21. The First Day of the Week
in the New Testament
FD

NOTE: The first day of the week is only mentioned eight times in the NT (only in Gen. 1:5 in the OT). If God intended to change the day of worship from the seventh day to the first day we'd expect to find proof of the change in connection with these verses.

1. ON WHICH DAY DID JESUS RISE FROM THE TOMB ACCORDING TO MARK?

1FD Mark 16:9 Mark tells us that Jesus rose on the first day, but doesn't say that it should be observed as a holy day.

2. WHAT RELATIONSHIP DID RESURRECTION DAY HAVE TO THE SABBATH?

2FD Mark 16:1, 2 When the women went to Jesus' tomb early on the first day, the Sabbath had already past.

3. Which day follows the Sabbath?

3FD Matt. 28:1 The first day of the week follows the Sabbath.

4. CAN WE TELL FROM SCRIPTURE ON WHICH MODERN DAY THE SABBATH FALLS?

4FD Luke 23:54-24:1 Jesus died on the preparation day (Friday); lay in the tomb over the Sabbath (Saturday); and rose from the grave on the first day (Sunday). Jesus' disciples waited until the Sabbath was past before they finished embalming His body. According to Luke 23:56, then, our Saturday is the seventh day—"the Sabbath day, according to the commandment."

5. WHEN DID MARY ARRIVE AT THE TOMB?

5FD John 20:1 Before sunrise Mary Magdalene discovered that the stone door of the tomb had already been rolled away.

Do any of the above texts actually say that the first day of the week should now be considered holy? No.

John pictures a gathering of the disciples on the first day (the day Jesus rose from the dead).

6. WHY DID THEY GATHER TOGETHER?

6FD John 20:19 The disciples gathered in the upper room on the first day for fear of the Jews—not to worship in honor of the resurrection.

  • In fact, Mark 16:9-13 says that they didn't even believe that Jesus had risen.
  • 7. WHY DID JESUS MEET WITH THE DISCIPLES A WEEK AFTER HIS RESURRECTION?

    7FD John 20:26-28 The second meeting of Jesus with His disciples was not to honor any day of the week, but to convince Thomas that He had risen from the dead.

    8. WHAT DID THE APOSTLE PAUL ASK THE CORINTHIANS TO DO ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK?

    8FD 1 Cor. 16:1, 2 This is not a command to take offerings during a Sunday church service. Paul asks each to "set aside a sum of money ... saving it up", (NIV). He wants each person to privately lay aside a gift at home, so that when his messenger arrived, the people wouldn't have to take the time to decide how much they would give to the worthy project.

    9. DOESN'T ACTS 20 PICTURE PAUL MEETING WITH THE BELIEVERS AT A SUNDAY WORSHIP SERVICE?

    9FD Acts 20:7 Verses 7-14 do not show a weekly worship service on Sunday, but rather a farewell service for Paul.  The party actually began on Saturday Night and continued all night. Few would recommend this practice on a weekly basis. This farewell party on the first day contrasts sharply with Paul's custom of observing the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week. (cf. Acts 13:14, 27, 42, 44; 15:21; 16:13; 17:1-3; 18:4.)

    Baptism and the Lord's Supper were new ordinances instituted by Jesus, and are both fully explained in the NT. But the actual observance of the first day of the week isn't even mentioned once, let alone commanded as a new day of worship.

    10. WHAT SYMBOL DID JESUS GIVE US TO REMIND US OF HIS DEATH FOR OUR SINS?

    10FD 1 Cor. 11:26 Instead of sanctifying Friday as a day of worship in honor of His death, Jesus gave us the Lord's Supper to remind us of that event.

    11. WHAT SYMBOL DID JESUS GIVE US TO REMIND US OF HIS BURIAL AND RESURRECTION?

    11FD Col. 2:12 Jesus instituted baptism as a symbol of His death, burial, and resurrection.

    12. IF GOD DIDN'T INSTITUTE SUNDAY OBSERVANCE, THEN HOW DOES HE FEEL ABOUT IT?

    12FD Matt. 15:13 God never planted Sunday observance, so it will certainly be rooted up when Jesus sets all things right.

    THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS
    OF MATTHEW 12:40

    Many wonder how Jesus' three days and three nights could have fit into the time frame of the crucifixion weekend presented in Scripture. According to the New Testament Jesus died at about the time of the evening sacrifice [about 3 p.m.] on the Preparation day—"the day before the Sabbath" (Mark 15:42), or Friday. He rested in the grave on Saturday—the "Sabbath day, according to the command-ment" (Luke 23:56)—and then rose early the first day of the week, Sunday, at about sunrise (Mark 16:1, 2; Matt. 28:1). This only amounts to about 40 hours, rather than the 72 hours we would think of when he mentions "three days and three nights".

    The reason for this seeming inequity lies in the fact that the Jewish community of Christ's day figured time differently than we do today. They used what is now known as "inclusive reckoning"—any part of a time period was considered as though it filled the entire period.

    Thus, even though Jesus died at about 3 p.m. on Friday, with only about 3 hours left of the day, that day would have been considered by the Jews as the first day of this death. The second day would have been the "Sabbath, according to the commandment," and the day known to the Jews as the first day of the week would have been reckoned by them as the third day after his death, even though he rose quite early on that day.

    The First Day : Friday : Day 1 : Jesus died

    The Second Day : Saturday (the seventh-day) : Jesus rested (just like He did at Creation on the 7th day)

    The Third Day : Sunday :  Jesus Rose at Sunrise

    Thus according to Jewish reckoning, Jesus was in the "heart of the earth" for three days and three nights .

    Think about it:

    When God gave the 10 commandments (of which the Sabbath commandment is the fourth):

  • 1. He came down in person on the top of Mt. Sinai, the effects of his presence clearly visible by the burning smoke ascending high into the sky.
  • He spoke the commandments with His own voice. (It scared the people so much that they stampeded away from the mountain.)
  • 3. He wrote them with His own finger on tablets of stone.
  • 4. He made them a lasting ordinance which would guide His people (without reference to race, color, age, or sex) as to how they could obey Him.
  • If God decided to change the Sabbath from the seventh day of the week to the first, wouldn't He use methods that were just as dynamic as He did the first time? Of course!

    But instead there are only vague references, a few texts that may or may not indicate that there might have been a change in the day. In fact, as seen above, there is clear evidence that none of these references actually refers to even the remotest hint that Sunday was being kept in honor of the resurrection.

    It's not just a matter of a day. It's a matter of loyalty to God, who made it clear that the seventh-day Sabbath is a sign of our acceptance of Him as our one and only God.

    Exo 31:13 ". . . observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy."