by Dr. Ken Matto

For many years the Church has called Sunday "The Sabbath Day." Many of us grew up with this reference to Sunday. God ordained the seventh day of the week as the sabbath, which was to become a day of rest. In fact, God Himself obeyed his own edict concerning the sabbath by resting on that day. Genesis 2:2 - 3 states:

"And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. {3} And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made."

Let us look at three words out of these passages:

Rested - It is the Hebrew Word "shabat" or sabbath. It means to cease or desist from work.

Blessed - It is the Hebrew Word "barak" which means "to kneel" as one kneels in adoration or to bless man as with a benefit.

Sanctified - It is the Hebrew word "qadash" which means "be clean, consecrated, or dedicated."

These three words play a significant role in understanding how God viewed the Old Testament Sabbath. He created it as a special day with an overtone of holiness. Right from the outset of our study we see that God views this day as special. Exodus 20:8-11 gives us further insight into the holiness of this day.

"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 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."

What we just quoted is the fourth commandment of the Decalogue or the Ten Commandments. As we plainly see God sets this day aside and not just sets it aside but considers it a holy day and blesses it. One fact we must keep in mind is that God obeyed the sabbath Himself.

There is an event in Scripture which seems so peculiar, yet it carries with it a vital message. Before we look at this scripture, let us pose the question, "Is God serious concerning the sabbath observance?" The following account is located in Numbers 15:32-36:

"And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall surely be put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses."

What a sentence just for picking up a few sticks on the sabbath. Is God mean or does He mean what He says? Is there a reason that God would command a person to be put to death for what it seems to us, a small infraction of the rules? First of all, we must lose this idea that God does things without reason.

I have heard well meaning Christians pay no attention to the numbers in the Bible because they feel there is no spiritual significance. The situation with this man who was stoned for picking up sticks carries with it a tremendous spiritual meaning.

God did not create a sabbath day observance for the purpose of creating it. It has spiritual significance. Another idea we must drop is the separating of the Bible into two distinct sections. The Old and New Testaments are inseparable because to understand the Bible, we must realize the Bible is one cohesive whole. The Old and New Testament are germane to the church today and to the individual Christian. If we separate the two testaments, we create a hermeneutical nightmare. The Biblical method which God gave us for proper interpretation is comparing scripture with scripture. This is openly stated in 1 Corinthians 2:13, as we must compare spiritual things with spiritual things. In other terms, the Bible is its own interpreter.

Now back to the spiritual meaning of Numbers 15:32-36. God obeyed the Sabbath observance by resting on the seventh day. This man violated the holy Sabbath by doing a work, menial as it was, nevertheless, it was a violation. To gain a clearer understanding of this passage, let us look at two passages of Scripture from Hebrews 4. The entire chapter of Hebrews 4 lends us assistance in understanding Numbers 15:32-36, but because of limited space, let us look at verses 9-11:

"There remaineth therefore a rest [sabbatismos] to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labor [Spoudaswmen] therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief."

Before we continue in the interpretation, let us look at the two Greek words which I placed in brackets:

sabbatismos - The English pronunciation is "sabbatismos." Thayer's Lexicon records the meaning as "A keeping of the Sabbath." In his second explanation he speaks of it as a "blessed rest from toils and troubles."

Spoudaswmen - The English pronunciation is "Spoudasomen." This word means "to be diligent." It does not mean that we must work for that rest but we are to be diligent in seeking that rest. The rest has been supplied for us by the work of Christ on Calvary.

If we have entered into his rest, we have ceased from our works. What works? Those works we do to try to get to Heaven. This is what God is showing us in Numbers 15:32-36. The Sabbath represented the finished work of Christ. His was the only sacrifice God would accept. The man who picked up sticks was violating the shadow of the Cross. Instead of resting on that Holy day, he picked up sticks, which represents a person working for their salvation. God also used the penalty of death on this man to foreshadow the eternal penalty of a person who thinks they are good enough to work for salvation. God will not allow anyone to bypass the Cross in their bid for Heaven. The only way of salvation is the Way Himself, which is the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

Hebrews 4:11 warns us that we are to enter into that rest but it does not come by unbelief, which is the foundation of all "work for salvation" gospels. The rest from works comes only through the finished work of Christ on Calvary.

