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Thursday, May 9, 2024

The Lord's Day in Revelation 1:10

In his infamous booklet, The Book of Revelation Unveiled at Last!, Herbert Armstrong wrote: "And so here is the very KEYNOTE verse, sounding the THEME of the whole Revelation! And it is here that most people begin to stumble, and to misunderstand! The theme is THE DAY OF THE LORD. Let us read it: 'I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet' (verse 10). As this is not understood, endless controversy and strife and confusion have come from arguing as to whether the day of the WEEK on which John WROTE this message was Saturday or Sunday. John was NOT referring to any day of the week. The day of the week on which this happened to be written - IF it could have been all written within one day - is not important, and that is not what this verse means at all. It does NOT refer to any day of the week - but to that prophetic period referred to in more than 30 prophecies as 'The Great and Terrible Day of the Lord.'" Armstrong made clear which of the three ways which various Christians have interpreted this passage that he subscribed to - the prophetic "Day of the Lord." So, the question is: Was Herbert Armstrong right? OR Does the reference refer to the day on which John received the Revelation? AND If so, can we know if he was referring to Saturday or Sunday?

In the first of six answers to the question "What is 'the Lord's Day' in Revelation 1:10?" on Biblical Hermeneutics, we read:

"It's unlikely that John intended the phrase to refer to the 'day of the Lord' as found in the prophets.

While the phrase found in Revelation 1:10 isn't found elsewhere in the New Testament, the phrase "day of the Lord" is found in several places. When the phrase is used elsewhere in the New Testament, the grammar matches that found in the prophets. In 1 Thessalonians 5:2, for instance, the phrase 'day of the Lord' is ἡμέρα κυρίου, where κυρίου (Lord) is in the genitive case. The same is true in 2 Peter 3:10. In the LXX, the phrase 'day of the Lord' always appears with the genitive case.

In Revelation 1:10, the phrase used is κυριακῇ ἡμέρᾳ, where κυριακῇ is in the dative case and is being used as an adjective. This doesn't rule out the possibility of it referring to the same thing, but it does make it highly unlikely and puts the proof of burden on those who would claim otherwise. Authors tend to retain phraseology when it carries a heavy theological weight.

The context also suggests that John does not intend to refer to the eschatological 'day of the Lord' found in the prophets. The phrase in the prophets is accompanied by a dread of expectation and judgement. Yet John's experience, while disturbing, is not shaped after the day of the Lord but after Daniel's experiences with his visions."

This answer is also reinforced by references to the "Day of the Lord" in the Hebrew Scriptures. In the book of Isaiah, we read: "Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come!" (Isaiah 13:6, ESV) And, in the ninth verse of the same chapter, "Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it." (Isaiah 13:9, ESV) Likewise, in the book of Jeremiah, we read: "That day is the day of the Lord God of hosts, a day of vengeance, to avenge himself on his foes. The sword shall devour and be sated and drink its fill of their blood. For the Lord God of hosts holds a sacrifice in the north country by the river Euphrates." (Jeremiah 46:10, ESV) Also, in the prophet Joel, we read: "Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes." (Joel 1:15, ESV) Likewise, in the book of Amos, we read: "Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light..." (Amos 5:18, ESV) In the prophet Zephaniah, we read: "The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there." (Zephaniah 1:14, ESV) And, finally, in the prophet Zechariah, we read: "Behold, a day is coming for the Lord, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city." (Zechariah 14:1-2, ESV)

Hence, we see that the "Day of the Lord" referred to a particular event in the Hebrew Scriptures - a terrible time at the end of the age of humankind. Now, while the book of Revelation includes this event within the context of the many predictions that are made there, we can clearly discern that it is NOT the theme of the entire book! In other words, there is a great deal more contained in those pages than the story of the "Day of the Lord."

