IS THE "SHABBAT" (the Sabbath) STILL SET-APART IN Yahweh's EYES?

 

The meaning of the Hebrew word "Shabbat" is "to cease", "to rest" or "to put away". In the Scriptures the seventh day of the week is called "Shabbat" (Gen 2:2,3; Exod 20:8-11).  The names of the days of the week as we know them today (like "Sunday" for the first day of the week and "Saturday" for the seventh day of the week) come from the time of the Roman empire and will not be found in the Scriptures.  Originally these names were the names of Roman gods and Roman idols.  Saturday, for example, comes from the Roman god, Saturn and Sunday was also known as "the day of the sun" - the sun being one of the primary objects of worship in the pagan world. 

In the Scriptures - both Old Covenant and New Covenant - the "Shabbat" plays an essential role as a day very close to the Father's heart. It's the day on which He "rested" at the end of the creation and which He blessed and set apart as a special day (Gen 2:2-3). It's the day on which the Israelites in their wanderings through the wilderness were not allowed to collect manna.  For forty years Yahweh performed a miracle every seven days when He provided a double portion of manna for the Israelites which was available to pick up on the day before the "Shabbat" and stayed fresh right through the next day (Exod 16).  It is a day that is so precious in Yahweh's eyes that He included the observation of this day in the ten commandments as a day whereupon the nation had to rest from their normal work and weekly activities (Exod 20).  The fact that the church with it's strong Roman influence at a later stage came along and officially (yes, in writing, black on white) modified this fourth commandment and replaced "the seventh day" with "the first day", can only be seen as blatant rebellion against Yahweh and the authority of His Word.  

In order to make sure that His people understood the importance of the "Shabbat", Yahweh made a separate covenant with them concerning the Sabbath, over and above its inclusion in the 10 commandments.   This covenant reiterated the observance of the Sabbath, because it was "a sign between Me (Yahweh) and you (Israel) for the generations to come, so that you may know that I am Yahweh, who sets you apart."    This covenant is furthermore described as "an everlasting covenant" based on the fact that Yahweh Himself had rested on the seventh day when He created heaven and earth (Exod 31:12-18, see also Ezek 20:11-21).  This connection of the Sabbath with the creation of heaven and earth is one of the reasons why it is not a valid "excuse" to say that the Sabbath is "for the Jews only".  In Leviticus 23 it is clearly stated that the "Shabbat" is not just a day of rest, but also a day on which a set-apart gathering should take place, that is:  a weekly festival of the same order as the annual festivals.  The interesting part is that Lev 23 repeatedly states that these are Yahweh's festival days and Yahweh's Sabbaths, not the Jew's (or any other nation's - see Lev 23:2,3,4,5,6,34,37,38,39,41 and 44).   The expression "the Jewish Sabbath" will not be found anywhere in Scriptures!  

In the remainder of the Old Covenant Scriptures the theme of the "Shabbat" pops up quite frequently:  Neglecting the "Shabbat" often caused the downfall of the people of Israel (see Neh 13:16-18).  On the other hand, those who would keep the Sabbath - whether they were part of the people of Israel or not - were regarded as "blessed" (Isa 56:1-8).   Those who called the Sabbath a "delight" and esteemed this day by not doing their "own ways", nor finding their "own pleasures", nor speaking their "own words", received the promise that they would "ride on the heights of the earth" and that they would be fed with the "inheritance of Jacob" (Isa 58:13-14).  And it is said that in the coming reign of Yahweh "all flesh" will come up "from Sabbath to Sabbath" to worship before the Father (Isa 66:19-24).

Surprisingly, in the King James Version of the Scriptures, the word "Sabbath" appears in 55 verses of the "New Testament", which is just more than 47% of the total number of "Sabbath-verses" (116) in both testaments.  Bare in mind that the "New Testament" is much smaller in volume than the "Old Testament".  The Greek word "sabbaton" that is used in the New Covenant Scriptures, is a direct translation of the Hebrew word "Shabbat" that is found in the Old Covenant Scriptures.  The first striking aspect emerging from the message of the New Covenant Scriptures is that Y'shua (Jesus) and the disciples (e.g. Mark 1:21; Mark 3:1,2; Mark 6:2; Luke 4:16; Luke 6:6; Luke 23:56), Paul and the apostles (e.g. Acts 13:14; Acts 14:1; Acts 17:1,2; Acts 18:4,19; Acts 18:24-26; Acts 19:6-8), as well as the young converts and the new congregations that was later on established (e.g. Acts 13:42-44; Acts 16:13-15; Acts 17:10-12; Acts 17:17; Acts 22:19; Acts 26:11), all kept the "Shabbat" and had meetings in the synagogue on the "Shabbat"!! 

