Chapter 4

A Special Eternal Covenant

From the book Which Day Is the Christian Sabbath?
By Herbert W. Armstrong

What God commanded to remember, rebellious men will resort to every argument of human reason to justify forgetting! Consequently, many have used the argument, without any scriptural authority of course, that the Ten Commandments were abolished at the cross. Of course they never stop to realize that, if there is no law, there is no transgression—as Paul plainly states in Romans 4:15—and no one has sinned since the cross—and therefore we should not need a Savior!

Yet, even if this perverted and deceptive argument were true—if God had abolished all 10 of His commandments at the cross, and then brought back nine of them in the New Testament, in order to get rid of the Sabbath—as many do teach—still they are without excuse!

For God made of the Sabbath a special and separate covenant, binding forever!

Covenant Complete

You will remember that to the Ten Commandment law, God added no more (Deuteronomy 5:22). Any other law, or covenant, coming later, is no part of it, but a separate law or covenant. Paul makes this plain: “Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto” (Galatians 3:15).

The Ten Commandment law is complete—God added no more. Also, the Old Covenant was confirmed, as described in Exodus 24:4-8. It cannot be added to.

Later, after both the Ten Commandments and the Old Covenant had been made complete, ratified, put in force and effect, God made another totally separate and eternally binding covenant with His people.

WHY the Sabbath?

God never does anything in vain—that is, to no good and useful purpose. When God does anything, or makes anything, there is a reason—an important purpose.

God created man and put him here on Earth. But mankind has lost knowledge of His purpose. God had an important reason. You were put here for a very important purpose.

God, through “the Word” (John 1:1-3) who became Jesus Christ, made the Sabbath. He made it for man.

But why?

What purpose does it serve? Mankind has lost knowledge of that important purpose, too! Jesus Christ (Mark 2:27-28) said it was made for man, rather than man for the Sabbath. But at that time He merely told for whom He had made it—not why—not for what purpose, except to serve and benefit man.

That is why this special, separate Sabbath covenant is important. For it reveals the reason—the basic purpose. Therefore it becomes important to study it carefully.

It is found in Exodus 31:12-17:

The Special Sabbath COVENANT

“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep ….” Notice, once again, which day is “the Lord’s day.” The Eternal calls the Sabbaths “my sabbaths.” The Sabbaths are His—they do not belong to us—they are not our days, but the Lord’s. They are not “the Jewish Sabbaths” or “the Gentile Sabbaths.” The Sabbath is a space of time. That time, whenever it arrives, is not ours, but God’s. If we appropriate it for ourselves—for our own use, whether work, pleasure, or what, we are stealing that time from God!

Notice again! He said: “[M]y sabbaths ye shall keep.” In Exodus 20:8 we saw that He commanded to “keep it holy”—God made it holy time, and commanded us to keep it holy—not to profane what is holy to God.

Now study this special covenant a little further: “… for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you” (Exodus 31:13).

What tremendous meaning is packed in that portion of this sentence! Yet most people read right past it, failing to get the vital truth it contains!

Notice! Here is the purpose of the Sabbath. “… for it is a sign ….” What is a sign?

You walk down a main street in the business section of a city. Everywhere you see signs identifying stores, offices, factories. If you want to know what a sign is, just turn to the word in the “yellow pages”—the classified business listings of your telephone directory. You will find such names as “Jones Neon Sign Company,” or “Smith Brothers Signs.” If you call one of them on the telephone and ask, “What do you make, or sell?” he will tell you that they make signs for business firms, institutions, or professional individuals to hang out in front of their place of business. The sign identifies whose establishment, institution or office is inside.

A sign is a badge, symbol, or token of identity. You see the sign, “A.B. Brown, Furniture and Furnishings.” The sign identifies the owner. It tells you what kind of business he owns.

Webster’s dictionary defines a sign thus: “A publicly displayed notice on a building, office, etc., to advertise the business there transacted, or the name of the person or firm conducting it. Something indicating the existence of a thing; a token.” And, of course, there are the special technical meanings in mathematics, medicine, astronomy.

The word which Moses wrote, in the Hebrew language, which is translated “sign” is ‘owth, and the Hebrew-English dictionary defines it as “a signal, as a flag, beacon, monument, evidence, etc.—mark, miracle, sign, token.” A flag identifies a nation. A beacon is a signal to announce the existence of something warned about. A token is a visible sign; something that serves as an identifying signal to make something known, as a white flag is a token of surrender.

