When Does The Sabbath Begin?
The World Mission Society Church of God teaches that observance of the Sabbath is required for salvation and celebrates the Sabbath from approximately 9 am until 10 pm on Saturday (yes that’s 13 hours in church every Saturday if you’re counting, and it is absolutely exhausting). Despite the long day, many members stay until 12 am or later on the Sabbath to “study”. When I was a member, I remember a WMSCOG Deacon explaining that “Jewish people do not observe the Sabbath correctly because they begin observing on Friday evening“. I found this very strange. I wondered how the Jews, who had been commanded to observe the Sabbath when the commandments were given to Moses by God in Exodus 20, could have gotten it wrong? Did the Jews observe the Sabbath incorrectly, and did Moses fail to correct them?
What Does the Bible Say?
Interestingly, the Bible does provide some guidance on this topic. In Leviticus 23, the Lord commands the Israelites to observe 7 feasts. Included in the command to observe The Day of Atonement, the Lord says:
…From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your sabbath.
The above verse clearly states that the Sabbath was to be observed from evening to evening. Some WMSCOG members have argued that this particular Sabbath is during the Feast of Weeks and therefore does not apply to all Sabbath observances. Well, then why don’t they follow it when a Sabbath falls within another feast? In the Bible though we find many other verses that explain that all feast dates were calculated based on the new moon. For instance:
And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years”…And there was evening, and there was morning…
…your appointed festivals and New Moon feasts…
and whenever burnt offerings were presented to the LORD on the Sabbaths, at the New Moon feasts and at the appointed festivals…
…at the New Moon, and when the moon is full, on the day of our festival
…New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them…
I will stop all her celebrations: her yearly festivals, her New Moons, her Sabbath days—all her appointed festivals.
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
Why does God repeatedly refer to the feasts as “New Moon” feasts? It is because the Jews observe a lunar calendar (sundown to sundown). The first day of the month was calculated based on the new or full moon. We, in modern times, have adopted the solar calendar (sunrise to sunrise). The Jews have not adapted their calculations of the feast times to adjust to our solar calendar, thus observing the Sabbath as they always have, evening to evening.
The Sabbath is Evening to Evening
Therefore, according to the Bible, the Jews are keeping the old covenant law as the Israelites were instructed by Moses, after receiving the commandments from the Lord. On the other hand, the WMSCOG is not observing the Sabbath according to the Bible, and also makes other miscalculations when it comes to other feast dates.
Even the Seventh Day Adventists Observe Sundown on Friday to Sundown on Saturday
The Seventh Day Adventist Church, the same denomination WMSCOG leader Ahn Sahng Hong was a member of until he was kicked out in 1962, observes the Sabbath from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. Perhaps this was one of the grievances Ahn Sahng Hong had with the SDA’s that ultimately led to his expulsion.
We see in Scripture that the Sabbath is to be celebrated from evening to evening. The Jewish people have always celebrated it that way, and still do today. Are the Jews, (whose Sabbath it is), the Seventh Day Adventists, and the Bible wrong, while the World Mission Society Church of God is right? Extremely unlikely.