An Early Church Perspective on Revelation 17 (Part 1)

An Early Church Perspective on Revelation 17 (Part 1)

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

Among the more controversial chapters in the Bible is Revelation chapter 17, which describes a woman named mystery Babylon and a beast that she rides upon. There are numerous explanations being taught today concerning this chapter – some of them are older while others are relatively new. In this two-part series, we want to examine the early church perspective on Revelation 17.

In this first part, we want to review a series of quotes from early church writers. How did the early Christians view this passage of Scripture?

Hippolytus (180-230 AD)
“Tell me, blessed John, Apostle and disciple of the Lord, what did thou see and hear concerning Babylon? Arise, and speak; for it sent thee also into banishment” (Treatise on Christ and Anti-Christ, Section 36).

Tertullian (155/160-220 AD)
“So, again, Babylon, in our own John, is a figure of the city Rome, as being equally great and proud of her sway, and triumphant over the saints” (Answer to the Jews, 9).

 “By a similar usage Babylon also in our St. John is a figure of the city of Rome, as being like (Babylon) great and proud in royal power, and warring down the saints of God” (Against Marcion, 3.13)

Victorinus (270s-280s AD)
“Therefore in the trumpets and phials Is signified either the desolation of the plagues that are sent upon the earth, or the madness of Anti-Christ himself, or the cutting off of the peoples, or the diversity of the plagues, or the hope in the kingdom of the saints, or the ruin of states, or the great overthrow of Babylon, that is, the Roman state…” (Commentary on the Apocalypse, 17.2).

“‘the seven heads are the seven hills, on which the woman sits’ – That is, the city of Rome” (Commentary on the Apocalypse, 17.9).

Eusebius (260-340 AD)
“And Peter makes mention of Mark in his first epistle which they say that he wrote in Rome itself, as is indicated by him, when he calls the city, by a figure, Babylon, as he does in the following words: ‘The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, salutes you; and so does Marcus my son’” (Church History, 2.15).

Augustine (354-430 AD)
“In Assyria, therefore, the dominion of the impious city had the pre-eminence. Its head was Babylon – an earth-born city, most fitly named, for it means confusion. There Ninus reigned after the death of his father Belus, who first had reigned there sixty-five years. His son, Ninus, who on his father’s death, succeeded to the kingdom, reigned fifty-two years, and had been king forty-three years when Abraham was born, which was about the 1200th year before Rome was founded, as it were another Babylon in the west.” (The City of God, 16.17)

“…where it is needful, to mention the Assyrian kings, that it may appear how Babylon, like a first Rome, ran its course along with the city of God, which is a stranger in this world. But the things proper for insertion in this work in comparing the two cities, that is, the earthly and heavenly, ought to be taken mostly from the Greek and Latin Kingdoms, where Rome herself in like a second Babylon…” (The City of God, 18.2)

“To be brief, the city of Rome was rounded, like another Babylon, and as it were the daughter of the former Babylon, by which God was pleased to conquer the whole world, and subdue it far and wide by bringing it into one fellowship of government and laws” (The City of God, 18.22).

These quotes seem to be unanimous in their view that the woman of Babylon was the city of Rome. Indeed, the woman is described as a great city which influenced many people in John’s day (Rev. 17:1, 15, 18). Hippolytus made an indirect reference to the city when he referred to John’s banishment. Early Church writers understood that he was banished to the isle of Patmos by Roman authorities.

Tertullian and Victorinus made direct references to the woman as the city of Rome. Tertullian compared the pride of Babylon with that of Rome. Victorinus linked the seven mountains from Revelation 17 to the seven mountains that the city of Rome was built upon.

Eusebius also links the city of Rome to the Whore of Babylon. In the quote we used from him, he claimed that Peter’s reference to Babylon in I Peter 5:13 was symbolic language which referred to Rome. Augustine’s three quotes provide another unique perspective. He called Rome ‘the Babylon of the west’ and then called Babylon the first Rome!

Early Church writers seemed to be convinced that the Whore of Babylon was indeed the city of Rome and its government.

In the second part of this series, we will examine why they held this view. Moreover, we will examine what Roman historians said about the city of Rome and compare it to Revelation17 and 18.

God Bless!

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

Concerning the Commandments

Concerning the Commandments

By Herbert E Saunders

“A couple of weeks ago a rather intriguing and thought-provoking letter found its way to my desk. Now I really enjoy interesting mail. It does something to my spirit. And this particular piece was so enjoyable to me, in a rather odd sort of way, I thought you might appreciate two or three paragraphs:

Some very serious words were spoken not so long ago by a comedian. He said, “If Moses were alive today and fulfilling his assignment from the Lord, he would say to the people, ‘Here are ten demands from the Almighty, and they are nonnegotiable!’ He might also add, ‘And God said nothing about amendments either!’”

