Monday, April 19, 2010

The Lord’s Day

Sabbath Study, Part 36

In the book of Revelation, we find one more reference to the Christian Sabbath (i.e., Sunday). The Apostle John authored Revelation while on the island of Patmos, having been exiled there for preaching the gospel. Halfway through the first chapter, John gives the occasion of the book’s origin.

I, John, your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet… (Revelation 1:9, 10)

On the Lord’s Day. Believers have typically put the Lord’s name on practices He instituted:

The Lord’s Prayer (which He taught us to pray; see Mt. 6:9-13).

The Lord’s Supper (which He commanded to be practiced in remembrance of Him; see Lk. 22:19, 20; 1 Cor. 11:20, 23-26).

The Lord’s Day (Sunday, which He evidently instructed His followers—probably during one of His first meetings with them after His resurrection—to observe as the continuation of the fourth commandment). This is not to be confused with “the day of the Lord.”

You will recall that in Mark 2, Jesus stated that He was “Lord of the Sabbath.” This statement may very well have been part of the inspiration for the early church opting to call the Christian Sabbath “the Lord’s Day.”

“In the earlier apostolic writings the day was called ‘the first day of the week’ [Ac 20:7 1Co 16:2], but by the close of the century it began to be called ‘the Lord's day,’ as here. Epistles of Barnabas, Ignatius and Dionysius, written near this time, so style it, and the name is of common occurrence from this time onward, and is confined to Sunday” (B. W. Johnson).

“Deissmann has proven (Bible Studies, p. 217f; Light, etc., p. 357ff) from inscriptions and papyri that the word kuriakov was in common use for the sense ‘imperial’ as imperial finance and imperial treasury and from papyri and ostraca that hmera sebasth (Augustus Day) was the first day of each month, Emperor’s Day on which money payments were made (cf. 1Co 16:1f). It was easy, therefore, for the Christians to take this term, already in use, and apply it to the first day of the week in honour of the Lord Jesus Christ’s resurrection on that day (Didache 14, Ignatius Magn. 9). In the N.T. the word occurs only here and 1Co 11:20 (kuriakon deipnon ye lord'v supper). It has no reference to hmera kuriou (the day of judgment, 2Pe 3:10)” (A. T. Robertson).

Albert Barnes comments on this passage at length and I want to quote him in his entirety. If you are not convinced that the phrase “the Lord’s Day” is a reference to the Christian Sabbath, follow the logical progression of Barnes’ thoughts. He makes a compelling argument.


The word here rendered Lord's—kuriakh—occurs only in this place and in 1Co 11:20, where it is applied to the Lord’s Supper. It properly means pertaining to the Lord; and, so far as this word is concerned, it might mean a day pertaining to the Lord, in any sense, or for any reason—either because he claimed it as his own and had set it apart for his own service; or because it was designed to commemorate some important event pertaining to him; or because it was observed in honour of him. It is clear

(1) that this refers to some day which was distinguished from all other days of the week, and which would be sufficiently designated by the use of this term.

(2.) That it was a day which was for some reason regarded as peculiarly a day of the Lord, or peculiarly devoted to him.

(3.) It would further appear that this was a day particularly devoted to the Lord Jesus, for

(a) that is the natural meaning of the word Lord as used in the New Testament, (compare on Ac 1:24) and

(b) if the Jewish Sabbath were intended to be designated, the word Sabbath would have been used. The term was used generally by the early Christians to denote the first day of the week. It occurs twice in the Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians, (about A.D. 101) who calls the Lord’s day “the queen and prince of all days.” Chrysostom (on Psalms 119) says, “It was called the Lord’s day because the Lord rose from the dead on that day.” Later fathers make a marked distinction between the Sabbath and the Lord’s day; meaning by the former, the Jewish Sabbath, or the seventh day of the week, and by the latter, the first day of the week kept holy by Christians. So Theodoret, (Fab. Haeret. ii. 1,) speaking of the Ebionites, says, “They keep the Sabbath according to the Jewish law, and sanctify the Lord's day in like manner as we do.”—Professor Stuart. The strong probability is, that the name was given to this day in honour of the Lord Jesus, and because he rose on that day from the dead. No one can doubt that it was an appellation given to the first day of the week, and the passage therefore proves

(1) that that day was thus early distinguished in some peculiar manner, so that the mere mention of it would be sufficient to identify it in the minds of those to whom the apostle wrote;

(2) that it was in some sense regarded as devoted to the Lord Jesus, or was designed in some way to commemorate what he had done; and

(3) that if this book were written by the apostle John, the observance of that day has the apostolic sanction. He had manifestly, in accordance with a prevailing custom, set apart this day in honour of the Lord Jesus. Though alone, he was engaged on that day in acts of devotion. Though far away from the sanctuary, he enjoyed what all Christians hope to enjoy on such a day of rest, and what not a few do in fact enjoy in its observance. We may remark in view of this statement,

(a) that when away from the sanctuary, and deprived of its privileges, we should nevertheless not fail to observe the Christian Sabbath. If on a bed of sickness; if in a land of strangers; if on the deep; if in a foreign clime; if on a lonely island as John was, where we have none of the advantages of public worship, we should yet honour the Sabbath. We Should worship God alone if we have none to unite with us; we should show to those around us, if we are with strangers, by our dress and our conversation, by a serious and devout manner, by abstinence from labour, and by a resting from travel, that we devoutly regard this day as set apart for God.

