The Sabbath from the Beginning. From the creation of the world, through the entire four thousand years of Old Testament times, the seventh day of the week was recognized by all worshipers of the true God, the Creator, as His holy day. Christ, "as His custom was" faithfully observed the Sabbath, Luke 4:16; the disciples also kept the Sabbath day "according to the commandment." Luke 23:56. During the centuries that followed, there came "a falling away," and that "man of sin," "the son of perdition," began his deceptive work. II Thess. 2:3,4. During the dark period of his supremacy, from 538 to 1517 known in history as the Dark Ages, among many other deceptive errors introduced into Christendom by this antichristian power, was the observance of Sunday as the Sabbath, and, as the Bible was not allowed in the hands of the common people, many were led astray.
Following the Dark Ages, during the great Reformation of the sixteenth century, printing came into use, and the Bible, which up to that time had been only in written form, was printed and finally made available to the common people in their own tongue. But in spite of this tremendous advantage, many of the errors introduced by antichrist still survived in the hearts of the people.
In 1844, when the Judgment began in the heavenly sanctuary, those who by faith went with Christ into the most holy place, within the second veil, were divinely directed to a study of the sanctuary. God's message to them at this time was "Rise and measure the temple of God." Rev. 11:1. Eagerly they responded, giving special study to the temple, or sanctuary. As a result, "the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in His temple the ark of His testament." Rev. 11:19. In the ark was the law of God, the Ten Commandments engraved in tables of stone, which revealed the Sabbath "according to the commandment." As time went on, further study has revealed more and more light on the sanctuary and the law of God, especially regarding the Sabbath commandment, which from the beginning of sin has been Satan's special point of attack. We are now to consider some of these truths.
The Sabbath and God's Name. "The Sabbath was set apart to be kept in honor of God's holy name." EW 33. In Bible times a name expressed character. Lucifer, which means light-bearer, was so named because he lived in and reflected the glorious light of the throne of God; when he sinned, his name was changed to Satan, the adversary, the destroyer. 1 Peter 5:8; Rev. 12:9. When Jacob, the supplanter, repented and prayed all night for his brother who hated him, his name was changed to Israel, one who preveils with God. Gen. 32:28. After Abram's test of faith and his victory, his name was changed to Abraham, the father of the faithful, a father of nations; Sarai's name to Sarah, a princess and mother of nations. Gen. 17:35; 17:15,16. Jesus, meaning Saviour, was so named because "He shall save His people from their sins." Matt. 1:21.
Likewise, the name Jehovah is an expression of His character and power. That is why from the beginning Satan has attacked the fourth commandment, the only one of the ten that defines the name of God as the Creator. In doing so, he has attacked God's character and denies His right to rule this earth. From the time of his fall in heaven, it has been his life-long ambition to defame the name, or character, of God by attempting to eliminate the Sabbath commandment from the heart of God's law. And this will continue to be His point of attack until at last he is cast into the lake of fire with those who have been his agents in this nefarious work. Rev. 20:10.
The Sabbath and God's Seal. A seal imparts authority and validity to a document. It contains the name of the ruling power and the territory over which he rules. In the very heart of the law of God, in the Sabbath commandment, is enshrined the name of God, expressive of His authority, and the territory over which He reigns - His name, "the Lord thy God," the Creator; His kingdom, "Heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is." Ex. 20:10,11. This is God's seal with which He seals His law among His disciples. Isa. 8:16.
God commemorated His work of Creation by resting on the seventh day. This made it "the Sabbath (the rest day) of the Lord thy God." â€œWherefore (because of His own act of resting on this day), He blessed the Sabbath day (a special blessing given to no other day,) and hallowed it (made it a holy day).â€ Ex. 20: 9-11. Then He "sanctified it;" Gen. 2:3; that is, He set it apart from all the other days to be used for sacred purposes. No other day received this honor, God had made it holy and sacred; He made it not for the Jew only, nor any one class of men, but "for man," for all mankind. Mark 2:27. Then to man He said, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." Ex. 20:8. Every precept of God's holy law is a divine requirement for which there is no substitute, for the Holy Spirit through James says: â€œWhosoever shall . . . offend in one point; he is guilty of all . . . he is a transgressor of the law. . . the law by which all shall be judged.â€ James 2:8-12.
The Sabbath commandment as God's seal makes the law of God "a perpetual covenant" between God and man "forever," Ex. 31:16,17, having the authority of the Creator of heaven and earth and sea. As a seal ratifies a document, so the Creator's seal ratifies His law. Without this, none of His law would have any divine authority. Without the fourth commandment the law being without God's seal, would lose its validity.
