Sunday Worship: Mark of the Beast?

Let me apologize at the outset for including the Seventh Day Adventists, a vibrant Christian Church, among such suspect company. But what about Sunday?

On What Day of the Week did the Apostles Worship?

The Bible reports that the Lord rose from the dead on the first day of the week:

"Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb." (Matthew 28:1).
“Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen....Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons.” (Mark 16:2-9).
"Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared." (Luke 24:1).
"Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb." (John 20:1).

The Lord again sanctified the day upon which He rose by appearing to the disciples:

“Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, 'Peace be with you.'” (John 20:19).

The Holy Spirit also testified, falling upon the disciples on the Day of Pentecost, which was a Sunday:

"Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD." (Leviticus 23:16).

The New Testament reports, without explanation, that the early church met on the first day of the week:

"Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight." (Acts 20:7).
"On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come." (1 Corinthians 16:2).

John, writing approximately 62 A.D., refers to "the Lord's day:"

"I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet..." (Revelation 1:10).

Thus far the Bible evidence. Let's fast forward a hundred years or so, and we find the church still meeting on Sunday, the first, or eighth, day of the week:

  • “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things...But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration."”
  • (First Apology of Justin Martyr, Chapter 67)

"For, lo, wherever we are, we are called after the one name of Christ -- namely, Christians. On one day, the first day of the week, we assemble ourselves together, and on the days of the readings we abstain from sustenance." (Bardesanes, A Treasury of Early Christianity, edited by Anne Fremantle, p. 346)
"Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day with joyfullness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead." (Epistle of Barnabas, Chapter 15).

This is the Lord's day:

"If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death — whom some deny, by which mystery we have obtained faith, and therefore endure, that we may be found the disciples of Jesus Christ, our only Master — how shall we be able to live apart from Him, whose disciples the prophets themselves in the Spirit did wait for Him as their Teacher? And therefore He whom they rightly waited for, being come, raised them from the dead." (Ignatius, Letter to the Magnesians, Chapter 9).
"On the Lord's own day gather together and break bread and give thanks, having first confessed your sins so that your sacrifice may be pure." (Didache, 14).

The explanation offered by these later, fallible authors for the Christian practice of Sunday worship is consistent with the pattern described, but not explained, within the pages of Scripture. The practice itself is apostolic. This explanation continues to be offered going forward:

"For in respect of the observance of the eighth day in the Jewish circumcision of the flesh, a sacrament was given beforehand in shadow and in usage; but when Christ came, it was fulfilled in truth. For because the eighth day, that is, the first day after the Sabbath, was to be that on which the Lord should rise again, and should quicken us, and give us circumcision of the spirit, the eighth day, that is, the first day after the Sabbath, and the Lord’s day, went before in the figure; which figure ceased when by and by the truth came, and spiritual circumcision was given to us." (Cyprian, Letter 58:4, p. 732 ECF).

Jesus Christ spent Saturday in the tomb. Does the church worship a dead Christ, or a living one? "If the creation of the material universe should be kept in perpetual remembrance, how much more the new creation secured by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. If men wish the knowledge of that event to die out, let them neglect to keep holy the first day of the week; if they desire that event to be everywhere known and remembered, let them consecrate that day to the worship of the risen Savior." (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Kindle location 31039). It is clear enough what happened and why; what believer would choose to rescind it?

This understanding of the Lord's Day as the memorial of the resurrection continued on into the Middle Ages: "What you call Sunday we call the Lord's day, and on it we do not worship the sun, but the Lord's resurrection." (Augustine, Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, Book XVIII, Chapter 5, Kindle location 180646).

The Old Testament Sabbath was two things: it was a day of rest, and also a "holy convocation:"

"Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings." (Leviticus 23:3).

Philo Judaeus, a first century Alexandrian Jew, makes the interesting observation that the seventh day, as a day of rest, was observed widely in the first century, not only by Israel but by the world at large:

"And, in short, it is very nearly an universal rule, from the rising of the sun to its extreme west, that every country, and nation, and city, is alienated from the laws and customs of foreign nations and states, and that they think that they are adding to the estimation in which they hold their own laws by despising those in use among other nations. But this is not the case with our laws which Moses has given to us; for they lead after them and influence all nations, barbarians, and Greeks, the inhabitants of continents and islands, the eastern nations and the western, Europe and Asia; in short, the whole habitable world from one extremity to the other.
"For what man is there who does not honor that sacred seventh day, granting in consequence a relief and relaxation from labor, for himself and for all those who are near to him, and that not to free men only, but also to slaves, and even to beasts of burden; for the holiday extends even to every description of animal, and to every beast whatever which performs service to man, like slaves obeying their natural master, and it affects even every species of plant and tree; for there is no shoot, and no branch, and no leaf even which it is allowed to cut or to pluck on that day, nor any fruit which it is lawful to gather; but everything is at liberty and in safety on that day, and enjoys, as it were, perfect freedom, no one ever touching them, in obedience to a universal proclamation." (Philo Judaeus, On the Life of Moses, Book II, Chapter IV).

