Book: Occult Holidays or God’s Holy Days—Which?

Throughout their history the children of Israel and Judah continually rejected the commandments of God. In particular, they refused to keep God’s Sabbath and holy days. At the temple of God in Jerusalem, they literally turned their backs on God to worship the sun and various occult gods. Generation after generation, they repeatedly and grievously transgressed against God. Yet, in His love and mercy for His people and for the sake of His promises to Abraham, God sent numerous faithful prophets over hundreds of years with warnings and calls to repentance. In spite of the repeated warnings, both Israel and Judah refused to repent. Finally, as punishment for their sins, God sent them into captivity at the hands of their enemies.

Ignoring the record of the Old Testament, apostate Orthodox Christendom has in defiance of God perpetuated the sins of ancient Israel and Judah. While its leadership professes to represent the God of the Bible and to claim His authority, its popes, priests, ministers and evangelists actually oppose God by rejecting much of His Word. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church today accepts and observes the traditions of the “church fathers” and various papal proclamations—claiming that they are as binding and authoritative as the Word of God. In practice, however, such traditions and papal proclamations actually supersede the authority of the Word of God. Protestants also accept as authoritative the traditions of the “church fathers,” and falsely teach that Jesus abolished the Law of God. As a result, they practice the very things God commands them to avoid—even while professing to serve Him! (See Appendix H, “Rome’s War Against the Christian Passover, God’s Sabbath and Holy Days,” p. 320.)

The apostle Peter prophesied that this would happen. “But there were also false prophets among the people [of ancient Israel and Judah], as indeed there will be false teachers among you, who will stealthily introduce destructive heresies, personally denying the Lord who bought them, and bringing swift destruction upon themselves. And many people will follow as authoritative their destructive ways; and because of them, the way of the truth will be blasphemed. Also, through insatiable greed they will with enticing messages exploit you for gain; for whom the judgment of old is in full force, and their destruction is ever watching” (II Pet. 2:1-3).

The Scriptures: The Word of Truth from the God of Truth

God is the God of truth, and it is impossible for Him to lie. The apostle Paul wrote, “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that is according to godliness; in the hope of eternal life, which God Who cannot lie promised before the ages of time” (Titus 1:1-2). Also: “In this way God, desiring more abundantly to show the heirs of the promise the unchangeable nature of His own purpose, confirmed it by an oath; so that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie…” (Heb. 6:17-18).

In addition, the God of truth keeps truth forever. As the psalmist wrote, the one “Who made the heavens and earth, the sea and all that is in them” also “keeps truth forever” (Psa. 146:6). The heavens and the earth are witnesses of His truth: “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My teachings shall drop as the rain; my speech shall drop down as the dew, as the small rain on the tender plant, and as the showers on the grass because I will proclaim the name of the LORD, and ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock [i.e., Jesus Christ, I Cor. 10:4]; His work is perfect for all His ways are just, a God of faithfulness, and without iniquity; just and upright is He” (Deut. 32:1-4).

Jesus Christ, the true Savior of the world, verified the truth of God, saying, “Your Word is the truth” (John 17:17). Of Himself, He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6); and, “The heaven and the earth shall pass away, but My words shall never pass away” (Mark 13:31).

Much of the truth of God has been revealed to men through the laws and commandments that God has given. Psalm 119 says: “Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is the truth” (verse 142); “You are near, O LORD, and all Your commandments are truth” (verse 151); “Therefore I esteem all Your precepts concerning all things to be right, and I hate every false way” (verse 128). The reader is encouraged to read and study all of Psalm 119, as the entire chapter is a prophecy of Jesus’ own attitude toward God’s Word. Because Jesus Himself esteemed God’s Word as truth, we can be sure that His Word is the absolute truth—God-breathed from the God of truth (II Tim. 3:15-16).

With this in mind, we ought to eagerly examine the Scriptures in search of the truth. First century believers in Berea were commended for their diligence in searching the Scriptures, as the writer of the book of Acts notes: “Now these [of Berea] were more noble than those in Thessalonica, for they received the Word with all readiness of mind and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

We also ought to study so that we might learn to rightly divide the Word of truth. The apostle Paul encouraged Timothy: “Diligently study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of the truth” (II Tim. 2:15). Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica, “Prove all things. Hold fast to that which is good” (I Thess. 5:21).

David wrote, “Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth [as a way of life]” (Psa. 86:11). And Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4; Luke 4:4). This teachable attitude and approach—coupled with the “Fourteen Rules of Bible Study” (Appendix I, p. 324)—will bring us understanding of the truth of the Word of God.

