Which Day is the Bible Sabbath, an interesting article
- Weighing the Evidence
- Which Day Is the Bible Sabbath?
by David Boatwright & Doug Batchelor
An Amazing Fact: One hour of sleep deprivation increases the number of
highway accidents by eight percent and an hour of extra sleep
decreases them by eight percent! It's true-it happens twice a year
during the daylight savings time adjustments. Your efficiency driving
after you have been awake for 18 hours is about the same as driving
after drinking two alcoholic drinks. When you have been awake for 24
hours, your driving efficiency deteriorates to the equivalent of
driving under the influence of four to six drinks! Optimum performance
comes with nine hours of sleep each night.
The Scriptures also teach that spiritual and physical rest is so
essential for man's happiness that God set aside a holy day for that
purpose during Creation and then commanded the human race to
"remember" it (Exodus 20:8-11).
The Sabbath truth has come under a special attack in recent years
because the devil knows that all love relationships are nurtured in
the environment of quality time. The Sabbath was designed by God to be
the ultimate in quality time with our Redeemer and Maker. By twisting
or abolishing that holy time, the devil has sought to erode man's
relationship with his Saviour.
Today there are many intense debates about which day is the correct
Bible Sabbath and whether or not it even matters.
There are only two days of the week that seem to have any modern claim
of being the Christian Sabbath: the seventh day, commonly called
Saturday, and the first day, Sunday. In the Bible all the days of the
week were named. The central name was Sabbath, which means "rest."
Then came the first day after the Sabbath, the second day after the
Sabbath, and so on until the sixth day which was called the
preparation day (Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54). Each day was named in
relation to the Sabbath.
A Solid Foundation
The establishment of the seventh day as the blessed Sabbath is one of
the most firmly established facts in the Creation account. God
emphatically said the "seventh day" three times in the first three
verses of Genesis 2: "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" (emphasis added).
God's people always kept the Sabbath from sundown on preparation day
(Friday) until sundown on Sabbath (Saturday night) (Leviticus 23:32).
The concept of beginning and ending days at midnight was introduced in
modern times with the development of accurate clocks. The biblical
account of the women who were preparing spices for the burial of
Christ tells that they ceased their preparations Friday at sundown
"and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment" (Luke 23:56).
The commandment referred to here is the fourth of the Ten
Commandments. It states in part, "Six days shalt thou labour, and do
all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God:
in it thou shalt not do any work" (Exodus 20:9, 10). Note that the day
is called "the sabbath of the Lord thy God"-not "the Sabbath of the
Jews" as some claim.
Jesus Himself told the religious leaders that He was "Lord also of the
sabbath" (Mark 2:28). Because Jesus did all of the work of creation
(John 1:3), it was He that blessed the seventh day and rested with
Adam on that first Sabbath in Eden.
In fact, Jesus gave the vision of Revelation to the Apostle John on
the Sabbath when he was a prisoner on the lonely isle of Patmos. John
simply described it as happening "on the Lord's day" (Revelation
1:10). But which day is the Lord's day? In Isaiah 58:13, God refers to
the Sabbath as "my holy day." Never, not once in the Bible is the
first day called the Lord's day!
So ? What About Sunday?
But what biblical claim does the first day of the week have to being
called the Sabbath? History records that Christians didn't generally
observe Sunday as a day of rest or worship until almost 300 years
after Christ. Certainly none of the apostles ever observed the first
day as a day of worship in place of the Sabbath.
Some try to use Acts 20:7, "And upon the first day of the week, when
the disciples came together to break bread," as evidence that the
disciples were having a communion service on the first day, thus
designating it as the new day of worship. But the New Testament
records that the disciples broke bread from house to house "daily"
Even if the disciples had held a communion service on the first day of
the week, that would not be proof that it designated a new Sabbath
day-the Lord's supper was first instituted on a Thursday night.
