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Jesus said, “I will build My Church…” There is a single organization that teaches the entire truth of the Bible, and is called to live by “every word of God.” Do you know how to find it? Christ said it would:

  • Teach “all things” He commanded
  • Have called out members set apart by truth
  • Be a “little flock”

Who Authorized Sunday Worship?

Lesson Twenty-Two

Bible Introduction Course

INTRODUCTION

Sunday Observance

As the great counterfeiter, Satan has presented many false forms of virtually every aspect of God’s truth. He has not only counterfeited God’s true Church, but also the very sign that identifies those who know and obey God—the Sabbath day.

Satan has succeeded in deceiving professing Christianity into accepting Sunday and rejecting the Sabbath. In Genesis chapter 1, when God originally defined the seven-day week, He simply numbered each day. They were called “the first day,” “the second day,” etc. All the days of the week were identified merely by numbers, except the seventh day. Concerning the seventh day, we read, “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” (Gen. 2:2-3). In Exodus 20:10, as God proclaimed the Ten Commandments, He affirmed, “the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God…” Thus, we see that God gave the seventh day special honor and a unique title, unlike the other days. (Today, they all carry pagan names—Sunday [Sun’s day], Monday [Moon’s day], Tuesday [Tiw’s day], and so forth.)

Why did the first day come to be so prominent?

In this lesson, we will summarize how Sunday came to be observed by professing Christianity, although it was never commanded—or even permitted—in the Bible. We will also see some of the ways that worldly theologians attempt to justify Sunday observance.

LESSON 22

The First Day of the Week—Satan’s Counterfeit of the Sabbath

Before examining the Scriptures for any evidence of Sunday observance, we need to cover some vital historical background of this subject. The earliest recorded account of a leader rising up and promoting religion in opposition to God’s teachings was Nimrod. Nimrod was high priest of the sun and his mother-wife, Semiramis, was priestess. Much of the religion of the Babylonian Mysteries originated with Nimrod and Semiramis, who reigned over the people of Babel about two centuries after the Flood.

Nimrod branded the practice of fearing and obeying God as cowardice (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Bk. I, ch. IV). He put himself in the place of God. (See Genesis 10:9, where “before” should be translated “against.”) When Nimrod died, his subjects worshiped him as a deity—the personification of the sun god (Satan). He had been known by the name “Baal,” which means “master” or “lord,” as he attempted to exalt himself above the true Lord and Master of the universe. Yet, Nimrod had been known by a number of other names. In Babylon, he was known as “Tammuz.” In Syria, he was known as “Adonis,” meaning “lord.” In Egypt, he was known as the god “Osiris,” and Semiramis was known as the goddess “Isis.”

The Babylonian Mysteries remained intact for millennia after Nimrod’s death. When the northern kingdom of Israel was taken into captivity, their captors, the Assyrians, placed peoples from Babylon (still adhering to the Babylonian Mysteries religion) into the land where Israel had formerly dwelled. These were the Samaritans mentioned in the New Testament as being perpetually at odds with the Jews. Simon Magus was the high priest of the Samaritan religion. He opposed the true religion taught by the apostles and set out to spread his own counterfeit gospel. Another Samaritan who became prominent in the early formation of the great false church headquartered at Rome was Justin Martyr.

Justin Martyr openly opposed the Sabbath, labeling Sabbath keepers as “Judaizers.” True to his background as a Samaritan and worshipper of Nimrod as “lord” of the sun, he advocated the keeping of Sunday about two centuries before it was mandated for all the Roman Empire by Constantine. The origin of Sunday being termed as the “Lord’s day” had long predated the first century and the time of Christ’s mission on earth.

Now to quote excerpts from the article “Sunday” from Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., 1911, Volume 26, p. 94: “Sunday, or the Lord’s Day, in the Christian world, the first day of the week, celebrated in memory of the resurrection of Christ, as the principle day for public worship.” The article continues, “An additional reason for the sanctity of the day may have been found in its association with Pentecost…” It is true that the Feast of Pentecost is always observed on a Sunday as the writers of this article acknowledged, yet this backup statement was mere conjecture. We will shortly address the error of associating Sunday with the Resurrection of Christ.

The honesty of these scholars contributing to the aforementioned article is quite commendable as they do frankly admit, “There is no evidence that in the earliest years of Christianity [the apostolic era of the first century] there was any formal observance of Sunday as a day of rest or any general cessation of work” (Ibid.). Of course, during that time, the true Church faithfully observed the seventh-day Sabbath!

Continuing in the article, we read, “The first writer who mentions the name of Sunday as applicable to the Lord’s day is Justin Martyr; this designation of the first day of the week, which is of heathen origin, had come into general use in the Roman world shortly before Justin wrote.” Pagan sun worship was already prevalent in the Roman Empire even before the first century. By the time of Constantine in the fourth century, the pagan observance of Sunday was given the ultimate status as Emperor Constantine imposed his edict of A.D. 321. His famous decree began, “On the venerable Day of the Sun let all magistrates and people…rest” (Shaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, article “Sunday Legislation”).

