We know that the biggest deception is yet in the future—when Satan impersonates Christ. Why does Satan do so? He does it in a desperate attempt to get one class of people who have not been a prey to his guile. They are ready to receive the seal of the living God and to be declared secure for eternity. He wants to have a last go at them.
In vivid details the Pen of Inspiration lays down this warning message:
As the crowning act in the great drama of deception, Satan himself will personate Christ. . . . he claims to have changed the Sabbath to Sunday, and commands all to hallow the day which he has blessed. He declares that those who persist in keeping holy the seventh day are blaspheming his name by refusing to listen to his angels sent to them with light and truth. This is the strong, almost overmastering delusion. (Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p. 624)
We are warned about great perplexity and confusion creeping in as a part of the enemy’s strategy to derail the precious faith of the saints:
The days are fast approaching when there will be great perplexity and confusion. Satan, clothed in angel robes, will deceive, if possible, the very elect….Every wind of doctrine will be blowing. (Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 80)
God will purge His church, and He has many ways to do it. We are told one way is by the introduction of false doctrines:
When the shaking comes, by the introduction of false theories, these surface readers, anchored nowhere, are like shifting sand. They slide into any position to suit the tenor of their feelings of bitterness. (Ellen White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 112)
The Lunar Sabbath Deception
Of late, a strange doctrine seems to be trapping many precious souls into a great deception. Many times in the last century it has tried to pop up but since a decade or so, it has gained momentum, and it seems to be spreading rapidly on the Internet.
From the book of Revelation, we know that the final issue will be the seal of God versus the mark of the beast—the true Sabbath versus the false Sabbath.
Why does Satan impose the Sunday law? The only reason is to force the true Sabbath-keepers to stop keeping God’s day holy. The rest of the world he doesn’t need to force—he has deceived them already, and they are not keeping the true day.
As the Sunday law is to force Sabbath-keepers into disobedience of the true Sabbath, the lunar Sabbath doctrine is to deceive the Sabbath-keepers into disobedience of the true Sabbath. The targets of both are Seventh-day Adventists.
It is claimed that many tens of thousands of Seventh-day Adventists have left the faith and have aligned themselves to this new theory. A website which was till late staunchly defending the true Saturday Sabbath has moved into the grand deception of the lunar Sabbath doctrine. This site boasts of over ninety thousand members who have joined them in a period of less than a year. There are several other websites and independent ministries who are former Seventh-day Adventists promoting this spurious doctrine.
What are the issues and challenges of the lunar Sabbath doctrine?
Its adherents agree that the seventh day of the week is the Sabbath, but they say that the seventh day of the week is not Saturday or Sunday, and neither is its seventh-day Sabbath fixed on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday!
They say the Gregorian calendar that we are using now to identify the weekly Sabbath is not in harmony with the biblical calendar. The solar Gregorian calendar which we use has weeks that are continuous. They claim that the weeks during biblical times were based on the luni-solar calendar and that the weeks did not run continuously for more than four weeks.
How is the luni-solar calendar different from the Gregorian solar calendar that we use today? The Gregorian calendar is not guided by the phases of the moon. The new moon can fall on any date of our months. The months in our calendar have thirty or thirty-one days, except February which has twenty-eight or twenty-nine days.
In the luni-solar calendar, the new moon begins a new month, and the months have twenty-nine or thirty days. Why it is that one month has twenty-nine days and the next month thirty days? It is because there are about twenty-nine and one half days from one new moon to the next new moon. Since we cannot have half days, they alternate between twenty-nine and thirty days.
Now, twelve lunar months of twenty-nine and one half days will be about 354 days. That is close to eleven days short of a solar year that has about 365 days.
As the solar calendar adds one day (February 29) every fourth year, the luni-solar calendar adds one extra month (a thirteenth month) every two or three years. In a nineteen-year period, they add seven months extra.
In our calendar, the days of the week are independent of the months. Whether a month has twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty, or thirty-one days does not affect the weekly cycle. The weekly cycle is a continuous cycle, and the Sabbath comes every seventh day of the week, regardless of the number of days in a month.
The lunar Sabbatarians say that the week is regulated by the new moon. Now, the new moon is the beginning of a month in the Bible, and no one disputes that. According to them, the week-count begins the next day after the new moon, so the first day of the week is the second day of the month, and the first Sabbath of the month, therefore, will be on the eighth of the month.
