What is the “Lord’s Day” in the Book of Revelation?
By Peter Salemi
“I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,” (Rev 1:10).
There has been much speculation as what is exactly the “Lord’s Day” in the book of Revelation. Some believe it means “Sunday.” Others the “Day of the Lord” the time God judges the earth at the second coming of Christ. Other’s believed it is the Sabbath day. All make arguments to prove their side-but what does the Bible say?
Remember, due to people’s personal beliefs and biases we get many contradictions-not with the scriptures, but with people adding in their ideas about what the Bible is supposed to say which leads to confusion. If we let the Bible speak to us and do our research, there is no contradiction and the Bible makes perfect sense, “For God is not the author of confusion,” (1 Corinth 14:33); man is the problem not God.
What the “Lord’s Day” is NOT!
Let’s first eliminate what the “Lord’s Day” is not! The number one glaringly obvious mistake that many fundamentalist Christians make is that the “Lord’s day” is Sunday! There is only one day of the week in the Bible that is called the “Lord’s day” a day that belongs to God and that is the Sabbath day!
“Isaiah writes, “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD…” (Isaiah 58:13).
Jesus even called himself “Lord also of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28).
Even in History we find nowhere in the first century that the church called “Sunday” the “Lord’s day.” In fact, “all the references to Sunday as ‘the Lord’s day’ were used nearly one century after Revelation was written. As such, they cannot be regarded as evidence for determining the meaning of kuriakēi hēmerāi as Sunday at the time of the writing of Revelation” (“The Lord’s Day” of Revelation 1:10 in the Current Debate, by Ranko Stefanovic p.263, emphasis added).
However, they argue that two early second-century Christian writings, Didache and the letter of Ignatius of Antioch to the Magnesians, are commonly regarded as the strongest evidences for an early usage of kuriakēi hēmerāi with reference to Sunday.
The first, the Didache, you will find this statement; “On the Lord’s own day gather together and break bread and give thanks, [having first confessed your sins so that your sacrifice may be pure.]” However, “The substantive ‘day’ (hēmerāi in the accusative case) does not appear in the text, but rather is supplied by the translators and is rendered, ‘on the Lord’s day.’ However, there is no textual evidence that would warrant such a reading of the text, which is an obvious stretch. Nor does the context indicate that the Lord’s Day is intended. Strong evidence suggests, however, that the phrase could rather mean kata (“according to the Lord’s teaching…command, or… way”).” (ibid, p.264, emphasis added).
The second, letter of Ignatius of Antioch to the Magnesians, says, “If, then, those who had lived in antiquated practices came to newness of hope, no longer keeping the Sabbath but living in accordance with the Lord’s day, on which our life also arose through him and his death [which some deny], the mystery through which we came to believe, and because of which we patiently endure, in order that we might be found to be disciples of Jesus Christ, our teacher.” Again, “In this case as well, the word ‘day’ is supplied by the translators making the phrase read: ‘On the Lord’s day.’ The statement under consideration comes from the commonly accepted Greek edition of the middle recension of the Ignatian letters. The only surviving Greek manuscript of the middle recension, Codex G (Codex Mediceus Laurentius), considered to be the parent of other Greek manuscripts in existence today as well as the Latin translations, actually reads… (‘according with the Lord’s life’)…[and when it comes to not keeping the Sabbath in this letter] ‘Sabbatizing’ most likely does not mean Sabbath observance, but rather the keeping of the Sabbath in accordance with Judaism” (ibid, p.265, 267, emphasis added).
Yet Christians fundamentalists insist that it’s, “the ‘first day of the week’ (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinth 16:2): the day on which Christians met for worship, in commemoration of the Lord’s resurrection” (Halley’s Bible Handbook, p.691). Yet each place where the “first day of the week” is mentioned, the word “day” is in italics and added by the translators. In both, those scriptures it should read, “On one of the Sabbaths” (Concordant Literal Version and others like the Apostolic Polyglot). The New Testament shows that the New Testament church kept the Sabbath day and the resurrection took place on the 7th day Sabbath (Read our booklet Christ’s Resurrection on the 7th Day Sabbath for further details). So clearly the “Lord’s day” does NOT mean Sunday.
