No, Sunday Worship is Not the Mark of the Beast

Someone recently drew my attention to a series of videos on Amazon Prime going by the title, “The Days of Noah.” I hate to draw attention to videos that are filled with misinformation, but I fear that someone else might come across them and so, I’m posting this here in case that someone is you.

The videos are called “The Days of Noah” and they are a series of four documentaries claiming to teach the principles of the end times in light of the way things were during Noah’s day.

If you don’t want to read the rest of this long post, that’s fine with me. I’ll just give you the quick and the dirty. These videos are put out by Seventh Day Adventists to scare people into thinking that they are in danger of God’s judgment for not being Seventh Day Adventists.

Please don’t believe it.

I won’t take the time to unpack all that is wrong with Seventh Day Adventist doctrine, but I will highlight one claim that is made in one tiny part of the video to show you how deeply wrong even that one tiny bit is.

I watched 10 minutes of episode 3, from the 38 to 48 minute mark, and during those 10 minutes, they make the following argument (in my words):

Revelation 14:9 and following talk about the mark of the beast and the judgment which will be poured out on those who get it. However, Revelation 7 talks about the people of God being marked with a “seal.” Therefore, the “mark” of the beast and the “seal” of God must be opposite concepts, and the key difference between people with God’s favor and those without God’s favor is whether they have the “seal” of God’s covenant or whether they have the “mark” of the worship of the beast. Since “Seals” in the ancient world always had the inscription of the Name, Title, and Jurisdiction of the authority figure, and the only command in the Ten Commandments to mention God with his Name, Title, and Jurisdiction was the Sabbath command, we must conclude that the Sabbath command is the “seal” of God and the mark of the beast must be something opposite… like worship on Sunday.

Now, it’s obvious that worship on Sunday is not the opposite of worship on Saturday, but they claim that Satan doesn’t really work in “opposites” but in “counterfeits.” Sunday worship is counterfeit worship, but it’s still the mark of the beast. They are saying, if you worship God on any day other than Saturday, you have embraced the Mark of the Beast.

I want to address that specific claim, but first, I also want to acknowledge why the claim is compelling. The idea of the Mark of the Beast is scary. Revelation tells us God will judge the people who get it, so we live in a little fear constantly that we might accidentally get it without knowing about it. It’s a scary thing to think that God might punish you for eternity for something you didn’t even know you were doing!

If the Mark of the Beast scares you, I want to help you out. First, let’s spend a bit of time talking about worship, Sunday worship, and what the Bible really has to say about the Sabbath.

New Testament Evidence for Sunday Worship

Jesus rose again on a Sunday, and on that day, people worshipped him.

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. — Luke 24:1 NIV

Immediately after Jesus’ death, the disciples began meeting on Sunday.

Consider the very first two Sundays following Jesus’ crucifixion:

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. — John 20:19-20 NIV

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” – John 20:26-28 NIV

On each of the first two Sundays after the crucifixion, the disciples gathered, Jesus met them there, they worshipped him with joy!
Gathering on the first day bears the mark of Jesus, not the mark of the Beast!

The early Christians continued the practice of gathering on the first day of the week.

On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. — Acts 20:7 NIV

Actually, the early Christians met ALL THE TIME!

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. — Acts 2:46-47 NIV

Paul specifically teaches against the idea of holy days.

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces ? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. – Galatians 4:8-11 NIV

Paul encourages expressing grace regarding other people’s convictions regarding holy days.

One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. – Romans 14:5-8 NIV

Old Testament Considerations

The Old Testament cares way less about Sabbath meaning Saturday than people think it does.

Let’s consider the Old Testament. What about it? What about the covenant? Is it possible that worship on the Sabbath was a sign of the covenant with God? Shouldn’t we worship God according to his covenant? Actually, having a conversation about the covenant is something I’d love to do, but I’ll limit myself right now to the idea that Sabbath worship was the sign or seal of God on a person’s life.

The Sabbath was a sign of faithfulness.

Now, I will grant that during Old Testament times, keeping the Sabbath was a sign of a person’s commitment to God. Take these verses for example:

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the LORD’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the LORD,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
The mouth of the LORD has spoken.
Isaiah 58:13-14 NIV

Seventh Day Adventists will claim that the important part of that passage is that we keep the seventh day as the holy day, and that if we move our worship to another day, we have moved away from the covenant. However, a closer look at the passage in context will clearly indicate that God doesn’t care about which day they called the Sabbath. He cared about whether the people were “honoring” the Sabbath or doing their own thing. God doesn’t care when you pretend to worship; he cares whether your life reflects your overall commitment to him. The Sabbath is a symbol of their allegiance to God, but it literally means nothing if it isn’t accompanied by good behavior every day.

