Learn about a group of people who found - just by reading the Bible - that they must keep the 7th day Sabbath.
[Darris] Imagine yourself opening a Bible for the very first time. You begin to read. And as you do, you read where God says, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy."
You also read where Christ and His disciples kept the Sabbath day and you see that it says, Christ is the "Lord of the Sabbath."
What do you do? Do you follow Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath?
History shows us this is exactly what people have done when faced with the clear teaching of Scripture. It's what followers of Christ will be doing when He returns. Join us on Beyond Today as we look at "The Sabbath in History and Prophecy."
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[Darris] In her book The Sabbath World, author Judith Shulevitz makes an interesting observation. She writes: "Whenever people begin reading the Book [the Bible], they start keeping the Sabbath. And when they keep the Sabbath they read the Book."
That's exactly what happened to a group of believers in Transylvania in the 15- and 1600s. Faced with what the Bible itself says about the Sabbath day, they realized they had no choice but to obey God by keeping the Sabbath as He commanded.
What would you do if you read in the Bible that God intends us to observe the Sabbath? Now let's consider what happened with these people.
Life in medieval Europe was nothing like life in today's world. Imagine your life is completely and totally ruled by other people. Kings, princes, governors, and priests dictate where you live, what you do for a living, and what you believe.
Now into the darkness of your life comes a bright, burning light: the Holy Bible, translated for the first time into your own language. You start reading the Bible and realize that much of what you've been taught doesn't match up with what God says. What do you do?
What about those Christians in Transylvania that I mentioned before? What did they do?
In their search for truth they discovered one of traditional Christianity's darkest secrets: that Sunday worship is a man-made--not God-made--tradition, and that the seventh-day Sabbath was kept by Jesus and His apostles. What's more, it meant that they, too, needed to keep the Sabbath.
In large part their story is defined by their leader, a man named Andreas Eossi. Eossi was a nobleman, rich in real estate. He owned three whole villages, along with other, smaller estates. In many ways he was a sad man with a very sad life. You see his wife and all three of his sons had died prematurely, leaving him wealthy but lonely. On top of that, Eossi's own health was poor. He couldn't even walk.
To fill his time and to heal his mind, Eossi read the Bible. Now remember the idea that we expressed earlier, that as people read the Bible, they begin keeping the Sabbath. Well Eossi was no different. His studies led him to a deep conviction that the church establishment was wrong to change the Sabbath to Sunday.
Soon Eossi led a very flourishing and growing group of Sabbath-keepers in Transylvania. At the peak of the movement there were upwards of 20,000 Sabbatarian Christians living and teaching in the forests and mountains of Eastern Europe.
But it all wasn't fine and peaceful for these believers. You see the Transylvanian Sabbath-keepers had limited protection from the Muslim-ruled Ottoman Empire to the east. But the supposedly Christian Church authorities persecuted them for their biblical beliefs. In 1595, Sabbatarianism was outlawed by the political and religious establishment.
Once their Sabbath-keeping became well known, Eossi and his followers came under intense persecution. They faced the confiscation of their property and real estate, their writings were collected and burned, and in many cases they were put in prison and beaten for their Sabbath conviction. The persecution from both Catholic and Protestant authorities would only worsen over time.
One particularly amazing story about the persecution Sabbath-keepers faced is in the life of Andreas Fischer, a student of Eossi. Fischer was a traveling minister who visited pockets of Sabbath-keepers all over Eastern Europe. He was threatened by the religious authorities to renounce his Sabbath-keeping and other religious beliefs that didn't fall in line with the Lutheran concept of Protestant Christianity.
At one point Fischer and his wife were arrested and given an ultimatum: Give up Sabbath-keeping or be executed. They stood firm, refusing to compromise what they learned from studying the Bible. Tragically, Fischer's wife was executed by drowning and when Fischer's time came, he was hung from a fortress tower and left to die. But here's the amazing part: He actually didn't die.