The “Day of the Lord?”
Does the “Lord’s Day” mean the “day of the Lord”? The time of God’s Judgment-the time Jesus, “…doth judge and make war.” (Rev 19:11). In other places in the New Testament it’s spoken of as the “day of the Lord” or the “day of Christ.”
5 times in the New Testament it is the “Day of the Lord” (see Acts 2:20; 1 Cor 5:5; 2 Cor 1:14; 1 Thess 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10). All these scriptures the “day of the Lord” in the Greek is “hēmera kuriou.”
3 times it’s the “day of Christ” (see Phil 1:10; 2:16; 2 Thess 2:2). All 3 scriptures in the Greek is “hēmera Christos.”
Now comparing these in the Greek with the “Lord’s Day” in Revelation, it is a different construction and uses a different word for “Lord.” The word κυρίου (kyriou [“of the Lord”]) is a genitive (denotes possession) masculine singular noun. It comes from κύριος (kyrios), a noun meaning “Lord.” In the context, “the day of the Lord” clearly refers to the eschatological day of the Lord, referring to the last day judgment, the day of the resurrection (see John 5:28-29 and 6:40). Now some say does it make a difference? Yes! The Apostles made sure of this when they were making a clear in-depth theological statement; using precise words for deep spiritual things. As we see with the scriptures above, they all match perfectly to let the audience know this significant event! “Authors tend to retain phraseology when it carries a heavy theological weight.” (Biblical Hermeneutics). Vincent Words Studies also agrees.
In Revelation 1:10, the words in the Greek are “en tēi kuriakēi hēmerā” The word κυριακῇ (kyriakē), translated “Lord’s,” is a dative (denotes an indirect object that is being expressed) feminine singular adjective, agreeing in case and gender with the noun it modifies (i.e., ἡμέρᾳ [hēmera; “day”]).” ( H. Bietenhard, “Lord,” in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, ed. Colin Brown (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 2:518.emphasis added).
This source states: “The theory that the day of Christ’s second coming is meant, is untenable. ‘The day of the Lord’ is different in the Greek from ‘the Lord’s (an adjective) day,”’ (Jamieson-Fausset and Brown Commentary).
“Lord’s” is an adjective describing the noun it modifies (i.e., “day”). The “Lord’s Day” true meaning is a day “pertaining to the Lord Jesus Christ,” (Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary, emphasis added).
“Barnes Notes states, “It properly means ‘pertaining to the Lord’; and, so far as this word is concerned, it might mean a day ‘pertaining to the Lord,’ in any sense, or for any reason; either because he claimed it as his own, and had set it apart for his own service, or because it was designed to commemorate some important event pertaining to him, or because it was observed in honor of him. It is clear:
(1) That this refers to some day which was distinguished from all other days of the week, and which would be sufficiently designated by the use of this term.
(2) That it was a day which was for some reason regarded as especially a day of the Lord, or especially devoted to him.
(3) It would further appear that this was a day particularly devoted to the Lord Jesus;” (emphasis added).
It is obviously speaking of a “day” and not a futuristic time of the God’s judgment.
Also the use of κυριακῇ (kyriakē) “Lord’s” according to G. K. Beale, “is never used of the ‘Day of the Lord’ in the LXX, NT…” (Beale, Revelation, p.203, emphasis added). This then makes it highly unlikely and puts the proof of burden on those who would claim otherwise.
Now the word “on” in this passage in the Greek is “en” and some want to translate it “in” to show that John was transported to the time of the “Day of the Lord” or the “Lord’s Day.” However according to Uriah Smith, “The word…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.” (Daniel and the Revelation, emphasis added). It means a 24 hour period of time, a “Day” that pertains to the Lord Jesus.
The word κυριακῇ (kyriakē [“Lord’s]) is used twice in the New Testament—here in Revelation 1:10 and in 1 Corinthians 11:20.