Those commandments are simple and uncomplicated. They are easy to understand. The first commandment tells us to worship God and none other. The second tells us that we must worship Him directly and that we must not have any idols. The third commandment calls for….”

(this article is an excerpt from the Sept. 1972 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 3, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/media/tss_189Sept1972.pdf

How I Came to the Sabbath

How I Came to the Sabbath

By Jeromy Kusch

After thirty years of faithful belief and church involvement, a basic foundational understanding of one core Scriptural truth eluded me. Once my eyes were opened it would change my life forever. Looking back now it almost seems ridiculous that I could make a statement like that, after all, I attended church my entire life. How was it after decades of Biblical study, church involvement, and being a Bible teacher myself, I still completely missed the truth about the Sabbath in Scripture? The story is not that crazy, eventually truly understanding the Biblical Sabbath fundamentally changed my faith.

Being a life-long member of the “I’m an awesome Christian club,” I fell into the trap at a very early age of believing I knew and understood the Bible. At the astute age of 18 years old I honestly believed there was nothing left for me to learn. Despite my zeal, this eventually led to a severely stale faith. I would sing songs about a “river of life” springing out of me, but no such river prevailed in my faith. There was no crisis of faith, however, I became a life-less pond. I was full of knowledge but lacked corresponding action. Slowly this brought on a sense of complacency that led to isolationism, which led to a slow, lurking destruction I never saw coming. My wife would eventually be the catalyst to a renewed faith and hunger for truth in my life.

Seven years into my marriage I was spiritually dry, yet my wife recognized our young family needed more. She discovered a local congregation and began attending Sabbath services. Her eagerness to learn spurred her faith forward as she realized for the first time the importance of the set apart Moedim of YHVH in Scripture, set aside traditional holidays for God’s days, learned Hebrew, and started keeping the Sabbath. The longer she studied the more she began to shift. As an outsider to this personal development in my wife’s life, I struggled to keep pace, and it thrust our family into a period of Spiritual turmoil. The life I built refused to comply with this “new” Old Testament lifestyle.

At this point in my life, I worked retail as store manager for a local shoe store, and my schedule was very busy especially on Friday and Saturday. When my wife initially brought up keeping a Saturday Sabbath I struggled. Jenny’s passion eventually led to her to invite me to join her with these new convictions. However, I dismissed her conviction as a Jewish thing, and as a Gentile I worried about muddying the Jewish pool water.

Inside my spirit, I realized keeping a Saturday Sabbath would eventually upend my life, and I knew it would require a high price of me. These doubts proved to be a huge hurdle to overcome. In my own reasoning I believed the decision boiled down to two choices: pay my bills or trust God and His Word. My wife was persistent; she would not let it go. Little did I know, this was all a part of YHVH’s plan for my life.

My wife and I have always struggled with our communication and the Sabbath “issue” was no different. During this time in my life, I largely gave up on corporate worship and stopped attending church altogether. This lack of participation was not because I doubted God. Instead, I became disenfranchised by the state of American church. I hated participating in such shallow observances which produced no fruit in our lives.

My wife on the other hand refused to accept this state of faith. Her desire for more truth fed her passion for the Word of God. Unfortunately, I was not the eager cheerleader. All I saw was…NAGGING! It seemed relentless, and I despised the constant Biblical debates. The arrogant 18 year-old know it all was being bested by his wife, and I refused to be wrong.

Nearly two years passed for my wife as a Sabbath keeper, but her persistence began producing fruit as I wrestled with inescapable evidence against my position. A mountain of evidence threatened to bury me as I remained firmly shackled to my untested Biblical theology regarding the Sabbath. However, if by some miracle I might break free from those chains, this mountain would provide a clearer vantage point by which my entire view of Scripture would finally find clarity.

Spiritually, I stood at a precipice. The daunting prospects paralyzed me for months. Either my theological slate must be completely wiped clean, or I needed to commit to my long-held belief and return to what I always believed was true. It was a frightening proposal. If I gave it all up and started over, I could not be certain this “deconstruction” wouldn’t sink my faith altogether. Yet, if I returned to what I always followed before, I was at risk of falling into the same complacency that had dogged my life for many years.

