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The First Day of the Week

John 20:17-19 shows when the disciples assembled on the first day of the week for the very first time. Christ gave his peace and blessing on them for assembling. He states, "Peace be unto you" (verse 19). It is important to read these verses carefully to get the proper story flow and context.

John 20:17-19 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and [to] my God, and your God.

18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and [that] he had spoken these things unto her.

19 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, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace [be] unto you. (KJV)

We read in verse 17 that Christ had a conversation with Mary Magdalene after his resurrection. This conversation is very important, because I believe this is what convinced the disciples to assemble. She was told by Christ to go to the brethren, and to tell them "I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God". Now pay close attention to the way verse 19 is worded; "Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week". Please notice, it was in the evening when they assembled. Could it be that after Mary had spoken certain things concerning Christ's ascension to the Father that convinced them to assemble? I'm sure they no doubt questioned or wondered about what Mary had told them, and during the course of the day they became convinced to assemble; which by this time was in the evening. Some will argue that they assembled for "fear of the Jews". True, that is what is stated and this is partly the reason, but what about the other days of the week? Did they fear the Jews less on other days? They shut the doors possibly for fear of the Jews, however it could also signify a private meeting or a religious assembly.

We need to look at another interesting scripture found in Luke 23:56.

Luke 23:56 And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment. (KJV)

It states that the women rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment. Why was the phrase "according to the commandment" added to the statement? This is not some idle wording taking up space in that statement. Why did the Holy Spirit inspire Luke to write this in this manner? We all know why they rested on the Sabbath day. The phrase "according to the commandment" would not have to be added at all except for this very important point. It was the last seventh-day Mosaic Sabbath. The six-day creation (flawed by the sin of Adam) had come to it's fulfillment at the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! This old six-day creation that failed and was useless to God, called for and demanded the cruel sacrifice and death of Jesus Christ! The six "work" days, and the following ceremonial seventh-day Sabbath under Moses represented and was patterned after this old creation that failed. Since the death of Christ, we are now (in a legal sense) in the "eighth day" or in the "new creation", which is what seventh-day Sabbath keeping pointed toward! I believe Christ's ascension to the Father on the first day of the week had a direct bearing on Christ bringing about the "new creation". I believe this is what Mary Magdalene discussed with the disciples on the first day of the week that convinced them to assemble in honor of this very important event. The "eighth" day shadows and types are mentioned more then twenty times in the Bible. They are mentioned for a reason! They are highly symbolic of a new beginning or a new creation.

In John 19:31 it states; "for that Sabbath was an high day".

John 19:31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and [that] they might be taken away. (KJV)

In past years I was led to believe that this particular Sabbath happened to be a holy day. To me it has never been proven that. Some translations imply of it as the "Great Day" or the "Great Sabbath". I think it could mean the "last Sabbath", if you will.

Some will argue that Paul assembled on the Sabbath day, therefore this would make a case that we should also assemble on the Sabbath day. True, Paul did go where the Israelites were assembled on the Sabbath day as it shows in Acts 13:14, 27, 42, 44, 15:21, 16:13, 17:2, 18:4).

Acts 13:14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. (KJV)

Acts 13:27 For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled [them] in condemning [him]. (KJV)

Acts 13:42 And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. {the next...: Gr. in the week between, or, in the sabbath between} (KJV)

Acts 13:44 And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. (KJV)

Acts 15:21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. (KJV)

Acts 16:13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted [thither]. {sabbath: Gr. sabbath day} (KJV)

Acts 17:2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, (KJV)

Acts 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. (KJV)

The Israelite people still observed the old covenant. That is all they knew as their form of worship and service to God. The temple was still there with all the temple service, etc. Paul needed to go where and when they assembled. For Paul to go in among them on the Sabbath day did not bother Paul. The people were more important to him, and out of wisdom he simply did not make an issue of it. A merciful God allowed the physical temple to stand seventy years after the fact. The early believers understood the customs of Moses (which included seventh-day Sabbath keeping) no longer applied under the new covenant. See Acts 6:14, 21:21.

