"Tomorrow's just another day since you went away; tomorrow's just another day to cry...." So goes a popular country and western song of a bygone era. And to the average person, one tiresome, monotonous day does indeed seem to melt into another. Deeply distressed and discouraged over the death of a life-long mate; an elderly person I know lamented about how he had just spent Thanksgiving. "Just another day," he, told me with tears in his eyes. But the Creator never intended for men and women to live dry, dull, irksome, boring lives, barely eking out some sort of ersatz existence, never understanding why they draw breath on this planet of ours. He never intended life to be so hard that one depressing, trouble-filled, twenty-four-hour day was just another link on a chain into another. King David of ancient Israel well knew that the Creator never envisioned such a dull, uninteresting existence for millions of men and women. Notice: "... weeping may endure for a night, but joy [a change] cometh in the morning" (Psalm 30:5). We humans need frequent rest and deliverance from the trials and troubles that seem to result from "just living." Man needs a time free from the normal routine; a time in which to rest and reflect, to be recharged, reenergized and restored, a time to learn why we were put on this earth.
The Birth of a Special Day
The Creator designed a weekly cycle of seven days for the benefit of man: He set apart the last day of the seven for a special, spiritual purpose. According to the biblical narrative, man was fashioned and made to have an intimate, spiritual relationship with his Creator. To keep man and woman in this intended life-long friendship and spiritual proximity to God, the seventh day was given a very vital and special significance. Regarding the biblical account of the six-day creation, the Genesis writer continues: "And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it [set it apart for a, holy use or purpose], because on it God rested, from all his work which he had done in creation" (Gen. 2:1-3, RSV). The sabbath rest was created on the seventh day of the week — less than a day after man himself came on the scene. Jesus Christ of Nazareth referred to the birth of the sabbath in Mark 2:27. "The sabbath was made for man and not man for the sabbath," he explained. The word "sabbath" means "rest" in the original Hebrew. Simple physical rest and refreshment after a grueling work week is an obvious reason for the sabbath. But the true meaning and purpose of this God-ordained institution goes far beyond physical, mental and perhaps even emotional respite. For the seventh day is inextricably interwoven into God's transcendent purpose for creating man in the first place. Genesis 1:26 explains: "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness..." (KJV). When one really comprehends the fullness of this short biblical phrase, it means that men and women are made to conform to the spiritual image and character of God — eventually actually becoming personalities in the, God family. (Important: The Editor-in-Chief has written two vital free booklets to help us understand this almost incomprehensible truth. Read Why Were You Born? and Just What Do You Mean... Born Again?) From the beginning the Creator attached a special significance to the seventh day. He never asked man to rest on, or in any way commemorate, the first six days of the week. It is only the seventh day that takes on deep spiritual proportions. The seventh day is a time to meditate and muse upon the reason for the whole six-day creation and especially man's part in it.
A Brief Biblical History
On the very first sabbath day the Creator began to educate our first parents. Chapters one through six of Genesis are only a brief outline of the first 1,650 years of human history. However, it is clear that the concept of the weekly cycle remained very much in the mind of the early patriarchs. Noah sent forth a dove out of the ark based on seven-day cycles (see Gen. 8:10, 12). Noah's descendant, Jacob, was also fully cognizant of the seven-day weekly cycle. (Gen. 29:27, 28). Eventually Jacob's descendants found themselves in a state of captivity in Egypt where they probably suffered religious persecution as well as political slavery. Apparently they lost the knowledge of the sabbath and the specific day on which it fell. So the Creator reminded ancient Israel of its existence, making it crystal clear not only that it fell on the seventh day, but also that sabbath observance was a vital part of the nation's constitutional law — and especially that portion governing man's relationship to God (see Exodus 16:22-30).
The Spiritual Import
So important is the seventh day to God's overall spiritual plan that he placed it in the Decalogue, spoken by his own voice and written by his own finger. It is the fourth of the Ten Commandments (the first four reveal how man is to worship his Creator), and a bridge to the other six revealing the basic moral relationship between man and his neighbor. Here is the fourth commandment: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.... for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it" (Ex. 20:8, 11, RSV). The Creator, here, does not institute the sabbath. The first word of this commandment is "remember." In codifying the sabbath as an integral part of his basic moral law, the Creator reminds man once again of when (at creation) and why the seventh day was given. The sabbath is not just any old day to God — "just like any other." It should also be a special day to man" but tragically for most it is not. Man has been deceived into thinking that the seventh-day sabbath was designed to be a "yoke of bondage." Unfortunately
"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.... 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" — Exodus 20:8, 11
men have sometimes made it into precisely that. Such is the antithesis of God's thinking. He meant his rest day to be an occasion for feasting and joy (see Lev. 23:2-3; Isaiah 58:13, 14).
