The timing of the Sabbath day

Do the Sabbath hours begin on Saturday morning? Recently a concerned individual wrote me regarding a website that promotes the idea that the Sabbath should be observed from Saturday morning until Sunday morning. I knew that early Adventists kept it from 6 pm Friday evening to 6 pm Saturday evening. I also knew that Lunar Sabbatarians believe that the Sabbath was originally based on the lunar cycle, and that the count to the Sabbath should therefore begin afresh with each new moon. In other words, Lunar Sabbatarians do not believe in a continuous weekly Sabbath, based on a seven-day cycle. But the concept of morning-to-morning observance was new to me.


My wife and I prayerfully guard the edges of the Sabbath, preparing especially on Friday for the holy day. Each Friday evening, we welcome its coming. Therefore, in this brief article I wish to present plain evidence for keeping the Sabbath the way we do and by writing this I hope to protect readers from buying into strange views that abound everywhere.

Also, just for the record, most Seventh-day Adventists share my understanding of the Sabbath hours. However, I write this as a warning because those who hold other views often target Adventists.


In the Genesis account of creation, God repeatedly describes each day as “the evening and the morning were the … day.” Furthermore, in whatever translation you use, it is apparent that the day starts with the dark part of the day. But for those who don’t see it as apparent in Genesis 1, the gospels make it very clear.

There you can see:
1) That the preparation day, Friday, ended at sunset.
2) That the Sabbath day commenced at sunset on Friday.
3) That the commandment-keepers who rested the Sabbath day were actively engaged in their daily work very early Sunday morning.

Here is the data: Luke tells us that, “he [Joseph] took it [Christ’s body] down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulcher that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid. 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 his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested on the sabbath day according to the commandment” (KJV, Luke 23:53-56).

What we see here is that Joseph and the women cared for the body of Jesus on Friday evening as the “sabbath drew on.” Then after resting, the women came to the tomb “very early” on the “first day of the week.”

How early? We will get to that. But first, notice on Friday afternoon that the Jews were also concerned about getting business done before the Sabbath arrived. Their concern is recorded by John, “The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away” (John 19:31).

But let’s get back to the women. They came to the tomb after the Sabbath, but before the dawn. The New King James (NKJV) reading clarifies this. It is not so obvious in the King James Version (KJV).

“Now after the sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb” (NKJV, Matt 28:1).

Mark’s version is clear in both the KJV and NKJV, “And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and annoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun” (KJV, Mark 16:1).

How early? Well, they left their homes in the dark, with the spices and were able to arrive at the tomb “at the rising of the sun.” And this was when the Sabbath was past.

This settles it, then. The Sabbath was kept “according to the commandment” by Christ’s followers from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. In other words, the evening preceded the morning during each day.


In the explanation of the Day of Atonement, the pioneers of Adventism found a plain passage about the timing of days: “It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls; in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath” (Lev 23:32).

In other words, the tenth day of the month begins at the evening that concludes the ninth day. And then the tenth day runs from that evening to the next evening. Therefore, those advocating the morning-first Sabbath have the trouble of explaining how the Day of Atonement was celebrated half on the 9th and half on the 10th. But the Adventists, seeing the plain harmony of the command with the gospel and with Genesis 1, do not have any such difficulty to resolve.


We live in the most dramatic of times. And as winds are blowing doctrines in every direction, we can’t afford to be unanchored. However, some people will be led astray by the confusing studies of those opposing the truth explained in the passages above. Sadly, many will feel excited to have found something new that paints their brethren in a poor light. 

But none of the data will excuse them if they have ignored Christ’s testimony that was given specifically to keep them from being deceived. Paul warned us that we should “henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14).

And this is what the Testimony of Jesus testified when the church was just learning about the proper timing of Sabbath:

I saw it was even so, "From even unto even shall ye celebrate your Sabbath." Said the angel, "Take the word of God, read it, understand, and ye cannot err. Read carefully, and ye shall there find what even is, and when it is." I asked the angel if the frown of God had been upon his people for commencing the Sabbath as they have. I was directed back to the first rise of the Sabbath. I followed the people of God up to this time, and did not see that God was displeased, or frowned upon them. I inquired why it had been thus, that at this late day we must change the time of commencing the Sabbath. Said the angel, "Ye shall understand, but not yet, not yet." Said the angel, "If light comes, and that light is set aside, or rejected, then comes condemnation and the frown of God; but before the light comes there is no sin, for there is no light for them to reject." I saw that it was in the minds of some that the Lord had shown that the Sabbath commenced at six o'clock, when I had only seen that it commenced at "even," and it was inferred that even was at six. I saw the servants of God must draw together, press together (White, Spiritual Gifts, 3).  

In conclusion, many of the points made in the erroneous article I read (found at were rooted in misapplications of two words, “day” and “tomorrow.” The former is often used to describe the sun’s portion of a day that starts at sunrise and is announced by many birds. The latter word is a reference to the next morning. 

So, just as we don’t say “tomorrow” when talking on a Friday afternoon about the soon coming evening, the Hebrews didn’t use the word that way either. Rather, they used the same phrases we would. 

So though we want to be “of the day” and not “of the night” it wouldn’t be well for us to be confused by the tricky use of these words. The data from the gospels in clear and concise.

Truth is beautiful in its simplicity. However, error is charming but it isn’t beautiful. And it frequently advances itself through bewildering complexity.