The Sabbath Sign

By: Harold Smith

Today what I want to focus on is keeping the Fourth Commandment, because that's the one commandment that is always under attack, always has been, and no doubt will be until Christ returns.

There are a number of different groups today that keep the seventh day Sabbath. The Seventh Day Adventists are the largest known body, outside the Jewish community that profess the seventh day Sabbath. Then there is us, the Sabbath Keeping Churches of God who keep the seventh day Saturday Sabbath and we also keep the seven annual Sabbath Festivals described in Leviticus 23.

Is The Sabbath Still A Sign?

Does the seventh day Sabbath still continue to remain a sign between God and the people of God?

Let's go back to Exodus chapter 31, and let's notice in this very important crux chapter what God does say about this sign and we will build upon the material here, for the remainder of the sermon.

In Exodus 31 beginning in verse 12, "The LORD spoke to Moses, and He said, {13} Speak you also unto the children of Israel, saying, "Surely my Sabbaths you shall keep for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations."

Now the first thing that we need to note is these are "my Sabbaths." They are God's Sabbaths, not the Sabbaths of Israel. They are God's Sabbaths. He has not given them to someone else to be in control of. He continues to claim all rights to these days, they are His.

"It is a sign between me and you throughout your generations." Now the word 'sign' here is from the Hebrew word 'owth.' 'Wherever you see the word 'sign' in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word is 'owth'.

"It is an 'owth' or a 'sign' between me and you throughout your generations that you may know that I am the LORD that does sanctify you. {14} You shall keep the Sabbath therefore, for it is holy unto you, every one that defiles it shall surely be put to death for whosoever does any work in that day, that individual shall be cut off from among his people. {15} Six days may work be done, but in the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD." It is holy to God. "Whosoever does any work in the Sabbath day shall surely be put to death. {16} Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations for a perpetual covenant. {17} It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever, for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed."

And so we find that God gave to Moses, these two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with a finger of God.

The Sabbath, the fourth commandment was written in stone. The Sabbath, is not changeable. It was written in stone. It remains to this day, as the day that God has set aside and it remains with just as much validity as the first commandment where we are to have no other gods before God. It has the same position at the second commandment where we are not to have any graven images. It has just as much validity today as the third commandment not taking the name of God in vain and all the way down the line through the Tenth Commandment.

We find here that the Sabbath is a sign. A sign is an identification and so we find the Sabbath is an identification for some reason and for some purpose which we will go into more thoroughly.


Now let's notice Exodus 31 verse 13, in particular, the latter part. God says, "It is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD that does sanctify you."

Verse 13 emphasizes sanctification. Sanctification, of course, has to do with being set apart, to be separate from something else. In this case, God has sanctified you, that you may know that it is the LORD that sanctifies you.

God set Israel apart from all other nations by giving them the Sabbath, because He did not give it to any other nation. He did not give it to any of the other descendants of Abraham. He gave it to Isaac's descendants. The only descendants of Isaac that received it was Jacob. Jacob received it. Only that nation, Jacob whose name was changed to Israel, that is the only nation that has received this identification.

All other peoples kept the same day in the ancient world and it was the first day of the week. It was the first day, it has been the day of the sun all along. It wasn't until Mohammed came along that the sixth day became an important day in Islam, but before that, it was universally, the first day which was the day that everyone worshiped on. It didn't matter what part of the world you went to, they worshiped on the first day of the week.

Israel was different. God gave them the seventh day Sabbath and it set them apart from every other nation, because no other nation kept that seventh day. It marked them in a particular way.

Lets go back to Deuteronomy chapter 5 and notice a couple things here in the second giving of the law. Things that had to deal with sanctification.

Deuteronomy chapter 5 beginning in verse 12. Here Moses is reiterating what God spoke from Mount Sinai, and He said, "Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it."

Now we find that sanctification has to do with the Sabbath itself and it was to be set apart. Now God, as we saw in Exodus chapter 31, set Israel apart through the Sabbath, now we find that Israel is to keep the Sabbath day, to sanctify it, to set it apart from all other days of the week, and Israel is to treat it differently than any other day.