A Survey of the Seventh-Day Sabbath in the Old Testament

The following account from the book of Genesis reveals that the weekly seventh-day Sabbath is a special creation of God set aside by Him from the beginning. “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And by the beginning of the seventh day God finished 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 on it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Gen. 2:1-3).

Sanctifying the Sabbath means that God set it apart or made it holy. Since God is holy, only He has the power and authority to make or declare something holy. God made the Sabbath day holy by personally taking five specific actions: 1) God created it; 2) God blessed it; 3) God sanctified it; 4) God put His presence in it; and, 5) God rested on it. Therefore, no man has the power or authority to change, annul or abrogate what God has personally made holy.

The weekly cycle of seven days has been the same from creation. On the Roman calendar today, the seventh-day Sabbath is called Saturday. This day is the weekly Sabbath of God that He personally set aside and made holy from the beginning of creation.

The Ancient Righteous Patriarchs Kept the Sabbath: The laws of God have been in effect from the beginning (Rom. 5:12-14). If there was no law for the 2,500 years from Adam to Moses, there would have been no sin—because where there is no law, sin is not imputed (Rom. 4:15). Sin is the transgression of the law (I John 3:4)—therefore if there is sin, there is law. The fact that God passed judgment on mankind and destroyed them with a universal flood because of gross wickedness and sin (Gen. 6:5-13), proves that the laws and commandments of God have always been in effect.

The patriarchs Abel, Enoch, and Noah walked with God (Gen. 5:22; 6:9). They were righteous in that they believed God and kept His laws and commandments (Heb. 11:4-5, 7; 12:24). Since all the commandments of God are righteousness, this means the patriarchs kept the seventh-day Sabbath as well as all the other commandments.

After the flood, Abraham, the father of the faithful, received God’s promises because he believed and obeyed Him (Gen. 12:1-4; 22:1-18). Abraham’s faith was counted as righteousness (Gen. 15:6). Abraham also had righteous works. The apostle James, the brother of the Lord Jesus, writes of Abraham’s faith and works: “But are you willing to understand, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac, his own son, upon the altar? Do you not see that faith was working together with his works, and by works his faith was perfected? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Now Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness;’ and he was called a friend of God. You see, then, that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (Jas. 2:20-24).

When the promises given to Abraham were passed on to his son Isaac, God specifically told Isaac that he was receiving the promises because of Abraham’s obedience. The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Stay in this land, and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and to your seed, I will give all these lands; and I will establish the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. And I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and will give to your seed all these lands. And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws” (Gen. 26:3-5).

Since God does not change (Mal. 3:6), and Jesus Christ is “the same, yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13:8), we can conclude that the laws, commandments and statutes that Abraham kept were the same as those given later to Israel at Mount Sinai.

Weeks before the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai, God miraculously provided manna for them to eat. On the sixth day of the week, God sent a double portion of manna; He sent none on the seventh day. Thus the children of Israel would not need to gather food on the seventh day and could observe the Sabbath rest. Some, however, went out on the Sabbath to gather manna anyway—but didn’t find any. Through Moses, God asked, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws?” (Ex. 16:28).

At Mount Sinai God expounded upon the Fourth commandment, saying, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter; your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your livestock, nor the stranger within your gates; For in six days the LORD made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and sanctified it” (Ex. 20:8-11).

Moses recounted the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy five, stressing that God’s Sabbath was not only to be remembered, it was to be kept: “Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it as the LORD your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your livestock, nor your stranger within your gates, so that your manservant and your maidservant may rest as well as you. And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (Deut. 5:12-15).

In Leviticus, God declares that the Sabbath is a holy convocation: “Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of rest, a holy convocation. You shall not do any work. It is a Sabbath to the LORD in all your dwellings” (Lev. 23:3).

Sabbath-Keeping Is a Perpetual
Sign Between God and His People

There are a number of key Scriptures concerning Sabbath-keeping as a special sign between God and His people. For example:

“And the LORD spoke to Moses saying, ‘Speak also to the children of Israel [The true Church of God is called the “Israel of God” in Gal. 6:16], saying, “Truly you shall keep My Sabbaths, for it [the keeping of God’s Sabbaths] is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations to know that I am the LORD Who sanctifies you. You shall keep the Sabbath therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone that defiles it shall surely be put to death [The wages of sin is death, Rom. 6:23, and sin is the transgression of the law, I John 3:4.], for whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people” ’ ” (Ex. 31:12-14).

“Six days may work be done, but on the seventh day is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he 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” (verses 15-17).

God declared, “You shall keep My Sabbaths.” (As we will see in the next chapter, this means not only the weekly seventh-day Sabbath, but also the annual holy days—all of which are Sabbaths.) The keeping of His Sabbaths is a sign between God and His people. Those who do not keep His Sabbaths are transgressing God’s commandments, regardless of what they profess.