Consider this:

“I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! – Amos 5:21-24 NIV

Again, God’s heart has never been for the method or timing of the worship, but whether the worship was actually a recognition of our allegiance to him. Justice and righteousness are about something far more than which day of the week we go to church.

Look at every Old Testament passage about the Sabbath in its context, and you’ll see that their point is not to make sure people worship on the right day. The point is always that people worship the holy God with innocent hands. In fact, there are so many places in the Old Testament where the day of the week is completely irrelevant.

“First” days were just as important.

Just do a Bible word search for the phrase “first day” and see what comes up. Here are some interesting things I found.

First, searching for “first day,” you’ll see many, many times when God initiates his relationship with a prophet on the “first day” of a month, a season, or a king’s reign. Most of the time, it is the first day of the month, but here’s the interesting thing, unlike our calendar, Jewish people started every month with a Sunday (most likely).

Now, this is actually really important. The ancient Jewish people based their months on the phases of the moon. That means every month would have been 28 days long and every month would have had four weeks exactly. In other words, their months and weeks were always in sync. The first day of the month was the first day of the week. The first day of the month was therefore always a Sunday, and so, you can see how important Sundays were to God with all these statements about the “first day.”

Consecrating the Temple

When they had assembled their fellow Levites and consecrated themselves, they went in to purify the temple of the LORD, as the king had ordered, following the word of the LORD…. They began the consecration on the first day of the first month, and by the eighth day of the month they reached the portico of the LORD. For eight more days they consecrated the temple of the LORD itself, finishing on the sixteenth day of the first month. — 2 Chronicles 29:15, 17 NIV

Based on a lunar month, days 1 & 8 are Sundays, and day 16 is a Monday. Even if we are wrong about whether their months were lunar or not (there actually isn’t much evidence for how the Israelites counted their months and years), at maximum, only two of those special days could have been Saturdays.

Teaching the Law after Returning from Exile

So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.…

Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. – Nehemiah 8:2-3, 5-6 NIV

Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the festival for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly. – Nehemiah 8:18 NIV

Again, this account requires that they were gathering and worshiping on days that weren’t Saturday.

  • If the festival started on a Saturday, the final assembly was on a Sunday.
  • If the final assembly was on a Saturday, the festival had to have started on a Friday.

Ezekiel’s Commands about the Passover

“ ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: In the first month on the first day you are to take a young bull without defect and purify the sanctuary. The priest is to take some of the blood of the sin offering and put it on the doorposts of the temple, on the four corners of the upper ledge of the altar and on the gateposts of the inner court. You are to do the same on the seventh day of the month for anyone who sins unintentionally or through ignorance; so you are to make atonement for the temple.

“ ‘In the first month on the fourteenth day you are to observe the Passover, a festival lasting seven days, during which you shall eat bread made without yeast. On that day the prince is to provide a bull as a sin offering for himself and for all the people of the land. Every day during the seven days of the festival he is to provide seven bulls and seven rams without defect as a burnt offering to the LORD, and a male goat for a sin offering. He is to provide as a grain offering an ephah for each bull and an ephah for each ram, along with a hin of olive oil for each ephah.

“ ‘During the seven days of the festival, which begins in the seventh month on the fifteenth day, he is to make the same provision for sin offerings, burnt offerings, grain offerings and oil. — Ezekiel 45:18-25 NIV

Consider all the things that happen and which day of the week they most likely took place:

  • Day 1 – Sunday – purify the sanctuary
  • Day 7 – Saturday – purify again
  • Day 14 – Saturday – Passover Day
  • Day 15 – Sunday – Festival begins
  • Day 21 – Saturday – End the Festival

If we aren’t using a lunar month, the days get even less focused on Saturdays. If Day 1 were a Saturday, then none of the others were Saturdays. However, this passage is important for another reason. Did you notice that even though 21 specific days are mentioned in the course of this month, there is not one single use of the word “Sabbath” in the passage. In fact, the Sabbath is almost never mentioned during any description of any festival. Read through the laws about the festivals, and nothing is ever mentioned about a Sabbath happening in the middle of a festival. Why is that?

Well, the simple reason is that the Sabbath was supposed to be a break in your normal week. The festivals were supposed to be a break in your normal season. God also commanded years of Sabbath and years of Jubilee to be breaks in your normal life. But when you are in the middle of a festival, there’s no need for a Sabbath because the entire festival is a break from the normal. During a festival, everything gets suspended, even the Sabbath regulations.

Simply put, there is nothing permanently special about day #7. There has never been anything permanently special about day #7 other than the reason God himself gave for it.

