A new direction in "political correctness"? ...

Get Ready for Sunday!

Soon you may have no choice but to cease work, shopping, professional sports and many other "worldly" activities on Sundays. Are you ready?

Friday. Saturday. Sunday. Each is considered special by large segments of the world's populace. Those who observe in some degree the Christian Sunday are most numerous - near enough two billion. All Protestant denominations write Sunday observance into their catechisms - a practice shared by the various sects of Roman Catholicism.

How the day is observed varies from a 'nod and a wink' through to the dedicated "Lord's Day observer" who treats the day as if it were a divinely-appointed Sabbath. For serious Christians Sunday observance is considered a vital part of their religious practice. It's a voluntary choice, freely observed. But not for long!

Blue Laws

The twentieth century has witnessed a sharp decline in the veneration of Sunday as a day for worship. The century ended with a catastrophic fall in church going. Yet when the century began we had not long emerged from the influence of the 'blue laws'. These were prohibitions against various activities on Sunday - often with attached penalties.

Indeed America's first state Sunday law, in Virginia in 1610, included the death penalty for failing to show up for church for the third time. Serious breaches, in the 1656 Connecticut law, also included a death penalty. As late as 1898 a New Hampshire Senator proposed to Congress a national blue law. It was a Bill "...to secure to the people the enjoyment of the first day of the week, commonly known as the Lord's Day, as a day of rest, and to promote its observance as a day of religious worship". The Bill was opposed by seventh-day Sabbath observers, and eventually failed.

In England the established Church exercised widespread coercive authority on religious matters. There were 'Sunday laws' in some form since the 7th century, and especially since Edward VI's Act of Uniformity (of religion) in 1551. Ecclesiastical censure and fines were imposed by statute in 1558 - the penalties repealed only in 1846. Only in recent years has Sunday trading been permitted by Law.

Such laws arose from the sincerely-held view - however misapplied that a godly nation ought to venerate a weekly day of rest and worship, dedicated to the Creator. Indeed Sunday is held in high esteem to this day by millions whatever the law of the land may be.

The current lax legal approach to Sunday observance, however, may soon come to a grinding halt!

Unholy Alliance?

Whatever the profound differences and historical antagonism between Romanism and Protestantism, they are certainly agreed on which day of the week to set aside for worship. Since the fourth century the majority in Christendom, willingly or by force, have observed Sunday. Perhaps surprisingly, as the Roman Church claims to be the 'mother of Sunday', having changed it from the apostolic (and divinely-appointed) seventh-day Sabbath. Even Protestant scholars agree that Rome made the change contrary to the Scripture teaching. Sunday, however, is fast becoming a bridge of reconciliation for Protestants and Catholics. The seed-bed for this is the United States. Roman Catholics now represent 26% of the population - some 57 million, up from well under 2% in 1776. They are increasingly influential in private and public life. And this can be seen as a positive influence, given the papal stand on such matters as abortion, personal responsibility, family values - and morality in general. It contrasts sharply with the general immorality of government and the populace at large.

Indeed the two issues of abortion ('pro-life') and Sunday observance are the key to the new alliance between the Roman Church and evangelical Protestantism represented by Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition of America. Together they are a powerful political force, representing perhaps half of all Americans.

What, though, does this new alliance bode for religious liberty?

Free To Obey

The moral pressure exerted by 'Man of the Year' Pope John-Paul is almost irresistible. Seen as an icon of moral stability he is all but worshipped by the general populace wherever he goes, and feted by governments. He is seen as a major architect of the downfall of communism, he is courted by politicians and religious leaders and his influence is in demand to quell international dispute - as in Jerusalem.

But for Pope John-Paul, the observance of Sunday as a day of worship is of high priority. Concerned at the increasingly low attendance at Sunday mass, he published (May, 1998) his pastoral letter Dies Domini - the Day of the Lord. Equating (wrongly!) Sunday with the Biblical Sabbath, the Pope called for Catholics to use their influence in legalizing Sunday observance.

In Catholic Canon Law, attendance at Sunday mass is a 'grave obligation' - non-attendance sinful. Dies Domini, however, goes further. In it the Pope urges Christians to "strive to ensure that civil legislation respects their duty to keep Sunday holy". (Incidentally, only God can 'make something holy'!)

Legislation, of course, is written by the civil authorities. Addressing some 15,000 public officials from around the world in November 2000. Pope John Paul said that political leaders must conform civil laws and policies to God's objective moral law - meaning, o course, as understood by Rome. In support, former Soviet Union president Mikhail Gorbachev told the assembly that the task of civil leaders in the twenty-first century would be to unite morality to politics. In the recently published Catechism it is stated "...Christians should seek recognition of Sunday and the Church's holy days as legal holidays".

This theme has been taken up by the Christian Coalition of America, which also wants to see Sunday protected. Indeed an increasing number of Roman Catholics are members of the Coalition, and in key posts within it. Given the propensity for politicians to 'roll over' to protect their position, a grass-roots opinion swell for Sunday ('blue') laws is likely to succeed in the United States. And it's now thought that Catholics, 26% of the population, command the 'swing vote'. They are expected to vote according to conscience - the conscience of the Pope.

Sunday blue laws may not be far away!

Is It Important?

