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Tuesday, November 23, 2021

What Time Does the Sabbath Begin?

More on Imagined Sabbath-Keeping

Even among the (supposed) Sabbath-Keepers (SSK), they can't seem to agree on the exact list of no-nos. As just one example: some believe that no electronic devices should be used on the Sabbath as use creates heat and thus violates the law of the Sabbath. Other SSK spend their Sabbaths pretending to keep it as they try to guilt the rest of us online.

Feel free to tie yourself in knots over the issue of electricity: HERE

They can't even agree on this simple issue. Disagreement doesn't mean they're all necessarily wrong, but it does show that keeping the Sabbath biblically is not as simple as they pretend. If we have to have papers written on whether one can turn on a lightbulb, surely the work of the Savior will nowhere find place. But that is their problem. In this short study, I want to look at what the Sabbath is (or was) in the eyes of the Lord in regard to its beginning and its end.

Sundown, Twilight, and the Start of the Sabbath Day

Sabbath-Keeping is a growing phenomenon among professed believers in these last day. We have addressed this topic before, but I wanted to take a look at exactly when the Sabbath begins. If people believe they are to keep it (spoiler: they don't have to), we should at least know when the Sabbath begins and ends.

The Sabbath-Keepers will tell us the Sabbath begins at sundown. This is correct. Now, there is some slight disagreement as to what constitutes sundown, but essentially the timeframe is in the ballpark. To be safe, some Jews start Sabbath a little early.

The question I have is this: sundown where? Is it sundown where I live? Theoretically, that would mean there are an infinite number of sundowns. But even if we limit to the minute, we end up with sundowns starting east to west and north to south over 24 hours. There is no true "seventh" day. 

If the foundation of the Sabbath is God resting on the seventh day in the creation, did he have an infinite number of starting and ending times? No. He had one Sabbath. 

And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

-Genesis 2:2-3

The sun and the moon had been created at this point. And whether we hold to a 24-hour day or a 16-hour day at creation, we certainly have already had nights and days.

And the evening and the morning were the third day. And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

We are going to look ahead to the return of Israel to the land after the Babylonian captivity. Obviously, during their time in captivity (outside the land), Israelites did not "obey the law." They couldn't. They had no temple, no sacrifice, no active priesthood, etc. This was out of their control, but nevertheless true. So, did these practice the Sabbath in captivity, outside the land, based on the setting of the sun in Babylon?

Let's first look back at the case against Israel as laid out by the Lord in Ezekiel 20. I am not going to post the entire chapter, but we must note it is Israel-centric. And in his laying out of both charges and his patience, the Lord includes Israel's treatment of the Sabbath.

And it came to pass in the seventh year, in the fifth month, the tenth day of the month, that certain of the elders of Israel came to enquire of the Lord, and sat before me. Then came the word of the Lord unto me, saying, Son of man, speak unto the elders of Israel, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Are ye come to enquire of me? As I live, saith the Lord God, I will not be enquired of by you... say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; In the day when I chose Israel, and lifted up mine hand unto the seed of the house of Jacob, and made myself known unto them in the land of Egypt, when I lifted up mine hand unto them, saying, I am the Lord your God; in the day that I lifted up mine hand unto them, to bring them forth of the land of Egypt into a land that I had espied for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands: then said I unto them, Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken unto me: they did not every man cast away the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt: then I said, I will pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. But I wrought for my name’s sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen, among whom they were, in whose sight I made myself known unto them, in bringing them forth out of the land of Egypt. Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness. And I gave them my statutes, and shewed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them. Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them. But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; and my sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them. But I wrought for my name’s sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen, in whose sight I brought them out... [Etc.]

Note that the Lord did not give Israel "my Sabbaths" until they were in the wilderness as part of his covenant with the nation. This was not a command given them while in Egypt (as were any of the feasts commanded yet). The Lord's covenants (old and new) are "with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah" (Hebrews 8; Jeremiah 31). When Jonah was sent to Nineveh to preach repentance to the gentiles there, there is no adopting of the Law of Moses. Further, even in the land of Israel itself, gentiles living among Israel had their own set of laws. The Law of Moses nor the covenants have ever been universal or without beginning or end.

The Days of the Month and Sabbaths

We must also note the teaching that the Sabbaths are to correspond with the correct days of the month. That is, the first, eighth, fifteenth, twenty-second, and twenty-ninth of the lunar month. This is not necessarily a problem if one just ignores the lunar calendar and simply uses the local "Saturday" as his seventh day, but, to some, that is technically incorrect (and to be technically wrong is to be wrong, that is, to be in sin). And we also simply insert here, this all assumes we know the first day of the first lunar month as from the foundation of the Ages.

The Feasts of The Lord as Statutes Forever

You shall keep it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.’ ”

-Leviticus 23:41-43

I was somewhat shocked (for a moment) at the number of groups I found who say they are keeping the Feast of Tabernacles. Of course, as with all of these things, they don't truly keep the feast as commanded in scripture.