Continuing in verse 12, "As the LORD your God has commanded you, {13} Six days you shall labor, and do all your work: {14} 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 individuals or animals within your household. {15} And remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD your God brought you out from there through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm. Therefore, the LORD your God commanded you, to keep the Sabbath day."

So God tells Israel that on the Sabbath day they are to remember their deliverance that God gave them from Egypt. God says to think back, you need to be reminded on the seventh day that you are a holy people. You are a special people to God, because He delivered you. He didn't deliver anyone else. He delivered you. "Therefore keep the Sabbath day." And so the Sabbath day was to be to ancient Israel, a day they reflected on their special relationship with God. They were to reflect upon their sanctification, that they were set apart as no other people were set apart.

However, as Ezekiel chapter 20 shows, this is the chapter that deals with Israel's horrendous example of disobedience to the fourth commandment.

In Ezekiel chapter 20 beginning in verse 12, God speaking through Ezekiel said, "Moreover also, I gave them my Sabbaths, I gave Israel my Sabbaths to be a sign between me and them that they might know that I am the LORD that does sanctify them," so they'll reflect upon the fact that I am the one that made the difference. They are not different on their own. I made them different. {13} "But the house of Israel rebelled against me." They didn't want to be different. "They walked not in my statutes, 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 would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness to consume them."

The Sabbaths were to remind Israel they were special to God, that they were set apart from all other nations, but instead of looking at that and understanding, the importance that they were something so different and because they were so different, there were obligations they had to all other people rather than understand that, they longed to be part of the nations around them. They adopted the day of worship of the nations around them. They rejected the day that God gave them that made them different and they began to accept all the pagan customs and manners of worship of the other nations. They totally threw away the responsibility that God had given them as a special people.

In Exodus 31 verse 17 as a quick reflection, God said regarding the Sabbath, "It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever, for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed."

The Sabbath Was a Reminder that God was the Creator

The Sabbath was to be a reminder to Israel that God was the Creator, not only was He the one that delivered them from Egypt, but He was also the Creator. He made, He created, He reformed and refashioned life on this planet. He reordered the earth and the heavens for the benefit of mankind and on the seventh day He rested. And so the Sabbath was to be a reminder that God was the Creator, He was master because He made it all. He created it all.

God Created Israel as a Nation

God was also the creator of Israel. Israel was not a nation, until God created them as a nation. They were a people. They were twelve tribes of one family that marched into Egypt and God, after a long period of time, 400 years, from the time that he spoke to Abraham about this, brought them out as a nation. He formed them. He created them as a nation, and He created them differently than all other nations, and so again, the Sabbath was a reminder to Israel that they were set apart and they were created by the hand of the One who set them apart.

Again in Ezekiel chapter 20 verse 16, "Because they despised my judgments, and walked not in my statutes, but polluted my Sabbaths for their heart went after their idols. {17} Nevertheless, my eyes spared them from destroying them. Neither did I make an end of them in the wilderness. {18} But I said unto their children in the wilderness, "Walk you not in the statutes of your fathers, neither observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols. {19} I am the LORD your God, walk in my statutes and keep my judgments and do them, {20} And hallow my Sabbaths." That is, 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.""

God shows us in this chapter of the book of Ezekiel, that in their attempt to be part of the world around them, Israel lost sight of the Sabbath sign, the sign that identified them as the people of God, and that identified God as their Creator and Master. They lost the sign of their identification.

Remember the Sabbath Day

Lets go back in Exodus chapter 20, to the original giving of the Commandments at Sinai.

Exodus 20 verse eight, "Remember the Sabbath day."

Now God is giving the Commandments from Sinai at this point, only a matter of a few weeks after introducing to Israel the Sabbath, proving to them what day of the week the Sabbath fell on. Remember Israel had been in Egypt for some 400 years. They had lost all knowledge of the Sabbath. They were no longer keeping the Sabbath but they were keeping the days the Egyptians kept, and so God introduced the Sabbath by providing for them six days of manna, bread from heaven, and on the seventh day He sent none.

