In addition to not working, the Adventist perspective on keeping the Sabbath includes:
- The Sabbath begins at sunset on Friday and continues until sunset on Saturday
- The Sabbath is an appointed time for a holy convocation to the LORD
At the time Adventism began, most Christians agreed a weekly day of no work was to be observed. However, contrary to most Christians, Adventists maintain it was Saturday, and followed the Jewish tradition of beginning the Sabbath at sunset on Friday. Adventists maintain Christians were wrong in moving the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. At the time Adventism began, Sunday was widely observed as a day of rest on which businesses were closed. Therefore, it should be remembered this dispute primarily centered on when not if and how the Sabbath should be observed. The aspect of "when" is the difference between the "Lord's Day," that is Sunday, and the Sabbath day, that is Saturday.
It may oversimplify the complete dispute, but a primary issue Adventists had was in moving the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday. This was contrary to what activities were required on the Sabbath:
“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.
(Leviticus 23:3 ESV)
Arguably, the prohibition against work was to make everyone free to meet
1with the LORD and participate in the required holy convocation.
The command to observe the Sabbath begins:
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. (Exodus 20:8)
At the time the command was given, the people had already been observing the Sabbath which had been given to them in the second month (cf. Exodus 16) and which was confirmed by the manna. The Sabbath day was the day on which there was no manna from the LORD and the day on which the previous day's manna would not spoil and could be eaten. Therefore, "Remember the Sabbath day..." is not a general requirement to observe a day of rest, but a requirement to remember the specific day on which the people were to have a holy convocation. In other words, do not gather manna, but gather yourself to the LORD.
Paul's writings are often used to show he gathered with other believers on Sunday, the day after the Sabbath. Without getting into the merits of this exegesis, it cannot be denied Paul was found in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Moreover, when there was no synagogue (i.e. Philippi), Paul went to the "place of prayer" on the Sabbath. In addition, Acts has several references to Paul's intent to observe other Jewish holy days and customs. Regardless of what additional traditions Paul followed, he continued to recognize the traditional calendar of Judaism.
If the Sabbath is a "shadow" of things to come, then Paul understands there is something real in heaven which is responsible for casting the shadow:
4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. (Hebrews 4)
So some Christians like Adventist believe in observing the Sabbath as it points to that which is real:
8 For if Jesus had given them rest, he would never have afterwards spoken of another day. 9 There remaineth therefore a day of rest for the people of God. 10 For he that is entered into his rest, the same also hath rested from his works, as God did from his. 11 Let us hasten therefore to enter into that rest; lest any man fall into the same example of unbelief. (Hebrews 4 DRA)
1. The "Feasts of the LORD" described in Leviticus are called מוֹעֵד, appointed times or meetings.