In one of the supplemental answers on the same website referenced above, we read:

"kuriakē(i) (LSJ) (from κυριακῇ ἡμέρᾳ) is an adjectival form of kurios, 'lord', which could be rendered 'lordly' (on analogy of 'royal' = 'kingly', roughly!). As the adjective "royal" indicates something belonging to the monarch ("the royal palace"), so kuriakos indicates something belonging to the 'lord'...

...Some other early Christian writings use the Rev 1:10 phrase. In Didache 14:1, for example:

'On the Lord's Day of the Lord come together, break bread and hold Eucharist, after confessing your transgressions that your offering may be pure'

Which precise day is in mind of these options (first day? Sabbath day? Easter Day?) is not specified. However, one or two of the early Christian apocryphal writings are explicit about which day this is, e.g. Acts of Peter, in the prologue [scroll down to second line of I. THE COPTIC FRAGMENT]:

'On the first day of the week, that is, on the Lord's day...'"

Moreover, as the word "sabbaton" (Sabbath) appears sixty-eight times in the Greek New Testament, it seems very unlikely that John would use the "Lord's Day" to describe the Sabbath. Hence, the notion that this revelation was given to John on a Sunday seems the most plausible and likely conclusion about its usage in Revelation 1:10.


  1. Although context is mentioned in the above post, it occurred to me that more of an explanation of this notion is warranted. Clearly, John was giving the time and place this revelation occurred: "I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day..." (Revelation 1:9-10, ESV). Moreover, the phrase "in the Spirit" occurs in a number of places in the Greek New Testament:
    John 11:33
    Acts 18:5, 25
    Acts 20:22
    I Corinthians 4:21
    I Corinthians 14:2
    Galatians 3:3
    Galatians 5:16, 25
    Ephesians 4:23
    Philippians 3:3
    Colossians 2:5
    I Peter 4:6
    As you can see in these uses of the phrase, it always implied that the individual or persons were acting under the guidance of the Holy Spirit - NOT in the midst of a dream or vision.

  2. Revelation 1:10 and Ephesians 2:15 contain phrases found only once in Scripture. In Eph.2, Scout emphatically maintains the term "the law of commandments contained in ordinances" must refer to the law of Moses. In Rev.1, most scholars interpret "the Lord's day" as being the first day of the week, and not the day of the Lord. Both explanations are reasonable but are they true?

    Based on the principle found in Deut.19:15, Matt.18:6, and 2Cor.13:1, we see that these unique verses lack confirmation which makes them open to interpretation. This being the case, HWA's explanation make s the most sense to me, not because he said it, for I'm sure he borrowed it from others, like E.W. Bullinger.

    In the book, Things To Come, Oct.1907, pages 63-113, Bullinger writes, "Have we any warrant for assuming that, before John wrote Revelation, the first day of the week had already come to be so well known as " the Lord's day" as to be perfectly understood without any explanation being necessary? It matters not how many writers so used the expression after John".

    "What right have we to suppose that John means the first day of the week when Rev.1:10 uses an complete unique expression? If he meant us to understand the first day, why introduce another expression using a new name?, especially when the Church Fathers do not employ the term in their writings until 80 years later!"

    You said the term was essential to the books introduction as to time and place?

    Bullinger continues, "whether the book is referring to a day of the week (Sat. or Sun.) so what? There is no conceivable reason why John should have received this revelation on a particular day, or that the day of the week has no more relation to the great and solemn subject of the book than the day of the month. Nor has it any bearing on the great issues contained in the expression itself".

    " The expression (Lord's day) should be one which would explain itself and the book to follow, and not one which needs explaining, as it does if it be merely a day of the week".

    Bullinger and I both believe that the theme of the book is the 7 seals and the day of the Lord being the climax. He continues, "the concept of the day of the Lord does explain the book, for when John was taken by the spirit into the scenes of that time, the words immediately follow, 'and I heard behind me a great voice as a trumpet, and the throne was set for judgement (Ch.4:1)' There was something in the call of that 'great voice of a trumpet' that was suited to the judgement to which it was the summons, but it seems altogether trivial to associate it with a particular day of the week, whether the first or any other".