(b) We may expect, in such circumstances, and with such a devout observance of the day, that God will meet with us and bless us. It was on a lonely island, far away from the sanctuary and from the society of Christian friends, that the Saviour met “the beloved disciple,” and we may trust it will be so with us. For on such a desert island; in a lonely forest; on the deep, or amid strangers in a foreign land, he can as easily meet us as in the sanctuary where we have been accustomed to worship, and when surrounded by all the privileges of a Christian land. No man—at home or abroad; among friends or strangers; enjoying the privileges of the sanctuary, or deprived of those privileges—ever kept the Christian Sabbath in a devout manner without profit to his own soul; and when deprived of the privileges of public worship, the visitations of the Saviour to the soul may be more than a compensation for all our privations. Who would not be willing to be banished to a lonely island like Patmos, if he might enjoy such a glorious vision of the Redeemer as John was favoured with there?


As Barnes notes above, that John observed the Lord’s Day even though he had no other believer with which to commune. He knew that His communion was ultimately with the Lord Jesus Himself, who was (and is) not limited by time or space. Even when exiled from the rest of humanity, John still honored God on the Christian Sabbath and experienced communion with the Savior.

Commentaries Cited from
Hall, Kay.
Online Bible. Beersheba Springs: Ken Hamel, 2000. CD-ROM.

Commentaries Used
People's New Testament Commentary, by B. W. Johnson
Word Pictures in the New Testament, by A.T. Robertson
Notes on the New Testament, by Albert Barnes

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Eternal Sabbath: Application Points

Sabbath Study, Part 35

The last post was admittedly long, and we covered a lot of material. Hebrews 4 is not the easiest passage to study, so I’ve asked Albert Barnes to help us by giving four application points. (Okay, Albert Barnes is dead, so I didn’t specifically ask him for his help. I am, however, going to quote his commentary, which I hope will serve us in applying a lot of what we have been studying.)


Learn hence,

(1.) that heaven is a place of cessation from wearisome toil. It is to be like the “rest” which God had after the work of creation, (Heb 4:4) See Heb 4:4, and of which that was the type and emblem. There will be employment there, but it will be without fatigue; there will be the occupation of the mind, and of whatever powers we may possess, but without weariness. Here we are often worn down and exhausted. The body sinks under continued toil, and falls into the grave. There the slave will rest from his toil; the man here oppressed and broken down by anxious care will cease from his labours. We know but little of heaven; but we know that a large part of what now oppresses and crushes the frame will not exist there. Slavery will be unknown; the anxious care for support will be unknown, and all the exhaustion which proceeds from the love of gain, and from ambition, will be unknown. In the wearisome toils of life, then, let us look forward to the rest that remains in heaven; and as the labourer looks to the shades of the evening, or to the Sabbath, as a period of rest, so let us look to heaven as the place of eternal repose.

(2.) Heaven will be like a Sabbath. The best description of it is to say it is
an eternal Sabbath. Take the Sabbath on earth, when best observed, and extend the idea to eternity, and let there be separated all idea of imperfection from its observance, and that would be heaven. The Sabbath is holy; so is heaven. It is a period of worship; so is heaven. It is for praise, and for the contemplation of heavenly truth; so is heaven. The Sabbath is appointed that we may lay aside worldly cares and anxieties for a little season here; heaven, that we may lay, them aside for ever.

(3.) The Sabbath here should be like heaven. It is designed to be its type and emblem. So far as the circumstances of the case will allow, it should be just like heaven. There should be the same employments; the same joys; the same communion with God. One of the best rules for employing the Sabbath aright is, to think what heaven will be, and then to endeavour to spend it in the same way. One day in seven at least should remind us of what heaven is to be; and that day may be, and should be, the most happy of the seven.

(4.) They who do not love the Sabbath on earth are not prepared for heaven. If it is to them a day of tediousness; if its hours move heavily; if they have no delight in its sacred employments, what would an eternity of such days be? How would
they be passed? Nothing can be clearer than that if we have no such happiness in a season of holy rest, and in holy employments here, we are wholly unprepared for heaven. To the Christian it is the subject of the highest joy in anticipation, that heaven is to be one long, unbroken SABBATH—an eternity of successive Sabbath hours. But what, to a sinner, could be a more repulsive and gloomy prospect than such an eternal Sabbath?