In 1 Corinthians 11:20 Paul speaks of the “Lord’s Supper.” “Kuriakos deipnon” “In Corinthians we read of ‘the Lord’s Supper’ in the same way as ‘the Lord’s Day’ is used here.” (Annotated Bible). The “supper” is called “the Lord’s,” because Jesus applied it to him. The Passover Meal was also “in honor of him;” (Barnes’s Notes). And so, “‘the Lord’s day’ is no ordinary day, nor is ‘the Lord’s supper’ an ordinary meal. Both the ‘day’ and the ‘supper’ are distinctively His. The sacred character of the ‘day’ and of the ‘supper’ should be maintained in their fullest integrity.” (Scott, Walter - An Exposition of the Revelation of Jesus Christ).
Also, when one looks at the chapter you will see a glorified Christ walking among the 7 candlesticks, ministering to them at the present age. Revelation 1:9, 10 gives the time and place when he received the vision, rather than implying that in his vision he was transported to the final Day of Judgment. The Pulpit Commentary states, “That ‘the Lord’s day’ (ἡ Κυριακὴ ἡμέρα) in this place is the same as ‘the day of the Lord’ (ἡ ἡμέρα τοῦ Κυίου) is not at all probable. The context is quite against any such meaning as that St. John is spiritually transported to the Day of Judgment.” (Emphasis added). The Sermon Bible says, “but such a meaning would not serve St. John’s purpose here; he is plainly giving the date of his great vision, not the scene to which it introduced him, and just as he says that it took place in the isle of Patmos, thus marking the place, so he says that it was on the Lord’s Day, thus marking the time.” (Emphasis added).
When one reads the previous verses leading up to vv.9-10 you will find, verses 1-3 is the title of the book. Verse 4 is a salutation to the churches in Asia. Verse 5 is the Gospel message of Salvation. Verse 6-7 is the Gospel of the Kingdom message. And verse 8 quotes Jesus Christ telling the church who he is. There is nothing in the previous verses about a vision of the day of the Lord.
Lastly the Annotated Bible states, “This view [of it being the ‘day of the Lord’] is not correct. It is not the prophetic day of the Lord, but the Lord’s Day… [how] could John have been projected to the day of the Lord when his first message given to him by the glorified Christ [was] concerned the church and her history on earth.” (Emphasis added).
John was “in the spirit” “on” a particular “day” called the “Lord’s day;” when “he saw the vision rather than the subject of the vision” (Daniel and Revelation p.735, emphasis added).
Outline of the Book of Revelation
Notice how the book is laid out; in chapter one in the 19th verse we get the threefold division of the Book of the Revelation: “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter”—or “after these things.”
“The things which thou hast seen” are the things of chapter one in verses 11-18, the first division of the book of the Revelation, as many biblical commentaries acknowledge like Barnes’s, Robertson’s and Jamieson.
“The things which are” follow in the next two chapters and make the second division, which deals with the present dispensation. The seven churches give us a picture of the whole professing church’s history from the apostolic period to the coming of the Lord Jesus. These two chapters portray the condition of the church on earth.
“The things which shall be after these things,” are the events described in chapters 4 to the end, and make the third and last division of the book. These are the things which will take place—the great tribulation, the kingdom, and the eternal state. So chapter one shows know vision of the “day of the lord.”
Which “day”is Pertaining to the “Lord”?
To what “day” does John refer? This scripture should be translated, “on the day pertaining to the Lord (Jehovah or Jesus)” (Strong’s # 2960; see also Vine’s Expository Words, p.380).
As noted above, this word is an adjective meaning; it’s a word that describes a noun. The word “day” is the noun. “Kuriakos” “Lord” is agreeing in case and gender with the noun (i.e. day) in the feminine singular. “…this adjective in the feminine form, in connection with the Greek word day… is translated Lord’s Day, i.e. Christ’s day” (The Church Member's Manual Of Ecclesiastical Principles, Doctrine, and Discipline by W. Crowell, Footnote, p.33).
The Hebrew word for “Sabbath” is a “noun feminine or masculine” (Brown Driver and Briggs Hebrew Def). Jim West writes of the Sabbath as a “feminine noun” (ThD Adjunct Professor of Biblical Studies Quartz Hill School of Theology). Is this the “day” John is speaking of? Of Course! What else? It makes a specific reference to God’s own day (Isa 58:13)-a day that pertains to Him (Jesus is “Lord also of the Sabbath day”); A day that Christians honor and worshipped him. And just before John speaks of the “Lord’s day” he calls Jesus “Lord” (v.8), so there is no mistaking whose day this is!