We can safely conclude, that God is serious about the keeping of the seventh day sabbath because He chose that day as Holy. He shows us His attitude toward that day by having someone put to death because of the violation of it. Before we blame God for being unjust, we better read 1 Corinthians 10:5-6:

"But with many of them God was not pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted."

God is saying these things happened to them for an example to us. He is being quite merciful by recording all these things to warn those who think they can work for salvation, that they will stand for judgment on the last day. We made a slight detour in our quest for the understanding of the sabbath but it was a needed detour so we can see how important God viewed the Sabbath. This was just a little background of the Old Testament Sabbath. Much more could be culled out from the pages of the beloved Old Testament but now let us get on to


The sabbath question is not answered in the English Versions of the Bible whether they be the King James Version or the Modern Versions. The sabbath question is answered in the Greek text which is fully available so the student can check this study (and I hope you do) because Biblical truth when viewed with your own eyes makes a double impact plus you can then share information from a point of credibility. Too many people share information that other people give them without checking it out in the scriptures. This is very dangerous and brings down the credibility of the one presenting the information.

We will be focusing on eight verses which deal with the subject of the Sunday Sabbath, they are: Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2

Matthew 28:1

"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 sepulcher."

One of the first rules of grammar is that when you translate a word it must be translated not interpreted. If a word to be translated is plural, then the translated word must be plural also. You must never translate a singular word for plural or plural word for singular. This is precisely the case in all Bibles. We have translators who interpreted certain words (like the ones we will study) because they could not understand why God would use these words as He did. So, in essence, they interpreted according to how they believed God "should" have used that word. This has resulted in serious misinterpretation down through the ages of recorded church history.

Let us look at our verse in question. The phrase, "In the end of the sabbath," is incorrect. The Greek word behind "of the sabbath" is a plural word. It is sabbatwn which is a genitive plural word. The wn on the end of this word gives a clue to its plurality. In Greek, singular or plurality of a word is determined by its ending. The ending in this case is Omega nu which makes it plural. The phrase should have been translated, "In the end of the sabbaths," denoting a plurality. This is very important as we will see why.

Let us look at the next phrase very carefully, "as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week." First of all, you must note that in the King James Version, words which are written in italics are not in the original language and were placed in the text to try to clarify the meaning. In this case it has muddied the waters a little bit. We can get the second half of that phrase down to, "first of the week" with no harm to the original Scriptures. But we cannot stop there because it is in this phrase we will find the answer to our query.

The phrase "first of the week" consists of two Greek words , "mian sabbatwn" which is the same plural word in the first part of the verse. As you see the word was translated with a singular English word, "week," which is an erroneous translation. The term "mian sabbaton" should be translated, "first of the sabbaths." The word mian [mian] may either be translated, "first or one." The word is used both in the cardinal form which is a translation of number, such as one, two, etc. and the ordinal form which is translated as number in order, such as first, second, etc.

Now let us translate this verse according to our findings:

"In the end of the sabbaths, as it began to dawn toward the first of the sabbaths, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher."

It is also important to note that the two Greek words which are translated first throughout these sets of verses have a root word which means, "one, alone, one and the same, only one." These are the words "mian and mias"   which root to the Greek Word "eis." It is interesting to note that God uses specific language to enforce the teachings that there are not two Sabbaths but only one, and that one is Sunday. Do you see the difference in understanding the verse? I will go through the other verses and then will comment on the tremendous impact the true translation of these verses will have on our understanding of Sunday.

Mark 16:2

"And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun."

It should read:

"And very early in the morning the first of the sabbaths [mias sabbatwn], they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun."

The same situation as in Matthew 28:1. A plural word was translated as singular. Mias [mias] like mian [mian] is translated either first or one. We can translate either, one of the sabbaths or first of the sabbaths without doing any harm to God's word. The only thing that gets harmed is traditional belief based on error.

Mark 16:9

"Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he cast seven devils."

