ATTACK ON THE EVERLASTING COVENANT
A fundamental reason for Satan’s attack on the Sabbath is that it is the sign of the everlasting covenant. In 11:19 The New Covenant and in Appendix 9 we saw that the new covenant has four elements, and these are all under attack by Satan and his agent, the beast. The first element is God’s promise, to make His people a blessing to the world, a “holy priesthood.” But in the beast system the priesthood of every believer is replaced with a professional priesthood, and the believer becomes a passive spectator. The Sabbath in particular is the day God designated for His people to minister to the world, and Jesus demonstrated this by performing the majority of His miracles of healing on the Sabbath. By changing the Sabbath into an hour of spectator worship on Sunday rather than a day of worship and service on the seventh day which God blessed, the beast religion has nullified the primary provision in time that God created for His people to be the blessing to the world that His covenant intended them to be.
The second element of the New Covenant is God’s requirement, His law— “This is the covenant I will make…I will put my laws in their mind and write them on their hearts” (Hebrews 8:10). A direct attack by Satan on God’s law would be counterproductive, since most of the commandments, such as honoring parents and refraining from stealing or murder, are obviously in the public interest. But by changing the fourth commandment from God’s appointed seventh day to the first day of the week, the beast religion shows its contempt for all of God’s law— “for whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). The Sabbath commandment in particular is like the tree in the midst of the Garden of Eden— the only reason someone would keep it is because “God said so.” Thus it is a fitting sign of our willingness to obey, not simply the dictates of reason and social order, but the naked word of God. This point is vital at the end of time when the international “image of the beast” will be set up and will command the world to break God’s law under threat of death.
The third element of the covenant is the provision for the salvation of those who have broken the commandments—the sacrifice of Jesus. The Sabbath is the symbol of salvation that is found in the heart of the law of God. “Observe the Sabbath day… remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:12-15). Slavery in
God not only ransoms us from slavery, but He makes us a new creation, and this is also symbolized by the Sabbath. “Remember the Sabbath day…for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11). God deserves more praise and honor than we can ever express for His original creation. But the Sabbath also symbolizes the new creation that we become as a result of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. “[Jesus] died for them and rose again...Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:15-17).
The Sabbath rest is symbolic of the fact that God accomplished our salvation, not with the help or merit of our good works or obedience, but by His grace alone. “For He has spoken of the seventh day in this way: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all His works.’…There remains therefore a rest (sabbatismos, the keeping of the Sabbath) for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His” (Hebrews 4:4-10). The Sabbath is the symbol that God has done everything necessary for our salvation, and we can rest in His finished work.
The forth element of the eternal covenant is the sign, and with the Sabbath’s central role and symbolism in every aspect of the new covenant, it is no wonder that it is the sign of the new covenant. Nor is it any surprise that Satan, the master counterfeiter, would hijack the Sabbath, “think to change” it to “a day of his own choosing,” and make the false sabbath the mark of his own beast kingdom.
 The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians. Many of the central aspects of their traditional religion ended with with the life, death and resurrection of Christ. The priesthood, Levites, sacrifices, festivals, circumcision and the temple were obsolete because they were shadows of the life and sacrifice that Jesus offered. But the fourth chapter of Hebrews tells us that the rest of trusting in God’s finished work still remains for each person to enter by faith. For this reason the keeping of the Sabbath (Sabbatismos) is still relevant, pointing us to the necessity of entering into God’s rest.