This perpetual covenant—meaning it cannot be changed or abolished— of Sabbath-keeping is in addition to the covenant that was ratified between God and the children of Israel as recorded in Exodus 24. As such, the Sabbath covenant of Exodus 31 is a basic component of all other covenants. There is little doubt that this perpetual covenant of Sabbath-keeping was included in every covenant of God from creation—because the Sabbath was from the beginning!

Sabbath-Breaking Is Rebellion Against God

In Ezekiel 20, God commanded the children of Israel to put away the idols of Egypt and keep His laws and Sabbaths. “And I gave them My statutes and showed them My ordinances, which if a man do, he shall even live in them. And also I gave them My Sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them.

But the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness; they did not walk in My statutes, and they despised My ordinances, which if a man does, he shall even live in them. And they greatly polluted My Sabbaths…” (Ezek. 20:11-13). Because of the sins of the children of Israel in the wilderness, God punished them with forty years of wandering—until all those twenty years of age and over died (Num. 14:34).

At the end of the forty years, and just before they went into the Promised Land, God again pleaded with the children of Israel: “But I said to their children in the wilderness, ‘Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers, nor observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols. I am the LORD your God. Walk in My statutes, and keep My ordinances, and do them, and keep My Sabbaths holy; and they shall be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the LORD your God’ ” (Ezek. 20:18-20).

Verse 21: “But the children rebelled against Me. They did not walk in My statutes, nor keep My ordinances to do them—the ordinances which, if a man do, he shall even live in them. And they polluted My Sabbaths….” Israel rejected God’s pleas to obey Him and keep His Sabbaths. In rebellion, they refused to keep His commandments and laws, and instead worshiped the gods of the nations around them.

Blessings of Sabbath-Keeping

The prophet Isaiah prophesied that in the end times, just before the return of Jesus Christ, salvation would directly involve Sabbath-keeping. “Thus says the LORD, ‘Keep justice and do righteousness; for My salvation is near to come [beginning with Jesus’ ministry in 26 AD until His second coming], and My righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who lays hold on it; who keeps the Sabbath from profaning it; and keeps his hand from doing any evil…. [Blessed also are] the sons of the stranger, who join themselves to the LORD to serve Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants, [and] everyone who keeps from profaning the Sabbath, and takes hold of My covenant [the perpetual Sabbath-keeping covenant of Exodus 31 and the New Covenant through Jesus Christ]’ ” (Isa. 56:1-2, 6).

God blesses those who seek to please Him by keeping His holy Sabbath. “If you turn your foot away from the Sabbath, from doing your own desires on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honorable; and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor pursuing your own desires, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed you with the inheritance of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it” (Isa. 58:13-14).

Sabbath-keeping is not a curse as so many “Christians” have been wrongly taught. Rather, there are many blessings for keeping the seventh-day Sabbath. The fact is, curses are the result of sin—and sin is the transgression of God’s law. Curses do not come from keeping the Sabbath—curses come from breaking the Sabbath. Anyone who rejects the Fourth Commandment and does not keep the seventh-day Sabbath is sinning.

The Old Testament reveals the following truths about the Sabbath:

  • The Sabbath is a weekly memorial of God’s creation of heaven and earth.
  • The Sabbath is a great gift from God to mankind.
  • The Sabbath is the only day of the week that God has specifically blessed and made holy.
  • The Sabbath is a day of ceasing from all labor.
  • The Sabbath is a holy convocation—a day of assembly and worship.
  • God commands all mankind to keep the Sabbath.
  • God gave the Sabbath as a sign of remembrance of His covenant with His people.
  • Sabbath-keeping is a perpetual covenant.
  • God owns the Sabbath. “But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord.”

This brief survey concerning Sabbath-keeping has covered only the more important Old Testament passages. The reader is encouraged to study the many other Scriptures directly relating to the Sabbath.

A Survey of the Seventh-Day Sabbath in the New Testament

In the beginning God created all things, and the one Who did the actual creating was the one Who became Jesus Christ. The apostle John wrote of this fundamental truth: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and not even one thing that was created came into being without Him…. And the Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us (and we ourselves beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten with the Father), full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-3, 14). The book of Hebrews confirms this understanding. “God, Who spoke to the fathers at different times in the past and in many ways by the prophets, has spoken to us in these last days by His Son, Whom He has appointed heir of all things, by Whom also He made the worlds; Who, being the brightness of His glory and the exact image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His own power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:1-3).

Again, the apostle Paul wrote that Jesus Christ created all things: “Because by Him [Jesus Christ] were all things created, the things in heaven and the things on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether they be thrones, or lordships, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him. And He is before all, and by Him all things subsist. And He is the Head of the body, the church; Who is the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead, so that in all things He Himself might hold the preeminence” (Col. 1:16-18; also see Heb. 2:9-10).

