Herbert Armstrong and the Sabbath

Larry R. DeVore
Griffith, Indiana

In the January, 1972 issue of Tomorrows World published by Ambassador College and purported to be a "magazine of Biblical understanding," we find an article by Mr. E. M. Walter entitled. "The Apostle Paul - Commandment Breaker, or Commandment Keeper?" In this article Mr. Walter affirms that Paul kept the Sabbath and quotes Acts 13:1415, 42-44; Acts 18: 1 -11; and Acts 17: 2 with Luke 4:16 and I Cor. 11: 1 as "sufficient information to prove conclusively and beyond a shadow of a doubt that Paul did teach obedience to the ten commandments."

That nine of the ten commandments of the Law of Moses are taught in the New Testament the careful Bible student will admit, but the New Testament does not enjoin Sabbath keeping upon Christians. The passages Mr. Walter presents from Acts do tell us that it was Pauls "manner" or "custom" to enter the synagogue on the Sabbath day and preach the gospel. If the opportunity was afforded, any Gospel preacher today could do likewise, but what does that prove about Sabbath-keeping? Mr. Walter overlooks the fact that in Acts 20:67 Paul "abode seven days" at Troas in order to be there "upon the first day Of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread" That does not sound to me like Paul was keeping the Sabbath, rather he was observing the first day of the week, the Lords Day (Rev. 1:10).

In this article we find that Mr. Walter says that the KJV of the scriptures mistranslates Heb. 4:9. This is so much like other false teachers, when they run out of "proof-texts" taken out of context they shout "wrong translation!" Mr. Walter says that the KJV obscures the true meaning of the passage, and that it should read, "There remaineth therefore a Sabbath observance for the people of God." The KJV reads, "There remaineth therefore a rest for the people of God."

I believe that the KJV translators are correct and certainly do not pervert the passage like Mr. Walter does. Actually, it is Mr. Walter, Herbert Armstrong and his world-wide Church of God who are wrong and teaching false doctrine. Just a look at the context of Heb. 4:8-11 will indicate that the "rest" under consideration is not a "Sabbath observance" but an eternal rest with God after this life is over. The New American Standard Bible, The Revised Standard Version, and the New English Bible all translate the "rest" of Heb. 4:9 as "a Sabbath rest." The Phillips Translation presents it as "a full and complete rest for the people of God." None of these translate it as a "Sabbath observance." There is quite a difference between a rest and, an observance.

It is true that in the original Greek the word is "Sabbatismos" but we must find out what it means and whether the KJV translators erred in translating this as "rest." Vine defines this word as ". . . akin to Sabbatizo; to keep the Sabbath, used in Ex. 16:30, not in New Testament (emphasis mine-LD); here the Sabbath keeping is the perpetual Sabbath rest to be enjoyed uninterruptedly by believers in their fellowship with the Father and the Son, in contrast to the weekly Sabbath under the law (emphasis mine - LD). Because this Sabbath rest is the rest of God himself (v. 10) its full fruition is yet future, though believers now enter into it" (W. E. Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, page 288.)

Robert Milligan comments thus on this, passage: "But it is of the heavenly rest, the eternal sabbatism, of which our author here speaks particularly. We have here, then, another beautiful illustration of the symbolical nature and character of the Old Testament economy. As soon as God had finished the work of creation he instituted the Sabbath for the purpose of commemorating his rest; (2) for the benefit of mankind, by giving them rest from their physical labors and leading them also to higher measures of spiritual culture and enjoyment (Mk. 2:27) and; (3) that it might he a means of foreshadowing the heavenly rest, which even then He had in his eternal counsels provided for his faithful and obedient children." (Robert Milligan, Commentary on Hebrews, page 135)

But if Armstrongs and Walters contention is true, that verse 9 is teaching that Christians are to observe the weekly Sabbath of the Law of Moses, then he cannot sensibly explain the context, particularly verse 11. "Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief." (KJV) The weekly Sabbath, or seventh day of the week comes every seventh day, and no laboring is required about it. Just wait, seven days and there it is. And unbelief could not stop one from entering into it, for man cannot stop the march of time. The weekly Sabbath comes around every seven days, even now, but Christians are not to observe it! Verse 10 also points out the fact that by entering into that rest, one would be "ceased from his own works," speaking of the eternal rest for the faithful children of God. A similar passage is Rev. 14:13 ". . . blessed are the dead that die in the Lord from henceforth; Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them." (KJV)

Herbert Armstrong and Company has neither Bible scholarship nor a proper interpretation on this passage of Gods word as well as many others. His arguments to bind Sabbath observance on Christians are not convincing to the careful Bible student. Also, it is clearly evident that Mr. Walter has conveniently -overlooked such passages as Col. 2:14; and Heb. 7:12 in his article.

Col. 2:14 tells us, "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross." Jesus removed the Old Law; He nailed it to the cross in order to usher in a new and better covenant with better promises. (Heb. 8:6). And in Col. 2:16 Paul writes "Let no man therefore judge you ... in respect... of the Sabbath days." I am not willing that Armstrong and Company should judge Christians today about observing the Sabbath day. It is not binding upon Christians! Also in Heb. 7:12 it is pointed out "For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law." The Hebrew writer points out then that the law has been changed and we are under a different law now the law of Christ, the perfect law of liberty. cf. Gal. 6:2; Jas. 1:25

We must reject such false teaching as Ambassador Colleges publications, The Plain Truth and Tomorrows World, are trying to present to religious people. We must obey the Gospel (law) of Christ and so live and, conduct ourselves that we might be faithful (Rev. 2 - 10) and enter into that "rest" God has prepared after this life is over.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 47, pp. 12-13
October 5, 1972