The Holy Spirit is the instrument that stamps the seal of God on the heart. Eph. 4:30. Without this, the Sabbath loses its sacredness and becomes merely a day of physical rest and recreation - not a holy day. If we keep the Sabbath "holy," the Holy Spirit will place the seal of God upon us, and we shall have "the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." II Cor. 1:22. The Holy Spirit is the "earnest," the pledge or the assurance, whereby we obtain our divine inheritance. No one can truly keep the Sabbath "holy" without the Holy Spirit in his heart.
The Sabbath, God's "Ensign." The Sabbath is also called God's ensign. Isa. 11:10-12. An ensign is a banner, a standard, a flag, "the colors," indicating nationality. When one nation is victorious over another, the conquering nation sets up its ensign, its "colors"in the conquered territory, as evidence of its victory. If one should tear down this flag, or ensign, would the deed be passed by as of little consequence? We all know that the offender would be considered a rebel, and be severely punished, perhaps even put to death. Instead of thus disregarding the nation's banner, every loyal citizen will honor his country's flag. He will also protect it, and display it on every proper occasion. Because the Sabbath of the decalogue points out the true God and His dominion, it is His ensign, which "He will lift up . . . to the nations from far." Isa. 5: 26. Shall human beings treat it without due respect and reverence?
The Ensign of the Enemy. "Thine enemies . . . set up their ensigns for signs." Ps. 74:4. Satan, the arch enemy in the conflict. between right and wrong, has set up his ensign. He would like to destroy God's seal, and thus make His law of none effect. He would like to have his name in the law that governs the world, thus expressing his authority to :u-le. Through antichrist, that "man of sin. . . the son of perdition," he has trampled under foot God's holy day, he has thought to change God's law, Dan. 7:25, by substituting the first day of the week to take the place of the seventh day instituted at creation as "the Sabbath of the Lord." "And," says the prophet, "the whole earth went after the beast in wonder, worshiping the dragon (Satan, Rev. 20:2) for having given authority to the beast." Rev. 13:3,4, Moffatt. Nevertheless, God's holy day still stands as a memorial of His creative power. Beware! beware! lest we trample underfoot God's banner, and thus enlist under "the colors" of that great adversary, the devil!
The Sabbath, a "Sign" of Sanctification. At creation God "sanctified" the seventh day. Gen. 2:1-3. At that time, says Goodspeed, a well-known Bible translator, the Sabbath, which is the heart and strength of God's law, . â€œwas wrought into the very fabric of the universe.â€ At Sinai, in awful grandeur, God proclaimed the Sabbath a "sign" - a sign of sanctification, 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." Ex. 31:12-17.
How is the Sabbath a sign, a sign-board, pointing to sanctification? We have already learned that sanctification is the result of three distinct experiences obtained in the holy place - study of, and obedience to, God's Word, prayer, and service for God. Anyone who has ever experienced the transition from disobedience to God's law - whether ignorant or wilful - to keeping the Sabbath of the Lord, knows full well that he at once begins a more earnest study of the Scriptures, often studying far into the night to learn the truth more fully. His prayers also become more definite and earnest; and having accepted the truth into his own heart, his first thought is to serve God by helping someone else - a relative, a neighbor, or a friend - to understand that which to him has become so precious. Anyone who has never known this experience has missed one of the greatest blessings that can come into his life. And if he is to have a living, growing experience in sanctification, he will continue to study God's word more diligently, to pray more fervently, to let his light shine more faithfully. A true Sabbath keeper, then, will be a thorough Bible student, a person of effectual prayer, and an untiring worker for God, one having a real soul burden for those who do not know God's truth. Thus the Sabbath becomes a sign, a real signboard pointing to sanctification, the end of the Christian's earthly life experience, as typified in the holy place of the sanctuary.
God's Law, a Law of Love. A certain lawyer, a pharisee, designing to catch Christ in His words, once asked Him, saying, "Master, which is the great commandment of the law?" Jesus answered, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Matt. 22:35-40,46. At this the lawyer was silenced, and durst not ask Him any more questions.
God is love, and His law is embodied in the one word - LOVE. "The first and great commandment" of this law of supreme love to God is expressed in the first four commandments on the first table of the law, and the second, a "like" love to "thy neighbor," is expressed in the last six on the second table. As a result of sin, it was drawn out into ten commandments, "worded to meet the case of fallen intelligences . . . in consequence of the minds of men being blinded by transgression." Signs of the Times, April 15, 1875. "It was added because of transgression." Gal. 3:19.