God commanded His people to keep His Sabbath as a sign. It is a sign between God’s people and God—“… a sign between me and you,” the commandment says. It is a badge or token of identity. It advertises, or announces, or proclaims certain identifying knowledge. But what knowledge? God answers: “… that ye may KNOW that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.

WHO Is God?

Note those words carefully!! It is the sign that identifies to them who is their God! It is the sign by which we may KNOW that He is the Lord!! It identifies God!

But doesn’t everybody know who God is?

Absolutely NO! This whole world is deceived—so says your Bible (Revelation 12:9).

This world has a god—a false god—Satan the devil! He pretends to be “an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). He has his religious organizations. Not all are Buddhists, Shintoists, Taoists, Confucianists.

Many have appropriated the very name “Christian,” whose ministers, says your Bible, actually are Satan’s ministers: “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness …” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

But do they actually call themselves the ministers of Christ? Read the verse just before the two just quoted—verse 13: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.” Yes, Satan is the great counterfeiter.

He palms himself off as God. He is called, in your Bible, the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). He palms off his ministers as the ministers of Christ—accusing the true ministers of Christ of being “false apostles” to divert suspicion from themselves!

Does this world’s “Christianity” really know the true God? It is deceived into believing it does, and a deceived world may be sincere in that false belief.

But the true God is the one whom we obey.

This world is not taught to obey God! Its false “Christianity” teaches that God’s law is “done away.” It actually puts human conscience, actuated by Satan’s false teaching, in place of God’s law! It does not teach, as did Christ, that we must actually live by every word of God—of the Bible!

It obeys Satan by sinning!

The PURPOSE of the Sabbath

God gave man His Sabbath, for the purpose of keeping mankind in the true knowledge and true worship of the true God.

But how does the Sabbath identify God—how does it point to the true God, rather than the false? Does not Sunday do just as well?

Positively no!!

Notice verse 17 of this special Sabbath covenant: “It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed” (Exodus 31:17).

It was on the seventh day of that creation week that He rested from the work of creation. Not Sunday, the first day of the week. Only the seventh day of the week points back to creation.

How does that identify who God is?

If you believe anyone else or anything else is God, I will prove that my God is the true God, because whatever else you may think is God was made or created by the true God. He who created and made everything else is greater than whatever He made—superior to anything else that could be called God.

Creation is the PROOF of God—of His existence. It—the act of creating—identifies Him!

So God took the most enduring, lasting imperishable thing man can know—a recurring space of time—the only day that is a memorial of the act of creating. He took the only day which points, constantly, every seventh day of the week, to the existence of the almighty, all-powerful, all-ruling God—the Creator!

And God set that particular day apart from others as His day—God made that particular day sacred and holy to Him—designating it as the very day on which He commands His people to assemble for worship—the day man is commanded to rest from his own work and physical pleasure—and to be refreshed by assembling with other obedient worshippers in spiritual fellowship!

No other day is a memorial and reminder of creation. True, Satan has deceived a deluded world into supposing Christ’s resurrection occurred on Sunday morning at sunrise—the very time which has always been the time of pagan sun-worship. But this is not true! It is a shocking eye-opener—and it is the truth you can verify and prove at your public library.

The resurrection of Christ actually occurred on the Sabbath, not on Sunday! And, further, nowhere in the Bible does God tell us to celebrate the day of Christ’s resurrection! That is a pagan custom of men, on apostate man’s authority alone—contrary to the commands of God!

So here we find a great purpose in the Sabbath. It identifies God! The very day which God set aside for assembly and worship points as a memorial to whom we are to worship—the Creator-Ruler of all that is!

But that is not all!

The Sabbath also was given as a sign which identifies who are the people of God and who are not!

Notice! Not only does this special covenant say, “… that ye may know that I am the Lord …” but read the remainder of that sentence: “… that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you” (Exodus 31:13).

Notice the tremendous meaning of that!

What does the word sanctify mean? It means “to set apart for holy use or purpose.” On the seventh day of the very creation week, the Eternal sanctified—that is, He set apart for holy use—the Sabbath day. But now we see that God says it is a sign that He, the Eternal, also sanctifies—sets apart from other people as HIS, for His holy purpose—those who are His people.

