Showdown in Siberia
- Supplement to Lesson 22
"You must prove what you say!" The fierce Kirghiz tribal leader glared around
the room at each of us. "One of our priests of the skin offerings tells us that you
are liars and deceivers, and that you cannot prove that the day to worship your God Is
Sunday. If you cannot prove this, then we will certainly kill you, for we want no white
man's deception in this place!" With that, he whirled and left our little church.
A chill of terror swept through the little room. The Kirghiz were indeed much to be
feared. These Mongolian tribesmen had the grisly habit of tanning the flesh of human
beings. Whenever they were angered or did not receive justice, they would skin their
victims, tan the skins, and make what they called "worthwhile items" out of
them. The minister ran out of the church after the chief. "It will take a few days,
but we will find you the text," he shouted. We would be given three days.
Exiles, we had no way of escape in the frozen wastes of Siberia. The only method of
transportation that we had was a few ponies that were still in a semi-wild state, having
just recently been captured. However, we were not yet totally discouraged, for we thought
that we knew what we believed. The minister summoned us all to our little adobe church.
The Bibles that we had were given to each person who could read and understand what we
were looking for--a Scripture that said to keep Sunday, the first day of the week, holy.
It must be there. We believed it as Christians, and we knew that there must be a text to
prove our belief. It was now up to us to find it.
Those who could, began searching the Scriptures; those who could not knelt in prayer
that we would be successful. Sections of the Bible were assigned to each of us. If we were
to finish before we found the passage that we needed to find, we were to exchange
sections, check, and double check our work.
Long hours of Scripture study and prayer failed to give us the text we so desperately
needed. Much to our amazement, however, we did find many Scriptures that pointed to the
seventh day as God's holy Sabbath. Nowhere, in Scripture, could we find that the Sabbath
had been changed to another day!
There were 21 families In our exile colony--more than 100 people. The first two years
of our exile were extremely difficult; and, many times, existence was a real fight, Many
people starved to death, and the horrible cold winters took their toll of life, with no
respect for age or sex. Only the most hardy were able to survive. But our living God heard
the cries of His exiles, just as He had in ages past. He was a comforting Presence in the
vast wastes of Siberia, and we never felt abandoned or without hope.
During the nineteenth century, more than one million of Russia's intelligentsia were
exiled to Siberia to die. They were not criminals. All that they wanted was the freedom to
live a free life according to the dictates of their own consciences, but they were not
allowed to do so. This longing for freedom had cost untold thousands their lives, and many
more would never see civilization again.
Now this same fate had come to us, a group of Christians with the simple desire to
worship the God of our choice, in the manner that we felt was correct. For this we found
ourselves deep in the heart of Siberia, with only the wild animals and a few Kirghiz
tribesmen surrounding us. The natives with whom we had become acquainted were kind to us;
but, for a long time, the language barrier between us was almost insurmountable. They
could not speak a European language, and we could make absolutely no sense from their
Turkic language. Time and practice were all that we needed, however, and one day we began
to be able to communicate readily.
It was about two years before we really became proficient with their language, and it
was then that our pastor called the elders of our church together and proposed a plan for
a missionary endeavor among these people. The pastor felt sure that God must have had a
reason for allowing us to be banished to this barren wasteland, and we were reminded that
God's Word never returns to Him void. We were urged to exercise our Christian concern
among these Siberian natives, and teach them of the living God and His dear Son who had
given His life as a ransom for all men. We were encouraged by their interest in our way of
life, as many times the Kirghiz had expressed their dissatisfaction with their terrible
pattern of existence.
They could not read or write, but the Spirit of God works on all hearts. For weeks our
elders, sometimes accompanied by their wives, went to the Kirghiz village to teach them of
God and the Christian way of life. After several months, the Kirghiz began to come to the
little adobe church which we had erected for our worship services. It was at this point
that we really began to introduce them to the three main points of doctrine that we, as a
mixed group of different denominations, held in common.
