The "Sabbath and the Lunacy of Seventh Day Adventistism
By Jacob Michael
Which day of the week is the proper day for worshiping God? Is it Saturday? Sunday? Does it even matter? The Jews of the Old Testament certainly thought it did, and by Divine Command they honored the Sabbath day on the seventh day of the week (Saturday), keeping it holy by refraining from labor, on pain of death (under the Mosaic Law).
Today, in the 21st century, this seventh-day literalism is upheld by a group called the Seventh Day Adventists. Like all other Protestant denominations, they claim that their position is biblical, and that to worship on Sunday is to submit to the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. They claim that it is a sign of the antiChrist (whom they associate with the pope) that he will "think to change times and laws" (Dan. 7:25), and that the Catholic Church's transferring of the worship from Saturday to Sunday fulfills this prophecy.
One author claims:
"Plainly the Sabbath day is the Lordís Day. The Bible itself has cited this fact. But a new question arises: Which day is the Sabbath?... God, Himself, designated Saturday, the seventh day of the week, as the Lordís Day... at no time do the Biblical writers refer to the first day of the week as the Lordís Day. Constantly they refer to the Sabbath, never once referring to it as the former Sabbath or in any other way indicating that the seventh day of the week no longer held validity as Godís holy day... If Sabbath observance is the external sign of the seal of the living God, then clearly the adherence to a counterfeit Sabbath, one which God has never blessed or hallowed, is the external sign of the mark of the beast at the close of probationary time." (The Sunday Law, [www.sundaylaw.net/books/other/standish/plasl/pltoc.htm])
The Seventh Day Adventists are not fooling around here! This is quite a bold claim, in fact, to say that worshiping on Sunday, the "counterfeit Sabbath," is the "external sign of the mark of the beast" in Revelation. In other words, if you're not worshiping on Saturday, you bear the mark of the beast, and as anyone who has read about the beast and his mark in Revelation knows, that means you'll be damned with the beast when the Lord returns.
So how accurate is this claim? Is it true that the bible conclusively supports a seventh-day worship? Was this Mosaic Law never abrogated? Is Sunday worship the mark of a beast-follower, one who has submitted to the rule of the antiChrist pope?
It is not hard to refute these claims. In fact, we can soundly reject them on two levels, 1) historical, and 2) Scriptural. Let's deal with the words of Scripture first.
"And very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?" And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him." (Mk. 16:2-6)
Here we see the first and foremost reason why the early Church began to worship on the first day of the week (Sunday), instead of the seventh day (Saturday). It was on Sunday that the Lord rose from the dead, and thus it was honored as "the Lord's Day." We can see how quickly this practice was introduced into the Church:
"And on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to depart the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight." (Acts 20:7)
Does this verse not indicate that Sunday had become the day for regular worship? The Seventh Day Adventist will protest:
"Scripture testifies [Acts 20:11] that Paul "had broken bread" on Monday morning. Yet no Christian uses this fact to support Monday sacredness. The fact that bread was broken also on Monday morning seriously diminishes the use of Acts 20:7 as evidence of Sunday sacredness. But this is not all. What does the term "to break bread" mean? Once more Scripture comes to our aid as its own interpreter:
And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart (Acts 2:46).
Notice what this text reveals. Firstly, the early Christians, filled with the power of Pentecost, broke bread daily. So whatever the term "to break bread" meant, it provides absolutely no basis for selecting one of the seven days of the week as the special day of worship, for bread was broken on all days of the week." (The Sunday Law, [www.sundaylaw.net/books/other/standish/plasl/pltoc.htm])
While it is true that the early Christians broke bread together on a daily basis, and in a meal-like manner, it is also true that "to break bread" also has a liturgical meaning. Observe:
"And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers." (Acts 2:42)
Notice how the definite article is used to describe these activities: "the apostles' teaching," "the breaking of bread," and "the prayers." This is certainly an odd way to describe these events, if indeed they were merely every-day communal activities, and not specifically liturgical.
Perhaps an even stronger link between the term "the breaking of bread" and liturgical worship (the Eucharist) is established in the story of the Emmaus Road:
"And behold, two of them were going that very day [the first day of the week] to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem... And it came about that when He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight... And they began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread." (Luke 24:13, 30-31, 35)
It is here, in the liturgical action of the Eucharist, painted in literary terms by St. Luke through the use of the same verbs found in the Last Supper narrative (took, blessed, broke), that the disciples were able to recognize Jesus. Notice how St. Luke uses that odd term again, "the breaking of the bread," and how this took place on the first day of the week, the day of the Resurrection.