And so God now says, "Remember the Sabbath day." I just revealed it to you. So don't forget it. Now they would have a hard time forgetting it for the next 40 years, because for 40 years, six days a week, manna came and on the seventh day there wasn't any. So they had a hard time forgetting which day was the Sabbath for 40 years.

So "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." There's a responsibility not only to remember it, but to keep it holy. To make certain we don't do something that would be unholy on this day.

Verse 9, "Six days shall you labor and do all your work, {10} But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, daughter, manservant, maidservant, nor your cattle or the stranger that is within your gates. {11} For in six days the LORD worked."

Genesis 2 verse 2, "And He rested the seventh day." God actually rested on that day, {3} "Wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it."

How did it become holy? God made it that way. He is the only one who can make something holy. The Sabbath identifies God as Creator. He is the one responsible for initially creating the heavens and the earth.

Definitions of the Word Sign

Now what I would like to do is to move on to the definitions of this word 'sign.' We have seen that the Sabbath is to be a sign. A sign is basically two-ways. A sign is directed towards God and it is also directed toward Israel, but there's more to it than that, the sign also extends on beyond. It extends to the world. The world is to look for some identification with the Sabbath day

What I would like to do first of all is to go through the meanings of this Hebrew word 'owth' as it is translated 'sign' throughout the Old Testament.

I want to read the four primary definitions of 'owth' which is translated into English as 'sign' from the Nelson's Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament.

First Definition

Now the first of the four definitions for 'sign.' "A sign is something by which a person or group is characteristically marked." Like the mark that was given to Cain, that identified Cain, so that all would know that that was Cain.

Second Definition

The second definition, "A sign is a reminder of one's duty." And of course there we have God giving the sign to Noah. The sign was what? The rainbow in the sky was to be a sign, a reminder that God's duty was that He would never ever destroy all life through a universal flood ever again. The rainbow is a sign as a reminder to mankind that God will not let this happen again.

Third Definition

The third definition, "A sign is an omen or indication of future events." Now an example of this would be like one back in first Samuel 14, where Jonathan, King Saul's son took his armor bearer and he went up against the Philistines and he asked the Philistines if he could come up, and he said, "Now if the Philistines say I can come up, then this will be a sign from God, that God will deliver them into our hands, and that's the way it is." So it's an omen or an indicator of a future event, that God is going to deliver them.

Fourth Definition

The fourth definition is "A sign is something showing the truth of a statement." It verifies a promise.

Now the fourth definition is the most common usage in the Old Testament.

Now remember Paul said back in first Corinthians chapter 1, "The Jews require a sign but the Greeks seek after wisdom." The Greeks relied strictly on human reasoning while the Jews often sought out a sign to signify whether or not something was true. They ask Jesus "Give us a sign that you are who you say you are, that you are the Son of Man. Jesus said, "I am not going to give you any sign except one, as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so I will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:39-40). This was the only sign that He gave them as proof of his Messiahship, and so after three days and three nights, the earth no longer held His body. He was gone, resurrected, walked out of the tomb, and so that sign showed the truth of what Jesus had said.

Sabbath Sign Encompasses Four Definitions

Now let's notice here how the Sabbath sign encompasses all four of these definitions. It is more than something that marks or identifies God and His people. It goes beyond that.

First Definition

The first definition was "A sign is something that which a person or group is characteristically marked." The Sabbath identifies God to His people. The Sabbath is a sign that God is the creator of heaven and earth. We acknowledge that if we set aside the seventh day and keep it holy, then we are accepting that this is the One we are honoring, we're doing what the One who created this day expects us to do. The Sabbath identifies God as the One who delivered Israel from Egypt to become His special people.

Again, we are looking at the way this definition is to be applied to the Old Testament Church, then we are going to look and see how it applies to the New Testament Church.

