July 16, 2018

What Is “the Day” of Hebrews 10:25?

By David Lawrence

"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25).

This text, as customarily understood, provides the command, negatively stated, for Christians to assemble. It is not the only Bible authority for assembling, for there are many examples; but it is the sole specific command. In our interpretation of the verse we have usually cited the first section, but passed lightly over the section which mentions "the day." What, exactly, is "the day?"

Upon first examination one might think of "the day" as the first day of the week, Sunday. After a relatively thorough study of this matter, and after sufficient thought, I would offer the following evidence to sustain; the conclusion that "the day" of Hebrews 10:25 is not Sunday, but rather a day of reckoning, specifically, the Day of Judgment.

Usage in Old Testament

1. The letter under consideration was written to the Hebrews, to Jewish Christians. A Jew would understand the expression, "the day," as a day of reckoning. For in the Old Testament usage "the day" was used to indicate either a punishment for Israel to come at a certain time, or a time of their vindication and deliverance through the punishment of their enemies.

The expression is used approximately one hundred and sixteen times in the Old Testament (I will not vouch for the exactness that figure or those to follow, for it is certainly possible that I could have missed a "the day" here and there; but the figures will give an accurate indication of the usage of the term.) Of the 116 times, "the day" or its various forms ("that day," "in the day," "day of the Lord") is used seven times to mean a day of calamity, twenty-five times to indicate a day of reckoning, sixteen times the specific form "in the day" (of reckoning) is employed, thirty-one times it appears as "that day" (of reckoning), thirteen times it is used to mean a day of trouble, and eight times as a day of battle.

"The day" or any of its forms, cited above, is never used to refer to the Sabbath or a specific day of worship. Every reference to days of worship contains sufficient modifiers to identify it as such. Although the 116 references mentioned above to "the day" as a day of reckoning are far too numerous to mention specifically, I would call your attention to these passages and their treatment of "the day": Ezek. 30:2-3, Joel 2:1-2, Isa. 13:6, and Zeph. 1:7.

Usage in New Testament

2. "The day" is used in- the New Testament in exactly the same manner as in the Old Testament, that is, in reference to a day of reckoning. The Greek word, "ha hamera," is employed approximately forty-three times in the New Testament. Of these, twenty-two are used with the phrase "of judgment," and twenty-one refer to a day of reckoning. The context of those twenty-one references shows that eighteen refer to the Day of Judgment, and three to the destruction of Jerusalem. Notice Acts 17:30-31 for a clear usage of "the day."

3. The first day of the week is nowhere referred to as "the day." Our translations of the phrase "first day of the week" come from a Greek expression, which, if translated literally, would read something like "the first (day) after the Sabbath," because the Jewish mind considered days in relation to the Sabbath. If "the day" in Hebrews 10:25 means the first day of the week, it is the only such usage in the New Testament, and the only time in the entire Bible that it refers to a specific day of worship.

4. The first day of the week is not the fulfillment or antitype of the Jewish Sabbath. Heaven is the fulfillment of the Sabbath. Read Hebrews 4:1-11. The Sabbath rules are therefore not transferred to Sunday; Sunday is in no sense the "Christian Sabbath."

5. There is no exclusive day of worship specified in the New Testament. The first day of the week is specified only as regards the partaking of the Lord's Supper (Acts 20:7), and the laying by in store (I Cor. 16:2).

6. There is nothing to substantiate the idea that "the Lord's day" of Rev. 1:10 implies a sanctification of Sunday. If it does refer to Sunday, it probably is so called because Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday. There is nothing about a "day of worship" in that text.

7. The advocates of the "Lord's day" theory interpret the exhorting of Hebrews 10:25 to mean "Christians privately exhorting one another to be present for the Sunday assembly." But the word "exhort" and its various forms ("exhorting," "exhorted, exhortation") usually refer to public speaking that would be done in the assembly. The word is used approximately thirty-two times in the New Testament. Of these, nineteen times it is used in reference to public exhortation in an assembly (12 times it is definitely exhortation in the church; 4 times it might be in the church). Ten times the word refers to written exhortation, usually by the apostles. Only one time is the word definitely used in reference to private exhortation; two other times it might refer to such.

8. The word "assembling" is used in Heb. 10:25, not "assembly." The present participle would denote a continuous action, not a certain assembly, but anytime the church is assembling.

I offer the following paraphrase as what I sincerely believe to be a proper exegesis of the text:

"We are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together as some do. Anytime the congregation of which we are a member assembles, we are not to absent ourselves from that assembly. When we assemble, we are to exhort one another. Our exhortation in the assembly is in view of the coming judgment day, hence, as it draws nearer for all of us, we exhort so much the more."

Therefore, it is indeed sinful to forsake the assembling anytime the church meets: Sunday, Wednesday . . . the day of the week matters not. It matters that the church is meeting, and .1 as a Christian and a member of the church, need to be there.

Truth Magazine VIII: 7, pp. 13-14
April 1964