National Sunday Law: Fact or Fiction? 2nd Edition
Is the Sabbath the Final Test?
By Dirk Anderson, 2022
Ellen White wrote near the end of her life:
"The time is not far distant when the test will come to every soul. The observance of the false sabbath will be urged upon us. The contest will be between the commandments of God and the commandments of men."1
Use your imagination for a moment. Imagine you are in school studying intensely for your final exam. You have spent the entire evening with your head buried in your school books studying for that final test. You believe you have prepared well. After all, the professor gave you a list of all the important topics and you have studied them thoroughly. Your brain is packed to the brim with all the facts, figures, and ideas you learned during the course. You walk confidently into class and take your seat, fully expecting to ace the exam. The professor smiles and announces that there will only be one question on the test. You smile to yourself thinking that it will certainly be one of the items the professor passed out last week on the final test study guide. But when the exam is placed on your desk your mouth falls open as your eyes fasten upon the question. Panic sets in. You cannot believe what you are seeing. The question is not one of the questions on the study guide. In fact, the question asks you to write a five-page dissertation on a topic that was not even presented in class! As anger and frustration begin boiling up inside of you, your eyes zero in on the teacher and you mutter half out loud,
"What kind of an inept teacher would test his students with a question he never stressed nor even discussed in class?"
That is a fair question, is it not? After all, any student would expect the teacher to cover the most important subjects in class! That is one of the first thing a teacher learns when they are trained. Students have every right to expect the subjects discussed and emphasized by the teacher to be part of the final test. If any teacher did what the teacher in the above illustration did, we would be outraged. It goes against every sense of human fairness and decency. We would consider it offensive, insulting, and a sign that the teacher was totally incompetent. We would have every right to bring this teacher's behavior to the school dean and ask for the teacher to be reprimanded or removed.
Now consider Jesus. He is the greatest Teacher this world has ever known. There has never been a better teacher. Nor will there ever be another as good as Him. He was simply the best. He knew exactly how to prepare His students for the tests they would face in life. How does Jesus as the greatest teacher relate to the Sabbath? If Jesus and the Apostles understood that the Sabbath was going to be the great "final test" that will come to every soul, then surely, they would have spent an appropriate amount of time teaching this all-important doctrine to their followers. Surely the New Testament authors, inspired by the Holy Ghost, would have stressed the importance of Sabbath-keeping in their writings and warned them of the terrible dangers of worshipping on Sunday. How could such an important doctrine dealing with the eternal destiny of every believer be passed by without so much as even a mention? If Jesus and the Apostles failed to strenuously teach the one doctrine that would decide the fate of humanity, then would we not consider them to be incompetent teachers?
Are Jesus and the Holy Ghost Incompetent Teachers?
Was Jesus an incompetent teacher? Did He somehow forget to get the point across about the criticality of the Sabbath, leaving subsequent generations to flounder in mystery and confusion regarding the significance of the Sabbath? Did the Holy Spirit have a memory lapse and fail to mention to the New Testament authors about the overwhelming importance of the Sabbath? The truth is that Jesus and the Holy-Ghost-inspired New Testament authors rarely mentioned the Sabbath. The few times they did so, they left the impression that the day of worship was not to be a point of contention between believers.
The subject of Sabbath observance was a big issue during Christ's walk upon the earth. Because Jesus ignored the pharisaical Sabbath laws of the Jews, this brought him into conflict over the Sabbath on at least seven occasions in the scriptures. John, commenting on Jesus' Sabbath activities, even goes so far as to say that Jesus "broke the Sabbath," at least in the opinion of His detractors (John 5:18). These incidents provided Jesus with prime opportunities for him to stress that the Sabbath would be the final test and line of demarcation between good and evil people. However, whenever confronted over the Sabbath, while Jesus did not dismiss the Sabbath entirely, he consistently and repeatedly downplayed its legalistic observance. While Jesus talked at length about end-time events, he never mentions Sabbath as being an issue separating the righteous from the wicked during the last days. Jesus' silence on this subject speaks volumes about its importance.