How was God's law preserved and taught? "The antideluvians . . . had no written records; but with their great physical and mental vigor, they had strong memories, able to grasp and retain that which was committed to them, and in turn to transmit it unimpaired to their posterity." PP 83. In this way, through nine generations, covering nearly one thousand years, Adam taught his descendants the law of God. It "was preserved by Noah. . . (who) taught his descendants the Ten Commandments . . . When the Lord brought (Israel) forth from Egypt, He came down upon Sinai . .
. and in awful majesty spoke His law in the hearing of all His people. Then, for the benefit of future generations, He engraved It in tables of stone, that it might never be forgotten. PP 363,364. At that time, it was enshrined in the ark, the foundation of the mercy seat, a symbol of God's throne on which were two golden cherubim representing the two most exalted angels of heaven who are honored guards of His throne and His law. Later, this law of love was more fully made known through His dealings with man as recorded in the complete Bible. In fact, the decalogue has been called "an abridged edition of the Bible," because it expresses "the whole duty of man." Eccl. 12:13.
His Law Eternal and Universal. In the eternity of the past, before this world was created, God's law of supreme love was written not in stone, but in the hearts of unfallen beings. Until sin entered the universe, these unfallen beings had no sense of the restrictions of law, for God's law is a "law of liberty." James 2:12. Those who obey law have perfect freedom, and are unconcious of its existence. "Against such there is no law," declares Paul. Only when one disobeys law does he realize its authority. So "when Satan rebelled against the law of Jehovah, the thought that there was a law came to the angels almost as an awakening to something unthought of." MB 161. When they discovered that sin, "the transgression of the law" I John 3:4, means death, they began to realize
how terrible is transgression, and how unchangeable is God's law. The two great commandments of LOVE, on which "hang all the law and the prophets," the same law that existed in the eternity of the past, and was written in the hearts of unfallen beings, will continue to exist as the fundamental law of God's entire universe in the eternity to come. This is the law of which Christ said, "I delight to do Thy will, 0 My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart." Ps. 40:8. And of the redeemed, God says, "I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts." Jer. 31:33. Paul says that even now are we to be the epistles of Christ, "written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart." II Cor. 3:3. From this is it not clear that as in the eternity of the past, so in the eternity to come, the Ten Commandments in their entirety, embosomed in God's "treasure chest," His "jewel casket," is the law for God's entire universe. eternal and universal, His law for all His created intelligences throughout all ages?
God's Law Perfect. Of God's law, Paul says it is â€œholy, and just, and good.â€ Rom. 7:12. It is a transcript of the character of Him who made it. David declares:
"The law of Jehovah is perfect, converting the soul:
The testimony of Jehovah is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of Jehovah are right, rejoicing the heart:
The commandment of Jehovah is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of Jehovah is clean, enduring forever: Ps. 19:7-9. The judgments of Jehovah are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Moreover by them is thy servant warned:
And in keeping of them there is great reward." Ps. 19:7-11.
This inspired commentary on the law of the infinite Jehovah should forever settle its immutability in the mind of finite man.
God's Law Unchangeable. Whatever God does is perfect, and therefore cannot be changed. To change that which is perfect, would make it imperfect. An able writer has convincingly shown that that the law of God is unchangeable. He says: "Consider the glory and majesty attending the broadcast of that law from the flaming mountain top! A vast retinue of holy angels was present. Millions of men and women stood at attention. Lightnings flashed; the earth trembled; and amid this signal display of infinite power, the divine Lawgiver announced the precepts that embrace the whole duty of man. Eccl. 12:13. If that law were to be changed, would a faithful allwise God alter or annul it in less impressive and conspicuous manner than when proclaimed from Sinai? Would it be done so secretly and inconspicuously that the church would be left in ignorance and uncertainty? If Christ designed to substitute Sunday for the Sabbath, would He do it so unannounced that even the chosen apostles would not hear of it until many years later? A thousand times, no!" Roy R. Cottrell, in Our Times, Dec. 1947.
Another noted writer puts it this way: "And do you think any being can change that law? - Not till he can break through the bodyguard of angels into the inner temple, dethrone Jehovah, wrench from its position the world's mercy seat of pardon and salvation, and with his would-be omnipotent finger, mutilate the records of the imperishable tables." - Uriah Smith, in Looking Unto Jesus, p. 321. "The law of God, being a revelation of His will, a transcript of His character, must forever endure," as a faithful witness in heaven. GC 434.
