The Sabbath: basic facts

The Sabbath (Shabbat) is a very special day to God the Father and Jesus Christ. This one day of the week is so important that God set it apart from the other days of the weekly cycle by pronouncing a blessing upon it and including it in the ten foundational laws which define attitudes and behaviors that mankind should exhibit toward God and their fellow humans. See Ex.20:8-11; 23:10-12; Deut.5:12-15.

If God is concerned about the Sabbath and its observance, and if this day is so special and important to him, it should be just as important to his children.

A Weekly Festival

"And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, Concerning the feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; you shall do no work therein: it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings" (Lev.23:1-3 KJV).

Leviticus 23 shows that the weekly Sabbath was to be a day of festivity and a day on which the people were to assemble together to worship God. It was a holy convocation and a commanded assembly. God, the Creator of time, made this specific period of time holy and he proclaimed that it is his and is to be used for his divine purpose. See also Num. chps. 28; 29; Deut.chp.16.

A Perpetual Covenant

The requirement to observe the Sabbath was not a temporary command; it was to remain as a perpetual covenant and sign between God and his people. See Isa.56:1-6; 58:13; 66:22-23.

Exodus 31:13-16 KJV

"Speak you also to the children of Israel, saying, Truly 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 that does sanctify you" (v13).

The observance of the Sabbath was to be an identifying mark which would set God's people apart from other nations. The Sabbath was to be observed by the descendants of Israel forever in order for them to be continually aware that it was the Creator God who had set them apart from all other nations. 

"You shall keep the Sabbath therefore; for it is holy to you: every one that defiles it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever does any work therein, shall be cut off from among his people" (v14).

Not only is it mandatory to observe the Sabbath it is also mandatory to keep it holy before God. Because of the importance of the Sabbath observance, God states twice in verse 14 that anyone who violated it must be put to death:

"Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord: whosoever does any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death" (v15).

Only the first six days of the week are work days. The seventh day is holy time which must be devoted to God. Notice also that the violation of the Sabbath requires that the death penalty be administered to the violator.

"Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant" (v16).

Again, we see that the Sabbath must be observed by all the descendants of Israel forever. Notice that the Sabbath is to remain a part of the covenant relationship between God and his people—a perpetual covenant between God and Israel.

The Bible contains a few concise instructions as to how the Sabbath is to be practiced, and a promise of blessings is given for its correct observance. But, the death penalty is to be administered for the violation of the Sabbath.

The following study of the Sabbath, will examine the most popular historical and scriptural arguments that attempt to justify worshiping on Sunday instead of the Sabbath (Saturday). Moreover, it will give a detailed explanation of the relationship between God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Elect of God, and the Sabbath day.


In the Book of Genesis, we find the record of the earth's preparation for the creation of humanity. On the sixth day of God's creation process, we see the first humans created. On the seventh day, the Sabbath was created:

"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. And God saw every thing that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day" (Gen.1:26; 31 KJV). 

The Sabbath Day

"Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made" (Gen.2:1-3 KJV).

Here, we see the weekly cycle being established; the first six days are noted as work days, and the seventh day is defined as a day of rest (i.e., a Sabbath).

In verses 2 and 3, there are two Hebrew words which need to be understood because they hold a vital key to understanding how God the Father and Jesus Christ view the Sabbath.

The English word sanctified comes from the Hebrew word quadash, which is a denominative verb which means to be hallowed, or holy, to consecrate, to prepare, or to dedicate. The verb quadash connotes the state of something belonging to the sphere of the sacred. Thus, the Sabbath is different from and outside of that which is common or profane.

The word blessed is the Hebrew word barak and means to kneel, praise, or salute. This word's major function seems to have been to confer abundant and effective life (longevity). To bless as used in Genesis 2:2-3 means to imbue with power for success, prosperity, fecundity, and longevity.

The divine act of sanctifying and blessing this day was not merely  a pronouncement; it was the creation of a specific period of time for a divine purpose. This period of time has a divine attribute of holiness as a part of its existence; therefore, it places the Sabbath in a unique relationship with God.