    Like the quote you presented, Bullinger also points out the admission by notable scholars (Godet, Deismann, Wetstein), who, while supporting the traditional interpretation of a day of the week, yet confess the possibility the day could stand for the day of the Lord, the day of Yaweh, the day of judgement, the GREAT DAY (of His wrath) and that Great day of God Almighty found in Revelation 6:17 and 16:14. (see Studies in the NT , London, Hodden, page 339, Encyc. Bib. III, 2815.)

    While Bullinger also offers his own set of semantics which is to broad for me to list and do justice, the real issue is brought down to the narrowest possible limits: Bible usage verses ecclesiastical usage of latter times. This is the choice.

  3. I apologize that I have been away from my computer for a few days. We went to Oshkosh for my oldest granddaughter's dance recital (She was wonderful, and we got to have both of our daughters and all of our grandchildren together for Mother's Day).
    Although we disagree, I appreciate BP8's thoughtful contribution to this topic. I also received the following comment from CGI's Pastor Mike James:
    It's funny that you use these other books of the NT with the phrase and not the uses of the phrase in Revelation. In Revelation 4:2; 17:3; 21:10 we have John "in the spirit" in the midst of a dream or vision. I think the same is true in Revelation 1:10 also. He is told to write what "he sees" in Revelation 1:11...write it in a book. Sounds like all of Revelation is primarily a vision (Revelation 9:17). As far as the "Lord's Day" there is debate on what that means, but since it is only used once in the New Testament and the usage of it as Sunday was not a common occurrence at the time John wrote we can't be too sure. But to say the book of Revelation is not primarily about the Day of the Lord??? Come on Lonnie...
    Let's take a look:
    Revelation 4:1-6, ESV: After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings[a] and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.
    Yes, the context is a vision OF GOD'S THRONE.
    Revelation 17:1-6, ESV: Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth's abominations.” And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.
    Yes, this is a vision OF THE GREAT WHORE, drunk with the blood of Christians through the centuries.
    Revelation 21:9-14, ESV: Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
    Yes, it's a vision OF NEW JERUSALEM (After the Day of the Lord and the Millenium)
    Notice that none of these visions has anything to do with the DAY OF THE LORD!
    (continued below)

  4. Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Lord's Day, the
    Lord's Day, the
    The expression "the Lord's day" is found only once in the Bible. In Revelation 1:10 John relates the beginning of his visionary experience to being in the Spirit "on the Lord's Day." The phrase seems to have become more common in the second century a.d., where it is found in such early Christian writings as Ignatius's Epistle to the Magnesians 9:1 (c. a.d. 108), the Didache 14:1 (c. a.d. 100-125), and the Gospel of Peter 9:35; 12:50 (c. a.d. 125-50).

    The presence of the adjective kuriakos [kuriakov"] makes the expression grammatically different from the common biblical phrase "the Day of the Lord, " which uses the genitive form of the noun kurios [kuvrio"]. The adjective is found only one other time in the New Testament, in 1 Corinthians 11:20, where Paul speaks of "the Lord's Supper." Non-Christian parallels suggest that the adjective was used with reference to that which belonged to the Roman emperor; early Christians seem to have used it, perhaps in conscious protest, to refer to that which belonged to Jesus.

