Christ’s Warning Regarding the Sabbath.

THE SABBATH IN THE GOSPELS/ Jesus and The Sabbath, Part 2: Christ’s Warning Regarding the Sabbath.

Bible Study Guide/ The Sabbath in the New Testament: The Gospels/ 86-021, (Matthew 24:19–20) / Key Text: “But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.” (Matthew 24:19–20, NKJV)

Lesson Objectives: To review the main instances where Jesus taught by example, by word, and through miracles of healing: the essence of true Sabbath observance. Today we are going to review briefly the duel application of Matthew 24, then focus our attention to Christ’s Sabbath counsel in Matthew 24:20.

Welcome to part 2 of our mini-series: “Christ and the Sabbath in Noncontroversial Settings.” Last time we looked at Proof # 1 (Jesus’ Synagogue attendance on the Sabbath). This lesson focuses on Christ’s warning regarding the Sabbath, Matthew 24:20. This is the New Testament Sabbath Keeping – Proof # 2

Opening Remarks: “Isaiah 14 announces that there is a likeness or comparison between the local rulers and the heavenly rebel. The earthly rulers represent, or are types of, the heavenly rebel. It is significant that the label “king of Babylon” can apply to both the local king (Isa. 14:5–6) and the cosmic king in his rise (Isa. 14:13–14) and his demise (Isa. 14:12, 15).

Isaiah ministered in Jerusalem from about 750–700 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylon from 605–562 B.C. The city was captured by Cyrus in 539 B.C. So Isaiah prophesied nearly 200 years before that time. Just as Matthew 24 focuses on the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (Matt. 24:1–2, 15–20) and the end of the world (Matt. 24:4–14, 22–31), so Isaiah focuses on the destruction of local and cosmic Babylon. In both Matthew and Isaiah, the local destructions are types of the future cosmic destruction.” [Norman R. Gulley, Systematic Theology: Prolegomena, (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2003), 428].


[1] What is Matthew 24 all about? End time Bible prophecy.

Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24:3–25:46 is commonly known as the Olivet Discourse because it was His teaching on the Mount of Olives (v. 3). Matt. 24–25 is Christ’s fullest explanation of the signs pertaining to the time of the End, and the Second Coming.

[2] How does Mathew 24 begin? “Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”” (Matthew 24:1–2, NKJV)

[3] What two important questions were asked of Christ by the disciples in this chapter? “Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3, NKJV)

Matthew 24 is just one of many prophetic passages that has a duel application. The disciples asked Jesus about His prediction in Mt 24:2. First, they wanted to know when the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed. Secondly, how they could discern “the timing” of His return. Jesus responds by discussing a lengthy troubling events that will signal His return and the end of the age.

“Because no one knows the precise time of the end, the disciples wished to have some signs that would give them a clue. In this chapter Jesus lists a number of events that have commonly been interpreted as signs or indicators that the SECOND COMING is near. These include turmoil (religious, political, military), natural disasters, hostility towards the disciples, apostasy, dissipation, and the proclamation of the gospel. Jesus, however, said that most of these are not indicators that the end has arrived (v. 6). These events are not intended to tell us the specific time of the SECOND COMING, but to remind us of the reality of that coming. Two events could be seen as more precise signs: the gospel preached in the entire world (v. 14) and the actual Second Coming, which is the only event specifically called a “sign” (v. 30).” [Jon L. Dybdahl, Ed., Andrews Study Bible Notes, (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2010), 1283].

[4] What did Christ predict concerning the Jews? The conquest of the Jews by the Romans, and the destruction of Jerusalem.

Jesus said to His disciples that every stone of the Jewish Temple would be “thrown down.” Matthew 24:1-2. This occurred when the temple was destroyed by the Romans during “The First Jewish War” in 70 A.D.

