The Sabbath For Christians

I grew up a Seventh-Day Adventist. The “Adventist” part of the name means they believe in imminent arrival of Jesus Christ. The “Seventh-Day” part means they observe the Sabbath from Friday night to Saturday night.

But what does “observe” mean? For traditional Adventists who follow religiously the dictates of the founding prophet Ellen White, there are numerous instructions, such as not cooking on Sabbath (though reheating food is permitted). For more liberal Adventists, it is simply a day of rest, however you wanted to interpret that.

I grew up in Australia before moving to California at age 11. Adventism there was a more traditional and law-oriented than the liberal Adventism I found in California. It was much easier for me to take though once I got into my teens, I was set on leaving it upon adulthood (like most of my peers). Adventists rarely last longer than three generations, particularly if they get university educations.

My dad was a big proponent of the Sabbath for Christians. He wrote: “The Sabbath of Judaism, with its oppressive laws and its rituals applying to sacrifice and temple, has gone forever. So have the additional laws that surrounded most of the Ten Commandments as found in the Torah. But the Sabbath of Eden remains. It was for the first man and woman; it is for the last man and woman, and it is for every man and woman of all time.”

I became interested in Judaism through listening to Dennis Prager on the radio. Like my father, Dennis Prager believes that a Sabbath is a good idea for everyone.

As I studied Judaism, I was surprised to find that its texts did not seek to encourage Sabbath-observance by non-Jews. In fact, they actively discouraged it. Sabbath was for the Jews.

But what does it mean to “observe”? The Torah with its commentaries is specific and according to these dictates, non-Jews such as Seventh-Adventists who believe they observe the Sabbath are not observing the Sabbath. They don’t make kiddush over wine, they don’t light candles, they don’t abstain from starting and stopping an electrical current, they don’t abstain from driving, etc.

Bonnie Dwyer writes on Spectrum, the magazine for Adventist intellectuals: “Loneliness has long been the Adventist experience, Pat. Think of the early Advent hymns like,”I’m but a stranger here, heaven is my home.”
“The letters to the editor in the first years of the Review were often marked by the loneliness of someone who had found Sabbath truth, but who knew no one else that believed the same way. It was lonely then. It is lonely now, coming to terms with one’s beliefs. The joy of fellow believers is sweet. And then as you talk to them you discover that they don’t really think about it exactly like you either.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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