Others cite 1 Corinthians 16:2 as an argument against the Saturday
Sabbath. "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by
him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings
when I come." Instead of proving that Sunday was kept as the new
Sabbath, this text actually proves the opposite. Paul instructs the
Corinthians to set funds aside at home on the first day so that no
offerings need to be taken during corporate worship on the Sabbath.
The Bible record is clear that the apostles worshiped on the seventh
day and taught others to do the same. The women who followed Jesus
kept the Sabbath on the seventh day (Luke 23:56). Paul kept the
seventh-day Sabbath while carrying the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts
16:13, 17:2, 18:4). John kept it during his exile on the isle of
Patmos (Revelation 1:10).
Jesus, the supreme example for all Christians, kept the Sabbath by
consistently worshiping in the synagogue on Sabbath (Mark 6:2; Luke
4:16). Nowhere did He command that a different day should be kept or
seek to cancel even the smallest of the commandments (Matthew
5:17-19)! In fact, Scripture clearly records that the redeemed from
all nations will keep the Sabbath in the new earth (Isaiah 66:23).
A Subtle Change
Even in the absence of biblical evidence, much of the Christian world
looks to Sunday, the first day, as the Christian day of rest. When and
how did this come about? The change happened slowly, beginning about
300 years after Jesus returned to heaven.
The pagan Romans called the first day of the week "the venerable day
of the sun," or Sun Day. Gentile Christians and Jews alike were
Sabbathkeepers, while all of the polytheistic (many gods) pagan
religions centered on sun worship on the first day of the week.
However, in the Roman Empire the Jews were "a fly in the ointment"
because they constantly rebelled and their monotheistic (one God)
religion was at odds with every other. Because the Jews kept the
Sabbath, all Sabbathkeepers became highly unpopular by association.
In A.D. 313, the Roman Emperor Constantine, who had been a pagan solar
worshiper, nominally accepted Christianity and put into effect the
first Sunday-worship law.1 Many of the Gentile Christians quickly
accepted this change in an effort to distance themselves from the
odious Jews because of their common day of worship.
Constantine sought to make it easier for the pagans in his realm to
embrace his new politically correct religion. So he encouraged all the
Christians to adopt the pagan solar holidays by renaming them after
the Christian God or various Christian saints. Sincere Christians
resisted this compromise, but because the majority was willing to
capitulate, they were soon overpowered. Over a period of several
hundred years Sunday gradually became known as the Christian Sabbath
and observed as such.
When modern Christians discover and embrace the biblical Sabbath truth
they usually encounter a barrage of differing arguments. Typically
this opposition comes from other Christians who feel compelled to the
point of obsession to dissuade them from their biblical position.
These contradictory arguments often serve to convince more than
One gentleman who worked in a large grocery chain in the Midwest,
through study of the Scriptures, discovered the Sabbath truth. He was
so excited with this blessed revelation that he immediately went to
his employers and told them that he would no longer be available for
work from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. During the following
week each worker in his department approached him with a potluck of
arguments to deter him from his new "un-traditional" commitment to
The first one told him that the Bible says, "One man esteemeth one day
above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be
fully persuaded in his own mind" (Romans 14:5). The co-worker tried to
explain that the text meant he could do whatever seemed right to him
and that he wasn't required to keep any particular day.
"Fine," his friend replied. "I'll take the Sabbath. I'm fully
persuaded that that's the day to keep."
Seeing his cohort's failure, another worker approached the
Sabbathkeeper with this argument. "It doesn't really mean that we have
to keep Saturday. What the Bible really means is that we are to rest
every seventh day and it doesn't matter what day we start counting on
as long as we rest one day in a sequence of seven."
"Fine," he replied. "If it doesn't matter, I'll take Saturday as my
one day in seven."
The next co-worker told him that in the New Testament there was no
specific day set aside for worship. "You're supposed to keep every day
holy," he explained.
The new Sabbathkeeper replied "I do believe I should worship God every
day, but if I'm keeping every day holy and resting from work. That
wouldn't be holy; that would be lazy."