Of course, the first point was that there was indeed a living God who cared personally
for each one of the Kirghiz. This was not too hard to make clear to them, as all around us
we had unspoiled natural wonders to convince them of God's existence. The second point was
that there was a Word of God, rather like a group of love letters left for all men, to
assure them of God's care for them and to remind them of their duties and responsibilities
to Him as His subjects. We told them that although this book had been written by men, it
was God's Spirit that had moved upon the authors to write the messages. The Bible was our
guide to the heavenly land for which we are all looking, where there would be no more cold
winters, no more freezing to death, no more starvation or exile. The third point we showed
them was that they should not keep Friday as the day of rest as was their custom from
their Mohammedan background. We instructed them that they should henceforth keep the
Lord's day holy, which was called Sunday. This was not an easy subject for them to grasp,
and we sensed their uneasiness with this doctrine from the very first. We also presented
many other subjects surrounding these three major doctrines, such as baptism and the
second coming of Christ.
It was then, after these natives had worshiped with us for several weeks, that we were
visited on that fateful day by three of the Kirghiz tribal leaders, and their spokesman
had made the demand that we prove from God's Holy Word that a man must worship Him on
Sunday. If we couldn't prove our doctrine, we would certainly be put to death!
Now here we were, huddled together in our little church, unable to justify our beliefs
according to the Bible, and with all the evidence pointing to the fact that we were indeed
wrong and had been following the dictates of men and not of God. We had no place to
escape, and nothing to escape with. Many wept and prayed, for we were certain that the
morning dawn would bring our doom. How we longed for the wings of a bird, to be able to
flee from our persecutors!
Solemnly our pastor stood and motioned for silence. "My dear Christian brethren,
take courage! God will not fail us in this time of trouble! In honesty, we have prayed and
searched the Scriptures, and He has rewarded us with a gem of new truth, hidden for
centuries! Do not you think that if we are honest with our brothers, the Kirghiz, that our
God will soften their hearts to believe? This is what He has sent us here for; and, live
or die, we must accomplish His will! Let His truth be known! And trust yourselves to Him!
Tomorrow we admit the truth and God will indeed be with us, I am sure!"
We spent the remaining time of our probation in prayer, promising God that if He would
hear our cries and let us live, we would do His will as revealed in His Word.
Thursday arrived, perhaps our last day of life. Clouds appropriately veiled the sun as
the members of our settlement gathered in the church for a final session of prayer. At
noon, the cloud of dust grew thicker as across the steppes came a herd of galloping
horses, more than a hundred in all! Brandishing their sharp knives, our native neighbors
headed for the church. They knew exactly how many people were in our little colony, and
there was one Kirghiz rider for each of us. It was indeed a terrible reminder of what they
had in mind! They surrounded the church, Jumped off their horses and stood beside them
while the three leaders came inside for our answer to their question.
We had cried our last tears and spoken our last words of comfort to each other,
assuring each other that if our appeal failed, we would certainly meet on the resurrection
morning. Now we sat silent, at the mercy of these native men and of God.
Our minister arose and met the three men halfway up the narrow aisle. He told them that
we had been misled in Europe. We had been taught falsely. We had now read the Word of God
through for ourselves several times, and the only Scriptures that we could find identified
the seventh day, and not the first, as the Christian Sabbath. True, there were eight
mentions of the first day of the week in the New Testament, but not in a single case did
we find any suggestion of holiness attached to it.
"We will not resist," our pastor said. "You may kill us if you wish, but
we hope and pray that instead you will join us in worship of the true God on His holy
Then he stepped back and sat down. The three natives stood, conferring among
themselves, then turned and walked out without saying a word in reply. The little door
closed. It did not seem like a good omen. We sat in silence for another few moments with
God. The quietness was broken only by an occasional sob. We felt as if time pressed down
around us and stopped as we waited there.
Suddenly the door opened and the three men entered once again. "Don't be
afraid," they said. "We will not kill you. We have come back to join you, and we
will all worship on the seventh day as your Holy Book prescribes." Then
chief and spokesman, began to tell us why they had made this request in the beginning.
When the caravan of native priests had arrived at the village for their skin offerings
that the natives regularly supplied, the Kirghiz had nothing to give. When they explained
that it was because of their friendship with the Christian exiles that they had not taken
any skins, the priest asked, "Oh, then you have become Christians?"
"Yes," the native replied.
"Then you have undoubtedly also given up your keeping of Friday, as you were
taught, and begun to keep their Sunday?"
"Yes, we have," was their reply.
The chief priest drew up to his full height, and a slow smile began to spread over his
face. "Fools! Go back and ask your white friends to show you the proof that they are
instructed by their God to keep the first day holy! If they cannot do that, then bring me
their skins, for they lie!"