Looking back over the previous two years, the evidence from my own life was enough. I was a dry well, but I became a spring of living water. I had returned (unaware to me) to my first love. I studied Scripture relentlessly, bearing good fruit in my life and convicting me of sin. My old life stood as a witness against me. As I reflected on the clear change in my life, it became clear only one option remained viable. I must accept the challenge of laying aside thirty years of church doctrine and theology and start my journey anew in the Word of God. The very first thing I faced was the Sabbath, and all my old fears were waiting for me.

The more I studied my doubts about seventh day Sabbath observance were burned like chaff. When I reflected on my decades of study and learning growing up, I still to this day, do not remember a single sermon or lesson taught on the Sabbath in any church I attended. The churches I grew up in all but ignored the Sabbath. Yet what I saw in the Bible told a different story. Scripture was abundantly clear. Countless examples of God’s eternal Sabbath covenant and sign for His people echoed throughout Scripture. Surprisingly, even the apostles were keeping the Sabbath years after Yeshua’s death and resurrection. How did I fail to see this after thirty years in church?

It was impossible to unsee. The Bible was VERY clear, the Sabbath day was Holy and it was foundational for anyone who claimed to be in relationship with God. In Exodus 31:13 the people are told to keep the Sabbath “above all” the other commands. It is listed in the ten commandments I had revered my entire life, it is called a sign of God’s covenant between God an His people, it is a delight, and on and on. How is it in all of these years, I had never been taught a single thing about the Sabbath?

Eventually, the truth led to conviction, which led to action. After praying and studying to the point of absolute certainty I sent an email to my boss and the owner of the company (a Jewish man) requesting a meeting to discuss Sabbath Observance. It was a lengthy email where I laid out my heart and simply requested a meeting to review the possibilities of rotating Sabbaths on my schedule. In my mind something was better than nothing, but I had to make a change. I received no response. A few weeks later I was asked to join a “review” meeting of my performance. In that meeting a few outlying “concerns” with my management style were discussed and I was fired. Fortunately, I was reassured it was not because of my Sabbath request. I later found out the email I sent a couple months before was indeed the very reason I was terminated.

Looking back over more than ten hears of observing the Biblical Sabbath so much changed in my life. I still struggle to find work, but the Father has cared for me and met my needs. What initially seemed to be a minor theological issue resulted in an entirely new Biblical focus. If I believed the Bible was true (as I claimed my entire life) I had no choice but to act upon those beliefs no matter the cost. For me, the first major hurdle was a HUGE one, being willing to give up a well-paying job to accept the righteous instruction of YHVH.

Following that momentous decision, the Father continues to provide for my family. My wife and I are earnest about studying Scripture. We now raise our children the way of the Lord, and the fruit bearing out in my life continues to grow and flourish. It is not easy living like as a sojourner in our modern society. However, it provides me so many opportunities to share my faith with others and to truly appreciate what a wonderful blessing the Sabbath is for us all. Yeshua says it best in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man.” Our good Father made this day for us, why would I arrogantly refuse His gift?

If you find yourself on the same ledge I did more than ten years ago, do not be afraid to take the leap. Trust the Father to guide and instruct you by His Spirit, but be prepared there is a cost. Find good, Biblically sound fellowship to disciple you in this walk, and continue in it humbly before God and man. The sacrifice is worth it, and it will change your life forever.

You can follow Jeromy and his family’s ministry work through their website www.lanternministry.org.

Improper Sabbath observance… the death of WCG?

Improper Sabbath observance… the death of WCG?

BY RICHARD C. NICKELS

“How did the Worldwide Church of God get to its present position, that the seventh – day Sabbath is no longer a requirement for Christians? In the Twentieth Century, Herbert W. Armstrong and his Worldwide Church of God promoted the Sabbath in a powerful way, throughout the world. After Armstrong’s death in 1986, his successor Joseph Tkach led an assault on all of Armstrong’s teachings. This attack resulted in an abandonment of teaching that the Sabbath is a commandment of God, acceptance of the Trinity, Christmas and Easter, and in short, a wholesale departure from nearly every one of Armstrong’s distinctive teachings. Some Worldwide Church of God congregations today meet on Sunday, or other days of the week. They believe that no day of the week is holy time.

How did this change come about? It did not start after 1986. It began decades earlier. Paul Royer, one of the leading ministers in Pasadena for many years, left the Worldwide Church of God in 1975 and currently heads The Church of God, Sonoma in California. In a 1976 sermon tape entitled “Keeping the Sabbath,” Royer claims that breaking the Sabbath was the beginning of the downfall of the Worldwide Church of God. Royer maintains that one of the major ways we show our respect for God is how we keep the Sabbath.