Another worker told him that the Sabbath was only for the Jews. The
new Sabbathkeeper asked, "Then why did Jesus say, 'The sabbath was
made for man' (Mark 2:27). That's a funny way to spell 'Jew.' Was Adam
a Jew when Jesus spent the first Sabbath with him in the garden of Eden?"
Still another told him that it was not necessary to keep the Ten
Commandments because we are no longer under the law but under grace.
"Are you saying that I can now steal your money and covet your wife?"
One night during an evangelistic series I was presenting the Sabbath
truth when a Sunday minister interrupted me. He said I was teaching
"legalism." I asked the man whether or not he believed that God wanted
us to keep the Ten Commandments. At first he said, "No." Then when he
realized how ridiculous that sounded, he changed his answer to, "Yes."
But then he quickly added, "Nine of them."
"So," I responded, "are you telling me that the one commandment God
wants us to forget is the only one that begins with the admonition to
'Remember'?" He left the meeting with a red face and never returned.
Still another pastor embarrassed himself when he said, "The calendar
has been changed several times so we can't really know which day is
the seventh day."
"If that were true," I answered, "then I guess you wouldn't know which
day was Sunday either? But the fact remains that no calendar
adjustment has ever had any effect on the weekly cycle."
There is no question about which day is the seventh day. Any
dictionary will tell you: "Sat·ur·day (sàt_er-dê, -dâ´) noun Abbr. S.,
Sat.1. The seventh day of the week."2
The Bible plainly tells us that Jesus died on Friday, rested in the
tomb on the Sabbath from His work of saving man, then rose Sunday
morning to continue His work as our high priest (Luke 23:54; Hebrews
In fact, in more than 145 major languages of the world, the word used
for the seventh day is the equivalent for the word Sabbath or rest
day. Such as Spanish, Sabado, or Russian, Subotah.
Another creative man told me that, "When the sun stood still in the
days of Joshua, Saturday turned into Sunday"!
All these convoluted attempts to dispense with the simple command of
God are compelling evidence that many churches are building on the
sand of popular tradition. Jesus said, "Howbeit in vain do they
worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. ? Full
well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own
tradition" (Mark 7:7, 9).
Contradictory arguments highlight the big problem associated with
getting rid of the Sabbath. It's impossible to justify abandoning the
Sabbath without getting rid of the whole law-they end up having to
throw the baby out with the bath water. James points out that breaking
even one of the Ten Commandments makes us guilty of violating the
whole. "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one
point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10).
A Pivotal Verse
Some Christians sincerely believe that the whole law, including the
Sabbath, came to an end with Jesus' death. These people point to the
well-worn verses in Colossians 2 as evidence: "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; ? Let no man
therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday,
or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of
things to come" (verses 14, 16, 17).
However, getting rid of the law is a reckless and dangerous thing to
do. The first four commandments define our responsibility to our
Creator. The last six are the foundation of all human civil law. If
the moral law were rescinded, there would be no safe place on earth
Paul says, "For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but
the doers of the law shall be justified" (Romans 2:13). He also adds,
"The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good" (7:12).
So what do the verses in Colossians mean? There are two primary laws
taught in Scripture: the moral law of the Ten Commandments and the
ceremonial law contained in ordinances. One was written by God's
finger on stone and the other by the hand of Moses on parchment.
Notice how Deuteronomy 4 distinguishes between the two:
Moral Law: "And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded
you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two
tables of stone" (Deuteronomy 4:13).
Ceremonial Law: "And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you
statutes and judgments, that ye might do them in the land whither ye
go over to possess it" (Deuteronomy 4:14).
Colossians 2:14 tells us that the law that was nailed to the cross was
the "handwriting of ordinances," not the finger writing. And which law
was that? "They will take heed to do all that I have commanded them,
according to the whole law and the statutes and the ordinances by the
hand of Moses" (2 Chronicles 33:8, emphasis added). The law nailed to
the cross in Colossians 2 was written on paper and "against us."