Acts 6:14 For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. {customs: or, rites} (KJV)

Acts 21:21 And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise [their] children, neither to walk after the customs. (KJV)

This truth can be verified throughout the book of Acts. That's what the persecution of the early church was all about! Some gave their lives for this belief and faith. Paul suffered greatly for preaching and teaching this truth. Paul earlier had people imprisoned and put to death for believing in the liberty that Christ had brought them. It was Paul (then called Saul) that witnessed and consented to the death of Stephen (Acts 7:58).

Acts 7:58 And cast [him] out of the city, and stoned [him]: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. (KJV)

The people that stoned and killed Stephen were no doubt devout seventh-day Sabbath keepers. Stephen gave the Israelite people a history lesson that they could not handle because of their hardness of heart. Take the time to study the history lesson in Acts chapter 7 that Stephen preached to the Israelite people of his day. Stephen started with Abraham, and explained in detail how God worked through Moses and all the prophets with the old covenant that was carefully designed to lead the Israelite people to Christ. This history lesson cost Stephen his life, because his murderers were not about to forsake what they thought were the customs of Moses. The fact is, all Stephen wanted to show is that the old covenant had served it's purpose and was finished. By being "stiff-necked" and "uncircumcised in heart and ears", they refused to understand the intent and purpose of the old covenant. They were resisting the Holy Spirit as their fathers also did before them, as it explains in Acts 7:51. This scripture proves the Holy Spirit was available during the rule of the old covenant.

Acts 7:51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers [did], so [do] ye. (KJV)

If they and their fathers would have kept the customs of Moses, they would have understood that these "works" of the law were only temporary and pointed toward the prophet (Christ), that the Lord God would raise up like unto Moses. See Acts 7:37.

Acts 7:37 This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear. {like...: or, as myself} (KJV)

This is the point that Stephen wanted to make with these stubborn and hardhearted Israelites that loved their ceremonial righteousness including seventh-day Sabbath keeping.

Another important scripture proving that the early Church assembled on the first day of the week is found in Acts 20:7, which states that the disciples came together to break bread, and Paul preached unto them.

Acts 20:7 And upon the first [day] of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. (KJV)

It was the custom of the early church to assemble on the first day of the week (Sunday). Why is it so hard for people to believe and understand this? They came together to fellowship, have a meal and a sermon. A real church service! It was told me some years ago that this meeting was actually on a Sabbath day. I'm sorry, that is not what is stated! Paul continued his speech until midnight on the first day of the week. They assembled at sundown at the end of the Sabbath, which makes this meeting on the first day of the week; since the days started at sundown. There are some sincere Christians today that make the claim that the first day of the week during the early Church was a common work day, and they will quote this scripture found in 1 Cor. 16:2.

1 Corinthians 16:2 Upon the first [day] of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as [God] hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. (KJV)

These same sincere people fail to realize that it was not a sin for the Corinthian Church to gather food for other saints in need, even if done supposedly on the Sabbath day. Paul gave instruction that this gathering of food was to take place before he was among them and before the Church service, and it is easy to understand why. 1 Cor. 16:2 only proves that Paul wanted to assemble with the Corinthian Church on the first day of the week. Keep in mind that after Christ's death, Sabbath keeping was no longer based on "legalism", but on the assembling of the saints on the first day of the week, which Christ had earlier given his peace and blessing. Again see John 20:19.

John 20:19 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, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace [be] unto you. (KJV)

 

In Conclusion

The Sabbath has been on my mind a long time. Years ago, I tried to observe it. From Friday sunset to Saturday sunset was holy time, and this was not my time to do as I pleased. However, I have come to realize in recent years that there is much more to the Sabbath than just resting on a Saturday. In the Bible, the days of the week are not mentioned (by our calendar), but a numbering of the days. Six days were your time to do your work and pleasure, however the following day (seventh) was God's time. It was not to be used for your pleasure or to do as you pleased. It was a cycle and pattern of one day in seven. Theoretically, the seventh day could fall on any day of the week (by our calendar). There is reason to believe that this cycle or pattern was altered and shifted during the ceremonial Sabbaths and holy days. I believe this cycle always started from a holy day whenever a holy day occurred. The reason I say this is because the pattern of one day in seven had to be maintained by the law of the seventh-day Sabbath. However this pattern, of course, was interrupted by the occurrence of a holy day. Whether this cycle or pattern was unbroken from the creation, and the seventh day has always fallen on what is now known today as Saturday, is really beside the point. It's like straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel, if you know what I mean!