The fact that Y'shua and his disciples gathered ears of corn and healed people on the "Shabbat", doesn't mean that He had done away with the "Shabbat" or that we should not keep the "Shabbat" any more.  On the contrary, He wanted the people to open their eyes to the true meaning of the "Shabbat".  He wanted them to realize that it was the Father's purpose from the very beginning that the "Shabbat" was supposed to be a day of true rest - also in the sense of healing, salvation and deliverance. The Jews in Y'shua's time had so many manmade doctrines and rules and traditions concerning the "Shabbat" that it became almost impossible for them to hear the Father's heartbeat on this matter.  This is why Y'shua had to remind them that man was not made for the "Shabbat", but the "Shabbat" (was made) for man (Mark 2:27).   In other words, the "Shabbat" was a specially instituted day for every man (and woman) to delight himself (or herself) in Yahweh, for man (and woman) to be restored both physically and emotionally,  and for man (and woman) to be inspired anew to trust in Yahweh alone for everything.  

The argument that Y'shua's resurrection made a big difference and that the believers took up the custom after the resurrection to come together on a Sunday instead of the "Shabbat" (starting with the evening of the resurrection day), is not in accordance with what the Scriptures reveal.   In Scriptural times a "Shabbat" or festival day was kept from evening to evening, that is, from sunset to sunset (cf. Exod 12:18; Lev.23:32; Matt 8:16; Mark 1:32; Luk 4:40; John 19:31).  It is not correct to view the gathering of John 20:19, which took place on the evening after the first day of the week, as an indication that the disciples had decided to abolish the "Shabbat" and keep the first day of the week as "holy" day instead.  If this unheard of substitution was indeed the case, one would have expected to see in the weeks after the resurrection a pattern where the disciples would meet between sunset of the seventh and sunset of the first day of the week.  We read, instead, that the next meeting took place "eight days later" (John 20:26).  This must have been the evening after the second day of the week (Monday). Facts are: In the time immediately after Y'shua's resurrection (as in the time immediately after the outpouring of the Set-apart Spirit - cf. Acts 2:46) the believers had probably gathered daily (some out of fear for the Jews - see John 20:19) and there are absolutely NO indications that those early believers had suddenly abandoned the "Shabbat" and replaced it with "the day of the Sun"!    

There is also NO Scriptural proof whatsoever for the notion that directly after Y'shua's resurrection the tradition was established to refer to "Sunday" as the "day of the Lord".  Nowhere in Scriptures is "Sunday" referred to as the "day of the Lord" and it is therefore most improbable that Rev.1:10 (where John declares that he came to be in the spirit on the day of  "the Lord" - more correctly: "The day of Yahweh") has anything to do with the first day of the week. It is almost certain that the day John has in mind is "the day of Yahweh" referred to repeatedly in the Old Covenant Scriptures.  John's vision, and therefore the whole book of Revelation, is all about this "day of Yahweh":  the events leading up to, during and following the great Coming of the Messiah, the first-born from the death, the ruler of the kings of the earth (Rev 1:5). 

Did Paul and the other apostles teach that the "Shabbat" was abolished after Y'shua's resurrection?   No, definitely not.  We have seen already that the apostles themselves conscientiously kept the "Shabbat"  - even long after their Messiah's ascension.  When the New Testament apostles write about the "law" and about the question of whether we still have to keep the "law" today, it should be kept in mind that neither Y'shua, nor the apostles, would ever have transgressed the law intently.  Neither would they have taught other believers that it is OK to transgress the law.  Why not?   Because this would have been an outright violation of Y'shua's words in Matt.5:17-19, especially verse 19 that says: "Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven..."  

Paul condemned those false teachers who confused believers, teaching that salvation is through obedience of the law (and not through faith in Messiah).  He also teaches, however, that when someone truly believes in the Messiah, he may no longer live in sin (that is:  contrary to the law of Yahweh).   Such a person should have (and live according to) a new and burning desire to please Yahweh in everything (cf. Acts 24:14; Acts 25:8; Rom 2:13; Rom 3:31; Rom 6:15; Rom 7:7,12,14,22,25; Rom 8:6-7; Rom. 12:2; Gal, 5:13-15; Gal. 5:19-23).  

