Chapter 6

Which is the Seventh Day?

Now we are sure that we have a God, that He is our Creator, and that His creatorship entitles Him to receive the adoration and worship of His creatures. This conviction of the supreme sovereignty of God has been settled in our minds by our study of the Holy Bible. And, of course, we have come to accept the Bible as the ultimate ground of authority for our lives.

Since the Bible teaches us that this sovereign God has set aside the seventh day of the week, and made the day holy; and since He has commanded us to rest on that day and to keep it holy, we accept His will. His will is supreme, and we want to obey His orders. And now we may raise a very reasonable question: How can we know for sure which is the seventh day?

Be assured, we do know which is the seventh day. It would be unfair of God to command us to keep a certain day if we could not know what day He really means. Many questions will come to your mind as you study Godís word. You will discover that the Bible has answers for the questions it raises. Let the Bible be its own interpreter. Let it answer its own questions or problems.

It is generally agreed among Christians that Jesus was crucified on Friday. We call that day "Good Friday." Notice what Mark says about the day of Christís crucifixion: "Now when even had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath," etc. (Mark 15:42). So if "Good Friday," the day on which Jesus died, was the day before the Sabbath, then it is extremely easy to calculate which day is the Sabbath. See also Luke 23:54-56.

Christian people everywhere celebrate Easter Sunday in honor of Christís resurrection, because that important miracle occurred on Sunday. Mark 16:9 tells us what day of the week Jesus was resurrected: "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." Jesus arose on the first day of the week, the day we call Easter Sunday. If the first day of the week is Sunday, then the seventh day is surely Saturday.

Let me invite you to read again the story of Jesusí death, burial, and resurrection. Read it in the last chapters of all four Gospels. That will establish these days clearly in your mind. It will also bring a great new encouragement to your Christian experience.

And now you may still ask the questions honestly and sincerely: How do we know that our Friday these days is the same as the sixth day of the week two thousand years ago? And how can we be sure we are celebrating Easter Sunday on what is really the first day of the week? And how can we be sure that our Saturday was actually the seventh day of the week back in Jesusí time? Of course, that is what the calendar shows. But is the calendar absolutely accurate?

Surely God will not fault us for asking these questions. But He might very well blame us for not accepting reasonable answers to them. For He has said, "Come now, and let us reason together" (Isaiah 1:18).

One of the strongest evidences that Saturday is the true seventh day of the week, and therefore the real Bible Sabbath, can be seen in the history of the Hebrew people. God rescued them from Egyptian slavery and made them into a nation. At the very outset they were required to observe the Sabbath. And throughout their history they were repeatedly admonished to keep it carefully. They were warned not to profane Godís holy day, and God promised to bless them when they kept it holy. There was never a question among them as to which day was the seventh. God knew which day was the seventh, and the people of Israel knew. It would have been grossly unfair for Him to punish the Israelite people for breaking the Sabbath if they did not know which day it was. Orthodox Jews still keep Saturday as the Sabbath. They have continued to do so ever since Bible times. They have not lost track of the original weekly cycle.

The easiest way to find which is the seventh day is to look at the calendar. We see there that Sunday is the first day of the week, and Saturday is the seventh. The simplistic nature of this solution does not lessen its significance. There is sound historical reason for this arrangement, as we shall see.

When Jesus was here on earth, He kept the Sabbath. The Bible says, "So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: and as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day" (Luke 4:16). Surely the infinite Son of God, the One who made the Sabbath in the beginning, knew which day was the real Sabbath. He would not have been confused or mistaken. While He and the Jewish leaders disagreed about how to keep the Sabbath, they never disagreed as to which day of the week was the true Sabbath.

Now, Jesus, who surely kept the correct Sabbath day, lived under essentially the same calendar that we live under. For before His time, Julius Caesar in 45 BC put into effect the Julian Calendar.

Back then it was believed that the solar year consisted of exactly 365 ľ days. To take care of the extra ľ day, a leap year of 366 days once every four years was adopted. At that time, the vernal (spring) equinox fell on March 21. In AD 325, the Council of Nicea decreed that Easter should be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.

But it was discovered that the solar year really has slightly less than 365 ľ days, so that by the time of Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, the calendar had "slipped back" ten days. Of course, no actual time was lost; but the calendarís record of time was ten days behind real time. As a result, the vernal equinox came on the calendar date of March 11.

This discrepancy in calendation was remedied by the decree of Pope Gregory XIII that ten calendar dates should be dropped in October of 1582. This change put into effect the Gregorian Calendar. But the popeís revision was not accepted in England and her colonies until 1752; and that time, an adjustment of eleven days became necessary in places like England and America. These calendar changes had no effect on the sequence of the days of the week. They are described in the following quotation from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

It is to be noted that in the Christian period the order of the days of the week has never been interrupted. Thus, when Gregory XIII reformed the calendar in 1582, Thursday, 4 October, was followed by Friday, 15 October. So in England in 1752, Wednesday, 2 September, was followed by Thursday, 14 September (Catholic Encyclopedia, New York: Encyclopedia Press, 1913, Article: "Chronology," vol. 3, 740).

We note that the days of the week were not changed by the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar; only date numbers were changed. The weekly cycle was not altered. This means that, for all practical purposes, our present calendar is the same as the Julian Calendar that was in force in Christís time. Since Saturday was the seventh day of the week in Christís time, it is the seventh day of the week in our time. And so if Jesus knew which day was the real Sabbath, and kept it, then surely we know which day of the week we are to observe.

It is interesting here to notice what is being done to avoid building up another discrepancy, since each year is slightly less than 365ľ days. If we would continue to have a 366-day leap year strictly once every four years, the calendar would again fall behind solar time at the rate of about one day in each one hundred years. To prevent this from happening, Pope Gregory provided that century years should not be leap years unless they are divisible by 400. Next Chapter Accordingly, 1700, 1800, and 1900 would not be leap years; but 1600 and 2000 would be leap years.

Chapter 5   Index   Chapter 7               Copyright © 2001 - by McDonald Road SDA Church

All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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