The native priests had heard about the Bible before, and some had even studied it. They
told the Kirghiz that the Christians would be unable to find such a text and that they
would get our skins. The priests told the natives, while they were waiting for our reply,
that, if we were really honest about Christianity (they felt that most white men were
liars), and wanted to live in the way our God prescribed, we would be keeping the seventh
day holy and not the first.
Now these natives had heard our minister make an honest confession that we had all been
misled, and that our Book had indeed pointed to the seventh day as the Sabbath of the
Lord. They had to decide that we were honest, even though we were white! They really did
want to be Christians; they were tired of such things as skin offerings. Their lives did
not improve under the supervision of the heathen priests, while we helped them to advance
in many ways and had asked for nothing in return.
After they had finished telling us this story, they said that they wanted to be real
Christians and to follow the Bible and its sacred teachings. They returned to their
village and told the priests to be on their way, that henceforth they would have no more
skin offerings. The following Saturday, on God's holy Sabbath, our little colony, together
with the Kirghiz, worshiped together in our mud-brick church.
SABBATH IN THE BIBLE
At the beginning of earth's history, God created the entire world in six days
and rested on the Seventh day and sanctified it, or set it apart, as a special day for men
to worship Him on (Gen 2:1-3). This is God's own day--His day--the Lord's Day--given to
man to worship Him on.
Jesus Christ created all things (Col 1:16; Jn 1:3; Heb 1-3) and He calls Himself the
Lord of the Sabbath (Matt 12:8; Mk 2:28). It is His day, the Lord's Day (Rev 1:10).
He made it for man--all mankind (Mk 2:27), and not just for the Jewish race. God gave
the Sabbath at the foundation of the world (Gen 2:1-3), and His followers kept it before
it was given on Mount Sinai (Ex 16). On Mount Sinai, He spoke it and wrote it that all the
world might more clearly know of it (Ex 20:8-11). It is the seal of the law and the sign
that He is our Creator (Ex 31:17) and our Redeemer (Eze 20:20).
Because His people, so prone to go into idolatry and serve other gods, later refused to
obey Him and keep His Sabbath, Jerusalem was destroyed and His people led into captivity
(Jer 17:19-27; 52:1-13).
While here on earth, Jesus gave us a careful example of obedience to the Sabbath day He
had given mankind (Lk 4:16), and rebuked man-made changes in His laws (Matt 15:9,6). He
magnified the law and made it honorable (Isa 42:21).
Just before His death He predicted the destruction of Jerusalem thirty-nine years
later, in A.D. 70, and the end of the world (Matt 24), and He cautioned His followers to
continue to carefully observe the Sabbath even when those terrible events should come to
pass years and even centuries later (Matt 24:20).
He carefully instructed His disciples to keep His day holy, and He wanted them to
"remember the Sabbath day" (Ex 20:8) long after He had returned to heaven. His
followers faithfully kept it after His death (Lk 23:56), and later in their missionary
work (Acts 13:14-16; 40-46; 16:12-15; 17:1-4). They declared that we ought to obey God
rather than men (Acts 5:29), and Paul could sincerely say of himself and his fellow
believers: "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish
the law." (Rom 3:31). The Word of God was being fulfilled that Gentiles would one day
faithfully keep the Sabbath the Jews were desecrating (Isa 56:3-7).
The Bible predicted that a great desolating power was to arise in later centuries that
would seek to destroy the atonement and God's laws from among His people (Dan 7:8,
The attempt, by this power, to change God's laws, and especially His Time Law, was
specifically predicted in Daniel 7:25. Only God can change the law, and so Paul predicted
the rise of a man who would call himself God (Thess 2:3-4). With boldness, this power
would sit in the temple of God and call himself God (2 Thess 2:4), and boastfully admit
what it had done, declaring it to be the Mark of his authority--and indeed is it not?
You see, it's like this: I acknowledge and honor God's authority, when I obey His
commands and encourage others to do so. I declare my independence of God when I set aside
His law and refuse to keep it. But I set myself up as a rival god, when, having set aside
His law, I establish in its place a counterfeit and then require others to keep it in
place of the law that God commanded!
"Whom ye obey, his servants ye are." (Rom 6:16). God's Word declares that
obedience to this man-made god, by keeping his counterfeit day of worship, while knowing
that there is not one word, not one hint in all of Scripture to keep that false day in
place of the true Bible Sabbath--will soon bring upon oneself the Mark of the Beast (Rev
13:16-17; 14:6-12). Only the Remnant who keep the commandments of God and the faith of
Jesus will, at that time, resist it (Rev 13:8; 14:6-12; 12:17). In fact, the Bible
predicts a return to the true Sabbath as God's people will rebuild the torn-out place in
the law of God--by again keeping His true Sabbath (Isa 58:13-14). And, thank God, the
assuring prophecy is given that the saved of all ages will, one day soon, honor the holy
Sabbath of God for all eternity in the new earth (Isa 66:22-23).
SUNDAY IN THE BIBLE
Sunday is never called sacred or holy anywhere in the Bible. It is never called the
Sabbath or the Lord's Day. Sunday is only mentioned eight times in the Bible. The
first time is Genesis 1:5, where the first day of Creation week is spoken of. The next
five times refer to Jesus' appearances on Sunday to His disciples after His rest in the
tomb on the Sabbath (Matt 28:1; Mk 16:1-2, 9; Lk 24:1; Jn 20:1, 19). Jesus went and found
them, and told them the good news that He was alive. There is nothing here about Sunday
sacredness. The seventh time (Acts 20:15-38) he speaks to another group in the middle of
the week, but that doesn't make that day any more sacred than the Sunday preceding it. For
only a direct command of God can make a day holy. Repeatedly, in Acts, Paul kept the
Sabbath holy (Acts 13:14-16, 40-46; 16:12-15; 17:1-40), just as His Master had done before
Him. Acts is silent on Sunday sanctity as is Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
The eighth and last text is found in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, where Paul instructs the
believers to do their bookkeeping at home, on Sunday mornings. The first working day of
the week was a good day for this, since Friday they were busy preparing for the Sabbath.
This is the only mention in all Paul's writings of the first day of the week.
John the Revelator saw Christ in vision on the Lord's Day (Rev 1:10). This was the Day
of the Lord. The Sabbath is the day of the Lord (Ex 16:23,25; 31:15; 35:2), the Day of the
Lord (Ex 20:10; Lev 23:3) and His own day (Isa 58:13). Jesus is the Creator, who gave us
the Sabbath (Eph 3:9; Jn 1:3; Col 1:16; Heb 12; Gen 2:1-3), and John had heard Him call
Himself, "the LORD of the Sabbath day." (Matt 12:8; Mk 2:28). John well-knew
which day was the Lord's Day. This day is the Memorial Day of the Creator (Gen 2:1-3; Ex
31:17), the Memorial Day of the Redeemer (Eze. 20:12, 20). It is the Lord's Day . . . a
day that God wants to share with you. He plans to keep it with you through all eternity to
come (Isa 66:22-23). Come, worship Him on the Best Day--His day--the only day of worship
your God ever gave you.
The Churches Speak
Congregational: "It is quite clear that however rigidly or
devotedly we may spend Sunday, we are not keeping Sabbath. The Sabbath was founded on a
specific, divine command. We can plead no such command for the observance of Sunday. There
is not a single line in the New Testament to suggest that we incur any penalty by
violating the supposed sanctity of Sunday."--Dr. A. W. Dale, in The Ten
Commandments, pp. 106-107.
Baptist: "There was and is a commandment to keep holy the Sabbath
day, but that Sabbath is not Sunday. It will, however, be readily said, and with some show
of triumph, that the Sabbath was transferred from the Seventh to the first day of the week
. . . Where can the record of such a transaction be found? Not in the New Testament,
absolutely not."--Dr. E. R. Hiscox (author of the Baptist Manual), report of his
sermon at the Baptist Minister's Convention, in New York Examiner, November 16, 1893.
Presbyterian: "There is no word, nothing in the New Testament
about abstaining from work on Sunday. The observance of Ash Wednesday, or Lent, stands
exactly on the same footing as the observance of Sunday. Into the rest of Sunday no Divine
Law enters."--Canon Eyton, of Westminister, in The Ten Commandments.