In Old Testament times His people were the people of the congregation of Israel. In New Testament times, His people are those of God’s own Church—the truly converted, Spirit-begotten Christians!

But how does the Sabbath set them apart—separate them—from those who are not God’s own true people? Well, if you have begun to keep God’s Sabbath holy, as He commands, you have found the answer already, by actual experience. If you haven’t, just start keeping God’s Sabbath holy as He commands you—and you’ll soon learn that you are automatically set apart from all other people! Yes, sir!

The Sabbath is God’s sign, which identifies not only God as Creator-Ruler but it also identifies those who are truly His.

But how?

Definition of God

Let me give you still another definition of God. Although the only wise and true God is the great Creator-Ruler of the universe, there are many false, or counterfeit, gods. Satan palms himself off to the deceived as God—and indeed the Bible plainly calls him the god of this world. Idols were worshipped as gods—and still are, today, even in so-called “Christian” churches. Whoever, or whatever, you serve and obey is your god!

The very word Lord means ruler, master, boss—the one you obey! Jesus exclaimed: “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). If they did not obey Him, then He was not their Lord! So why did they call Him Lord, when He was not their Lord?

Then again, Jesus said: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Only they who obey God can be His children, and enter His Kingdom! God is the one you obey!

Notice again: “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey …?” (Romans 6:16).

Regarding idols as false and counterfeit gods, the Second Commandment says: “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them”—that is, obey them—“for I the Eternal thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity [disobedience] of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:5-6).

How significant! The Sabbath command is the only one of the 10 which is a sign identifying who are the real and true Christians today! It is the real TEST command! The people of the world are willing to acknowledge the other nine commandments—but the Sabbath command is the one they positively rebel against! It is the one that is the crucial test of obedience!

It identifies those who have surrendered their wills to God—who obey God, regardless of persecution or cost!

Oh, it sets you apart, all right!

What a sign! It identifies the true God on the very day He set apart for assembly and worship. It identifies the real people of God!

God’s sign is one you accept voluntarily—of your own volition, or not at all. But the “beast” (symbol of the coming resurrected, so-called “Holy” Roman Empire in Europe) has a mark, which is soon going to be branded on, by physical force! And it has something to do with buying or selling—trading—business—earning a living—having a job! (Revelation 13:16-17). Yes, this is the test command—the one on which your very salvation and eternity depends!

But Is It a COVENANT?

I have said that God made the Sabbath a separate, eternal and perpetual COVENANT, entirely separate and apart from what we term “the Old Covenant” made at Mt. Sinai.

How, then, is it a covenant?

Let’s define the word covenant. Webster defines a covenant as: “An agreement between persons or parties. A solemn compact.” A covenant is a contract, or agreement, by which one party promises certain rewards or payments, in return for certain stipulated performance by the other party.

The Old Covenant between God and the children of Israel made at Mt. Sinai imposed upon the people certain terms and conditions to be performed: the obedience to the Ten Commandments. It promised the reward of making Israel a nation “above all people.” The promises were purely national, and material, for this world. The New Covenant is founded on better promises (Hebrews 8:6), which consist of “eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15).

Once a covenant is signed, sealed, or ratified—confirmed—it cannot be added to (Galatians 3:15). Anything appearing beneath the signature is not legally any part of the covenant. You read of the actual making of the Old Covenant, and sealing it with blood, in Exodus 24:6-8. And notice (verse 8), it concludes with the words, “the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you ….” It was then already made—completed.

We do not come to the making of this special eternal Sabbath covenant until seven chapters later. It is, therefore, no part of the Old Covenant!

But, again, is it a covenant?

The wording in your Bible says it is! Notice Exodus 31:16: “Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual COVENANT.”

Perpetual means continuous, and unbroken. But was it to last forever? Read the following verse: “It is a sign between me and the children of Israel FOR EVER ….”

Now what is the condition to be performed? The keeping holy of the Sabbath! “[I]t is holy unto you,” says God (verse 14). And what is the reward promised upon performance of the condition? It is not only a sign, but also a compact, or covenant, “between me and you,” says God, “that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.”

There it is! God promises to sanctify them—He will set them apart as holy—as His holy people! Can you ask for a bigger promise?

