Calendars printed in the United States put Saturday as the seventh day, but in Europe and other places in the world, Sunday is shown as the seventh day. So how can we be sure?
The seven-day weekly cycle is not tied to any patterns or alignments of the sun, moon or stars. It’s a non-stop serial counting of days, one after the other. Scripture tells us the cycle was established by God. After six days of creation, God rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:1-2). Since then, the counting off of days in groups of sevens—with each group called a week and every seventh day designated as a day of rest—has continued unbroken up to our own time.
English-speaking countries call the seventh day Saturday, but the word for that day in many languages indicates its origins as the biblical day of rest. For example, the seventh day in Spanish is called Sabado (coming from the Hebrew shabbat). This too is made plain on printed calendars in those languages.
Could we have lost our place?
If you have ever tried to count off numbers in a sequence you know how easy it is to lose your place. Could this have happened with the counting of the seventh day? After all, it's been a very long time since God established the first day of rest.
If the sequence had gotten all jumbled up sometime between the first day of rest and the Exodus of Israel out of Egypt, the true seventh day was clearly reestablished by the time the Ten Commandments were given.
We can conclude confidently that our current Saturday is the seventh day of the week, on the same weekly cycle that has been in place since the beginning of creation—a cycle established and confirmed by God Himself.
In the wilderness, God fed the people of Israel with manna. The manna would appear on the ground every day except the seventh day, the day of rest (Exodus 16:14-30). This sequence would repeat every seven days, over and over for 40 years. The weekly cycle of manna only stopped when Israel entered the promised land. Four decades of repetition is plenty of time to clearly establish which day was the day of rest.
If the Sabbath had somehow been lost between creation and the exodus, 40 years of weekly miracles would have definitely reestablished it.
Did Israel ever lose track of the seventh day?
The Exodus was still a very long time in the past. Plus Israel went through many periods of turmoil, forgetfulness of God, invasion, deportation, etc. Could Israel—and later the Jewish people—have mixed up the sequence of counting the seven-day weekly cycle through all that?
Jesus Christ, the very Word of God, put off the glory He shared with the Father and was born a flesh and blood human being. He was the “Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5). Jesus would have known if He, or His fellow Jews, had the sequence of the seventh day messed up.
The record of Jesus’ life shows He rested on the seventh day in obedience to the commandment (John 15:10). Jesus observed the day of rest on the same day of the week as His fellow Jews. The religious authorities of the day may have disputed what types of activities were appropriate for observing the seventh day as a day of rest, but not which day of the week it was.
Jesus' obedience to the Fourth Commandment confirmed the seventh day as kept by the Jews was the correct day.
Did the Jewish people lose track of the seventh day after Jesus’ death?
Years before the time of Jesus’ death, and in the centuries since, the Jewish people have been widely dispersed throughout the Middle East and Europe. Wherever they have gone, they have fiercely guarded the observance of the seven-day weekly cycle so they might never break the Fourth Commandment.
It's possible to consider that isolated pockets of Jews may have lost track of the weekly cycle due to some local turmoil, but such an error would have quickly been corrected by comparing notes with the many other Jewish communities in other countries and continents—communities which had not experienced any interruption or disruption in the seven-day weekly cycle.
However, there isn’t any historical record of any dispute among any Jewish groups that the day we call Saturday is the seventh day of the weekly cycle, God’s day of rest. The Jewish people have successfully kept the original seven-day weekly cycle intact.
Now, one last question that sometimes comes up:
Did the change to the Gregorian calendar in 1582 lose track of the seventh day?
From 46 B.C. up to A.D. 1582, the Western world used what is called the Julian calendar. It was a vast improvement over the previous Roman calendars because it finally kept the months in sync with the seasons. However, after many centuries even the Julian calendar was about 10 days out of sync with the solar system.
In 1582 the old Julian calendar was replaced with the new, improved Gregorian calendar, which is the calendar system we still use today. At the time of the change to the new calendar system, those 10 days were simply dropped out of the calendar to get the dating system of the calendar back in sync with the solar system. It was Thursday, Oct. 4, 1582, and the next day, Friday, should have been Oct. 5. However, the new calendar made the next day Oct. 15 instead.
That change had no impact on the seven-day weekly cycle. Whether that following Friday was numbered as the 5th of the month or the 15th of the month, it was still the sixth day of the week, and the day that followed was still the seventh day of the week.
Even today we regularly add a day into our calendar every four years. We call it a “leap year.” Changing the number of days in a calendar month does not alter the weekly cycle—there is no six-day week, or eight-day week.
So we can conclude confidently that our current Saturday is the seventh day of the week, on the same weekly cycle that has been in place since the beginning of creation—a cycle established and confirmed by God Himself.