COSMIC WAR: Allegiance
Warren LeRoi Johns
“And on the seventh day
God ended His work which He had made:
and He rested on the seventh day
from all His work
which He had done.”
Holy Bible, Douay-Rheims Version, Genesis 2:2.
Theater of the Universe
“And there was war in heaven. Michael and His angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough and they lost their place in heaven. That great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.” 1
Lucifer, the “light bearer,” a created angel, overcome by pride and jealousy, wanted to be God. He accused God, falsely, claiming Him to be an unjust tyrant. Almighty God of the universe, could have destroyed him and his angel followers immediately but had he done so, it could appear to all others in the cosmos that Lucifer’s lying accusations might be true.
God wanted the angels and all other beings in the cosmos, to be free moral agents and to worship Him from love, not as automatons, from fear. There was no choice but to banish the rebels from heaven and to isolate them to enable the evil consequences of the rebellion to play out for all to see. Lucifer and his rebel force were confined to Earth, now the theater of the Cosmos, the showcase for evil.
The pristine beauty of life, thriving in a perfectly balanced ecology, had been designed and created at the command of God, in a literal week of seven days. It was here that the architect of death ran rampant, “like a roaring lion,” seeking to destroy God’s handiwork.
Adam and Eve, created in God’s own image, endowed with the moral power of free choice, became Satan’s prime targets. Using dazzling deception, the first couple fell for the con job and bit into the forbidden fruit. At that instant, the curtain rose on the drama of the ages. Adam and Eve unintentionally emerged in starring roles.
The Great Controversy
Once unleashed by the sin virus, the death spiral infected all life on the little “blue dot” planet. The war between good and evil would play out through the disastrous last act when the love and justice of God would be vindicated and Satan’s deceit exposed.
The Divine source of life’s origin emerged as the anchor issue. The Genesis account describes a blob of water-covered matter, floating in cosmic darkness transformed into Planet Earth, throbbing with life, at the command of God. As a weekly reminder of His love, justice, and pre-eminent power, the Creator inaugurated the Sabbath on the seventh day of creation week. Humans were guaranteed a weekly rest from physical labor and the opportunity to worship, honor and communicate with God, the Creator of life.
Satan, father of jealousy, hatred, and death, resorted to entice human minds with fake “knowledge,” suggesting life created itself, accidentally, from non-living matter. The Sabbath, sanctified by God and incorporated as a centerpiece of His ten commandments, stood as a forever bulwark, exposing Satan’s insidious evil designs, as long as preserved and respected by humans. Consequently, the arch-deceiver attacks the Sabbath by every subtle, diversionary means conceivable: influencing cultures to ignore the Sabbath completely; exploiting religious systems to not only change the day of observance, and even using science to deny the existence of a creator on the fabricated theory that life created itself and then evolved into all species of plants and animals over mega millions of years.
The Sabbath: A Sacred Act of Worship
Before there were brand-name churches or mankind struggling for survival under Satan’s brutal intrusion, the seventh day Sabbath, put in place and sanctified by God, crowned creation week. “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made: and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.” 2
When God inspired Moses to free His “chosen” people from Egyptian slavery, He delivered His ten commandments, carved in tables of stone. Beyond reflecting God’s character of love and justice, it summarized mankind’s duty to God and other humans. The Sabbath commandment stood tall at the center reminding the multitude of former slaves that all-powerful, Almighty God had created all life; delivered them from physical slavery; and carried the promise of freeing all who worshiped Him and obeyed His commandments freedom from sin’s shackles.
“Remember that keep the Sabbath, Six days shalt thou labour and shalt do all thy works. But on the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: thou shalt do no work on it, thou nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy beasts, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days, the Lord made heaven and earth, and the seas, and all things that are in them, and rested on the seventh day: therefore the Lord blessed the seventh day and sanctified it.” 3
Jesus not only worshiped on the seventh day Sabbath, “as was His custom,” but emphasized the perpetuity of the ten-commandment Law.
“I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, or the least stroke of a pen, by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever preaches and teaches these commandments will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will not certainly enter the kingdom of heaven.” 4
Despite this unequivocal endorsement by God’s “only begotten son,” the majority of Christian churches have not only abandoned seventh-day Sabbath worship as ordained, blessed, and sanctified by the Creator, but call Sunday the Sabbath. The history of this transition has played out over many years, driven by a variety of human-driven ideas and events.