So, doesn't that just means an extra day off? It's an attractive idea in our frenetic western world. And to slide past the Constitution and the First Amendment, the health and family aspects of such legislation are highlighted by Catholic spokesmen - not the 'promotion of religion'. What, however, does it mean for you - for Judaism, for Adventists, for Muslims and for the multitude of other seventh-day observers and non-observers of Sunday? It's the freedom of such religious minorities that is at stake.

Commerce and the entertainment industry have been the driving force behind the abolition of restrictions on Sunday work, coupled with the decline in religious observance in general. Business is not likely to take kindly to such legislation. Especially if you request off Saturday - or Friday - to fulfill religious obligations! Should Sunday blue laws be introduced or revived (they still quietly grace the legislation of some States) then minorities would be excluded from the economy: "Work on Saturday, or else".

Prophetic Insight

Such a scenario was predicted by Jesus in his message to the world for the end-time - for now.

We are to expect the rise of a short-lived, humanistic anti-God [i.e., the God of Scripture] confederation of nations in Europe described as a 'wild beast' (Revelation 13:1-10). It will attain world dominion and be widely acclaimed - but will, however, be a persecuting power, hell-bent on destroying true believers, those 'written in the Book of Life' (v. 7, 8). Behind the beast is the shadowy figure of man's arch enemy, Satan (v. 2).

Perhaps surprisingly, this secular power gains its vast worldwide authority through the influence of religion. Another 'wild beast' - also motivated by Satan (v. 11) - is personalized as an individual practicing deceptive miraculous acts, even calling down fire. In an echo of the great image erected by King Nebuchadnezzar of ancient Babylon, he will order the fabrication of an 'image to the beast' which he will miraculously cause to speak (vv.14, 15).

Indeed the first beast's persecutions are instigated by the influence of the second, religious, beast. It's a reflection of the medieval practice of committing heretics to the secular power to administer punishment - including the death penalty.

The initial trigger is economic: "And he causes all ...to receive a mark on their right hand or on the forehead [indicating submission and obedience], and that no-one may buy or sell except one who has the name or the mark of the beast, or the number of his name" (vv. 16-17).

It's all a bit mysterious!

Prepare For Sunday

We get a clue to the mystery in the next chapter. Jesus - not so 'meek and mild' - tells us that those who submit to and obey the beast power will suffer 'the wrath of God' (the seven last plagues). By contrast those who will suffer under the hand of the beast "keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (Rev. 14:12).

That's interesting! They 'keep the commandments of God'. And this co-exists with keeping' the faith of Jesus'. No religion and no secular power advocates that its people kill or perjure or steal or dishonor the elderly - though they may encourage it by defective laws. That is, they would in general support obedience to the last six of the Ten Commandments. But this humanistic authority egged on by the religious power turns against those 'who keep the commandments'. In other words, the focus is on the first four of the Commandments, which teach us how to 'love God'.

Pivotal to these four is "Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8-11). The only day God made holy was the seventh, basically our Saturday (Genesis 2:3). That's why many of those Christians who observe the .seventh-day Sabbath will at that time be martyred! As the apostle Peter said to the secular/religious authorities: "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).

Mass Extinction

Before the first Christian century expired, most of the church had departed from the faith of Jesus. Over time true teachings were ditched, new practices added. Echoing the departure from the faith of the northern House of Israel's King Jeroboam (I Kings 12), the age-old faith of the Bible was abandoned and the trappings of sun worship were grafted on to the church.

Prominent was the transfer of worship to Sunday and the abandonment of the seventh-day Sabbath and the annual holy days, all of which were the apostolic practice. Biblical Christianity - the religion of Jesus - became all but extinct.

Prophecy indicates this 'lawless' form of Christianity will be widespread in the end-time. It will lead to the unholy alliance of a false form of religion co-operating with the secular authorities. Those who 'worship the beast' will bask briefly - in a time of peace and prosperity. It won't last.

A Warning Unheeded

During the preceding time of 'stress upon nations' the signs of the times and the warnings of the church of God will have gone unheeded. The publishers of New Horizons, for example, have been part of a work which for the past almost seventy years has been calling for our nations to turn to God.

The vast majority of those who have heard the warning, however, has refused to respond. By the time Jesus Christ returns all the world will have heard, will have been confronted by their idolatry. Here's what Jesus told John: "But the rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues [largely the effects of our misuse of the planet] did not repent of the works of their hands that they should not worship demons [any religion that isn't based on the Scriptures], and idols ...and they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts (Revelation 9:20-21). We're back to those Ten Commandments again!

Clearly, our 'choice of religion' is limited: God's way, the Biblical way. Or any other way.

Many of those who become, and remain, patiently faithful to the Word of God, however, will be martyred. Their lot is to be resurrected shortly thereafter at the return of Christ and to reign with him perpetually in the Family of God.

We each have a stark choice. Anciently God gave the seventh-day Sabbath as an identity sign for His people (Exodus 31:12-17). But hear what a prominent cardinal mistakenly says: "Sunday ...is one of the most patent signs that we are a Christian people". And Pope John-Paul in Dies Domini: "More than a replacement of the Sabbath, therefore, Sunday is its fulfillment".

You are urged to believe God and not men - and live for eternity.

To comment on this article or request more information, please contact James McBride by e-mail at the comment form below.

For PDF or mailed copy, see CGOM. Excerpt from New Horizons Issue 25, January/February 2001. Edited by James McBride of the Churches of God, United Kingdom.

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