A question from one of our readers:
Dear Dr. Sarvadi,
The Lord said to honor the Sabbath… but what day “IS” the Sabbath? When I joined the United Pentecostal Church International in the 90s, I learned that the Sabbath is Saturday and not Sunday. If this is true, why do most churches have services on Sunday? I can’t seem to get a satisfactory answer. Perhaps with your Hebraic Christian expertise, you might be able to shed some light on this for me.
Answer from Victoria:
Don’t feel bad, you aren’t alone in your confusion. There needs to be clarification to the church concerning this subject. First of all, in the Hebrew reckoning of time a day starts at sundown according to Genesis 1:5 (It was evening and morning the first day). So, Sabbath actually starts at sundown on Friday and ends on sundown Saturday evening. Sabbath comes from the word sheva which means seven. God did not change the Sabbath to the first day of the week. Besides the fact that God’s Word never changes, it just wouldn’t make sense to start calling the 1st day of the week sheva (seven) or Shabbat as it were!
The purpose of Sabbath was a gift from God to man. If a person would trust God, then all his (or her) needs and provisions for that day would be offered to them freely by God. This would allow His children to rest from their labors (remember the double portion of manna given on the 6th day) and enjoy fellowship with their Creator. (Read Exodus. 16:26). Yeshua kept the Sabbath.
Shabbat Shalom is a common saying for the Sabbath. It means to have a restful or peaceful Sabbath. On a deeper level we can enter into the Sabbath by denying our own will or desires for the day and do good unto others. This is putting the carnal part of man to “rest” while we “practice” walking in the Spirit.
One day we will have an eternal Sabbath where the body literally “rests in peace” and we will be alive forever with the Lord. To get back to your question though, the disciples actually did both. They honored the Sabbath on the 7th day by going to the temple and “resting” from their labors, but at the end of Sabbath (when the sun went down they assembled together for fellowship,) they studied and prayed. It was not a formal service, but groups met in homes to encourage one another and hold one another accountable. This time after the Sabbath was called Motsei Shabbat meaning “after the Sabbath”.
When the apostle Paul came to the various homes of believers it was always after he visited the synagogues on Saturday. The believers stayed up late taking in all they could before the work day started the next morning. It is customary even today for Israelis to work on Sunday.
The custom of church on Sunday morning is a western Christian tradition. The Emperor of the Roman Empire, Constantine the Great, was a polytheist and worshipped the Sun God, Ra. When he made Christianity the one world religion in the 4th century, he enforced Sunday morning worship and forbade the feast and Sabbath instructed in Leviticus 23. The Romans and the Greeks looked down upon the Jews as inferior as they embraced Gnosticism (basically believing the Old Testament God was evil, but the New Testament and Jesus was good).
The church has gone through a lot of permutations since the first century instruction, and many of the customs and ways of our Jewish Messiah Yeshua have been altered. I encourage you to get some of Dr. Richard Booker’s books, mainly Jesus and the Biblical Feasts and the Miracle of the Scarlet Thread. I have no problem with worshipping the Lord any day of the week, be it Sunday, Wednesday or any day. But Sunday worship is not the same as the intended day of resting from our labors and carnality and joining God in spirit on His day of REST.
I wish you well on your spiritual journey and pray you get to know your Jewish Lord in His own Jewish context—the one in which God intended from the start of His Creation.