In the late 1960s, Royer noticed students jogging at Ambassador College just before sundown on Friday evening, and others shopping at El Rancho supermarket on Sabbath afternoon. He remarked to his friend Rod Meredith, “Give us 15-20 years, and this Church will not even know the Sabbath.” Meredith thought it would take 40 years…”

(this article is an excerpt from the June-July 1999 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 4, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/tss/477/tss_477.pdf

Sabbath Meditation #40 – What is the Father’s Work?

Sabbath Meditation #40 – What is the Father’s Work?

“Six days you shall labor and do all your work” (Ex. 20:9).

“In his defense Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.’” (John 5:17)

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

In John 5:1-15, Jesus encountered a man who was crippled for thirty-eight years. He commanded the man to stand up and take his mat. The man obeyed and at that moment he was healed!

The Jewish leaders accused the man and Jesus of breaking the Sabbath. As reviewed in last week’s article, the Jewish leaders invented many rules which were not found in the Bible. One of them forbade people from carrying a mat in a public place. No such instruction is found in the Bible (CLICK HERE to read this article).   

To begin His defense, Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:17). What did Jesus mean when He discussed the Father’s work? What work did the Father engage in?  

Some Bible verses will bring clarity to this subject:

“Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent’” (John 6:29).

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3).

“Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food…” (Romans 14:20)

“There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work” (I Cor. 12:6).

“God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13).

“…having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead…” (Col. 2:12).

Consider for a moment what these verses call the Work of God: believing in the one God sent; miraculous restoration/healing (which is the context of John 5:1-17); God’s work of salvation in a person; the gifts of the Spirit; the sanctifying work of the Spirit; and God raising us up from death through baptism.

None of the things mentioned in these verses are earned through human labor and work. If we receive miraculous healing, what natural labor was involved? If the gifts of the Spirit are used at a gathering of believers, what work was done? There is no physical labor or work involved in these activities that violates His commandments.

God’s Spirit has intrinsic qualities that influence this world when introduced into a situation. We access this work of God by faith. His Spirit causes the change in us, which will result in transformation (2 Cor. 3:18). Having said all of that, faith without works is dead (James 2). The man in John 5 still had to carry His mat. His action was a response to God’s work. He did not violate a commandment of God by doing so. He also did not earn the healing He received.

As the Apostle Paul wrote: “So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?” (Gal. 3:5). Later in the same book, he wrote: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23). There are no laws against the fruits of the Spirit. Why? The Spirit of God leads and guides us so that these characteristics manifest in our lives.  

When we reach out to God in prayer for help, healing, manifestation of His gifts, teaching, and so forth, we are asking for Him to intervene. God’s work is to respond to the request by introducing His Spirit into the situation; He meets our need according to His riches (Philippians 4:19). His transformative Spirit meets our faith (Gal. 3:14, 5:5).

During the first six days of the week, we engage in our work. We may have opportunities to engage in God’s work along the way. On Sabbath, our work is put aside, and we have a greater focus on God’s work. These are those things that only He can do for us and others by faith. However, He uses us to do them. He is Spirit and works through that Spirit to manifest Himself to us (John 4:24).

The works of God are blessings from Him which we certainly do not earn. What a reminder for us on the Sabbath, the day where we do not work.

Selah.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

All Bible verses, unless otherwise noted, come from the New International Version (NIV). Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Did Jesus Break the Sabbath?

Did Jesus Break the Sabbath?

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

Last week, we looked at Jesus words and actions on the Sabbath (CLICK HERE to read about Jesus and the Sabbath). Some people today claim that Jesus broke the Sabbath! How can that be?

When Jesus walked on earth, He was sometimes accused of breaking the Sabbath. In one case, Jesus and the disciples picked heads of grain on the Sabbath and ate them. The Pharisees accused them of transgressing the Sabbath. “When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, ‘Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath’” (Matthew 12:2). In other places, Jesus was accused of breaking the Sabbath for healing people (Mark 2:24, Luke 6:7, 14:3, John 9:16).

John, one of the early disciples of Christ, said: “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin” (I John 3:4-5).

One definition of sin is transgression of God’s Law. John made it clear that Christ never transgressed it. He was perfectly lawful His entire life. So why did the Pharisees accuse Jesus of breaking the law?

By the time of Jesus, the Jewish leaders had developed a large body of oral laws. Many of these rules added extra requirements to something God commanded in the Torah. When it comes to the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders developed 39 categories of actions that were classified as work.