The idea of the Sabbath day being God’s day was frequently revealed in the Old Testament. It is called “The Sabbath of the LORD” (Deut. 5:14; Exod. 20:10; Lev. 23:3, 38). God calls it “My Sabbath” (Lev. 19:3, 30; Exod. 31:3; Lev. 26:2; Isa. 56:4; Ezek. 20:12-24; 22:8, 26; 23:38; 44:24), and He says it is “My holy day” (Isa. 58:13). The Sabbath day truly is God’s day or “the Lord’s Day” in many respects. Thus, while the actual phrase “the Lord’s day'” has no equivalent in Hebrew or Aramaic, the use of the adjective “Lord’s” is explained by the use of the title “Lord” for Jesus, and this title has its roots deep in the Old Testament. The day of Yahweh God is the day of Christ-and Jesus is the GOD OF THE OLD TESAMENT! (Read our booklet Who, What is God for further details)
Now Jesus said he is “Lord also of the Sabbath day.” (Mark 2:28) But in what way is He Lord of this day? One Bible commentary states:
“In what sense is the Son of man Lord of the Sabbath? Surely not to destroy it, for that would be a strange lordship. But rather to own it, to interpret it, to preside over it, and to ennoble it, by merging it in the ‘Lord’s Day’ (Rev. 1:10), breathing into it an air of liberty and love necessarily unknown before” (Jamieson, Fausset & Brown, A Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. II, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House, 1928, p. 40). Some authors like Walter Martin say that Mark “was saying that as Lord of all He could do as He pleased on the Sabbath.” Would God break his own moral standards? The Bible says that it is “impossible for God to lie” God is subject to his moral standards including the Sabbath. Martin feels that Jesus has free reign and can do what he wishes on the Sabbath including abolishing it! Nonsense!
Rather the meaning is that the Sabbath (which is in the genitive) receives the action of Christ’s lordship. He created the Sabbath. He governs it. He says what should be done on it. He commanded men to keep it holy, and by His own example observed it as it ought to be observed (Luke 4:16)-the way the Old Testament says to observe it; because God doesn’t change his ways (Mal 3:6; Heb 13:8). The Sabbath commandment is Christ’s commandment, and to us He says, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
Archaeological discoveries have thrown added light on the expression kuriaki himera. Papyri and inscriptions from the imperial period in Roman history found in Egypt and Asia Minor employ the word kuriakos (the masculine form of kuriaki) to the imperial treasury and the imperial service. This is understandable inasmuch as the Roman emperor was often called in Greek the kurios, “lord,” and consequently his treasury and service were the “lord's treasury” and the “lord’s service.” Thus kuriakos was a familiar word in Roman official language for things pertaining to the emperor. One such inscription comes from as early as A.D. 68, so it is clear that this usage of kuriakos was current in John’s time (see Adolf Deissmann, Light From the Ancient East, pp. 357-361).
On this same inscription there appears a reference to a day named for the Empress Julia, or Livia, as she is better known. On other inscriptions both from Egypt and Asia Minor, the term sebaste, the Greek equivalent of Augustus, frequently appears as the name of a day. Apparently these are references to special days honoring the emperor (see Deissmann, loc. cit.). “John chose the expression kuriake hemera for the Sabbath as a subtle means of proclaiming the fact that, as the emperor had special days devoted to his honor, so John’s Lord, for whose sake he now suffered, also had His day.” (Daniel and the Revelation p.736, emphasis added).
“Acts of John”
As Sunday began to gain a foothold, fraudulent letters began to circulate, and these letters are often quoted today as proof of Sunday. All these letters were just propaganda for the Roman Bishops who refused to keep the Sabbath due to their anti-Semitism.