The Roman Catholic Church was greatly empowered by this move. Having such contributors as Simon Magus and Justin Martyr in establishing their foundations, the Catholics shared Constantine’s aversion to the Sabbath. Although Justin was a critic of Simon, they both advocated the precepts of the Babylonian Mysteries and mutually opposed the keeping of the Sabbath in favor of Sunday observance. It should be noted that about this time, the planetary names had been given to the days of the week: “The use of planetary names [Monday, Tuesday, etc.] attests to the growing influence of astrological speculations introduced by the converts from paganism” (Webster’s Rest Days, p. 252).

With Sunday observance now mandated, Sabbath observance became illegal. And by A.D. 325, it became punishable by confiscation of property and death.

Was Christ’s Resurrection on Sunday?

The phrase “the first day of the week” appears in eight different verses in the New Testament. Six of these eight verses pertain to the time associated with Christ’s resurrection. We will examine them below. Since this is the primary basis used to justify Sunday observance, it must be addressed first and foremost. Keep in mind that even if Christ had been resurrected on the first day of the week—which we will show that He was not—there exists no scriptural basis for changing the Sabbath from the seventh day of the week to the first day.

(1) In order to understand how the days are reckoned, we must understand when each new day begins, according to Scripture. Does a day begin at sunrise, midnight or sunset? Genesis 1:5; Exodus 12:6.

Comment: “The evening and the morning” comprised the first day, as well as the remaining days of the Creation Week (Gen. 1:8, 13, 19, 23, 31). The terms were written in this order because each day began at evening about the time of sunset. This is how God reckoned each day.

Exodus 12:6 pertains to instructions as to when to kill the Passover lamb. The term used at the end of verse 6, “in the evening,” should be properly rendered “between the two evenings.” The Jewish Encyclopedia defines this time as the twilight period between the time the sun goes down when the new day commences and the darkness when the stars come out. Although Passover was observed on the 14th of the month of Abib (Nisan), it actually began on the prior evening as the 13th ended at the time of sunset.

The precise beginning of each day is crucial in determining time periods in Scripture, as we shall see. It is vital in helping one discern the meaning of such scriptures as Luke 23:54, which states, “And that day was the preparation, and the Sabbath drew on.” This defines a time just before sunset on a day preceding a Sabbath. Yet, it would be meaningless to someone not familiar with how time was properly reckoned.

(2) Was Christ’s tomb found to be empty on a Sunday morning? Matthew 28:1, 5-6.

Comment: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary would not have attempted to anoint the body of Christ with spices on the Sabbath day. Rather, they rested on the Sabbath and came to the tomb after the time of rest, as stated in Luke 23:56: “And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment.” After a description of the events that had previously occurred (Matt. 28:2-4), verses 5 to 6 describe an angel telling the women that Christ was already risen.

(3) What does Mark 16:2, 9 show about the timing of Christ’s Resurrection? Mark 16:1-2, 9.

Comment: This account shows the women coming to the tomb in the early morning of the first day of the week, finding that Christ had already risen. Verse 9, in particular, is used to “prove” the false tradition that Christ’s Resurrection occurred on Sunday. Note the wording: “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene…”

The original Greek text had no punctuation. Translators of this text could unwittingly change the meaning by the addition or omission of commas, as happened here. Both the Montgomery Translation and the Expositors Greek Testament have this verse translated as follows: “Now when Jesus was risen, early the first day of the week he appeared first to Mary Magdalene…” This is in perfect harmony with the other scriptures defining Christ’s Resurrection.

(4) Does Luke 24:1 add to our understanding of the sequence of events? Luke 23:56; 24:1.

Comment: Only after having rested on the Sabbath day were the women ready to take their spices, which they had prepared prior to the weekly Sabbath. This account also shows that they arrived at the tomb early on the first day of the week.

(5) What information does John 20:1 provide about when the women arrived at the tomb? John 20:1.

Comment: The women arrived at the tomb or sepulcher “when it was yet dark” to find the stone had been removed. This shows that Christ had been resurrected well before sunrise. This information discredits the sunrise resurrection tradition.

Yet, further investigation into the origin of sunrise services is quite revealing. Ezekiel 8:14-16 shows women weeping for Tammuz (another name for Nimrod, their sun god) and the people facing the east as they worshipped the sun. This prophetic vision in Ezekiel applies directly to our time, as well as ancient Israel. People today blindly carry on traditions such as sunrise services, thinking they are honoring Christ, while following rituals from the ancient Babylonian Mysteries. God calls these practices abominations (Ezek. 8:13).

