April 15 - 21
The Sabbath and the Second Coming
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Gen. 2:3; Exod. 20:8-11; Deut. 5:12-15; Isa. 58:13, 14; Heb. 3:16-4:10; Rev. 14:6, 7, 12.
MEMORY TEXT: "'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, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHTS: The Sabbath reveals God's nature to be personal. It also illuminates our entire relationship with Jesus, from Creation and redemption to reunion with Him at His second coming.
THE SABBATH IS GOD'S INVITATION TO ENTER A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM. Why did God give us the Sabbath? The Sabbath is a sign between God and us, that we may know that He is our God (Ezek. 20:20). God is a personal Being who desires to have a relationship with each of us individually. The Sabbath is God's invitation to spend sacred time with Him. As with all Bible doctrines, the Sabbath tells us about God and about ourselves and the proper way for us to relate to Him. Our relationship with God is spelled out for us in His gift of the Sabbath. It signifies our rest in His acts of Creation and of redemption in our behalf. This is a foretaste of the heavenly Sabbath rest that awaits us at Christ's second coming. Jesus came on time the first time, and we can be sure He will come on time the second time.
Compare what the Sabbath tells us about:
1. God as our Creator (Gen. 2:1-3; Exod. 20:8-11) _______________________________________________
2. Ourselves as God's creatures (Mark 2:27) ___________________________________________________
3. Our relationship with God (Exod. 31:17) ______________________________________________________
The biblical concept of the Sabbath is, first of all, associated with Creation. God is to be distinguished from all other gods because He is the Creator. Since Creation took place through Jesus Christ, the Sabbath points to His power, authority, and Lordship. We do not have to be left in doubt as are the heathen. We know who He is. Everything that exists originated from Him and is dependent upon Him.
By pointing to God as the Creator, the Sabbath helps us to understand ourselves. We do not exist by chance; we are the creation of God. While, as human beings, we are creative, we are not the Creator. We do not sustain ourselves; we are sustained by God. In the twentieth century man sees himself as the creator. He is the maker of the automobile, the designer of moon and planet rockets, the developer of home conveniences, the conqueror of disease, and the creator of his own destiny. Forgetting his true origin, he now sees himself as the autonomous ruler of the world, if not the universe. What message does man need more today than to be reminded that he lives in dependence upon the Creator God? The Sabbath, when kept meaningfully, is a tie between Christ and His people, because it demonstrates man's recognition of his dependence upon God as Creator and Sustainer.
What role does the Sabbath play in the proclamation of the gospel prior to Christ's second coming? Rev. 14:6, 7.
|Think of ways in which the Sabbath enhances your walk with God. In what way is it a foretaste of heaven for you?|
Explain the relationship between redemption and the Sabbath in the experience of the children of Israel. Deut. 5:15.
The Sabbath is the Christian's memorial of deliverance from sin. Just as God created us out of nothing by the power of His word, so He is able to deliver us from sin by re-creating us in His own image. When our mind is in harmony with that of another person, we are able to enter a fuller relationship. So also, when we are re-created in the image of God, we can be restored to full relationship with Him. Thus, the Sabbath represents God's desire to bring us back into His fellowship by restoring us to His own image.
Explain how the Sabbath and sanctification are linked together. Exod. 31:13; Ezek. 20:12.
Pagan religions are filled with rules and regulations that must be observed in order to appease the gods. Rituals, set prayers, penanceall are stepping-stones to celestial bliss. Even the history of Christianity is littered with examples of Christians who have attempted to make their own way into the kingdom. The Bible is unique in its teaching that we cannot lift ourselves into heaven.
Some think of Sabbath keeping as a form of legalism. They see God as a stern judge just waiting to bring down judgment on those who do not properly keep the Sabbath. However, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark. 2:27, NKJV). But does that mean we should make void the Sabbath because it was made for our benefit? No, we establish the Sabbath. It was not meant for our own independent, selfish pleasure. It was given so that we might delight ourselves in the Lord (Isa. 58:14).
