Matthew 24:20 and the Sabbath

By Larry Ray Hafley

“And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter,’ neither on the Sabbath” (Mt. 24:20). Seventh Day Adventists argue that since the destruction of Jerusalem was after Christ built His church, that the warning in Matthew 24:20 is proof that Christians were bound to observe the Sabbath after the “new and living way” was opened. Or to state the argument in another manner, (1) Jesus said to pray that you do not have to flee on the Sabbath. (2) The necessary flight occurred after the new covenant went into effect and came into force. Conclusion: They were keeping the Sabbath after the cross and under the new testament; therefore, we should do so today.


First, Neh. 13:19-22 shows that “the gates of Jerusalem” would be shut “before the Sabbath . . . and . . . that they should not be opened till after the Sabbath.” Thus, fleeing on the Sabbath would be extremely difficult as Jewish law and authority would have the gates sealed. Whether the Christians kept the Sabbath or not, this problem would exist as unbelieving Jews commanded the gates to be secured.

Secondly, does mention of the Sabbath after the building of God’s spiritual house necessarily infer that Christians were observing it? No, and this is proven by 1 Cor. 9:13. After the establishment of the church, Paul mentioned those that “minister about holy things . . . of the temple. . . .” If we argued that since Paul mentioned sacrifices on the altar of the temple, this proves that animal sacrifices were offered by Christians after the church came with power and that therefore we should offer animal sacrifices, our Adventist opponents would be the first to reject such a conclusion. They would say that this simply shows that unbelieving Jews continued to serve according to the old law and Paul referred to them and their practice without essentially teaching that Christians were doing so. When they have said this, they will have answered themselves on Matthew 24:20.

The mention of Sabbath keeping in Matthew 24:20 no more proves that the church observed the Sabbath than the mention of holy things, the temple, and the altar in 1 Cor. 9:13 proves that Christians were involved in their use. However, if the Adventist could hang the Sabbath yoke on our necks by Matthew 24:20, then logic, consistency and truth demands that they keep the temple ordinances. It is a poor rule that will not work both ways.

Truth Magazine XIX: 17, p. 263
March 6, 1975