This knowledge is of the utmost significance because it means that Jesus Christ is the Creator of the seventh-day Sabbath. He is the Lord God Who blessed it, sanctified it, and commanded men to keep it as a perpetual covenant. Moreover, as the Lord God of the Old Testament, He gave the Ten Commandments and all of the laws, commandments, statutes and judgments to ancient Israel at Mt. Sinai.

Jesus Christ Did Not Abolish the Law or the Prophets

When Jesus Christ began His ministry, He taught concerning the laws and commandments of God, and the prophets, saying, “Do not think [do not even let it enter your mind] that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until the heaven and the earth shall pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no way pass from the law until everything has been fulfilled” (Matt. 5:17-18). Since heaven and earth still exist, the laws and commandments of God are still in full force and effect!

Jesus further taught regarding the commandments: “Therefore, whoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever shall practice and teach them, this one shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (verse 19). Christ Himself made it clear that we are blessed, not cursed, if we do and teach even the “least” of the commandments.

In another account, when a young rich man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus gave this answer: “If you desire to enter into life, keep [Greek poiew, meaning “to practice,” “to do”] the commandments” (Matt. 19:17). The man responded by saying that he had kept the commandments from his childhood. Jesus then told the young man that he should sell all that he owned and give to the poor, because commandmentkeeping— while required to enter into life—is not enough by itself.

The apostles also taught commandment-keeping to New Testament Christians. In the 90s AD, the apostle John wrote that Christians were to keep the commandments of God. “And whatever we may ask we receive from Him because we keep His commandments and practice those things that are pleasing in His sight…. And the one who keeps His commandments is dwelling in Him, and He in him; and by this we know that He is dwelling in us: by the Spirit which He has given to us” (I John 3:22, 24).

When Peter and the other apostles were called before the Sanhedrin for preaching salvation through Jesus Christ, they gave this answer: “We are obligated to obey God rather than men…. And we are His witnesses of these things, as is also the Holy Spirit, which God has given to those who obey Him” (Acts 5:29, 32). We must obey God over men—and where the teachings of men contradict the Word of God, we must be willing to discard such teachings. If we are obedient to His Word, God will enable us to further discern truth from error.

God’s laws, commandments, statutes and judgments are holy, righteous and good—and God has given them to us for our well-being, so that He might bless us in everything, because He loves us. (See Deut. 4:1, 39- 40; 5:29-33; 6:1-6, 17-18, 24-25; 7:6-15; 10:12-15; 11:1-28.)

Contrary to the Word of God, Dr. Russell K. Tardo champions the lawless Protestant viewpoint by claiming that all the laws and commandments of God have been abolished, rendered inoperative, or fulfilled. “In fact, the whole law of Moses has been rendered inoperative. The New Testament message is clear for all who have ‘ears to hear.’ The whole of the law of Moses has been rendered inoperative by the death of the Lord Jesus. The law, in its entirety, no longer has any immediate and forensic authority or jurisdiction whatsoever over anyone…. Christ is the complete end and fulfillment of all of the laws, 613 commandments, ending their jurisdiction over us completely” (Tardo, Sunday Facts & Sabbath Fiction, pp. 26-27). To allege that Christ completely fulfilled the Law and brought it to an end is absolute nonsense—the idea creates an untenable “lawless grace”—contradicting Jesus Christ’s own plain teachings.

All of God’s Laws Are Based on Love

Jesus Christ taught that the whole foundation for the laws and commandments of God is the love of God. A doctor of the law asked Jesus, “Master, which commandment is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus answered, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.This is the first and greatest commandment; and the second one is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:36-40; also see Deut. 6:4-5).

Love is not contrary to commandment-keeping, as many religious teachers ignorantly affirm. Rather, all the Law and the Prophets hang on the love of God. In other words, the love of God is the underlying basis for all the laws and commandments of God—the reason they exist in the first place. Law is not opposed to the love of God; instead, law and love complement each other.

Jesus amplified the meaning of these two great commandments. Christ, as God manifested in the flesh, was the Lord God of the Old Testament. Therefore, what Jesus said about the commandments of God refers not only to His commandments in the New Testament, but also to the commandments He gave as the God of the Old Testament. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep the commandments—namely, My commandments…. The one who has My commandments and is keeping them, that is the one who loves Me; and the one who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will manifest Myself to him…. If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come

to him and make Our abode with him. The one who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word that you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s, Who sent Me” (John 14:15-24).