While speaking about the Sabbath, Jesus said that the Sabbath came into being for man's sake, not man for the Sabbath's sake (Mk.2:27).

It is apparent that the seventh day of the week is very different from the other six. It is a span of time created and set apart from normal time and it has a spiritual quality within its existence for the benefit of humanity.

It is also apparent from the sheer volume of words God has had recorded about this single day that the seventh day of the week has a very special meaning to God the Father and Jesus Christ, and that they intend for all of humanity to eventually observe the seventh day as holy time.

From the beginning of creation, God intended the Sabbath to be one of the foundational aspects of his worship system, which is noted throughout the biblical record. 

God's Weekly Cycle Revealed

As time passed after the descendants of Jacob entered Egypt, most of the knowledge about God and his laws, statutes, and ordinances which had been handed down through Jacob and his sons was lost to the collective consciousness of the Israelites.

Because the Israelites had lost the knowledge of God's weekly cycle and did not understand its importance, the Creator God revealed it to them through a repetitive miracle, which was to be a continual reminder that the Sabbath was the last day of the seven-day cycle.

Exodus 16:4-5; 23-30 KJV

"Then said the Lord to Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or not. And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily" (vs.4-5).

God said he would provide food for the Israelites every day of the week except one. Each morning, they were to gather as much as they would need for that day, but they were not to gather any extra to be kept for use the next day (Ex.16:19). However, many refused to obey these instructions and found that the food from heaven spoiled when it was kept overnight (Ex.16:20).

God chose to make the Sabbath a test of the Israelite's obedience to him. On the sixth day of this seven day cycle, they were commanded to gather enough food for two days, so that they would not have to work on the Sabbath, which was the following day:

"And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers came and told Moses. And he said to them, This is that which the Lord has said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath to the Lord: bake that which you will bake today, and boil that which you will boil; and that which remains over lay up for you to be kept until the morning" (vs.22-23).

Verse 24 shows that the food gathered on the sixth day and saved overnight did not spoil by the following morning. The Israelites saw the first proof that the Sabbath day is a specific and special day of the seven-day cycle.

"And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein. And Moses said, Eat that today; for today is a Sabbath to the Lord: today you shall not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, in it there shall be none" (vs.24-26). 

"And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. And the Lord said to Moses, How long refuse you to keep my commandments and my laws? See, for that the Lord has given you the Sabbath, therefore he gives you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide you every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day" (vs.27-30).

One would think that, after all the miracles these people had seen, they would have taken God at his word and obeyed him by gathering twice as much food on the sixth day as instructed. However, many did not and they had to endure a day of hunger in order to have the Sabbath day firmly fixed in their minds.

The giving of food for six days and the withholding of it on the seventh day of the weekly cycle was a test of the Israelite's obedience to God and a continual reminder that the seventh day was the Sabbath.

Holy Time Lost?

It is important to note that the Sabbath is not a day to be calculated by use of the sacred calendar. The Sabbath is a holy time which has progressed from the beginning of creation through the centuries to our present time. Once the chronological order of God's weekly cycle was lost to the Israelites, it could not have been restored by astronomical calculations. This is one of the reasons why God had to reveal the weekly cycle to the Israelites.

The Sabbath Command

In order to understand what God expected of the Israelites concerning the Sabbath and the benefits they would derive from its observance, it is important to review the instructions they received concerning how it must be observed:

"And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, Concerning the feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; you shall do no work therein: it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings" (Lev.23:1-3 KJV).

One of the first things we notice about the Sabbath is that it is to be a festival day on which there is a commanded assembly of the people. The Sabbath is a day in which no work is to be done.

Exodus 20:8-11 KJV

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (v8). 

The Israelites were to remember this day by observing and respecting it as the holy thing that it is. If they remembered to observe and respect the Sabbath as they should, they would always remember their God, the reason for the Sabbath, and its importance to their covenant relationship with him.

"Six days you shall labor, and do all your work. But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. . ." (vs.9-10)

Labor may only be performed six days out of the weekly cycle. The seventh day of this cycle of days does not belong to humanity, it belongs to God.

"In it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor the stranger that is within your gates:" (v10).