Second Definition

The second definition, "a sign is a reminder of one's duty." The Sabbath identifies God's people to Him. God is identified to His people, now God's people are identified to Him. How is this? The Sabbath is the Test Commandment. The Sabbath is the command that puts us to the test. It proves us as to who we are.

Let's notice Exodus chapter 16, what was Israel to learn from this lesson of the manna? Exodus 16 verse 4, "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, or a days portion (the Revised Standard Version says), that I may prove them," that I will put them to the test, "whether they will walk in my law, or not."

Here we find the Sabbath and the manna. Will they go out and get the manna? Or will they not go out and get the manna on the seventh day?

The Sabbath is the Test Commandment

God was testing the people. The Sabbath is the test commandment because it proves on a regular basis, week after week after week, whether we will obey God or not. It is not okay to just obey God one Sabbath and let five or six or seven go by and say, "I might keep the Sabbath again next week," even though I have not kept it for the last two months. That doesn't work. The Sabbath command, you see, is week after week. In Israel the manna was week after week after week, six days it was there and on the seventh day it wasn't. God made certain that Israel didn't forget, and every week they were tested.

The world cut off from God reasons that any day and every day is the same. What difference does it make? The first day of the week is just as acceptable for worship as the seventh day of the week. If the seventh day is okay then what's wrong with the first day of the week?

Let me tell you, God created the first day of the week in a particular way. He likewise created the second day in a particular way. He worked. For six days He worked. He created the first six days in the same way, He worked. But on the seventh day, He did something quite different, He rested. The way He created the seventh day was totally different than how He created the first day.

Now God has created an animal called the giraffe and it has a long neck, He also created zebras. You can't look at one and the other and say "Well, that giraffe looks just like the zebra." No it doesnít. One has a long neck and the other one has stripes.

Now there are some people who think that they can take this giraffe and turn it into a zebra. Well, that is what they're saying when they say they are going to take the first day and turn it into the seventh day. I am going to make the seventh day Sabbath the first day of the week. No, you are not going to have any more luck in trying to change the first day into the seventh day, than you will in changing that giraffe into a zebra, or a skunk into an alligator. It just doesn't work. People don't see it that way but it is the exact same logic. You can't do it. You can't change it.

Some attempt to justify their unwillingness to submit to God's fourth commandment by turning Romans 14 verses five and six. Now that Scripture, again the context there, God is talking about days when people would fast or not fast, feast or not feast. He is talking about eating and drinking. The whole context is about eating and drinking. It says "one man esteems one day above another and another esteems every day alike."

They take this passage out of context. They say "This means that we can choose any day of the week. It is our presence on the day that makes it holy anyway."

Oh, is that right? I read where it was God's presence on the seventh day that made it holy. That's what the Bible says. They can philosophize all they want but philosophy is known as the wisdom of the world. It is not the wisdom that precedes from above.

God says, "There is a way that seems right to a man," Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25, "but the end of what seems right will lead to the cessation of consciousness for ever, which is formally known as death." Death is the result of human reason. God did not leave the option open for what ever day man might like to choose. He made that clear at the first. He calls it, "My Sabbath." He did not call it Man's Sabbath, He said, "It is My Sabbath." He rested on the seventh day, and not on any other day."

Third Definition

The third definition, "A sign is an indicator of future events."

The Sabbath identifies God and His plan to the world.

In Exodus 31 verse 13, "Speak you 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."

The word 'know' in the Hebrew literally means, "to know that I am," it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, "to know that I am the LORD that does sanctify you."

The Soncino Commentary, which of course is a Jewish commentary in which the Hebrew is analyzed, and in some cases is over analyzed by certain rabbis and teachers over the years, but they have a couple of interesting comments in the Soncino Commentary in explaining this verse. One authority states that this verse means that "All nations may know." Another individual states that "All the world may be recognized by means of the Sabbath, that it is God who sanctified Israel or provided them with the means of becoming a holy people," and that's the way these Hebrew authorities view verse 13.

