Seventh-Day Adventists/Hebrews b4:9


Sal, In Heb. 4:9 it says, "A Sabbath rest still remains for the people of God." That sure sounds like Christians are meant to keep the Sabbath to me. What do you say?


Dear Sister Tina:

As always, nice to hear from you.

If one ignores the context then, yes, it seems that Christians are to continue in the observance of the 7th day Sabbath. However, the context does not support such an interpretation. The book of Hebrews was written to show the complete superiority of the New Covenant over the Old Covenant, Christianity over Judaism. In the very opening verses we read of the superiority of the New Covenant revelation over the Old Covenant revelation.

"In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe" (Hebrews 1:1-2 NABRE).

Jesus brings to us the full and final revelation of God to humanity. The angels were ministers of the inferior Old Covenant revelation (cf. Acts 7:38, 53; Hebrews 2:2). Hebrews tells us that Jesus is greater than the angels (cf. 1:4 ff). Since we have the greater revelation we will be judged harshly if we do not abide in it (cf. Hebrews 2:1-3). Therefore, it behooves us to study to understand this superior revelation.

Hebrews was written to encourage Jewish Christians to resist returning to Judaism. The author attempts to show the folly in leaving Christianity for Judaism. He discusses things the Jews were boasting in and shows that Jesus and the New Covenant are far superior. For example, he shows that the revelation to the Jews through the prophets was inferior (cf. Hebrews 1:1-2), the ministration of the angels was inferior (cf. Hebrews 1:4-8), the leadership of Moses was inferior (cf. Hebrews 3:1-6), the leadership of Joshua was inferior (cf. Hebrews 4:6-8), their special sign of the 7th day Sabbath was inferior (cf. Hebrews 4:1-11), the Aaronic high priesthood was inferior (cf. Hebrews 4:14-5:10), their covenant with God was inferior (cf. Hebrews 8:6-13), even their saints were inferior (cf. Hebrews 11:1-12:3). The bottom line is that Jesus is superior to all. So why revert to that which is inferior?      

With an understanding of the theme of the book of Hebrews it becomes obvious that the author could not be saying that the 7th day Sabbath is to be observed as the Jews did in the Old Covenant. The author could not be saying that everything in the New Covenant is superior to things in the Old Covenant except for the 7th day Sabbath, that remains the same. Therefore, Christians are not to labor on that day, not to carry a heavy load, not to light a fire, etc. Like everything else in the New Covenant the Sabbath that remains for Christians is a far superior rest. One's mind cannot help but to recall a most pertinent scripture.

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV).

Jesus is the Sabbath rest that still remains for Christians. He gives us eternal rest for our souls the Old Covenant Sabbath could never do that. It was a type or shadow of the rest to be found in God's Son.

What does, "God's rest" mean? God "rested" when he completed the Creation Week (cf. Genesis 2:1-3). Why did God rest? Because everything was "very good" His Creation was perfect (cf. Genesis 1:31; Deuteronomy 32:4). Therefore, entering God's rest means entering perfection. The promised rest of Hebrews 4:9 is so much greater than the Old Covenant 7th day Sabbath. The Sabbath that remains is predicated on believing the gospel not so with the 7th day Sabbath.

"For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest..." (Hebrews 4:2-3 NASB).

The rest of Hebrews 4:9 means rest from slavery to sin. As we read in Paul,

"Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness" (Romans 6:16-18 NASB).

The 7th day Sabbath did not free one from slavery to sin. In fact it made one a slave of inactivity quite the opposite of the gospel. The 7th day Sabbath was only a type or shadow of salvation by grace through faith. Observing the Sabbath was meant to remind the Israelite of the spotless creation (cf. Exodus 20:11) and the exodus from Egypt (cf. Deuteronomy 5:15). These are types of the new creation in Christ and deliverance from sin. The 7th day Sabbath could not accomplish this, but the New Covenant Sabbath could and did. The Israelites were meant to move from the Old Covenant Sabbath to the New Covenant Sabbath, Jesus.

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV).

Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan. They had the 7th day Sabbath, but they did not have God's rest (cf. Hebrews 4:8). Entering Canaan, the Promised Land, is a type of entering heaven. The author is not speaking of Christians being obligated to observe the Old Covenant 7th day Sabbath. He is speaking of Christians persevering in order to enter into their reward, the Promised Land of heaven. Due to their lack of obedience the Israelites failed to enter their earthly reward. Due to our faith we will enter our heavenly reward. The author is telling us to not follow the Israelites example of disobedience which was a lack of faith. If we have faith we will enter God's rest, heaven, not keep the 7th day Sabbath.

"Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, 7 God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted:

“Today, if you hear his voice,
   do not harden your hearts.”

8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience" (Hebrews 4:6-11 NIV).

So you see the rest of Hebrews 4:9 is salvation not 7th day Sabbath-keeping. In fact Ellen White did not use Hebrews 4:9 as biblical proof for Christians keeping the 7th day Sabbath and neither does the SDA Bible Commentary. To be sure both White and the Bible Commentary promote mandatory Sabbath observance for Christians. I applaud their honesty in not misusing Hebrews 4:9 to that end. Ellen White seemed to realize that the rest of Hebrews 4:9 is a spiritual rest. "The rest here spoken of is the rest of grace, obtained by following the prescription, labor diligently. Those who learn of Jesus His meekness and lowliness find rest in the experience of practicing His lessons. It is not in indolence, in selfish ease and pleasure-seeking, that rest is obtained. Those who are unwilling to give the Lord faithful, earnest, loving service will not find spiritual rest in this life or in the life to come. Only from earnest labor comes peace and joy in the Holy Spirit—happiness on earth and glory hereafter" (Ellen White quoted in the SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 928).

Thank you for the question, Sister Tina.

God Bless You,
Brother Sal  

Seventh-Day Adventists

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I am privileged to be able to offer an alternative insight into the complicated world of Seventh-Day Adventists (SDA) theology. I will rely heavily on the Bible, but will also consider history and use logic in exposing deficiencies in SDA teachings. I would ask anyone who is considering becoming a SDA or if you are already in the SDA church, but are searching for the truth, to please allow me to offer a different explanation for the claims of the SDA. Remember : "The truth will set you free" (John 8:32). I can answer your questions pertaining to the beliefs and history of the SDA. I am not able to answer questions concerning spirituality or church discipline.


I have extensively studied the theology of the Seventh-Day Adventists (SDA) for a number of years. I have many books and tape sets produced by experts in this field of study. I have debated current members of the SDA church. I have a great desire to help these people see the truth.

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