After thorough study in the New Testament, it was time to go back to the Old Testament. I had always thought that Sabbath was established at Creation. Since Sabbath was a Creation ordinance, then it must be pre-Law, and should have a universal significance. So I went to Genesis two where the end of Creation is recorded.

Genesis 2:2–3 (KJV) And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

“There it is!” I thought to myself. “Sabbath was established at Creation. Since that is true, it must be a forever institution!” A problem soon emerged in my mind as I examined that initial conclusion. It seemed to require making too many assumptions.

First, there is no “evening and morning” mentioned in this text. All the other Creation days conclude with the phrase “evening and morning.” Each of the first six days concludes with a clear reference to this 24 hour time period. But the seventh day does not contain this phrase. I had to ask myself “Why the change? That is not to say that this was not a literal day, but there is a unique aspect of this day that is implied. This was no accident by the author. It was not an oversight by Moses. He was always careful to record in detail. So why was the “evening and morning” motif suddenly omitted? Could it be that God intended that the rest He had established would have a continuing quality? Could it be that it was intended that it would have remained as a daily experience had it not been for the incursion of sin? Would this rest have been a perpetual reality had it not been for sin?

Second, the word Sabbath is not mentioned. There is no mention of this being a Sabbath. In fact, we do not find the word Sabbath mentioned for at least 2,500 years. If this was the establishment of a required Sabbath observance, would it not have been called such? Would there not have been some command associated with it. We find the command for unity and faithfulness in marriage clearly given in Genesis 2:24.

Third, there was no need for Adam and Eve to rest because they had not worked. This was clearly a reference to God’s rest, or stopping His act of creating. He rested or ceased from creating and blessed the day and set it apart. This could have been a one time day of blessed celebration. There is no indication that this was to be a weekly ritual or event.

Finally, there is no record that anyone ever kept the Sabbath from that time until God taught the people about it in the wilderness. It is first mentioned after they were delivered from Egypt. The marriage institution, on the other hand, is mentioned repeatedly throughout that entire time period. There is much evidence of it being part of the way of life during those years. But there is no mention of the Sabbath for 2500 years! It is highly unlikely that the Sabbath would never have been mentioned during this time if it truly was established at Creation. What I learned from a closer examination of the Creation account is that the Creation ordinance idea has some serious weaknesses. So if I was going to be faithful to what the text actually says, I had to admit that two interpretations are feasible: 1) a Creation ordinance of a seventh-day Sabbath, or 2) a completed work and celebration that was intended to affect the world for every day thereafter. The latter meaning would indicate that God never intended for humans to toil in hardship to make it in life. There was to be a perpetual state of rest in unbroken relationship with the Creator.

We do not find Sabbath mentioned again until Exodus 16:23. God explains the Sabbath concept to the people of Israel through the manna experience. As I studied, it became evident that the people were unaware of any Sabbath up to this time. They had been given some new commandments, such as the sacrifice of the lamb in Exodus 12, and the institution of the Passover feast in the same time period. They knew about circumcision, but they had not yet been introduced to the Sabbath. The context is clear that the people had to be taught about the Sabbath.

The Sabbath is later expanded into one of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:8-11. There they were instructed to remember the Sabbath. Some have suggested that this refers to Creation establishment, others that it refers to the manna episode. Either interpretation is feasible in the text. Notice that those who were obligated to rest included “the stranger within your gates,” a different group from the “stranger that sojourns among you” in Leviticus 17-18. This command was not for everyone as a Creation ordinance might indicate. (See comments on Acts 15 in the previous chapter.) Finally, verse 11 reads

Exodus 20:11 (KJV) For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Now again, at first glance this seems to indicate that this was a Creation ordinance that had been established at Creation. And the text definitely allows for that. But it also allows for the other notion that since God is Creator you are to worship Him as such. His blessing and sanctification of the seventh day at Creation is now, since the manna instruction, being called the Sabbath, the Sabbath part of the institution being established here in Exodus 16. God has the right to demand this of His followers because they are His created beings. Again, two possible interpretations are permissible here; a Creation ordinance, or a later establishment by the same Creator in the manna incident.

One additional point needs to be addressed. The first five books of the Bible are all attributed to Moses according to the New Testament. Therefore, was Moses speaking from the vantage point of the Law when He wrote the following in Genesis? Was he writing after the Law had been given on Mount Sinai?

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

If I am traveling through Texas and I ask for the directions to President Bush’s birth place, the people will assume that I know that George W. Bush was not president when he was born. I call him President Bush from my vantage point. Bible writers had a vantage point for their writing as well. As we studied earlier, Mark’s Gospel makes a comment about clean and unclean foods based on Jesus’ discussion with the Pharisees. Jesus did not state directly that the food laws were going to be obsolete, but Mark, from his vantage point after the Cross applies it that way. Was this Genesis account one of those after-the-fact statements based on Moses’ vantage point? Was Moses writing to the Children of Israel about God blessing and setting apart the seventh day from their perspective or vantage point? If so, the fact that the name “Sabbath” was omitted is even more significant.