The Sabbaths are, therefore, fixed for them. They are always on the eighth, the fifteenth, the twenty-second, and the twenty-ninth of every month, and the first of every month is the new moon.
Lunar months alternate between twenty-nine and thirty days. Six times in the year the months have thirty days. What do they do with the extra day, the thirtieth day, because the twenty-ninth is their fixed Sabbath and the first is the new moon? They call the extra day either a transition day, a repairing day, or the translation day of the new moon.
We will now look at another issue of the lunar Sabbath doctrine.
Two or Three Categories of Days?
We believe that there are just two kinds of days—six work days and the seventh-day Sabbath. At no time in our calendar can the Sabbath come on a work day. That is because they are two distinct days.
They believe there are three kinds of days—six work days, the Sabbath day, and the new moon day. They quote a verse in Ezekiel, to prove their point, which says:
Thus saith the Lord GOD; The gate of the inner court that looketh toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the sabbath it shall be opened, and in the day of the new moon it shall be opened. (Ezekiel 46:1)
In our present Gregorian calendar the new moon can fall on a Sabbath (it does once in a while) and based on the above text of Ezekiel 46:1, the gates had to be opened on new moon days and on Sabbath days. So, it is no problem—the gates can be opened if the Sabbath and new moon overlap.
Again, based on our present calendar, the new moon can also fall on one of the six work days of the week (and most of the time this is so). But if the new moon falls on one of the six work days of the week, “What has to be done?” they ask us. Are the gates to be opened or closed? The text in Ezekiel says to keep them open six working days and keep them closed on the new moon days. So, do we keep them opened or closed, they are asking us!
The problem, they say, is solved only when we consider the new moon as a third category of the days in the month. The three categories of the days, they say are—the new moon, the six work days of the week, and the seventh-day Sabbath. These are three distinct days, and they don’t overlap one another, according to them.
According to the lunar Sabbatarians, the new moon day, therefore, does not fall on a Sabbath or on the six working days of the week. The new moon day is the first day of the month. The first day is a worship day like the Sabbath, but is not a Sabbath day, neither is it a work day of the week.
If that is the case—that the new moon day is a separate category of a day that does not fall on one of the six working days—then there is a serious problem because then Saturday cannot be the seventh day of the week and cannot be the Sabbath!
(According to the Bible the new moon is always the first day of the month. The new moon starts a new month. The word month comes from the word moon. No one disputes that.)
The lunar Sabbatarians say—since the new moon is not a Sabbath, neither is it a work day of the week, therefore the work days of the week and the Sabbaths of the month are fixed on particular dates of the month, just like the new moon is.
The lunar Sabbatarians say the weekly Sabbaths are always fixed on the eighth, the fifteenth, the twenty-second, and the twenty-ninth of each and every lunar month, without any exceptions. According to them, the biblical calendar is like this: the first is the new moon; the eighth, the fifteenth, the twenty-second, and the twenty-ninth are Sabbaths; if there is a thirtieth day, it is the translation day of the new moon or an extra day of the new moon; and the remaining days are the work days of the week.
The Two Proofs: The Manna and the Crucifixion
The lunar Sabbatarians provide at least two proofs to show that the Sabbaths always fall on one of the above-mentioned dates.
The Old Testament proof they show is the manna, and the New Testament proof they show is the days of the week in the crucifixion account.
When did the children of Israel arrive at the wilderness of Sin?
And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt. (Exodus 16:1)
So they arrived on the fifteenth day of the second month according to the above passage. When did God promise to give manna?
I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God. (Exodus 16:12)
Based on the above two verses, they claim that the manna started to be given on the morning of the sixteenth. We shall investigate that later on.
Did God give them manna on the Sabbath?
Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none. (Exodus 16:26)
If the commencement of the manna was on the sixteenth day of the month (according to them) and that was the first day of manna-giving, then the seventeenth was the second day of manna, the eighteenth was the third day of manna, the nineteenth was the fourth day of manna, the twentieth was the fifth day of manna, the twenty-first was the sixth day of manna, and the twenty-second was the seventh day with no manna because it was the Sabbath.
