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The True Meaning of the Sabbath 

Yes, I know! This topic has almost been beaten to death over the years. It’s been turned every which way but loose, it would seem! But I think most of us would have to admit that understanding the new covenant Sabbath is vital to ones continuing spiritual health, as it is the “gateway” doctrine that most of those who became addicted to Armstongism in years past were originally lassoed in on. 

The following article was taken from the book "The Sabbath and the Lord's Day" by H.M. Riggle, written back in the 1920's. He selected this and much of his material from one of my favorite books, "Seventh-day Adventism Renounced," by Canright. This is an excellent article that brings out points that are very hard to refute. One wonders why Herbert Armstrong’s intensive study at his local library failed to turn up this book and its irrefutable facts and logic!

Keeping the Sabbath on a Round Earth - An Impossibility

Test the seventh-day theory in the frozen regions of the north (Mr. Canright begins). The law declared that the day must be kept from sunset to sunset (see Lev. 23:32). In the extreme north in the winter there are months when the sun is not seen there at all, so they have no sunset. And again, in summer there are months when the sun is above the horizon all the time, when there is no sunrise. This difficulty confronts the Adventists of northern Sweden and Norway. Here their theory breaks down again. They have to reckon the day by artificial means. This again proves that that law was for the Jews. What endless and needless difficulties people get themselves into trying to keep a law that was designed only for the Jews in a limited locality! How contrary to the freedom and simplicity of the gospel!

Another great difficulty that stands in the way of Sabbatarianism is, Where shall we begin the day? If a man's salvation depends upon keeping the same day to the hour that God kept it at creation, then it is infinitely important that we know exactly where his day began, so as to begin ours there too. But the Lord has not said a word about it, nor given the least clue respecting where to begin the day. The day is now generally reckoned to begin at a certain line 180 degrees west from Greenwich, England. It runs north and south through the Pacific Ocean about 4,000 miles west of America.

Prof. E. S. Holden of Lick Observatory says: "There is no one date when the day-line was established there; but it was during the last hundred years. It was established there for convenience. Besides Greenwich, it has been reckoned from Canary Islands, Tenereffe, Ferro, Paris, Berlin, Jerusalem, Washington, etc." So we see:

1. It is only within the last hundred years that the day-line has been fixed where it now is.

2. This was done merely for convenience, not because there was anything in nature requiring it.

3. At different times the day-line has been counted from at least seven different places, from Jerusalem in the east to Washington in the west, about 8,000 miles difference, or one-third the way around the earth. Hence the beginning of the seventh day has varied this much at different times.

4. In another century it may be changed again.

5. There is just as much authority for one place as the other, and no divine authority for either, as it is all man's work and done at haphazard.

6. Hence, so far as duty to God is concerned, any nation, church or society is at liberty to begin the day wherever they please. One place will be just as apt to be in harmony with God's day-line as another.

Sabbatarians in America can fix their day-line in the Atlantic instead of in the Pacific, and then our Sunday will be Saturday, and they will be all right and convert a nation in a day! Indeed, this is exactly parallel to what Seventh-day Adventists have done in the case of a colony in the Pacific Ocean. Pitcairn Island, in the Pacific, was settled one hundred years ago by persons who brought their reckoning eastward from Asia. But it happens to be on the American side of the present day-line; hence their Sunday was our Saturday, and they all kept it one hundred years as Sunday. 

According to Adventists, this was an awful thing, for Sunday is the Pope's Sabbath, the mark of the beast! So the Adventists went there and persuaded them all to keep Saturday. How? They simply induced them to change their reckoning of the day-line a few miles, and lo! their Sunday was Saturday! Now they are all pious Sabbath-keepers, while before they were keeping Sunday, the mark of the beast! And yet they are keeping exactly the same day they kept before. If this is not hair-splitting, tell me what is. It illustrates the childishness of the whole Sabbatarian business. Now let the Adventists just shift their day-line a little farther east to include America, and they can keep Sunday with the other people. Does the salvation of a man's soul depend upon such mathematical uncertainties as these? If it does, we may well despair of heaven.

The law said keep the seventh day from sunset to sunset (Exod. 20:8-11; Lev. 23:32). Now let two Adventists start from Chicago, one going east, the other west, around the earth. Each keeps carefully the seventh day as the sun sets. When they meet again at Chicago they will be two days apart! One will be keeping Sunday and the other Friday. How will they now manage it? Each gives up his seventh day, and both take that of the world. So they have only a worldly day, after all.

Look, also, at the difficulty in crossing this supposed day-line in the Pacific Ocean. Going west, a day is dropped going east it is added, and this is done at noon of the day which finds them nearest the supposed line. On the vessel, a man going west sits down to dinner 11:50 a. m. Friday. While he is eating the time is changed, and he rises from dinner Saturday noon! Then he has only six hours of Sabbath till sunset. But coming east, he sits down to dinner Saturday noon and rises from dinner Friday noon! He has kept eighteen hours Sabbath; then it is gone in a second at high noon, and he has six hours to work till sunset. Now he must begin Sabbath once more and keep it over again--twenty-four hours. In one case he keeps only six hours of Sabbath, and in the other case he keeps forty-two hours!

