The Sabbath and the End-Time Crisis


What role will the Sabbath play in the “last days?” Does the book of Revelation really predict that the biblical day of worship will be a hot issue in the “end time?” Is there a connection between the Sabbath and the “mark of the beast?”

In order to find satisfactory answers to questions like these, it is helpful to look at the Sabbath in the setting of the conflict between God and Satan.

Let’s start at the beginning of the story of the Sabbath. Note these foundational points:

That’s the way it was, in the beginning. As the pivot point of the divinely ordained weekly cycle, the Sabbath is a perpetually recurring tribute to the Son of God, the Creator. This marks the Sabbath as a crucial point of contention in the spiritual conflict that has been raging since before the origin of life on this planet.

Let’s focus on that conflict as it is revealed in the early chapters of Genesis:

The Creator left the Sabbath in place as a divine outpost in human time, a sacred enclave in the territory Satan claimed as his. It marked the cadence of life, providing a weekly respite from labor – a day of release from the temporal curse of sin. The post-Fall Sabbath would be a sacred place in time where man could commune with his Creator undistracted by the mundane demands of life.

The very existence of the Sabbath is a challenge to the aims and claims of Satan. As long as the Sabbath calls mankind to recognition of the Creator, and as long as it provides a point of contact between God and man – fostering the divine-human relationship – it remains a bastion of resistance against Satan’s rule.

When God delivered the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt He added another dimension to the meaning of the Sabbath. While Exodus 20 presents the Sabbath in Creation terms, Deuteronomy 5 employs the language of deliverance.

Another dimension is added in Exodus 31 and Ezekiel 20, where the Sabbath is presented as a token of God’s work in the sanctification of His people.

Threatened by this three-dimensional significance of the Sabbath (Creation, Deliverance and Sanctification), Satan has launched numerous direct attacks against God’s holy day, including:

These indirect measures, where successful, strip the Sabbath of its spiritual substance and turn it into a dry religious obligation – a mere custom devoid of spiritual meaning or value.

The book of Revelation portrays an intensifying focus on Sabbath-related issues in the build-up to climactic end-time events.

A comparison of Revelation 13 with the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14:6-11 leaves no doubt about the nature of the end-time crisis. Chapter 13 depicts a worldwide religious movement demanding worship of the beast and his image; chapter 14 depicts a worldwide movement inviting people back to the worship of their Creator.

Worship is a sign of loyalty and allegiance, but, on a deeper level, it is an expression of faith. So the crisis is spiritual in nature – a matter of the heart.

Revelation 13:15-16 pictures Satan’s last desperate effort against the Sabbath, his final thrust against that temporal territory within human time that God continues to claim as His.

When we look at the conflict between God and Satan on the personal level – which is really what’s most important for you and me – it’s clear that if Satan cannot claim that Sabbath territory in our lives as his own he can never claim us as subjects of his kingdom.

(For a more thorough study of Revelation 12 and 13, see our study on "The Sabbath and the Mark of the Beast.")