(Plus, it is very difficult to nail stone tablets to anything.)
"Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the
covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness
against thee" (Deuteronomy 31:26, emphasis added). The Ten Commandment
law, written by the finger of God on tablets of stone, was inside the
ark; the ceremonial law, written by the hand of Moses, was placed in a
pocket on the side of the ark.
So we can see that Colossians 2 is speaking of the ceremonial laws and
annual sabbaths (feasts) that were nailed to the cross. That's why
when Jesus died, the veil in the temple was torn (Matthew 27:51).
Sadly, most of the Jewish nation was so engrossed in types and shadows
that they failed to see the fulfillment of those Messianic symbols in
Jesus. Even the Christian church had a hard time separating the shadow
and the reality. Some Jewish Christians required all the Gentile
converts to observe all the Jewish ceremonies that pointed to the
Messiah. Somehow they didn't yet see the big picture-that the coming
of the Messiah had done away with the need for those types and
shadows. This is why the Apostle Paul exhorts the Colossian Christians
to not allow anyone to judge them in respect of the sabbath days,
"which are a shadow of things to come" (Colossians 2:17).
God Does Not Change!
But what if we keep the law and just change the Sabbath commandment
from seventh-day worship to first-day worship? The first roadblock is
that such a change simply isn't biblical. That really makes it
impossible for anyone to keep Sunday holy. You see, the commandment
doesn't say to make the Sabbath day holy. It says that God made it
holy and set it apart for holy use (sanctified it). We can find no
place in Scripture where God transferred the sanctity of Sabbath to
Sunday. Therefore, there is no way to keep the first day holy since He
didn't make it holy in the first place.
Ultimately one needs to ask the hard question. Since Jesus made the
Sabbath before the entrance of sin, and that which God blesses is
blessed forever(1 Chronicles 17:27), why would He need to change His
own eternal law? He declares, "I am the Lord, I change not" (Malachi 3:6)!
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
Why would God write the Sabbath commandment in stone with His own
finger, speak it with His own voice, and than change it with out even
producing a vague biblical reference?
The bottom line is to determine why God made the Sabbath and what
advantage there might possibly be in changing it. For one thing, God
wanted man and domestic beasts to enjoy physical rest that day. During
the French Revolution, in the backlash against the church abuse, the
atheistic leaders called for doing away with anything religious.
Included in the religious ban was a change in the weekly cycle. They
could find no astronomical reason for the seven-day week, so they
concluded that the weekly cycle was intrinsically religious. They
replaced it with a ten-day work cycle but soon found that, not only
were the people dissatisfied because of physical exhaustion, but also
the draft animals were constantly fatigued. It wasn't long before
France returned to the seven-day week.
But physical rest was only a minor part of the full blessing God had
in mind for mankind. God wants to enjoy spiritual fellowship with His
created beings. The Bible gives no indication that there was a week or
a Sabbath in heaven before Creation. The Sabbath was made for man, not
for angels. However, God enjoys it so much that He intends to keep it
with us throughout eternity. Someday He is moving His universal
capitol to this earth (Revelation chapter 21), and He invites all the
redeemed to meet with Him for Sabbath each week (Isaiah 66:23).
The Sabbath is, among other things, a memorial of God's creative and
redemptive power. It is also a sign of His re-creative power in our
lives. "Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me
and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them"
The weekly Sabbath rest also points to the eternal rest that God is
preparing for the redeemed (Hebrews 4:1-11). This rest was typified by
entering into the promised land for ancient Israel. Spiritual Israel
looks forward to the promise of a new earth "wherein dwelleth
righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13).
"Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into
his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it" (Hebrews 4:1).
Jesus is inviting you now to experience the spiritual and physical
rest of this blessed day in His presence.
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give
you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and
lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is
easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).
1. Colliers Encyclopedia, vol. 7, page 212.
2. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language,