Besides being one of the 10 Commandments, God also says the seventh-day Sabbath is a sign of the people He has set apart as holy.
In explaining one reason He expected His people to observe the Sabbath, God told Moses: “Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you’” (Exodus 31:13).
Being sanctified—set apart—is a blessing from God
Worship of the true God on the seventh day of the week distinguished the ancient Israelites from everyone else. God also said that worship on this day was to remind His people that God was the One who sanctified them. “To sanctify means commonly to make holy, that is, to separate from the world and consecrate to God” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Sanctification”).
Being considered sanctified—separate and holy—by God is a wonderful blessing. As Isaiah 56:2 explains, “Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who lays hold on it; who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”
The Sabbath: a sign and a perpetual covenant
Continuing His teaching about the Sabbath through Moses, God added, “‘Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed’” (Exodus 31:16-17).
Jesus Christ’s disciples and the first-century Christians also continued to remember the Sabbath.Here we see that the Sabbath is a perpetual covenant. This means that it is going to continue forever. Reflecting the ongoing existence of the Sabbath even after Christ returns to this earth, God inspired the prophet Isaiah to write: “‘For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before Me,’ says the LORD, ‘So shall your descendants and your name remain. And it shall come to pass that from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me,’ says the LORD” (Isaiah 66:22-23).
The example of Jesus Christ and the apostles
When Christ came to earth, He observed the seventh-day Sabbath: “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” (Luke 4:16).
Jesus Christ’s disciples and the first-century Christians also continued to remember the Sabbath:
- “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 with 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).
- “Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, saying, ‘This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ’” (Acts 17:1-3).
- “Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
- “He who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6).
Through the ages there have always been people who continued to obey God’s commandment to keep the seventh day holy, and this practice continues to identify them today.
For more on the Sabbath, read the article “How to Keep the Sabbath as a Christian.”