So the ultimate rest the believer looks to is the eternal rest of Heaven. As we have seen before, the Sabbath is only a type of that which is to come. And since the antitype has not yet arrived, the type still remains in effect. If the Sabbath really does point us to Heaven (which we eagerly anticipate), what storehouses of joy await us as we seek to honor God by sanctifying one day in seven!

Commentaries Cited from
Hall, Kay.
Online Bible. Beersheba Springs: Ken Hamel, 2000. CD-ROM.

Commentaries Used
Notes on the New Testament, by Albert Barnes

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Rest is Yet to Come

Sabbath Study, Part 34

In Hebrews 3, we are reminded how, during their trial in the wilderness, many of the Israelites hardened their hearts through unbelief, leading the Lord to declare, “They shall not enter My rest” (v. 11)—i.e., the Promised Land. This sobering example from Hebrews 3 prepares the reader for chapter 4, where the author applies the principle of promised rest to the life of the believer found in Christ—and ultimately found in Heaven.

Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’” [Ps. 95:11] although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 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”; [Gen. 2:2] and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.” [Ps. 95:11]

Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” [Ps 95:7, 8]

For if Joshua had given them rest*, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.

Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:1-11)

* “Given” and “rest” are one word in the Greek, divided in English by the word “them.”

A promise remains of entering His rest.
In this passage, there are three different Greek words used to describe the idea of rest. The most prominent (highlighted in blue) is utilized 9 times in the New Testament, 8 of which are found in Hebrews 3 and 4. (The only other place is Acts 7:49: “Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the LORD, or what is the place of My rest?”) This Greek word can mean either “a putting to rest (as in a calming of the winds)” or “a resting place: metaphorically, the heavenly blessedness in which God dwells, and of which he has promised to make persevering believers in Christ partakers after the toils and trials of life on earth are ended.” So the idea behind the main word for “rest” in this passage is the ultimate and heavenly respite promised to the Christian.

The second Greek word for rest in this passage (highlighted in red) is defined as, “to cause to be at rest, to grant rest.”

We will look at the third Greek word (highlighted in green) when we get to verse 9.

We…do enter that rest.
A.T. Robertson informs us that the phrase “do enter” is in the “emphatic futuristic present middle indicative” tense. In other words, it is a present tense Greek term used to indicate a future action. Thus what it means is, “We are sure to enter in, we who believe.” While this rest is certain, it is not fully realized yet.

“There is a rest promised to believers now as really as there was to believers in the days of Moses; and true Christians have a foretaste of it. It is a spiritual, holy rest, like the rest of God on the Sabbath after he had finished the work of creation; and of which the right keeping of the Sabbath is to believers an emblem” (Justin Edwards).

As He has said.
“God’s saying that unbelief excludes from entrance implies that belief gains an entrance into the rest. What, however, Paul mainly here dwells on in the quotation is that the promised ‘rest’ has not yet been entered into” (JFB).

I swore in My wrath, “They shall not enter My rest.”
God’s wrath means, at least in part, a withholding of true rest. The first generation of Israelites wasn’t allowed to enter into the Promised Land because their unbelief (and consequent disobedience) aroused God’s wrath; they were refused access to the rest of Canaan. As a result, they wandered in the wilderness for the remainder of their earthly lives.

In the gospel age, God’s wrath is revealed—again, in part—through a lack of true rest for the soul. And in the age to come, Divine wrath will have its final say, declaring a punishment of eternal restlessness apart from God. “And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night” (Revelation 14:11).

Although the works were finished.
“Although God had finished His works of creation and entered on His rest from creation long before Moses’ time, yet under that leader of Israel another rest was promised, which most fell short of through unbelief; and although the rest in Canaan was subsequently attained under Joshua, yet long after, in David’s days, God, in the ninety-fifth Psalm, still speaks of the rest of God as not yet attained. THEREFORE, there must be meant a rest still future, namely, that which ‘remaineth for the people of God’ in heaven” (JFB).

If Joshua had given them rest.
The Israelites did eventually enter into the rest of the Promised Land, but the writer of Hebrews is showing that the true and ultimate rest promised by God was not the land of Canaan.

There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.
The word “rest” in this verse is translated from the Greek sabbatismos, which is used only this one time in all the New Testament. Many versions translate it as “Sabbath rest” because the word literally means, “keeping of a sabbath.” If this future heavenly rest is referred to as a Sabbath rest—that is, if the Sabbath is a precursor to Heaven—it stands to reason that the earthly Sabbath celebration would not cease until the Heavenly Sabbath arrives.