There is no indication in the New Testament that any of the early believers had changed the day of gathering and worship from the seventh day of the week to the first day of the week. This change only took place in the post-apostolic era (more than hundred years after the birth of the Messiah) and was inflamed by a very strong anti-Semitic (anti-Jewish) thrust of certain church leaders who did everything they could to destroy or change any trace of  "Jewishness" within the early church. The resistance against these "Jewish" customs increased as many Roman emperors, after the Roman invasion of  Jerusalem in 70 AD, introduced more and more strategies to oppress and limit the Jews.   One example of  such a strategy was when Caesar  Hadrian (117-138 AD) prohibited any Jew (or Jewish Christian) to enter Jerusalem.  The violation of this prohibition was followed with severe punishment.    So was the practice of Jewish rituals - even the observation of the "Shabbat".   One can understand that during this time "Christians" would be careful not to be associated with Jews in any way.   It's within this context (and only at this late stage) that church leaders for the first time started to discard the "Shabbat" as being "Jewish" and introduced the Sunday as the day associated with Christianity. 

 

The following quotations may provide a good idea of how it happened that the "Shabbat" gradually lost its rightful place within the church: 

"[Roman Emperor] Constantine's famous edict (321 A.D.) definitely enrolled Sunday among the holidays of the Roman State religion ... thus a pagan institution (Sunday observance) was engrafted upon Christianity. The edict commanded that 'On the venerable day of the sun let all magistrates and people rest"' (Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, article "Sunday Legislation"). 

"Sunday observance, in short, is a pagan tradition which unlawfully entered the Christian Church centuries after the early Apostles died. It has absolutely no Scriptural authority whatsoever!" (David B. Loughran) 

"You may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we (Catholics) never sanctify" (Cardinal Gibbons, a Catholic scholar, in his book: "The faith of our Fathers", p.111). 

"The observance of the Lord's Day took the place of the observance of the Sabbath not by virtue of the [Scriptural] precept but by the institution of the church." (Thomas Aquinas - Catholic Theologian) 

"The Bible says: 'Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.' But the Catholic Church says, 'No, keep the first day of the week,' and the whole world bows in obedience." (Father T. Enright - Roman Catholic Priest.) 

"The Catholic Church of its own infallible authority created Sunday a holy day to take the place of the Sabbath of the old law" (Kansas City Catholic). 

The only conclusion we can draw, is this:   Over the centuries Satan has achieved his goal of degrading the one day that's been blessed and set apart since the creation of this world.  Sadly, for the majority of Christians the "Shabbat" has become a day like all the others - a day of working and playing, a day of buying and selling, a day of doing what has to be done.   The fact that Yahweh (who never changes) has established the "Shabbat" as a day of rest, a day of refreshing, a day of enjoyment in Him, is almost not a factor anymore.  And, as though this wasn't enough, another day was taken, a day called "the venerable day of the sun", a day never set apart by Yahweh, and this day (for millions of Christians) has become the most exalted day of all - yes, even more exalted than the day our Father had chosen for Himself. 

This abolishment of the "Shabbat" has cleared the way for the Anti-messiah, because according to Dan. 7:25 he "will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws" or, as the Amplified puts it: "he shall wear out the saints of the Most High and think to change the time of sacred feasts and holy days and the law..."   The time has come for us to resist the spirit of the Anti-messiah in the Name of the one who had said: "If you obey my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love." (John 15:10) 

Many centuries ago the prophet Isaiah prophesied about a generation of believers that would arise, rebuilding "the ancient ruins" and raising up "the age-old foundations".  This generation of believers will be called "Repairer of Broken Walls" (Isaiah 58:12-14). And what would be the outstanding feature of this generation?  Isaiah prophesied that they will "turn back (their) feet from (breaking) the Sabbath, from doing (their) pleasure on (Yahweh's) set-apart day and will call the Sabbath a delight". You and I have a choice. We can go ahead and ignore the set apart day of Yahweh, as done by one generation after the other for the past 1900 years, or we can choose today to be part of this one generation that will rebuild the ancient ruins...