As indicated above, the "holy convocation" of the Christians is Sunday, the first or eighth day of the week. This is not the same day the Jews observed. Philo mentions seventh-day synagogue meetings devoted to instruction in Moses' law:

"Moreover, in accordance with the honor due to the Creator of the universe, the prophet hallowed the sacred seventh day, beholding with eyes of more acute sight than those of mortals its pre-eminent beauty, which had already been deeply impressed on the heaven and the whole universal world, and had been borne about as an image by nature itself in her own bosom. . .and then, in the third place, he by further inquiry discovered that it was the birthday of the world, which the heaven keeps as a festival, and the earth and all the things in and on the earth keep as a festival, rejoicing and delighting in the all-harmonious number of seven, and in the sabbath day.
"For this reason the all-great Moses thought fit that all who were enrolled in his sacred polity should follow the laws of nature and meet in a solemn assembly, passing the time in cheerful joy and relaxation, abstaining from all works, and from all arts which have a tendency to the production of anything; and from all business which is connected with the seeking of the means of living, and that they should keep a complete truce, abstaining from all laborious and fatiguing thought and care, and devoting their leisure, not as some persons scoffingly assert, to sports, or exhibitions of actors and dancers, for the sake of which those who run madly after theatrical amusements suffer disasters and even encounter miserable deaths, and for the sake of these the most dominant and influential of the outward senses, sight and hearing, make the soul, which should be the heavenly nature, the slave of these senses. But, giving up their time wholly to the study of philosophy, not of that sort of philosophy which word-catchers and sophists, seek to reduce to a system, selling doctrines and reasonings as they would any other vendible thing in the market." (Philo Judaeus, On the Life of Moses, Book III, Chapter XXVII.)

The logic of Sunday Sabbatarianism declares that, as goes the "holy convocation," so goes the day of "solemn rest." But the logic for Sunday as a day of rest is lacking; God did not rest the first day of creation, nor is the eighth day on which the Lord rose from the grave a day of inactivity. Some in the early church observed both, Saturday as a day of rest and Sunday as a day of "holy convocation:"

"But keep the Sabbath, and the Lord’s day festival; because the former is the memorial of the creation, and the latter of the resurrection." (Apostolic Constitutions, Book 7, Section 2, XXIII.)

There is, however, a natural synergy between the holy convocation and the day of rest; it is not surprising they should converge.

There were also, from the earliest times, some who held every day equal; Paul mentions them:

"One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. " (Romans 14:5-6).
"So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. " (Colossians 2:16-17).

In time anti-semites within the church, in gross violation of Paul's command not to judge another believer in these matters, forbade resting on the Saturday Sabbath. But what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander; those who prefer this day of rest, and also prefer to shift the "holy convocation" of the Christians to this day, should not judge others either.

When the Lord said, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27), He implies that the Sabbath rest is a beneficial institution, designed by God for man's good. Man's constitution has not changed in the intervening period. Yet no claim of righteousness can attach to any such observance, because Paul said, "You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain." (Galatians 4:10-11).


Some people object: Jesus cannot have been crucified on Friday and risen on Sunday, because this would not be three days. But by the Jewish count, where a part of the day counts as a whole day, three days need not be 72 hours:

  • “'Is your mother alive?' asked he. 'Is then Aibu alive?' he replied. [Thereupon] he [R. Hiyya] said to his servant, 'Take off my shoes and carry my [bathing] things after me to the baths.' From this three [laws] may be inferred: [i] A mourner is forbidden to wear shoes; [ii] on a delayed report [of death] it [sc. mourning] is observed for one day only; and [iii] part of the day is as the whole of it.”
  • (Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim 4a).

The 72-hour count for three days assumes that the start point and end point of a 'day' are variable. One can start the count at any point: 2 a.m. for instance, provided only the count ends at 2 a.m. of the next day, comprising 24 hours. But the Jewish count assumes that the start point and end point of a day are fixed, not variable. Because God began his day-count in Genesis with 'evening,' the enumeration of days must begin at that point, and partial days cannot be lumped together to make a whole; 'evening' and 'morning' make the whole, and a "part of the day is as the whole of it." Therefore, though the interval from Friday to Sunday does not make 72 hours, it is three days.

Others object: the Christians adopted the first day of the week as their day of assembly because they wanted to worship the Sun, whose day it was on the Roman pagan calendar. The week is not a natural time cycle based on any recurring astronomical event; it is not native to paganism nor universally observed. If the Roman list of consecrated days is to be determinative, we must avoid meeting on 'Saturn's day,' inasmuch as Saturn was a dour, child-murdering deity.

