Adventist teaching: Saturday
Biblical teaching: Sunday
Seventh-day sabbatarianism is obviously foundational to the Seventh-Day Adventist movement. Which is why particular verses, such as Revelation 1:10, are fought by them vehemently with every reference to the “first day Sabbath” in scripture dismissed as being something other than what we see the Christian church doing today.
The Adventist Church maintains that the Greek phrase kuriake hemera—what is translated as “Lord’s day” in the verse, is referring to the seventh-day Sabbath. The typical proposition put forth is that because Jesus calls Himself the “Lord of the Sabbath,” (Exodus 20:10, Matthew 12:8) that clearly shows that the phrase “Lord’s Day” is in reference to the seventh-day Sabbath.
While one can understand why Adventist’s might reason like this, it is faulty for a number of reasons.
The Greek grammar | τῇ κυριακῇ ἡμέρᾳ
The most consequential is the Greek grammar itself. John had multiple Greek literary options to choose from if he were seeking to communicate the seventh-day Sabbath. Kuriake hemera is simply not one of them.
Dr. Phillip Kayser, in his book, Sunday as a First-Day Sabbath, succinctly explains that just as the “Lord’s Supper” (Luke 22:19-20) is a meal that is set aside for the Lord in a way that makes it unique, the “Lord’s day” is a day set aside for the Lord in a way that also makes it unique. It is a day that is sanctified to the Lord.
He explains that the same Greek syntax used to describe the “Lord’s Supper” (1 Corinthians 11:20) is used to describe the “Lord’s day.” The Lord set aside one supper as belonging to Him in a special way, and since He is “Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8), He “made” the day (Psalm 118:24) on which Christ arose to be a day that is set aside as belonging to Him in a special way. And that’s precisely what Psalm 118:24 is prophesying about.
With regards to 1 Corinthians 11:20, the Adventist Church has sought to respond to this by claiming:
It would not be against the Seventh-day Sabbath cause even to admit that the Lord’s day mentioned in Revelation 1:10 is the day of Christ; for the seventh-day (not the first) is the day of which Christ is Lord, and is, in a certain sense, the day of the Lord Jesus. It is the Sabbath that he observed, and that he took so much pains to teach, wrenching it from the thralldom of the Jews. Christ was one with the Father in the creation of the world (Genesis 1:26; John 1:3; Ephesians 3:9; Hebrews 1:2), and it would be unreasonable to believe that he was not interested in the institution which commemorates the great work of creation in which he had taken part.Daniel T. Bordeau, “Refutation of 44 So-Called Objections Against Ancient Sabbath”
The key issue is the Adventist Church’s lack of understanding around the New Creation. While Bordeau is right to allude to the Sabbath’s rooting in creation, he fails to take into consideration both the Old and New Creation. This is precisely why the SDA Church struggles to understand this change. Of course Christ cares about the creation. Which is why He came to redeem it after it fell, which brought about a New Creation (Romans 8:18-24; 1 Corinthians 15; 2 Corinthians 5).
This is why believers can be said to be “new creatures in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17) which is more than mere behavior modification. Being born again does something to a persons being. Since we are a part of the creation, that means the new creation process is already started. It’s here.
Because of this, the New Creation has a new memorial day. And that’s the day that, just like God in creation ceased the work on the seventh-day, God in Christ accomplished this work and entered into His mediatorial rest for His people, but on the first day. This is ultimately what Hebrews 3-4 is getting at, as we have explained here.
Further, while Mr. Bordeau rightly points out that it had always been Christ’s habit to meet corporately on Saturday (Luke 4:16), He seems to have missed a key element—Christ changed that habit. The only records we have of His meeting corporately after the resurrection (at least that are dated) are on Sunday.
Dr. Kayser continues explaining that since Sunday is the Lord’s day, it was the day for meeting with Jesus in worship (Luke 24:13-35 compared with John 20:14-17 and 19-23; Luke 24:36-49 compared with John 20:26-29). Pentecost was on a Sunday (compare Leviticus 23:15-16 with Acts 2:1) and therefore the disciples were “all with one accord in one place.”
Paul, arriving in Troas on Monday (Acts 20:6), delayed his rushed trip until the following Monday so that he could worship with the church on the “first day Sabbath” (Acts 20:7). If, as the SDA Church asserts, there was no significance to his meeting on this day, then why does the passage not mention any other meetings in the previous seven days, such as on the seventh-day Sabbath? It was clearly Sunday, not Saturday on which the “disciples came together to break bread” and Paul was clearly delaying his rushed trip for a reason.
When looking at scripture in totality on the subject, a conclusion that can be drawn from all of this is that the Old Testament anticipated “another day” which is what we are told in Hebrews 3-4 (Hebrews 4:8). The resurrection day logically implies that “there remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9). This Sabbath will not be taken away until eternity when we are done with our labors and cease from our dominion as God did from His (Hebrews 4:10) and we enter into the true eternal rest with God, not just for our souls, but also our bodies.
The Adventist Church is right to assert that the Sabbath is an everlasting statute (Exodus 31:16-17), will not pass away until heaven and earth pass away, a sign of the everlasting covenant (Ezekiel 20:12, 20; Isaiah 55:3, 56:1-8; Exodus 31:16-17). But like the other two signs of the covenant (which are also “forever”) they change into New Covenant forms: circumcision into baptism, Passover into Lord’s Supper, and seventh-day Sabbath into first day Sabbath. The day that belonged to the Lord in the Old Covenant was Saturday (Exodus 20:10) and the day which belongs to the Lord in the New Covenant is Sunday, the “Lord’s day,” commemorated on a weekly basis (Revelation 1:10).
Furthermore, the historical usage of the phrase shows how the term was understood at the time. The SDA Church has long sought to dismiss the early church as going apostate almost immediately after the death of the disciples. The support used for this is their interpretation of Revelation 6:1-2 which speaks of the Rider on the White Horse with a bow going forth and conquering. They believe the Rider to be Jesus Christ, the bow to be the Word of God, and the conquering to be representative of the the Apostolic church spreading like wildfire. They claim that the white color represents “purity” which is representative of the state that the Church was in with the Four Horseman being four different ages of the Church.
Because of that, they have a narrative that goes along with this framework—part of which is that the Sabbath was ultimately changed by the Papacy, and the term “Lord’s Day,” ascribed falsely to the first day of the week by Pope Sylvester I. This is not true.
Nevertheless, it is because of all of this that the SDA Church has to dismiss any usages of the term “Lord’s Day,” prior to Pope Sylvester I as either referring to the Jewish, seventh-day Sabbath or the writing a forgery. This is because of statements like this:
Those who were brought up in the ancient order of things [ie: the Jews) 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.Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Magnesians 9 (110 AD)
Ignatius, a disciple of John the Apostle who penned Revelation, clearly distinguished between the Jewish sabbath and the New Covenant Lord’s Day centuries before Pope Sylvester I was even born. And his understanding was rooted in the New Creation, as the Christian church has understood from the beginning. This further bolsters the case for the historical usage and understanding of “Lord’s day” being the first day of the week.
Both the Greek grammar of the biblical text and history itself are not on the Seventh-Day Adventist Church’s side on this one.