The institution of the seventh-day (Saturday) Sabbath as a weekly day of rest and worship goes all the way back to creation week in Genesis 2:1-3 Genesis 2:1-3 1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
American King James Version×. God set the example for humankind by resting on that specific day. Indeed the Creator “blessed the seventh day and sanctified it.” The word sanctify means “to set apart for a holy use and purpose.”
When God led Israel out of Egyptian captivity, He again instructed them about the need to observe the Sabbath day (Exodus 16:23-30 Exodus 16:23-30 23 And he said to them, This is that which the LORD has said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath to the LORD: bake that which you will bake to day, and seethe that you will seethe; and that which remains over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.
24 And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein.
25 And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath to the LORD: to day you shall not find it in the field.
26 Six days you shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none.
27 And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none.
28 And the LORD said to Moses, How long refuse you to keep my commandments and my laws?
29 See, for that the LORD has given you the sabbath, therefore he gives you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide you every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.
30 So the people rested on the seventh day.
American King James Version×). Later God incorporated His instruction to keep the Sabbath day holy as one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8-11 Exodus 20:8-11 8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shall you labor, and do all your work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD your God: in it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your 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: why the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
American King James Version×). Kept from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, observant Jews still honor this same day as God's Sabbath.
During Jesus' earthly ministry He set an example of Sabbath keeping (Luke 4:16 Luke 4:16And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
American King James Version×). And after Christ's death, resurrection and ascension to His Father, the early first-century Church continued to observe the seventh-day Sabbath (Acts 13:14 Acts 13:14But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.
American King James Version×, Acts 13:42 Acts 13:42And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles sought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.
American King James Version×, Acts 13:44 Acts 13:44And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.
American King James Version×; Acts 16:13 Acts 16:13And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spoke to the women which resorted thither.
American King James Version×; Acts 17:2 Acts 17:2And Paul, as his manner was, went in to them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
American King James Version×; Acts 18:4 Acts 18:4And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.
American King James Version×).
In the centuries that followed, however, a satanic apostasy gripped the church and only a relative few remained faithful to apostolic teaching and doctrine (please see the chapter on “The Rise of Counterfeit Christianity ” in our free booklet The Church Jesus Built ).
The seventh-day Sabbath was one of the first doctrines that fell under attack, along with many of Christ's other teachings. Those who propagated these false doctrines began to observe the first day of the week, Sunday (the day commonly used to honor the sun god in the Roman Empire), as the official day of rest.
That practice soon became almost universal among professing Christians and remains so today. But scattered groups of believers have continued to observe God's true Sabbath through the centuries. To learn more, please read our free Bible study aid booklet Sunset to Sunset: God's Sabbath Rest .