As this precise translation of the Greek shows, if anyone loves God the Father and Jesus Christ, that love will be made evident by obedience. This means that it is impossible to love God while rejecting or denouncing the laws and commandments of God, regardless of one’s “profession of love” toward God. Keeping the commandments of God, which includes the seventh-day weekly Sabbath, is the standard by which we know that we love God. The apostle John wrote, “By this standard we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (I John 5:2-3).

John even went so far as to say, “The one who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. On the other hand, if anyone is keeping His Word, truly in this one the love of God is being perfected. By this means we know that we are in Him. Anyone who claims to dwell in Him is obligating himself also to walk even as He Himself walked” (I John 2:4-6). It is through obedience that the love of God is being perfected in His followers.

How did Jesus walk before God the Father? He loved God and kept His commandments, always doing the things that pleased the Father. “Then Jesus said to them, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you yourselves shall know that I AM, and that I do nothing of Myself. But as the Father taught Me, these things I speak. And He Who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone because I always do the things that please Him’ ” (John 8:28-29). Thus, if we are Christ’s, then we will love God, keep His commandments, and please Him in everything as Jesus did. “And in this way we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him…. And whatever we may ask we receive from Him because we keep His commandments and practice those things that are pleasing in His sight” (I John 3:19, 22).

When we keep the Sabbath in a loving and godly way, and worship God “in spirit and truth,” it is most pleasing to Him—and our spiritual fellowship is with the Father and the Son. “That which we have seen and have heard we are reporting to you in order that you also may have fellowship with us; for the fellowship—indeed, our fellowship—is with the Father and with His own Son, Jesus Christ” (I John 1:3).

Jesus’ Teaching and Example
Concerning the Seventh-Day Sabbath

Jesus Christ Kept the Sabbath: Jesus Christ observed the weekly seventh-day Sabbath as a custom. “And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and according to His custom, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read.” (Luke 4:16). On that Sabbath, Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah where it foretold of His

ministry of love, mercy, forgiveness and redemption. “And there was given Him the book of the prophet Isaiah; and when He had unrolled the scroll, He found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; for this reason, He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal those who are brokenhearted, to proclaim pardon to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send forth in deliverance those who have been crushed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord’ ” (verses 17-19).

After Jesus left Nazareth, He continued to teach the people throughout all Galilee—particularly on the Sabbath. He never at any time claimed that He had come to do away with the Sabbath commandment. “Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the Sabbath days. And they were astonished at His teaching: for His word was with authority” (Luke 4:31-32).

The Sabbath, as we have previously discussed, was made to be a blessing for all mankind. Jesus used the Sabbath to preach the gospel, to teach and to personally administer God’s love, mercy and blessings through healing and the casting out of demons. Jesus Christ used the Sabbath to release people from sin—not to lead them into sin! Hence, Jesus revealed that the Sabbath day is a day of love, mercy, forgiveness, redemption and salvation—a day of blessing!

Jesus Healed on the Sabbath Day

Mark recorded Jesus’ healing of a man on the Sabbath day as follows: “And again He went into the synagogue, and a man who had a withered hand was there. And they were watching Him, to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, in order that they might accuse Him [notice the hard-hearted, unmerciful attitude of the Jewish religious leaders]. Then He said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Stand up here in the center.’ And He said to them, ‘Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbaths, or to do evil? To save life, or to kill?’ But they were silent. And after looking around at them with anger, being grieved at the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as sound as the other. Then the Pharisees left and immediately took counsel with the Herodians as to how they might destroy Him” (Mark 3:1- 6).

John also recorded how Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath: “Now a certain man was there who had been suffering with an infirmity for thirty-eight years. Jesus saw him lying there, and, knowing that he had been there a long time, said to him, ‘Do you desire to be made whole?’ And the infirm man answered Him, ‘Sir, I do not have anyone to put me in the pool after the water has been agitated [by an angel]. But while I am going, another one steps down before me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Arise, take up your bedroll and walk.’ And immediately the man was made whole; and he took up his bedroll [probably not much bigger than a small sleeping bag] and walked. Now that day was a Sabbath.

“For this reason, the Jews said to the man who had been healed, ‘It is the Sabbath day. It is not lawful for you to take up your bedroll.’ He answered them, ‘The one Who made me whole said to me, “Take up your bedroll and walk.” ’ Then they asked him, ‘Who is the one Who said to you, “Take up your bedroll and walk”?’ But the man who had been healed did not know Who it was, for Jesus had moved away, and a crowd was in the place.

“After these things, Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘Behold, you have been made whole. Sin no more, so that something worse does not happen to you.’

“And for this cause, the Jews persecuted Jesus and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on a Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I work.’ So then, on account of this saying, the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, not only because He had loosed the Sabbath, but also because He had called God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. Therefore, Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Truly, truly I say to you, the Son has no power to do anything of Himself, but only what He sees the Father do. For whatever He does, these things the Son also does in the same manner’ ” (John 5:5-19).

