Is the Sabbath Rest a requirement for Today?

Objective: For us to finally bring to ‘rest’ the whole debate as to whether we should be ‘keeping the Sabbath as popularly touted today i.e. to do no work on Saturdays (or some other appointed day)

Course outline:

  1. How important is the Sabbath? 
  2. What exactly is the Sabbath?
  3. When is the Sabbath?
  4. Should we (Gentile believers) be keeping it?
  5. If yes, How do we keep it?

How important is the Sabbath?

“Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” Genesis 2:1-3

There are 2 reasons we cannot avoid the issue of the Sabbath!

1. God was not tired when He rested (Isaiah 40:28). God was making a statement that was so important He put it at the very beginning to ensure we do not miss it. God Himself demonstrated it so that (1) we could not miss it (2) we’d understand the importance of it. 

It’s as if God is saying, I am giving you the course outline at the beginning so you know where all this is heading. 

2. In the Old Testament Israel was required to observe over 600 laws. 

  • There are some we know for sure were written by God Himself. They are the most popular among all the laws today and are often called the ‘moral’ laws. Can you say what they are? (The ten commandments. Deuteronomy 5:6-22)
  • Should a believer’s life today still reflect these moral laws? If yes, how do we handle the fact that keeping the Sabbath is commanded in the ten commandments?


The Sabbath covenant between God and His people was very serious and still is very serious. The Sabbath was instituted by God who personally set the example by resting on the 7th day though He didn’t need to. He went as far as to bless and sanctify the day, something He didn’t do with any other day. As if that was not enough He included it as one of the ten commandments that He personally wrote and that spans all time both Old and New Testament. In the Old Testament the penalty for not honouring the Sabbath was death. Exodus 31:12-18

If we are God’s people we must keep the Sabbath and that’s why it is imperative that we find out what it is, when it is and how it is to be observed today.  

What is the Sabbath?

The dictionary definition – Sabbath: “A day of religious observance and abstinence from work, kept by Jews from Friday evening to Saturday evening, and by most Christians on Sunday.” (Oxford Dictionary)

Is that really the Sabbath?

Truth is, there is not just one Sabbath but a number of Sabbaths. Sometimes the scriptures will refer to Sabbaths (plural) and not just a single Sabbath. See Leviticus 19:30

There is the Sabbath of weeks and the Sabbath of years. The Sabbath of years has more to do with farmers resting the land every seven years.

Whichever way we look at it, the Sabbath is a time of rest required by God to be kept as a covenant between Him and His people. See Ezekiel 20:12-24

Layered revelation

On the first layer, for the children of Israel in Egypt, the sabbath was a weekly reminder of the promise of entering Canaan. “On that day I raised My hand in an oath to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, ‘flowing with milk and honey,’ the glory of all lands.” Ezekiel 20:6

On the next layer the sabbath throughout all the OT was a weekly reminder of the promised Messiah who would lead us into the ultimate and eternal rest. 

All Israel that left Egypt, except for two, died in the wilderness and did not come into their rest (Canaan) because of their rebellious disobedience. 

“So I also raised My hand in an oath to them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, ‘flowing with milk and honey,’ the glory of all lands…” Ezekiel 20:15

Their children went into the land under the leadership of Joshua but they too missed out and did not inherit the rest because they did not subdue the land as God commanded them. “For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day.” Hebrews 4:8

Psalm 95:7b-11 “Today, if you will hear His voice: “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion… So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ” 

God’s people Israel rebelled against Him in the wilderness and in Canaan and this rebellion will be repeated again in our time, the Church age. 

2 Thessalonians 2:3 “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.” (NIV)


If Canaan was meant to be Israel’s rest back then what/where is our promised rest today? To understand this we will do a verse by verse study of parts of Hebrews 3 and 4. Continue to part 2 >>

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