  • “In 66–70 A.D., Jerusalem experienced one of the most terrible sieges in all of history. In 66 A.D. the Jews revolted, and the Roman army was swift to attack. However, the city was difficult to take, primarily for two reasons. It sat upon a hill, well protected by the terrain, and the leaders of the revolt were religious fanatics. Well over a million people had fled into the city behind its protective walls.”
  • “As the siege wore on, the predictions of Christ were literally fulfilled. Outside the walls was the Roman army and all the maiming and killing of war. Inside the walls, neighbor after neighbor faced famine, pestilence, false deliverers (messiahs), betrayal, murder, revolt, rebellion, and hatred. And all took their toll. Josephus says over 1,000,000 people died and 97,000 were taken captive. The horrors of the siege are well described by him (See Josephus, Wars. 5. 12:3; 6. 3:4; 6. 8:5.)” [Leadership Ministries Worldwide, Matthew: Chapters 16:13–28:20, The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible, (Chattanooga, TN: Leadership Ministries Worldwide, 1996), II:192].

[5] What would happen shortly following the destruction of Jerusalem? “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matthew 24:21, NKJV)

For then. “That is following the destruction of Jerusalem and the fall of the Jewish nation. Between the end of the Jewish nation and the end of the world were to be “long centuries of darkness, centuries for His church marked with blood and tears and agony” (DA 630, 631). Beginning with v. 21 the signs foretold point forward exclusively to the end of the world (see DA 630, 631).

Great tribulation. The first persecution of the church came from the Jewish leaders (Acts 4:1–3; 7:59, 60; 8:1–4; etc.). A little later the Gentiles also persecuted Christians (Acts 16:19–24; 19:29; 1 Cor. 15:32), and for nearly three centuries the church suffered intermittently at the hands of pagan Rome. In 538 began the 1260 years of papal supremacy and persecution. [Francis D. Nichol, Ed., The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1980), 5:500].

“In Matthew 24, in answer to the question of His disciples concerning the sign of His coming and of the end of the world, Christ had pointed out some of the most important events in the history of the world and of the church from His first to His second advent; namely, the destruction of Jerusalem, the great tribulation of the church under the pagan and papal persecutions, the darkening of the sun and moon, and the falling of the stars. After this He spoke of His coming in His kingdom, and related the parable describing the two classes of servants who look for His appearing.” (The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan, p. 393).

[6] Which specific warning was given to the disciples? To flee immediately from Judea, the field, or from the housetop, to the mountains.

Christ gave His disciples a sign of the ruin to come on Jerusalem, and He told them how to escape:

Matthew 24:15–16 (NKJV) — 15 “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

  • Phuegō (flee) is related to the English term fugitive, a person who takes flight in order to escape danger. The only hope will be to run for safety, symbolized in the exhortation to flee Judea as quickly as possible and take refuge in the mountains.” [John F. MacArthur Jr., Matthew, MacArthur New Testament Commentary, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1985), 4:41].

Matthew 24:15–19 (NKJV) — 17 Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. 19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!

  • (24:17) House—Rooftop: in ancient days, the rooftops of houses were flat; they were used for rest, meditation, and neighborly visits. Most houses had steps both inside and outside that led up to the roof. When the abomination is seen, the danger is so imminent that a person should flee from his roof immediately, using the outside stairs.” [Leadership Ministries Worldwide, Matthew: Chapters 16:13–28:20, The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible, (Chattanooga, TN: Leadership Ministries Worldwide, 1996), II:192].
  • The person who happens to be on his roof when he hears of the abomination of desolation should not waste even the few minutes required to go back into the house to retrieve a few precious things to take with him into the mountains. No material possession will be worth the risk of the slightest delay. Nor should a person turn back to get his cloak. If he is working on the far side of a field and has left his cloak in the house or on a fence some distance away, he should leave it there and run.” [John F. MacArthur Jr., Matthew, MacArthur New Testament Commentary, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1985), 4:42–43].

Luke 21:22 (NKJV) — 22 For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

  • “This warning was given to be heeded forty years after, at the destruction of Jerusalem. The Christians obeyed the warning, and not a Christian perished in the fall of the city.” (The Desire of Ages, p. 630).