Others object: Sunday worship was borrowed from Mithraism. But Mithraism only appears in the latter part of the first century A.D.; it is younger than Christianity, not older. The relationship of this Roman military cult to any earlier religion, such as Zoroastrianism, is like the relationship 'Kwanzaa' holds to Africa. This new religion became very popular in the second and third centuries. Early evidence about Mithraism is scant, though speculation abounds. Similarities between this military cult and Christianity are vastly overstated (Mithras was born from a rock, not a virgin), and if and when real, might well be borrowings by the younger from the elder religion. Something must first exist before it can be borrowed.


Others object: Paul and his companions preached at Jewish synagogues on the sabbath:

"Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem. But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down...Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience." (Acts 13:13-16).

Gentile god-fearers attached to the synagogue were also present on these occasions. But this is an evangelistic outreach, not a Christian communion service.

It is objected: Constantine ordained Sunday-keeping, therefore it is pagan not Christian:

"Accordingly he enjoined on all the subjects of the Roman empire to observe the Lord’s day, as a day of rest, and also to honor the day which precedes the Sabbath; in memory, I suppose, of what the Savior of mankind is recorded to have achieved on that day. And since his desire was to teach his whole army zealously to honor the Savior’s day (which derives its name from light, and from the sun), he freely granted to those among them who were partakers of the divine faith, leisure for attendance on the services of the Church of God, in order that they might be able, without impediment, to perform their religious worship." (Life of Constantine, Eusebius, Book Four, Chapter 18).

Constantine's religious affiliation is a moving target. With family ties to solar monotheism, he ended life as a baptized Christian. For whose convenience was this provision enacted? Who wanted to observe Sunday: solarists, Christians, or both? If Sunday worship is established in the Book of Acts, then this enactment is a concession to his Christian subjects. There is nothing in it prohibiting either Jews or Christians who preferred seventh-day worship from observing Saturday as a day of rest or a holy convocation.

While it would have been better to avoid this excessive entanglement of church and state, it is an unfortunate reality that most people are not self-employed and thus not at liberty to grant themselves time off. State-mandated days off were not Constantine's innovation; the old Roman pagan calendar marked each day as a day the law-courts were open for business, or a market-day, or a rest day. This complex system, described in Ovid's 'Fasti,' did not employ the Jewish seven-day week. It was religiously motivated, on such complex pagan considerations that the priests sometimes resorted to posting tablets around the forum explaining on which days various people were to keep the feasts. How the Roman state could be justified in continuing to impose pagan rest days on an increasingly non-pagan population is left unexplained by Constantine's detractors.

Coin: Constantine and Sol Invictus Holding a Globe

The coin shown above, with emperor Constantine on one side and Sol Invictus holding a globe on the other, is the kind of thing that fosters suspicion of Constantine's motives. But when the fortunes of battle had thrust this man into the government of the empire, pagans still comprised the majority of the populace. Does anyone think he should have stamped out paganism, disenfranchising most of his citizenry? Only a furious despot like Pol Pot would have tried; it would have been wrong.



Soul Sleep

  • “And Jesus said to him, “'Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.'”
  • (Luke 23:43).

What is the current status of those who have died in the Lord, and indeed of those on the outside?:

Soul Sleep
Absent from the Body To Depart is Better
Dead Lion Never Die
God of the Living Abraham's Bosom
Moses and Elijah Thief on the Cross
You Have Eternal Life Abolished Death
From Death to Life Witnesses


William Miller based his system of prophecy on Daniel 8:14, "Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." His followers expected the end of the world in 1843, later revised to October 22, 1844. When that day came and went, "'Our fondest hopes and expectations were blasted, and such a spirit of weeping came over us as I never experienced before,' one Millerite recalled. 'We wept, and wept, till the day dawn.'" (When Time Shall Be No More, Paul Boyer, p. 81). From the ashes arose Seventh Day Adventism.


A similar process: a failed prophecy, followed by 'spiritualization,'— is now going on with reference to radio broadcaster Harold Camping's failed prediction of Judgment Day on May 21, 2011:


Date of Christmas

Why do Christians celebrate Jesus' birthday suspiciously close to the Winter Solstice? A calendar that survives from fourth century Rome lists December 25th as "Natalis Invicti" (birth of the unconquered one). Though 'invictus,' 'unconquered,' was a common epithet, could this be the unconquered sun? Was December 25th a birth-day borrowed from this luminary?

Universal Birthday Clement of Alexandria
Epiphanius of Salamis Speculation vs. Revelation
Bible Evidence The Case Against Christmas
The War On Christmas O Christmas Tree
Why December 25th? Census
Gee Whiz Columbus Day
Easter and the Equinox

Bible Evidence

Is an autumn date for the nativity more likely?

Course of Abijah Sheep
Baptism Feast of Tabernacles

This group receives more than its fair share of criticism. Which is not to say they don't hold views for which little Biblical support can be mustered. In an effort to salvage William Miller's blown prophecy date, the Seventh Day Adventists came up with the idea of the 'Investigative Judgment,' a kludge to patch a mistake. Yet in their fundamental convictions, they are Christians who worship the living God and share the same blessed hope as others.


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