The Genesis record of God creating the earth, beginning with the first verse of chapter one, lists what He did for six days. The final verse of Genesis one is:
And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31 KJV)
Keep in mind that the original books of the Bible contained no divisions as to chapters and verses. These were added at a much later date by man. So the first verses in chapter two are simply a continuation of the writing in chapter one. So the following should be read as such:
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. (Genesis 2:1-3 KJV)
These verses are easily understood but many attach meanings to them that are incorrect. First of all, God was not tired and no such meaning is intended here. The word ‘rest’ does not mean to ‘recuperate from exhaustion’. It very simply means that God stopped creating. He did no creation work that day. The meaning of the word ‘rest’ is: Cessation of work, exertion, or activity. An inanimate object, such as a ball, will come to rest where the energy that moved it terminates.
The scriptures above also say that God blessed that day and sanctified it. To sanctify means to ‘set apart’ or ‘consecrate’ usually for a memorial or religious purpose. At this point, God makes no reference to declaring it as a holy day or that man had any obligation to observe it.
The fact is, that it is not declared a day of rest for anyone other than the Lord who rested on that day, until the sixteenth chapter of Exodus. 2500 years after the creation. In the infinite wisdom of God, He foresaw the things ahead in his pre-creation plans to send His son to the earth to save mankind from their sins. And what He accurately visualized was that the people whom He would choose to furnish the lineage to Jesus Christ would encounter years of extreme hardships in the wilderness. When this came about, Moses addressed the people with this message from God:
And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. (Exodus 16:23 KJV)
Nowhere, preceding this verse, is the word sabbath mentioned in the Bible. 2500 years. It was ordered for these people alone, because of their extreme conditions of survival in the wilderness. They needed a day of rest. And it was given only to them. Observe this scripture:
Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. (Exodus 31:16 KJV)
God also ordered a number of other sabbaths, the first day of the seventh month, the tenth day of the seventh month, and 7 feast days beginning on the fifteenth, the first of which would be a day of sabbath and the last day, a sabbath. (Leviticus 23:39)
We also know the Jews observed a sabbath on the day before the Passover feast. This has caused some modern day confusion on the period of time Jesus spent in the tomb. It can be easily calculated by the days preceding the crucifixion. Jesus was crucified on Thursday, and the next day was a sabbath, yet not the weekly seventh day sabbath. Here is a quote which actually explains it even though not clearly.
“The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” (John 19:31 KJV)
Notice the enclosed phrase, ‘for that sabbath day was a high day’ infers that it was not the weekly seventh day sabbath. Also the explanation of Jesus’ activities prior to that shows that he was crucified on a Thursday. See the article Clarifying the three days and nights Jesus spent in the tomb.
Observance of the seventh day sabbath, along with all the other sabbaths and rituals under the old law, were taken away at the death of Jesus. He had fulfilled the Old Testament law and the prophets:
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 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; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. (Colossians 2:13-15 KJV)