What do Seventh-day Adventists Believe about the Sabbath?
Seventh-day Adventists believe that the Bible Sabbath falls on the seventh day of the week, which is Saturday. We uphold that it was instituted at Creation and remains valid and relevant to this day, being one of the Ten Commandments.
This post will show you how Adventists observe the Sabbath and why we love it. You’ll learn:
- That the Sabbath was established at Creation as a memorial
- How keeping the Sabbath gives us spiritual, mental, and physical benefit
- Why the Sabbath is on the seventh-day
- How the Sabbath helped form the Adventist denomination
Let’s start by looking at the official statement of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on the Sabbath below:
“The gracious Creator, after the six days of Creation, rested on the seventh day and instituted the Sabbath for all people as a memorial of Creation.
The fourth commandment of God’s unchangeable law requires the observance of this seventh-day Sabbath as the day of rest, worship, and ministry in harmony with the teaching and practice of Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath.
The Sabbath is a day of delightful communion with God and one another. It is a symbol of our redemption in Christ, a sign of our sanctification, a token of our allegiance, and a foretaste of our eternal future in God’s kingdom.
The Sabbath is God’s perpetual sign of His eternal covenant between Him and His people.
Joyful observance of this holy time from evening to evening, sunset to sunset, is a celebration of God’s creative and redemptive acts.”
The Sabbath is part of the Ten Commandments
God’s holy law describes the importance of the Sabbath, as found in the fourth commandment.
Right up there with all the other nine commandments is one that reminds us to keep God’s chosen day of rest holy.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates” (Exodus 20: 8-10, NKJV).
God’s law was given to be a blessing to humanity—a recipe for a loving, compassionate, fulfilling life.
And it’s not hard to see why.
Just think how much greater our world would be if people kept even some of the commandments, such as not lying, stealing, or murdering.
It’s the same with the Sabbath commandment—it’s intended for our own good.
In the Bible, God told His people “to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good” (Deuteronomy 10:12, NKJV).
But even before the Ten Commandments were ever given to the Israelites, the Sabbath was already established.
The Sabbath was established at Creation as a memorial
The holiness and uniqueness of the seventh day goes all the way back to the first week of creation. Right after God created the world and everything in it in just six days, as depicted in Genesis 1.
And after the six days, what happened next?
God created the seventh day, and declared it special—and with no hint of an expiration date.
“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, NKJV).
As such, the sacredness of the Sabbath was built right into the creation of the earth.
In fact, the Hebrew word for rested is the verb shabat. This is the root word for “Sabbath,” which means to rest from labor, to stop, or to pause.
In the New Testament, Jesus affirms this sentiment of the Sabbath when He declared that “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27, NKJV).
The Sabbath was established for us to take a day off from our work, pause from day-to-day stresses, focus on Him, and enjoy the world He created.
What a powerful reminder that the Creator of the universe loved us so much that He made the whole world just for us.
The Sabbath brings us back to our roots. It also points us to the origins of humanity’s very existence.
And reminds us that God had a purpose for each of us when He intentionally created the human race.
The Sabbath is for our spiritual, mental and physical benefit
In our harried world of work and endless business to take care of, who doesn’t need some good rest?
The good news is that without exception, God’s seventh-day Sabbath comes to each of us every week.
This weekly reminder of God as our creator and redeemer is so important that instead of us going to it, it comes to us.
It comes to us as certainly and regularly as the sunset.
And week by week, it offers us rest from our labors and toils (Deuteronomy 5: 12-15).
Jesus Himself said:
“Come unto me, all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NKJV).
And one way to receive this rest is by experiencing His Sabbath.
After all, Jesus said that He Himself “is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8, NKJV).
The Sabbath is also a time set aside to truly enjoy the world that God has made.
It’s so easy to be overwhelmed in the hustle and bustle of life, and to lose sight of the fact that God is our Creator and Redeemer.
But by truly resting from our own work on the Sabbath and marveling in God’s work, we can have a powerful spiritual experience each week.
Sabbath is a special reminder. A special time that’s been offered to us since the beginning of the world. A special time to rejoice in the great truth that our loving God is our creator.
As the Psalmist expressed it:
“Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands!
Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the LORD, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves” (Psalm 100:1-3, NKJV).
Anyone can say that they are resting in Christ.
But every week, we have a chance to truly rest in what the Lord calls “My holy day” (Isaiah 58:13, NKJV).
A day in which school and work are not allowed to intrude or interfere, and so you get a break.
It’s as if God knew that we would need a break right from the beginning. So He gave us one every week—the seventh-day Sabbath.
The Sabbath is still on the seventh day of the week(Saturday)
The Sabbath is a significant part of the Bible, in both the Old Testament and New Testament.
Throughout the Bible, there’s no indication that anything was changed regarding the significance, timing, or practice of keeping the Sabbath.
With that in mind, it’s a wonder that so many Christian denominations go to church on Sunday as if the first day of the week is the Sabbath!
We find answers in history.
Sometime in the early centuries of Christianity, some believers started to keep Sunday instead of Saturday.
Adventist scholar Kenneth Strand explains it as follows:
“The precise sequence of events that led to the rise of a weekly Sunday is somewhat obscure. It is clear that Sunday observance did not originate as a substitute for the Sabbath. Not until the fourth century did Sunday begin to replace the Sabbath as a rest day; until then the weekly Christian Sunday had been a work-day, with time set aside for special worship.”1
Some believe that since the Jews were very unpopular in the Roman empire due to their frequent revolutions, the Christians wanted to disassociate themselves from them.
