The controversy over the Christian Sabbath has been with us since the beginning of the New Testament church age, and shows no signs of being resolved soon.
On the one hand there are those who hold to the Old Testament seventh day Sabbath. This position is based on their misunderstanding of the Old Testament Sabbath, and what it was God was teaching through its implementation. They stubbornly resist the notion that the Sabbath could have been changed by God from the seventh day to the first day of the week.
On the other hand, and I think by far the majority believe Sunday is the New Testament Sabbath. Though they may hesitate to call it a Sabbath, opting instead to call it the Lords Day, or some other generic term. This group also demonstrates a lack of understanding concerning the Sabbath, and Gods purpose for that special day.
Those that hold to the seventh day Sabbath are correct when they insist that if a change in the Sabbath is to take place it is God who must do it. They are mistaken, however, when they insist he has not done so. In Matt 12:8 we read, "For the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day." To be Lord, means to rule. So we see here that as Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus has the authority and the ability to change the Sabbath according to his will. The question before us, is did he? I will attempt to demonstrate that indeed, he did.
As always, the Bible alone and in its entirety is the divine authority. Any question concerning the Sabbath, to be answered, must be answered by the Bible. So it is to the Bible we will go.
The Bible is absolutely true in the original autographs. That is, in the original manuscripts written by the original writers. The original writers were inspired by God to speak and record the word God gave them. 2 peter 1:21 reads, "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." But any translation of those original manuscripts is not inspired and must be scrutinized very carefully to make certain they are translated as accurately as possible.
Some translations are more accurate than others, but none is above reexamination. For this purpose, concordances and interlinear Bibles are very important to the one seeking to determine as closely as possible what God is saying on any subject. I generally use the King James Version because it is the most literal of the English translations. But, like all English bibles, with the exception of one that I am aware of, the King James version also obscures the biblical witness that will answer this important question concerning the Sabbath.
The answer lies in the proper understanding of the word, Sabbath, and how it is to be translated, and understood. So if we are to discover if the Bible describes a change from the Old Testament Sabbath observed on the seventh day to a New Testament Sabbath observed on the first day of the week, where do we look?
One of the best examples we have is Matt 28:1 where we read, "In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre." This verse describes the resurrection of the Lord Jesus on Sunday morning. It also points to the fact that Jesus was in the Tomb resting on the seventh day Sabbath.
But first lets look at how God uses the word Sabbath in this passage. The word is used twice in this verse. Both times it is the same word and both times it is translated improperly. In this verse, the word is, Sabbatwn. Pronounced Sabbatone. It is the plural form of the word. the singular form is Sabbata. In Matt 28:1, both times it is used it is the plural form and must be translated, Sabbaths...more than one Sabbath.
The question arises, Is it permissible for the translators to just arbitrarily change a word from a plural to a singular, or from singular to plural for that matter? After all it is only a change of one letter, surely it is no big deal. Except that God says, it is a big deal.
He establishes this principal in Galations 3:16, where we read. "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ". You see, God said exactly what he wanted. He said seed, singular. And he emphasizes, not seeds, plural. One seed..which is Christ. We dare not change even the smallest letter to suit our own purposes or because it seems to somehow made a passage easier for us to understand. After all, If you change a letter in a word, you change the meaning of the word. If you change the meaning of a word, you change the meaning of the sentence the word is in. And on and on until you change the truth of what God has said. Until eventually you are saying, thus saith the Lord, when the Lord has not said it. It is odd, that the ones who translated Gal 3:16, did not remember that principle when they translated Matt 28:1
So in Matt 28:1, both times the word sabbatwn must be translated sabbaths, and then we can see exactly what it is God had in veiw when he placed this statement in the Bible. Literally this verse should read, "At the end of the sabbaths, as it began to dawn toward the first of the sabbaths....