We are now under a new covenant and have graduated from the "works" of the ceremonial laws and shadows. However I want to make this point, the principal of giving one day in seven back to God still applies. The Sabbath command is still valid, because the ten commandments are not done away! What was done away and nailed to the cross were the "works" of ceremonial law including the seventh day "works". All the pictures and patterns that were to be "worked" out in ceremonial fashion no longer serve a purpose. The system of ceremonial and sacrificial laws only pictured and pointed toward the work of redemption done by Christ. Christ did the works that were required to secure our redemption for us. This is very important to understand! Christ became the perfect sacrifice for sin that the law demanded, and he had to suffer and die a very cruel death to bring an end to the six-day creation. The "works" that represented and were patterned after the old failed six-day creation also came to an end. As a result of the works and the sacrifice of Christ, we can now be legally in the new creation (spiritually speaking), and actually enter into a Sabbath rest with God. The six-day creation was doomed to fail, and actually caused the death of Christ. Adam was given dominion over the six-day creation, and when Adam sinned the creation became useless to God. When the perfect sacrifice was made for Adam's sin, God could then bring in the "eighth day" or the new creation. The failed creation was caused as a result of Adam’s sin since Adam was given dominion over the six-day creation. Seventh-day Sabbath keeping under the old covenant represented, and provided for the obedient Israelites a temporary solution to the failed creation. This was why their was a death penalty involved for disobedience to the Sabbath command. Obedience to the Sabbath command with all the sacrificial laws pointed toward the solution. Israel was commanded to work six days just like God did! Israel was also commanded to "rest" the seventh day just like God rested! This is important! Please keep in mind that God blessed the seventh day and set it apart from the other days before Adam sinned. This is the Sabbath rest that believers can enter into. Israel under the old covenant, in a sense "acted out" through a system of laws a failed six-day creation, and at the same time obedience to these laws pointed to the new creation. Israel was also commanded through a system of laws to provide temporary sacrifices for Adam's sin, and at the same time these sacrifices pointed toward the perfect sacrifice (Christ). This is why there had to be a death penalty involved for disobedience to the Sabbath command which ultimately required the sacrifice and death of Christ. It is an open mockery toward Christ for believers to continue in the type of laws that demanded his sufferings and his death. The seventh-day Sabbath "works" were a part of these laws. It is just that simple, and it is just that serious! If believers are involved in this form of righteousness it is like telling Christ that his works were not quite sufficient, or it is as if we need to improve on the works that Christ did for us.

In Rom. 10:4, Paul states that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth". This is the ceremonial law that demanded Christ's works and his death. The ten commandments were not ceremonial laws except the seventh-day Sabbath!

Romans 10:4 For Christ [is] the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. (KJV)

This scripture has caused many people to stumble. Christ did not bring an end to the ten commandments including the true Sabbath! Christ ended only those laws that pointed toward his death, and the laws that represented the failed creation. Rom. 10:4 means exactly what it says. These laws have done their job, and have truly ended for the believers. The problem that we encounter if we attempt to observe this form of ceremonial righteousness, is that it frustrates the grace of God which can be very dangerous. See Gal. 2:21.

Galatians 2:21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness [come] by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. (KJV)

I know that well meaning seventh-day Sabbath keepers would never intentionally want to frustrate the grace of God. Sadly however this is how deception works, and deceived people are not at all aware that they are deceived. This was the heresy that the Galatian Church was deceived by and believed in. As was shown earlier, the Galatian Church wanted to go back under the "legalism" of the old covenant. Paul said Christ is dead in vain with this form of righteousness! Let's be honest with the scriptures. Seventh-day Sabbath keeping is only commanded under Moses along with all the other sacrificial laws, etc. And that's a fact! No, God's eternal-Sabbath Rest was not nailed to the cross! What was nailed to the cross were the lessons of ceremonial works that represented the old creation, which was contrasted with the new creation and the true Sabbath rest.

