If Jesus Christ endorsed Sunday as the day of worship, why did it take a declaration from a Roman Emperor 300 years after Jesus' death and resurrection to establish Sunday worship for Christians? Why did the apostles and their new converts—even Gentiles—keep the seventh-day Sabbath? Grab your Bible and read along to see what Jesus Christ and His apostles actually taught about the Sabbath in this episode of Tomorrow's World.
[The text below represents an edited transcript of this Tomorrow’s World program.]
More than two billion professing Christians observe Sunday as their day of worship.
And yet, millions of others observe Saturday, the seventh day of the week, as their day of worship.
Which day truly is the Christian Sabbath?
Most Christians are familiar with the Ten Commandments. In fact, monuments and plaques of the Ten Commandments were posted in public buildings for centuries until recent years. The Fourth Commandment begins “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). That command was on the tablets God gave to Moses in the fifteenth century B.C. But when did God establish the seventh-day Sabbath that was to be remembered?
We’ll answer that question on today’s program.
When the New Testament Christian Church began on the day of Pentecost in 31 AD, first-century Christians observed the seventh-day Sabbath. It was not until the Council of Laodicea in 363 A.D. that the Roman Church forbade seventh-day Sabbath-keeping, making Sunday the official day of worship, following Emperor Constantine’s empire-wide edict in 321 A.D.
So, does God in heaven want you to worship Him on just any day? What does your Bible reveal? Which day is the Christian Sabbath? Saturday or Sunday?
Warm greetings to all our friends around the world!
The world is experiencing prophetic end-time disruptions, turmoil, and stress. Jesus of Nazareth foretold these troubles in the Olivet Prophecy in Matthew 24. He stated in verse 7, “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” But He also provided a way of coping with these stresses when He said in Luke 21:19, “By your patience possess your souls.”
In these turbulent times, many seek peace by worshiping on a special day of the week. Various religions set aside religious holidays or holy days. Muslims worship on Friday and follow the call to prayer five times a day. Jews around the world have worshiped for thousands of years on the Sabbath, the day that begins at sunset every Friday evening, and continues through sunset on Saturday. Hundreds of millions of professing Christians meet for Sunday church services, proclaiming theirs is the true day for worship.
But did you know there are also millions of professing Christians who worship on the seventh-day Sabbath?
Why have they taken Saturday as their day of worship?
As it states here in Exodus 20:8, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God.”
What day of the week did the first-century Christians observe? The answer is right here in your Bible.
On Tomorrow’s World, we ask you not to just take our word for granted, but to check for yourself what the Bible actually says.
Biblical scholars admit that the first-century Christian Church observed the seventh-day Sabbath. But many incorrectly say that was only because they were Jewish Christians. So, did Gentile Christians of the first century observe Sunday as their day of worship? What does your Bible record as the historic truth?
Consider the Apostle Paul.
Paul was trained as a Pharisee; he knew the Hebrew scriptures, the Old Testament scriptures, very well. In the city of Thessalonica, Paul preached to the Jews in the synagogue three Sabbaths in a row. Turn to Act 17. Notice that this was his custom—he regularly preached on the Sabbath.
ACTS 17:2: “Then Paul, as His custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.’”
Paul regularly preached to the Jews on the Sabbath. But, did he also speak to the gentiles on the Sabbath? Notice the next chapter, Acts 18. Here the Apostle Paul is in the Gentile city of Corinth, in Greece.
Acts 18:4: “And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks”!
One would think that if Christians were to keep Sunday, rather than the seventh-day Sabbath, the Apostle Paul might speak to the Jews on Saturday and the Gentiles on Sunday.
Is that what your Bible says?
Turn to Acts 13. Paul was in Antioch, in what is now modern Turkey. After Paul’s usual Sabbath sermon in the synagogue to both Jews and Gentiles, notice what happened.
Acts 13:42: “So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them…” the next day, Sunday?
The Gentiles begged Paul to preach to them “the next Sabbath.”
If Jesus, or the Apostles, had changed God’s commanded day of worship, here was a perfect opportunity for Paul to tell the Gentiles, “No, you don’t need to wait until next Saturday, we Christians now worship on Sunday. Meet with me tomorrow!”
But no, the Apostle Paul did not do that. What does your Bible say? Acts 13:44: “On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God.”
Paul taught the Gentile Christians on the Sabbath! And he also commanded the gentile Corinthians to follow his example. Remember Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” Or as the New International Version translates it, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
Now, when did traditional Christianity begin to observe Sunday as a day of rest rather than the Sabbath? The Catholic Encyclopedia, on the topic of “Sunday,” states this, “Tertullian (202 [AD]) is the first writer who expressly mentions the Sunday rest: ‘We, however (just as tradition has taught us), on the day of the Lord’s Resurrection ought to guard not only against kneeling, but every posture and office of solicitude, deferring even our businesses lest we give any place to the devil.’” That was not until 202 A.D.!