Thus there is good evidence to suggest that when St. Paul met with the believers in Acts 20, "on the first day of the week," to preach to them and "to break bread," it was in the context of a worship service. This is further established when we read St. Paul's directives on taking up the tithes in the church:
"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come." (1 Cor. 16:1-2)
Now, why would St. Paul direct both the Corinthian church and the "churches of Galatia" to collect their tithes "on the first day of every week?" The only plausible reason is that the believers were already congregating together on that day. It would make no sense, if they were in the habit of worshiping together on the seventh day, the Saturday, to wait until the next day to make the collection.
But didn't God establish the seventh day as the Sabbath? Didn't He command that it be hallowed, on pain of death? And isn't it true that Scripture never revokes this Divine Imperative?
Actually, no, it's not true. Scripture does teach that the Sabbath was a temporary ordinance, a shadow that only pointed forward to the reality of Christ. Hear St. Paul again, speaking of Old Covenant Judaic laws:
"Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day -- things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ." (Col. 2:16-17)
The temporal nature of the seventh-day commandment is made clear here, for St. Paul insists that no one could rightly judge the Christian for not observing the Jewish festivals, new moons, or Sabbath days. And why? Because these things are "a mere shadow," the fulfillment of which "belongs to Christ." This is why Jesus Himself said:
"And it came about that He was passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to Him, "See here, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?"... And He was saying to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. "Consequently, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." (Mark 2:23-24, 27-28)
In this narrative we read of only one of many occasions on which Jesus was accused of breaking the Sabbath. St. John's gospel, chapters 5, 7, and 9 record more instances where the Jews were violently angry with Our Lord for violating the written code of the Sabbath. Jesus' response to these accusations is authoritative: "The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." Jesus could alter the regulations of the written code when He chose to honor the spirit of the Law, and not just the letter. If He could fulfill the Sabbath Law by breaking the commandment against doing work on the Sabbath, then certainly St. Paul is on the right path to say that the very observance of the seventh-day Sabbath is subject to greater fulfillment in Christ. And how is the Sabbath fulfilled in Christ? By worshiping Him on the day on which He won our salvation: "He... was raised for our justification." (Rom. 4:25)
The prophets foretold of this day:
"The LORD has caused to be forgotten the appointed feast and sabbath in Zion." (Lam. 2:6)
"I will also put an end to all her gaiety, her feasts, her new moons, her sabbaths, and all her festal assemblies." (Hos. 2:11)
If these Old Covenant laws were destined to fade away, and if St. Paul himself says that no one can be judged for his failure to keep the Sabbath, by what right do the Seventh Day Adventists go against God and His holy apostles?
Let us turn briefly to the historical problem involved here. Let's say for a moment that the Seventh Day Adventist can sufficiently blind himself against these clear words of Scripture, and still claim that God demands worship on the seventh day alone.
The $64,000 question is this: which day is the seventh day?
One would have to assert that, since it was the seventh day of creation that God "blessed" and "sanctified" (Gen. 2:2-3), that it must be this day which we continue to hallow. It must be the seventh day, counting from the first day of creation. That is, after all, what God demanded in Sacred Scripture.
However, there is a small problem: by the time of the 1st century AD, there were two different calendars in use by the Jews, and a bit of an ongoing argument as to which calendar was the authentic calendar.
Consider these two seemingly contradictory statements:
"And it came about that when Jesus had finished all these words, He said to His disciples, "You know that after two days the Passover is coming and the Son of Man is to be delivered up for crucifixion."... Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it upon His head as He reclined at the table." (Mt. 26:1-2, 6-7)
"Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. Mary therefore took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume." (John 12:1-3)
How can both of these stories be true? St. Matthew says that Jesus was anointed two days before Passover, while St. John says it was six days before Passover. The discrepancy is shown in another place as well:
"Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?" And He said, "Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, `The Teacher says, "My time is at hand; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples."'" And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover." (Mt. 26:17-19)
"Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, "Behold, your King!" They therefore cried out, "Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar." So he then delivered Him to them to be crucified." (John 19:14-16)
St. Matthew has Jesus and His disciples celebrating the Last Supper on the Passover, at least a day (I will argue more than a day) before He was crucified. But St. John says that the priests of the Jerusalem temple were still in preparation for the Passover on the day Our Lord was crucified. Which one is it?
Some fairly recent studies by historians has shed light on the situation. For Jesus and His disciples celebrated Passover in the Upper Room of a house located in territory heavily populated with Essenes. The Essenes were Jewish purists, and they followed the old Solar calendar of the forefathers, which meant that, in that particular year, the Passover fell on a Tuesday. The pharisees in Jerusalem, however, had adopted the "politically correct" Lunar calendar, which placed Passover that year on Friday. Thus, when Jesus was anointed on the Sunday before His death, St. Matthew says it was two days before Passover, while St. John says it was six days before Passover. Why would St. John side with the priests? Scripture gives a hint:
"And Simon Peter was following Jesus, and so was another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest, but Peter was standing at the door outside. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the doorkeeper, and brought in Peter." (John 18:15-16)
Now, we know that the only other disciple at the Crucifixion was St. John, who stood at the foot of the cross. Thus we know that he is the one spoken of in the above passage, which says that he was able to get St. Peter into the courtyard because he "was known to the high priest." Evidently, for some reason, perhaps through family connections, St. John knew the high priest, and was able to get a "back stage pass" to the proceedings. If St. John was more familiar with the ways of the Jerusalem priests, then it makes sense that he would adopt their calendar, and place Passover on a Friday.