"Now when Jesus was risen early the first [prwth] of sabbath [sabbatou], he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he cast seven devils." The two Greek words in this verse are different than the other verses yet carry the same meaning. The word "prwth" is derived from the root word "prwtos" [protos] which is an ordinal word which may also be translated, "foremost, leading, most important, chief, and principal." "Prote" [prwth] is translated "first" in the following verses: Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:12; 2 Timothy 4:16; Hebrews 9:15; Revelation 20:6. The second Greek word is "sabbatou" [sabbatou] which may be translated "of sabbath." This word is in the singular and not plural. Sabbatou is a Genitive Singular word. God may be telling us in this verse that the chief happening on the new sabbath is the resurrection of His Son and that is to be our chief focus for that day.

Luke 18:12

This verse does not have anything to do with our study of the New Testament Sabbath but I am including it in here because it shows that faulty translation can give erroneous teachings. The passage of Luke 18:9-14 tells us of the parable of the Tax Collector and the Publican. Read the whole parable as I am only going to zero in on verse 12.

"I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess."

"I fast twice in the sabbath [tou sabbatou], I give tithes of all that I possess."

Now it takes on a different meaning. This Pharisee probably fasted twice on the sabbath day, which would be the Old Testament Sabbath. He did not fast twice in the week but twice on one day. Do you see how different the meaning is when we translate it correctly. Let us return to our study.

Luke 24:1

"Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulcher, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them."

"Now upon the first of the sabbaths, [mia twn sabbatwn] very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulcher, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them."

Here we see the same situation. In this verse the definite article "twn" is added in the sentence. It is akin to our "of the."

John 20:1

"The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulcher, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulcher."

"The first of the sabbaths [mia twn sabbatwn] cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulcher, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulcher."

In this verse also we see the same translation error, a plural word which is translated singular.

John 20:19

"Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you."

"Then the same day at evening, being the first of the sabbaths, [mia twn sabbatwn] when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you."

Here God adds a specific phrase to tell us that the disciples were gathered together on the first of the sabbaths, which is the first resurrection Sunday. God is impressing upon us that He has changed the sabbath because there are no phrases in the scriptures which are there accidentally or by chance. Everything is in by design.

Acts 20:7

"And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight."

"And upon one of the sabbaths, [mia twn sabbatwn] when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow, and continued his speech until midnight."

Here we see the church gathering on the sabbath to break bread, probably to celebrate the Lord's Supper. As we see it is no accident that the Church meets on Sunday, since this day is resurrection day and also the sabbath. This particular translation is translated "one of the sabbaths" since this Sunday is distanced from the first sabbath when Christ rose.

1 Corinthians 16:2

"Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come."

"Upon one of the sabbaths [mian sabbatwn] let every one of you lay him in store as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come."

The word mian in this context would probably be translated better as "one" instead of "first." This would not detract from the fact that Sunday is called the sabbath day.

We have learned that God definitely changed the seventh day sabbath to the first day sabbath. It is no longer a question of debate. What is laid out here is the Word of God in its original language. Remember, English is the foreign language to the Bible.

God changed the sabbath as He did the keeping of the Passover. If you recall the night before the Lord Jesus Christ was betrayed, He ate the Passover meal with His disciples and right on the heels of the Passover He institutes the Lord's Supper. No longer are we to commemorate the nation of Israel coming out of bondage in Egypt, but we are now to look forward to the coming of the Lord.

In Exodus 12:14, 17, 24, God commands the nation of Israel to keep the Passover forever. Well, if Christ replaced the Passover with the Lord's Supper, how can this be a perpetual observance forever. The answer is found in 1 Corinthians 5:7 (always keep in mind that the Bible is its own interpreter):

"Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:"

This verse seems to be focusing on "new" and "unleavened." Who is made new and unleavened but the Christian by the blood of Christ. For the child of God to keep the passover forever, one must be in Christ, for it is in Him that we keep this feast on a spiritual basis. The Lord's Supper is kept as an outward manifestation. The passover was only a foreshadow of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ and its spiritual significance ceased at the cross.