The Trail of the Transition
Christ said: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” John 14:6 Believers were identified as followers of “The Way” until recognized as “Christians” in Antioch. No evidence exists that Jesus, or His disciples, changed the seventh day Sabbath of the ten commandment Law to be observed on Sunday. First-century Christians followed Christ’s example and worshipped the Creator on the seventh day Sabbath of the Bible.
The 70 AD Jewish rebellion against the yoke of the iron empire’s tyranny triggered a backlash against the “chosen” with a vengeance. The fledgling Christian minority had already suffered martyrdom at the hands of overzealous Jews like Saul of Tarsus. For survival, Christians did not want to be viewed by ruthless Romans as just another Jewish sect.
Thanks to the influence of the newly converted Apostle Paul, the obsolete, Jewish ceremonial law, along with the rite of circumcision, had been discarded as irrelevant to Christian belief. Regardless of this attempt at distancing, as the second century AD approached, “born again” Christian lives were on the line for their loyalty to the Creator’s everlasting kingdom of heaven and rejection of the emperor’s claim to be a deity. To be a Christian meant facing three centuries of cruel persecution.
Front and center in this vicious war against Christian believers were evil emperors Nero, Maximin, Galerius, and Diocletian, inspired by Satan, the father of deceit and death. During their reigns, Christians were hated, hunted, and martyred for no reason other than expressing allegiance to Almighty God of the Universe, and His Son, Jesus, rather than worshipping a pagan emperor, as a god.
In primitive Christianity, there had been no strong central church authority to evaluate and defined orthodoxy. Local leaders assumed all administrative responsibilities. Members of the clergy who served several congregations in metropolitan areas were designated “bishops.” Although bishops from diversified geographic centers were theoretically equal in rank, the Bishop of Rome enjoyed a unique position of prestige due to location in the center of imperial power. Over time, he acquired greater influence and authority, emerging eventually as “first among equals.”
In a letter to the emperor, written about 155, Justin Martyr supported the views of Anicetus. What had started as merely an annual observance and continued as such until the time of Sixtus, had eventually become a weekly “assemblage” for the reading of “the memoirs of the apostles, or the writings of the prophets.” Then a leader gave admonition and “exhorts to the imitation of these good things.” 5
He continued: “Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly because it is the first day in which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you for your consideration.” 6
But the amiable spirit that pervaded the meeting of Anicetus and Polycarp faded. Late in the second century, Victor, bishop of the church in Rome, sought to cut off from the common unity the parishes of all Asia for their failure to agree on observing the resurrection on Sunday. 7
Polycrates, Bishop of Ephesus and a chief object of Victor’s pronouncement, defended his position by citing the example of Philip and John (two of the twelve apostles), Polycarp, “who was a bishop and martyr,” Traseas (also a “bishop and a martyr”) from Eumenia, Sagaris of Laodicea, Papirius, and Melito—all of whom “observed the fourteenth day of the Passover according to the gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. Moreover, I, Polycrates, who am the least of you all, [do] according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For there were seven, my relatives bishops, and I am the eighth; and my relatives always observed the day when the people [the Jews] threw away the leaven.” 8
Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, embraced the theology of the West and maintained that the “mystery of the resurrection of our Lord” should be observed, “only on the day of the Lord.” But, “in the name of those brethren in Gaul over whom he presided,” he admonished Victor “not to cut off whole churches of God, who observed the tradition of an ancient custom.” 9
By the second century, observance of the seventh day Sabbath, linked to Jesus, “Lord of the Sabbath” emerged as another issue for believers facing death daily. Celebrating the resurrection on the first day of the week, as the “Lord’s Day,” concurrently with the creation Sabbath, was viewed by many as an additional way to put distance between Christianity and Jewish tradition. The fourth century AD accelerated the transition with Emperor Constantine marking the trail.
Immediately before Constantine’s rise to power in 313, Emperor Diocletian sponsored ten years of persecution of Christians including martyrdom and torture. The year he took the iron monarchy’s throne, Constantine, an astute politician, issued an Edict of Toleration granting “to Christians, and to all, the free choice to follow that mode of worship which they may wish.” 10
In view of this vast break with his predecessors, traditions about Constantine abound. Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea and a contemporary of Constantine, wrote in glowing terms of the spiritual factors motivating the life of this Roman emperor. Subsequent observers have bestowed upon him the title, “The First Christian Emperor.” Modern church historians are not so generous.
