Jehovah`s Witness/Keeping the Sabbath
Hello and how are you my friend,
I am writing to you from Durbin, South Africa and I have a question concerning the Sabbath. Are people professing to be a Christian under obligation from God to keep the Sabbath holy? The reason I ask this question. I have a chance for a promotion in my company and the requirement is that i work on the Sabbath, which here is on a saturday. My pastor at the church i attend, tells me that to do so would be like committing my soul to hell. That God would never forgive me in this world and the world to come. My friend, what should I do? I really don't like church as they never seem to have the answers to my questions concerning the Bible and they are always trying different tactics to get money from us. I can't find myself leaving the church as I would be considered an outcast of public opinion and would bring shame to my family.
I am indebted to you, my friend for the answers,
Thank you for inquiring with All Experts. I’m glad that you’re a spiritually minded person and your concern for how God views you weighs a great deal. The Sabbath of today is drastically different from the way it was for thousands of years. In fact, in the Mosaic Law, if you were to violate the day of Sabbath, you were stoned to death. The Sabbath was intended as a rest day for the Jewish nation and a day of teaching and observance of Jehovah’s laws.
Many people today who regard the Sabbath as an opportunity to enjoy themselves. But for Jews and members of certain religions of Christendom the Sabbath is a serious matter. To illustrate: In Jerusalem Jews have recently been stoned for driving cars on the Sabbath (Saturday) by other more strict Jews who claim that combustion or fire in car engines is against sabbatical law.
Some Protestants still have great respect for Sunday, which they view as the Sabbath. For example, many people in South Africa piously refrain from such things as sports and disapprove of swearing on Sundays. However, they see nothing wrong in driving cars to church nor for their servants, often fellow Protestants, to work hard preparing a Sunday dinner. Generally speaking, Catholics take a lenient view. The late Pope John Paul said that sports after Sunday church services can be good for body and spirit.
Obviously there are very divergent views about the Sabbath. Is it Saturday or Sunday? And should Christians observe it? To answer, let us go back to the origin of the Sabbath as told in the most reliable history book of all time—the Bible.
In the year 1513 B.C.E. the Israelites were on trek in the wilderness en route to Mount Sinai and were running out of food. So God provided manna for them for six consecutive days but none on the seventh. (Ex. 16:22-30) For the first time Jehovah made it a law for his people to rest on the seventh day.
Later, at Mt. Sinai, this law was incorporated into the Ten Commandments, the fourth of which stated: “Remembering the sabbath day to hold it sacred, . . . do all your work six days. But the seventh day is a sabbath to Jehovah your God.” It also applied to servants and domestic animals. (Exodus. 20:8-11) It was to be a day of complete rest, no wood was to be gathered or fires lit, and the penalty for breaking it was death. (Exodus. 35:1-3) Moreover, it was an arrangement only for Israel: “Between me and the sons of Israel it is a sign to time indefinite.”—Exodus. 31:16, 17.
Was all of this just a lot of ritual? No, the Sabbath was very beneficial for the Israelites. Physically the weekly rest was good for them. More importantly, the Sabbath provided an opportunity for activities that renewed the spirit, such as reading and discussing God’s Word. The Sabbath was good for families as well, affording opportunity for parents to teach their children about God.
Did Israel keep the Sabbath? Sometimes. However, after their return from exile in Babylon (537 B.C.E.), the Jewish religious leaders imposed many added man-made restrictions. They even made it unlawful to catch a flea on the Sabbath! With such a petty, fanatical attitude on their part, it is no wonder that Christ offended the religious leaders of his day. Because he did not uphold their concept of the Sabbath they were “beside themselves with anger,” and planned to murder Jesus.—Matthew. 12:9-14; Luke 6:6-11, The New English Bible.
After Jesus’ death profound changes took place. Under the guidance of God’s spirit the early Christians realized that they were no longer under the Law and that “Christ is the end of the Law.” (Romans. 10:4; 6:14, 15) Hence, they were no longer bound to make animal sacrifices, pay tithes, be circumcised or keep the Sabbath. The apostle Paul wrote: “By means of his flesh he [Christ] abolished . . . the Law of commandments.”—Ephesians. 2:15.
Again and again the Bible makes it clear that Christians are not under the Law, that it was ‘taken out of the way,’ nailed to Christ’s torture stake. “Therefore let no man judge you in eating and drinking or in respect of a festival . . . or of a sabbath.”—Colossians. 2:13-16.