Consider the example of the Apostle Paul. When he believed something to be important, he emphasized it over and over again in his inspired epistles. Utmost in Paul's mind were the great doctrines of grace, faith, hope, sacrifice, and love. He emphasized these by writing about them over and over again. If the Sabbath was of such dire importance, then Paul certainly had every opportunity to write about it because the subject of observing days was apparently a matter of interest to the churches in Rome and Colossae. In these letters Paul is most eloquent for what he does not say. Instead of teaching believers about the overwhelming importance of Sabbath observance, Paul says nothing at all about the importance of observing Sabbath. He does not say it is a great separating wall between true believers and false ones. He does not say it shines brighter than the other commandments. He does not even hint that it might be the great "final test." Instead, Paul downplays the significance of observing days:
One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day [alike]. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth [it] unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard [it].2
If Paul taught Christians that they should not judge one another in regards to keeping a day of worship, then how could the Sabbath possibly be the great "separating wall" between true believers and false believers? How could it be a test of loyalty? Paul allowed Christians to judge other Christians in regard to gluttony, immoral behavior, and teaching false gospels, but he would not permit them to judge each over a Sabbath day. Why? Could it be that the issue of Sabbath observance was of lesser import than those other behaviors? Should we not take a cue from Paul and treat the issue of Sabbath observance the same way he did?
Instead of focusing on the Sabbath, Jesus and the Apostles focused on the grand Christian themes of salvation, faith, self-sacrificing love, forgiveness, and eternal life. Why would Jesus and the Apostles focus so much attention on these themes if the Sabbath was to be the great deciding factor that would determine who was a true Christian and who was a false Christian? Were they incompetent teachers? Or have Seventh-day Adventists elevated the issue of Sabbath observance to a position that Jesus and the Apostles never intended for it to occupy?
According to prophetess Ellen White, the Sabbath is the great final test of mankind:
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.4
Contrast this with the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles who never describe the Sabbath as a "final test" of any kind. Jesus is very explicit as to what the "final test" is. In fact, in one of His greatest sermons to His disciples he explains precisely what the "final test" will be. Here is Christ's final test as described in the SDA-authored Clear Word Bible:
Everyone on earth will be gathered before Him, and He will separate whose who are genuinely His from those who are not, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats during shearing time. He will call the sheep to His right and the goats to His left. Then He will say to those on His right, 'You are God's children because you are so much like Him. Come! It's time for you to receive you inheritance. You have cared about others, which shows that you care about me. When others were thirsty, you gave them water. When they were hungry, you gave them food, and when they were without a place to live, you took them in. When they had nothing suitable to wear, you gave them clothes. When they were sick, you visited and comforted them, and when they were in jail, you didn't forget them.'5
Did Jesus say, "You are God's children because you went to church on Saturday and judged those who went to church on Sunday?" No! The Sabbath has never been a test for gentile Christians and it never will be. The final test will be whether or not a person has the unselfish and loving character of Jesus Christ.
One could argue that the individual who most craves for the Sabbath to be the "final test" is actually Satan himself. Satan's strategy is to get Christians to focus on what legal requirements they must perform in order to be saved rather than focusing upon Christ's finished work of atonement on their behalf. Satan has always been portrayed in the Bible as one who seeks ways to distract Christians from the true gospel. For thousands of years, he has been seeking to direct the attention of Christians to bickering over what legalistic requirements must be met in order for them to be perfect enough to be saved. If he can get Christians arguing over dietary restrictions, days and times, and other legalistic requirements, then he can divert their eyes from the main theme of Christianity, which is salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. If Satan convinces believers that the Sabbath is the Seal of God instead of the Holy Spirit, then he has succeeded in substituting a legal requirement rather than the heart-changing work of the Holy Spirit in the believer. If Satan can make the Sabbath the "final test" then he will have succeeded in substituting a legal requirement for the true final test, which is to be born again, receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, and developing the self-sacrificing character of the Lamb of God.
1. Ellen White, Prophets and Kings, p. 188.
2. Romans 14:5,6
3. Colossians 2:16,17.
4. Ellen White, Great Controversy, p. 605 (1911).
5. Matthew 25:32-36 as found in the Clear Word Bible.
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