    The particular "day" that belonged to Jesus seems to have been Sunday, or, by Jewish reckoning, Saturday sundown until Sunday sundown. According to the Gospels, Jesus was raised from the dead on "the first day of the week" ( Matt 28:1 ; Mark 16:2 ; Luke 24:1 ; John 20:1 ), that is, Sunday. New Testament evidence suggests that by the 50s, if not earlier, Christians were attaching special significance to Sunday. In 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 Paul exhorts the church at Corinth to set aside a sum of money "on the first day of every week" for the church at Jerusalem, as the Galatian churches were already doing. Similarly, Luke notes that when Paul arrived at Troas near the end of his third missionary journey, the church gathered together to break bread "on the first day of the week" ( Acts 20:6-7 ). Although the identification is not made explicit, there is therefore good reason to believe that John has Sunday in mind when he mentions "the Lord's Day" in Revelation 1:10. Certainly the second-century Gospel of Peter, which twice speaks of the day of Jesus' resurrection as "the Lord's Day" (9:35; 12:50), makes the connection. Similarly, the Epistle of Barnabas (c. a.d. 130) notes that Christians celebrate Jesus' resurrection of "the eighth day" (15:9; cf. John 20:26 ), or Sunday, which is the day after the seventh day — that is, the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday). Justin Martyr affirms that Jesus was raised on "the day of the Sun" (Apology 67).

    How quickly the Lord's Day emerged as a specific day of worship for the early church is not clear. Luke observes that in the period immediately following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost the earliest Christians met "every day" in the temple courts. Whether their breaking of bread in their homes was a daily or weekly occurrence he does not specify, but the former seems more likely ( Acts 2:46 ). Alternately, Paul's comments to the Corinthians concerning the laying aside of money on the first day of the week do not indicate whether this action was connected with a formal gathering of the church ( 1 Cor 16:13 ). Luke's description of the meeting of believers at Troas is the first clear indication of a special gathering as taking place in the evening, by which he probably means Sunday, using Roman reckoning from midnight to midnight, rather than the Jewish system. By the second century the Lord's Day was clearly set apart as a special day for worship. In a letter to the emperor Trajan (c. a.d. 112), the Roman governor Pliny the Younger notes that Christians assembled before daylight "on an appointed day" (Epistle 10:96), undoubtedly Sunday. The Didache specifically exhorts believers to come together on the Lord's Day (14:1), and the Epistle of Barnabas sees it as a special day of celebration (15:9). Indeed, Justin Martyr (c. a.d. 150) gives a detailed account of typical Sunday worship (Apology 67).


  5. A clear picture of how the early Christians celebrated the Lord's Day emerges only gradually. Luke records that the Christians at Troas came together to break bread, which may well denote a meal that included the Lord's Supper (cf. Acts 2:42 ; 1 Cor 11:20-22 ). That Paul spoke (at great length!) to the assembled believers ( Acts 20:7-11 ) implies nothing about their typical practice, since Paul was a special guest and intended to leave the next day. The Didache makes explicit the connection between the breaking of bread and the Lord's Supper on the Lord's Day but says little else concerning the meeting, apart from mentioning the practice of confession of sin (14:1). Pliny mentions two meetings on the "appointed day": the Christians first meet before dawn to sing a hymn to Christ "as to a god" and to affirm certain ethical commitments; then they depart and reassemble for a meal. Not being a Christian himself, Pliny would not have understood the significance of the meal as a setting for the Lord's Supper; for him it was enough that the meal consisted "of ordinary, innocent food" (Epistle 10:96).

    The most extensive account of an early Christian Sunday worship service is provided by Justin Martyr (Apology 67, cf. 65). According to Justin, the gathering begins with readings from "the memoirs of the apostles" the Gospels or the writings of the prophets for "as long as time permits." The "president" then delivers a sermon consisting of instruction and exhortation. Next, the congregation rises for prayer, following which the bread and wine are brought in for the Lord's Supper. After prayers and thanksgivings by the president and a congregational "Amen, " the deacons distribute the bread and wine to those who are present (and then carry some to those who are absent). There follows a collection of "what each thinks fit" for the needy, and, apparently, the end of the service.

