadership and teaching gifts. To know the truth, and just sit on it and hope for change did not seem to fit the way God wired us. We were willing to do so however. It sure would be less traumatic. The other side of the issue for me was the responsibility I have to teach the truth. I am a flawed human being, with so many frailties, but God is doing a great work in my heart. I cannot live a double life. I am not an eloquent speaker nor a flashy personality. The only thing I have going for me is my convictions and my love for Jesus. If I cannot speak from the core of my experience with Jesus, I am nothing.
Paula and I also feel that it would be wrong to continue to represent an organization that we no longer believe represents truth. To continue to serve in it would be to lend credibility to it’s claims. We have many wonderful friends in the Adventist church. We are grateful for our conference president and our staff, elders, volunteers, and so many others who have supported us and gone out on a limb to help us try to build a church for a new generation. We do not want to hurt them or the Foster church that we love so much and have laid down our very lives for over the past eight years. But we must follow the Lord in this thing. We recognize that there will be those who strongly disagree with our understanding of scripture and our sense of calling. But we are not responsible to them. We are responsible to God.
While the implications of these discoveries are frightening, there is also a sense of eager anticipation looking forward to what God has planned for us. We are being asked to live on the ragged edge of faith. We must trust in God’s promises as never before. We truly are learning to live by faith and rest in Jesus our Lord and our Friend. For us, this is not just theory, but it is an actual faith experience. It is trust in God’s word and reliance on Him and Him alone. This is Sabbath rest on a daily basis. We are grateful that God has entrusted us with His truth and allowed us to put Him to the test. Despite our fears, we are confident of the future. Where God leads, He provides.
1 Samuel Bacchiocchi, Sabbath Under Crossfire (Biblical Perspectives, 1998) p. 245-248.