What day of the week is the “Lord’s Day” found in Revelation 1:10? Is it the Sabbath day (The Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath – Mark 2:28/Luke 6:5), or is it the 8th day/1st day of the week? Initially I looked to Leviticus 23, reasoning that all the feast days are days of the Lord, after all He says, “These are my feasts.” That would include every Sabbath day, and according to the Dead Sea Scrolls Calendar, have particular days that fell on every other day of the week except Mondays and Thursdays. When the apostles and believers were reported gathering on the “first of the week”, I assumed that they were gathering either the day of the resurrection (First Fruits of Barley) or the day of Pentecost (Feast of Weeks) – isolated occasions in the liturgical year.
The Leviticus 23 brushstroke worked with the account of the Lord’s day in Didache 14, “But every Lord's day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one who is at odds with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: "In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations." There is nothing specific there to indicate a particular day.
I found Barnabas 15:8, “… but the Sabbath which I have made, in the which, when I have set all things at rest, I will make the beginning of the eighth day which is the beginning of another world. Wherefore also we keep the eighth day for rejoicing, in the which also Jesus rose from the dead, and having been manifested ascended into the heavens.” Here, there is no label “the Lord’s Day”, but we do have an introduction to the combination of resting on the Sabbath and keeping the eighth day, which is what the New Testament seems to document. It is clear the Christians, both Jewish and Gentile, met regularly on the Sabbath day for the reading of the Law, prophets and writings, and also went out to pray. However, the meetings on the first day might not have been limited to the two feast days that landed on the first day of the week. It might have been a regular occurrence – a way for those who believed in Yeshua to come together and celebrate their Messiah.
Ignatius, in his letter to the Magnesians as he is being led to Rome for martyrdom, writes, “If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death…” He clearly associates the Lord’s Day with the day of the resurrection. But, later in the same letter, he clarifies his intentions on the Sabbath – not to eliminate it, but to keep it in the fullness of the Spirit, as Yeshua taught with many other commandments on the Sermon on the Mount. “But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, and walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them.” And then on the day following the Sabbath he says, “And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord's Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days [of the week].” Some might read his letter and suppose he is speaking against the Sabbath and Torah keeping in general. However, he is, like Paul does, speaking against those who say these things must be done to earn their way into the Kingdom. The Torah is not our ticket in – Yeshua is. The Torah is the law of the Kingdom once we get there. Ignatius’ teaching on the Sabbath is also in concert with Yeshua’s teaching on it as he was walking through the grainfields on the Sabbath. The Priests defiled the Sabbath without sin. It is not a day for people to go about their own work, but about the Father’s work.
Given Ignatius’ definition of “work” on the Sabbath being not the work of self-provision, but of study and releasing others from bondage, and the resistance of “Judaizers” being the resistance of those who suppose we can earn our way into the Kingdom of God, it seems that a different view of the ruling from the Council of Laodicea can be made: “Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord’s Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.”
In is evident in the Apostolic Constitutions that both the Sabbath day and Lord’s day have continued observances: Book II, LIX “When you instruct the people, O bishop, command and exhort them to come constantly to church morning and evening every day… singing psalms and praying in the Lord's house: in the morning saying the sixty-second Psalm, and in the evening the hundred and fortieth, but principally on the Sabbath day. And on the day of our Lord's resurrection, which is the Lord's day, meet more diligently, sending praise to God that made the universe by Jesus, and sent Him to us, and condescended to let Him suffer, and raised Him from the dead. Otherwise what apology will he make to God who does not assemble on that day to hear the saving word concerning the resurrection, on which we pray thrice standing in memory of Him who arose in three days, in which is performed the reading of the prophets, the preaching of the Gospel, the oblation of the sacrifice, the gift of the holy food?” In the current liturgy, the Lord’s Prayer is said standing three times daily: morning, evening, and at mass. By the time of the compilations of these writings, the Sabbath is still observed, and there is a clear distinction between it and the Lord’s Day.
In Book V which outlines various observances, a conclusion regarding feasts and fasts says, “We enjoin you to fast every fourth day of the week, and every day of the preparation, and the surplusage of your fast bestow upon the needy; every Sabbath day excepting one, and every Lord's day, hold your solemn assemblies, and rejoice: for he will be guilty of sin who fasts on the Lord's day, being the day of the resurrection, or during the time of Pentecost, or, in general, who is sad on a festival day to the Lord. For on them we ought to rejoice, and not to mourn.” Again it is evident that the Lord’s day is not regarded the same as the Sabbath. Also, those familiar with the Didache will notice the prescribed fast days have not changed.
Book VII expounds on the meanings of the two days, “XXXVI. O Lord Almighty You have created the world by Christ, and hast appointed the Sabbath in memory thereof, because that on that day You have made us rest from our works, for the meditation upon Your laws. You have also appointed festivals for the rejoicing of our souls, that we might come into the remembrance of that wisdom which was created by You; how He submitted to be made of a woman on our account; He appeared in life, and demonstrated Himself in His baptism; how He that appeared is both God and man; He suffered for us by Your permission, and died, and rose again by Your power: on which account we solemnly assemble to celebrate the feast of the resurrection on the Lord's day, and rejoice on account of Him who has conquered death, and has brought life and immortality to light. For by Him You have brought home the Gentiles to Yourself for a peculiar people, the true Israel beloved of God, and seeing God. For You O Lord, brought our fathers out of the land of Egypt, and delivered them out of the iron furnace, from clay and brick-making, and redeemed them out of the hands of Pharaoh, and of those under him, and led them through the sea as through dry land, and bore their manners in the wilderness, and bestowed on them all sorts of good things. You gave them the law or decalogue, which was pronounced by Your voice and written with Your hand. You enjoined the observation of the Sabbath, not affording them an occasion of idleness, but an opportunity of piety, for their knowledge of Your power, and the prohibition of evils; having limited them as within an holy circuit for the sake of doctrine, for the rejoicing upon the seventh period. On this account was there appointed one week, and seven weeks, and the seventh month, and the seventh year, and the revolution of these, the jubilee, which is the fiftieth year for remission, that men might have no occasion to pretend ignorance. On this account He permitted men every Sabbath to rest, that so no one might be willing to send one word out of his mouth in anger on the day of the Sabbath. For the Sabbath is the ceasing of the creation, the completion of the world, the inquiry after laws, and the grateful praise to God for the blessings He has bestowed upon men. All which the Lord's day excels, and shows the Mediator Himself, the Provider, the Lawgiver, the Cause of the resurrection, the First-born of the whole creation, God the Word, and man, who was born of Mary alone, without a man, who lived holily, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and died, and rose again from the dead. So that the Lord's day commands us to offer unto You, O Lord, thanksgiving for all. For this is the grace afforded by You, which on account of its greatness has obscured all other blessings.”
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. Shalom.