So if twenty-second of that month was a Sabbath, the next Sabbath would be seven days later—the twenty-ninth. The previous Sabbath before the twenty-second would be seven days earlier—the fifteenth—and the previous Sabbath before fifteenth would be seven days before that, the eighth of the month. This is their solid Old Testament proof that the Sabbaths are fixed always on eighth, fifteenth, twenty-second and twenty-ninth of each and every month.
Their New Testament proof is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Jesus died on the Passover day, and the Passover day is always on the fourteenth day of the first Jewish month:
In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S passover. (Leviticus 23:5)
The day after Jesus died was the fifteenth day of the first month, and wasn’t it the seventh-day Sabbath? Luke calls the day Jesus died as the preparation day, and the next day was the Sabbath. Luke wrote:
And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. (Luke 23:54)
If the fifteenth day of that month was a Sabbath, then seven days before that was the eighth, and seven days after the fifteenth was the twenty-second, and seven days after the twenty-second was the twenty-ninth. So even in the month Jesus died, you have the eighth, the fifteenth, the twenty-second and the twenty-ninth as Sabbaths!
They claim these two great proofs (besides many others which we shall investigate later on) from the Old and New Testament make their point—that Sabbaths are always fixed on the eighth, the fifteenth, the twenty-second, and the twenty-ninth. And it looks like they are almost indisputable!
We will now see yet another issue of this new doctrine.
Another serious issue the lunar Sabbatarians have raised is the reckoning of a biblical day. We believe a day is counted from sunset to sunset, but they say that a day is reckoned from sunrise to sunrise. They show many texts, but here are a few:
And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails. (Numbers 11:32)
In the above text we have “that day,” “that night,” and “the next day.” What they are saying is that there are two days mentioned in the above verse—“that day” and “next day,” and one night in between called “that night.” They say, if a new day begins at sunset, then the night should be called next night. Since it is called “that night,” it is a proof that the night belonged to the previous day and not the next day. So according to them, a day should be from sunrise to sunrise and not sunset to sunset.
Also, they quote the killing of the Passover lamb which was on the fourteenth day of the first month:
In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S passover. (Leviticus 23:5)
We know from the Scriptures that the death angel came at night. Now look at the wording of the Scripture carefully:
For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night. (Exodus 12:12)
The lunar Sabbatarians say if at sunset a new day begins and God was visiting His judgments on the Egyptians at midnight, then the night should be referred to as the next night but by calling the night of fourteenth as this night, it indicates that the night belonged to the fourteenth and not to the fifteenth! That is another proof for them that a new day is reckoned from sunrise to sunrise. They quote other similar texts as well.
We shall see how to rightly interpret such texts later on.
There is another serious issue in this lunar Sabbath doctrine and that is the Sabbath duration.
They also say that the Sabbath is only the daylight part of the day—just twelve hours—and is not twenty-four hours. They say that nowhere does the Scripture mention Sabbath night, but only says Sabbath day.
Just like we believe that the Sabbath ends at sunset, the lunar Sabbatarians, too, believe the same. But we say it is from sunset to sunset, but they say it is from sunrise to sunset.
The sunset ending is clearly indicated in the ministry of Jesus. When Jesus was healing the people on the Sabbath day, the leaders of Israel told the people not to come for healing on the Sabbath day.
And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. (Luke 13:14)
That is the reason we see people coming to Jesus after sunset:
And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. . . . And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils. (Mark 1:32, 34)
So ending at sunset is not an issue for either group. The difference is whether the Sabbath begins at sunset or sunrise.
For them, all the days begin at sunrise, so the Sabbath also begins at sunrise. They quote the story of the giving of the manna, as one of the proofs, that the Sabbath started in the morning.
And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD. (Exodus 16:23)
Their logic is this: If the Sabbath was to begin at sunset, Moses should have said tonight is the rest of the holy Sabbath; however, Moses said “to morrow is the rest.”
The Main Points
Let us summarize the main points in the lunar Sabbath challenge:
a) The Sabbaths are fixed on the eighth, the fifteenth, the twenty-second, and the twenty-ninth of every month in the Bible.
b) A day is reckoned from sunrise to sunrise and not from sunset to sunset.
c) The holy hours of the Sabbath are only the twelve hours of daylight and do not include the twelve hours of night.
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