The instruction is clear that all work must cease on the Sabbath, and no one is allowed to pursue their own work on this day: no head of a household, no son, no daughter, no servant. Neither were animals or foreigners allowed to work on the Sabbath within any land under Israel's control.

"For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the lord Blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it" (v11).

The Sabbath day is a weekly memorial of the completion of the creation of the physical universe and the spiritual creation of the Sabbath day on which God ceased from his creative work.

Kindle No Fire

"Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the Lord: whosoever does work therein shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the Sabbath day" (Ex.35:2-3 KJV).

Here we see an instruction not to start a fire on the Sabbath. At first this might seem to be a harsh law; however, for ancient Israel it was not:

The Gathering of Sticks Numbers 15:32-36 KJV

"And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks upon the Sabbath day. And they that found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation. And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him" (vs.32-34).

This account does not tell us why this person was gathering the wood; however, the reason was apparent to those who arrested him and brought him to be punished. We know that before this event the penalty for violating the Sabbath had already been determined (Ex.31:14-15; 35:2); therefore, the only thing left to do was to determine the method of execution:

"And the Lord said to Moses, The man shall surely be put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the Lord commanded Moses" (vs.35-36).


Throughout the history of the Israelitish people, the violation of the Sabbath has been one of the more serious mistakes they have made nationally and individually.

In Ezekiel, chapter 20, God refuses to allow the elders of Israel to consult with him because of their violation of his laws and their pollution of his Sabbath in particular. He reminds them of their continual pollution of his Sabbath and his great mercy and purpose for Israel when he brought them out of slavery:

"And I gave them my statutes, and showed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall live in them. Moreover I also gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctifies them. But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; and my Sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I will pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them" (Ezk.20:11-13 KJV).

"There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof. Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned my holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they showed a difference between the clean and unclean, and have hid their eyes from my Sabbaths, and I am profaned among them!" (Ezk.22:25-26 KJV). 

Even after Israel's wilderness punishment and journey into the promised land, they continued to violate the law of God and pollute his Sabbaths (Neh.13:15-18; Isa.1:13; Ezk.20:15-24). Because of these violations and pollutions, God removed many of the blessings he was going to give them as a part of the Sinai Covenant between himself and their forefathers. He also gave them over to their own ways (Ezk.20: 25-31) and refused to commune with them.

A Warning To The House Of Judah

Because many were openly doing business on the Sabbath day, the prophet Jeremiah was told to warn the House of Judah that if they did not stop this violation of the Sabbath, God would punish them with national captivity.

Jeremiah 17:19-24; 27 Good News Bible:

"The Lord said to me, Jeremiah, go and announce my message at the People's Gate, through which the kings of Judah enter and leave the city; then go to all the other gates of Jerusalem. Tell the kings and all the people of Judah and everyone who lives in Jerusalem and enters these gates, to listen to what I say" (vs.19-20).

"Tell them that if they love their lives, they must not carry any load on the Sabbath: they must not carry anything in through the gates of Jerusalem, or carry anything out of their houses on the Sabbath. They must not work on the Sabbath; they must observe it as a sacred day, as I commanded their ancestors. Their ancestors did not listen to me or pay any attention. Instead, they became stubborn; they would not obey me or learn from me" (vs.21-23).

"Tell these people that they must obey all my commands. They must not carry any load in through the gates of this city on the Sabbath. They must observe the Sabbath as a sacred day and must not do any work at all" (v24).

"They must obey me and observe the Sabbath as a sacred day. They must not carry any load through the gates of Jerusalem on that day; for if they do, I will set the gates of Jerusalem on fire. Fire will burn down the palaces of Jerusalem, and no one will be able to put it out" (v27).

These warnings went unheeded, and the nation was conquered by Assyria and later by Babylon. After seventy years of captivity, a remnant of the House of Judah returned from Babylon, and under Zerubbabel, Joshua (the high priest), Ezra, Nehemiah, and the people began to worship God and observe his Sabbath day again. 