No one is sure exactly what happened, whether he was rescued by friends, whether he benefited from a faulty rope, or whether he was receiving divine intervention.
Whatever the cause, Fischer walked away from his execution, escaping custody and living to preach for another decade afterward, following another circuit of Sabbath-keeping churches throughout Eastern Europe.
Fischer's ultimate fate would be the same as so many other Sabbatarians. About 11 years after his attempted execution, he was again captured. This time he did not escape.
When the persecution came for the rest of the Sabbatarian community in the mid-1600s it came quickly and somewhat unexpectedly. Even though Sabbath-keepers were often threatened with punishment if they did not publicly renounce their Sabbatarianism, it was rare for the authorities to follow through on their threats. When the religious establishment finally did move on the Sabbatarians, they dealt quickly and harshly with them.
Known Sabbath-keepers were arrested, tried and sentenced to death. Very rarely, however, was anyone actually executed. Instead they were imprisoned, and promised release if they swore never to return to Sabbath-keeping again. Though executions almost never took place, in almost every case a Sabbath-keeper's property and possessions were confiscated, leaving them homeless and destitute.
The once large and booming Sabbatarian communities of Eastern Europe all but disappeared after the widespread persecution. Sabbath-keepers were forced into obscurity, hiding among pockets of other minority Christians, keeping the Sabbath in secret, always fearing they would be found out.
Well today, times have changed. Most people are not hounded and persecuted for keeping the Sabbath today. When I began to learn about the Sabbath and to keep it, it did create a major change in my life and relationships. But I experienced nothing like these people in Eastern Europe.
You can begin to read in your Bible about the Sabbath. You can see the same scriptures read by these sincere believers. We produced the booklet, this study aid: Sunset to Sunset: God's Sabbath Rest to plainly reveal what the Bible says about this critical Commandment of God. Later in the program I will tell you how you can get your free copy.
The story of these men and women who kept the Saturday Sabbath in history is fascinating. It was a time of religious awakening.
What these people saw through the Sabbath truth, the Fourth Commandment, was a glimpse into the long prophesied Kingdom of God. Their own writings of belief reveal this insight. As they read Christ's teaching on the Sabbath, they saw the Kingdom of God. They saw the Sabbath as a sign between the Creator and His chosen people. They believed that as they kept the Sabbath, and God's Holy Festivals as well, that they entered a covenant relationship with the same God who delivered the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt and made them a nation.
This leads us back to an earlier thought. As people read their Bible they discovered the truth of the seventh-day, or Saturday, Sabbath. People were reading the Bible to gain an understanding about God, the purpose for their human life. They were looking for meaning and purpose to their poor, bleak existence. And in a dark world the Bible was a dawning light, a day-star breaking upon a confused and deceived European culture. Some few, and these people in Eastern Europe were among them, came to see the teaching of the Sabbath and embraced its teaching as part of their life. The Sabbath began to define their relationship with God and their entire life's work.
They saw that by keeping the commandments on which God made a covenant with these ancient peoples, they too entered a spiritual covenant with God. This New Covenant was a better covenant with better promises. It was a covenant based on grace through Jesus Christ, the same God who made the first covenant, and who came to earth and died for our sins, who was resurrected and lives today as the King of kings and Lord of lords.
As they kept the Sabbath, they gained understanding and hope of the coming Kingdom of God. They saw that the rest that exists for the people of God through the Sabbath was the critical key to understanding the fullness of a coming Kingdom of God. The Sabbath then, is the biblical key to unlocking the mystery of the coming Kingdom of God to earth with Jesus Christ as Lord. You really cannot understand this truth without proper knowledge and understanding of the Sabbath day.
Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath. He kept the Sabbath and He taught us how to keep it today. I know this may surprise you, but if you look at this booklet--if you compare the scriptures in the Bible with this--you will see that Christ taught us how to use the Sabbath to worship the Father and Him, and how to do good on the day while keeping it holy, and how to enjoy a fuller life by keeping the day. Far from doing away with the Sabbath, Christ showed us how to live in the world of the Sabbath and improve the quality of our life.