These stubborn facts demonstrate the utter absurdity of the Sabbatarian view. It proves that the strict keeping of days was confined to the Jews of Palestine. (end of Canright article)

Great article! Canright is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. His common-sense explanations regarding old testament law and the Sabbath are indeed refreshing. Now that most of us have arrived at the conclusion that the Sabbath was to be observed by the old covenant Jews, where does that leave us today regarding the keeping of a day? Recently I came across an article on the internet by Sam Pestes that I feel really addresses the issue of how we should regard the sabbath today. Here is that article:

Saturday or Sunday? Is that our only choice?
by Sam Pestes

This question has periodically needled the Christian community. In the mid 1840's the observance of Sunday, which had replaced Saturday as the day for worship in most of Christendom, was challenged by a group in the United States, known as the Millerites. Originally that group taught that Christ would return to earth in October of 1844. When that date passed uneventfully, they set about to vindicate themselves by suggesting that the date was right, but they had simply misunderstood what happened at that time. 

One of the doctrines which sprang out of the confusion, was a renewed emphasis on the observance of the 10 commandments, and especially the 4th commandment which stressed the observance of the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath. They pointed out that the commandment does not give mankind the option of selecting any other day of the week to observe as the Sabbath. This spawned a number of Sabbath-keeping churches. 

The 4th commandment specifically decreed that the 7th day of the week was the divinely designated Sabbath day given to Israel as a holy day. Historically, there is no question that Saturday has always been the 7th day of the week. So, by what authority do Christians today presume to regard Sunday as the designated day for worship? Or is the Sabbath as given to Israel still binding on Christians? Why, or why not? 

To clear away the confusion, one must begin at the beginning, and understand the foundation upon which any doctrine is based. First question: what was the original Sabbath that God gave to Mr. and Mrs. Adam? Second question: was the Sabbath of the 4th commandment the same as the original Edenic Sabbath? If not, in what way did it differ? 

You will notice, as you read the account of creation in Genesis chapter one, that the events of each creation day were punctuated with a statement which said, "And there was evening and there was morning, one day". Then, "And there was evening and there was morning a second day", and so on until the works of creation were completed, and the Bible reads, "And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good – suitable, pleasant – and He approved it completely. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day". (Amp) Emphasis supplied.

But it does not say the same about the next (7th) day! It does not say that "There was evening and there was morning, a seventh day". Why not? Why the change in pattern? 

Why was the Sabbath not bordered by an evening and a morning as were the other days? 

Note: God "rested" or ceased His work after the 6th day was over, because His work of creating the world was completed. Because it was finished He did not go to work again on the 8th day, and nor did Adam! There was nothing Adam could have done to improve on what God had done! Maintenance was no problem because there was no sin. Eden was a self-perpetuating and self-sustaining paradise reflecting the glory of the Creator. 

Adam simply represented God in his garden paradise every day of every week! God made no provision for Adam to turn over the responsibility for Eden to someone else every seventh day! It was his responsibility to care for it seven days of every week. The idea that Adam may have turned the care of Eden over to someone else every 7th day so he could "rest from his labors" simply does not fit the scriptural picture! 

So what does the Bible say was the situation? After God had completed the work of creation, and declared it very good, or perfectly completed, He introduced Adam and Eve to their home. That was a garden paradise that was provided and stocked with all the provisions needed for their well-being, as well as for the animals that were placed under their care. 

There was no curse, and they did not have to work by the sweat of their brow to earn a living, or to provide for God's other creatures. Eden paradise was God's total provision for that first couple. They enjoyed God's total Rest, or Sabbath experience day after day until the day they sinned. 

Question: Did they fall out of that Rest 24 hours after it began? When did that Sabbath experience end for Mr. and Mrs. Adam? Was it not when they first sinned? It was the entrance of sin that brought an end to their Sabbath rest. God did not intend that Adam and Eve should ever lose that Rest. They broke that original Sabbath by sinning! 

That explains why the Bible does not introduce the Sabbath as bound by an evening and a morning. It was created to have a beginning, but no ending. The original Sabbath was not limited to one day of the week. It was to be an open-ended, continuous experience of resting in God's total provision for His creation. Adam was not commanded to begin working for a living until the day he first sinned. 

The Sabbath of the 4th commandment that God gave to Israel was of a totally different nature. It included the curse of sin, "six days shall you labor", and also the command to "remember" the Sabbath Rest that they had forfeited by their grumbling and complaining against God's provision for them as they began their desert wanderings.

Because Israel rejected God's provision, the curse of sin remained upon them. But instead of laboring seven days of the week as in slavery, now they were commanded to cease their work every 7th day – the day on which the original Sabbath began – and to meditate on the blessings of that Sabbath, and what they could have enjoyed, had they not rebelled. 

God intended to take them to a land "flowing with milk and honey", where He would protect them from all enemies, where their clothes would not wear out, where disease would not touch them, and where He planned to restore to them the amenities that Adam had lost. But sin made it impossible for them to experience the Sabbath of creation.

What they got at Sinai was only a symbol of the original Sabbath. That is why the Jews, who stopped all labor on the 7th day of the week, were told in Hebrews 3:15-19 that they still failed to enter into God's true Sabbath rest. 

The Sabbath of creation was not limited to a day. It was and remains, a life style of trusting fully in God's total provision and relying on Him and on Him alone by faith, every day of every week. (end of article)

I think Mr. Pestes has done an admirable job of stripping away some of the controversy and silliness that has surrounded the topic of the Sabbath, and has boiled the issue down to its very essence: the Sabbath now pictures the goal of living a life of trusting and resting fully in God’s provision, made available to us every day of every week, through Jesus Christ, our Rest. Whether we observe a day or not does not matter. What matters is that we have a daily relationship with Christ and God, relying upon them for our every need, just as Adam and Eve did before they sinned.

Till next time, here’s whistlin’ at ya! ,o)

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