Israel Was to be an Example

In Deuteronomy chapter 4 we do have some instruction that God gave Israel through Moses about their responsibility. There are certain things they were to do. There is a way of life that they were supposed to live, because they were, if you will, in a glass house for the rest of the world to see.

Deuteronomy 4 verse 1, "Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers gives you. {2} You shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. {3} Your eyes have seen what the LORD did because of Baalpeor: for all the men that followed Baalpeor, the LORD your God hath destroyed them from among you."

To all those who decided to follow Baal at Baalpeor, Baal was worshiped on guess which day of the week? That's correct, on the first day of the week. All who worshiped this god on the first day of the week was destroyed.

Verse 4, "But you that did cleave unto the LORD your God."

But you who stayed with the great Creator, who is identified with the seventh day of the week, "are alive, every one of you this day." It pays to obey!

{5} "Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do so in the land where you go to possess it. {6} Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people."

This is what the nations will say. Deuteronomy 4 verse 6, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. {7} For what nation is there so great, who has God so near to them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for? {8} What nation is there so great, that has statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?"

Israel was expected by God to set an example, showing the benefits that could be had through obedience to God's laws.

Ultimately the Sabbath shows that the day is coming when a new relationship would be created between God and the other nations as well and so the Sabbath was an indicator of future events. It indicated a time when all nations could come under the jurisdiction of God, the Creator of heaven and earth.

Fourth Definition

The fourth definition, "A sign is something showing the truth of a statement." The Sabbath was to identify God's people to the world. And it shows the truth of the promises that God made to Abraham.

God made a promise to Abraham back in Genesis chapter 17 verse 7-8 and He told Abraham that He would be the God of Abraham's descendants and his descendants would inherit and dwell in the land of Canaan.

That was the promise that God made.

The Sabbath identified God's people to the world, because those Israelites who inhabited the land of Canaan kept the seventh day Sabbath. They were different. They were identified to the rest of the world.

The Soncino Commentary states, "The Sabbath was recognized throughout the ancient world as the peculiar and distinctive festival of the Jewish people. No one else kept the seventh day." No one, except the Jews.

Those people, for a number of years, after the death of Joshua, the elders who outlived Joshua, those people that lived on in that land kept the seventh day Sabbath. And they were identified as those people that the promise was made to, and God was faithful to His promise, and so again the fulfillment of the fourth of the four definitions to the Hebrew word of 'owth.'

Sabbath Sign has Application for the New Testament Church

Now we all realize that these points based upon the Old Testament Scriptures are focused on the relationship between God and ancient Israel.

The Sabbath sign has application for the New Testament Church as well. There was God and physical Israel in the Old Testament, and now we have God and spiritual Israel in the New Testament.

The Sabbath sanctified ancient Israel, it set them apart. It reminded them of creation, not only the creation that God was responsible for, but also the creation of the nation of Israel, because God also created them.

What about spiritual Israel? What about the Church? Let's notice in first Peter chapter 2 and verse nine, Peter speaking to the church states, "But you are a chosen generation." Notice, you have been set apart. You have been chosen, you have been selected, picked out. "You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation." So a nation we are told, a holy nation, "a peculiar, a special people, that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."

There's responsibility that spiritual Israel has. Their responsibility is to show forth the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Israel was supposed to have that same approach as we read in Deuteronomy chapter 4, they were to be an example, they didn't do it. Spiritual Israel, however, is required to do it, to show forth praises.

In Ezekiel chapter 20 and Exodus chapter 31, God stated more than once, that His Sabbaths (plural) are a sign (singular,) but He does use Sabbaths in the plural. The weekly Sabbath and the annual Sabbaths are included. They are both linked together in Leviticus chapter 23, together the weekly Sabbath, which comes first in Leviticus 23, followed by the seven Sabbaths, the festivals that follow. They form a framework of understanding God's plan, the creation, which we ultimately come down to in Revelation 21 and 22, the spiritual creation.

God is still in the process of bringing about his plan. God's plan is not finished yet.

