The Lord's Day

(Quoted from Uriah Smith, Daniel and the Revelation, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Hagerstown, MD, 1944 ed., pp. 353-357.)

"On the Lord's Day." - What day is intended by this designation? On this question four different positions are taken by various classes. One class holds that the expression "the Lord's day" covers the whole gospel age, and does not mean any particular twenty-four-hour day. Another class holds that the Lord's day is the day of judgment, the future "day of the Lord," so often brought to view in the Scriptures. A third view is that the expression refers to the first day of the week. Still another class holds that it means the seventh day, the Sabbath of the Lord.

To the first of these positions it is sufficient to reply that the book of Revelation is dated by John on the Isle of Patmos, and upon the Lord's day. The writer, the place where it was written, and the day upon which it was dated, have each a real existence, not merely a symbolical or mystical one. But if we say that the day means the gospel age, we give it a symbolical or mystical meaning, which is not admissible. Why would it be necessary for John to explain that he was writing in the "Lord's day" if it meant the gospel age? It is well known that the book of Revelation was written some sixty-five years after the death of Christ.

The second position, that it is the day of judgment, cannot be correct. Though John might have had a vision concerning the day of judgment, he could not have had one on that day when it is yet future. The word translated "on" is en, and is defined by Thayer when relating to time: "Periods and portions of time in which anything occurs, in, on, at, during." It never means "about" or "concerning." Hence those who refer it to the judgment day either contradict the language used, making it mean "concerning" instead of "on," or they make John state a strange falsehood by saying that he had a vision upon the Isle of Patmos, nearly eighteen hundred years ago, on the day of judgment which is yet future!

The third view, that by "Lord's day" is meant the first day of the week, is the one most generally entertained. On this we inquire for the proof. What evidence have we for this assertion? The text itself does not define the term "the Lord's day;" hence if it means the first day of the week, we must look elsewhere in the Bible for the proof that that day of the week is ever so designated. The only other inspired writers who speak of the first day at all, are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul; and they speak of it simply as "the first day of the week." They never speak of it in a manner to distinguish it above any other of the six working days. This is the more remarkable, viewed from the popular standpoint, as three of them speak of it at the very time when it is said to have become the Lord's day by the resurrection of the Lord upon the first day of the week, and two of them mention it some thirty years after that event.

If it is said that "the Lord's day" was the usual term for the first day of the week in John's day, we ask, Where is the proof of this? It cannot be found. In truth, we have proof of the contrary. If this were the universal designation of the first day of the week at the time the Revelation was written, the same writer would most assuredly call it so in all his subsequent writings. But John wrote his Gospel after he wrote the Revelation, and yet in that Gospel he calls the first day of the week, not "the Lord's day," but simply "the first day of the week." For proof that John's Gospel was written at a period subsequent to the Revelation, the reader is referred to standard authorities.

The claim here set up in behalf of the first day, is still further disproved by the fact that neither the Father nor the Son has ever claimed the first day as His own in any higher sense than He has each or any of the other laboring days. Neither of them has ever placed any blessing upon it, or attached any sanctity to it. If it were to be called the Lord's day from the fact of Christ's resurrection upon it, Inspiration would doubtless have somewhere so informed us. But there are other events equally essential to the plan of salvation, such as the crucifixion and the ascension; and in the absence of all instruction upon the point, why not call the day upon which either of these occurred, the Lord's day, as well as the day upon which He rose from the dead?

Since the three positions already examined have been disproved, the fourth - that by Lord's day is meant the Sabbath of the Lord - now demands attention. This of itself is susceptible of the clearest proof. When God gave to man in the beginning six days of the week for labor, He expressly reserved the seventh day to Himself, placing His blessing upon it, and claimed it as His holy day. (Genesis 2:1-3.) Moses told Israel in the wilderness of Sin of the sixth day of the week, "Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord." Exodus 16:23.

We come to Sinai, where the great Lawgiver proclaimed His moral precepts in awful grandeur; and in that supreme code He thus lays claim to His hallowed day: "The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: . . . for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it." By the prophet Isaiah, about eight hundred years later, God spoke as follows: "If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day,> . . . then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord." Isaiah 58:13.

We come to New Testament times, and He who is one with the Father declares expressly, "The Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath." Mark 2:28. Can any man deny that that day is the Lord's day, of which He has emphatically declared that He is the Lord? Thus we see that whether it be the Father or the Son whose title is involved, no other day can be called the Lord's day but the Sabbath of the great Creator.

There is in the Christian Era one day distinguished above the other days of the week as "the Lord's day." How completely this great fact disproves the claim put forth by some that there is no Sabbath in the gospel age but that all days are alike! By calling it the Lord's day, the apostle has given us, near the close of the first century, apostolic sanction for the observance of the only day which can be called the Lord's day, which is the seventh day of the week.

When Christ was on earth, He clearly designated which day was His day by saying, "The Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day." Matthew 12:8. If He had said instead, "The Son of man is Lord of the first day of the week," would not that now be set forth as conclusive proof that Sunday is the Lord's day? - Certainly, and with good reason. Then it ought to be allowed to have the same weight for the seventh day, in reference to which it was spoken.