The Jews did not understand that spiritual works such as healing the sick, casting out demons, and helping the poor and destitute on the Sabbath day glorify God. These acts are a part of the good works of keeping the Sabbath day holy. Jesus did not work for gain. Rather, His was a spiritual work. Moreover, by healing the man and commanding him to pick up his bedroll, Jesus loosed a traditional law of Judaism that had made the Sabbath a burden. In this account, He most assuredly did not abrogate the Sabbath or any other laws of God, as some misguided theologians allege.

God never made the Sabbath day to be a burden for people—for as John wrote, “His commandments are not burdensome.” However, the Jewish religious leaders legislated hundreds of letter-of-the-law “do’s and don’ts” which burdened the people with rigorous, harsh restrictions. As a result of these man-made laws, the Sabbath became a yoke of bondage to the people. Jesus condemned the scribes and Pharisees for putting these heavy burdens on the people (Matt. 23:4, 14-15). These added traditional laws made it nearly impossible to truly keep the Sabbath in the manner God intended it, as a day for rest, rejoicing, and worshiping God the Father and Jesus Christ in spirit and in truth.

Lord of the Sabbath: Another dispute arose because Christ and His disciples had plucked ears of grain to eat on the Sabbath day. Afterward, Jesus announced, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore, the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28).

Jesus Himself is Lord of the Sabbath because He created, blessed, and sanctified the day. It is the true “Lord’s Day.” The Sabbath day is the seventh day of the week, known as Saturday. The Lord’s Day of the New Testament is the seventh-day weekly Sabbath—not Sunday, the first day of the week!

The Apostles Kept the Sabbath

Throughout the book of Acts, we find that the apostle Paul taught on the Sabbath. When Paul first began preaching in Greece proper, he observed the Sabbath day, as was his custom. Because there was no synagogue in the area, Paul and his entourage sought out a place of prayer where people were keeping the Sabbath. Luke writes: “And from there we went to Philippi, which is the primary city in that part of Macedonia, and a colony. And we stayed in this city for a number of days. Then on the Sabbath, we went outside the city by a river, where it was customary for prayer to be made; and after sitting down, we spoke to the women who were gathered there” (Acts 16:12-13).

When Paul came to Thessalonica, he taught on the Sabbath at a synagogue of the Jews: “And as was the custom with Paul, he went in to them and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, expounding and demonstrating that it was necessary for Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and testifying, ‘This Jesus, Whom I am proclaiming to you, is the Christ.’ Now some of them were convinced, and joined themselves to Paul and Silas, including a great multitude of devout Greeks [Gentile converts], and of the chief women not a few” (Acts 17:2-4).

Again, in Antioch, Paul taught on the Sabbath at the synagogue. “They came to Antioch of Pisidia: and they went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down” (Acts 13:14). After Paul preached Jesus Christ to them, many of the Jews were offended. However, some of the Jews—and most of the Gentiles—wanted to hear more about the gospel of Jesus Christ. “And when the Jews had gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles entreated him that these words might be spoken to them on the next Sabbath. Now after the synagogue had been dismissed, many of the Jews and the proselytes [Gentile converts] who worshiped there followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. And on the coming Sabbath [not the next day, Sunday—but the next Sabbath], almost the whole city was gathered together to hear the Word of God” (Acts 13:42-44).

If it were indeed true—as taught by theologians and believed by millions of churchgoers—that after the resurrection of Christ the apostles changed the Sabbath from the seventh day of the week to the first day, Paul certainly would have instructed these worship-seekers to come back the very next day, Sunday—but he didn’t!

When the apostle Paul was in Corinth, he taught every Sabbath for one and a half years. “And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks. Now when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul was stirred in his spirit and was earnestly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. But when they set themselves in opposition and were blaspheming, Paul shook his garments and said to them, ‘Your blood be upon your heads. I am pure [blameless] of it. From this time forward I will go to the Gentiles.’

“And after departing from there, he came into the house of a certain one named Justus, who worshiped God, whose house adjoined the synagogue. But Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with his whole house; and many Corinthians who heard, believed and were baptized. And the Lord said to Paul in a vision in the night, ‘Do not be afraid; but speak, and do not be silent, for I am with you; and no one shall set upon you to mistreat you because I have many people in this city.’ And he remained there for a year and six months teaching the Word of God among them” (Acts 18:4-11).

These Scriptures prove that Paul did not institute Sunday-keeping as a replacement for the seventh-day weekly Sabbath among the Gentile communities.