In first Corinthians chapter 10 verse 11, remember this is the passage where Paul is reiterating how physical Israel was baptized into Moses, they drank of the rock, that was Jesus Christ that accompanied them and then went through some of the tragedies experienced by Israel, things they did that they should not have done and in verse 11, Paul says, "Now know all these things happened to them, physical Israel, for examples.

Israel's experiences were for us to learn from.

In Colossians chapter 2 in verse 16, again to further emphasize that God's plan is not yet finished, and we are still in the process here, "Let no man therefore judge you in food, or in drink, or regarding a holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath, {17} Which are a shadow of things to come."

Please notice, regarding the holy days and the Sabbaths, they are a shadow. It doesn't say they were a shadow. It doesn't say 'past tense', they were. It says, "they are a shadow." They presently are. It is an ongoing situation that we have here, not a past situation at all.

The festivals (annual Sabbaths), new moons and weekly Sabbaths are and they still exist.

Now of course, the new moons are not commanded in Leviticus 23. Therefore they're not holy per se. The new moons are very essential in establishing the holy day calendar, to know when to keep the holy days, and so it's very important that the church use them for this purpose.

The Role of the New Testament Church

Now let's go to Hebrews chapter 3. Now that we've established that we are to learn from Israel's mistakes and examples.

Remember the book of Hebrews was written by the apostle Paul just prior to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem when the Levitical priesthood would cease, when the sacrifices at the temple of course would cease, because the Temple itself would cease.

The book of Hebrews has a lot to do with helping the church, the early New Testament Church, come to understand its role in how it was different and separate from the Levitical priesthood. Paul points out, unequivocally, in this particular epistle, that the priesthood that the spiritual nation of Israel is to look to, is the Melchizedek priesthood and not the Levitical priesthood.

Three Themes

Now in Hebrews chapter 3 beginning in verse 15. We have a section that goes on into chapter 4.

We find here that there are three themes that are woven together by the apostle Paul helping to illuminate for us the New Testament application or our responsibility as the New Testament Church.

We find in the first part of this material, in chapter 3 primarily, a warning to fear God, to continue to stand in awe and reverence and respect God, and not to disbelieve what God clearly states in His word. Let's notice that.

Hebrews 3 verse 15,"Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as in the provocation, {16} For who, having heard rebelled, indeed was it not all that came out of Egypt by Moses, {17} But with whom was he angry 40 years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? {18} And to whom swore he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that did not believe?"

So we see the conclusion that Paul makes at this point, they could not enter in, that is, they could not enter into their rest because of unbelief. Now what rest is he referring to? Well two other themes that Paul has in this passage going on into chapter 4, not only is that they are not to disbelieve God, but rather to fear Him and do what He says, but he also shows how the weekly Sabbath is a type of the millennial rest, and then he goes on to show that Israel's rest from its enemy was also a type of the millennial rest. So Israel resting from its enemies, the millennial rest, and the Sabbath all tie together.

And so Paul says here in verses 18 and 19, "They could not enter in," enter into what? "They cannot enter into rest from their enemies." Why, "because of unbelief." They were unwilling to believe that God would deliver them, that God would do what He said He would do, and so they were cursed, and they were constantly at war with the Canaanites, and the Philistines because of unbelief.

Now, he goes on talking about entering into rest and what the church is to enter into and how the Sabbath plays a role in this

Verse one of Hebrews chapter four, New International Translation, "Therefore, since the promise of entering his rests still stands."

The millennial rest hasn't been fulfilled yet.

"Let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. {2} For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them."

The good news was preached to the physical nation of Israel, as it has been to spiritual Israel.

"But the message they heard was of no value to them not being combined with faith in them that heard it, {3} For we who have believed, enter into rest, as I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest, although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. {4} For he spoke in a certain place of the seventh day in this way, and God did rest the seventh day from all his works."

And again in the passage above. "If they shall enter into my rest," Phillips translates verse six.

It is clear that some were intended to experience this rest, and since the previous hearers of the message failed to attain it, that is a rest from enemies round about. This of course is signifying the millennial rest that could have been theirs. Because of unbelief, they failed to attain it because of unbelief.

