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Series 4 - God's Plan for You and the Entire World: Unlocking the Secrets of God's Festivals

Hi, friends! Welcome to the second lesson in the series "God's Plan for You and the Entire World." In Lesson 1 we saw an overview of how God's festivals foreshadow the spiritual harvests of God's plan of salvation.

In this lesson we will explore the first of God's appointed times listed in Leviticus 23, the weekly Sabbath day. This wonderful gift from God is also enshrined in the creation account and in the Ten Commandments. And as we will see in this lesson, the Sabbath also anticipates the awesome spiritual rest of the Kingdom of God.

We pray this lesson will be inspiring and helpful to you. We are always happy to hear from you and serve you in any way we can.

Lesson 2: The Sabbath: Remembering Creation and Looking Forward to the Promised Future Rest

God completed creation week by setting apart the Sabbath. He made it a weekly appointment for His people, and He now uses it to help us look forward to the promised spiritual rest in His Kingdom.

The Sabbath: Remembering Creation and Looking Forward to the Promised Future RestSince Jesus Christ struck him down on the road to Damascus and turned his life around, Saul had been preparing for this mission. Paul, as he was now known, had been commissioned to take the good news of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God to people throughout the Roman Empire who had never heard the message.

Paul and Barnabas had already had adventures on this first missionary journey. In Cyprus they faced down a sorcerer and preached to the governor. Then they moved on to the area of modern Turkey.

"They came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down" (Acts 13:14).

After the reading of the Law and Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue offered to let Paul and Barnabas speak. And speak, Paul did! From the time of the Exodus to the work of John the Baptist, Paul set the stage to introduce the audience to Jesus, the promised Messiah they were eagerly anticipating.

There must have been a gasp as Paul described Jesus' death and His being raised from the dead! Paul proved from the Scriptures that Jesus was greater than their beloved King David and that Jesus even had the power to forgive their sins.

Then Paul warned his audience, some of whom must have been showing their disbelief, "Beware therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon you: 'Behold, you despisers, marvel and perish! For I work a work in your days, a work which you will by no means believe, though one were to declare it to you'" (Acts 13:40-41).

Paul made quite a stir that Sabbath day!

"So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.

"On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God" (Acts 13:42-44).

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What Does the Bible Say About the Sabbath?

What does the Fourth Commandment remind us of?

Exodus 20:8-11
"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
"Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.
"For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it."

In giving the Ten Commandments, God hearkens back to creation week. At creation, He rested and set apart the seventh day as the Sabbath, so the Sabbath command reminds us of the creation and of our Creator.

Who created the Sabbath?

Ephesians 3:9
And to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ...

Hebrews 1:1-2
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds...

Mark 2:27-28
And He said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath."

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was the One through whom God the Father created all things. This includes the Sabbath, and so it is fitting that Jesus is also the Lord of the Sabbath. He tells us that He created it for our benefit.

What does God call the Sabbath?

Leviticus 23:2-3
"Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts.
"'Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.'"

Isaiah 58:13-14
"If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the Lord has spoken."

God calls the Sabbath one of the "feasts of the Lord" and one of His Holy Days. The Hebrew word translated "feasts" in Leviticus 23:2 is mo'edim, which means "appointed times" (verse 4) or "appointments" as we would say today. The first one mentioned is the weekly Sabbath—to be observed from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.

Did Jesus and the early Church celebrate the Sabbath?

Luke 4:16, 31
So He 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 to read...
Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbaths.

Luke 23:55-56
And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid.
Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.

Acts 17:2
Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures...

Acts 18:4
And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.

The New Testament clearly shows that Jesus Christ and His followers continued to celebrate the Sabbath each week as the Christian day of worship.

Would the Church of God be celebrating the Sabbath in the end times?

Matthew 24:20-22
"And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.
"For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.
"And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened."

Jesus Christ confirmed that His followers would still be remembering and observing the Sabbath in the dark days just before His return to save humanity and set up the Kingdom of God.


How Does the Sabbath Picture the Future?

What analogies does the book of Hebrews make involving the Sabbath?

Hebrew 4:4-9
For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: "And God rested on the seventh day from all His works"; and again in this place: "They shall not enter My rest."
Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, "Today," after such a long time, as it has been said: "Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts."
For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day.
There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.

Hebrews 3 and 4 are fascinating, though somewhat complex, chapters. They quote various Old Testament passages and tie together the weekly Sabbath rest with the rest God offered Israel in the Promised Land, which was only a type of the ultimate rest in God's Kingdom. So the Sabbath rest not only points back to the creation, it also points forward to God's spiritual rest.

Hebrews 4:9 makes an interesting statement. The word rest here is translated from sabbatismos, which is only used once in the New Testament. Here are some other translations that help make the meaning of sabbatismos clearer:

Here is part of the conclusion of a study of this passage: "The book of Hebrews cleverly weaves together three themes of rest: the rest promised to Israel from enemies, the weekly Sabbath, and the spiritual rest through Christ. The conclusion is that Sabbath-keeping is still necessary for the people of God, the New Testament Church" ("There Remains a Sabbath Rest for the People of God" from the booklet Sunset to Sunset: God's Sabbath Rest).

Christians are to rest each week in anticipation of the future rest.

Can the Sabbath serve as a type of the promised Millennium?

2 Peter 3:8
But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

Revelation 20:2, 6
He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years...
Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

The "thousand years" in Revelation 20:2 and 6 is the time when Satan will be bound and Jesus Christ will rule on earth as King of Kings. It is often known by the Latin word for "thousand years," Millennium.

As Peter said, to God a thousand years is as one day. The chronologies of the Bible show that there have been approximately 6,000 years since Adam and Eve. Add to that the promise of 1,000 years of rest, and you can see the basis of the idea that human history can be represented by a 7,000-year "week."

Just imagine the peace humanity will experience for 1,000 years without the evil influence of Satan and with the righteous rule of Jesus Christ!

Why is the past approximately 6,000 years of human history compared to labor?

Genesis 3:17-19
Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it': Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.
"Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field.
"In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return."

Romans 8:20-23
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.
Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.

Adam and Eve's sin brought curses, toil and sweat on humanity. But the futility and bondage to decay are revealed to just be a stage in God's plan—like birth pangs, the labor pains this world is going through to bring more children into God's family (Hebrews 2:10).

With this overview, we can examine each step in God's plan more closely in future lessons about the seven annual festivals of God.


Apply Now

The Bible instructs us to rest from our regular work on the Sabbath. This gives us time to focus on other, more important things such as:

  • Worshipping God.
  • Studying God's Word.
  • Praying to God.
  • Fellowshipping with God's people.
  • Appreciating God's creation.
  • Spending time building our family relationships.

Read the short chapter "God's Sabbath in Today's World" from our booklet Sunset to Sunset: God's Sabbath Rest and write down some things God wants us to do on the Sabbath to enhance your own celebration of God's Sabbath.

We encourage you to read the rest of the booklet Sunset to Sunset: God's Sabbath Restas well for a fuller understanding of this gift from God. If after completing this study you have further questions about the Sabbath and how it should be remembered today, please feel free to discuss your questions with one of God's ministers. Contact our Personal Correspondence ministers for a response by e-mail, or look up how to contact a minister in your area.

Next Lesson: Christ, Our Passover: The Beginning of God's Master Plan

Questions about this lesson? Feedback about this lesson?

Related Resources:

Sunset to Sunset: God's Sabbath Rest

Which Day Is the Sabbath?

The Fourth Commandment: Key to a Relationship With Our Creator

God's Appointment With You

When Do I Get a Break?

Why We Need a Weekly Rest Day

God's Test Commandment