Calendars Today

As we know, the calendar we use today is not the same as the one the ancient Israelites used, nor is it the one used in the days of Christ. At one time, ten days were dropped out of the calendar that is in common usage today. A careful study of all the changes to today's calendar reveals that the seven-day weekly cycle has never been changed. However, there are those that preach and/or believe that the Sabbath day has been lost over time. Moreover, the Jewish people adamantly claim they have not lost track of the weekly Sabbath and have continued to worship God on the correct day from the time of their exodus from Egypt centuries ago to this present time.

To say the Sabbath day has been lost is ludicrous and discounts the written records of the Jewish peoples' ethnic, religious, and secular history, as well as the scientific discoveries of archeology and astronomy concerning the Sabbath. All of these records have abundant evidence which shows time has not been lost, and that the day we call Saturday is still the seventh day of the weekly cycle.

The seven-day weekly cycle has never been broken or lost, and remains as it was from Creation. Since the day the Sabbath was revealed to the nation of Israel, the consciousness of this holy time has remained with the people of God. Moreover, the Sabbath as the seventh day has been a part of most of the world's calendars to this present day.


Some contend that the Sabbath is a Jewish day of worship and is not for any other group of people. However, the Bible clearly shows that the Sabbath was created by God the day after his creation of humanity (Gen.1:31; 2:2-3), and that it was created for the benefit of all humanity.

While explaining the nature of the Sabbath to the legalistic Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus Christ who was the Creator God (Jn.1:1-26, 1.Cor.8:6; Heb.1:1-3) said, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mk.2:27 KJV).

The seventh day was created more than three thousand years before the descendants of Judah were called Jews. Three thousand years is nearly half of all human history. Throughout this time, it was never called the Jewish Sabbath. The Jews did not even exist at Creation. Because the Sabbath was created by God to benefit all of humanity, it is not correct to call the Sabbath the Jewish Sabbath; it is God's Sabbath.


For centuries, theologians have been taught Christians no longer have to keep the seventh-day Sabbath holy. They have also taught that Christians have the option to keep the first day of the week, any day of the week, or no day at all as their Sabbath. 

Those who refuse to keep the true Sabbath of God invariably preach against the need to keep the commandments and other laws of God. Though they may sound convincing, and though they may be sincere and dedicated to their cause, they are doing Satan's bidding as adversaries of God.

By their own admission, many Sunday-keeping churches know, understand, and freely admit that the first day of the week has never been God's seventh-day Sabbath. They know the Bible teaches the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath, not Sunday worship.

When one truly studies the Bible, it is clear that neither God the Father nor Jesus Christ has ever proclaimed Sunday to be the "Lord's Day." The truth is that the Bible has never authorized Sunday worship. Furthermore, history shows that theological justification for Sunday worship was solidified only after Roman civil law made Sunday a day of worship throughout the Roman Empire.

This satanic counterfeit has been accepted in place of the truth of the Bible: it is truth exchanged for a lie. The truth is that Jesus never changed the Sabbath day from the seventh day of the week to the first day, the apostles never changed or eliminated the requirement to worship God on the true Sabbath, and they never taught that it could be observed on just any day of the week.

The historical record of the early New Testament Church of God shows that they always kept the seventh-day Sabbath; moreover, they believed that Jesus Christ meant exactly what he said when he said he was the "Lord of the Sabbath day" (Mk.2:27-28). There have always been obedient servants of God who have believed and practiced Sabbath observance throughout history, and there are people who truly observe the Sabbath in this age.

Jesus Christ was and will always be the Lord of the seventh-day Sabbath. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever" (Heb.13:8 Para.). Sunday is not the Lord's Day. It never has been; it is not now and it never will be the Lord's day at any time in the future.

The Sabbath day is the day God says is his. He created it, blessed it, sanctified it, and gave the commandment that says, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." This has been and still is the only teaching concerning the Sabbath in the biblical record. The Bible clearly shows which day is the Holy Sabbath of God.

Many today seem to think that the need to observe the Sabbath was completely changed or eliminated by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but this is not true. The scriptural truth is that the Sabbath day has never been changed or eliminated as a day of rest and worship. As we search the scriptures, we will find that the Sabbath has the same importance today as when it was originally conceived and created by God.

By B.L. Cocherell         b5w2