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D&C 59; Bible Dictionary, “Sabbath,” pages 764-65
The sacred sign of the Atonement of our Savior is the gathering of His people on the Sabbath day to partake of the Sacrament.
The Lord told Israel anciently, “Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations . . . for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever.'”[i]
We are told that the Sabbath is a “sign forever.” What, then, does it signify?
The Sabbath is a blessing, a day of rest, a time for worship, a welcome break in the routine. But far more important, it is a token of the covenant the Savior has made with us. The purpose of the Sabbath is to remind us that “he is our peace.”
In the ancient temple of Jerusalem, the veil symbolized the partition between the celestial world and the world we live in. The Atonement is the breaking down of that “partition”-the wall between ourselves and our Savior, the opening of the gates of the prison of sin and death, the opening of the veil so that we might enter into eternal life.
The Sabbath is the sign and token of all these acts of liberation. The Sabbath is literally what is on “the other side of the wall.”
In the beginning, the Lord blessed the seventh day and hallowed it. The Sabbath was more than just a cessation of work-it was the goal of Creation. It represents the time when struggle ends, when all is peace and paradise, as it was at the time of Creation.
The Sabbath was intended as a reminder to Israel of redemption from Egyptian bondage[iii], self unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day.”
The Sabbath also represents for us the coming Messianic kingdom, when the earth and all people will rest from the oppression of sin and suffering. It has always been interesting to me how often the Savior healed on the Sabbath day. Seven instances of Sabbath healing are recorded in the scriptures[iv]. Clearly, the Savior meant these acts of healing as tokens of His calling and as signs of a coming age where there will be no suffering.
The Sabbath is a day of Atonement in which all our sins are cleansed from us. “And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day.”
“For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High . . . . Remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.
We cannot enter the celestial kingdom unless we are “unspotted from the world.” One who is unspotted has been completely cleansed. No “spots” remain of the blood and sins of this world. We do not cleanse ourselves; the Savior has cleansed us with His blood. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”[vi]
We become unspotted from the world if we carry out the clear commandment to go to the house of prayer and partake of the Sacrament.
Anciently, the priests of Solomon’s temple foreshadowed the sacrifice of the Savior by partaking of the bread offering. In the temple, twelve loaves were spread out for each of the twelve tribes. Every Sabbath the priest “set it in order before the Lord,” and the workers took the Sacrament,[vii] the “bread of life.”[viii]
Like the priests of old, the Saints today are commanded to partake of the bread as a token of the Savior’s Atonement. “Thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.”[ix] If we do so, we become unspotted as He is-cleansed every whit.
The central purpose of the Sabbath is to remind us of our unspotted Savior, who had no trace of sin in Him. The reason we are commanded to do “none other thing” is to keep that day “unspotted from the world.” The ideal Sabbath is devoted to always remembering Him, so that we may have His spirit to be with us.
The “at-one-ment” of our Lord is therefore commemorated every Sabbath day as the Saints surround the altar in a spirit of peace and unity and take the Sacrament. One of the great blessings of life is to participate in sacrament meeting once a week. This weekly cycle is essential to the regulation of our spiritual lives. Elder James E. Faust taught:
Why has God asked us to honor the Sabbath day? It has to do with the need for regeneration and the strengthening of our spiritual being. God knows that, left completely to our own devices without regular reminders of our spiritual needs, many would degenerate into the preoccupation of satisfying earthly desires and appetites. This need for physical, mental, and spiritual regeneration is met in large measure by faithful observance of the Sabbath day.[x]
The Savior enumerates the blessings of Sabbath observance in Section 59:
- [You] shall receive a crown in the mansions of my Father (v. 2).
- The fullness of the earth is yours . . . the good things which come of the earth (v. 16-17).
- Peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come (v. 23).
All these blessings come to those who keep the Sabbath day holy, as Isaiah promises:
“If thou turn away . . . from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight . . . then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father.”[xi]