Yes, it is a covenant! It is a separate, totally different covenant. Even if one tries to argue that the Old Covenant is “abolished” and that therefore the Ten Commandments are abolished, he cannot argue that this covenant was to last only until the cross. This covenant is binding “throughout your generations” (verse 13); “a perpetual covenant” (verse 16), and “for ever” (verse 17).

Sign for Israel ONLY?

“Yes,” says the rebellious one, who would argue his way out of obedience, “but it is between God and the children of Israel. It is throughout Israel’s generations; it is between God and the Israelites forever.”

Oh—then you admit it is binding forever on Israelites—and throughout their generations? There are two answers to that argument that will condemn you, if you so argue, into the lake of fire!

1) No one can deny that this absolutely binds the people of Israel to keep the Sabbath forever, and throughout their generations perpetually. Their generations are still going on. Therefore it is binding on them today.

Also, you have to admit that salvation and Christianity are open to Jews and all Israelites. The gospel is the power of God “unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

So, then, the Jew can be a converted Christian! Indeed, the Church at the beginning was nearly altogether Jewish! So the Jew, even though a Christian, in God’s Church, is bound to keep God’s Sabbath as a perpetual covenant, throughout his generations, forever!

Now, does God have two kinds of Christians? Is it sin for a Jewish Christian to break the Sabbath, and sin for all others to keep it? Must Jewish Christians assemble on the Sabbath, and those of other nationalities on Sunday? Didn’t Jesus say a house divided would fall?

Are there two kinds of Christians? Read Galatians 3:28‑29: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye [ye Gentiles] be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

So, since the Sabbath is binding today on the Jewish part of God’s Church, and there is no difference—we are all one in Christ—it is also binding on Gentiles!

We Are Israel

2) But there is another answer to this argument: The peoples of the United States, the British Commonwealth nations, and the nations of Northwestern Europe are, in fact, the peoples of the ten tribes of the house of Israel. The Jewish people are the house of Judah.

Now, in the light of this Sabbath truth, more than ever, it is important that you read, study, and check the proof of this identity in our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy. It is a staggering revelation! And it is true! Yes, the Sabbath is binding on us today!

But if the Sabbath is God’s sign to identify His people Israel, then WHY don’t our nations keep it today?

The answer to that question is the answer to another: WHY are the 10 tribes of the house of Israel called “the lost ten tribes”? And why do our nations think they are Gentiles? WHY don’t they know their true identity?

Ah, NOW we have a staggering, startling, surprising truth to reveal!

WHY Ten Tribes Became LOST!

Here’s a dumbfounding truth, far stranger than fiction!

Here are facts, hidden for centuries, more intriguing than a mystery novel! WHY is the Sabbath called, disrespectfully, sneeringly, “the Jewish Sabbath”? Why does the world think all Israelites are Jews, and that the Jews are all of the Israelites?

Here’s an astonishing surprise to those who have believed that! The Jewish people are only a small minority of the Israelites, believe it or not! The very first place in all the Bible where you’ll find the name “Jew” or “Jews” is in 2 Kings 16:5-6—and believe it or not, there you’ll find the kingdom of Israel, allied with Syria, in a war against the Jews.

Yes, there it is! Israel at war against the Jews!

Strange as it may seem, the children of Israel had become divided. They had become two different nations! One was the kingdom of Israel. Its capital was not Jerusalem, but Samaria. The other was the kingdom of Judah. Judah’s capital was at Jerusalem. Now hear the strange story!

After the death of King Solomon, the people of the nation Israel rebelled against the high tax rate. The wise old Solomon lived in a state of luxury and splendor perhaps never equaled before or since. To pay for his great enterprises he simply kept raising the taxes.

The people demanded tax reform of King Rehoboam, son of Solomon. But he was young. He had young ideas. He surrounded himself with a “brain trust,” or “whiz-kids.” They, too, had young ideas. They counseled, “Tell the people you’ll show them who’s their master—tax them even higher than your father did.” Rehoboam scorned the counsel of older, wiser heads. To him they were the reactionaries of his day.

The people staged a gigantic mass rebellion. They rejected Rehoboam, and set up Jeroboam, who had been promoted to high position by King Solomon, as their king.

But the tribe of Judah dissented. Rehoboam was of their tribe, and they wanted to keep him as their king. So the tribe of Judah seceded from the nation Israel. They formed a separate kingdom, called the kingdom of Judah. The tribe of Benjamin went with them. They became known as the Jewsnickname for Judah.