A History of Israel's Sabbath Breaking
In spite of all of God's revelations, much of the history of ancient Israel was an exercise in sabbath breaking. The prophet Ezekiel records the Creator's thoughts on Israel's defiling of his holy day. "'Moreover I gave them my sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I the Lord sanctify them. But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness; they did not walk in my statutes, but rejected my ordinances, by whose observance man shall live; and my sabbaths they greatly profaned" (Ezek. 20:12-13, RSV). After God physically disinherited both the nations of Israel and Judah for sabbath breaking, among other reasons, the House of Judah (the Jews) finally seemed to get the point. Ezra and Nehemiah, after that nation's return from Babylonian captivity, vigorously preached and taught against sabbath breaking. And as humanity is wont to extremes, the Jewish nation (between the testaments) plunged headlong into the other ditch. Some of their religious leaders added an incredible number of do's and don'ts to the original sabbath commandment — making it into an ecclesiastical monster. When Jesus Christ began his ministry, the time had come to strip away these sabbatical traditions of men. Jesus showed how the sabbath day should be kept to fulfill its fullest spiritual intent (Matt. 5:17; Isa. 42:21). He removed the yoke of bondage that the religionists had attached to the sabbath. But one point is clear: Jesus Christ did keep the day itself. "And he [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read" (Luke 4:16, KJV). Notice verse 31: "And [Jesus] came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days [plural]."
The New Testament Sabbath Rest
There is biblical evidence that the early New Testament church kept the seventh-day sabbath (Acts 13:14-15, 42-44; 15:1-2, 14-21; 16:12-15; 18:1-11; 17:2, etc.). There are several verses (eight) that mention the first day of the week, but they do not prove that the sabbath is transferred from Saturday to Sunday. A full exposition of these texts is available upon request in our two free booklets, Which Day Is The Sabbath Of The New Testament? and The Resurrection Was Not On Sunday. In the New Testament (as well as in the Old), the sabbath is more than "just another day." The sabbath-day sabbath has deep spiritual significance and symbolism in the New Testament era. Perhaps the most important chapter in this regard are Hebrews 3 and 4. In those critical chapters it comes clear that the seventh-day sabbath is a type (or forerunner) of the kingdom of God — a shadow of God's eternal rest (see Col. 2:16-17). Chapter three of Hebrews speaks of "the Promised Land" of old as also being a type of God's kingdom. Excepting Joshua and Caleb, that whole generation of Israelites were unable to enter the Promised Land because of their unbelief (verses 18-19). Chapter four continues discussing the same subject: "Let us [Christians] therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest [God's kingdom], any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest... although the works were finished from the foundation of the world [referring to the six-day creation]. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works [of creation]" (Hebrews 4:1-4). Verse 9 is crucial to the purpose of this article: "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God" (verse 9, KJV). The margin says: "There remaineth therefore a keeping of the sabbath to the people of God:" The Revised Standard Version has it: "There remains a sabbath rest for the people of God." The Jerusalem Bible: "There must still be, therefore, a place of rest reserved for God's people, the seventh-day rest." Today's English Version: "As it is, however, there still remains for God's people a rest like God's resting on the seventh day." The vital meaning of this verse has been obscured by the King James translators. Everywhere else in chapters three and four of Hebrews the English word "rest" is translated from the Greek word katapausin, simply meaning, "rest" or "a place of rest." However, in verse 9 the original Greek word for "rest" is sabbatismos which refers to the seventh-day sabbath. Most other translations correct this King James error in the English. Verses 10 and 11: "For whoever enters God's rest [the kingdom of God] also ceases from his labors as God did from his [on the seventh day following the six working days of creation]. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, that no one fall by the same sort of disobedience" (RSV). God's seventh-day sabbath is not "just any other day." It prefigures the eternal rest humanity will have with God in his eternal, never-ending kingdom.