[7] What were they to pray for? Christ admonished the disciples to pray that their flight might not be in the winter nor on the Sabbath (Matthew 24:20)

Jesus is making it abundantly clear that the Sabbath was still going to be kept forty years after His death and thus instructed His disciples to pray that they do not have to flee in the winter or a Sabbath day as a cold winter day would make the journey more difficult, and long journeys were also not allowed on the Sabbath.

[8] What does it prove that they were to pray that the flight might not be on the Sabbath? This proves that both the winter and the Sabbath would exist 40 years after the death of Chris.

If the Sabbath was “nailed to the cross,” meaning: no longer in effect after Christ’s death and resurrection, then give one intelligent reason why would Jesus instruct His Disciples to pray that their flight would not be on the Sabbath?

Beloved, there is only one intelligent answer that can be concluded from this: Jesus would never have made this statement unless the Sabbath was still going to be kept subsequent to His death!

[9] If the Sabbath ceased at the cross, would it then be wrong to flee on the Sabbath, after the cross? No.

“He who made the Sabbath did not abolish it, nailing it to His cross. The Sabbath was not rendered null and void by His death. Forty years after His crucifixion it was still to be held sacred. For forty years the disciples were to pray that their flight might not be on the Sabbath day.” (The Desire of Ages, p. 630).

[10] What can you say to some of the proponents of ‘Sunday Sacredness’ who are trying to avoid this obvious evidence by insisting that this conversation between Jesus and His disciples only applied to the Jews?

I say, this is a desperate attempt at proving a lie as we shall now see. Firstly, the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24/25 says or implies no such thing.

Secondly and supportively, the prophetic passages of Matthew 24 has  a duel application: the immediate crisis for the Jewish Nation (AD 70), and signs of the Second Coming—(pertaining to the whole World).

If the proponents were correct, then Jesus is ONLY coming back for the Jews and the rest of us are going to be left behind. Does anyone still want to apply these words only to the Jews? I don’t think so!

[11] What and whom were the followers of Christ to teach? Christ enjoined His disciples to teach all nations, not the Jews only, to observe all things He had commanded. (See Matt. 28:19-20)

[12] If that is the case then, what must we teach all nations?  ALL that Christ has commanded in His Word, His Law (including the Sabbath command). Therefore, we must teach all that the Sabbath was made for all, and that all ought to pray for help to keep it. (See Mark 2:27; Matt. 24:20).

DEVOTIONAL IMPLICATION: A statement in Jesus’ eschatological discourse recorded in Matthew 24 indicates the same sort of positive Sabbath emphasis. In predicting the time when Roman armies would take Jerusalem, Jesus urged His disciples, “Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath” (verse 20). The hardship of winter is readily understandable, but why would the Sabbath be mentioned? … The implication of the text is that the disciples should pray that their flight not be on the Sabbath to avoid an experience that would diminish their ability to engage in normal Sabbath keeping and thus lessen their sense of Sabbath sacredness.” [Raoul Dederen, Handbook of Seventh-Day Adventist Theology, Commentary Reference Series, electronic ed., (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2001), 12:502–503].

THE GOSPEL’S VOICE: What does the Lord say to me today? Let’s go back to our Key Text as we close. “But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.” (Matthew 24:19–20, NKJV)

Pray ye. The Christians in Jerusalem and Judea could not determine the time for the withdrawal of the Roman armies, but they could pray God to mitigate the suffering and dangers that attended flight to the mountains.

Not in the winter. In the wet and cold of the winter rains travel would be extremely difficult, lodging and provisions would be uncertain, and health would be difficult to preserve. Furthermore, during the rainy season the Jordan River would prove difficult to ford.

Sabbath day. Forty years after the resurrection the Sabbath would be as sacred as it was when Jesus spoke these words on the slopes of Olivet. He intimates no change in the sacredness of the day such as many Christians now suppose took place when He came forth from the tomb. The commotion, excitement, fear, and travel incident to flight from Jerusalem would be inappropriate on the Sabbath day. Christians were to pray that they might be able to keep the Sabbath as a day of rest, as God intended it should be kept. Christ did not abolish the Sabbath when He was nailed to the cross. It has lost none of the sacredness God originally imparted to it (see on Gen. 2:1–3). [Francis D. Nichol, Ed., The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1980), 5:500].