“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. — Deuteronomy 5:12-15 NIV

Something very few people ever notice is that the Sabbath command was not a command for people to stop working because God wanted people to stop working. The Sabbath was a command for people to stop working because some people lived like slaves all week long and God wanted everyone to remember that with him as their God, they were all no longer slaves anymore. And the people you have working for you? Yes, you need to give them the day off too because you used to be a slave, but God freed you, so don’t you treat them like your slaves.

Dare I say the Sabbath command is only partially for worship. The Sabbath command is equally about justice.

And therefore, let’s go back to what we read in Isaiah 58. Here is the whole chapter:

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.

For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.

‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.

Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the LORD’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the LORD,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”

The mouth of the LORD has spoken.
Isaiah 58 NIV

Yes, the Sabbath shows up in the passage, but the judgment against the people is that even though they were seeking God “day after day” God saw through their “seeking” because they were also living lives of injustice. They were exploiting their workers. They were breaking the Sabbath because they were doing “as they pleased” but were ignoring the issues of injustice in their midst. Perhaps they were celebrating the Sabbath but making their servants cook meals for them. Who knows? The point is that God cared more about the heart of the Sabbath than he did about their observance of the Sabbath.

We have to always remember that the Sabbath isn’t about which day. The Sabbath isn’t about what religious traditions you follow. The Sabbath is about whether you embrace and follow the one true God who made all people in his image and demands that we join him in the work of justice in this world.

That’s why Jesus said:

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. — Mark 2:27 NIV

Was Saturday the Sabbath Anyway?

Before I end this post, there are two things left I want to address. First, for a moment, let’s go back to the idea that the Jewish people based their calendar on the phases of the moon. Many other cultures did that, but not every culture, and even those cultures that followed the phases of the moon weren’t guaranteed to number their days the same way. As a result, after Israel was conquered by Assyria and later Babylon and then Persia and then the Greeks and later the Romans, whose to say their weeks weren’t messed up too? Just because the Romans considered Sunday the first day of the week doesn’t mean the Saturday of Jesus’ day was the same Saturday of Moses’ Day.

In fact, in today’s society, most people consider Monday to be the first day of the week, and therefore, these days, if you want to worship on day #7, you should be doing your worship on a … wait for it … SUNDAY!

Back to the Mark of the Beast

Of course, this whole thing came about because some video claimed that Sunday worship was the mark of the beast, so I probably need to address that too.

I understand that the words of the video can be scary to anyone who is afraid they are somehow going to accidentally disappoint God by getting the mark of the beast and therefore disqualify themselves for heaven or otherwise make God mad at them. As far as I’m concerned, this is the biggest problem with the video. I honestly don’t care when a church decides to meet for worship. Paul even told me in Romans that I shouldn’t judge someone else who wants to consider one day more special than another day. But what really burns me up is anytime a church or religious sounding person uses fear to try to manipulate and control people or when they misrepresent God and his Word to do so.

Let’s be clear. No human being on the planet will ever accidentally get the mark of the beast.

How do I know?

Because God actually had John write it down in Revelation. Here’s the passage they didn’t mention in the video clip I saw:

Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people. Because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. — Revelation 13:11-17 NIV

Some important points:

  • The mark of the beast will be accompanied by someone performing amazing miraculous signs including calling fire from heaven.
  • The mark of the beast will be accompanied by someone who will kill all who refuse to worship the beast.
  • The mark of the beast will be forced upon literally everyone (no one will get it accidentally)

Therefore:

  • If the mark is a literal mark, you will know whether you have it or not.
  • If the mark is a metaphorical mark, then it will be all about your willingness to worship something or be killed.
  • In either case, it will be obvious who has the “mark” and who is dead.

What about more passages from Revelation? Here’s another passage about the mark.

I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. — Revelation 20:4-5 NIV

Once again, according to the book of Revelation, there are only two categories of people regarding the mark of the beast. There are those who receive the mark and embrace the worship of the beast, and there are those who lose their heads.

I want to give you some comfort regarding the mark of the beast. For literal centuries, Christians have been making up marks of the beast and scaring each other with their made up ideas. The Seventh Day Adventists say worship on Sunday is the mark of the beast, Martin Luther (back in the 1500s) thought the Roman Catholic Church was the mark of the beast, in the early 20th century, people thought the social security cards were the mark of the beast, in the mid 20th century, people thought credit cards were the mark of the beast, then NFC chips, then DNA matching, then vaccines, yada, yada, yada,

You have nothing to worry about when it comes to the mark of the beast. What you have to worry about is whether you are worshipping the God who made heaven and earth, who made people in his image, who commands us to walk in humility and mercy, and who sent his Son to live, die, and rise again as our example, our Lord, and our Savior. Worship him, follow him, live to honor him, and you have nothing to worry about.

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