Grace Does Not Eliminate Sabbath-Keeping: In no way does being under grace eliminate the need to obey the Fourth Commandment. Sabbath-keeping is not opposed to grace. In fact, Paul often taught Gentiles on the Sabbath day about the grace of God. In his epistle to the Romans, Paul taught that grace does not abolish law, rather it establishes law. “[There is] indeed one God Who will justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith. Are we, then, abolishing law through faith? MAY IT NEVER BE! Rather, we are establishing law!” (Rom. 3:30-31).

Later in this same epistle to the Romans, Paul refutes the idea that since God’s grace covers sin, the more one sins, the more grace is manifest. He makes it clear that a Christian cannot continue to live in sin, transgressing the commandments of God—including the Fourth Commandment. “What then shall we say? Shall we continue in sin, so that grace may abound? MAY IT NEVER BE! We who died to sin, how shall we live any longer therein? Or are you ignorant that we, as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus, were baptized into His death?

“Therefore, we were buried with Him through the baptism into the death; so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, in the same way, we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been conjoined together in the likeness of His death, so also shall we be in the likeness of His resurrection. Knowing this, that our old man was co-crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be destroyed, so that we might no longer be enslaved to sin; because the one who has died to sin [through the operation of baptism] has been justified from sin” (Rom. 6:1-7).

There is not even the slightest hint in the New Testament Scriptures that the apostles of Jesus Christ—including Paul, who was the apostle to the Gentiles—taught that Sunday was the Gentile Sabbath. Never at any time did they teach that Sunday would replace the seventh-day Sabbath. All the way through the book of Acts, and in the writings of all the apostles, the Sabbath is upheld.

If You Transgress One of the Commandments,
You Are Guilty of Breaking Them All

From the days of Constantine, Orthodox Christendom has rejected the Fourth Commandment and has replaced it with Sunday-keeping. Yet, as strange as it may seem, those who reject this commandment will insist that since they keep other commandments of God, they are still living within the will of God. But is this true?

In his epistle, James shows that Jesus’ teachings concerning the spirit of the law in no way eliminates the need to obey the letter of the law. James explains that Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself” requires obedience to all of God’s commandments. James specifically refers to the Sixth and Seventh Commandments, and makes it clear that to break any of God’s commandments is sin: “If you are truly keeping the Royal Law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you have respect of persons, you are practicing sin, being convicted by the law as transgressors; for if anyone keeps the whole law, but sins in one aspect, he becomes guilty of all. For He Who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘You shall not commit murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. In this manner speak and in this manner behave: as those who are about to be judged by the law of freedom” (James 2:8-12).

It is clear that when James wrote of “the Royal Law,” he was referring to the laws and commandments of God. Likewise, “the law of freedom” is another reference to the commandments of God—meaning that when people keep the laws and commandments of God, they are free from sin. On the other hand, when people do not keep the commandments, they are sinning and are automatically judged by “the Royal Law, the law of freedom.”

To borrow from James, “if anyone keeps nine of the commandments, but sins only by breaking the Sabbath command, he is still guilty of being a lawbreaker, as if he had broken them all.”

Many Scholars Understand
New Testament Sabbath-Keeping

Many theologians have misconstrued Jesus’ declaration that He is “Lord of the Sabbath” to mean that He was using His authority to abolish the Sabbath. This interpretation of Jesus’ words is completely unfounded. Among those scholars who understand the true meaning of Sabbath-keeping scriptures are the writers of The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Note what they have written about these critical verses: “At times Jesus is interpreted to have abrogated or suspended the sabbath commandment on the basis of the controversies brought about by sabbath healings and other acts. Careful analysis of the respective passages does not seem to give credence to this interpretation. The action of plucking the ears of grain on the sabbath by the disciples is particularly important in this matter. Jesus makes a foundational pronouncement at that time in … [an authoritatively] structured statement of antithetic [contrasting] parallelism: ‘The sabbath was made for man and not man for the sabbath’ (Mark 2:27). The disciples’ act of plucking the grain infringed against the rabbinic halakhah of minute casuistry [i.e., the Jews’ use of false reasoning to create traditional laws to define trivial, frivolous matters] in which it was forbidden to reap, thresh, winnow, and grind on the sabbath (Sabb. 7.2). Here again rabbinic sabbath halakhah is rejected [by Jesus], as in other sabbath conflicts. Jesus reforms the sabbath and restores its rightful place as designed in creation, where the sabbath is made for all mankind and not specifically for Israel, as claimed by normative Judaism (cf. Jub. 2:19-20, see D.3). The subsequent logion [pronouncement], ‘The Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath’ (Mark 2:28; Matt. 12:8; Luke 6:5), indicates that man-made sabbath halakhah does not rule the sabbath, but that the Son of man as Lord determines the true meaning of the sabbath. The sabbath activities of Jesus are neither hurtful provocations nor mere protests against rabbinic legal restrictions, but are part of Jesus’ essential proclamation of the inbreaking of the kingdom of God in which man is taught the original meaning of the sabbath as the recurring weekly proleptic [anticipated] ‘day of the Lord’ in which God manifests his healing and saving rulership over man” (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. 5, pp. 854-55, bold emphasis and bracketed comments added).