Schaff charges Constantine “did not formally renounce heathenism, and did not receive baptism until, in 337, he was laid upon the bed\of death.” In support of the argument that Constantine’s “progress in the knowledge of Christianity was not a progress in the practice of its virtues,” Schaff cites Constantine’s order to execute “his conquered rival and brother-in-law, Licinius, in breach of solemn promise of mercy (324)…He caused soon afterward, from political suspicion, the death of the young Licinius, nephew, a boy of hardly eleven years. But the worst of all is the murder of his eldest son, Crispus, in 326, who had incurred suspicion of political conspiracy.” 11
Milman describes Constantine as “outwardly, and even zealously pagan” up to 313, and subsequent to 326, as one whose mind “appears to have relapsed in some degree to its imperfectly unpaganized Christianity. His conduct became ambiguous as before, floating between a decided bias in favour of Christianity, and an apparent design to harmonize with it some of the less offensive parts of Heathenism.” 12
Even “his coins bore on the one side the letters of the name of Christ; on the other the figures of the Sun-god, and the inscription, ‘Sol Invictus,’ as if he could not bear to relinquish the patronage of the bright luminary which represented to him, as to Augustus and to Julian, his own guardian deity.” 13
To resolve the riddle of this man he must be viewed against the backdrop of prevailing political and religious conditions. Political turbulence and unrest greeted Constantine when he ascended the throne. The throne itself was shaky enough, and barbarian hordes threatened invasion. The iron monarchy slowly rusted, though until his death in 337 the emperor attempted in every way possible to restore stability and strength.
Paganism predominated. Not more that “a twentieth part of the subjects of the empire had enlisted themselves under the banner of the Cross before the important conversion of Constantine.” 14 Nonetheless, Christians were a vocal and influential minority that held a certain appeal for Constantine. A union of church and state existed, in which religion played a subordinate, departmental role. Constantine directly concerned himself with religious affairs only as a lesser segment of his political sphere.
However, he was “the first representative of the imposing idea of a Christian theocracy, or of that system of policy which assumes all subjects to be Christians, connects civil and religious rights, and regards church and state as the two arms of one and the same divine government on earth…. Christianity appeared to him, as it proved in fact, the only efficient power for the political reformation of the empire, from which the ancient spirit of Rome was fast departing.” 15
Constantine’s political motives were showing when he strove “not so much for the cause of God, as for the gratification of his own ambition and love of power.” 16 For three centuries Christianity had flourished in a hostile environment, though persecution and suppression had been punctuated by moments of comparative tolerance.
"Venerable Day of the Sun"
In a quest for additional devices of unity, Constantine noted the significance attached to the first day of the week by Christian and pagan alike. Many Christians had for a long time attached the “Lord’s Day” label to the first day of the week and marked for a weekly festival in celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Mithraists worshiped the sun as a deity, so the day of the sun was sacred to them also. Constantine found it politically expedient to please these two diverse segments of his realm by honoring the “venerable day of the sun” through governmental edict in which “he expresses himself, perhaps with reference at once to the sun-god, Apollo, and of Christ, the true Sun of righteousness; to his pagan and his Christian subjects.” 18
The retention of the old pagan name of “Dies Solis,” or “Sunday,” for the weekly Christian festival, is, in a great measure, owing to the union of pagan and Christian sentiment with which the first day of the week was recommended by Constantine to his subjects, pagan and Christian alike, as the “venerable day of the Sun.” His celebrated decree has been justly called “a new era in the history of the Lord’s Day.” It was his mode of harmonizing the Christian and pagan elements of the Empire under one common institution. 19
At a time when forces were already at work that would tear the empire into shreds, the first Sunday law did provide a common denominator of unity. The law, promulgated on March 7, 321, ordered: “Let all judges and all city people and all tradesmen rest on the venerable day of the sun; but let those dwelling in the country freely and with full liberty attend to the culture of their fields, since it frequently happens that no other day is so fit for the sowing of grain or the planting of vines; hence, the favorable time should not be allowed to pass, lest provisions of heaven be lost.” 20
Although the law carried religious overtones, it could hardly be called “Christian.” The edict did not invoke the “Lord’s Day.” The day after the Sunday proclamation, Constantine revealed his pagan inclinations in a decree calling for consultation with “soothsayers” when “the palace or other public works shall be struck by lightning.” 21
Constantine relaxed some aspects of his law in July of that same year, 321: “As it seemed unworthy of the day of the sun, honored for its own sacredness, to be used in litigations and baneful disputes of parties, so it is grateful and pleasant on that day for sacred vows to be fulfilled. And, therefore let all have the liberty on the festive day of emancipating and manumitting slaves, and besides these things let not public acts be forbidden.” 22
The Sunday law exempted the rural Roman. It carried no criminal penalties on its face. Mild as it seemed, it set a precedent for a succession of political and theological conflicts which were to mark seventeen subsequent centuries. Constantine himself found five more occasions, ranging from a law concerning the emancipation of slaves on Sunday to provision for the celebration of Easter, to enhance the favored legal status of the day.