Of course, the apostles did use the Sabbath as an occasion to preach to the Jews assembled in their synagogues. But they were no longer under obligation to keep the Sabbath. When Gentiles became Christians they were not put under any sabbatical law; nevertheless, they did receive holy spirit. (Acts 10:44, 45) Interestingly, at a council in Jerusalem to discuss the requirements for Gentiles, some believers who had been Pharisees wanted Gentile converts “to observe the law of Moses,” which included both circumcision and the Sabbath. But the decision of the apostles included neither. (Acts 15:1, 2, 5, 28, 29) Hence, Paul wrote to both Jewish and Gentile Christians at Rome: “One man judges one day as above another; another man judges one day as all others; let each man be fully convinced in his own mind.”—Romans. 14:5.
In the second century C.E., the foretold apostasy crept in among Christians. Later, in 321 C.E., the Roman emperor Constantine, anxious to favor the already corrupted Christianity of his day, made a law that Sunday should be observed. He insisted that the day was sacred to the sun. This was pagan, not Christian. Apostate Christendom today, with flagging zeal and varying views, still recognizes dies solis, the day of the sun!
From a careful study of the Bible these important points clearly emerge: that if a day should be observed it would be Saturday, the seventh day; that the Sabbath law was only for ancient Israel; that it was never repeated or given to Christians (as was the law concerning sanctity of blood—Acts 15:19, 20); and that “Christ is the end of the Law,” including the Sabbath. (Romans. 10:4) Hence, for those “scrupulously observing days and months,” the apostle Paul wrote: “I fear for you, that somehow I have toiled to no purpose respecting you.”—Galatians. 4:10, 11.
But the Sabbath was admittedly a beneficial law. If Christians don’t have to keep it, are they not going to miss out on the benefits? Not at all.
For example, in areas where Sunday church attendance is popular, people complain about “Sunday Christians.” By this they mean persons who feel that going to church on what they consider the Sabbath makes up for a week of conduct that is anything but Christian. Such persons are not fooling God, are they? They have missed the point of the Sabbath.
What was the point of the Sabbath?
By stopping their other activities on the Sabbath, God’s ancient faithful people showed that His worship was the most important thing in their lives. As they read and discussed God’s Word on that day they showed their belief that “man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.”—Matthew. 4:4.
Really, shouldn’t Christians show they believe these things every day of their lives? If a Christian refuses to let his secular job interfere with his service to God, is he not keeping the spirit of the Sabbath? How about the Christian who buys out time every day to read God’s Word and apply its principles to his daily conduct?
Jesus healed people on the Sabbath as well as on other days, so isn’t every day a good day to apply the exhortation, “Really, then, as long as we have time favorable for it, let us work what is good toward all”? (Gal. 6:10) Sincere Christians doing these things may not keep a special day—but they truly honor God’s Sabbath everyday.
Marvin, let me add more to your question. I see that you pastor believes in hell which is a place of torment I presume. The Bible has some good information for you about that. Hell does not exist.
A word used in the King James Version (as well as in the Catholic Douay Version and most older translations) to translate the Hebrew sheʼohl′ and the Greek hai′des. In the King James Version the word “hell” is rendered from sheʼohl′ 31 times and from hai′des 10 times. This version is not consistent, however, since sheʼohl′ is also translated 31 times “grave” and 3 times “pit.” In the Douay Version sheʼohl′ is rendered “hell” 64 times, “pit” once, and “death” once.
In 1885, with the publication of the complete English Revised Version, the original word sheʼohl′ was in many places transliterated into the English text of the Hebrew Scriptures, though, in most occurrences, “grave” and “pit” were used, and “hell” is found some 14 times. This was a point on which the American committee disagreed with the British revisers, and so, when producing the American Standard Version (1901) they transliterated sheʼohl′ in all 65 of its appearances. Both versions transliterated hai′des in the Christian Greek Scriptures in all ten of its occurrences, though the Greek word Ge′en•na (English, “Gehenna”) is rendered “hell” throughout, as is true of many other modern translations.
