Why do we set aside the first day of the week rather than the seventh? Exodus 20:9-10 is quite clear. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God.” First, the command regarding Sabbath rest is moral and perpetual. It is a creation ordinance (Genesis 2:3) much like marriage (Genesis 3:18, 21-25). The Sabbath was therefore observed before God gave the Ten Commandments (Exodus 16:23). Why then the change from the seventh day to the first day?
This change was prefigured in the Old Testament ceremonial law. Leviticus 23 outlines the various feasts God required Israel to celebrate. Verse 10 says, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest.” This offering of first fruits occurred on the day after the Sabbath or on the first day of the week. “He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD for you to be accepted; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it” (Leviticus 23:11). This was also the first day of the week after the Passover.
Fifty days later, Israel celebrated the feast of harvest (Exodus 23:16). Leviticus 23:15-16 and 21 give the directions.
You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete Sabbaths. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the LORD … On this same day you shall make a proclamation as well; you are to have a holy convocation. You shall do no laborious work. It is to be a perpetual statute in all your dwelling places throughout your generations.
Yes, all of this foreshadowed the work of Christ. On the Thursday of Passion Week, our Lord celebrated His final Passover with His disciples. That Friday, “Christ our Passover” was sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7). Then two days elapsed. On the first day of the week, Christ was raised from the dead, “the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). And then, fifty days later, the Spirit was poured out “when the day of Pentecost had come” (Acts 2:1). Clearly, the Old Testament looked forward to these great events.
The feast of first fruits and the first fruits of the resurrection, the resurrection of Christ, took place on the first day of the week. And since Christ fulfilled the ancient ceremony of first fruits with His resurrection, New Testament believers have always met on the first day of the week.
Paul also connects Christ’s resurrection with yours. He does so in 1 Corinthians 15:22-23. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming.” Christ is the first fruits of the resurrection harvest. The resurrection harvest is already in progress. Your resurrection is therefore assured. Christ will come again. He will complete the harvest. “He will gather His wheat into the barn” (Matthew 3:12).
As a result, you gather on the first day of the week. You celebrate the resurrection of Christ. You also celebrate your own future resurrection.