Verse seven, "Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as it is said, "Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, {8} For if Joshua had given them rest."

That is rest from their enemies round about.

"If Joshua had given them (that millennial) rest, then would God not have spoken later about another day."

It wasn't achieved then, but it will be in the future.

Verse 9, "There remains, therefore, a rest." That is very interesting. The Greek word here is 'sabbatismos'. Literally translated 'sabbatismos' means 'Sabbath keeping.'

{9} "There remains therefore a Sabbath keeping to the people of God, {10} For he that is entered into God's rest, also rests from his own works, as God did from his. {11} Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, let us be diligent to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief or disobedience."

We are to make every effort to enter in to that rest.

Apostle Paul Kept the Sabbaths

Now, Paul follows this dissertation showing that it was still essential for spiritual Israel to keep the Sabbath. What was Paul's example? Paul's example was recorded in the Book of Acts.

On the Sabbath day, Paul came together at the synagogue, and his example was always to keep the Sabbath, even in his defense when he was brought to trial, attested to the fact that he never had taught anything contrary to the Law or the Prophets. What does the Law teach? The seventh day is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD.

Paul goes on to explain in verse 12 of Hebrews 4, "The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, of the joints and marrow, a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

God knows our motivation. The Bible condemns those who refuse to obey God's direct instruction in favor of their own human reasoning, and so those servants of Satan are in error, who had tried to direct God's people away from keeping the seventh day.

Now if Paul applies this instruction here in Hebrews 3 and 4 to the Sabbath, how do the holy days, the annual Sabbaths, relate to this.

In Deuteronomy 16 verse 16, we are told, that there are three seasons, three festival periods, in the year that contains seven annual Sabbaths throughout the year.

Israel forgot God because they lost the identifying sign. They began to keep the first day of the week like the nations around them. They stopped keeping the Sabbath and the seven annual holy days.

Four Definitions of New Testament Spiritual Israelites

Now that we've established the danger in rejecting the Sabbath sanctified by God, and the need for New Testament Spiritual Israelites to continue to obey the fourth commandment as Jesus did, as the apostles did, as the early New Testament Church did, we need to move on to the four ways the Sabbaths, weekly and annual, are signs in this New Testament era, spiritual Israelís period.

Again, there are four primary definitions and I want to use those definitions again to see how they are applicable then to us, spiritual Israel.

First Definition

The first definition, the Sabbath identifies God to His people, just as under ancient Israel. It is exactly the same. "There is a characteristic mark that a sign represents," and that's what the Sabbath is, it is a characteristic mark. It is the characteristic mark of the true God, the one who rested on the seventh day, who created the Sabbath to begin with. The Sabbath identifies the creator of heaven and earth, the author of the spiritual creation. It also identifies God as the one who delivered us from the bondage to sin, to become his special people (1 Peter 2:9).

In the New Testament, God is often referred to, at least by the apostles, in the writings we find in the New Testament, God is referred to as the 'Lord God.' Now the word 'Lord' is from the Greek word 'kurios.' Kurios means 'master.' So we could say the master God. Why is He called master? Because we were bought, like slaves. The blood of Jesus Christ paid for us, so we became slaves. Paul goes through especially the book of Romans and clarifies that without question. We become slaves.

So the master is God. He has bought us and we belong to Him. The master commands his servants and the servants respond by carrying out exactly what the master tells them to do.

Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath

Now in Mark chapter 2 verse 28, we are told that the Son of Man is "Lord of the Sabbath." Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath. He is the master of the Sabbath. He's the one in control of the Sabbath. He was the one who rested there in Genesis chapter 2. He rested and He made it holy. When He was the Word, He made it holy. Jesus is still the master and as the master of the Sabbath on earth, what did he do? He kept the Sabbath day holy. He did no work on the seventh day, for the entirety of his physical life. He obeyed it. He kept it. He is the master of it. The Sabbath again identifies God to His people.