Since either the creation ordinance of the Sabbath or the later ordinance interpretation honor the text, I needed to study further to see if the context of the Old Testament gives a clue as to which is correct. What deeply impacted me was the clarity of the other texts on this subject. They state exactly which way to interpret these texts. There is no need for confusion. We don’t have to speculate as to whether Moses was writing from the post-Law vantage point or not. One thing I have found in my studies, on important issues God always provides at least three or more Scriptures to make sure we are not led astray. 1 He does not leave us to guess, or to be super-smart or gifted to understand what is really important. One text that brought clarification on the Sabbath issue for me was Exodus 31:12ff.

Exodus 31:12–18 (KJV) And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 13 Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you. 14 Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul 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: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he 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. 18 And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.

Notice how plain this is. The Sabbath was between God and Israel and was placed on the table of the covenant with that relationship in mind. Deuteronomy 5:2-3 makes the same point.

Deuteronomy 5:2–3 (KJV) The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3 The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.

The text goes on to reiterate the Ten Commandments including the fourth, but this time the reason for keeping the Sabbath is because God delivered them from the Egyptians. The Deuteronomy account is a reference to Israel only, and one that was not established before the Exodus, but was a sign of the rest provided by that deliverance event. Nehemiah confirms this interpretation once again:

Nehemiah 9:13–14 (KJV) Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments: 14 And madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant:

Ezekiel 20:10-12 conveys the same understanding:

Ezekiel 20:10–12 (KJV) Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness. 11 And I gave them my statutes, and shewed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them. 12 Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them.

These Scriptures could not be more definitive regarding the time of the establishment of the Sabbath. These passages remove all ambiguity about the time and location of the Sabbath command. Each one places the Sabbath right in the heart of the covenant with Israel and was to be between them and God. It was not a Creation ordinance as I had been taught to believe. It is not binding on all people for all time. This again agreed with what I had learned in the New Testament. The entire message of the Bible fits together. The Sabbath was a day established by God as a covenant between Himself and Israel. Jesus came to fulfill the Law and to be our Sabbath. Christians rest in the finished work of Christ as their Sabbath rest. As children of Abraham, Christians are counted righteous because of their faith, just as Abraham was before the Law or circumcision. The entire biblical picture is in agreement from beginning to end.

Some have tried to perpetuate the Sabbath institution, claiming that it is the only one of the Ten Commandments that has been forgotten, and yet it is the only one that commands the people to remember. True, the Sabbath command does start with the instruction to remember the Sabbath day. This was the remembrance or outward sign/seal of the Old Covenant. The entrance sign, we remember, was circumcision and the remembrance sign was Sabbath. But in the New Covenant, the entrance sign, according to Colossians 2:11-12, is baptism. What is the remembrance sign of the New Covenant? If Jesus is our Sabbath rest, what is the sign of this New Covenant rest?

Notice 1 Corinthians 11:23-26:

1 Corinthians 11:23–26 (KJV) For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.

The remembrance sign of the New Covenant is the Lord’s Supper. As often as we do this we do so in remembrance of Jesus. Jesus is the sign of the New Covenant. The Seal of God is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit through whom Jesus lives in us! 2 The Lord’s Supper sign is not attached to a day or time either. Jesus told us that we demonstrate the remembrance of the New Covenant as often as we do this. Notice the following Scripture from Isaiah 49:8 predicting the Messiah:

Isaiah 49:8 (KJV) Thus saith the Lord, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages;

Jesus Himself is the covenant! Isaiah predicted that the Messiah Himself would be the covenant. In the Old Covenant, Sabbath was the sign, or the essence of the covenant. In the New Covenant, it is Jesus! Symbolically, His body and blood are the remembrance sign and may be celebrated anytime, anywhere. It reminds us that Jesus Himself is the New Covenant. Notice how Luke 2:10-12 uses the word sign. I do not believe this was a mere coincidence. Notice carefully the wording of this verse of scripture.

Luke 2:10–12 (KJV) And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

In Luke 2:33-35 Simeon, an elderly prophetic man of God, uses the same word, sign, in his prophecy concerning Jesus.

Luke 2:33–35 (KJV) And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. 34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; 35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

Jesus is the sign of the New Covenant. He is the covenant! The communion service is the outward celebration of the New Covenant and the seal of that covenant is the Holy Spirit dwelling in us! Scriptures are clear once again.



1 This is one reason the Adventist doctrine of the investigative judgment is so shaky in my opinion. It is based on one text that comes from an obscure passage of apocalyptic literature. It is complicated by the fact that the immediate context does not appear to be talking about a heavenly but an earthly issue. It is connected to other Scripture by the weakest of linguistic ties, and it ignores the actual wording of the evening and morning sacrificial imagery within the text. In order to make the horn power of Daniel 8 fit the Adventist scenario, one must make this horn grow out of one of the winds rather than the horns of the Grecian empire where it logically fits. The obvious connection to Antiochus Epiphanes is ignored. To base an entire doctrine on such a stretch is highly suspect. There are no biblical scholars outside of Adventism who agree with the SDA interpretation. This ought to throw up a caution sign for making too many dogmatic claims. Essentially the SDA position has one weak text and Ellen G. White for support. That doesn’t sound like the Bible and the Bible only to me.

2 Dale Ratzlaff, Sabbath in Crisis (Glendale, AZ, 1990) pp 182-186.