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it. For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it.

Remember, this is "a statute forever." But we also must remember this is a stature forever spoken "to the children of Israel." The entire section on the Feasts concludes with, "So Moses declared to the children of Israel the feasts of the Lord."

But within the keeping of these feasts (remember this was ONLY after they left Egypt), there are instructions for gentiles living among Israel. 

We don't want to get bogged down in the Feasts, so let me finish this section and return to the timing of the Sabbath by just quoting some other commands connected to the feasts that no one I know is keeping. Well, if there are some who are keeping these as commanded, they are denying the sacrifice of Christ.


‘And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord. And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bull, and two rams. They shall be as a burnt offering to the Lord, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the Lord. Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats as a sin offering, and two male lambs of the first year as a sacrifice of a peace offering. The priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath.”

Is this happening? Are we "cutting off" those not "afflicted in soul" on the Day of Atonement? Is the Lord "destroying" believers who work on the Day of Atonement? 

We've looked at these ideas elsewhere. Before we leave this side road, we want to note commands for Gentiles living among believers. These commands are referenced at the Council at Jerusalem in Acts 15 where, again, Gentile believers are treated differently than Jewish believers.


“Also you shall say to them: ‘Whatever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell among you, who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice, and does not bring it to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, to offer it to the Lord, that man shall be cut off from among his people [i.e. put to death]. ‘And whatever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell among you, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people.

And we also want to note how the UNCHANGING LAW changed:


And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it.
-Exodus 12:48


And if a stranger dwells among you, and would keep the Lord’s Passover, he must do so according to the rite of the Passover and according to its ceremony; you shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger and the native of the land.’ ”

-Numbers 9:14

No longer a requirement for circumcision. If one would contend that circumcision is implied, and he insists the law is universally applicable... he'll have to conclude circumcision is still a requirement. 

Let's continue with the statutes in Numbers 9 in regard to the Passover for the unclean and for those on a long journey (outside the land).

“Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If any one of you or of your descendants is unclean through touching a dead body, or is on a long journey, he shall still keep the Passover to the Lord. In the second month on the fourteenth day at twilight they shall keep it.

But when is the Passover to be observed in the Law?


And the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, "Let the people of Israel keep the Passover at its appointed time. On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall keep it at its appointed time; according to all its statutes and all its rules you shall keep it.” So Moses told the people of Israel that they should keep the Passover. And they kept the Passover in the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight, in the wilderness of Sinai; according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so the people of Israel did.


Leaving the "unclean" for the sake of this study (although the law-keepers must also deal with that), let us focus on those "on a long journey." Israel was to observe the Passover in the FIRST MONTH, yet a child of Israel "on a long journey" at that time was to keep it in the SECOND MONTH. Why not observe it where he is travelling? I propose to you, that since the Passover begins at "twilight" in the land, it can only be kept at "twilight" in the land

Here, we want to turn back to the Sabbath and how the Lord separates it from the other days and instructs Israel when she is to observe it.

The Reading of the Law and Its Place and Purpose

We turn to Nehemiah and the return of Israel to the land after 70 years in the Babylonian captivity. We won't go through the entire chapter, but I will pull out a few verses and passages for context.

On that day they read in the book of Moses in the audience of the people; and therein was found written, that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of God for ever; because they met not the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam against them, that he should curse them: howbeit our God turned the curse into a blessing. Now it came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude.

-Nehemiah 13:1-3

I noted this entire passage because it is another example of the exclusivity of the law for Israel. Would we, or how would we possibly apply this to today? How would the Body enact this "for ever" law? Do we "spiritualize" the passage and find replacements for the Ammonite and Moabite in this age? We also note Ruth was a Moabite. But that is another study for another day. We focus here solely on the focus of the "book of Moses" and its limited application.

Now before this, Eliashib the priest, having authority over the storerooms of the house of our God, was allied with Tobiah. And he had prepared for him a large room, where previously they had stored the grain offerings, the frankincense, the articles, the tithes of grain, the new wine and oil, which were commanded to be given to the Levites and singers and gatekeepers, and the offerings for the priests.

-Nehemiah 13:4-5

Just going to ask here: what on earth do we do with this in this age? What are "the storerooms of the house of our God" in this age? Where do have "the grain offerings, the frankincense, the articles, the tithes of grain, the new wine and oil?" Finally, how are we to give these " to the Levites and singers and gatekeepers, and the offerings for the priests?" Do we simply "spiritualize" all these? If so, can I simply "spiritualize" the Sabbaths and Feasts?

But during all this I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Then after certain days I obtained leave from the king, and I came to Jerusalem and discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in preparing a room for him in the courts of the house of God. And it grieved me bitterly; therefore I threw all the household goods of Tobiah out of the room. Then I commanded them to cleanse the rooms; and I brought back into them the articles of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense.

-Nehemiah 13:6-9

Nehemiah's instructions from the Law pertained only to Jerusalem. "The courts of the house of God" are unique to Israel alone. And again we have, "the articles of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense." 