When one properly observes this day to God, a spiritual connection is made that is real, honest and true. It is the foundation of the only meaningful relationship that can endure and see one through the challenges and trials, highs and lows, triumphs and tragedies of this mortal life.
When Christ said, "I am the way, the truth and the life," (John 14:6) He was showing the way forward through this uncertain life.
To enter the world of the Sabbath is to enter a dimension where God dwells. Keeping the Sabbath by worshiping and fellowshipping with others of like mind is like being with God and Christ in spiritual fellowship. It is a key to the restlessness of our modern lifestyle. All of us understand the stresses and strains of this life. But not everyone understands the key to getting in sync with God for the help to cope and to manage the extreme stresses of today's culture. Keeping God's Sabbath is the missing key to successful living. To enter the world of the Sabbath is to enter the world of God.
There is another point that all Sabbath keepers, past and present, learn as they read the Bible. They understand there is a continuity between the Old and the New Testament. You understand how the two tell a complete story of God's grace and offer of salvation through Jesus Christ. You understand how to put the Bible together. You also understand prophecy and how key prophecies of the Old Testament and the New Testament are yet to be fulfilled in the future.
Here is the challenge. Prove God by beginning to keep His Sabbath, the seventh day. Step out in living faith and prove what the Bible says about the Sabbath is true.
In one remarkable statement in the book of Isaiah God says, "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights" (Isaiah 58:13-14 NIV).
God's Kingdom is coming to this earth and Christ will rule all. In Daniel there is a remarkable prophecy that tells us when this occurs; the Kingdom set up "will not be left to other people" (Daniel 2:44). Who are those who receive the Kingdom of God? The book of the Revelation says "...those keeping the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 12:17). Will you be among them?
We will continue this subject with our Beyond Today panel in just a few moments.
Before however, going to the panel, let me make two offers to help your understand today's subject.
The first is our free study aid, Sunset to Sunset: God's Sabbath Rest. This is our most complete work on the Sabbath. With it, you will learn from your own Bible how the Sabbath was placed by God as part of His eternal law. You will discover how the Sabbath is part of the very creation. You will also read the story of how powerful church leaders falsely changed worship from Saturday to Sunday for political gain. And you will find this to be a very challenging read.
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I'm joined at this moment now by our Beyond Today panel: Gary Petty, Steve Myers--both fellow hosts here on Beyond Today. This is a fascinating story that we look at from history but most importantly perhaps for what it tells us about today. But when we really stop and look at what people did in ancient times, they read the Bible and they began to keep the Sabbath. What does that really say about the power of this book, the Holy Bible?
[Gary] You know Darris, if you pick up that book and you believe that that is the Word of God and you start to study it, I mean just from Exodus to Revelation--the entire book, it begins to talk to you and God beings to tell you how to live your life. And as you do that, the power that's in there that leads you to God will lead you eventually to the Ten Commandments. And if you're led to the Ten Commandments, you're led to the Sabbath. And so it is going to be a part of what you do.
[Steve] Yeah there is definitely a power in the Word of God. It talks about that throughout the entire book. And if we're faced with challenges in our life, does the Bible have ways that we can apply this word and live it? And there's no doubt. And that example from the Middle Ages is just an amazing one because it says you read this book, you're going to be presented with opportunities. You can choose life. You can choose success in living God's way, have a meaning for your life, or choose your own way. And God presents that over and over again throughout the Bible.
[Darris] To me the story of these people who read the Bible in their own language for the first time really speaks to the statement that Jesus made, that these words that I speak to you, He said, they are spirit and they are life. This is not just a book of literature. This is not just a human book put together by nomadic tribes and others. It is really a living spiritual book that speaks to all ages and to all times.
[Gary] And as that book becomes under attack in our society--which it is--there's a lot of other things that begin to fall apart. You know, the sanctity of marriage, I mean just a lot of things. But that Sabbath is one of them. People easily give up the Sabbath as a concept because they forget the power of what God says throughout that book.