Among them included picking grain (considered reaping), removing the husk from the grain (considered threshing), carrying earth, carrying something in public, and intentional healing (it seems that accidental healing was acceptable!). The Mishnah is a second-century compilation of these teachings. We have excerpts from it below pertaining to the Sabbath:

Mishnah, Shabbat 7 (thirty-nine categories of work)
“This fundamental mishna enumerates those who perform the primary categories of labor prohibited on Shabbat, which number forty-less-one. They are grouped in accordance with their function: One who sows, and one who plows, and one who reaps, and one who gathers sheaves into a pile, and one who threshes, removing the kernel from the husk, and one who winnows threshed grain in the wind, and one who selects the inedible waste from the edible…”

Mishnah, Shabbat 7 (prohibition of carrying too much food)
“One who carries out a measure of foods fit for human consumption equivalent to a dried fig-bulk into a domain where carrying is prohibited on Shabbat is liable [meaning, guilty of sin]. And all those foods join together with one another to constitute that amount because they are equal in their measures. This amount is calculated without their shells, and their seeds, and their stems, and their bran, the husk that comes off of the wheat kernel when pounded, and their coarse bran that remains in the flour…”

Mishnah, Shabbat 10 (prohibition of carrying an object into the public domain)
“One who carries out an object into the public domain on Shabbat, whether he carried it out in his right hand or in his left hand, whether he carried it in his lap or on his shoulders, he is liable…”

Mishnah, Shabbat 10 (prohibition of picking, which they considered reaping)
“One who severs a leaf or a fruit from a plant growing in a perforated flowerpot on Shabbat is liable, as a plant in a flowerpot with holes in it has the legal status of a plant connected to the ground. Picking from it is prohibited due to reaping…”

Mishnah Shabbat 14 (prohibition against intentional healing)
“One may not eat eizoveyon on Shabbat because healthy people do not eat it, and therefore it is clear that anyone eating it is doing so for its medicinal value. However, one may eat a plant called yo’ezer and may drink abuvro’e. Furthermore, all types of food that healthy people eat may be eaten by a person even for medicinal purposes. And one may drink all drinks except for water from palm trees and a kos ikarin because they are known as a remedy for jaundice. Therefore, it is prohibited to drink them on Shabbat for curative purposes…One who is concerned about pain in his teeth may not sip vinegar through them on Shabbat for medicinal purposes: however, he may dip his food in vinegar in his usual manner and eat it, and if he is healed by the vinegar, he is healed. One who is concerned about pain in his loins may not smear wine and vinegar on them on Shabbat because that is a medical treatment. However, one may smear oil on them. However, one may not use rose oil, which is very expensive and used exclusively as a cure. However, princes may smear with rose oil on their wounds on Shabbat because it is their usual manner to smear rose oil on themselves during the week for pleasure. Rabbi Shimon says: All of the Jewish people are princes, and it is permitted for them to smear rose oil on themselves on Shabbat…”

As we can see, the Jewish leaders invented all kinds of rules not discussed in the Bible and attached them to keeping the commandments of God. This explains why Jesus said concerning the Pharisees: “They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them” (Matthew 23:4, NIV). Among the more cumbersome rules had to do with healing on the Sabbath. Basically, they allowed unintentional healing, but not intentional healing. No such rule can be found in the Bible!

When Jesus and the disciples plucked heads of grain to eat with his hands, they were simply eating. Their rules claimed that he was reaping with such an action. Yet His action was completely valid according to the Torah: “When you come into your neighbor’s standing grain, then you may pluck the ears with your hand; but you shall not use a sickle on your neighbor’s standing grain” (Deut. 23:25). Jesus did not harvest grain. He picked heads of grain for food. He broke their man-made rules, not God’s law.

When Jesus healed people, He broke the Jewish rules prohibiting intentional healing. As Jesus pointed out, there is nothing in the Torah that prohibits a person from being made whole on the Sabbath.

In John 5:1-15, Jesus asked the man to carry his mat so that he would be healed. The man obeyed and was healed! The Jewish leaders gave him a hard time because he broke their rules of carrying such an item in public. The man was not carrying any kind of load (see Jeremiah 17:19-27); he was just carrying a mat.

When Jesus was accused of breaking the Sabbath, we must realize that He did not transgress a single commandment of God. Instead, he violated their man-made rules. He routinely pointed out how their man-made rules contradicted God’s commandments (Matthew 15:1-20).