Irenaeus, a bishop in France, living toward the close of the second century, wrote a letter to bishop Victor of Rome. He names specifically the men who first began to observe not only every Sunday, but also “Easter Sunday” and who forbade the Passover and the Sabbath to be observed in accordance with the practice of the apostles! Here is what Irenaeus wrote:
“We mean Anicetus, and Pius, and Hyginus, and Telesphorus, and Xystus. They neither observed it” — the true Passover on the 14th of Nisan-“nor did they permit those after them to do so.” Who were these men? -bishops of the Church at Rome! Here is the first record, by a Catholic, of the fact that the Roman bishops observed the Passover on a Sunday!
It was bishop Xystus who was the first recorded individual to prevent the proper observance of the Sabbath and the Passover, and to celebrate the “sacred mysteries” each Sunday morning, and annually on a Sunday.
Irenaeus speaks further of him, declaring that his doctrine was in direct “opposition” to the practice of the remainder of the churches. Bishop Sixtus was living at the beginning of the second century, just after the apostle John died! According to Roman Catholic tradition, he enforced his new practice around 125 A.D. This is the “ancient tradition” Socrates mentions in his history that, “For although almost all churches throughout The World celebrated the sacred mysteries on the Sabbath of every week, yet the Christians of Alexandria and at Rome, on account of some ancient tradition, refuse to do this.” The footnote which accompanies the foregoing quotation explains the use of the word “Sabbath.” It says: “That is, upon the Saturday. It should be observed, that Sunday is never called ‘the Sabbath’ by the ancient Fathers and historians.” Socrates, “Ecclesiastical History,” Book 5, chap. 22, p. 289, emphasis added).
However, even though this propaganda was going on, during the latter half of the 2nd century we find a statement from the apocryphal “Acts of John” that may be of interest in spite of its dubious worth, it says, “And on the seventh day, it being the Lord’s day…” (English translation from ANF, Vol. 8, pp. 560, 561). In this article, the footnote says, “(The ‘seventh day’ here may refer to the seventh–day Sabbath specifically or to the seventh day of the journey. If it is the latter, it would be the seventh–day Sabbath as well, inasmuch as the practice in John’s area was not to fast on the Sabbath.” (How Sunday Became the Popular Day of Worship by Kenneth A. Strand). Now think of it? If “although almost all churches throughout The World celebrated the sacred mysteries on the Sabbath of every week” during the time shortly after John’s death, then isn’t it only logical that the “Lord’s Day” means the Sabbath? What else could it have meant to those people reading the book of Revelation?
John was in the “Spirit”?
The whole key to this is John being in the “spirit.” This shows that on the “Lord’s day”-the Sabbath John “was in the Spirit” meaning, “i.e. in a condition of ecstasy, not by being transported to view events of the ‘day of the lord’, but to receive the vision on ‘the day that belongs to the Lord’’’ (The New Bible Commentary p.1426, emphasis added). “It happened [the vision] as he was in the spirit on the Lord’s Day” (Holman Bible Dictionary p.788, emphasis added).
John was in a spiritual state of consciousness when this vision came upon him. John was in an attitude of worship, not in a state of ecstasy as in Rev 4:2 and being transported to view events (see Rev 4:1). He was in a state of honoring God by thinking about Him, His majesty and power. This phrase means that he was filled with the Spirit, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his…That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. ” (Rom 8:9, 4).
Jesus said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24). This what John was doing! On the “Lord’s Day” the Sabbath he was worshipping Almighty God, he was filled with the spirit of God, and in this state of spiritual consciousness he received the vision of Jesus in the midst of the 7 candlesticks. And why did he see Jesus in the midst of his church? It was the Sabbath, when people assemble in his name, Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20).
Notice also on the “Lord’s Day” John “heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet” (v.10). This source states, “…when he heard a great trump-like voice. In the first century A.D. the trumpet was used in cultic (worship) setting to signal different elements of the worship service or to announce the beginning of festivals or other public events” (New Collegeville Bible Commentary: One Volume Hardcover Edition, p.1483). These things they did during second temple times assembling people for the Sabbath and the festivals and the same thing is going on here on the “Lord’s day” when John received the vision. There is no mistaking it that this is the Sabbath Day!
So clearly, the “Lord’s day” is the Sabbath- God’s “Holy Day” John received the vision of Jesus in the midst of his church on his Holy Day being their “Lord also of the Sabbath” and showing him the things of the present and what was to come in the future- a message for us today.
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