"I’ve got an extra ticket to the big game on Saturday,” my neighbor said. “Want to come with me?”
“Thanks for asking,” I said. “But I go to church on Saturday.”
“No problem,” he replied. “The game is in the afternoon.”
“Still can’t go,” I said. “You see, I don’t just go to church on Saturday. The entire day on Saturday is my day of worship.”
“Really?” he said. “You don’t look Jewish.”
“I’m not,” I chuckled. “I’m a Protestant Christian—a Seventh-day Adventist. I believe in salvation through Jesus Christ, just as you do.”
He looked puzzled. “Then why do you go to church on Saturday?”
“The short answer is that God told us to remember the seventh-day Sabbath by keeping it holy,” I replied. “One-seventh of our time dedicated to God—that’s not too much to ask, is it?”
“Yes, but most Christians keep Sunday now,” he said. “Wouldn’t Sunday be just as good a time to go to church as Saturday? You’d still be giving God one day in seven. And you could go with me to the game on Saturday!” he said with a grin.
“Nice try, Tom,” I replied, grinning back. Then I went on to give him several good reasons why I keep the Bible’s seventh-day Sabbath—Saturday—as my day of worship.
I keep the seventh-day Sabbath because God told me to
The seventh-day Sabbath is first mentioned in the very beginning of the Bible. After God spent Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday creating the earth, Scripture says that He rested on the Sabbath day (Genesis 2:2, 3). Of course, the almighty, infinite Creator of the universe doesn’t get tired. But He has a quality that He also built into us when He made us in His image: to be spiritually revitalized, He needs a change from the work of a fast-paced week.
We can infer from the Bible that after Creation, people kept Saturday as their day of worship for generations. When they forgot it, God reminded them of it. “Remember the Sabbath [seventh] day by keeping it holy,” He told the children of Israel, including the seventh-day Sabbath as one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8). “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (verses 9–11).
That in itself should be enough, shouldn’t it? If I’d agreed to meet a friend at our favorite restaurant on Tuesday at noon, would I go there on Wednesday just because it was more convenient for me? Of course not! And so it is with God. If God wants to meet me on that day, why shouldn’t I meet with Him then?
Abraham Joshua Heschel, a Jewish writer, loved to describe the Sabbath as “a sanctuary in time.” Some religions have holy places—churches or temples or mosques built of bricks and stones and metal and glass, built in some location special to the faith. But those special places have some real drawbacks. For one, they’re only of full service to those who can travel to them. In addition, they’re vulnerable to destruction by earthquakes, fires, or armies. Not so the sanctuary made of time. Wherever you are on earth, no matter what circumstances you are in—even in prison or in a hospital—you can go to God’s Sabbath sanctuary.
The seventh-day Sabbath declares that I’m a Christian
That statement may sound strange to those who see Sunday as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection. But the historical fact is that the first Christians kept the Sabbath—just as Jesus did. “On the Sabbath day he [Jesus] went into the synagogue,” says Luke (Luke 4:16). And for many generations, the first Christians, including the apostles, followed Jesus’ example. It wasn’t until several hundred years after Christ, when the Christian church became corrupted by its power and money that a leader of the church got the Roman emperor to declare Sunday the official day of Christian worship.
Over 1,000 years later, during the Protestant Reformation, a few Christians remembered the original Sabbath. But most of them didn’t. Martin Luther and John Calvin passed by it as of little importance. By neglecting the Sabbath, they let an ancient Roman emperor make their decision about when to meet with and worship God.
When I keep the Sabbath, I’m telling the world that I’m continuing the Reformation. My authority for keeping Saturday as my day of worship is not something a Roman emperor said some 300 years after Christ but what Christ Himself said and did.
The seventh-day Sabbath identifies me as one of God’s special friends. It may sound somewhat elitist for me to claim to be one of God’s chosen people, but I don’t mean it that way. I just mean that thousands of years ago, when God chose a certain group of people to follow Him, He said that the mark of the special friendship between Him and His people would be that they worship Him on His Sabbath (Ezekiel 20:12, 20). Since I want to be one of God’s special friends, I’m going to worship on the seventh-day Sabbath too.
By the way, being a Sabbath keeper makes me aware of God’s first chosen friends, the Jewish people. Siegfried Horn—a famous German archaeologist, a Sabbath keeper, and an ardent anti-Nazi—often said that if all the Christians in Germany had been Sabbath keepers, the Holocaust would never have happened. If Christians had been going to church at the same time that Jews were going to their synagogues, Germans would have remembered that the Jews were also seekers of God like themselves and that they were fellow human beings. That would have made the Nazi atrocities impossible.
The seventh-day Sabbath identifies me as someone who is looking forward to Jesus coming again
I’ve already mentioned that the Sabbath is a sign that God is the Creator. It is also a sign that God is our Redeemer. In Deuteronomy, God reminded the Jewish people that the Sabbath was the sign that He had redeemed them from slavery (Deuteronomy 5:15).
It is still a sign of redemption. When I keep the seventh-day Sabbath, I remember that this old world is filled with problems and that we need the Lord to take us out of it to a new place, a new earth. Jesus promised He’d return for us—and I’m looking forward to Him fulfilling His promise (John 14:1–3). Wouldn’t it be nice to put death and sickness, genocide and war, behind us forever?
The book of Revelation says that before Jesus comes again, the devil, which Revelation calls the dragon, is going to do his best to destroy God’s special people, whom that book pictures as a pure woman. “Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments” (Revelation 12:17; italics added). In other words, those who are true to Jesus at the time of His second coming will be people who obey all ten of His commandments, including the one that tells us to keep the seventh-day Sabbath as our worship day.
When I finished my explanation, my neighbor said, “Sounds like Sabbath is more important than going to a football game.”
“It sure is,” I said with a smile.
And before we finished our conversation, I invited him to keep the seventh day Sabbath with me.