Moreover, when such accusations were made against Jesus, He often gave them the correct explanation of Torah. This was one way in which He properly fulfilled them. He said things such as:

“Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath day.” (Matthew 12:12)

“Is it lawful on the Sabbath day to do good or to do harm? To save a life or to kill?” (Mark 3:4)

“15 Therefore the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each one of you free his ox or his donkey from the stall on the Sabbath, and lead him away to water? 16 Ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham whom Satan had bound eighteen long years, be freed from this bondage on the Sabbath day?” (Luke 13:15-16)

“22 Moses has given you circumcision (not that it is of Moses, but of the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a boy. 23 If a boy receives circumcision on the Sabbath, that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me, because I made a man completely healthy on the Sabbath? 24 Don’t judge according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” (John 7:22-24)

What about John 5:17?
In this discussion about Jesus and the Sabbath, much is made of John 5:17. This verse reads: “But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is still working, so I am working, too.’”

Many have claimed that this verse is proof that Jesus and the Father break the Sabbath or perform work on it. We must realize that there is a difference between the work done during the six days of the week and the supernatural work of God. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work” (Ex. 20:9).

John 5:17 is referring to the work done for God’s Kingdom, not work we do for our own goals and purposes. In context, He healed a man. This is part of God’s supernatural work which did not and does not violate the commandments of God; Jesus did not labor in any way.

As we can see, Jesus never broke the Sabbath. He correctly interpreted the Torah and showed people how to be free from the man-made rules of the Pharisees.

Next week, we will look deeper into the work of God!

Kelly McDonald, Jr.
BSA President –
www.biblesabbath.org

World English Bible (WEB) and New International Versions (NIV) were used.

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

(All Mishna quotes taken from: https://www.sefaria.org/Mishnah_Shabbat)

The Sabbath Reality: A Different Perspective

The Sabbath Reality: A Different Perspective

by Robin Todd

“Some of us within the Sabbatarian community are fond of admonishing others to examine and sometimes set aside preconceived notions gleaned from religious tradition. Now I am asking you who debate over the Sabbath issue to step out of your preconceived notions of orthodoxy and hear yet another voice on this important topic. Dare to think outside the box and still be true to the Scriptures.

When we approach the subject of the Sabbath as if it were a piece of the puzzle of life, we miss its profound significance. Indeed, when presented as something “instituted” at creation, or “commanded” at Sinai, what the Sabbath symbolizes becomes merely a part of the whole and is thereby unintentionally minimized. So, let’s start from a different position—that is, that the Sabbath symbolizes the foundational reality of God. When seen as the whole itself—as the reality—God illuminates in us his purposes.

Although God created the physical universe as we know it in six days, that creation turns out to be only the stage on which his spiritual reality is played out. When he sanctified that seventh day (with no recorded “evening and morning”), he was weaving his spiritual reality of REST into the very fabric of the created order…”

(this article is an excerpt from the September–October 2002 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 10, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/tss/497/tss_497.pdf

Jesus and the Sabbath

Jesus and the Sabbath

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

Many years ago, there was a popular movement to wear bracelets that read “W.W.J.D.” – which was short for “What Would Jesus Do?” I can remember many people wearing these bracelets. The idea was to help people to think about what Jesus would do in a given situation – and hopefully provoke people to take Christ-like actions.

One thing they missed with that movement was “W.D.J.D.” – What DID Jesus do?

There are some things we know Jesus did. Therefore, we don’t have to guess what He would do. We can already know what He did! Such is the case with the Sabbath!

In this series of articles, we want to review Jesus and the Sabbath. What did He say about the Sabbath? What did He do on the Sabbath?

Let’s look into this more!

What Did Jesus Say About the Sabbath?

Jesus actually taught about the importance of the Sabbath. In this section, we will look at three sets of verses where He taught us important truths about the seventh day.

Mark 2:27-28
“27 He said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 Therefore the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.’” (WEB)

Jesus gave us two important details about the Sabbath in these verses. First, he said that the Sabbath was made for man. In other words, the seventh day was set apart not just for Israelites, but for all mankind. It was set apart in Genesis chapter two before there were any nations. There was only mankind. There are many promises in the Bible for Gentiles who keep the Sabbath (Isaiah 56:1-7 is one example; CLICK here to read about 13 Sabbath Promises).

Secondly, Jesus said that He is Lord of the Sabbath. Let’s stop and think about the implications of this statement. There are seven days in the week, but He announced that He was Lord over only one of them – the Sabbath. He is the Lord over that twenty-four hour period. That is an incredible statement!

Jesus connected the Sabbath to His Lordship. For every Christian, we realize that He is our Lord. He also connected His Lordship to the Sabbath. While the Sabbath is for all mankind, it is also for all who call Jesus their Lord.

Luke 6:9
“Then Jesus said to them, ‘I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?’” (NIV)

Jesus also taught us that it is lawful to do good and save life on the Sabbath! He taught this principle after He healed someone on the Sabbath. Works which bring God glory are acceptable on the Sabbath!