There Remains Sabbath-Keeping for the People of God

As these scholars have written, the Gospel accounts do not support the widespread belief that Jesus abolished the Sabbath day. Rather, as the Lord of the Sabbath, He taught the true meaning of the Sabbath day and set the example for its proper observance. Christ’s apostles continued to keep the Sabbath and to teach the early believers to keep it, as Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews clearly demonstrates. The apostle Paul wrote this epistle in 61 AD, more than thirty years after the beginning of the New Testament Church. Even at that time, false ministers were beginning to teach that Sunday, the first day of the week, had replaced the Sabbath. To counter these false teachings, Paul gave the brethren a sober warning that to reject the Sabbath and accept Sunday was sin—just as the children of Israel sinned when they rebelled against God in the wilderness.

Paul drew the comparison between the rebellious Israelites—who were not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of their Sabbath-breaking and occult worship of the sun god—and professing Christians who harden their hearts in disobedience to God. He warned them that just as the Israelites were not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of their unbelief and Sabbath-breaking, they likewise would not enter into the Kingdom of God because of their unbelief and Sabbath-breaking. “For He spoke in a certain place about the seventh day in this manner: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all His works’; and again concerning this: ‘If they shall enter into My rest—’ Consequently, since it remains for some to enter into it, and those who had previously heard the gospel did not enter in because of disobedience, again He marks out a certain day, ‘Today,’ saying in David after so long a time (exactly as it has been quoted above), ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.’ For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken long afterwards of another day. There remains therefore, Sabbath-keeping [Greek, sabbatismos] for the people of God” (Heb. 4:4-9).

Paul does not say, “There remains Sabbath-keeping for the Jews.” He clearly declared, “There remains Sabbath-keeping for the people of God”—Gentiles as well as Jews (I Pet. 2:10 and Eph. 2:11-13).

Paul carries his instruction even further, showing that we must keep the Sabbath or risk losing salvation. “For the one who has entered into His rest [keeps the Sabbath], he also has ceased from his own works, as God did from His own works [when He created the Sabbath day by resting]. We should be diligent therefore to enter into that rest [Sabbath-keeping, as well as striving to enter into the Kingdom of God], lest anyone fall after the same example of disobedience. For the Word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, and of both the joints and the marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:10 -12). (See “The True Meaning of Sabbatismos in Hebrews 4:9,” p. 237, for a detailed analysis of the Greek word sabbatismos, Sabbath -keeping.)

What could be clearer? God’s Holy Word reveals that if we want to be true Christians, we must love God the Father and Jesus Christ. We must be following the example of Jesus Christ, living by every word of God and keeping all of His commandments. Our very calling and hope of salvation requires that we observe the seventh-day weekly Sabbath as the day of rest, worship and fellowship. (See Inset, “Who and What Is a True Christian,” p. 114.)


We have seen from God’s Word the following truths about the seventh- day holy Sabbath of God:

  • God created the seventh-day Sabbath as a day of rest for all of mankind from the beginning of the creation.
  • Abraham kept the Sabbath.
  • The Sabbath commandment was given to the Israelites before Mt. Sinai.
  • The Sabbath commandment is the fourth of the Ten Commandments, and we are commanded to remember the seventh-day Sabbath to keep it holy.
  • God owns the Sabbath.
  • Jesus Christ was the Creator of the Sabbath.
  • Jesus Christ is Lord of the Sabbath day, which means that the Lord’s Day is the seventh day—not Sunday, the first day of the week.
  • Jesus Christ observed the Sabbath, and taught and healed on the Sabbath.
  • The apostles never changed the day of worship to the first day of the week.
  • The apostle Paul taught the Gentiles to observe the Sabbath.
  • The apostle Paul taught that grace and Sabbath-keeping go hand-in- hand.
  • The Bible nowhere teaches that the Sabbath was changed to Sunday.
  • Hebrews 4:9 is a direct command for Christians today to keep the Sabbath.
  • Sabbath-keeping is essential for salvation and is a sign that we love God and keep His commandments.

In the next chapter we will survey God’s annual feasts and holy days

in the Old Testament. Just as God commanded the twelve tribes of Israel to keep the weekly seventh-day Sabbath, God likewise commanded that they keep His annual feasts and holy days.