Concerning this use of “hell” to translate these original words from the Hebrew and Greek, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (1981, Vol. 2, p. 187) says: “HADES . . . It corresponds to ‘Sheol’ in the O.T. [Old Testament]. In the A.V. of the O.T. [Old Testament] and N.T. [New Testament], it has been unhappily rendered ‘Hell.’”
Collier’s Encyclopedia (1986, Vol. 12, p. 28) says concerning “Hell”: “First it stands for the Hebrew Sheol of the Old Testament and the Greek Hades of the Septuagint and New Testament. Since Sheol in Old Testament times referred simply to the abode of the dead and suggested no moral distinctions, the word ‘hell,’ as understood today, is not a happy translation.”
It is, in fact, because of the way that the word “hell” is understood today that it is such an unsatisfactory translation of these original Bible words. Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, unabridged, under “Hell” says: “fr[om] . . . helan to conceal.” The word “hell” thus originally conveyed no thought of heat or torment but simply of a ‘covered over or concealed place.’ In the old English dialect the expression “helling potatoes” meant, not to roast them, but simply to place the potatoes in the ground or in a cellar.
So Marvin the place of Hell, Hades, Sheol just simply means the common grave of mankind.
The meaning given today to the word “hell” is that portrayed in Dante’s Divine Comedy and Milton’s Paradise Lost, which meaning is completely foreign to the original definition of the word. The idea of a “hell” of fiery torment, however, dates back long before Dante or Milton.
The Grolier Universal Encyclopedia (1971, Vol. 9, p. 205) under “Hell” says: “Hindus and Buddhists regard hell as a place of spiritual cleansing and final restoration. Islamic tradition considers it as a place of everlasting punishment.” The idea of suffering after death is found among the pagan religious teachings of ancient peoples in Babylon and Egypt. Babylonian and Assyrian beliefs depicted the “nether world . . . as a place full of horrors, . . . presided over by gods and demons of great strength and fierceness.” Although ancient Egyptian religious texts do not teach that the burning of any individual victim would go on forever, they do portray the “Other World” as featuring “pits of fire” for “the damned.”—
The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, by Morris Jastrow, Jr., 1898, p. 581; The Book of the Dead, with introduction by E. Wallis Budge, 1960, pp. 135, 144, 149, 151, 153, 161, 200.
“Hellfire” has been a basic teaching in Christendom for many centuries. It is understandable why The Encyclopedia Americana (1956, Vol. XIV, p. 81) said: “Much confusion and misunderstanding has been caused through the early translators of the Bible persistently rendering the Hebrew Sheol and the Greek Hades and Gehenna by the word hell. The simple transliteration of these words by the translators of the revised editions of the Bible has not sufficed to appreciably clear up this confusion and misconception.” Nevertheless, such transliteration and consistent rendering does enable the Bible student to make an accurate comparison of the texts in which these original words appear and, with open mind, thereby to arrive at a correct understanding of their true significance.
This is the common transliteration into English of the corresponding Greek word hai′des. It perhaps means “the unseen place.” In all, the word “Hades” occurs ten times in the earliest manuscripts of the Christian Greek Scriptures.—Matthew 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14.
The King James Version translates hai′des as “hell” in these texts, but the Revised Standard Version renders it “Hades,” with the exception of Matthew 16:18, where “powers of death” is used, though the footnote reads “gates of Hades.” “Hades” rather than “hell” is used in many modern translations.
The Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (from Genesis to Malachi) uses the word “Hades” 73 times, employing it 60 times to translate the Hebrew word sheʼohl′, commonly rendered “Sheol.” Luke, the divinely inspired writer of Acts, definitely showed Hades to be the Greek equivalent of Sheol when he translated Peter’s quotation from Psalm 16:10. (Ac 2:27) Inversely, nine modern Hebrew translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures use the word “Sheol” to translate Hades at Revelation 20:13, 14; and the Syriac translation uses the related word Shiul.
In all but two cases in which the word Hades is used in the Christian Greek Scriptures it is related to death, either in the verse itself or in the immediate context; the two other instances are discussed in the following paragraph. Hades does not refer to a single grave (Gr., ta′phos), or to a single tomb (Gr., mne′ma), or to a single memorial tomb (Gr., mne•mei′on), but to the common grave of mankind, where the dead and buried ones are unseen. It thus signifies the same as the corresponding word “Sheol,” and an examination of its use in all its ten occurrences bears out this fact.