Small groups of true Christians, however, still kept the seventh-day Sabbath, even after the Roman Emperor Constantine enforced Sunday-worship. And in the seventeenth century, when Sabbatarian Christians were persecuted in England, some searched for religious freedom in the new lands, the colonies of North America. The royal charter of 1663 granted by Charles II of England, guaranteed religious freedom to the colony of Rhode Island. That charter can be seen today in the Providence, Rhode Island state house.
In the first part of our program, we saw that first-century Christians observed the seventh-day Sabbath.
Not only did Jewish Christians observe Saturday as the Sabbath, but so did the Gentile Christians. We also saw that even the earliest Sunday-keepers did not gain control until the third century A.D.
We also saw that it was the Roman Emperor, not the Church, who first enforced Sunday worship throughout the Empire. Finally, the Council of Laodicea declared Sunday the day of worship for the Catholic religion in the fourth century A.D.
Isn’t that amazing?
If Christ established Sunday as His day of worship, why did it take more than 300 years after His death and resurrection for the Church to officially declare Sunday as the day of worship?
Despite persecution, true Sabbath-keepers continued to keep the Fourth Commandment through the centuries. When they were persecuted in seventeenth-century England, some fled to seek religious freedom in North America. In 1663, King Charles II guaranteed religious freedom in the colony of Rhode Island, and seventh-day Sabbath-keepers were found welcome.
Historical records show that a Stephen Mumford and his wife came to Newport, Rhode Island in 1665 in search of religious freedom. They were the first Christian Sabbath-keepers in America. As their congregation grew, they needed a larger meeting hall. The Sabbatarians built a large meeting hall in 1729. It is now preserved by the Newport Historical Society.
If you are ever in Newport, Rhode Island, you will want to visit this historic building.
Interestingly enough, the oldest Jewish synagogue in America is located right next door to the Christian Sabbath meeting hall.
In the Newport Sabbatarian meeting hall is a raised pulpit.
Behind the pulpit are two large plaques inscribed with the Ten Commandments. At the bottom of the second plaque is the Apostle Paul’s bold statement of Romans 3:31 in the King James Version, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”
Yes, these New Testament Christians affirmed their allegiance to Christ’s statement, “But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17). Jesus upheld obedience and observance to the Ten Commandments.
In eighteenth-century Rhode Island, there were other prominent Sabbatarians, including two governors of the Rhode Island colony, Richard Ward and his son Samuel—and even the first president of Brown University, James Manning, was a Sabbatarian. Sabbatarian church records, preserved in the Newport Historical Museum, contain members’ names and contributions. Most significantly, the church describes itself in those records as “keeping the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus, and in particular the Lord’s 7th Day Sabbath.”
Over the centuries, seventh-day Christians have continued to observe the Sabbath. They consider it a wonderful day of rest and worship. Even today, there are many groups that remain faithful to their belief in first-century Christian Sabbath-keeping. Now, let me ask you can you prove from the Bible which day a Christian should keep holy? It’s an extremely important question.
The one Who should answer that question for us is the founder of Christianity Himself, Jesus Christ! If you have your Bible, turn to Mark 2. The Pharisees criticized Jesus for transgressing their added restrictions to the Sabbath. Jesus did not break the Fourth Commandment; otherwise He would have sinned. He did reject the rabbinic Halakhah, the added restrictions. But, at the same time, Jesus affirmed the sanctity of the Sabbath and demonstrated its proper observance. His disciples enjoyed the Sabbath liberty of eating corn from the fields—they were hungry and enjoyed what was truly lawful.
Notice Jesus’ response to the Pharisees. Mark 2:27. Jesus stated, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Also notice what Jesus did not say. He did not say, “The Sabbath was made for the Jews.”
No, the Sabbath was made for all humanity—for every man, woman, and child on planet Earth! That is what Christ proclaimed!
Turn in your Bible to Genesis 1. This is the description of what is called “Creation Week.” God created man and woman on the sixth day of the week. Now what happened then on the seventh day? Genesis 2:1–3, “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished.
And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.
Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”
The Sabbath is a memorial of the Creation—and points to the true God and true Creator of the Universe. The book of Hebrews in the New Testament also emphasizes the Sabbath as a foreshadowing of the millennial Sabbath, the 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ on the earth.
The seventh-day Sabbath has deep meaning for Christians. And Jesus made another amazing claim.
Did He say He was Lord over Sunday—that Sunday was the Lord’s Day? Mark 2:27–28, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”
If Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, what day is the Lord’s Day?
Sunday? NO! The Sabbath is the Lord’s Day—Jesus Himself said so! Jesus observed the Sabbath.
In fact, He was the One who proclaimed the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai.