Episcopal: "The Bible commandment says on the Seventh day thou
shalt rest. That is Saturday. Nowhere in the Bible is it laid down that worship should be
done on Sunday."--Phil Carrington, quoted in Toronto Daily Star, October 26,
Anglican: "And where are we told in the Scriptures that we are to
keep the first day at all? We are commanded to keep the Seventh; but we are nowhere
commanded to keep the first day. The reason why we keep the first day of the week holy
instead of the Seventh is for the same reason that we observe many other things, not
because the Bible, but because the church, has enjoined it."--Isaac Williams,
Plain Sermons on the Catechism, Vol. 1, pp. 334,336.
Methodist: "It is true that there is no positive command for
infant baptism. Nor is there any for keeping holy the first day of the week. Many believe
that Christ changed the Sabbath. But, from His own words, we see that He came for no such
purpose. Those who believe that Jesus changed the Sabbath base it only on a
supposition."--Amos Binney, Theological Compendium, pp. 180-181, 171.
Dwight L. Moody: "I honestly believe that this commandment is
just as binding today as it ever was. I have talked with men who have said that it has
been abrogated [abolished], but they have never been able to point to any place in the
Bible where God repealed it. When Christ was on earth, He did nothing to set it aside . .
. The Sabbath was binding in Eden, and it has been in force ever since. How can men claim
that this one commandment has been done away with when they will admit that the other nine
[adultery, murder, lying, theft, etc.] are still binding?"--Dwight L. Moody (the
well-known evangelist), Weighted and Wanting, 1898. pp. 46-47.
Roman Catholic: "You may search the Bible from Genesis to
Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday.
The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never
sanctify."--James Cardinal Gibbon, The Faith of Our Fathers, chapter 8.
"It is well to remind the Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, and all other
Christians, that the Bible does not support them anywhere in their observance of Sunday.
Sunday is an institution of the Roman Catholic Church, and those who observe the day
observe a commandment of the Catholic Church."--Priest Brady, in an
address at Elizabeth, N.J., March 17, 1903, reported in the Elizabeth, N.J. News of March
"Reason and common sense demand the acceptance of one or the other of these
alternatives: either Protestantism and the keeping holy of Saturday, or Catholicity and
the keeping holy of Sunday. Compromise is impossible."--The Catholic Mirror, Dec.
"The observance of Sunday by the Protestants is a homage they pay, in spite of
themselves, to the authority of the [Catholic] Church."--Monsignor Louis Segur,
Plain Talk About the Protestantism of Today, 1868 ,p. 213.
"Ques.--How prove you that the Church hath power to command feasts and holy
"Ans.--By the very act of changing the Sabbath into Sunday, which Protestants
allow of [by observing it]; and therefore they fondly contradict themselves by keeping
Sunday strictly, and breaking most other feasts commanded by the same Church."--Henry
Tuberville, An Abridgement of the Christian Doctrine (1833 papal approbation), p. 58.
"The Catholic Church . . . by virtue of her divine mission, changed the day from
Saturday to Sunday."--Catholic Mirror, official organ of Cardinal
Gibbons, September 23, 1893.
"The Pope can modify [change] the Divine Law."-- Ferraris, Ecclesiastical
We hold upon this earth the place of God Almighty."--Pope Leo XIII,
in an encyclical letter, dated June 20, 1894, The Great Encyclical Letters of Leo XIII, p.
"If Protestants would follow the Bible, they should worship God on the Sabbath
day. In keeping the Sunday they are following a law of the Catholic Church."--Albert
Smith, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, replying for the Cardinal, in a letter
of February 10, 1920.
"Prove to me from the Bible alone that I am bound to keep Sunday holy. There is no
such law in the Bible. It is a law of the holy Catholic Church alone. The Bible says
'Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.' The Catholic Church says, No. By my divine
power I abolish the Sabbath day and command you to keep holy the first day of the week.
And lo! The entire civilized world bows down in reverent obedience to the command of the
Holy Catholic Church."--Priest Thomas Enright, CSSR, President of
Redemptorist College, Kansas City, Mo., in a lecture at Hartford, Kansas Weekly Call,
February 22, 1884, and the American Sentinel, a New York Roman Catholic journal, in June
1893, p. 173.
"Of course the Catholic Church claims that the change was her act . . . AND THE
ACT IS A MARK of her ecclesiastical power."--from the office of cardinal
Gibbons, through Chancellor H. F. Thomas, November 11, 1895.
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