When you compare the way this verse should be translated, and the way it was translated in virtually every english translation, it is easy to see why the translators translated it the way they did. I'm sure they knew literally how to translate this verse. But in their desire to make certain there was no question that the ceremonial law was fulfilled by Christ, and had come to an end, they eliminated the second "sabbaths" and replaced it with "of the week". They didn't want to drag the ceremonial sabbath observances into the New Testament church age, so first one and then another and each one in succesion continued to translate it the same way. Compounding the error and obscuring a wonderful truth from generations of Christians.
Wonderfully in spite of the fact that the Biblical testimony to the Sunday Sabbath has been hidden, for the most part the church has continued to follow the example of the first century church and gather for worship on Sunday.
Now back to Matt 28:1. It was at Christís resurrection that the Old Testament Sabbaths came to an end, and the New Testament Sabbaths began. The language of this passage perfectly suits that conclusion. As Jesus lay in the tomb on that final seventh day Sabbath, He rested....In perfect obedience to the law. Psalm 16:10 says, "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou allow thine Holy One to see corruption." Jesus rested on the Sabbath from all his labors to provide salvation for his people. Normally immediately following death, a body begins to decay. This was not so in Jesus case, his body did not see corruption. If it had, that also would have been part of the work he had to perform, and would have violated both the Sabbath, as well as the prophetic statement in psalms.
Then the last of the Old Testament Sabbaths came to an end, and it began to dawn toward the first of the New Testament Sabbaths. The word translated "of the week", is exactly the same as the word translated Sabbath. It too is the plural form of Sabbath, Sabbatwn and must also be translated Sabbaths.
Matt 28:1, describes perfectly the end of the era of Old Testament Sabbaths and the beginning of a whole new era of New testament Sabbaths that continue with us still today. The cause of that change is the most earthshaking event ever to happen in the history of man. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The declaration by God himself that the debt of those he came to save had been paid. The Fathers wrath towards them was satisfied. Death had been vanquished, no wonder the change. The Old Testament Sabbath pointed to our rest in his completed work on behalf of his people. The New Testament Sabbath points back in celebration of the good news of his triumph in victory. 1Cor 15:54-57 "So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immorality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now lest you think I am placing too much weight on one verse let me assure you this is not the case. Each of the four gospels uses exactly the same kind of language, that agrees exactly with matt 28:1. Matthew is not the exception, it is the rule. Here are the others without explanation. Mark16:2 kjv "And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun". Should have been translated...And very early in the morning, on the first of the Sabbaths"... Luke 24:1 kjv "Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them." Should have been translated...Now upon the first of the Sabbaths, very early in the morning... John 20:1 kjv "The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.... Should have been translated....The first of the Sabbaths cometh Mary Magdalene early....You can see, in each instance the translators followed the same pattern of mistranslation. When that is corrected and the words God used are translated to the letter, the truth God was expressing is readily seen.
These verses are not the only place where the translators demonstrated a reluctance to translate exactly what God said concerning the sabbaths. And as we continue to discuss this subject, I'm sure more of these will be seen.
To conclude then. Jesus who is indeed Lord of the sabbath, did change the law concerning the sabbath. He changed it from the seventh day of the week to the first. The Bible clearly demonstrates this change and must be seriously considered by all who sincerely desire to follow Christ in all things concerning faith and practice.
I don't expect you to just accept my word for this, but I expect you to be like the Bereans and search the scriptures to see if these things are so. If you need a good interlinear Bible, you can download one free at e-sword.com, and see for yourself. If you disagree with me I will not be offended at all. On the other hand, if you find yourself disagreeing with God and his Word and continue in your old beliefs and practices, in spite of what God says, that is another matter all together. That is between you and God.
This may have created more questions than it did answers. What then was the nature of the Old Testament sabbaths? How did those sabbaths differ from the New Testament sabbaths? And How are we to observe the New Testament sabbaths in our day? Perhaps in the future we will be able to discuss these and other questions together as well. In the meantime, may the Lord richly bless you.