Second Definition

The second definition, the Sabbaths (plural) identifies God's people to Him. Remember, the second definition is that "a sign is a reminder of one's duty." In this case, the duty of God's people. The Sabbath identifies God's people to Him. The Sabbaths are test Commandments by proving whether we will be God's people, whether we are willing to be different. We are required to do something unlike the rest of the world, something that makes us stand out. Something that sets us apart. Israel did not like that as we saw in Ezekiel 20. They wanted to be like everybody else. They didn't want to be different and yet the Sabbaths make us different. They require us to do things that may affect our employment, both the weekly and annual Sabbaths have cost God's people jobs and employment changes.

The Sabbaths proved to God, that we view obedience to Him as more important than any other physical activity on the days that He has specially set aside and made holy, whether weekly or annual.

We mentioned before Titus 1:16, there are a lot of people who profess that they know God, they profess that they are His people. They profess that they have salvation in Christ and yet, "in works they deny Him." They can talk till their blue in the face, but unless their actions live up to their words, it's all in vain. In Luke chapter 6 verse 40, Jesus states, "The disciple is not above his master, but everyone that is perfect shall be as his master."

To be perfect means what? It means to be one to whom God imputes no sin. To be one under grace. Everyone that is perfect shall be as his master. Everyone that is under grace shall be as his master.

What was the example of Jesus Christ? He kept the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week.

Third Definition

The third definition of the Sabbath identifies God and his plan to the world.

The weekly Sabbath reveals that after the physical work is accomplished, in other words, the working with humanity and offering them the opportunity of salvation. Once that is done, the physical work is to cease. All of the physical is to cease. On the seventh day of the week God rested from all his work. He ended his work and He rested, with a total cessation of physical effort and labor. There will be in the future, a time when there is no physical. You cannot read Revelation 21 and 22 and find anything physical. There's a new heaven and new earth. You may assume that that earth is physical, but that would be a misnomer, because God dwells in the spirit realm, and in this new heaven and new earth scenario, God himself appears. The physical will one day cease. The Sabbath pictures that point when the plan of God has been completed, at least as far as is revealed in the pages of the Bible.

Fourth Definition

The fourth definition is that the Sabbaths identifies God's people to the world. The Sabbath identifies the true church to the world, and again as we saw earlier, this fourth definition is "a sign of something showing the truth of a statement."

Jesus Christ made a statement, He made a promise back in Matthew chapter 16 verse 18. He said, "The gates of the grave will never prevail against the church."

He talks about the church being a little flock (Luke 12:32). Jesus Christ stated a promise, that He would have a people, and that church would never die out. The church is identified to the world through the Sabbaths. God's people are to be lights in this world (Matthew 5:14-16). The light they shed is do to the working of the light of the world that lives in them, as Paul in Galatians 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

We don't have any light of our own. Our light must be reflected light from Jesus Christ, just as the moon reflects the light of the sun.

The attendance of God's people at His appointed Sabbaths sets them apart from other people. Their conduct and character reveal reverence for God, and respect and love for their fellow man.

Every year, over the years, at the Feast of Tabernacles, you always hear people talk about our church people and their impression that is given, "Oh those people are so nice, and so considerate. You know they take care of the property. They are such a joy to have, but man, theyíve got a crazy religion." You see, that religion sets us apart. Keeping Godís Commandments and setting good and right example. People see the light of our examples and they say, "They really are a different people. They are such tremendous examples, but look at that religion." I will tell you what, it is the Sabbaths that identify God's people to this world.

The Sabbaths, weekly and annual, are still to this day, signs of God's people, for all the reasons they were for Old Testament Israel and much more for New Testament Israel, the Church.

We need to hold on with a firmer grip than ever before to the way of truth. For as the apostle Paul was inspired to write, back in Hebrews chapter 4 and verse nine again, "There remains therefore," still to this day, "there remains therefore a rest, a Sabbatismos, a Sabbath keeping for the people of God."

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This article is an excerpt from a Sermon with editing given by: Harold Smith titled: The Sabbath Sign

August 21, 1999

Transcribed by: bb 4/7/15

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