The Sabbath reaffirms that the Lord of the Sabbath becomes our redemption and sanctification. It brings assurance of deliverance from the bondage of sin: "Sabbath" (rest) to our soul. Just as the Sabbath is set apart for holy use, so are we set apart for God. Such redemption and sanctification in Christ is the bliss that we experience walking with Him here, awaiting our walk with Him in heaven.
|"And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him" (Gen. 5:24, NKJV). How do you identify with Enoch's walk with God as you await Christ's soon coming? How can you have a closer walk with Him?|
Explain how Isaiah 66:22, 23 is related to the Second Advent. What future hope does the Sabbath give us?
"The Sabbath is an eternal institution. It would have been rightly honored in the restored Jewish state, and in the new earth to come it will be observed by all. . . . All will observe the Sabbath in eternal recognition of Christ as the Creator of the world in its Edenic bliss, and as the re-Creator of the new heavens and the new earth of righteousness and holiness." SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 338.
The future impacts the present. Our vision of a completed degree, a future position, a vacation, a promise of a future relationship, all have a major impact upon the way we think and live in the present. Since the future impacts the present, it is important that we view the future from God's standpoint. Without His revelation of the future, we are left either in despair or with a false hope of a better future.
The Sabbath points not only to the God of Creation and redemption but also to the God of the future, to the God of the Second Coming, and to the Creator of the new earth. If we truly live the Sabbath, not merely observe it, we will rest confident in the hope of Christ's second coming and a new creation.
Compare the rest that we enter by faith, the heavenly rest, and the rest on the Sabbath. Heb. 3:16-4:10.
Just as in courtship, the intent of a date is to foster a relationship between two people; so, the intent of the Sabbath before sin was to nurture and encourage a deeper relationship between God and our first parents. After sin, the intent was not only to nurture that relationship but also to restore it. Unfortunately, the Sabbath sometimes becomes misused as a tool of legalism rather than as a balm for the soul. At the other extreme, the Sabbath is not taken seriously, and thus it cannot play its intended role of bringing us back into God's intended relationship. The Sabbath also foreshadows that which it is intended to fosterthe time when humankind will again be blessed by face-to-face communion with God.
|How would you explain to someone that meaningful Sabbath observance shows complete trust in God? How does attempting to obtain salvation by observing the Sabbath destroy true Sabbath keeping? Think of two ways to help you spend more quality time with God.|
List the three things associated with the seventh-day Sabbath that set it apart from the rest of the week. Gen. 2:3; Exod. 20:11. How does this enrich your view of this special day?
How does the way in which Jesus and His followers regard the fourth commandment encourage us in our love and obedience to His will? Luke 4:16; 23:55-24:1.
Since God Himself requested the weekly appointment with us, it would seem appropriate that He be the One to establish its activities and parameters. God delights in meaningful observance of the Sabbath, because it testifies of a meaningful relationship with Him. Observance of the Sabbath is not an end in itself; rather, it is giving God priority in our lives.
How does God want us to enjoy keeping the Sabbath? Isa. 58:13, 14? What does this tell us about God's character?
Meaningful Sabbath observance recognizes God's love and His intent to banish all traces of sin from the earth made new. Sabbath observance demonstrates one's faith that Christ is preparing a home where our relationship with Him will be fully restored.
"As the Sabbath was the sign that distinguished Israel when they came out of Egypt to enter the earthly Canaan, so it is the sign that now distinguishes God's people as they come out from the world to enter the heavenly rest. The Sabbath is a sign of the relationship existing between God and His people, a sign that they honor His law."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, pp. 349, 350.
|What activities honor God in keeping holy the day He established as a memorial of Creation, redemption, and the expressed hope of reunion with Him? Share a couple of ideas with your class members. On what principles do you decide the appropriateness of Sabbath activities?|
Compare the fourth commandment with the others. List some of its distinguishing characteristics. Exod. 20:1-17.
The Sabbath commandment is unique among the commandments, for it contains the seal of God's law. It alone "brings to view both the name and the title of the Lawgiver. It declares Him to be the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and thus shows His claim to reverence and worship above all others. Aside from this precept, there is nothing in the Decalogue to show by whose authority the law is given."The Great Controversy, p. 452.
The Sabbath is to be kept simply because God has declared it to be holy. No movements in the solar system establish the Sabbath as a special day. No biological rhythms set it apart. Nothing in history, psychology, math, the sciences, or human law argues for the sanctity of the Sabbath. It is kept on the foundation of faith in God's Word.