[Steve] And it runs throughout the whole book though as well. So when you look at, look at Deuteronomy when God brought His people into the Promised Land. He said you've got life and death, blessing and cursings, and He says choose life! And the choice isn't any different today, is it? It's the same choice! And He presents that to us and He allows us to make the decision.
[Darris] You know you bring up the scripture in Deuteronomy about choosing life (Deuteronomy 30:19), which is a verse we seem to come back to many times in many other subjects on Beyond Today, and that's ultimately what God wants for all of us is to choose life. We have our modern life and our lifestyle that can be quite hectic, quite stressful. You talked about that during the program, Gary. You did the program on the Sabbath sometime back that we have on our Beyond Today channel that talked about the matter of the Sabbath as a means by which we can get in sync with God. When we look at the Sabbath then in that context, as really, a truly a way by which our life can have not only meaning, but also practical application for us today, it does speak to the ability to deal with the stresses and challenges that we have in this life.
[Gary] Well, we were created to be in relationship with God. And when you go back to the book of Genesis which you find that the first thing that is created for human beings is institutions of marriage and the Sabbath. The Sabbath has to do with our personal relationship with God. We were created to be the children of God. So, the Sabbath is a time that we stop all the hectic wildness of life and we get down into obeying God and having a right relationship with Him. And so how you keep the Sabbath is going to profoundly affect how you live those other six days. So it is very important in just getting the clutter out and the hecticness of life and beginning to see what is really important and have the right priorities. And the first priority is our relationship with God our Father and with Jesus Christ.
[Steve] It is interesting because when you have the Sabbath, it frames your life. That you're focused on a relationship with God and that Sabbath is an opportunity to spend even that much more time in a relationship with Him--praying, studying, growing closer to Him. And it's also a time not only just to rest and relax, but then you also come together for worship. It is a time to praise Him and honor Him and develop that sense of awe that we have, and respect that we have for God and worship Him together, collectively.
[Darris] I am glad that you mentioned that it is a time, a day on which we come with other people before God and worship Him. Because one of the criticisms that people who attack, not just the Bible, but will zero in on the Sabbath teaching and they will attack the Sabbath, anyone who keeps the Sabbath. They begin to say well, you worship the Sabbath more than you worship God. And that's really not a fair criticism when you really do understand what the Bible says, not only about the Sabbath being made for man and Christ being the Lord of the Sabbath. But, it is not, you don't worship the day. That's the day you worship God on.
[Gary] And that really isn't a fair criticism, Darris because people don't understand why there would be Christians who observe the Sabbath. And it's because they believe somehow it's Jewish. Or they believe that somehow it is just ritualistic. And they don't understand that this is a time to renew your relationship with God. I mean, most Christians know there should be a day of worship, they just think it's Sunday. Well the Bible doesn't say that. It's the seventh-day Sabbath. And if you can image a day stripped of all technology and all the stresses and all, and work, and money worries and all the things we go through, and a time dedicated to God in your life, to Christ in your life. Someone said to me once, well, you know Jesus did away with the Sabbath and therefore we are not to keep the Sabbath. And my answer was Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath therefore I observe the Sabbath. It is part of our worship of God. There is a value and a meaning to it that is eternal.
[Steve] And that's such an important thing when you realize Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. If you step back from that passage in Mark 2:28, Mark 2:27 also points out exactly what the Sabbath is, its intent was for. Not just for the Jews which normally people will relegate it: Well it's just for Israel, or it's just for Jews, or it's an Old Testament kind of thing. But if you look at that passage it says the Sabbath was made for mankind, not just the Jews. It was for everyone! And so as Christ is Lord of the Sabbath, that hasn't changed. The crucifixion didn't change that at all. That the Sabbath is for everyone!
[Darris] It was made for man.
[Steve] It was made for all of us and so, do we take advantage of the time that God made for us? To have a right relationship with Him, to have a right relationship with His people and to come together and worship Him? So the Sabbath is not the thing, it is the relationship with God.