As we look in Exodus 31:12-18, the same situation exists. God commands the children of Israel to keep the sabbath day observance forever. How is that accomplished since we are not under law and since the sabbath was changed at the resurrection of Christ? Again, we look to the Bible to find the answer for that question and we have already looked at these verses in Hebrews 4. The sabbath, like passover, is kept in Christ. Only in Christ is there eternal life and all the feasts and observances find their fulfillment in Him. The Bible is Christocentric, as everything in Scripture points to the Lord Jesus Christ. No feast or observance stands on its own.

Now another question enters into the sabbath equation, if God changed the sabbath, did He change the method of observing it? Remember, the Old Testament Sabbath was observed as a day of absolute rest. Does the new sabbath follow the pattern of a day of rest or is it to be observed in a different manner? First, we will look at what events took place on the new sabbath.

1. Christ rose from the grave - God raised Him.

2. The believers are to meet on this new Sabbath - Acts 20:7 - This would require traveling which may be more than a half day's journey.
     That means the rest part of the sabbath has been repealed.

3. God poured out His Holy Spirit on the new sabbath.

4. We bring our offerings - 1 Cor. 16:1-2

These 4 instances all have one thing in common. They are all spiritual activities, yet they are all actual physical happenings. Matthew 12:1-8 gives us a bit of information into the Sabbath. According to the Old Testament sabbath, what Jesus and His disciples were doing was unlawful but in verse 8 we see that Christ is asserting His deity in that He is Lord of the sabbath. Did He do this to show that He is God and can do anything, even violate His own word? Perish the thought. Christ asserted His Lordship in Verse 8 to show us that something new was about to happen, the old was being done away with and the new was about to come in, and we saw the new sabbath as we did this study.

Now concerning the new sabbath, how are we to approach it to be obedient? If we are to correctly approach the sabbath, we must see how God views this sabbath. remember, God viewed the Old testament sabbath as holy and as a result a man was put to death for violating it. Will it be possible for Christian to violate the sabbath? Yes, that possibility exists. But God in His mercy, never leaves us without instruction. Let us look at Isaiah 58:13-14 and see if we can glean some principles on obedience to the New testament sabbath. Okay, I hear the objection, how can we glean principles of obedience for the New Testament sabbath in the Old testament. The umbrella principle is this, God never removed the sabbath, He just changed it and since the Bible is one cohesive whole, the principles in the Old testament are relevant to the New Testament.

Isaiah 58:13-14 states: "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, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it."

First of all, if we are to be obedient, we must turn away from doing our own things on that day. What are some of our things? They are comprised of: sports activities, watching or partaking; working around the house; doing car repairs which are not urgent; watching TV; going to restaurants; going shopping; and anything else which causes us to keep this day as a secular day. What if you have an emergency in your house, like a pipe breaks? You would fix it but that does not mean that since you have all your tools out, that you are going to install a new shower or if you have a flat tire, you surely would change it but that does not mean while you have your tools out you will give the car a tune-up. The principle is works of necessity or mercy.

Now what works are proper for the Sunday Sabbath? Writing letters to missionaries; handing out tracts on the street; going to church (this nonsense that it is the only day I have to myself is unbiblical, this day is not to anyone's personal benefit, unless they are obedient to it.)  In other words, any spiritual activity which keeps our mind focused on the Lord Jesus Christ is permissible. The New Testament sabbath is not a day of rest where I sit in the backyard or go swimming but it is a day of spiritual activity. It is great day to have an afternoon bible study or visit a hospital or nursing home or discipling, etc.

Many Christians might be facing difficult times in their life because of their reluctance to obey God's Holy sabbath. If anyone reads this study and rejects it, they are not rejecting a man but the word of God which is so plain on this subject. This monograph is designed to bring you back to or to an understanding of God's Holy sabbath and what it stands for. As Christians we do not have the right to set our own standards since we are not our own.

There is also something else which is very important to notice. The Fourth Commandment concerning the ceremonial Sabbath is the only one of the Ten Commandments not repeated in the New Testament.

May God richly guide you as you seek to be obedient. - 8/18/99