Remember the plain statement of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:4 concerning the spiritual Rock of ancient Israel. Who was that Rock that followed them in the wilderness? 1 Corinthians 10:4. The ancient Israelites, the same ones who heard the Ten Commandments thundered at Mt. Sinai—these ancient Israelites, “… drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”
We’ve seen that Jesus taught His followers to keep the Ten Commandments. He Himself observed the seventh-day Sabbath, as did the Apostles.
But is there other New Testament evidence that Christians should observe the Sabbath?
Turn in your Bible to Hebrews 4. In this chapter, the Sabbath is pictured as a type of the millennial rest, as well as a memorial of God’s rest at creation. Hebrews 4:8. Speaking of the unbelief of the ancient Israelites on their way to the promised land, Hebrews 4:8 states, “For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. [Verse 9] There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.”
Does this mean a symbolic rest—or a literal Sabbath rest?
The Anchor Bible Dictionary cites several secular Greek writings, not dependent on this verse in Hebrews, where “sabbatismos” literally means “Sabbath observance” or “Sabbath celebration.” There is no question that this verse is a New Testament statement on literal Christian observance of the Sabbath. And notice this important statement in verse 10 of Hebrews 4. “For he [the individual Christian] who has entered His rest [symbolically converted] has himself also ceased from his works [notice] as God did from His.”
If we, as converted Christians, are to cease from our works just as God did from His, we simply need to ask one question: how did God cease from His works? Verse 4 (of Hebrews 4) gives us the answer: “For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all His works.’” There’s no guessing here. New Testament Christians are supposed to rest just as God rested—on the seventh day!
The Bible is very clear. Both the Old Testament and New Testament give Christians the clear example and instruction to keep the Sabbath Day Holy! As the Anchor Bible Dictionary states: “Physical sabbath-keeping on the part of the New Covenant believer as affirmed by ‘sabbath rest’ epitomizes cessation from ‘works’ (4:10) in commemoration of God’s rest at creation (4:4 = Gen 2:2) and manifests faith in the salvation provided by Christ.” That’s quite a plain statement!
The bottom-line question is: who or what is your authority? Is it the Bible? Or some church and religion apart from the Bible?
The noted Catholic theologian James Cardinal Gibbons wrote this bold statement: “But you may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify.” That is a quote from Gibbons’ “Faith of Our Fathers” first published in 1876. And here is an admission from Harold Lindsell, editor of Christianity Today magazine and Southern Baptist minister (November 5, 1976): “There is nothing in Scripture that requires us to keep Sunday rather than Saturday as a holy day.”
There are many more such admissions on this point that you can read in our free booklet Which Day Is the Christian Sabbath? But let me share one more with you. This statement is from Anglican Isaac William, DD, in his Plain Sermons on the Catechism, volume 1: “Where are we told in Scripture that we are to keep the first day at all? We are commanded to keep the seventh; but we are nowhere commanded to keep the first day…. The reason why we keep the first day of the week holy instead of the seventh is for the same reason that we observe many other things, not because the Bible, but because the Church, has enjoined it.” These are amazing admissions—and there are more of them.
Again, my friends, I ask: What is your source of belief?
Is it the Bible?
Or is it customs and tradition apart from the Bible?
Jesus gave a very strong warning when traditions conflict with the commandments of God. Turn to Mark 7. Many churches have followed that wrong pathway, just as the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. Mark 7:7. Jesus said, “In vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men…. All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.”
That is a warning I hope all of us will heed.
Jesus stated He is Lord of the Sabbath. He observed the Sabbath regularly and He did not break the law as some theologians assert. As He said in John 15:10, “I have kept My Father's commandments.”
My friends, will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and the instructions of your Bible? Or will you oppose them in order to follow the tradition of men?
Turn in your Bible to Isaiah 66:22. Speaking of the world to come, tomorrow’s world, God proclaims this good news: “‘For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before Me,’ says the LORD, ‘So shall your descendants and your name remain.
And it shall come to pass that from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me,’ says the LORD.”
What a wonderful world that will be.
Verse 18, “It shall be that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory.”
Believe it or not, all nations on earth will someday come to worship the true God, the Creator of all things, and His Son Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of Lords. And all people will worship Him, as He proclaims, “from one Sabbath to another.”
Thank you for watching!
My friends, did you know there are millions of professing Christians who worship on the seventh-day Sabbath? Why have they taken Saturday as their day of worship? Have you proven to yourself which day is the Christian Sabbath?
If you would like a copy of our free Bible study guide to help you answer these questions, just click the link in the description. It is completely free. It will show you, straight from the pages of the Bible, which Day is the Christian Sabbath. And remember to subscribe to our channel so you don’t miss another Tomorrow’s World video. See you next time!
Here is an absolutely vital subject that is far more important than most people even begin to realize!
It has everything to do with whether or not you really know the true God—the Creator. In fact, it directly affects your inheriting everlasting life in His soon-coming Kingdom.