Matthew 24:20
“Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.” (NIV)

In His discussion of the last days of this age, Jesus taught us to specifically pray for our flight not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. Winter is a rainier season in Israel, so it would not be suitable for travel. The Sabbath is the day of rest; we would not want to flee on that day. This verse also informs us that the disciples of Jesus would be keeping the Sabbath in the days leading up to His return.

(Click HERE to learn about the historical application of Matthew 24:20.)

What Did Jesus Do on the Sabbath?
So let’s get back to this idea of “What Did Jesus Do?” The Lord of the Sabbath will show us how to observe this day. What did He do?

Luke 4:16-21
“16 He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. He entered, as was his custom, into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17 The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. He opened the book, and found the place where it was written, 18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim release to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to deliver those who are crushed, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.’ (Isaiah 61:1-2) 20 He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began to tell them, ‘Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” (WEB)

In these verses, we learn that it was Jesus’ custom to gather with others on the Sabbath. Synagogues such as the one discussed in Luke have been found in Israel. Migdal, the hometown of Mary Magdalene, had two synagogues that dated to the time of Jesus (Click here to learn more). They have found other such synagogues in Israel.

Jesus also read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. This helps us understand that He read the Scriptures on the Sabbath. Moreover, He chose this day to announce to the people that the prophecy from Isaiah about the captives being free was fulfilled. This happened in part because the Sabbath is the day of freedom! The principles discussed in those verses from Isaiah are embodied in the Sabbath!

Later in this same chapter, we are told of another instance of Jesus keeping the Sabbath!

Luke 4:31-39
31 He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. He was teaching them on the Sabbath day, 32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word was with authority. 33 In the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 saying, “Ah! what have we to do with you, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God!” 35 Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” When the demon had thrown him down in the middle of them, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36 Amazement came on all, and they spoke together, one with another, saying, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” 37 News about him went out into every place of the surrounding region. 38 He rose up from the synagogue, and entered into Simon’s house. Simon’s mother-in-law was afflicted with a great fever, and they begged him for her. 39 He stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her. Immediately she rose up and served them.” (WEB)

In this example, we learn that Jesus taught people, cast out a devil, fellowshipped with people in homes, and prayed for the sick to be healed on the Sabbath. Later in Luke, we see yet another example of Jesus’s actions on the Sabbath:

Luke 14:1-5
“1 When he went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees on a Sabbath to eat bread, they were watching him. 2 Behold, a certain man who had dropsy was in front of him. 3 Jesus, answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’ 4 But they were silent. He took him, and healed him, and let him go. 5 He answered them, ‘Which of you, if your son or an ox fell into a well, wouldn’t immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?’” 6 They couldn’t answer him regarding these things. 7 He spoke a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the best seats, and said to them…” (WEB)

There are three things about Jesus and the Sabbath we learn in Luke 14:1-5, which I have broken down below:

1) He ate with others on the Sabbath. In another place, Matthew 12:1-12, we learn that Jesus and the disciples ate grain on the Sabbath. We learn that eating is an important part of the Sabbath. When people get together, food is often involved!

2) He healed someone, which was a common part of His Sabbath observance. The gospels give us many examples of Jesus healing others on the Sabbath. Some other examples include, but are not limited to, Mark 3:1-6, John 5:1-15, John 9:1-12.

3) Lastly, Jesus taught other people in Luke 14. The lesson did not make them feel comfortable or good; He challenged them. He called out their traditions about healing and then told them a parable to correct their attitudes about how to treat other people. Later in the chapter, Jesus told the parable of the wedding banquet.

Summarize

So when it comes to Jesus and the Sabbath, the example is very clear. The New Testament record reveals that He did the following:

– Gathered with other people
– Read the Scriptures
– Taught about the Scriptures, how to treat others, and the proper way to observe the Sabbath
– Declared prophetic fulfillments
– Offered correction to false beliefs/doctrine
– Taught parables
– Healed people
– Cast out devils
– Freed people from affliction, illness, bondages, strongholds
– Fellowshipped in homes
– Ate with other people

What an example for us of how to keep the Sabbath!

There are some people who claimed that Jesus broke the Sabbath. How could that be possible?

In next week’s article, we will address this issue!

Kelly McDonald, Jr.
BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

Is the Sabbath only for Jewish people?

Is the Sabbath only for Jewish people?

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

Some claim that the Sabbath is just for Jewish people or Israelites. What does the Bible say about this subject?