And especially because nothing distinguished the Jews more publicly as keeping the seventh-day Sabbath.2
Adopting Sunday also came about when the early church started to deviate from their pure Biblical beliefs, while attempting to be like the surrounding culture (2 Thessalonians 2:3; Daniel 7: 8, 19-21, 24-27; Revelation 13:1-12).
And finally, a full shift happened when Constantine decreed Sunday as the day of worship in the Roman Empire.
Sunday (or the day of the Sun) was meant to honor the sun god. The sun god was one of the gods of the Romans.
So despite its long tradition in most cases, Sunday-keeping is not the day of rest depicted in the Bible.
Is it sinful to go to church on sunday?
Seventh-day Adventists do not believe that it’s sinful or wrong to go to church on Sunday.
In fact, we hold quite a lot of religious events on Sunday. Like Bible studies, prayer meetings, evangelistic meetings, etc.
What’s sinful is to violate the fourth commandment that says we keep the Sabbath sacred.
Saturday should be observed as God’s sacred day, and we should abstain from regular duties that occupy the other days.
So the issue with Sunday comes in when we go to church and then ignore the sanctity of Saturday as God’s Sabbath.
As it is, Saturday often gets crowded with all the casual errands that got left out of the week, or that need to be done to prepare for Sunday as “church day.”
Violating the Sabbath in this way is going against what the fourth commandment asks. So it’s the same as breaking any other commandment.
In fact, even if someone keeps all the other nine but intentionally does not keep the Sabbath, the Bible says that it’s just as if they violated all of them!
“For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law” (James 20:10-11, NKJV).
How did the seventh-day Sabbath become a central theme for Seventh-day Adventists?
In the early to mid 1800s, before the Advent Movement, most of the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church kept Sunday as the day of worship, just as they had done all their lives as members of other various Christian denominations in America.
After the Advent Movement began, and people were beginning to study their Bibles much more deeply than before. Then a man named Joseph Bates learned about Saturday being the biblical Sabbath.
After much prayer and study, he was convinced of the Sabbath truth. Then he wrote a tract called The Seventh-day Sabbath, a Perpetual Sign.
At first, many of the early Adventists, including James and Ellen White, were skeptical.
Then slowly but surely, they began to see that the Bible did show that the seventh day was the Sabbath day and should be kept.
As Ellen White herself wrote:
“In the autumn of 1846, we began to observe the Bible Sabbath, and to teach and defend it.”3
Over the following years, keeping the seventh-day Sabbath became one of the church’s distinguishing traits. They didn’t keep the Sabbath in order to be saved, of course, but as a loving response to the salvation that they already had in Jesus.
This aligns with what the Bible says:
“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3, NKJV).
And when planning to organize themselves into a denomination, early Adventists decided to include “Seventh-day” as part of their name in 1860. This etched their firm belief in the significance of the Sabbath into their very identity, since it was not a common belief at the time.
What do Seventh-day Adventists love about the Sabbath?
There’s so much to love about the Sabbath as it provides time to get closer to God and to other people in our lives. Adventists love it because it enriches their lives in many ways, just as God meant it to be when He established it at Creation.
As Jesus Himself said, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27, NKJV).
It provides time for rest, time with family, freedom from the strain of work, school, business etc.
And best of all, we get to spend more time with God, marveling at the world created for humanity to enjoy.
Did Jesus ever say not to keep the Sabbath?
If you look through the Gospels, you’ll notice that Jesus had a lot of conflicts with the religious leaders over the Sabbath.
But a closer look will show that the confrontations were never about whether or not to keep the Sabbath, but rather how to keep it.
This was because the religious leaders had put a bunch of man-made traditions and rules on the Sabbath, which made it more of a burden than a blessing (Matthew 12:1-20; Mark 12:1-28; Mark 3: 1-6; Luke 6:1-9; John 9: 1-41).
In fact, Jesus ministered to the needs of the hurting on the Sabbath.
Following Christ’s example, many Seventh-day Adventists use their time on Sabbath to be a blessing to others.
As Jesus Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35, NKJV).
And Sabbath is a day that offers us a special opportunity to give.
Adventists love the Sabbath because it also frees them from the day to day hustle of work.
By keeping the Sabbath and not working on that day, Adventists show their trust in God to provide for them and to take care of them.
It’s a way of living by faith.
And as Paul wrote, “the just shall live by faith” (Galatians 3:11, NKJV).
Again, Adventists love the Sabbath because it is a day dedicated at creation. And it offers them a weekly opportunity to rejoice in the miracle and magnificence of human existence.
But in order to really understand the joys of the Sabbath, you’ve got to experience it yourself.
As Scripture says, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (Psalms 34:8, NKJV).
The good news is that each week provides you with a special opportunity to do just that!
Above all, Seventh-day Adventists keep the Sabbath because we are grateful that God created the world. And because we’re eager to lovingly respond to the fourth commandment.
This allows us all to embrace the rest in the work that Christ has done for us in creating our world and saving us.
 Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology, Review and Herald, 200. p. 517
 Samuele Bacchiocchi, From Sabbath to Sunday, Gregorian Pontifical Press, Rome, Italy, 1977
 Testimonies for the Church 1:75
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