“Moses, the representative of the law, could not lead Israel into Canaan: the law leads us to Christ, and there its office ceases, as that of Moses on the borders of Canaan: it is Jesus, the antitype of Joshua, who leads us into the heavenly rest. This verse indirectly establishes the obligation of the Sabbath still; for the type continues until the antitype supersedes it: so legal sacrifices continued till the great antitypical Sacrifice superseded it, As then the antitypical heavenly Sabbath-rest will not be till Christ, our Gospel Joshua, comes, to usher us into it, the typical earthly Sabbath must continue till then. The Jews call the future rest ‘the day which is all Sabbath’” (JFB).

Be diligent to enter that rest.
Our ultimate rest is still in the future, something to which we are called to look for in faith. Elsewhere in the book of Hebrews, we see this future-oriented mindset exemplified through the Old Testament patriarchs, who eagerly anticipated the fulfillment of God’s promised rest—not in Canaan, but in Heaven:

  • “By faith Abraham…waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:8, 10).
  • “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland…. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16).
  • “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come” (Hebrews 13:14).

When we finally enter our homeland, and the city prepared for us, we will enjoy true and lasting rest—the eternity that is “all Sabbath.”

Commentaries Cited from
Hall, Kay.
Online Bible. Beersheba Springs: Ken Hamel, 2000. CD-ROM.

Commentaries Used
Word Pictures in the New Testament, by A.T. Robertson
The Family Bible Notes, by Justin Edwards
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary

Monday, April 05, 2010

Sunday Collections

Sabbath Study, Part 33

In 1 Corinthians 16, the Apostle Paul gives some instructions regarding another Sunday Sabbath activity: receiving an offering.

Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: 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 16:1, 2)

As…the churches of Galatia, so you must do.
It seems that a special collection was taken up at Galatia, and Paul is giving the Corinthian church instructions on how to go about doing the same thing, so that he might take the money to the poor among the saints in Jerusalem (see Rom. 15:26). His instructions for the Corinthians were the same as that for the Galatians, including not only the action to be taken, but also the day in which it was to take place.

On the first day of the week.
Paul is not commanding a corporate meeting on Sunday, he is assuming it. Thus, it appears that the practice of meeting on Christ’s resurrection day was well established. The church was celebrating the Sabbath on Sunday instead of Saturday, setting the Jewish and Gentile Christians apart from the nonbelieving Jews.

“It appears from the whole that the first day of the week, which is the Christian Sabbath, was the day on which their principal religious meetings were held in Corinth and the Churches of Galatia; and, consequently, in all other places where Christianity had prevailed. This is a strong argument for the keeping of the Christian Sabbath” (Adam Clarke).

Commentaries Cited from
Hall, Kay.
Online Bible. Beersheba Springs: Ken Hamel, 2000. CD-ROM.

Commentaries Used
Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The First Day of the Week

Sabbath Study, Part 32

In the last two posts, we looked at several instances where Paul and other Christians sought evangelistic opportunities on the Jewish Sabbath. Acts 20 records a different kind of gathering: Paul and other Christians come together and break bread on a Sunday.

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)

First day of the week.
This phrase can be literally translated, “one of the Sabbaths,” leading some to believe that the Sabbath is still on Saturday and not Sunday. A helpful article by William D. Mounce (author of numerous books, including the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek, and general editor for Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words) helps us see otherwise: “Words are rarely simple; they are usually nuanced and sometimes idiomatic. The fact that every modern translation goes with ‘first day of the week’ [in Acts 20:7] shows that here is an idiom at work, and no theological doctrines should be drawn from this usage (other than the fact that the early church saw no conflict in worshiping on the first day of the week and not the last…).”

Some believe that this practice of meeting corporately on Sunday shows that the Sabbath is no longer in effect. But I would ask: what, then, is the reason for treating one day in seven as special/sacred? The early church’s emphasis may have switched from Saturday to Sunday, but how does that make the foundational principle of the Sabbath null and void? If our Sunday celebration is not a Sabbath rest, what exactly is it?

Came together to break bread.
It is probable that the disciples observed the Lord’s Supper each Sunday. Whatever the case, the atmosphere described here—one of fellowship between believers—stands in stark contrast with the visits Paul made to various synagogues on the Jewish Sabbath. The purpose of those Saturday pursuits was blatantly evangelistic, whereas the purpose of this Sunday meeting was corporate worship.

Continued his message until midnight.
The Jews observed the Sabbath from sunset to sunset. Here, Paul began a message that continued well past sunset on Sunday. Because he was about to depart and (possibly) never see this group of people again, he may have wanted to extend the length of this last meeting. Whether that is the case or not, it seems that the New Testament Christians may not have been as stringent on the starting and stopping times of the Christian Sabbath observance.