(6) Finally, does John 20:19 justify Sunday observance as some falsely claim? John 20:19.

Comment: The timing of this verse is clearly Sunday evening, because Mary Magdalene had just reported to the disciples that she had seen the resurrected Christ (vs.18). It also shows that the disciples were assembled. But it does not say they were assembled for a church service. Rather, we read that they were assembled for fear of the Jews—actually hiding from the Jews.

A Summarized Sequence of Events

After having addressed all six specific scriptures that reference “the first day of the week” associated with the time of the Resurrection of Christ, we now present the overall timeline from Passover Day of A.D. 31, which occurred on the 4th day of the week, or Wednesday. The following 3-day-and-3-night span of 72 hours included a high Sabbath on Thursday (the First Day of Unleavened Bread) and the 7th day weekly Sabbath, which completed the span. Be sure to write out these timeline points along with the associated scriptures:

Christ shared the Passover meal with His disciples on the evening before His crucifixion (Luke 22:15).

He was crucified on Passover Day (Nisan 14), about the 3rd hour (Mark 15:25).

Darkness prevailed from the 6th hour until the 9th hour, at which time Christ died (Matt. 27:45-50).

He was placed in His tomb late on Passover day (Matt. 27:57-60; Luke 23:53-54).

He was to be 3 days and 3 nights (entombed) in the heart of the earth (Matt. 12:39-40).

Passover day was followed by a “high day” or annual Sabbath (John 19:31).

After the high day, the women prepared spices for Christ’s burial (Luke 23:54-56 (first part)).

After a day of preparing spices, they rested on the weekly Sabbath (Luke 23:56 (last part)).

The next day—the 1st day of the week—they found that Christ had already risen (Matt. 28:6).

This weekly Sabbath occurring within the days of Unleavened Bread was when Christ was resurrected according to His own words. He indicated that no sign would be given except for the sign of the prophet Jonah—that he would be entombed for 3 days and 3 nights just as Jonah was in the great fish or whale (Matt. 12:39-40).

Three days and three nights from late Passover Day on Wednesday brings us to late in the weekly Sabbath. Christ would have been resurrected according to the only sign He had promised to give to prove He was the Messiah. Do you believe Him?

In order to cover this interesting account in much greater detail, study our booklet Christ’s Resurrection was NOT on Sunday. You will find that it answers all the objections and provides overwhelming evidence of the correct timeframe of Christ’s Resurrection.

Other Attempts to Justify Sunday Observance

(1) Did the disciples come together on the first day of the week to break bread and to hear preaching? Acts 20:7.

Comment: On this particular occasion, Paul had conducted Sabbath services earlier on the Sabbath and continued to instruct and exhort the brethren because he was to depart on his journey the very next day—the daylight portion of Sunday. So after having met on the Sabbath, Paul continued preaching for many hours continuing into “Saturday evening” (which was the beginning of the first day of the week) and on through midnight. After having miraculously revived a youth, taken up as dead, who had fallen from the loft, as Paul was “long preaching” (vs. 9-10), he actually continued encouraging the brethren until daybreak (vs. 11). He was scheduled to depart and not likely to ever see them again.

There is no indication in this verse that meeting together on the first day of the week had become the custom in the apostolic era. Rather, many dozens of statements from history of the brethren meeting on the Sabbath have been ignored by theologians down through history, yet they are diligent to search for possible loopholes around keeping God’s Sabbath.

(2) What about the brethren of the early Church laying in store offerings on the first day of the week? I Corinthians 16:2.

Comment: Paul had requested that the Corinthians contribute needed supplies and food to the brethren of Jerusalem (vs. 3), where a severe shortage existed at that time. This was explained in Romans 15:25-28 and was similar to a previous famine recorded in Acts 11:27-30. Paul was requesting that the supplies and food be collected on the first day of the week (possibly the evening after the Sabbath) so that this gathering would not interfere with his upcoming visit. Gathering such material involved extensive labor, which could not be done on the Sabbath. Here again, this was far from being any kind of precedent that could have elevated the first day of the week above the Sabbath, suggesting “offering plates” passed each Sunday.

To better understand this subject, read our thorough book Saturday or Sunday – Which Is the Sabbath? and our booklet The Sabbath – Has Time Been Lost?

Next In The Bible Introduction Course:

Lesson Twenty-Three: First in God’s Plan – The Passover

This lesson begins a series of seven lessons that should prove beneficial in not only introducing the subject to many for the first time, but also serving as a refresher that can be reviewed every year prior to each Feast. These lessons cover the fascinating subject of the feasts that God commands His people to observe for all time, including today. Together, these seven feasts picture the overview of God’s plan of salvation, with each Feast depicting a separate vital step in God’s overall Master Plan of Salvation.