    Noteworthy in these early texts is the lack of identification of Sunday with the Jewish Sabbath. Luke has little to say about early Christian observance of the Sabbath, apart from recording Paul's preaching on the Sabbath in Jewish synagogues ( Acts 13:14 Acts 13:42 Acts 13:44 ; 17:2 ; 18:4 ; 16:13 ), which perhaps says less about Paul's commitment to Sabbath observance than about his missionary strategy. Indeed, Paul has little interest in observing special days as sacred ( Rom 14:5-6 ; Gal 4:9-11 ; Col 2:16 ). Ignatius contrasts observance of the Sabbath with living for the Lord's Day (Magnesians 9:1). The Epistle of Barnabas views the significance of the biblical Sabbath as being a symbol of the future rest established at the return of Jesus (15:1-8; cf. Heb 4:3-11 ). Justin Martyr speaks of the Sabbath in terms of a perpetual turning from sin (Dialogue with Trypho 12). In 321 Constantine proclaimed Sunday to be official day of rest in the Roman Empire (Codex Justinianus 3.12.3), but this does not seem to have been related to any concern with the Jewish Sabbath. By the end of the fourth century, church leaders such as Ambrose and John Chrysostom were making such a connection, defending relaxation from work on Sunday on the basis of the Fourth Commandment and paving the way for later Catholic and Protestant elaboration on Sunday as the Sabbath.

    In the early church, then, the Christians began to give a special place to Sunday as the day on which Jesus was raised from the dead. It soon became a fixed day for worship, a celebration of the resurrection centered around the Lord's Supper. As Christianity distanced itself from Judaism, it is not surprising that eventually the church would see its special day in terms of the special day of the Jews, the Sabbath, and would transfer the provisions of the Fourth Commandment to Sunday. Joseph L. Trafton

    See also Worship

  6. It's easy to be dogmatic 2000 years after the fact, but these comments from Baker (Trafton) demonstrate the point that Bible usage and ecclesiastical usage of latter times are not necessarily one and the same, but clearly open to interpretation.

    The phrase SEEMS to have become more common in the 2nd century?

    The day that belonged to Jesus SEEMS to have been Sunday?

    The NT evidence suggests that by the 50's Christians were attatching special significant to Sunday?

    Although the identification is not made explicit . .

    How quickly the Lord's day emerged as a specific day of worship is NOT clear !

    The earliest Christians met everyday?

    Whether their breaking of bread was daily or weekly, Luke does not specify, but it seems . . .

    Paul's comments in 1 Cor.16 do not indicate whether this action was connected with a formal gathering of the church.

    A clear picture of how the Lord's day was celebrated emerges only gradually. .

    Christians came together to break bread which may well denote a meal that included the Lord's supper??

    That Paul spoke to assembled believers (Acts 20:7-11) implies NOTHING about their typical practice??

    The most extensive account of our early Christian Sunday worship is provided by Justin Martyr. . .

    By the 4th century, church leaders . . .

    Since all history is open to interpretation, I have as much faith in the church fathers as I do in Pfizer or today's politicians. They too had their own agenda. The religion machine and denominational confusion we see today is proof of that.

  7. BP8,
    Although we reach different conclusions about the article cited, this is the kind of comment that is cogent and effective in debating the relative merits of an argument. Thank you for taking the time to make this point. You highlight the tentative nature of these individual sentences from the article, and they seem to make an impressive statement that there is a high degree of uncertainty associated with this subject (when the usage of the Lord's Day emerged and became widely accepted within the Christian Church).

    However, taken together as a whole, I and the author see them as providing overwhelming support for the conclusion offered (that Christian veneration of the Lord's Day began shortly after Christ's resurrection and was near universal within that community by the close of the First Century). In other words, all interpretations are subject to an evaluation of how effective they are in accommodating a preponderance of the available evidence. The agenda of most of these folks (church fathers) was to spread a message focused on salvation through Jesus of Nazareth, but it is NOT plausible to characterize their efforts as having a high degree of centralized coordination (as is common within most of the Christian denominations of the present day). It would be more accurate to characterize them as rallying around certain undisputed facts relative to the story of Christ. Once again, an elaborate conspiracy to suppress and substitute does NOT fit the available evidence.