The Sabbath was first revealed in Genesis 2:1-3 before there were any Jewish people or any distinction of nations whatsoever. The only two people alive at that time were Adam and Eve. This is why Jesus said that it was given to all mankind: “And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath. Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28). The seven-day cycle continued to be observed by later generations, such as in the days of Noah (Gen. 8:10-12).

God chose the nation of Israel to be His chosen representatives of the nations (Ex. 19:4-6). They were supposed to be a Kingdom of priests to the rest of the earth; this included spreading God’s way of life world-wide. God revealed to them the Sabbath and by extension the seven-day week (Exodus 16, Ex. 20:8-11). When He did so, He reminded them that the Sabbath was HIS day.  

Exodus 16:23, 29 – “23 And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning…29 See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.” (ASV)

Exodus 20:8-11 – “8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” (ASV)

Jesus kept the Sabbath and we are also told to follow His example!

John 14:12 – “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father.” (ASV)

I Cor. 11:1 – “12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father.” (NIV)

Throughout the Bible, God affirmed that the Sabbath is HIS. He was the first one to rest upon the day. In the New Testament, we are also instructed to follow His example in this manner:

Leviticus 19:1-3, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. Each of you must respect your mother and father, and you must observe my Sabbaths. I am the Lord your God.'” (NIV)

I Peter 1:15-16: “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;  for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.'” (NIV)

The Apostle Peter instructed us to pattern our holiness of life after God and quoted Lev. 19:2, which concerning the Sabbath.

Within the many verses in the Bible on the Sabbath, there are specific ones addressed to Gentiles and all of humanity relating to Sabbath observance (see Isaiah 56:1-7 as an example). In these verses, the Sabbath is referenced as its own covenant with mankind.  In the last age of God’s plan, the New Heavens and the New Earth, all mankind will worship Him on the Sabbath.

22 ‘As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,’ declares the Lord, ‘so will your name and descendants endure. 23 From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,’ says the Lord.” (Isaiah 66:22-23, NIV).

Ultimately, we keep the Sabbath because we are made in the image of the God who created and rested on the Sabbath Himself (Gen. 1:26-28, 2:1-3) and because our Savior, Jesus, kept the Sabbath. The Sabbath is never called Jewish or Israelite in the entire Bible. God always addresses the Sabbath as “the Sabbath of the Lord your God” or “My Sabbath.” We have a sample list of verses at the bottom of this article that demonstrate this fact.

God Bless!

Kelly McDonald, Jr.
BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

Other related articles: Were the Ten Commandments in Existence Before Mount Sinai?

A sample of verses where God takes ownership of the Sabbath:

Exodus 20:10 – “But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:”

Leviticus 19:3 – Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the Lord your God.

Leviticus 19:30 – Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.

Leviticus 23:2-3 – 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. 3 Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.

Leviticus 26:2 – Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.

Deuteronomy 5:14 – 14 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou.

Isaiah 56:4 – For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;

Isaiah 58:13 – 13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:

Ezekiel 22:26 – Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.

Ezekiel 23:38 – Moreover this they have done unto me: they have defiled my sanctuary in the same day, and have profaned my sabbaths.

Ezekiel 44:24 – And in controversy they shall stand in judgment; and they shall judge it according to my judgments: and they shall keep my laws and my statutes in all mine assemblies; and they shall hallow my sabbaths.

Mark 2:27-28 – 27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: 28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.

Beholding the Lord in Our Presence

Beholding the Lord in Our Presence

by Jerry Laws

“Many times during my personal Bible study, I will ask our Father for His guidance in the direction that He wants me to go during this time. Not too long ago I was directed to the book of Acts, chapter 2. It was not Pentecost season, when we traditionally cover this chapter, so as I was reading it once again I kept looking for something new for me.

It was in the middle of Peter’s message that I did “see” something new. He was explaining to the “Men of Judea, and all who live in Jerusalem” the meaning of what they had just witnessed regarding the power of the Holy Spirit. In verses 22 through 24, Peter was beginning to bring their focus of attention to Jesus.

As he continued in verse 25, Peter spoke of the patriarch David, saying:

“For David says of Him, ‘I was always beholding the Lord in my presence; for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; moreover my flesh also will abide in hope; because Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; Thou wilt make me full of gladness with Thy presence’” (Acts 2:25–28, NASB).

My eye kept coming back to the sentence, “I was always beholding the Lord in My presence…” This is a prophecy of Jesus Christ speaking of the special relationship with His Father. This was Jesus’ mind-set— “always beholding the presence of His Father with Him.” We must know from the Scriptures…”

(this article is an excerpt from the September–October 2003 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 17, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/tss/503/tss_503.pdf