[Darris] And that point, you quoted Mark 2:27-28, those two verses really tie back to the positioning of the creation and the creation week. Man was created on the sixth day and the Sabbath was created by God by resting on the seventh day. But those two events right next to each other, they're joined. They're connected. They cannot be separated. And that's what Mark is showing there in Christ's statement.
[Steve] And it's not an Old Testament thing, it's a godly thing. You can fast-forward beyond the crucifixion and in Hebrews 4 it tells us very plainly that there still is. It says there remains a Sabbath-keeping for the people of God. So even after the crucifixion this is something that expresses God's intent. And it's a wonderful thing, an opportunity to worship and praise Him and come together as His people, certainly to rest and relax and get away from this world as well.
[Darris] Obviously as we have shown this and as anyone who gets this booklet on the Sabbath Rest is going to see, keeping the Sabbath will require some changes. It will impact one's life. Is it worth the cost? I think that's a question people are going to ask.
[Gary] I guess the real question is, to have a meaningful, more meaningful, more personal relationship with your Creator, is that worth the cost? And that's the question you're asking because the Sabbath has to do with relationship. That's why it's clear back in the book of Genesis. He created human beings and He created the Sabbath--one of the ways in which we are to come to God, and be closer to Him, and once again affect the rest of the six days of the week. Our whole lives are affected by that. So the real question is, how much are you willing to pay, what price are you willing to pay to have a close, more meaningful relationship with God or with Jesus Christ?
[Steve] Exactly! Can you afford not have a better relationship with God? Can you afford not to spend time with people of like mind? Can you afford not to have a relationship with your kids and your family? Can you afford not doing those things? I think that's kind of reversing the whole question and placing it right on our shoulders and saying boy, we've got to make sure we're taking advantage of the blessings that God gives us.
[Darris] I don't think the true answer to that question comes until someone has begun to take God at His Word, and keep the Sabbath, and find out exactly what it does mean and how it can improve one's life and relationship with God.
Remember our free offers today: You'll want to order your copy of our booklet, Sunset to Sunset: God's Sabbath Rest and get a free subscription to our magazine, The Good News. Remember to call toll free: 1-888-886-8632. Again, 1-888-886-8632. Or, you can read and order both The Good News and the booklet online at BeyondToday.tv. Or, send us your request by mail to the address on your screen.
So, what's left for you to do? Well here's a challenge: Pick up your Bible, start reading it from the beginning in Genesis. You don't have to go very far, not really any farther than the second chapter to find the first reference to the Sabbath--and it continues on throughout the whole Bible. Notice all the places where you find God's Sabbath mentioned. Write them down.
You will find the same truth that people for centuries have found. You will find the Sabbath is a key feature of the Word of God. And you will find the same choice they found--to keep the book open, and keep reading. Or you will close the book and continue on with life as it is. We hope you will make the change and begin to walk with God on His Holy Sabbath.
I'll be right back after this:
"You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for generations to come" (Exodus 31:13).
The Sabbath is a key to the Kingdom of God. The New Testament book of Hebrews says, "There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God."
Jesus and His followers kept the Sabbath and they still do today. God commands us to pause and reflect on His way of life. Take a break from the fast paced action of this world. Experience a rejuvenation of the mind and grow closer to Him. Join us as we explore the Sabbath and show how it is a key to the Kingdom of God.
The United Church of God is hosting free Kingdom of God Bible Seminars held around the world. Go to KOGSeminars.org to find one near you. Kingdom of God Bible Seminars--giving the message of hope for tomorrow--beginning today!
[Darris] Thanks for joining us. And don't forget our free offers and be sure to tell your family and friends about us. Tune in again next week for another edition of Beyond Today and join us in praying, "Thy Kingdom come." For Beyond Today I'm Darris McNeely. Thanks for watching.
[Announcer] For the free literature offered on today's program, go online to BeyondToday.tv. Please join us again next week on Beyond Today!