This actually explains how it is that Jesus could celebrate Passover in the evening, be out in the Garden in the middle of night praying, be arrested that same night, appear before the high priest for a lengthy trial, appear before Pilate for a trial, appear before Herod for a hearing, return back to Pilate for sentencing, and be crucified around the sixth hour on Friday - which would be nearly impossible if He was celebrating Passover only the night before.
So what does all of that have to do with the Seventh Day Adventist position? Much! Consider this Law of God regarding the Passover:
"In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the LORD'S Passover." (Lev. 23:5)
God attached the observance of the Passover to the "fourteenth day," much like He attached the observance of the Sabbath to the "seventh day." However, as we have just seen in the two gospel accounts, there was a disagreement amongst the Jews as to which day was really the fourteenth day. According to the Solar calendar, the fourteenth day was on Tuesday, but according to the Lunar calendar, the fourteenth day was on Friday. Thus there were two Passover celebrations surrounding Jesus' crucifixion, one in the Essene quarters, and one in the Jerusalem temple. Which one was really the fourteenth day? Who knows? And if the fourteenth day was under dispute in the 1st century AD, then it logically follows that the seventh day was also under dispute. Which group (the Essenes or the Pharisees) were correct?
As we move further into history, we discover that by the time of Julius Caesar, the Lunar calendar was grossly out of sync with the Solar calendar. Major adjustments and modifications had to be made to keep the two in harmony, because in only a matter of three years, the Lunar and Solar calendars would be more than a month apart. In all of these adjustments, is it possible that the seventh day (the true seventh day, the seventh day from the first day of Creation) was preserved?
The calendar was a tough thing to maintain, let's face it. The heavenly bodies do not complete their rotations in exact units of measurement, like 24 hours, 30 days, 31 days, 365 days, etc. In fact, the Lunar calendar is really only 354 days long, which puts it eleven or so days behind the Solar calendar. And the length of a day is mere minutes short of an exact 24-hour period. By the late 1500s, these fractional differences had added up, and the Julian calendar was off by - get this - twelve days.
It was Pope Gregory XII who commissioned a group of astronomers to help him fix the calendar once and for all. It was developed as a self-correcting calendar, which makes use of this funny little device called a leap year, a once-every-four-years event that sets the calendar back on track, but which actually puts us one day behind the "regular" calendar. That is, on that fourth year, when we observe the 29th of February, it is actually the 1st of March, which makes the 1st of March really the 2nd of March, the 2nd really the 3rd, and so on, until the next leap year, when the 1st of March is actually the 3rd of March, the 2nd the 4th, and so on.
And whatever happened to those 12 lost days from the Julian calendar, when the Gregorian calendar was implemented? Did they disappear? Were they factored in? Did the calendar suddenly skip from September 14th back to September 2nd, or leap forward to September 26th?
The problem should be obvious. The Seventh Day Adventist, who insists that the literal seventh day must be observed as a holy day, has no way of knowing whether or not he is truly hallowing the actual seventh day. In all of that calendar juggling, it could be that the "seventh day" of the Gregorian calendar, on which the Adventist observes the Sabbath, is actually the fourth day according the original Creation calendar. What is stranger, perhaps, is that the Adventist, who accuses Catholics and non-Adventist Protestants of following the "papal Sabbath," is himself following a papal calendar. Unless the Adventist can somehow get back to celebrating the Julian calendar, or the Jewish Solar calendar, he is subject to a calendar designed and instituted by Pope Gregory XIII - the antiChrist?
The only escape for the Adventist at this point is to concede that it is the spirit of the Law that is important here, and not the letter of the Law. In other words, since no one can ever know with certainty which day of the week is the real Seventh Day (counting from the first day of Creation), he must fall back on the old principle, "It's the thought that counts."
And that is exactly my point, as a Roman Catholic who worships the Lord on the "day" of His resurrection. Because it's the spirit of the Law that is important. And on the Lord's Day, Sunday, the Day of the Sun in pagan times, we worship the true Sun: "the Sun of Justice," as Malachi 4:2 puts it. Following St. Paul's advice, we allow no one to judge us by our observance of the Jewish Sabbath.
The calendar trudges on, shifting days and months by fractional margins every single hour, but this is of little consequence to the Christian. For no matter what day the calendar says it is, we continue to follow the Son, the center of the true temporal cycles.