It's strange to say this, but the phrase "seventh day of the week" is not found in the Bible! Which simply means that the Sabbath day did not have to fall on seventh day of the week! However the phrase "first day of the week" is found eight times in the new testament. I must say eight times is very significant with the "eighth day" types and pictures! Six of these times was in reference to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and twice when the early believers assembling on the first day of the week. As I've said before, the Sabbath command is still valid and God requires that we assemble and fellowship. The premise now is not on the seventh day, but on the "eighth" day; hence the first day of the week (Sunday). It is a Biblical fact that Sabbath keeping was simply setting aside one day out of seven for a day of rest, and that is all it was! Sunday keeping is true Sabbath observance, since it is setting aside one day in seven to build Christ's Church. It is also done in honor and remembrance of the finished work of Christ in securing our redemption for us, which was all accomplished and done on the first day of the week!

Christians have for centuries always observed Sunday as the day of rest and worship. There is documented evidence that men that were taught by the apostles kept Sunday. This truth is recorded in the early history of the church. Here are some quotes taken from "The Ante-Nicene Fathers". These are writings from the early church fathers down to 325 AD. Here is a quote from an epistle of Barnabas, Paul's companion; "Your present Sabbaths are not acceptable to me. I will make a beginning of the eighth day, that is, a beginning of another world". Justin Martyr born about 110 AD writes," And on the day called Sunday on which we hold our common assembly...". Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John writes; "Let every friend of Christ keep the resurrection day, the queen and chief of all days of the week". In the "The teachings of the Apostles" written 105 AD we read; "The Apostles therefore appointed on the first day of the week...", ... "let there be service and reading of the Holy scriptures". There are more writings that could be quoted.

The purpose of this booklet is to stimulate your thinking on the Sabbath and it's meaning. We live in highly deceptive times, and it is much wiser simply to believe the Bible and follow it's teachings. God wants us to have a love for the truth, and it does not mean we have to understand all the truth concerning the Sabbath. God is only interested in a child-like attitude of wanting to know the truth, and he does expect us to respond to what we know in our hearts to be the truth. I realize most people do have good intentions and would certainly not want to disobey the Sabbath command. I also realize it does not matter how much evidence and proof could be presented to show that the seventh-day Sabbath is over with. Sincere people supposedly out of the fear of God, would still try to observe it. For some reason people love that form of righteousness. However it is a righteousness that does frustrate the grace of God, and it is a serious matter. It cost the life blood of the son of God to bring an end to the six-day creation which became useless to God because of Adam's sin. Do we really want to serve the living God by religiously observing the very "seventh-day works" that pointed toward and called for the suffering and the death of Christ? It is something to think about! Or do we want to serve the living God as a new creation in Christ?

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. {he is: or, let him be} (KJV)

Think of what is being stated in 2 Cor. 5:17! If you truly are in Christ, then God looks on you as a part of the new creation. The old creation has indeed passed away, and all things are become new. I know this term "new creature" is not understood and realized by us in this life. However this is how God looks on those that are in Christ, which is very important! We are still living and suffering in this "old creation". It is hard for us to understand that since the death of Christ, we can "live by faith" in the new creation (spiritually speaking). This is what God's eternal Sabbath rest is all about. Let us all be thankful for the work that Jesus Christ did for us, and let us be careful not to serve in the "works" that represent the old creation that has failed for us, and that has also failed for God. It is very needful and necessary for sincere believers to assemble and fellowship on the first day of the week (Sunday) to build the body of Jesus Christ. Christ works through his Church to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God that will restore a new creation. We need to pray for wisdom and understanding to once again earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered unto the saints (Jude 1:3) so we can truly enter into God's Eternal Sabbath Rest!

Jude 3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort [you] that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. (KJV)

Written by Mahlon Wickey
P.O. Box 311
Leo, In 46765


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