If we limited the Law to the people of Israel and certain elements to the land, does that mean sins like adultery and murder were OK for Gentiles or outside the land? Of course not. Murder has been wrong from the beginning. Cain murdered Abel before the Law was given. If we somehow believe (as some teach) that the law around in oral form, why did no one build a tabernacle or temple in Jerusalem after leaving Egypt? Why did the great Abraham not do this? Why did he never bring a sacrifice to a Levite or brings offerings to the storehouse?

You might think these are stupid questions (and in a way they are), but these are enormous problems for those who would have us believe the Law is eternal. In addition to these problems, we have the added problem of circumcision which was unknown to Abraham at the time of his justification. Circumcision was not connected in any way to justification for life and neither was the Law.

Christ has redeemed us [Jews] from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it. Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God n Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

-Galatians 3:13-18 

When we rightly divide Galatians, Paul is still addressing Jews and Gentiles separately yet singularly. What do I mean by that? Well, the gift of Life has always been by grace through faith since Adam. The Law entered in and contained earthly promises to Israel in addition to the free gift. However, these earthly things are contingent upon obedience. The Gospel of the Kingdom was limited to Jews alone and could not be preached outside the land (Matthew 10:5-7). Israel's failure under the law stood in the way of these blessings. Christ removed the curse of the Old Covenant by law and will replace it one day with the New Testament by promise. In the back of all that is the free gift of Life through his name by faith alone (John 20:30-31).

Galatians (and Romans) speaks of the blessings of Abraham which were two-fold: the free gift of justification by faith and the blessings of Abraham through obedience. This is how we can understand the justification of Abraham while in uncircumcision by faith and the justification of Abraham in circumcision by his acts of faith (works).

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.

-Romans 3:19-31

For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.

-Romans 4:3-5

Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.

-Romans 4:9-10

But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect [mature]?

James 2:20-22

We note again here the uniqueness of Abraham's "works." Human sacrifice of one's child is not a work of the law to be emulated for the free gift of life. Here we see Abraham's obedience to his calling which completed his faith. Yet he was justified freely in uncircumcision when he believed God in Ur.

There is a "better resurrection" (Heb 11) to be earned. There is, today, a prize, a "resurrection out from among the rest of the dead" to be attained (Phil 3). But these are gained by obedience to "the calling to which we have been called," (Eph 4) not to the calling of another. Abraham received neither the gift of life or access to the heavenly Jerusalem by obedience to the Old Covenant Law. We certainly will not attain the out-resurrection or a place in the far above the heavens that way either.

Jews Outside Israel in the Acts Age

We have seen that the Gospel of the Kingdom was limited to Jews in the Gospels. When we enter into the continuation of the Kingdom message in the Acts Age, we again notice only Jews keeping the Sabbath by meeting in synagogues. This was true outside Israel proper, but the time would have been the same.

As just one example, let us consider Acts 18:


After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.

What the text never provides is what these Jews considered the start or end of the Sabbath. But had they relied on Jerusalem, they would have had essentially the same sabbath observance. Granted, this map from today may not reflect how time was reckoned over the centuries, but it does show that Asia Minor and Greece would have had a similar sunset and sunrise as Jerusalem. 

This also begs the question (again) what to people in areas of the planet with only a few hours of sunlight at certain times of the year? Finland is in the time zone noted above.  Utsjoki, Finland, in December has essentially no sunrise (or sunset). The same can be said of June (only for the opposite condition). The Sabbath is sunset to sunset, so it wouldn't matter if the daylight only lasts an hour, but it would matter if there was no daylight (thus no sunset) at all... if one is taking all scripture for himself.

One can observe a Sabbath rest without a Sabbath Law. One does not even need a sunset to observe such a rest. Rest is a gift to be enjoyed. But if we put ourselves under its obligation, the gift becomes a curse. 

What is it to Rest?

The point of "rest" is not a test or a punishment, it is a gift to man. I sit at a desk all week. If I sit at a desk at home, have I truly "ceased to work?" Whereas, if I put on an edifying message or music and spend time on my yard, could that not be construed as therapeutic rest? Ceasing from my labor? If we want to go back to Genesis, we must heed the Lord's word as to the reason for the creation and example of the Sabbath.

Did the Lord need physical rest on the seventh day? No, he simply ceased his work of creation. The Sabbath of the Law differs (as has been noted). Let us enjoy rest when we can take it. Let us truly pull away from mercantilism and devote time to health, family, worship, prayer, and holiness. Creating a list of dos and don'ts based on the Law given for a particular people with a particular calling will lead to either enslavement to fear or a puffed sense of self-worth. In its worst form, it believes God is in its debt.

Takeaway: Utsjoki has a seventh day, they just don't come under the Law of the seventh day. The second you put yourself under the Law, you become a law-breaker. See Galatians Chapter 4 (and that's just for Jews under a different promise, certainly no Gentile should put himself under the law).