Sabbath Reform Among Sabbath Keepers. The enemy has made a "breach" in the law of God. Knowing that his time is short, he centers his attack on the Sabbath commandment, - the commandment which is "the foundation of many generations." Isa. 58:12. This same prophecy of Isaiah tells us that before Jesus comes, there is to be a reform in the matter of Sabbath observance.
Nor does this apply wholly to those who do not understand, and therefore disregard, the Sabbath of the Lord. It is addressed to "My people," "the house of Jacob," those who "seek Me daily, and delight to know My ways," those who "take delight in approaching to God." To those who are looking for His soon coming, He sends a cry of alarm, saying, "Cry aloud, spare not . . . show My people their transgression." Isa. 58:1,2. What is their transgression? They, "My people," have trampled the Sabbath underfoot. To whom does this refer? Let us check with God's standard of Sabbath keeping, and see under whose ensign we really stand.
First. "Turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day." Isa. 58:13. Do we look forward to the Sabbath as a day of freedom from the ordinary cares of the week, when we may have a social time with our friends, when we may take a pleasure ride, or a hike, or an outing, or indulge in some other personal pleasure which the manifold duties of the week crowd out? Can we call such a day "the holy of the Lord"?
Second. "Turn away thy foot from the Sabbath," not "speaking thine own words." v. 13. It is on this point that we find our greatest test. How do we line up to this test? Is our Sabbath conversation "in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour"? Phil. 3:20. Do we meet to exchange ideas on our week's Bible study, or some special good received from the services of the day? Do we talk about the progress of God's work in the earth? Do we review evidences of His soon coming in current events that are a fulfillment of prophecy? Or is our conversation on common, everyday, secular topics? It is easy to forego some "pleasure" on the Sabbath, but to control the tongue is a closer test of our Sabbath keeping. "Speaking thine own words!" The tongue is our unruly member. "If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man." James 3:2-8.
How, then, can a true Sabbath keeper honor God's holy name on the Sabbath? In this same prophecy God tells us how. He says: â€œUndo the heavy burdens . . .Deal thy bread to the hungry, bring the poor that are cast out to thy house,". . ."when thou seest the naked . . . cover him." Isa. 58:6,7. "Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer,". . ."and the Lord shall guide
thee continually." . . . . Then "thou shalt be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in." Isa. 58:9,11,12.
The Sabbath and the Judgment. We have seen that a Sabbath revival and true Sabbath reform in this hour of the Judgment is a matter of prophecy. This reform is to prepare us "to ride upon the high places of the earth," and to partake of "the heritage of Jacob." Isa. 58:13,14. Among Sabbath keeping Christians who are looking for the second coming of Christ in this generation there are two companies: "the church and the world." The one is â€œdeeply, interestedâ€ in spiritual things, the other is "uninterested and careless." EW 54. They say, â€œMy Lord delayeth His coming,â€ or, â€œWe are rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing;â€ knowing not that they are "Wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." Rev. 3:17. To which group do we belong?
We are now in the last hour of the Judgment. It is the hour when Isaiah's prophecy, "Seal the law among My disciples," Isa. 8:16, is being fulfilled. It is the time when 144,000 who will be living on the earth when Jesus comes, will be sealed, "having the Father's name (His sign or signature) written in their foreheads," Rev. 14:1 - reflecting His righteous character in their very countenances. No mere nominal profession will answer now. The Sabbath of the Lord is a special test, - a test of loyalty to God, - even to those who profess to be Sabbath keepers. Are we meeting the test? Or are we grieving the Holy Spirit of God "whereby" we are "sealed unto the day of redemption"? Eph. 4:30.
Israel of old failed, but now in this final Judgment hour, the Lord has "set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people." Isa. 11:11,12. As the loud cry of the third angel goes forth, proclaiming the Sabbath more fully, then will be fulfilled the prophecy: â€œWe will lift up an ensign to the nations from far,â€ calling them to the decisive battle between truth and error, between Christ and Satan, and "they shall come with speed swiftly," Isa. 5:26, "and build in the temple of the Lord." Zech. 6:15. Is not this the time for every true child of God to gather within the second veil, and take his stand under the ensign of Christ? Those who do this will receive the
promised blessing: â€œBlessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the City.â€ Rev. 22:14.