Israel Lost Sign

Nowhere in all the Bible are any of the 10-tribed nation Israel called Jews. That name applies only to the kingdom of Judah. Jews are Israelites, truly—but only part of the Israelites are Jews!

Almost immediately on being made a king, Jeroboam became afraid that, when his people journeyed to Jerusalem to attend the annual festivals, they would see and desire Rehoboam again for their king. He took swift action to protect his own position.

The tribe of Levi composed the priesthood. They were the leaders—the best-educated. The Levites had enjoyed incomes two or three times larger than the other tribes—living off the tithes. With one swift stroke, Jeroboam demoted the Levites, set the lowest and most ignorant of the people to be the priests. He could control them! Thus he would control the religion, as Gentile kings had always done. Thereupon many, if not most, of the Levites went back into the kingdom of Judah—became known as Jews.

So immediately Jeroboam set up two great idols for his people to worship. He ordered the fall festivals (including the annual sabbaths) to be observed in the eighth month, at a place in the north of his choosing—instead of in the seventh month, and at Jerusalem as God ordered (1 Kings 12:28-32). Through the rule of 19 kings and nine successive dynasties, the 10-tribed house of Israel continued in the basic twin sins of Jeroboam—idolatry and Sabbath-breaking. Several of the kings added other evil and sinful practices.

Israel Made Slaves

But in 721-718 b.c., God caused the house of Israel to be invaded and conquered by the kingdom of Assyria. These Israelites were removed from their farms and their cities, and taken to Assyria on the southern shores of the Caspian Sea as slaves. But the house of Judah—the Jews—a separate and different nation, was not invaded until 604 b.c.

Two or three generations after the captivity of Israel, however, the Chaldeans rose to world power, forming the first world-ruling empire. Under Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldeans (Babylon) invaded Judah (604-585 b.c.).

The Assyrians later left their land, north of Babylon, and migrated northwest—through the lands that are now Georgia, the Ukraine, Poland, and into the land that is called Germany today. Today the descendants of those Assyrians are known to us as the German people.

The people of 10-tribed Israel also migrated northwest. Though the Assyrians had taken Israel into captivity, the Israelites did not remain as slaves of the Assyrians in Europe. They continued on a little further—into Western Europe, the Scandinavian peninsula, and the British Isles!

Now why did they come to be known as the “lost 10 tribes”?

They had lost their national identifying SIGN!

All of Israel’s kings followed the practice of Sabbath-breaking, as well as idolatry! As long as they remained in the land of Israel, and called themselves “the kingdom of Israel,” their identity was known. But in Assyria they were no longer a nation with their own government and their own king. They were mere slaves. They took up with the language of the Assyrians as succeeding generations grew up. They lost the Hebrew language. They lost all national identity.

After several generations, the tribe of Joseph divided into the two tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh which today are the British and American people.

The tribe of Reuben settled in the country that is France today. They had lost their national identity. But the French have the very characteristics of their ancestor Reuben.

The ten tribes, known as the house of Israel, lost their identifying tag—God’s Sabbath. That is why they lost their national identity!

WHY Jewish People Are Recognized

But Judah kept the Sabbath! They did not continue long to keep it holy, or to keep it God’s way—but they did maintain it, to this day, as the day of rest they acknowledge and observe.

Result? All the world looks on them as the chosen people of God! The world thinks they are Israel—not merely Judah!

The identity of the Jewish people has NOT been lost! And, since their identity as racial descendants from ancient Israel is known—and that of the far more numerous “lost 10 tribes” is not knownthe world supposes that the Jews are Israel, instead of Judah.

And so, here again, the whole world is deceived, even as to the true identity of who the chosen birthright people of God really are!

The reader, if he has not already carefully read it, should write immediately for our free booklet, The United States and Britain in Prophecy. It explains the dumbfounding, astonishing truth that the people of the United States, the British, the peoples of Northwestern Europe, are, in actual fact, those very “lost” 10 tribes of the nation Israel—and not by birth Gentiles at all!

Yes, the Sabbath, God’s day—the true Lord’s day—is, after all, the day for our people doubly—first, because it is for all people of God, even Gentile-born people who are now Christs; secondly, because racially, even by flesh birth, it is God’s day which He gave our own forefathers, and commanded to keep holy forever!

Continue Reading: Chapter 5: Which Day for Gentile Christians?