The Sabbath in the Pacific Around the Date Line
We believe it was a mistake for the South Pacific Division of Seventh-day Adventists to recommend keeping Sunday as Sabbath, and it was a mistake for the Samoa-Tokelau Mission of Seventh-day Adventists to implement that recommendation.1 The Sabbath has always been and could only be the day between Friday and Sunday anywhere in the world.
Sabbath is the Day between Friday and Sunday According to Scripture
Speaking of the burial of Jesus, Scripture is clear about this timing for Sabbath:
“And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. And the women also which came with him from Galilee followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how the body was laid. And they returned and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment. Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared and certain others with them.” (Luke 23:54-24:1)
Seventh-day Adventist Sunday keeping in both Tonga and Samoa is akin to generic Christian Sunday keeping, and it needs to be treated with the same call to “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins and receive not of her plagues.” (Rev 18:4)
Sabbath keeping on Saturday is right, and Sabbath keeping on Sunday is wrong. One day is biblical, representing the law of God. The other is not biblical and represents “teaching for doctrine the commandments of men.” As on Mt Carmel, two altars are needed to represent the two different perspectives – the law of God or the tradition of men. Seventh-day Adventists, in fulfilling their commission to make disciples, are duty bound to lawfully define the Sabbath within the scope of Bible teaching world-wide.
With our background and present study we are confident to support and encourage the church members in Samatau who worship on Saturday. So long as they do this they will be the light of the world for others to see and come to, by choice. However the choice of darkness will remain. So we say, “Shine on and be faithful to the end, Samatau members! You will also remain in harmony with the teachings and practise of Seventh-day Adventists world-wide.”
To explain our logic we want to analyse and challenge some of the reasoning of the South Pacific Division upon which their recommendation for Sunday keeping in Samoa is based.
Seventh-day Adventists have converted millions from Sunday keeping and have provided the authentic alternative. Yet here in the Pacific we have become confused over what has happened with the dateline and have misdirected members in Samoa, placing them, along with Tonga and Kiribati, out of harmony with the Bible teaching of Sabbath keeping and the world church. We want no part in this apostasy and want to support and encourage Seventh-day Adventist interpretation and practise as it is lived in the rest of the world.
Consider if Samoa were an unentered territory and Adventist global mission pioneers arrived in 2012, on which day would they teach the indigenous population to keep the Sabbath?
Our Perception of God
We need to take our Sabbath School lesson and hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. A glimpse of our God should tell us that to keep Sabbath on a day called Sunday is wrong. Who is this God, whom some seem to be serving, that would require them to uphold an unbroken seven-day cycle in the event that the country in which they live should re-align itself in relation to the dateline?
We certainly serve a God of law and order, so the seven-day cycle principle is very real, taught and upheld by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. That is part of our uniqueness and mission. But is this God so austere that He would require His subjects to apply the unbroken seven-day cycle principle so rigidly around the dateline? Certainly not. People who cross the dateline realise that skipping a day does not break the seven-day sequence of time. Jesus taught that an exception does not deny the rule (Matt 19:1-9; Matt 12:1-13). If exceptions broke the rule, there would be anarchy. Even the civil authority, which administers the seven-day week, will make an exception in the circumstances of a country re-aligning itself in regard to the dateline, but this god won’t? We serve a God of grace, a God of mercy, reasonableness and order.
Oneness in the Body of Christ
The first Sabbath School Lesson for 2012 emphasized “The Oneness of God” and expressed Jesus’ desire for His people, “that they may be one,” as He and His Father are one (John 17:11, 21, 22). Spiritual gifts were given for the unity of “the faith,” not for plurality of “faith.”
When we joined the church we did not join the North New Zealand Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, we joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North New Zealand. Similarly we didn’t join the South Pacific Division of Seventh-day Adventists, we joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific Division. Furthermore we did not join the Seventh-day Adventist Church of 1960 or 1985. We were baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church of all time, known to us as “the remnant of her seed.” To be Seventh-day Adventists, all disciples must uphold the day between Friday and Sunday – that is the seventh-day Sabbath – as a memorial of creation and redemption.2
It has become increasingly important for Seventh-day Adventists to understand the nature of the church. It is one body, just as God is one, as opposed to being a coalition or group of bodies. “Christian” is a generic term and is becoming more so, whereas “Seventh-day Adventist Church” is a specific term, referring to “the remnant of her seed,” (Rev. 12:17 KJV) and it should become more so. This is in accordance with Jesus’ prayer, “that they may be one.” It is a work in progress. We must fight the trend to congregationalize, multi-culturalize, contextualize, franchise, or compartmentalize the church, all of which are only a facade of unity.
Have you ever wondered why there are two days on the weekend? They are two worship days. The two-day weekend is an illusion we have lived with for centuries. The second day, Sunday. is in fact the first day of the week and is the fulfillment of the prophecy: “to worship the first beast whose deadly wound was healed.” (Rev 13:12). The numbering of the days of the week is very important to Seventh-day Adventists because of the fourth commandment. However the renumbering of the days of the week is of no concern to Sabbath keepers because the day sequence established in Scripture is especially clear around the burial of Jesus: Friday (Preparation) – Saturday (Sabbath) – Sunday (The first day of the week). (Luke 23:54-24:1). That sequence is undisputed. The dictionary calls Saturday the seventh day of the week. The Catholic Catechism calls Saturday the seventh day of the week and commends Seventh-day Adventists for keeping it in accordance with Scripture!
It has been argued that the problem of the two-day weekend has been solved in Samoa by shifting the dateline, entrapping those who align with New Zealand into the “actual time” for seventh-day Sabbath keeping.
We believe the opposite – that Sabbath keepers, because of the false ‘calendar change’ presupposition – have been entrapped into Sunday keeping. Therefore in four island states there is now an undisputed one-day weekend for religious purposes, effectively solving the naming and numbering controversies. This is contrary to Adventist understanding on the subjects of prophecy, purpose, practise and mission. With a one-day weekend, what would distinguish the mark of the beast from the seal of God?
Ph +64 9 439 7946
5 February 2012
Co-author & Publication:
Ph +64 21 125 5064
5 February 2012
- Principal Contributor: Robert Vincent; Contributor & Publication: John Wallace ↩
- “The Sabbath holds a special place in our lives. The seventh day of the week, from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday (Lev. 23:32), is a gift from God, a sign of His grace in time.” The Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, Revised 2010 (18th Edition), p. 138. ↩