ACTION STEP: What response do you think this Lesson should inspires us to do? [1] Focus on Prayer: “Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.” (Mt 24:20).

Although the “flight” here referred to is in the past (70 A.D.), I believe, persecution are still coming, especially for those Christians who keep the biblical seventh day Sabbath, and uphold the Law of God: “And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 12:17, NKJV).  

[2] How can we prepare for the coming Crisis?

  1. We ought to forget all comfort of home: pictured by arising from our roof and immediately fleeing (Mt. 24:17).
  • We ought to forget all personal possessions: pictured by not returning from our work places to get our clothes, or possessions, (Mt. 24:18).
  • We ought to grieve for those who cannot flee rapidly: pictured by pregnant women who are responsible for small children, (Mt. 24:19).
  • We ought to pray for good conditions in fleeing: pictured by both winter and the Sabbath day, (Mt. 24:20). Pray for God to mitigate the suffering and dangers that attend flight to the mountains.
  • We ought to pray for God’s grace to endure: “there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Mt 24:21).
  • We ought to pray for the Time of Trouble to be shortened: “unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.” (Mt 24:22)

Listen to this testimony: “In the time of trouble we all fled from the cities and villages, but were pursued by the wicked, who entered the houses of the saints with a sword. They raised the sword to kill us, but it broke, and fell as powerless as a straw. Then we all cried day and night for deliverance, and the cry came up before God.” [Ellen Gould White, Early Writings of Ellen G. White, (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1882), 34]. God answers prayers, and He will protect us during the coming Time of Trouble, just before Christ comes.

[3] We ought to obey God by keeping His commandments. Christ says: “If you (really)love Me, you will keep (obey)My commands.” (John 14:15, AMP). Beloved, if we truly love Jesus, we will not engage in endless debates concerning His Law, instead, we will strive to uphold, obey and keep His Law (that would include the seventh day Sabbath).

As stated earlier, in Matthew 20:24, Christ stresses the import of the Sabbath [the preparedness that was urgently needed for His followers for that particular crisis, namely, the destruction of Jerusalem, A.D. 70] implying that 40 years after the Cross event (when this prophecy was fulfilled) there was to be “NO CHANGE” whatsoever in the blessedness, holiness, and sacredness of the seventh day Sabbath.

So, next time someone tells you that the Sabbath was “nailed to the cross;” pray for them, and share with them politely, and prayerfully these truths. May the Lord bless us all, as we strive to obey Him and keep His commandments.

PRAYER: Father, we thank You for the promises of Your Word. We thank You for the Sabbath Truth. We thank You for reveling to us with precise accuracy the events and/or signs to look for just before the Second Coming. We know that persecutions are coming, but we take refuge in You. May You prepare us for this hour; May You increase our faith—to watch and pray always, and get ready for Jesus (Mt 24:42, 44). This we ask, believing and trusting in the powerful Name there is, even the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

MY DESIRE TODAY. Check the Box which best reflect your decision today:

  • I want to prepare for the coming crisis (Rev. 12:17).
  • I want to ask the Lord to forgive me for breaking His Sabbath.
  • I want to learn more about the seventh –day Sabbath.
  • I want to share with others the truth about the Sabbath.
  • I want to keep all God’s commandment, including the Sabbath.
  • It is my desire to obey the Lord by keeping His Day (the seventh –day Sabbath) holy, Ex. 20:8.

Have a Blessed Day: “Moreover, also I gave them My Sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them, that they might understand and realize that I am the Lord who sanctifies them (separates and sets them apart).” (Ezekiel 20:12, AMP)

The Gospel’s Voice/ Bible Study Guide/ Doctrines/ Sabbath: The Sabbath in History and Holy Scriptures / Lesson # 21.