Council of Nicaea
Christian church leaders assembled for the Council of Nicaea in 325 at the call of Constantine. The “venerable day of the sun” edict issued four years previously had not solved the doctrinal battle between churches of the East and the West with regard to Sunday and Easter observance.
The assembled delegates were survivors of a ten-year physical battle waged against the church by Emperor Diocletian, commencing about 303. The atrocities of Diocletian’s rule marked and maimed the bodies of many churchmen in attendance at the council. Some had suffered physical loss of an eye or an ear. All had felt the sting of government intent upon persecuting a serious religious belief out of existence. No wonder the delegates welcomed the official favor offered by Constantine.
The attention of the church now focused on a struggle from within—the necessity for interpretation and formulation of church dogma. Of concern to all was the establishment of a proper memorial to mark the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Churches of the West, influenced by the Bishop of Rome, favored the observance of Sunday as the resurrection day. Churches of the East emphasized the significance of the crucifixion on the fourteenth day of the Jewish month Nisan, irrespective of the day of the week. For his part, Constantine was intent on pursuing his policy of national unity and harmonizing the disputing factions.
What were the backgrounds for the disputations at Nicaea? Some church historians claim that early in the second century, Sixtus, Bishop of Rome, had called for observance of the resurrection on Sunday. Another tradition claims that while Pius I was Bishop of Rome, his brother Hermes went so far as to claim that an angel had instructed the church to commemorate yearly the resurrection on the first day of the week.
East v. West
Christians in the East and in the West differed on the matter. When Anicetus was Bishop, Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, paid him a visit in Rome. This encounter, described by Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, took place in an atmosphere of calm and respect: “When the blessed Polycarp went to Rome, in the time of Anicetus, and they had a little difference among themselves likewise respecting other matters, they immediately were reconciled, not disputing much with one another on this head. For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to observe it, because he had always observed it with John the disciple of our Lord, and the rest of the apostles, with whom he associated; and neither did Polycarp persuade Anicetus to observe, who said that he was bound to maintain the practice of the presbyters before him.” 23
Despite these efforts at conciliation, the Easter controversy shook the foundations of the early Christian church. And just as certainly, the position of the Quartodecimans in the East (who celebrated Easter on the fourteenth day of the month Nisan) began to lose ground. The ultimate triumph of the Sunday resurrection observance advocated by the West hinged in part on the aggressive efforts of Christian church leaders in the city of Rome.
There were tangible reasons for his influential role which gave the victory in the Easter controversy to the churches of the West. Rome was the communications center. A succession of able men had led the church in the empire’s capital. The apostolic succession theory, coupled with the fact that Paul and probably Peter had been in Rome, was not without effect. Repeated interference with other bishops, such as the action of Victor; the right of hearing ecclesiastical appeals; and continuing orthodoxy—these forces and events united to lend strength and prestige to the supremacy of the Roman bishop.
While the Easter observance controversy was at its height, the church organization structure was embryonic at best. There was not as yet a firmly codified New Testament Scripture to use as a test for doctrine. The church was susceptible to the dynamic influence of the Roman church leadership.
Where Sixtus, Anicetus, Pius, and Victor had favored the Sunday resurrection festival during the second century, Sylvester, who had the ear of Constantine, helped bring victory to the Western theologians. Sylvester urged the changing of the calendar names for the days of the week so that the seventh day be called “Sabbath,” and the first day, the “Lord’s Day.” As early as the third century the church had referred to Sunday as the “Lord’s Day,” to be observed concurrently with the Sabbath, since “we have said that the Sabbath is on account of the creation, and the Lord’s Day of the resurrection.” 24
In 314 the Council of ArIes ruled that all Christians must keep the same day for Easter. Eleven years later the Council of Nicaea fixed Sunday as that day. Thus Sunday resurrection observance came into its own as an integral component of Christian church doctrine, while the celebration of the crucifixion on the fourteenth day of Nisan went into eclipse. This left the church with two significant weekly worship events: the “Sabbath” memorial of creation, on the seventh day; and the “Lord’s Day” resurrection observance on the first day.