In its first occurrence, at Matthew 11:23, Jesus Christ, in chiding Capernaum for its disbelief, uses Hades to represent the depth of debasement to which Capernaum would come down, in contrast with the height of heaven to which she assumed to exalt herself. A corresponding text is found at Luke 10:15. Note the similar way in which Sheol is used at Job 11:7, 8.
Concerning the Christian congregation, Jesus said, at Matthew 16:18, that “the gates of Hades [“powers of death,” RS] will not overpower it.” Similarly, King Hezekiah, when on the verge of death, said: “In the midst of my days I will go into the gates of Sheol.” (Isa 38:10) It, therefore, becomes apparent that Jesus’ promise of victory over Hades means that its “gates” will open to release the dead by means of a resurrection, even as was the case with Christ Jesus himself.
Since Hades refers to the common grave of mankind, a place rather than a condition, Jesus entered within “the gates of Hades” when buried by Joseph of Arimathea. On Pentecost of 33 C.E., Peter said of Christ: “Neither was he forsaken in Hades nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God resurrected, of which fact we are all witnesses.” (Ac 2:25-27, 29-32; Ps 16:10) Whereas “the gates of Hades” (Mt 16:18) were still holding David within their domain in Peter’s day (Ac 2:29), they had swung open for Christ Jesus when his Father resurrected him out of Hades. Thereafter, through the power of the resurrection given him (John 5:21-30), Jesus is the Holder of “the keys of death and of Hades.”—Revelation 1:17, 18.
Manifestly, the Bible Hades is not the imagined place that the ancient non-Christian Greeks described in their mythologies as a “dark, sunless region within the earth,” for there was no resurrection from such mythological underworld.
At Revelation 6:8 Hades is figuratively pictured as closely following after the rider of the pale horse, personalized Death, to receive the victims of the death-dealing agencies of war, famine, plagues, and wild beasts.
The sea (which at times serves as a watery grave for some) is mentioned in addition to Hades (the common earthen grave), for the purpose of stressing the inclusiveness of all such dead ones when Revelation 20:13, 14 says that the sea, death, and Hades are to give up or be emptied of the dead in them. Thereafter, death and Hades (but not the sea) are cast into “the lake of fire,” “the second death.” They thereby figuratively ‘die out’ of existence, and this signifies the end of Hades (Sheol), the common grave of mankind, as well as of death inherited through Adam.
The remaining text in which Hades is used is found at Luke 16:22-26 in the account of “the rich man” and “Lazarus.” The language throughout the account is plainly parabolic and cannot be construed literally in view of all the preceding texts. Note, however, that “the rich man” of the parable is spoken of as being “buried” in Hades, giving further evidence that Hades means the common grave of mankind.
Sheol Marvin is the common grave of mankind, gravedom; not an individual burial place or grave (Heb., qe′ver, Jg 16:31; qevu•rah′, Ge 35:20), nor an individual tomb (Heb., ga•dhish′, Job 21:32).
While several derivations for the Hebrew word sheʼohl′ have been offered, apparently it is derived from the Hebrew verb sha•ʼal′, meaning “ask; request.” Regarding Sheol, in A Compendious Hebrew Lexicon, Samuel Pike stated that it is “the common receptacle or region of the dead; so called from the insatiability of the grave, which is as it were always asking or craving more.” (Cambridge, 1811, p. 148) This would indicate that Sheol is the place (not a condition) that asks for or demands all without distinction, as it receives the dead of mankind within it.—Genesis 37:35, Proverbs 30:15, 16.
The Hebrew word sheʼohl′ occurs 65 times in the Masoretic text. In the King James Version, it is translated 31 times as “hell,” 31 times as “grave,” and 3 times as “pit.” The Catholic Douay Version rendered the word 63 times as “hell,” once as “pit,” and once as “death.” In addition, at Isaiah 7:11 the Hebrew text originally read sheʼohl′, and it was rendered as “Hades” in the ancient Greek versions of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, and as “hell” in the Douay Version.
There is no English word that conveys the precise sense of the Hebrew word sheʼohl′. Commenting on the use of the word “hell” in Bible translation, Collier’s Encyclopedia (1986, Vol. 12, p. 28) says: “Since Sheol in Old Testament times referred simply to the abode of the dead and suggested no moral distinctions, the word ‘hell,’ as understood today, is not a happy translation.” More recent versions transliterate the word into English as “Sheol.”—RS, AT, NW.
