April 4, 2016

The Lord’s Day

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” (Rev. 1:10)

Andy Nash

The phrase “the Lord’s Day” of Revelation 1:10 is unique in Scripture, and Christians interpret it many ways.

It’s most commonly argued that the Lord’s Day means Sunday, the first day of the week, in honor of Christ’s resurrection. It’s true that Sunday would someday be called the Lord’s Day, but this didn’t happen for 100 years, as Christians began abandoning the Sabbath to distance themselves from the Jews. But John was a Jew, and Jews rested on Sabbath, as did all Christians at this point.

So can we conclude that the Lord’s Day means the Sabbath? After all, Jesus once said that the Son of man is “Lord of the Sabbath” (Luke 6:5), and throughout Scripture the Sabbath is called God’s “holy day.” This interpretation is possible, but to be fair to the text it seems unusual that John would suddenly use the term the “Lord’s Day” rather than just “Sabbath,” which he used throughout his Gospel. It might very well have been Sabbath when John was “in the Spirit,” but his use of the term “Lord’s Day” isn’t watertight evidence of this.

There are other suggested meanings of the Lord’s Day: Easter Sunday? Emperor’s Day? But these lack strong support.

What about the Lord’s Day being the apocalyptic “day of the Lord” mentioned throughout the Old and New Testaments? To the saints in Thessolonica Paul writes, “You yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2), clearly indicating the coming of Christ.

This interpretation of the “Lord’s Day” has strong support from the immediate context of John 1:10. John says that he’s “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” (the sentence structure in Greek); then a voice tells him to write what he sees. What’s John already seeing? What’s the only thing that John has seen so far?

Just three verses earlier: “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen” (Rev. 1:7, 8, NIV).2

Here John is witnessing the coming of Jesus Christ at the end of time. Whether it’s John or an angel (see Rev. 1:1) shouting, “Look,” John is clearly seeing the return of His Lord and Savior. This is the same coming with the clouds of heaven that Jesus Himself prophesied to the high priest Caiaphas (see Matt. 26:64). It got Jesus killed; He was claiming to be God.

This suggests how pregnant with meaning is John’s introduction of Jesus’ revelation. The one who declares Himself Lord of the Sabbath is the same Lord who comes for John and for us in the clouds of glory.

  1. Unless otherwise noted, Bible texts in this article are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
  2. Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Andy Nash ([email protected]) is the author of The Book of Matthew: Save Us Now, Son of David. He is coleading a tour to Patmos, Turkey, Greece, and Rome this summer.