However, already certain aspects of traditional Sabbath observance were under attack. The focus of theological conflict now shifted to the elevation of one observance and the concurrent decline of the other. Just as the arm of the state had reached into the Easter controversy, government continued to strengthen the dominant position of Sunday observance long after Constantine’s historic proclamation of 32l.
In the century that followed, a succession of decrees was issued which commanded soldiers to worship on Sunday; freed Christians from tax collection on Sunday; forbade circus spectacles, horse races, and theatrical shows; and prohibited Sunday lawsuits.
Some Christians had called Sunday the “Lord’s Day” possibly as early as the second century, the terminology did not appear in Roman law until late in the fourth century, when it was connected to Sunday observance in a decree of the three co-emperors Gratianus, Valentinianus, and Theodosius.
“On the day of the sun, properly called the Lord’s Day by our ancestors, let there be a cessation of lawsuits, business, and indictments; let no one exact a debt due either the state or an individual; let there be no cognizance of disputes, not even by arbitrators, whether appointed by the courts or voluntarily chosen. And let him not only be adjudged notorious but also impious who shall turn aside from an institute and rite of holy religion.” 25
Earlier, in 380, Theodosius had established Christianity as the official religion of the Roman empire; now the union of church and state was absolute. Emperors were free to punish religious heretics, for, under a monolithic church-state power, theological dissent could also be interpreted as a criminal act against the state. Still, two centuries would pass before Gregory, Bishop of Rome (590-604) assumed the full religious and civil power of the Papacy.
Until the end of the fourth century, Christian Councils, Synods, bishops, and members lacked access to a formalized New Testament containing the teachings of Christ and letters written by the Apostles. However sincere the views of the bishops, there was no such thing as a unifying theological force of a Biblical canon much less a printed copy available to leaders and members alike.
Holy Bible, Foundation for Faith
Augustine (Aurelius Augustinus, 354-430), Bishop of Hippo, converted to the Christian faith, answering the prayers of his devout mother, played a pivotal role in merging the Old and New Testaments into the complete, Holy Bible. Aided by the translating skills of Jerome, a scholar fluent in Greek(384), Augustine is believed to have been instrumental in the formal ratification of the Scriptural canon by the Synod of Hippo, 393.
Warren LeRoi Johns
Holy Bible, Revelation 12:7-10
Holy Bible, Douay-Rheims Version, Genesis 2:2.
Holy Bible, Douay-Rheims Version, Exodus 20:8-11
Holy Bible, Mathew 5:1
Justin referred to prayers offered and voluntary offerings collected for orphans and widows.
“The First Apology of Justin,” Chapter 67. In Ante-Nicene Fathers, American Edition (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1899), Vol. I, pp, 185, 186.
Eusebius, Op . cit., p. 209.
Ibid., pp. 209, 210.
Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book 10, Chap. 5, Boyle’s translation (Philadelphia: J. B.Lippincott & Co., 1879), p.426.
Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Fifth Edition Revised (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1950), Vol. 3, pp. 15, 16.
Henry Hart Milman, History of Christianity (London: John Murray, 1867), Vol. 2, pp. 284, 328.
A. P. Stanley, Lectures on the History of the Eastern Church (London: John Murray, 1861), page 227.
Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Philadelphia: John D. Morris & Company, c. 1900), Vol. 2, p. 152.
Schaff, Gp. cit., pp. 12, 14.
Augustus Neander, General History of the Christian Religion and Church, Torrey’s translation (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853), Vol. 3, p, 31.
Augustus Neander, General History of the Christian Religion and Church, Torrey’s translation (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853), Vol. 3, p, 31.
Schaff, Gp. cit., p. 105.
Stanley, Gp. cit.
Code of Justinian, Book 3, Title 12, Law 3. In Corpus Juris Civilis, Vol. 2, p. 108.
Code of Theodosius, Book 16, Title 10, Law 1. In Codex Theodosianus, col. 1611.
Code of Theodosius, Book 2, Title 8, Law 1.
Eusebius, Gp. cit., Book 5, Chap. 24, p. 210.
Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, Book 8, Sec. 4, Chap. 33. In Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7, p. 495.
Ibid., Book 8, Title 8, Law 3.
Significant components of this article were excerpted and edited from the 2022 edition of Warren L. Johns’ Dateline: Sunday, U.S.A., published originally in 1967.