Regarding Sheol, the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1971, Vol. 11, p. 276) noted: “Sheol was located somewhere ‘under’ the earth. . . . The state of the dead was one of neither pain nor pleasure. Neither reward for the righteous nor punishment for the wicked was associated with Sheol. The good and the bad alike, tyrants and saints, kings and orphans, Israelites and gentiles—all slept together without awareness of one another.”
While the Greek teaching of the immortality of the human soul infiltrated Jewish religious thinking in later centuries, the Bible record shows that Sheol refers to mankind’s common grave as a place where there is no consciousness. (Ecclesiastes 9:4-6, 10) Those in Sheol neither praise God nor mention him. (Psalm 6:4, 5; Isaiah 38:17-19) Yet it cannot be said that it simply represents ‘a condition of being separated from God,’ since the Scriptures render such a teaching untenable by showing that Sheol is “in front of” him, and that God is in effect “there.” (Proverb 15:11; Psalm 139:7, 8; Amos 9:1, 2) For this reason Job, longing to be relieved of his suffering, prayed that he might go to Sheol and later be remembered by Jehovah and be called out from Sheol.—Job 14:12-15.
Throughout the inspired Scriptures, Sheol is continually associated with death and not life. (1Sa 2:6; 2Sa 22:6; Ps 18:4, 5; 49:7-10, 14, 15; 88:2-6; 89:48; Isa 28:15-18; also compare Ps 116:3, 7-10 with 2Co 4:13, 14.) It is spoken of as “the land of darkness” (Job 10:21) and a place of silence. (Ps 115:17) Abel apparently was the first one to go to Sheol, and since then countless millions of human dead have joined him in the dust of the ground.
On the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., the apostle Peter quoted from Psalm 16:10 and applied it to Christ Jesus. Luke, in quoting Peter’s words, used the Greek word hai′des, thereby showing that Sheol and Hades refer to the same thing, mankind’s common grave. (Acts 2:25-27, 29-32) During the Thousand Year Reign of Jesus Christ, Sheol, or Hades, is emptied and destroyed, through a resurrection of all of those in it.—Revelation 20:13, 14;
In the account about Jonah, it is stated that “Jonah prayed to Jehovah his God from the inward parts of the fish and said: ‘Out of my distress I called out to Jehovah, and he proceeded to answer me. Out of the belly of Sheol I cried for help. You heard my voice.’” (Jonah 2:1, 2) Therefore, Jonah was comparing the inside of the fish to Sheol. He was as good as dead inside the fish, but Jehovah brought up his life from the pit, or Sheol, by preserving him alive and having him disgorged.—Jonah 2:6; compare Psalm 30:3.
Jesus compared Jonah’s being in the belly of the fish with what would happen in his own case, saying: “For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” (Mt 12:40) Although Jesus did not here use the word “Sheol” (Hades), the apostle Peter did use the word “Hades” when referring to Jesus’ death and resurrection.—Acts 2:27.
Regarding the word “Sheol,” Brynmor F. Price and Eugene A. Nida noted: “The word occurs often in the Psalms and in the book of Job to refer to the place to which all dead people go. It is represented as a dark place, in which there is no activity worthy of the name. There are no moral distinctions there, so ‘hell’ (KJV) is not a suitable translation, since that suggests a contrast with ‘heaven’ as the dwelling-place of the righteous after death. In a sense, ‘the grave’ in a generic sense is a near equivalent, except that Sheol is more a mass grave in which all the dead dwell together. . . . The use of this particular imagery may have been considered suitable here [in Jonah 2:2] in view of Jonah’s imprisonment in the interior of the fish.”—A Translators Handbook on the Book of Jonah, 1978, p. 37.
Marvin, I wanted to show you this because many people are under the misconception of hell is a place of torment. This is not a Biblical teaching. Jehovah God does not torture his children just because in the span of their lives they lived unrighteous for maybe seventy or eighty years to be tortured for eternity. That is not a God of love. When a person dies, they go to a deep sleep. We can compare this when a person undergoes surgery and wakes up moments later when in reality many hours have passed. I wanted to share this with you because hellfire denotes that God and the Devil work together. I assure you that they do not.
If you want more information Marvin, please see the information below to the Jehovah’s Witness website.