Some argue about the why or the why not of Sabbath observance. What is the fundamental reason for the Sabbath to be kept? Deut. 5:12.
Sabbath keeping acknowledges the absolute sovereignty of God. The Sabbath command comes nearer to being a true measure of spirituality than any other of the commandments, and, as in the days of Israel of old, it is often more of a test of loyalty to God than is any of the others. To be willing on the Sabbath day to withdraw from the tyranny of the world of things in order to meet the Lord of heaven and earth in the quiet of our soul means to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and body. The Sabbath is thus a tree of knowledge of good and evil in the midst of the garden. It is a test of and a witness to true allegiance to the God of the universe. It is an indication that God is God and we are not.
How is the Sabbath a test in the last days, dividing between the loyal and disloyal to God's Word? Rev. 14:12.
"The Sabbath will be the great test of loyalty, for it is the point of truth especially controverted. When the final test shall be brought to bear upon men, then the line of distinction will be drawn between those who serve God and those who serve Him not."The Great Controversy, p. 605.
FURTHER STUDY: Exod. 16:1-30; 35:1-3; Deut. 5:1-22; Ezek. 44:24; John 1:3; Col. 1:15-18.
Read The Great Controversy, pp. 613-621.
"The Sabbath is a sign of the relationship existing between God and His people, a sign that they are His obedient subjects, that they keep holy His law. The observance of the Sabbath is the means ordained by God of preserving a knowledge of Himself and of distinguishing between His loyal subjects and the transgressors of His law.
"This is the faith once delivered to the saints, who stand in moral power before the world, firmly maintaining this faith."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 198.
The Sabbath is a reminder of God's total plan for us. It is a great arch, spanning time from a perfect Creation to a perfect re-creation. It represents Christ's activity in our creation, in our redemption, and in the re-creation of our original home. When we meaningfully observe the Sabbath, we are faithfully looking for the true God, who has revealed Himself to us in His Word and who is coming the second time to take us home.
SUMMARY: The Sabbath is like a hedge protecting our friendship with God. God has given it to us because He knows that those who worship Him meaningfully on that day will mature more and more in their love relationship with Him. The Sabbath becomes a hedge around our relationship with God by: (1) providing the quality time essential for development of that relationship; (2) clarifying the relationship He desires to have with us. In giving the Sabbath to us, Christ gives Himself. Such a gift lifts us above the humdrum of mechanical living to the abundant life we have in Him, and it prepares us for the eternal life awaiting us when He comes again.
When a new group of believers in Cambodia needed a place to worship, one of the members offered a prime piece of land. But first God would need to chase away the spirit that lived there before they could build. The group prayed, the spirit left, and the believers built a simple thatch church. They tried to get permission from the local government to build a permanent church, but one official steadfastly refused to allow a Christian church in his area. Without his permission, the believers could not build.
The yearly rains brought severe flooding to the area, and people were going hungry. When the district official told a Christian that he had not eaten that day, the Christian gave him 10 pounds of rice from his own meager store. "If that's the kind of people Christians are," he said, "you are welcome in my community."
The floodwaters receded, and the villagers could plant their crops. The rice grew quickly in the fertile soil. But one day cutworms invaded the area. They ate the tender roots of the rice plants, killing them. The villagers tried flooding the fields to drown the worms, and pesticides to kill them, but nothing worked. In days the once-green rice fields looked dry and brown. That is, all except for those belonging to Mr. Eae. His rice stood out like green jade on a golden bracelet.
People came from throughout the country to see the only green fields among the devastation. They asked Eae, "How did you keep the worms out of your rice?"
Eae replied simply, "I sprayed my fields with tithe." Eae told the people about the living God who had power to keep evil away. He showed them the rotting spirit house on the hill.
The villagers replanted their fields after the plague of worms had passed, and a good harvest saved them from starvation. When Eae harvested his fields, he found that God had given him twice as much yield as other years. He brought nearly a ton of "tithe rice" to the church, as well as several more families from his village who wanted to join God's family. The seeds of truth that he had scattered sprouted in other villages as well, and two Branch Sabbath Schools have opened as a result. Today, thanks to help from others, a beautiful new Adventist church stands on top of what was once called Spirit Hill.
Khut Chouen works in the Cambodian Mission.
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