In Revelation 1:10 John makes mention to “the Lord’s Day” and the question is, Is John referring to the seventh-day Sabbath or the resurrection day?
My answer is, I don’t know because the text doesn’t give us enough detail to know.
However, there is a relevant societal issue that may be at the heart of John’s mention of “the Lord’s Day.” During John’s time the Roman Empire had a day of honor and worship dedicated to the Emperor, which was the first day of the new month, called “the Emperor’s Day.”
It is likely that John called that day in which he was in vision — Saturday or Sunday — the Lord’s Day because it was a day for believers to honor and worship the Lord Jesus Christ.
I say Saturday or Sunday because I really don’t know which but allow me to throw out some of my thoughts regarding the Lord’s Day.
First, let me address the Saturday position. Sabbath proponents point to Isaiah 58:13-14 and Mark 2:27-28 and the reference of “Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath” as reason for the seventh-day Sabbath being the Lord’s Day that John is referring to.
It is possible that it may have been a Sabbath day that John calls it the Lord’s Day. John certainly grew up in a Sabbath keeping tradition and when we get into the records of the book of Acts, we do see the Apostles “went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down” (Acts 13:14) and “reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath” (Acts 18:4).
I have written on various perspectives of understanding the Sabbath, and you can find those articles here: Sabbath. The references to the Sabbath in the book of Acts are not necessarily expressions in favor of adhering to the 4th commandment, but may be similar to today’s Sunday church services in that employers and communities make attendance easier on that day. Of course, the Sabbath texts of Acts do not automatically mean that the Apostle John, some 40-50 years later, is referring to the seventh-day Sabbath when he wrote the Lord’s Day.
This brings me to address the Sunday position. Whereas the Sabbath proponents of Revelation 1:10 can grab verses from Scripture to support their position, even as inconclusive as they are, the Sunday proponents of Revelation 1:10 point to historical sources that link the phrase “the Lord’s Day” to Sunday.
There are eight mentions in the New Testament to “the first day of the week” (Sunday) but not another use of the phrase “the Lord’s Day” in Scripture.
This is not an article documenting Sunday as a weekly time of communal worship, but there are research works that point to Sunday as the Lord’s Day by Ignatius of Antioch in A.D. 110 and Justin Martyr in A.D. 150.
The historian Josephus has made reference to Christian to Rome who met in worship together on Fridays, later changing to Sundays, and one reason he cites is to distinguish themselves from Sabbath keeping Jews.
It is conceivable then that “the Lord’s Day” mentioned by John may have been on the first day of the week, Sunday rather than Saturday.
Day of the Lord
There is a third position of “the Lord’s Day” as mentioned by John in Revelation 1:10 and that is that the Apostle may be referring to the phrase “the Day of the Lord” as was popular in prophetic communications from Joel and Zechariah.
It’s a prophetic phrase that points to an extended or undetermined period of time in which God’s judgment and sovereignty takes ownership again of the earth.
I don’t find a great deal of credence in this third position, but it is probably worth mentioning because it is held out there by some prophecy teachers. John makes a great deal of allusion to the Old Testament through out Revelation so I think if he meant to use the term “the Day of the Lord” he would have.